Wednesday, July 26, 2006

No More Words (for Now at Least)

You're talking and it all sounds fair
You promise your love, how much you care
I'm still listening and still unsure
Your actions are lacking, nothing is clear
No more words
You're telling me you love me while you're looking away
No more words, no more words
And no more promises of love
Don't fool your self
Your empty passion won't satisfy me
I know, so don't pretend that you want me
You don't want me
We make love and it's all the same
Your eyes show nothing, no lover's flame
Don't promise we can work it out
You can leave right now if you're feeling doubt
-- Berlin, "No More Words"

A little over 24 hours since it ended, I finally feel that I have perspective to write about it.

Hurting from Sunday's events, and realizing from followups to a PF posting that I may be overdoing it on the attentiveness, I put on the brakes.

I was in a bad space on Monday. It didn't help that my wife had invited her best friend's family over for dinner. I came home to a house that was boisteriously in shambles.

After dinner was finished and guests were gone, we did our family walk around the neighborhood. I then retired to the computer to chat with some friends and just give my wife some space.

I'm carrying the pager for work this week. It's a Sidekick phone with access to an e-mail account. If something is amiss on our network, and e-mail gets fired off to the pager phone's account.

The e-mail account is not spam filtered, so it gets its share of messages, usually in the wee hours of the morning. It usually wakes the wife up before it does me, and since she's a bear when she's awakened prematurely, I get a sharp elbow to wake me up.

As she's getting ready to go to bed, my wife she stops by my desk. We get on the subject of the pager sound. I said that I would be willing to sleep on the couch to make her sleep more peaceful. She then gets wishy washy saying that she wants me to sleep in there with her.

I tell her, sounding rather peeved at this point, "Either you have me in bed, and you deal with the pager noise, or you let me sleep on the couch and slumber without interruption, pick one." I don't like it when she beats up on me for as situation she says she wants.

She gets defensive. She wonders why I'm all grumpy all of the sudden. I don't think she realized just how blue I was earlier that evening.

So I tell her that I am struggling, dealing with a lot of emotional ups and downs. I tell her that as I think about what's been happening between us, I get the feeling that she isn't attracted to me.

She tells me that she loves me. She wants us to grow old together, visit our grandchildren, go visit Paris together... stuff like that. That's nice, but it sidesteps the question of whether she just isn't into me.

I tell her that I have a lot of uncertainty about the future. She asks me if I want a separation to clear things out. I tell her "no." I tell her I have a hard time imagining not coming home to her and the kids. I wouldn't know where else to go.

I tell her that her I've tried all kinds of things over the last six or seven years... being less attentive, being more attentive, lots of places in between... it doesn't seem to change the way she interacts with me.

She went back to the cuddling incident on Sunday. She said that she wasn't trying to reject me, but she didn't want me to lay next to her if I wasn't going to fall asleep for a nap, too. She said that would make her feel weird to have me "gazing at her" while she slept.

As many PFers speculated, she said she felt pressured by the extra affection over the past week. I admitted that I went overboard.

But then we got into the heavy stuff...

I said that it seemed like she was continuously limiting ways that I could physically express affection toward her. She said that she felt like she couldn't win. According to her, on one hand, I want to know what she wants, but then I don't like when she tells me what she doesn't like.

She said I overanalyzed things. I said that might be true, but the reason reason I may have done so was because when I ask her relationship questions of significant depth, I usually get, "I don't know." She admitted that she did do that.

I said that with all of the rules restricting what I couldn't do to express affection, I felt it was like challenging me to write a love letter using words that didn't involve the letter e.

I told her that although she had initiated sex twice last week, it still seemed very mechanical, following this procedure:

  1. Get wife off with vibrator.

  2. Fuck wife until husband gets off.

She said that sometimes she just wanted to be with me, and that it wasn't important for her to be pleasured. I told her that there are a lot of men, myself included, who care very much about satisfying their women sexually. I felt like she was throwing up a hurtful barrier at me.

I told her that I could see that she might enjoy having me around for being a daddy, for providing income, for protection against things that go bump in the night, etc. At this point, I started to lose composure. I told her that I felt that she did not appreciate me as a man and as a lover.

She said it was hard for her to be turned on, given the physical condition we're in, and she couldn't understand how I would find her sexually attractive. I told her that my attraction to her was based more than on superficial appearance. It was a collection of things that clicked in my mind.

I said that I felt her actions in the bedroom suggested that she was not emotionally there with me. That kind of sex isn't what I want.

I said that I thought she wasn't being open with me sexually. I asked her about whether she agreed with that. At first she tried to blame it on the kids, but then she admitted that she been closed to me long before we had kids.

I told her that the absence of a chemical attraction toward me did not make her a bad person, but if it was the case, she needed to tell me.

I told her that I have gone through a lot over the years. I went through counseling to deal with sexual compulsion issues. I went through counseling to face down fears of becoming a parent. I tried to be a healthier adult. I tried doing nice thing for her.

I gave her space back in 2002, when she said she felt like she was being pressured sexually, by refusing to initiating sex. As time progressed, I stopped taking the initiative on expressing affection. Starting with this year, I tried to rekindle the affection with things like dance lessons, and that revival took on a fevered pitch over the past week.

Through all of that, you could almost chart that our sex life went through a steady decline. She said that happens with lots of couples. I said that's usually because they get complacent. I was trying to do better.

I told her that I needed her to look into her heart and find an honest answer to the question of her attraction.

I asked her if she had anything else to add. She said she didn't feel comfortable saying anything else without a counselor present.

I also told her that I needed to have an emotionally connected sex life as part of a healthy relationship.

We wound up hugging before going to bed, but there was an air of tension. It was about 12:35 a.m. when we ended the conversation.

My older daughter woke up at 5:30 a.m. in a difficult frame of mind, refusing to go back to bed. In the grogginess, I wondered if God put women in my life to torment me.

On Tuesday, I felt the anger returning, tinged with despondency. It was hard to stay focused on work. To take off the edge, I was speed eating spearmint Altoids. Probably not good for me, but at least my breath was minty fresh for once.

I listened to a call-in advice show on the radio wherein the host read a letter from a male listener who felt "starved" by his wife in the areas he needed, and that his wife's indifference had made him start to do the math, figuring out how many years he had left until the kids were grown. I've been feeling that way, too. At times it's hard not to think, "My life is too short to put up with this," and not even fuss with the math.

When I came home from work, her best friend's family was there again. I put on the game face, acted nicely, and kept my distance from the wife. We did our walk. She watched her TV. I chatted via IM.

She stopped by to talk for a few minutes. I asked her whether she had heard from the counselor about an appointment. She said that she hadn't. I asked her whether she thought that was odd. She admitted that it was so, adding that she thought the problem was trying to make sure that the therapist was on the approved list. Apparently some of the organization's therapists are, and some are not.

I asked whether she might be interested in getting some marriage counseling instead. I said I felt like we had hit an impasse the night before and that she had sounded like there were things that she wanted to discuss only with a counselor present.

She said that wasn't the case. Rather, she thought she wasn't being heard and wanted to have a third party to aid communicating them to me. Much of her arguments these days seem to be geared toward invalidating my feelings, so I don't know how well that will play with the counselor.

I told her that I would take the steps of finding a counselor and setting up the time.
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