Saturday, October 24, 2009

making love or having sex?

I could had sex tonight. It wouldn't have been that hard to nudge Sue along in that direction. Nudge her just over the edge on which she seems to be sitting.

I decided not to.

Why not?

Puritanical self denial? Obsessive compulsive determination? A loss of my own libido?


The real reason is, I don't want to go back to the chaser/chasee cycle that Sue and I were in for the year or two (or more) before I took my private vow.

After all this time, I could get her into bed, and she would be wanting to go there to please me, to move on, to move this all forward.

But she wouldn't want to be going there for herself. It would be starting off on the wrong foot; taking a step in the wrong direction.

Making love to a woman who isn't REALLY there -- who doesn't REALLY want to be with you, who is not sharing the experience with you -- that's not making love. That's not even having sex. It's masturbating into someone's vagina.

Sue and I had the BIG talk (though with much yet to say) a week or two ago.

Things are changing for the better. Glacially slow, but changing nonetheless.

Until then, I want to wait until she is ready to make love to me. Knowing that I could persuade her to have sex just isn't good enough.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

empowered in passivity

My last post received a very provocative and thought-provoking comment from "anonymous". My response was so long that I've had to make it its own post.

Here is Anonymous' comment first:

I don't mean to discourage you. Quite the contrary, I think your situation would be helped by your having some clarity. It seems like you are in denial at this point and not wanting to face reality. Why were you expecting a "pot of gold"? What made you think that something would happen arbitrarily at the end of a year?

It is bad enough that you are in a marriage without sex, when it is clear that sex is something you desire in your life. What is really tragic is that you are in a marriage where there is so little communication.

Human beings have needs that go beyond food, clothing, and shelter. You are literally be starved and it is killing you. What would you do if you were not getting enough food to sustain your body? Would you just let yourself die? More importantly, would you starve your wife of food and just sit back and impassively watch her become sick and die?

You are being abused and I think you need to face that.

You--and only you--have the power to change your life. I think you have to ask, why are you doing this to yourself? Why do you think this is what you deserve?

When you respect and care enough about yourself to take of your needs, you may find it is a wake-up call to your wife, but don't count on that. In significant ways, she has already left you and abandoned you. I know you said that she had some abuse in her childhood that caused her to be like this, but the fact is that she will not get help for herself. You are just making yourself another victim of the abuse that she suffered.

Life is short, my friend. You only get one chance to live. Don't waste it.
And my response:

Your thoughts are challenging, provoking, and thought provoking, and I that's a good thing. It really gives me something to chew on. I think there can be a fine line between being a "nice guy" and being a spineless, wishy-washy one. I need to make sure for myself that I always fall on the right side of that line, and your comment is a very salient reminder of that fact. Intellectually, of course, I knew that the end of the year would not mean a magical end to all of these issues. On some level I knew that the end of the year would be hard. And, thinking about it now, actually the end of the year really only means that things will get harder, in that I am no longer putting this issue in suspended animation. I want to be actively working through it with Sue, which means work. But on some subconscious level, yes, there was definitely a fantasy that at the end of the year, my vow and forbearance would solve all of our problems, and Sue would not be able to keep her hands off of the guy who made such a grandiose gesture on her behalf. That fantasy, along with a bit of stubbornness and a bit of pride, helped keep me going. Do I want sex? Back in December, I could think of little but sex at times. I wondered if I were a sex addict. Now I could see myself being like a friend of mine, and quite easily going for 20 or 30 years without sex. It is no longer a gaping hole in my life; an unquenched thirst; a driving desire. Nonetheless, I am not just going to give up on it. Despite the fact that I don't feel a need for it on a day-to-day basis, I am still sure that Sue and I would both be happier if we were able to connect in that way. I have wondered, at times, what would happen if we couldn't get this solved. Would it be a deal breaker? Would it need to mean divorce? I never answered that question for myself, but the very fact that I asked the question of myself means I was open to the possibility that it could mean just that. I have a good friend who has had a number of long term relationships all of which have ended for various reasons. But the one he is in now he is so happy with. He feels he's finally met the right woman for him; and he seems to think that the rest of us who have imperfect relationships just need to do the same. The funny thing about that is, I felt exactly the same in the early years of my relationship with Sue. I looked to my unhappy friends and thought, "why are they slogging their guts out trying to fix a relationship which is simply with the wrong woman in the first place?!?" In fact, I effectively asked that question of a friend of mine not long ago. His response: "what choice do I have?" This came not from a place of disempowerment ("no one else would have me") but rather from a decision to fight life's battles and solve life's problems. Looking back on my life, I can see that there are times when I really grabbed life by the proverbial cojones and had a great time. There have been other times when I have hunkered down, closed my world off and have not thrived the way I should. I guess part of this year long experiment was to change a negative experience into a more positive one. Rather than just hunkering down in the face of our disintegrating love life, I decided to reify it. To make it into a challenge and a blog. In some sense and on some level, doing that put me back in the driver's seat. I was choosing to wait, I was choosing how long to wait, I was choosing to anonymously express myself to the world about these most private things. But your point is a very, very good one, as -- especially now that the year is over -- there is a risk that I shift from making this a personal challenge of growth and learning. Instead it could become a shutting down of self, a closing off of possibilities and passions. I think it's a knife's edge thing. As long as it is a project, a challenge, an endeavour (rather than a mere condition to be endured), then I can feel like I am choosing it, that I am living life on the front foot. But I must be ever vigilant that I never let it become an inevitability that I passively and begrudgingly accept like death and taxes. As soon as I do that then, yes, you are completely right, I would become a victim of her abuse. Thanks for your provocative post. Keeping this distinction in the forefront of my mind will help keep me on the right side of that divide, which is something that I need now more than ever.

One year three weeks and two days without sex

But who's counting?
The drought goes on.
Hey, that's not what was supposed to happen after the end of a year!
Where is my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?!?
We have talked, which was a great breakthrough. Not as big as I would have liked, but real watershed stuff by Sue's standards. (More about that another time.)
She tells me her libido is inching back to life, and that in the not-too-distant future she will come to me...
So for now, I continue to wait.
Trying to push things along would be counterproductive, so what other choice do I have?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Since Feeling Is First

since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world

my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
than wisdom
lady i swear by all flowers. Don't cry
—the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids' flutter which says

we are for each other: then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life's not a paragraph

And death i think is no parenthesis

e.e. cummings

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

thought for the day...

thought for the day: "You Can't Change Someone Else."

Second thought for the day: "Bugger!"

Sunday, October 4, 2009

the future of nonogamy (sic)

So, I decided to push some boundaries tonight, and started to cuddle her as we watched a movie together. She let me, but didn't encourage or reciprocate. Then we went to bed, and I tried to cuddle her some more. Uh-oh! That was a cuddle too far. My feet were cold, she said. She got her nose out of joint. "No more cuddles!"

"Can we talk about it?"
"Stop interrogating me!" came the reply.
Hmm. That took some digesting.
We couldn't discuss it any further -- talking of any sort felt like interrogation to Sue.

Naturally I disagreed, but that's how she felt, so fair enough. She wanted space and wanted to drop it.
But I also wanted to tell her how I felt: that she never wants to touch me; never wants to be touched by me; never wants to talk about it; and never wants to do anything about it.

She said that was unfair and untrue.
"Fair enough, but that's how I feel," I replied. "Can you tell me how you see it differently, so I can understand where you're coming from on all this?"
"Stop interrogating me!"
That was the end of that. She agreed to tell me at some indeterminate time in the future.
We both stared at the ceiling for some minutes. The she picked her book back up and started reading again, and I went and brushed my teeth.

It wasn't the seamless segue from radio silence to openness that I had hoped for. But then, I didn't wait for just the right moment as I had originally wanted.
I waited for a year already, so there comes a time that perhaps a non-sexual cuddle is just not something you have to wait for the stars to align for.

I don't think anyone would accuse me of being impetuous (!) but perhaps it was not the most politically savvy thing in the world.

Then again, my life is not the high-drama of parliamentary politics. This is my wife, my intimate partner, we're talking about here, not SALT II negotiations nor the Great Game.


I have been celibate now for just over a year. Although celibacy was not part of my original public vow, it was a private one I made to myself. It is the longest I have been celibate since I first became sexually active in my youth. I even had more sex when I was single!

Which reminds me of a radio interview I heard with Noel Biderman, the creator of a cheating-facilitation website, Ashely Madison. Noel contended that his website was a good thing because it could help make marriages last longer. He pointed to France, Japan, Italy and other countries where affairs are more tolerated and more common -- and the divorce rate is lower.

No, rest assured gentle reader, I am not contemplating an affair in any way, shape or form. But his idea makes new sense to me. Sue and I are both in our marriage for life. That's the way our parents were, that's the way we are, and that's what we want to do for our kids.

Hollywood thinks of marriage as being about love, passion, and all kinds of romantic cliches. That's all great, but what do you do after the first few years when s/he loses all interest? What if one or both of you is unfulfilled despite all sorts of good faith efforts to get things back on track again? The D-bomb: divorce.

I wonder about political marriages that were made amongst the families of the aristocracy back in medieval times. A marriage was not a source of personal fulfillment, but a strategic alliance and a source of children.

Personal fulfillment, happiness, self actualization, and perhaps even a satisfying sex life were found elsewhere.

I prefer a society that smiles more readily on a marriage with infidelity, than on a divorce with fidelity. I don't live in a society like that, and I don't want to have an affair regardless. But I can see that it makes sense to have society allow another option besides either being joined at the hip with your spouse for life, or getting divorced.

I hesitate to publish this post, as I can see so many ways that it could be misconstrued as condoning inappropriate, unhealthy behaviour: sex addiction, deceit, betrayal, self-indulgence, even simply infidelity itself.

So be it.


Monogamy without sex, touching, or even going out seems more like non-ogamy.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Neither a bang nor a whimper

Several times in the last few weeks and months, I longed to reach out to Sue. To talk to her about Stuff. But I didn't. I held my tongue and kept my vow. No matter how perfect the timing seemed to be, no matter how right the chemistry between us, no matter how aligned the stars of conversational success.

So, now the time has come. It was a year ago today that we were last "together" in the marital sense. (I must be feeling coy today to use such a quaint circumlocution!)

But today was not our day. The conversational stars were not aligned, the mood was not right, spring was not in the metaphorical air.

I've waited 52 weeks and said nothing. A grandiose gesture that could be taken crudely (my hard-headed plan to get laid!), nobly (my self sacrifice to give my lover the space to heal), or somewhere in between (me groping in the dark (so to speak) trying desperately to find some way forward for both of us).

Which of these meanings is true for me? I could write for hours on that, and perhaps be no closer at the end than at the beginning.

More to the point, which of these meanings will be true for Susan? How I am able to express myself to her will make all the difference.

Some messages can't wait, like "duck!" or "it's a boy!" or, "your father just passed away."

Others are best served up at the right time so the meaning is clear, and the impact is as is deserved: "I love you"; "Marry me"; "about this whole celibacy thing..."

I have put in the hard yards of silence and celibacy, whether for better or worse. And I don't want the effect of that to be undermined by blurting out at the breakfast table, "there! I made it! Now are you going to screw me, or what?!?" (Though the thought of it makes me smile; it would certainly be a memorable scene.)

So, I will wait a few hours or days more until the conversational stars are again aligned and I am feeling as if I almost have to physically restrain myself from brining it up.

And then, I pray, the words will come bubbling out naturally, comfortably, honestly and thoroughly. I pray we will have a meeting of the minds. That she will see the best in my motivations, not the worst. That we will be brought closer by it. And that we will, at the end of it all, choose to walk together on the lifelong journey of increased intimacy underpinned by healthy independence.

Friday, September 25, 2009

fake non-orgasms

So, tonight marks the 364th sex-free day.
Life has gotten comfortable.
Sue is happier, I'm happier, the kids are, mostly, happier.
For the past few weeks, life has been so busy (in a good way) that I have barely thought of my vow or this blog.
Susan continues to act as if nothing has changed between us, never acknowledging that my behavior around her has changed.
And I continue in the same vein, never explicitly suggesting that there is anything happening below the surface for me.

I am not sure what to say; or when; or how.

But I realized today that rather than her being grateful that I've done this, she may well be a bit pissed off: "You mean you DO still have a libido, and I DO still have to deal with all that male crap?"

Perhaps I've lulled her into a false sense of...? "Security" doesn't feel like the right word. I hope that her husband actually having a libido wouldn't make her feel unsafe!

I am not sure what to expect. Maybe it's easier to think of what I DON'T expect! Well... I certainly don't expect a prize, or overwhelming gratitude. (It would be nice, but somehow I doubt it's on the cards!) And I don't expect an exuberant three-day-long love making session. Again, it would be nice (albeit exhausting!), but undoubtedly not on the cards.

Maybe she'll feel the way I did when she (finally!) admitted to me that, no, she actually didn't like me touching her breasts, and never had (and presumably never would). And that, no, she didn't like kissing, and never had. And, actually, wasn't really interested in being touched much at all -- or in touching others.

I was disappointed; let down; depressed at the thought of it. It seemed that the light at the end of the tunnel that I had been looking for for years had just been not extinguished, but at least dampened down.

So maybe she will feel as if the light at the end of her tunnel has been moved further away from her as well. But I hope that she, like me, will be hopeful that somewhere in that long, dark tunnel of asexuality, we can meet in the middle.

Some women fake their orgasms to please (and hurry along!) their husbands. Husbands may find pleasure in the experience, but disappointment, even in the realization that it was all a sham. Susan may just feel the same about my faked lack of libido.

We'll soon see.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Freudian slap?

Ok, it didn't really feel like a slap. And maybe it wasn't Freudian. Who knows?

Sue dreamed last night that I was lying on top of her, and that her whole body ached as a result. And when she woke up, her whole body did ache.

Of course, the ache was caused by her migraine, and partly as a side effect of her medication.

She teased me a bit about her dream, and I tried to ask without asking whether there were some deeper meaning to this dream.

Sue is not really a deeper-meanings kind of a girl. She insisted that the whole cause of the dream was her mind trying to explain why she had a sore body.

Fair enough.

But any number of things can cause a person to be sore all over, especially in dream world. Why not a steamroller running her over? Or the after-effects of running a marathon? Or being burried in a pile of books?

Why did her subconscious chose the explanation of me lying on top of her?

I haven't done that for almost a year! :)

Is it about sex? Our relationship? Power?

Sue thought it was just about a headache.

Maybe she's right.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

5 weeks to go!

47 weeks down and five to go. And, truth be told, it's getting harder. I am no longer "standing still in stasis" but am now seeing the end, thinking about what I will say, looking forward to new discussions, and with them, the chance for new emotional and physical intimacy.

And with that anticipation, I have to try all the harder to bite my tongue!

So I am working hard not to think about it.

Things were really good between Susan and me yesterday. The time would have ben so perfect to at least tentatively broach the topic. But then my silly vow reared its ugly head again, and I shut up.


In my minds eye, everything would be "happily ever after" once the year was up.

In reality, I can imagine her saying, "well, yes, I do have some issues there. And I need to work on them. So let's not have sex for a few months while I process the whole thing..."

In the good news department, Sue was being SO positive yesterday, and it was SO nice. And she was pointing out to me the importance of looking on the bright side of life, which was a bit of role reversal for us -- and a welcome one at that!

So perhaps some seeds that I've been planting over the last few years and few months are starting to sprout.

And maybe it will be the same with our sex life: the seed gets planted; tended; watered, and then at long last, a sprout comes up... and then a few years later, some fruit!

Will my year of celibacy be the end of this process -- the pruning just before the picking of the fruit?

Or is it more like merely tilling the soil in preparation for planting the seed?

Realistically, I am sorry to say I suspect it is more the latter rather than the former.

Some not-quite-random thoughts for the day:
You can't change someone else. A person has to want to change themselves.
Change is slow. Change is hard. That's why it's so difficult to lose weight, to take up (and keep up!) exercise, to quit smoking.
But change is possible.

"Neurons that fire together, wire together." -- this is the source of both our problem, and its solution. As a sexual abuse victim, Sue's neurons for sex, pleasure, pain, love, hate, fear and disgust all fired and wired together at a tender age.

"If men want women to want sex as much as they do, they must make sure that women enjoy it as much as they do." -- True, I'm sure, but only part of the problem with me and Sue. I don't think that it's the pleasure that's the problem, but the pain. More pleasure won't mask or erase the pain. Somehow those negative associations need to be erased independently. That is something that I can do little to nothing to influence. It's up to Sue and, if she choses, a good counsellor and/or support group.

I wonder if my silent vow of celibacy will have made it easier or harder for Sue to un-link those neurons that fired and wired together so many years ago. Sure, her life will have been easier, not worrying about me pestering her about sex. But that might have helped to make her mind associate in a different way: Sex/incest/dad/family/pain/bad; Mark/husband/celibate/family/comfort/good.

Of course, I would like her to be able to take sex out of the first paradigm, and put it into the second. But my being celibate with her may make it harder, not easier, for her to associate positive sexual feelings with me.

Perhaps -- and I am only speculating here -- my celibacy is unhelpful to her in the same way that staying away from a horse that you've just fallen off is an unhelpful way of preventing a fear of falling off horses.

On the other hand, perhaps the core issue here isn't sex, but power. And maybe my silent celibacy has helped make Sue feel empowered and confident in herself, and in our relationship.

I wonder if I will ever know the answers to all these questions?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

False dichotomy?

They say that the endorphines and hormones released during sex can create intense feelings of love. Is the reverse also possible? If sex can create love, then can love also create sex?

I took my pledge of sexlessness over ten months ago now, and here I am 10 months in and going strong.

In the first few months, it was all I could do to hold my libido back: to bite my tongue, cross my legs, take cold showers.

But then it got easy, at least most of the time, and life returned to normal. I was happier in a lot of ways, because I wasn't being constantly rejected when making amorous overatures to my wife. (And, yes, of course it was ALWAYS me making the overatures.) Life has improved since the whole complicated "sex thing" has been taken out of the equation.

So, somewhere along the line, after getting over the idea that sex was a normal part of my life, I began to change the focus of this blog, from coping with unrequited lust to trying to improve our relationship.

Deep down, I guess I thought that if we were madly, truly, deeply in love (or as madly, truly, deeply in love as a couple can reasonably be after ten years of smelling each others morning breath, hearing each others bathroom noises, and being witness to other similar sins of familiarity that cohabitation inevitably produces), then the sex would inevitably follow.

Somehow, on some level, my task has shifted from "coping with sexlessness" to "trying to make the relationship thrive again."

A thriving relationship is, of course, good for all kinds of reasons, no t the least of which is to be able to cope with sexlessness.

I think a relationship can be successful without sex in much the same way that a meal can be excellent without any salt or sugar used in the cooking. That is, sure, it can happen; it just takes a damn site more planning and effort. A bit of creativity, determination, and gustatory good humour.

But the best meal in the world without salt and sugar will not, of itself, make the salt (or sugar) spontaneously rematerialize on the table.

And so I am coming to see that creating the best relationship in the world without sex will not, of itself, bring the sex back.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Nearing the finish line

Things are getting vaguely interesting again in this whole experiment thingymagig. A couple of months ago, I had gotten used to celibacy and felt like I was just marking time until my magic 12 month deadline rolled by.

Now at a mere seven weeks away, the end is in sight, and I am starting to take myself off auto pilot.

I need to start seriously thinking what I am going to say to Sue, how I am going to say it, and what (not to) expect in response.

Someone emailed me some excellent suggstions along these lines which, if she'll permit, I will share here. (I haven't asked her yet!)

Perhaps she's assuming that my libido has just died a death, in which case when I tell her the truth the might just react with "present face"

Well, I don't really expect that, but after seeing these delightful comedians on Sungold's blog, I couldn't resist the temptation to put in one of their videos.

And perhaps there will be a bit of "present face" after all. Or, at least, a face of awkward uncertainty of someone who doesn't know how to react or quite what to say.

All the more reason I will need to be clear in my own head what I think, feel and want.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

On Death and Dying and Sex

Sex has been the last thing on my mind in the last week. It was a week ago today that I heard the fateful but expected news from my mother-in-law: her husband of 50 years had just died.

Sue and her mother are both "soldier on" types, and soldier on they did, with sadness, yes, and a few tears, and certainly a lot of lost sleep. But mostly it was graciouness, smiles, poise and grace. They did really well.

The funeral was a memorable affair. So odd! Held at a funeral parlour rather than a church, the ceremony was a bizarre mish-mash of Christian, new-age, secular and Buddhist philosophies. I couldn't get my head around it. A service conducted from the point of view of any of those philosophies would have been fine with me -- it would have felt honest and earnest. But a service from the point of view of ALL of those philosophies felt... a disengenuous, confused mish-mash of an affair. The celebrant had only met with the family for 10 minutes before feeling she had enough information to deliver her homily about the man whom she never met. Cliché after cliché came out. The best was: "He packed more into his 72 years than most pack into a lifetime!"


The service was, of course, more than just this. It was a place for the family to mourn, a place and time for visitors and extended family to come together, a time where we could all get up and say what we admired and remembered fondly about "dad". I shouldn't encapsulate the whole experience by one thing that I found a bit off-putting.

And so it was, I found myself thinking, about Stan's life.

Everyone kept saying all these wonderful things about him, remembering the good times. There was a tinge of realism to the family's comments, though the celebrant really lionized him. But I kept thinking, "and he was a sexual abuser."

And it was tempting for me at times to think that all those good things that were said were a load of codswallop. That here people were honouring this man who was nothing more than a pedophile.

I looked across the room and saw his two granddaughters, both of whom he had abused. Sue was next to me, and all three had tears welling up in their eyes. Sue's sister was a row back, and I couldn't see her face. She, too, had been his victim.

It drove home to me that even a serial abuser like Stan is more than "just" an abuser. He was, also, a working man, a husband, a father. Like the service itself, Stan could not be said to be all bad or all good. He was a part of our family, and there will be an emptiness at future gatherings, where his laugh should have been. And he was also a pedophile who, thankfully, will never again damage another young soul.

It's amazing to think that it's not just "young souls" that he may have damaged, either. Stan's abuse has put a strain on my relationship with Sue, which in turn has had an effect on our children. If we can't sort it out, then it may be that his self indulgent actions from 30 years ago could result in our divorce, and have a major effect on our children -- and on their future relationships. Where does it end?

How many abusers, like Stan, go to their grave as a family secret -- never publicly accused. Never pilloried. Never divorced or even completely estranged from their victims. The secret, I suspect, will die with Sue, her sister, and the (now adult) grandchildren. Will anyone else ever find out?

One of Stan's uncles came and stayed with us. He was the picture of sweetness, helpfulness, and unobtrusiveness. He is a very elderly man, now, and very affectionate to our children, giving them hugs and pats on the back, motivated, no doubt, by warmth and affection.

Was that what motivated his brother, Stan? A need for affection that knew no quenching? Not a power trip, not a sick fetish, but a profound thirsting to be loved? A thirst so big that it turned fatherly affection to damaging, hurtful, amorous acts?

I make absolutely no apology for the man or his actions. More than once while he was still alive did I entertain fantasies of confronting him -- hitting him, punching, kneeing in the gut. I also had fantasies before and during the funeral of the truth coming out. Not to shame him or his memory, but to be honest about it. A funeral, though, is a ritual. We come together to ritually lionize the dead, to comfort the bereaved, to leave unsaid those things best left unsaid. An hour for a glimpse at the casket, a hug, a few words from speakers, a ceremonial carrying of the coffin to the hearse, a cup of coffee and a muffin and see you at christmas. Grief for a rushed society.

I went to a funeral once that lasted three days. Everyone who came from outside the village was welcomed one at a time, with long speeches and greetings. Then their were hours of talks in the meeting house, where every person was given the chance to say their peice about the dead man.

Much of the ceremony was conducted in a language I didn't speak, so I don't know exactly what was said. Perhaps it was the same plattiudes as I heard (and spoke) at Stan's funeral, just repeated over and over.

But I would like to believe that there was scope over such a long funeral to speak the truth of a man. To remember his attributes as excatly what they were: some good, some bad, some sublime, some nefarious. And perhaps if we knew, at least at his death, the full truth of each man's life, then the shock of it would not be so great, the scandal not so scandalous, and the healing, therefore, not so tortuous.


As for Sue, we mentioned the abuse once, a night or two before the funeral. I asked her how she came to find out that her older sister had also been abused. She started to tell me, then snapped at me angrily to drop it. I don't know what angered her about it: reflecting on the memory; besmirching a deadman's name; or merely a topic she had grown tired of.

She told me it came out years later. Something her sister's husband had said to her mother. But she had told me long before that, although she didn't like the abuse, she had also felt rejected because her father abused her sister more than her.

It looks like Sue, who is normally very honest, lied to me. Perhaps that's why she snapped at me -- so I wouldn't ask her questions that would mean she would have to tell more and more of a lie. Thirty years on, and she's still not comfortable enough about the whole thing to merely say, "hey, I'm not really comfortable talking about this. Can we drop it?"


Sue has seemed in quite good spirits over the last week. She has mourned, to be sure, and is very sad at the loss of her father. But nonetheless, she seems somehow more laidback, more relaxed, a little freer and happier.

It might just be her week off of work, and the implicit permission that a crisis gives us not to worry about the normal routines. Or maybe it was because I was making an extra effort to look after her and do my bit around the house. Perhaps she was just putting the best face on things. Or perhaps, on some level, her father's passing was a release from her childhood abuse, and all the unhappy feelings she had from him in her youth -- his yelling, his indifference to her academic achievements, his complete incapacity to do housework or look after himself. All this was on top of the sexual abuse.

Does the death of an abuser help their victim get over the pain? It could be a release, of course. Or it could also mean that she could never get closure with him, now that he is not here to hear what he did to her, to apologize to her, to ask her forgiveness.


Too soon:

I got some books out of the library. Laura Davis' "The Courage to Heal" and "The Courage to Heal workbook," self help books for adult victims of childhood sexual abuse. I asked Sue months ago if she was interested, and she said yes, she'd have a look at them if they were from the library. She would buy them if they looked worthwhile.

So, I had some free time in the days between Stan's death and his funeral, and I got them out. Now I have them hidden in a stack of books, waiting for the right moment.

She has enough on her mind right now. I'm worried that if I gave her the books now, she would think I had a sexual agenda: "Your dad is dead, so now can I bone ya?"

On the other hand, this could be perfect timing, while all the emotions are fresh and raw. The books could help her find a healthy step forward and help heal newly reopened wounds.

But when a woman doesn't talk about her emotions, the man in her life is just flying blind. There is only so far you can get with deconstructing gestures, and parsing tone of voice. So who knows.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

9 1/2 years without sex???

So, "Brad", my younger cousin, is going through a rough patch in his life. I have been supporting him for a wee while, and I thought I knew him very well. So I was amazed to learn that he and his girlfriend of 9 1/2 years (they've been living together for 7), have never had intercourse.


She has no libido.

What's odder still about this is that she is his first girlfriend. So... he's a virgin. Well, they do have sexual relations of a sort, just not normal intercourse -- so I guess it depends on what your definition of virginity is. It's something she doles out to him as a sort of favor once or twice a week. She's bored by it, and so he's none to thrilled with the experience either.

He hopes to have children with her one day. I wonder how that is going to happen?

I am reminded of a couple I read about who actually got married and were together for some years before they had sex for the first time. She got pregnant, and that was the end of it. A couple of years later, she wanted another child, so they had sex again. She got pregnant, and that was the end of it again.

She had been badly sexually abused as a child, and had never recovered.

In the end, he left her and married someone else. They started a new family together, and had a normal sex life.

So I am left wondering... where do we draw the line? Should men in long-term sexless relationships cut their losses and find someone they feel more comfortable with? Or should they put up with years of frustration and lack of sexual fulfillment? And if they (or, rather, we) should put up with it. . . then why? To what end? We should live unfulfilled lives because our wives no longer have libidos and aren't willing to do anything about it?

Of course, there may be good reason to stay in an imperfect relationship. Kids; a family buisness; the reality that no relationship is perfect, etc. And, of course, it's different if the woman (or, for that matter, the man -- low libido can strike men, too!) is willing to get medical and/or psychological help to work her way through the block to her libido. But when her response is "shrug -- like it or lump it honney, it's who I am, what I am, where I am" then a man surely has to consider his options.

I am nowhere near the point of cutting my losses, but 9 1/2 years?!?! I mean _wow_! Just how long is a boy supposed to wait?

There's more to say on this, I'm sure, but it's late and I'm tired and losing my train of thought.
"Say goodnight, Gracie."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"It's not you, it's me"

A woman wrote in to an advice columnist recently, complaining that her husband had pulled back from the relationhip. The columnist replied that that was perfectly possible, and that the husband might be depressed. She should discuss that with his GP. BUT, the columnist noted that it was also possible that it was the woman who had changed, not her husband. If so, she needed to find other outlets for her energy (a hobby, new friends), rather than turn to her husband to make her life be more fulfilled.

This column spoke to me, because I've been feeling like Susan has been particularly absent from our relationship recently. But I've also thought... no, maybe it's me. Maybe I've become clingy and needy. How unsexy is that?!? I've realised I was unhappy with the way things were, and that she was unwilling or unable to meet my needs. So I've been reaching out to new friends, and finding excitement in new activities. I got my cello out for the first time in years, and had an excellent match of tennis with a friend.

It's felt great! So refreshing! So fulfilling! Somehow I was waiting for Sue to meet my needs, but by going out there and looking after myself, not only were my needs met, but, even better, I felt empowered in the process! I once again felt like the captain of my fate, master of my destiny... well, a little bit, anyway! (Being in a family is surely nothing if not a tradeoff between companionship and independence.)

But then I began to wonder about the endgame. Of course, I can go my own way and feel independent, happy and fulfilled. (And a bit lonely -- but that's another story.) But just as it's possible for a couple to be too clingy and codependent, so also can couples grow apart and learn to not love each other, not need each other, not want each other.

Sue and I went through just such a stage once upon a time.

So... right. Far enough apart that we meet our own needs, but close enough together that we don't lose touch.

This life business sure is a tricky one! Why is it that they teach Calculus and French in high schools, but not how to have a successful marriage? I know which is more important to me; which I want more for my children; and which will ultimately make me a more productive, happier, and more well adjusted member of society.

Yes, I can conjugate verbs with the best of them; decline nouns in my sleep; take the second derivative of binomial equations without batting an eyelash. But finding just the right balance between independence and intimacy in my marriage? Now that takes some serious effort!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Is it normal to have sex after marriage?

So, everyone jokes about how little sex there is after marriage.
And sex after kids? forget it!!!

And so we spend huge hours worrying about this. Talking about it. Reading books. Seeing the doctor, the shrink. Taking medications.

All, it seems, in pursuit of the notion that we should all have as much sex as we did in our twenties. Not doing it 2.5 times per week? Something is wrong! Never mind if you're in your 40s and have multiple small children, as well as two careers, multiple bills and the family dog to juggle.

The point is, maybe there is a stereotype that people don't have much sex after marriage (and especially after kids) because this is NORMAL! Now there's a radical thought! Perhaps some (much? most??) of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that we have over our collective lack of sex (ok, that I have over my personal lack of sex!) is based on the entirely false assumption that we should still be having sex like we did in that summer after the junior year of college.

Sure we (ok, I!) would love to be having that much sex again. But I would also love to be as fit as I was back then, too. And to have as good a memory. And as much hair. And... etc, etc, etc.

Of course, couples that are having that extra sex do seem to be enjoying it, (Bully for them!) but that doesn't make it somehow pathological that I am now so chaste.

I can worry all I like about sex, and sure, the topic can wind me up at times. But for a guy like me to worry about it says I am already doing pretty darn well on Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
I mean, I am not worrying about my next meal, my job, my health, my family's health. We live in peace and prosperity and our family is reasonably harmonious. And it is only because of all of this that I can worry about (and indulge myself so far as to write a blog about!) sex as much as I do.

Looking at Maslow's hierarchy more closely, I am intrigued to see that it is not nearly so high as I assumed.
I am also intrigued to see that sex is listed in two different positions: once on the same level as food, clothing and shelter; and then again higher up along with friendship and family.

Hmm. It all seemed so simple when I started this posting. But that hierarchy has got me wondering again.
Sex as a basic physiological need?
Curiouser and curiouser.

This whole sex thing would be pretty hard to figure out even if it were something our society had a healthy discourse about.
As it is, it feels rather like the classic enigma wraped in a riddle, shrouded in a mystery.


How can a woman not want to talk to her husband about their relationship? I thought that's what women were supposed to be all about. Sure that's a stereotype, but stereotypes don't generally come from nowhere. I guess she is one of the outliers.

But, damn, hasn't she ever watched Oprah!?! Doesn't everyone know that communication is the key to a happy relationship?

And, no, we weren't talking about anything sensitive like her personal history. More generic stuff like, "why haven't you built the dog house yet, Mark?"

But getting to that was like pulling teeth. And she was angry that I wanted to talk at all. Asking her why it made her angry made her angrier still.


What's a boy to do?!?

Incidentally, I had a paranoid flurry this afternoon, wondering if she had cheated on me. Later on I was up some scaffolding which made me rather nervous. Would those tiny bolts and rotten-looking planks really hold my weight? I walked softly, and my imagination of how I might crash to the earth went into over-drive.

After an hour of walking around, I felt great -- as if I was on terra firma. And the anxieties about infidelity disappeared, completely replaced by the exhileration of wandering around 30 feet up in the air on a beautify sunny day.

And I realized that these two experiences were linked. I had anxiety about heights, which sent my imagination into overdrive, making my anxiety worse. I tested out my theories of plummeting to the earth by walking around. I didn't fall. I gained confidence. And soon all thought of rotten wood or loose bolts disappeared from my mind as if nothing more than a dream.

I think that's why I wanted so badly to reach out to Sue tonight to talk. Subconsciously my anxieties about her fidelity had not yet been tested and disproven. Not that I wanted, or needed, to raise that question with her directly. Rather, I think I needed to reconnect with her emotionally. When I walked on the scaffolding, my fear was that the wood or the bolts wouldn't hold me -- but I didn't check a single bolt, or examine any of the wood. My groundless fears were answered simply by walking around and not falling. I came to feel safe. So it was with Sue. I didn't want to probe the technical question of fidelity. I think subconcsciously I wanted to connect with her; to feel safe with her; to form a bond with her. With that bond of communication in place, the anxieties disappear of their own accord. Without it my mind becomes their plaything in which they fester and multiply, driving me nuts, and no doubt subtly undermining our relationship as well, even if I never give voice to them.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

nine months in and blah blah blah

So, we're nine months in and three to go.
Long enough to gestate a baby.
And, I'm kind of over it.
I don't have much interest in sex recently. Which is, under the circumstances, an unequivocally good thing!
And biding my time doesn't seem a challenge any more.
I kind of feel like it's all downhill from here.
I can kind of just turn my mind off and wait.

But... that thought is a bit of a worry. Turn my mind off to this whole issue? To tune out to sex and the whole area of emotional and physical intimacy seems so much like tuning out of our relationship in general.

I don't know. I just don't feel like I have the energy to get all worked up about the whole thing any more.

What's a boy to do?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

To My Coy Wife

To his Coy Mistress

by Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love's day;
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood;
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.

But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found,
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long preserv'd virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust.
The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;
And now, like am'rous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour,
Than languish in his slow-chapp'd power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball;
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life.
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

a time to talk (but no time to write!)

I have lots of things I would like to be writing here, but so few chances. I don't really feel I can be writing this when Sue is likely to walk in on me ("Hey, honey, what are you doing?" / "Oh nothing, dear, just spilling the very most intimate aspects of our respective lives into the public doman for strangers to read and pass judgment on. What's for dinner?")

So, thanks to Rae and Sungold for their email and comments respectively. I want to get back to both of you soon. But first a few thoughts on an article I just read:

This article on sexless marriages was published in the New York Times just a few days ago. 

I am intrigued to read that, on average, married couples have sex 58 times a year. Is that all? 

I am also intrigued to read that a whopping 15% of married couples have not had sex in 6 months to a year. 

Wow! I didn't realize I was so . . . mainstream! 

But most thought-provoking of all was that sexlessness in a marriage is a largely one-way street. Most couples do not get their lives in the boudoir back to what they once were.  Apparentlythis is  because, "it’s hard to get a couple talking once they’ve established a pattern of non-communication." 

I have certainly found it hard to get Susan talking. It's great when we do talk. It feels like there's intimacy there. But it also feels like I am pulling teeth. Susan doesn't do it willingly, and she cuts it as short as possible as quickly as possible. 

Today, this whole idea of "a year without sex" seems really, really stupid. 

I feel hobled in any ability I might have to open things up a bit, to get communication going. 

But perhaps it's just a pessimistic moment. 

On the whole, like the woman who gave her husband sex every day for a year, I think it is adding depth to our relationship. She found a deepening and richening in their love, committment and closeness. And not just because of the sex, but rather because of the mindfulness that that committment to sex brought to their relationship and to each other. 

Similarly, by making a very mindful choice to act like a eunuch around Sue, I am much more aware of our relationship, much more mindful of my own sexuality, and much more present with the degree to which she is emotionally open or closed to me each day. 

Just doing something different has,  I think, made a step forward for us. 

But I am sorry to hear that the odds are stacked against us. 

I guess I just need to redouble my efforts to engage with Sue in an emotionally (but very asexually) intimate way. 

Time to go to the dentist! 

Monday, June 1, 2009

a kiss, perchance?

We caught a bit of a ro. com. on tv tonight. And at the end, Hugh Grant held Drew Barrymore's face in his hands. She beamed. He kissed her. She kissed him back. 

And I wished I could do that. That simple, loving exchange, with my wife. The woman with whom I've lived for nine years. the mother of my children. 

Sex -- well, we all know that's loaded. All kinds of baggage and implications, and libido can be affected by so many things. 

But a kiss? 

Why is she not interested in holding or being held by me? 

Why is a kiss too much for her? 

She didn't have any trouble that first night, nine years ago. 

What's changed? 

Why won't she tell me? 

Why is she dragging her feet to resolve it? 

Would she let things drag on like this for another 40 years, if I let her? 

They say marriage is supposed to kill sex. But romance? Sure, familiarity and routine sap it out a bit, but wouldn't most women be chomping at the bit to get some romance back into their lives? 

We take a vow to foresake all others. Breaking that vow is said to be being "unfaithful" or to have "cheated". And yet now I find myself foresaken. And on some level it feels like that means she is being unfaithful to me. Not for her feelings, but for her lack of interest in doing anything about how she feels. 

If only there were a map, so I knew where we were going, or a timetable, so I knew when we'd be likely to arrive. 

They say these things sort themselves out, eventually. 

But they don't tell you how to manage until they do...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

is sitting still moving backwards?

"Standing still in stasis" I wrote in my last blog entry.

Well... things are still standing still. But, I don't have much emotional sense of stasis tonight. 

Tonight, it just feels a bit... tedious. Eight months I've been biting my tongue and waiting for her. And tonight I just bit it again.

We were watching a romantic commedy together. I guess that made it a bit harder. You see all this romance and love on screen, and it can be a bit hard to not be a bit inspired! But any inspiration was clearly in one direction only, as she was as cold as an old friend. Which is to say, not cold, per se, but with no warmth at all, either. Like we were flatmates. And, no, it is NOT all about sex. There's no cuddles, no kissing, and not much emotional intimacy, either. Warmth, yes -- the warmth of an old friend; but no more. 

Which begs the question: if you aren't moving forward, are you moving backwards? 

Tonight, it feels a bit like it. 

But there are blessings in celibacy. I am more attuned to my feelings and thoughts around sex, attraction, desire, touch and love. I notice, now, when she ovulates! Not because she tells me, nor because I see it on the calendar, but because I can feel the extra phermonal attraction I have. It can make it very, very hard at times. I have lain next to her in bed, and it was everything I could do to not wrap my arms and legs around her in the sheer desire to hold her and be intimate with her. Last week it was more subtle. I saw her changing into her pyjamas, and I saw her breasts. Nothing unusual there, but it left me far more aroused than usual. And then I remembered what time of month it was, and it all made sense. 

Biologists say she is likely to feel more aroused as well, but you wouldn't guess it to be around her. Who knows. 

When our problems first came up after the birth of our first child about five years ago, she went off to the doctor to check her hormone levels. One came in high: TSH, her thyroid stimulating hormone. It turned out her TSH was in overdrive because her thyroid itself was slowly dying. It is not as dramatic as it sounds, nor is it unusual. She just had low level hypothyroidism, which is one of the hormonal causes of low libido. 

A couple of months ago, I bought her a book on the subject, and she discovered that her thyroid medication might have been a bit low. Apparently they were using the wrong test, and possibly the wrong measure for what "normal" is. 

So her meds were increased, and a month later she was to be retested. But she forgot. Then it was the next week. She was too busy. So then it was the next week again. 
Should I remind her to go and take the blinking test?!? Would it go against my private vow? I did remind her (in as low-key a way as possible), and I think it did not break my vow. She didn't seem to feel at all pressured or nagged. And of course, it's not just about sex anyway. 

So... the test said that her new doseage put all three of her thyroid horomones in the correct range. One was even pushing the high end. 

She did seem to change over the month. She seemed so much happier. Things that annoyed her still got under her skin, but they didn't stay there the way they had in the past. She could brush them off much more readily. She became a lot more emotionally resilient, a lot happier, and a LOT more pleasant to be around. 

But... any whisper of an increased libido? 


So... now what? For six or so weeks I guess the plan in the back of my head has been to see what happens with this new level of thyroid hormone. Well... she's taken it. Her mood has improved, but her libido hasn't, and -- worst of all -- the test results mean that she won't be increasing her medication again. 

Sadly, the problem wasn't as simple as that. 

So, now I am just waiting again. But no longer with a subconscious hope. I mean, if there is no spark after watching a Ro-Com together... will there ever be? 

I desparately want somehow to find a way to move things along without her feeling at all pressured. That, however, seems impossible. 

I guess that's why a vow is a vow. Because it's hard. There would be no point in making a vow to sleep every night, or to eat every day. I would do those things anyway. A vow becomes meaningful when it is tested. And tonight, today, this week -- it's really feeling tested. 

Eight months down, four to go. 

Lord, give me the strength to wait; the insight to be doing this in the right way and for the right reasons; and the courage to stay the path of what is best for all of us in the long run, and not just what might feel best in the moment. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

standing still in stasis

Hmm. Nothing of interest to report. 

She still has no libido. 

It's not bothering me at the moment. 

We are close, at the moment, but at a stand still. That is, we are not moving closer (which is interesting and exciting for the possibilities to come) nor are we moving further apart (which is dramatic and hurtful and great grist for the blogging mill). 

So... things just sit. 

I'm like the anorexic or hunger striker who finally loses his or her appetite. 

No big deal. 

Well, not today, anyway.     :) 

Thursday, April 30, 2009

adult content?

When I had the option to label this as "adult content" or not, I chose to label it as adult. Why? Because of the "next blog" button on the top of the screen. Anyone who hits that button can be landed on some random blog or other. I saw some random blog with pictures of a kid's birthday party, and I thought, "gosh I don't want some kid looking at pics from his party to suddenly end up on this site!" 

Fair enough. 

But I've also seen lots of explicit discussions out there of all kinds of things with no warnings. 

I've also understand that some people come to this site's "adult content warning" page and then immediately leave. 

Am I giving the false impression that this blog is full of explicit images and anatomical discussions? 

I wonder if the "adult content warning" is warranted. (Bearing in mind that I did publish one rather racy post!) 

Any thoughts out there on this one? 

To wish without hoping

So, I was reminded today that abstinence is easy. Until I begin to hope that something will change. It was hard, of course, for the first few weeks and months. Almost unbearably hard at times! To have her right next to me in bed, to breathe her scent, to feel her warmth and yet not to be able to reach out to her, to hold her... 

Yeah. That sure wasn't easy. 

But after a few months it got easier. 

The next hurdle was the special occasions, when I thought she might want to come to me. Christmas. My birthday. Valentine's day. 

Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. 

But, since then, I have been clever enough not to hope. I've realised that this is how it's going to work -- or, rather, not work. 

And then the lovely Sungold at Kittywampus asked me what was going to happen at the end of the year. 

It was something that I had considered, but only vaguely. I realised then that I didn't want moving forward to START to happen at the end of my year of abstinence. I really hoped that it would somehow FINISH at the end of that year. That somehow Susan would magically come to me because 365 days of my asexuality was exactly what she needed to get her libido back. And all would be back to normal, or at least moving in that direction apace. 

But of course, six months in, not much had changed, so there was little reason to think that another six months later things would be suddenly different. 

So for that and other reasons, I began to engage her about our relationship. Not about sex, mind you. Just our relationship. 

She hated it. She was willing to talk -- just, but I had to really push her into it. 

Long story short, things have greatly improved between us in all kinds of (non sexual) ways. 

I still have to push her to talk about relationship stuff, but almost every time I do (once every week or two), I feel we make great strides as a couple. 

And this lead me to think tonight that there might be... well, not sex, certainly, but perhaps some spreading of the detante from emotional issues further into sexual ones. 

And there wasn't. She was polite. Friendly. Very good natured. But clearly uninterested in taking any of the opportunities I presented her on a platter to discuss (sexual) things further. 

And there was a bit of that old feeling. A bit of hope that was raised and therefore dashed. 

So, gentle reader, that is my conundrum. How to wish for spring, plan for spring, prepare for spring, but never to hope for it. 

Pulling back is easy, but putting yourself out there without, at the same time, any emotional attachment. Hmm. That's the skill of top salesmen. Buddhist monks. And, perhaps, exceptionally nice young men who are on the dating scene. 

I used to be just such a young man. Perhaps that's a mindset I need to revisit. 

Or perhaps I need to accept that to really put myself out there without hope is perhaps dishonest. And perhaps impossible. 

Perhaps part of my learning for this year is not to learn a buddhist-like skill of wishing without hoping, but rather to learn the resilience of dustimg myself off when hopes have been . . . let's not say "dashed", but rather, "postponed." 

Monday, April 20, 2009

getting better

I'm pleased to say that things are getting better between Susan and me. I got her to talk to me and I felt we made some headway. We didn't talk about sex and all that -- more about general issues in our relationship. Reversing your normal stereotype, she doesn't like to talk much -- least of all about relationship stuff. When she does, she wants it to be quick, efficient, goal oriented, transactional, and finished -- not to be repeated unless for necessary clarification. 

That probably makes her sound quite severe, which she is not. But nor is she the sort of girl who wears her heart on her sleave. 

My intuition seems to have been right. She senses that her sexual abuse as a child might be one of our relationship roadblocks. 

She also seems open to the idea that she is currently suffering from the "wall of fear" that survivors of sexual abuse have when they are worried that old wounds might come up. 

It seems that that is part, or even all, of the reason she doesn't like to talk much. 

So I am trying to coax her along. Not to talk about her sexual abuse, but to open up to me a bit more. I could live (as I've discovered!) without sex. I could (ALMOST) live without cuddles. But living without emotional intimacy too? That's a bridge too far. So I am trying to coax her along. 

It will be a long road. But we will get there. 
One step at a time. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm so embarassed...

So... I woke up the morning after my last post and was struck with waves of embarassment and cringing. Maybe I should edit it? Or delete the whole thing? 

And the odd thing is... this is an anonymous blog! Ok, I haven't chosen a traditional anonymous name, but, let's face it, my name is not REALLY "Mark Faulkner" (surprise!) and my wife's name is not REALLY Susan. 

So... I'm left wondering... why am I embarassed? 
Not sure. The feeling went away after a day.

But it begs another question... why am I doing this at all? 
The irony is, this is a topic I can't talk to friends about. Nor family. A counsellor is a bit inconvenient and expensive for me at the moment. 

So, because this topic -- sex, effectively -- is too racey, too awkward, too uncomfortable to talk about with my very best friends in the world, the only safe answer is to broadcast it to everybody! And somehow that's safer! 

How bizarre! 

Not unfamiliar, though. I once told a complete stranger in a bar something that was highly personal and highly troubling. I think it's often easier that way. 

The paradox, though, is that as I put more of myself into this blog, it becomes more "me". And then I read other people's blogs talking about things of interest. I read them and comment, and I become more invested in this blog and in my identity in the blogosphere. 

I've always been a very WYSIWYG kind of a guy. I don't really have the energy for pretense, game-playing, showmanship, brinkmanship, or any other kind of -ship! The unkind way of saying it is that I wear my heart on my sleeve. Perhaps the nice way is to say that I am in touch with my feelings, and I am an open, straight-forward guy. 

But if I try to bifurcate myself into "real me" and "Mark Faulkner, born again virgin and blogger" then pretense almost inevitably comes into it. 

I think to myself, "what if Sue somehow finds this and reads it?" So I try to change little facts. Things that aren't relevant to the core issues. Enough so that I hope Sue wouldn't immediately recognise herself if she came across this blog. (Not that she would come across it randomly while searching the net... but I did accidentally leave it open on my computer once! Oooops!) 

But then... how far do you go? Should I avoid turns of phrase that I normally use? Should I strip out all the interesting, memorable parts of an anecdote? 

More troubling to me is the thought that I could see myself really getting into this blogging thing. I'd really like to put all sorts of thoughts, feelings, experiences and ideas out there. I'd like to connect with people who've read my blog and whose blogs I've read -- people I've emailed and who have emailed me, people with whom I've carried on a conversation via posting comments on a blog. 

And all of that's fine except that... it all sounds like it's starting to be a double life. Clark Kent and his secret identity: Blogosphere Boy! 

As Blogosphere Boy, will I never be able to tell Lois Lane of all the interesting blogs I've read, and all the blogging conversations I've had? 
As Clark Kent, will I never be able to tell the good citizens of Blogosphere anything that might reveal my "true" identity? 

Hmmm. It's late. I'm tired. A problem to further contemplate another time. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Apologies for a rather racy post --

Last night I had a dream that Sue and other women were congregating in a parking garage. Each woman was sitting alone in her car, and the cars were not parked close together. It was like a place these women could go to be alone. A place (and a time) that they all knew. 
And (now here's the surreal bit) what were they doing? They had all gone there to use their vibrators. 
This may seem like some sort of twisted male fantasy, but in the dream, it wasn't erotic at all. Not even vaguely titlating. Nor did I, in my dream, see anything explicit. Just a bunch of cars in a dimly lit parking garage. 

I told Sue about it in the morning, and I jokingly asked her if she had been doing that. We had a little laugh about the absurdidty of the idea. And then I wanted to ask her something a bit more. My heart started beating a little harder. I wanted to ask her if... but then one of the kids started screaming and the moment was lost. 

Later in the morning Sue went out to get the groceries, and I had a peek to see if her vibrator had moved. It hadn't. It hasn't moved at all in a week or more. I was beginning to wonder whether I imagined the thing moving in the first place. Maybe it was really just me who was moving it when I dug around trying to find it. Maybe the whole thing was one big misunderstanding. My eyes or my memory were playing tricks on me? Or mabe she just used it very rarely. Perhaps when her period was coming. An ex had told me she used to masturbate to alieviate period pain. 

I went to the laundry basket and found the dress she was wearing last night when we went out for the first time in three months. I held it up and smelled it. I could smell her perfume on it. It was nice. I got in bed and held it against myself. I put it over my face, and the smell came through. I moved it and I could smell her underarms, her muskiness, her perfume. I held the dress over my face, so it was totally dark. But I held it against my body, so it would feel like her. I rubbed it against me and imagined that she was on top of me, grinding her hips into mine. But she wasn't there. She was buying bananas at Krogers. 

This afternoon, I went out to run some errands, and took one of the kids with me. We went to Building Depot and got some odds and ends. We got back late, after three hours of traipsing about. We were late for dinner, and Sue was unimpressed, but it wasn't a drama. 

Later, I noticed something on top of the sweaters under which Sue keeps her vibrator had moved. Not by much, but it had definitely moved. I waited for Sue to be busy with the kids, and then I took my chance and had a look. It was in a completely different place! There could be no mistaking it now, not even a little bit. It had been dug out from the bottom of a big pile; taken out; and put back on its end in a different spot. It was thrown in loosely, and not too hidden, which is very unlike Sue. Had she almost been caught and had to hide it in a hurry? Or was she, perhaps, almost wanting me to find it...

I put everything back how it was and moved away. 

I didn't want Susan to catch me there. 

My heart was beating a bit, and I had some tingling in my fingers. (I have even more now, writing about it!) 

I was upset. I didn't really know what to think. Of course I felt betrayed. 

Later I snuck back a second time and picked it up. I smelled it to see if it smelled of her. But all I could smell was the sandalwood of the shelf it was on. 

Later again I went for a short run. 

I thought she might hide it properly while I was out. 

I snuck my fourth peek for the day. 

Nope. It hadn't moved. 

Is she toying with me? Does she know I look? Is she trying to provoke a reaction, a coment, a confession? Perhaps she feels ashamed, but she wants me to find out... to somehow catch her. 

The grand irony that did not strike me til now is that here we have an (ostensibly) loving couple. They (we) have been together for 10 years. They have two children. The have a life together. A home. A business. And yet their sexual life has devolved to the irony of them both masturbating on the same day, in the same room at different times a few hours apart. Each in secret from the other. He was thinking of her. She was thinking of... well, only she can tell you that. He hopes it was him. Do women fantasize when they masturbate, the way men do? No idea. I would presume so, but so much about our sexuality is so different. 

The irony of a couple... making love to themselves, but not to each other, a loving couple, but an asexual couple. In the same room. In the same afternoon. In ignorance of each other. Each reaching out for physical, sexual, and emotionally intimate needs. But reaching out only to themselves, not to each other. Each hiding their drives and urges, as well as their acations, from each other. The imagery, when I think about it, is overwhelming. It feels so... je ne sais qua. Pinter-esque? Post modern? It feels like it could be a key scene from a late 20th century avant garde play. 

The symbolism didn't even strike me until I began writing this post. 

Later this evening, I asked her if we could talk. 
It was a huge break through, and a huge chance for us to move forward. 
But that, my friends, is another post for another time. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

is a kiss just a kiss?

I went to kiss Sue tonight. We went out on a date, at my behest. First time in almost three months. I started kissing her a bit passionately... more than just a quick, close-mouthed peck on the lips. 
She wasn't too keen. 
She'd told me before she didn't like kissing. 
Tonight she told me why.
Her father used to kiss her that way...

I'm not really sure what more to say. 
I wasn't too surprised, in a way. I knew he had abused her, the b@$+@rd. 
In a way, it made me feel a bit better. 
At least I knew her rejection of my kisses wasn't personal. It had a reason. It was something I could be (and am) compassionate about. Something was beginning to make sense. 
It was also a great breakthrough because she was actually talking to me about something other than the weather, the kids, the mortgage, etc. 
We were having an actual intimate conversation! Wow!

Did it break my vow to kiss her? I hope not. I think we both knew from the outset that it was not going to go to sex. 

I am beginning to think that my blog might be morphing from the story of one man's quest to live for a year in a relationship without sex. The new blog may well be one man's quest to come to terms with the results of his wife's childhood sexual abuse. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why are you so happy? Oh, it's THAT time of month!

Sue has been in quite a good mood for the last few days. Not quite flirtatious, but happy in a low key way. It's nice to see. Though, unforutnately, it whets my appetite for more. Not sex necessarily, but just a bit more... intimacy. Connection. Warmth. 

Then I began to suspect... and I checked her calendar. Yup. It's that time of the month again. No not THAT time of month... the other one. The one that, oddly, no one seems to really talk about unless they are trying to get pregnant. 

According to her calendar, Sue is likely to be ovulating just now. 

Ok, so it's not enough to make her want to make love to me. Or even to give me a back rub... or even an affectionate nuzzle! But... there is a definite lightening of the atmosphere. More smiles, more relaxation, more... cruziness. It's nice. And given how very, very grumpy she gets when it's that OTHER time of the month, I'll most certainly take it. :) 

In other news, I checked out a book to see if I could understand what is going on for Sue. It was called "A woman's guide to overcoming sexual fear and pain." 

There are all kinds of causes, of course, of low libido, and the book covers them all. Psychological beliefs about sex; anatomical problems; relationship problems; hormonal problems, and so on. 

But one stuck out for me more than any other: Being a survivor of sexual abuse. 

I had long known that Sue had been "interfered with" (as we used to say) by her father when she was in her early teens. She told me that it was relatively "low level" abuse, though she's never really told me more than that. She doesn't mention it often, though I know she is not the only victim in her family. 

Anyway, the book says, "Many incest survivors experience conflict about the meaning of sex. Sex beocmes a duty rather than an expression of love, pleasure or comfort. As intimacy increases, so does the survivor's fear of being dependent, vulnerable, and unable to protect herself. Commitment begins to feel like being trapped in an unsafe situation. The abused woman may begin to view her partner through the same lens with which she views family members... who have hurt her. She may handle all of these conflicts by separating sex from emotional intimacy. Many abuse survivors describe feeling highly sexual when they ave been with new, casual, or inapporpirate partners, but find themselves losing their sexual feelings with a loved partner."

Earlier it says, "Many survivors feel highly sexual with new partners and belive they will continue to relate to their lafe parnter in this way. But sexuality is split off from emotional intimacy and love, so as they become closer and more intimate, th epartner begins to feel more like family and therefore is perceived to be like the dangerous perpetrator or a part of the incest taboo. Consequently, these womenview sex as an avesrive experience and withdraw from it. This is confusing to both partners as they cycle through a pattern fo little or no sex, distance, anger, fear, fights, and hopeful reconciliations.

"The woman may wonder why her parner can't love her for herself and leave sex out of the relationship. Yet few parners are willing to live without a sexual relationship." 

All of this feels right... it feels as if it probably applies to Sue. But... I don't know. She doesn't like to talk about ANYTHING intimate, much less this kind of stuff. 

She did tell me once about the demise of a previous relationship. I asked her why it ended. She said she didn't know. They just drifted apart and stopped having sex. 

One wonders which happened first. 

These problems are hard enough even if Sue had every interest in working through them. 
As it is, I don't know how we can sort it out. 
But I do know that I will commit myself to doing everything I (reasonably) can on my side, so that if things ultimately don't work out (god forbid) then I won't ever be able to say to myself, "I should have done more of this and less of that." 

The vow du jour is to take on more work around the house, and to try to address some of those things that Sue is unhappy about (eg, my clutter).... 
Watch this space! 

Friday, March 20, 2009

That's all well and good for the first 365 days...

I am now about six months in to my challenge. No sex, no attempts at seduction, no complaints, hints, inuendos, yada yada yada. You get the point.

And the interesting thing is that, on the whole, my libido has dropped. It's nice in a way. A bit refreshing. I'm no longer caught in the whole cat and mouse thing. The whole demeaning cycle of having to make overatures and be rebuffed and be, at times, the bad guy for having suggested that sex once every two weeks is not too much. 

It was a bit like pulling teeth. And the hurt on being rejected was hard. The hardest bit was when it was still up in the air. If Sue had said, "no way, nuh-uh, just not happening until X," then it would have been a bit easier. We would both know where we stood. But that wasn't her approach. I don't know whether she was feeling a bit ambivalent, or whether she was trying to not say no. But the pattern was often one of overatures that didn't get rebuffed until well after I had thought we were making some progress. 

The hardest times were the times I thought something would happen. Like Christmas. Or my birthday. I guess I just felt that Sue would want to do something special for me... for us... on those occassions. No such luck. Again, if I had known in advance, then that would have been easier. I wouldn't have gotten my hopes up. I am reminded -- if this analogy is not too absurd -- of what John McCain said about the prisoners of war who didn't make the difference. Who were they? The optimists! They were sure they were going to get out by Christmas. Then they were sure they were going to get out by Easter, and so on. Eventually the continued disappointment broke them, and broke them badly. 

Ok, so being asexual with your wife is hardly being a POW, but there is a lesson to draw, perhaps: that optimism can lead to, ironically enough, a more negative experience. 

Resignation isn't the best idea either, I think. That sounds a bit too close to giving up on life. I guess that's why it's important to me to have this be for a definite time frame. It means that this is still a situation in which I am making choices. It reminds me that I have choices open to me. Choosing not to ask Sue for sex, or even to ask her to see a doctor or a psychologist, is something that comes from me. It's not something she's imposed upon me or forced me to do. I feel very much in control of that decision. 

I could, I suppose, easily enough revert to our previous pattern of nagging/asking/begging/waiting/hoping for sex, and getting it every two or three weeks. Part of that pattern was asking her to see a doctor or psychologist or for us to go together to a sex therapist. But that was hardly a fulfilling sexual relationship. And Sue said she would go to the psychologist, but she never did. 

So I chose to try another tactic. I chose to give her space. I chose to let her come to me if she chose to. I wanted to short circuit our patterns. And I wanted to give her some air, as it were, and let her feel free of the pressure. 

But now, six months in, I am beginning to worry. She has shown no interest in either sex, or in figuring out why she has (as she says) no libido. That's fine, but then what happens at the end of a year? We only begin talking about it then? And then maybe she has some deep seated childhood issue to resolve which may take some years? So things are then... what? Drifting? In limbo? Dragging on for EVER?

Subconsciously I somehow imagined that after a year we would be having sex again. Normal sex. Not nagging/begging/pleading/asking sex. Mutual sex where we both find it an empowering, satisfying experience that we look forward to on a periodic basis. 

Six months in, and I am suddenly realising that that half-formed thought in the back of my head is utterly unrealistic. It just ain't gonna happen. 

So now what? 

Another option is that at the end of the year it could become clear to me that we will never have a "normal" relationship. Our physical and emotional intimacy will just not be there in the same way that other couples have it. 

Maybe that could be viable. It's certainly not a miserable existence. We don't fight much. We mostly get on. We love the kids and want the best for them. We love each other -- in a very non-intimate way! -- and want the best for each other, too. We have a nice house, and a reasonably comfortable middle class life. 

Who wants to be single again?!?

"Hey baby, come here often?" 

And as I get older, I suppose I will want sex less and less. (I've wanted sex less and less ever since I was 13!)

But still... recomitting to a relationship where: 1) she doesn't want sex at all, ever; and 2) she has very little interest in emotional intimacy; and 3) she has no real interest in addressing my concerns about 1 and 2 by seeing a counsellor or talking to me about it...
... hmm. 

Well... every relationship is imperfect. At least she doesn't drink; doesn't gamble; doesn't spend lots of money; doesn't lie to me (as far as I know!); doesn't manipulate; isn't lazy; doesn't cheat on me (as far as I know). 

In fact... as the old joke goes, except for her shortcomings, she's perfect! 

What is a deal breaker for me? 

A lack of sex certainly wouldn't be a deal breaker if she were ill... 

Hmmm. So much to think about. So much to talk about. 
If only she would talk to me about it! And if only I hadn't taken this dumb vow, so that I could bring it up with her! 

I think I might have to re-examine that part of the vow. I want some resolution at the end of the year. I want some clarity on where and how we're going forward. 

I can keep it in my pants for a year, but I need that year to end with a bang, not a whimper. 

Any thoughts out there in the blogosphere? I would be interested to hear your ideas and reactions. :)