Saturday, February 28, 2009

a headache again?

So today Sue had a headache. So I pitched in and did my bit, looking after the kids, trying to keep them quiet so she could have a lie down. I did a lot of the things that she is normally the only one to ever do: make them a milkshake snack; make dinner, etc. I also did some of the things that I do only intermittently: do the dishes, brush the kids' teeth and get them into bed, et cetera. 

I say "et cetera" because I want to make it sound like more than just that. And there were other little things along the way (does "set the table" count?) But the reality was that that was basically it. 

It sounds so minor. 

I feel a bit pathetic for not doing more all along. 

There are reasons, of course, and I used to cook dinner a fair bit, and I work long hours and blah blah blah. 

That's not the point. And I don't want to get into justifying or explaining myself. 

The point is that one day I woke up and realized that I do "bugger all" around here. I mean, I do work my butt off in general, but somehow over time I have come to do bugger all around the house. 

It sure feels like I do a lot more than bugger all. But then I started to write down all the things I do each day. Wow! I make Beaver Cleaver's dad look like a veritable Martha Stewart by comparison! 

My big thing ("big" -- ha!) used to be taking out the trash each week. A nice five or ten minute job. But it felt good an masculine. Semi-heavy lifting and all that. But even that task somehow slipped away. Sue took it over. 

So, until recently my big domestic contributions were things like calling the kids to dinner, or reading them a bedtime story. And sometimes driving them to school, if it fit in with my schedule. I give the lawns the odd mow, but they don't need it much.

Sue used to give me the choice after dinner: bathe the kids or do the dishes. She was trying to be positive, and trying to get me to do my bit. And I did. When she asked. But she's not really the assertive type, and she fell out of the habbit of asking. And I didn't think to volunteer. 

So the point is, in the last two weeks, I've been trying to do five tasks every day. Put away the dishes, put the kids to bed, that sort of thing. I feel like I'm doing a lot more, so I was a bit surprised at the end of the day to realize that most days I had only done one thing! Doing the dishes, putting them away, whatever. No big deal. That was my big new effort. 

Anyway, Sue didn't say anything. Which was fine. It used to annoy me. Last winter I tried to make an effort -- specially for her. And so when I did something, I expected her to notice and to appreciate it. Out loud. And preferably with a bit of enthusiasm. She had other ideas. She bristled at the notion that she should give me some warm fuzzies for doing these things. "You should be doing it anyway," she snapped contemptuously. 

True enough, perhaps, though not the best way in the world to engage in "change management". 

But I'm over the need to be recognized now. Because now I'm not doing it for Sue as a favour, as a kind of warm fuzzie for her. Rather, I'm just trying to make sure I do SOME chipping away at domestic duties each day. Just to help things tick along.

There's been a bit of a paradigm shift for me as well. That's because Sue has a new part time job starting on Monday. So for the last week or two, I've been thinking of us more as a both-parents-working (outside the home, that is!) family. I know it would be overwhelming for her to try to do all the work she does now, PLUS a new job, so I am trying to pitch in. 

It feels great. It's like a team effort. Like we're all pulling together to get the family through this busy patch. There's something of a WWII "Support your nation: buy war bonds!" feel to it. Sue The Riveter -- so to speak. 

But the Big Shift came today. 

Sue had the headache, and I did far more than normal. Kept the kids (mostly) quiet for the better part of two hours or so. Got them the milkshakes, made us all dinner, did the dishes, dried them, put them away, brushed the kids teeth, got them into bed. 

So did Sue throw herself at me in a moment of unrestrained enthusiasm for my domestic prowess? Of course not! 

But she did touch me. 

We watched a movie together, and in it, the leading man and woman kissed. After the movie, I went to kiss her in the same way. Naturally, she made a joke of it. She's a bit uncomfortable with intimacy, I guess. But as she turned to leave the room, she touched my stomach, and then gave it a little squeeze. And she smiled. Smiled with her eyes. Not lasciviously. Not humorously. Just... happily. She was happy and at peace. 

AND, she touched me. 

When was the last time Sue touched me? I can't think. Months? Years? 

It was a small enough gesture. But it was a gesture. A step in the right direction. 

Maybe we'll clamber our way out of this pit yet. 

Give us time. 

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Work for the night is coming"

I had a big, full day of work today. I know that because I've worked from getting up to going to bed, and now, just before bed, I am totally exhausted. 

It feels great.

And the good news is that having a positive focus for my life like work takes my mind off of other things. Well... let's be frank!... off of sex. 

Like many things, I suppose, the more you think about something, the more it thinks about you. The more those thoughts grow on you and preoccupy you. Thinking about sex in a chaste relationship is like thinking about the Niagra falls when you have to pee. It's just not a good idea. Counterproductive. 

Of course, simply trying not to think about sex is like trying not to think of green elephants. You can't (easily) not think of a thing by trying not to. Especially not a ubiquitous thing like sex. 

But what you can do is to have your attention be fully consumed by something else. In this case, work. 

Sex is something that comes into my mind when I am bored, listless, directionless. A bit of fun excitement. 

But if I am fully preoccupied by other positive things, then it's a non issue.

Better, I think Sue is impressed when I am working harder. She seems to respect me more. 
Better still, I care less what Sue thinks when I am working harder. Because I respect myself more. 

I wonder what Sue's new job will do to her libido? Less boredom means less libido? Or, more positive direction in her life means more zest for life means more libido. 

Not, of course, that sex is the end game of life, but that's another story.... 

Sunday, February 22, 2009

male bonding... with my wife!

Today Sue and I worked hard. Hard all day long. I think I've come to realize how little I had been doing before. And how much she had. She can go like a trojan, that woman. 

So, today we were working together, trying to sort some things out for our business and trying to get ourselves, our kids and our business organised. 

Now, the thing is, Sue doesn't really like to talk to me too much about personal stuff. I could talk about that stuff all day long. She'd sooner swallow razor blades. Just shows to go you (as they say) that gender stereotypes don't always hold. 

The Australian Men's writer, Stephen Biddulph, says that men don't bond by talking about all that emotional stuff. We blokes, he says, bond by working side by side. Doing stuff together. Changing oil filters, or putting bait on hooks. If you're doing something like that, then you can spend quality time with your male friends. In fact, blokes will come from miles around to be part of the male experience.

Talk about your feelings, though, and we... well, most of us guys would sooner swallow razor blades. 

So, the interesting thing that happened today is that Sue and I worked together basically all day long. We were in each other's presence, communicating for 12, 13, maybe almost 14 hours straight. And we didn't fight once. No bickering. No snapping. No rolled eyes. And no sense that anyone was wasting anyone's time. 

Instead, there was a subtle bonding going on. We worked together well. There was no love fest, by any means, but there were smiles. There was comfort. Relaxation. And productivity -- in a positive atmosphere, no less! 

So, I'm thinking now that Sue and I are, perhaps, more like a couple of blokes. We bond not by talking about our secret hopes and dreams, but by (metaphorically speaking) tying fishing flies together. She -- almost pointedly -- doesn't offer to make me a lunch as she slaps some sandwiches together for the boys. And I certainly don't ask. But I think I build some real credit in her eyes when I start to make my own. She sees me plugging away at those domestic tasks, and I can see my personal stock value going up. 

It's funny to think that all these years feminists and talk show hosts have been telling men how we must be more feminized -- be more sensitive; listen better; open up to our feelings. 

For Sue, it seems, what works is just the opposite! 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Groundhog Day meets American Beauty

Every time I think about it, I come back to the same conclusion. The only way out of this scenario is the Groundhog Day solution. Or the American Beauty answer. Same difference.

"What is that?" you ask?

Well, good question!

Both films are about guys who are in messed up situations. Bill Murray (GHD) is a lonely cynic who alienates those around him. Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) is depressed, barely speaking to his wife and daughter, and is misearable at work. 

And both films show the protagonists doing what they need to do to become happy within themselves. 

Bill Murray keeps trying to win the girl (Andie MacDowell) by finding out _exactly_ what pleases her. It almost works, too... until it backfires and she thinks he's some kind of stalker. It's not until Bill gives up trying, becomes less of a cynic and builds a positive relationship with those around him that Andie finally falls for him. 

In short, he becomes happy. Positive. Confident. Relaxed. He's no longer seeking something from Andie. He has something to offer her instead. He is no longer chasing after her, but rather is letting her come to him. But -- and this is the cruical part -- he's doing this not as a strategy to get her, but rather as a result of the new person he has become. 

His very act of seeking her put her off not because women don't like to be wooed, but because his interest in her came from a needy and unpleasant part of himself. Deep down he was, no doubt, a vulnerable guy, as we all are. And he masked this vulnerability with cyncisim and negativity. 

Through the movie, this masking morphed from negativity to positivity. Cynicisim and self-absorption evolved into generosity of spirit and a genuine care for others. He became more likable, of course, but I think just as importantly, he liked himself more, too. And because of that, perhaps, he no longer needed the relationship with Andie; which meant that he was suddenly much more appealing to her on all sorts of levels. 

It's, perhaps, a bit like another film, the Shawshank Redemption. It was only when Morgan Friedman no longer cared whether he was paroled or not that he was finally let out. 

I know I am not cynical, and I certainly try not to be negative. But I certainly have deeply unmet sexual needs -- and perhaps other unmet needs as well. 

So I guess my goal is to be a bit more like Bill Murray -- to become a nicer, more generous, expansive and pleasant person. A person who is a bit less needy. Because as long as I focus on what I don't have it will: 1) drive me nuts, AND, 2) mean any attempt to get it is doomed to fail. 

If I focus instead on building as positive, expansive, social, generous and fullfilling life for myself as I can, then I am much more likely to obtain that "other" goal. And I will have a better time of it along the way. And if I fail in that other goal, I will be in a much better position to cope with that, as well as whatever our relationship and my life brings me next. 

Next time... more on American Beauty 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

about last night...

... there is a short story and a long story to tell about last night.
I'll just tell the short one for now. 
I HATE doing the dishes. More than any other chore on god's green earth. 
But last night Sue had her class at the community college, so I looked after the kids. Which was a blast. But then I bit the bullet and did the dishes. I thought she would get a kick out of that. 
She didn't say anything, but I mentioned it, and she said thanks. 
Then at about 10:15 she was saying how I should be getting into bed. 
I told her I still had far too much work to do.
I ended up doing another two hours of work.
In the morning she was in a really good mood.

I don't know if if's because I did the dishes; or because I was so industrious last night; or for some other reason. 

Maybe she's just a moody person. 

She didn't used to be, but she changed after she had the kids. 
Perhaps I shouldn't be taking it all so personally. 

But a small part of me wonders from time to time about other explanations for low libido.

Could she be seeing someone else? 

She usually gets home from her class at just after 9:00. 
Last night she got home at 9:30.
And she was in an unusually good mood both last night and this morning. 
It reminded me of one time when we'd made love, and what a good mood I was in with her the next morning. 

I don't want to be one of those suckers who said, "I had no idea s/he was having an affair and about to leave me..." 
On the other hand, I think a rational and reasonable evaluation of the facts would suggest that she is certainly not.
And, as I discovered this morning when I toyed with the idea a bit, "down this path lays madness". It drove me nuts, just considering the possibility. I think it can be an addictive thought, because on some level the thought is exciting -- not in an enjoyable way, but in a dramatic way. It gets the blood flowing. So when my mind is empty (and tired, and bored), it's easy to get seduced by the drama of the idea. 

But what set it off more was when I tried to phone her this morning. She didn't answer the phone. She often doesn't when I call her cell. It drives me slightly nuts. She seems to try to avoid me at times. At other times, I guess I just catch her in the shower or something. 

Anyway, this morning I called her on the land line and suggested I call back on her cell (which is cheaper). She agreed, but it took awhile to get through.

"sorry," she said. "I found the phone in my car. It must have fallen out of my purse last night."

Which is fine. 

But she didn't take her purse with her to her class last night.

Which is fine. 

But I don't think she would go to her class without her cell phone. I think she's quite conscious of the whole "woman on her own" thing, and not being in a parking lot late at night without a phone. 

So maybe it was just a slip of the tongue. Or maybe she had gone (as she thought) without her phone. 

The hard bit is, she doesn't like to talk to me about our relationship. 
So I can't just say, "I'm feeling a bit insecure because you're not sleeping with me, so I need you to be a bit more clear about what's going on for you." 

All she says to me is that she has no idea why she has no libido. 

I don't want her to feel watched, or scrutinised or the least bit suspected. Because my head knows there is nothing to be suspicious of. 

But when she comes home half an hour later than usual from class, and says her phone fell out of her purse, and then is in an unusually good mood... 

The direction that those facts point might soon be forgotten. But it's a bit harder to forget when I am still living in a way I was not designed to live: namely, I am a healthy young-ish man with a normal libido, sleeping every night next to a woman I love, and yet I am celibate. 

So my libido, if nothing else, means that these issues keep coming to mind. Even when, really, they were best discarded. 

Earlier the same day, I came home unexpectedly. 
A nice, new looking car was parked in front of our house. I came in. The groceries were on the floor. 
I walked upstairs. 
Sue was in bed. 
She pulled the covers up over herself and said I had woken her up.
She said she had a migraine. 
She often has migraines, and when she does, bed rest is a main remedy.
Still, the suspicious part of my mind wondered at finding her in bed in the middle of the day, pulling the sheets up to her chin, with a funny car outside. 
Not long after, the car was gone. 

99.9999% it is all coincidence. Random happenings that the "what if" part of my brain can not soon enough let go of. 

If only she would talk to me about these things -- about us, about her, about everything that is going on. About the elephant in the room.

I know that the only answer for me, though, must be to be happy and content within myself. Self confident. Outwardly directed. Active. Positive. (This is starting to sound like trainspotting: "choose life, choose a career...")

What will happen when my year is over. 
Will I say, "sayonara, my friend. I've waited long enough."

I think I can't just sit here waiting for another 7 months.

I don't want to break my vow -- though it's hard at times. At times, almost impossible. But so far, so good.

We talked once, though, of doing a massage class together. My idea, of course. But she agreed. 

If she's got some sort of hang up about touching -- something from her past that is not allowing her to be intimate -- something a bit phobia-esque, perhaps, then maybe a class like this would be a good way to go.
It would be non-sexual; it would be public; we would take turns; and it would mean that once a week for 6 or 8 weeks we would actually be going out together, which would be great.

Maybe if she could get used to something as simple as touching and being touched, it would unblock her emotions a bit more, as well as her comfort with her body and her sexuality. 

UH-oh! I'm not trying to change another person, am I?!? 

I can only change me. And I can only change by being the best person I can be --for myself, for my children, for Sue, for my parents, and for my career.

Gosh, it all sounds so motherhood and apple pie, boyscout wholesome, doesn't it? 
But what other choice do I have? 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

is life without sex normal?

I read an advice column in the paper today. It suggested that there is a common dynamic between couples: he wants more; she wants less; he nags; she's put off and wants less again; he nags more; etc. 

So a simple imbalance in libido, it seems, quickly and commonly leads to a viciously accelerating cycle of increasing imbalances. The more he's upset about how little he's getting, the more she feels unromantic, so the less he gets, so the more upset he gets. 

And the nice thing about reading this is that it normalises -- to a degree -- what's happened between Sue and me. 

There are other factors, of course. The kids. The chronic exhaustion. The lack of the stimulation, structure, familiarity and, perhaps above all, the sense of control that comes from work. Or at least came from Sue's work for her. 

A lot of these things seem to be resolving themselves:
The kids don't wake us up much any more. 
I certainly don't do anything that could be even _remotely_ construed as nagging her about sex. 
Her energy is picking up a bit. 
And, finally, she is going back to work part time. 

The money will be nice. But that's the smallest part of it. Really, I am hoping it will give her a sense of. . . well, of happiness! A broader world for her to look out on. People to talk to besides our kids, our neighbour, a couple of mothers, preschool teachers, etc. 

By doing something in her profession again, Sue can stimulate the old gray matter. All new moms complain about that. But it's probably so much worse for Sue, because she's such an intellectual. Not that she's complained about it. But that's just it: I don't think she's fully aware of what's making her so unhappy. I think she might be a bit like the teenager who stays in her bedroom until 1:00 pm every day, with the curtains pulled tight, not realising the joyful power of a breath of fresh air and sunlight on her face. And so with Sue: it's not until she starts work again that she'll realise what she's been missing: the pressure, the social stimulation, the laughter, the focus, the sense of achievement, of setting goals and reaching them. 

And all of that is, of course, a wonderful thing in it's own right. So I feel rather cheap brining it back to the subject of libido. But, hey, that's what this blog is all about, right? 

So, the point is that she will, I think, be drinking in the fullness of life once more. A job and all the demands and rewards that come with it will awaken parts of her that have been lying dormant for years now. And that may well include her libido. 

My theory is that libido is an essential indicator of normal good health. Just like an appetite to eat, or the desire to get out of bed in the morning. Baring a history of abuse, or an endocrine problem, people like sex. We might not all like it the same, but it is as normal an appetite as the appetite to enjoy the sunshine after weeks of rain, or to enjoy a tall, cool glass of water after hours in the hot sun. 

Of course, all libidos are not created equal. But that is another story. The point here is that all libidos are created. And, it seems to me, the absence of one points to personal problems; or health problems; or -- as is, I hope, the case with Sue -- a spirit that's been worn down by a life that's become more a series of mundane, predictable and dreary demands than the uplifting, engaging challenge that a fulfilling profession should be. 

Well, she starts work in three weeks. So watch this spot. Maybe after a month or two, she will be a new person again. 

On the other hand, the demands of a new job on top of the normal demans of motherhood may make sex seem about as appealing to her as codliver oil. 

Mind you, if Sue put sex on a par with codliver oil, that might denote a marked improvement in her libido! 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I found two other blogs by people with similar resolves -- one man and one woman. Both were started a couple of years ago and, like so many blogs, had only one or two entries and that was it. 

What ever happened to them? Did they fall off the Wagon of Chastity? Or did the adjustment no longer seem like such a big deal that they needed to talk about it with perfect strangers?

As for me and Sue, we are still on the Wagon. At least, I am. And I'm sure she is too. 99.999% sure. Though one always has that thought in the back of one's mind. The thought that it's just possible that there is some perfectly rational reason for her COMPLETE lack of libido. Something like: someone else. 

I have to be careful to not lend my mind to such thoughts. Because I know (for various reasons) that they are not true. So to entertain them would be to torture myself for no reason. 

Today is valentine's day. 

She was in a good mood today. And, as it's been almost five months of no nookie, I thought today might be the day. 

But no. She watched a movie on tv, brushed her teeth, read a book for five minutes, and went to sleep. 

No hint of Nookie -- or any form of romantic interest. 

I touched her once or twice today. Hugged her once, rubbed her stomach once. That's more intimacy that we usually show in a day. Or even a week. She reciprocated in a "trying not to be rude" kind of way. But it was clear that she took no pleasure in being touched, and had no interest in it. 

I read earlier today that people don't get happier when they get richer because they so quickly adjust to their new lifestyle. 

And perhaps so it is with me. I've adjusted -- to an extent -- to life without sex. Five months on and I am long since not crossing off the days. Now I am counting in months, not weeks. I don't even know when the milestone of my original goal (99 days) was met. I didn't even notice. 

But what will happen at the end of a year?

I have visions of myself saying, "ok, I've waited a year. You've shown no interest at all. bye. have a good life."

A terribly immature thought, but in my imagination it brings back some . . . sense of control over my life. Some sense of self respect. A sense of power. 

I guess in a way, this year is about me giving up all sexual power. I am not having sex. I am not initiating sex. I am not asking for it directly, or even by hint. Can anything strip away more power than that? 
For a year, I am putting my sexual life entirely - _entirely_ in her hands. 
And for almost five months now: nothing. No kisses. No cuddles. No holding. And most certainly no sex. 

And the funny thing is, I don't even mind it so much any more. 
But I know I would be happier with it as part of our lives. 

My greatest worry is what happened to a friend of mine about 10 years ago.

She lost all of her libido. She had no interest in sex whatsoever. Her husband was very patient. They had no sex for days; for weeks; for months; for a year. It drove him a bit batty, I think. But he was willing to be patient. He was willing to wait for her. The one thing he could not tolerate was the thought that she would sleep with another man. 
Well, after about a year, she finally did. She had an affair with another guy, but still had no interest in sleeping with her husband. 
Why? I am not sure if even she knows. 
But the relationship with her husband was over, and she eventually used the affair (which had long since ended) as leverage to get out of the marriage. 

Will the same thing happen with Sue and me? 
I don't know. 
She doesn't like to talk about our relationship. 
She doesn't like to talk about personal stuff much at all. 
So I am left not just sexually frustrated, but a bit lonely as well. 
She is a great life companion in many ways, and we spend some very comfortable time together watching tv most nights. But I guess that is about the extent of our intimacy.

Is that as good as it gets? Is this what marriage is all about? 

Sue and I have been together for 8 1/2 years now. 

Is it all hum-drum from here on in?

No talking, no sex, no going out. Just tv. 
What a life. 
What a !@#$-ing life. 

Still, at least we're not starving. We're healthy. We aren't threatened by war. 

Who am I to complain? 

Well. No sex on Christmas (she had a migraine). 
No sex on my birthday three weeks later (another migraine). 
And no sex on valentine's day -- she was tired and just went to bed.

I guess the big questions in my mind are:
1) Am I making -WAY- too big a deal about this by thinking about it and writing about it, thereby making it worse for myself? 
2) If my concerns aren't unreasonable... how long do I wait? And then what do I do next? I really don't want to split up. We have two small children, and a nice middle class lifestyle. I don't want to turn my back on all the comfort in our lives. Because I would be turning away from her and towards... what? The urban gritty realism of the singles scene. Loneliness. Insecurity. The possibility of not finding anyone? Or of it not working out again after another 8 1/2 years? Of growing old and dying alone? 

I guess I know I would find someone else if things didn't work out between me and Sue. 
But... it's a big leap.
But... I'm not getting any younger. If I'm going to make that leap and have a second start, I should do it sooner rather than later.
But... isn't this what commitment is all about? Sticking it out through thick and thin? Through the ups and the downs? Through, even, perhaps periods of low libido, of a few months of no sex, of perhaps a bit less communication that I might like. Hey! What the hell am I complaining about?!? People endure physical and sexual and verbal abuse and all sorts. And I'm whining because I'm feeling a bit under-fulfilled in our relationship?
Get off the grass! 
Get a life! 

But then, how many states is it that allowed "impotence" as a grounds of divorce, even back in the 1800s?
I wonder if "frigidity" is grounds as well. 

And the biggest annoyance for me is not her lack of interest -- that happens to a lot of women; to a lot of couples. 
No, the biggest problem is her lack of interest in doing anything about it. 
No interest in seeing the doctor, no interest in processing what's going on with her with a psychologist. 
She says she will. But then she simply doesn't. And when I last tried to push her on it -- to pin her down about going to the doctor like she said she would -- is when she got all anti. 
And  that is what lead to my vow of abstinence. 

Watch this space...