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.


  1. Sorry, for reasons I don't understand and can't seem to readily fix, the second half of the above post has lost its formatting and has turned into one long paragraph. Ugh!

  2. Have you read Author: Dr. Patrick Carnes "Sexual Anorexia" ?