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


  1. Hey Mark,

    You still haven't posted the email I sent! I think that, based on what I read of the conversation, parts of that email touch on what I'm about to say here.

    If (don't know, but not an unreasonable assumption) Susan associates cuddling with sex, then you need to go out of your way to make it clear that YOU do not associate cuddling with sex. Verbally, at first. "I know you're not comfortable with X but I am feeling really disconnected. Can we just hug a bit? I miss hugging you, that's all. Nothing more since I know you're not in the mood *or whatever* but I just need some hugs." Then reinforce that with --just-- cuddling, nothing more. If you do not say it explicitly first and then reinforce it through your actions (if she lets you) there is no way for her to figure out that's what you want. She probably will not assume you really don't want sex without you explicitly telling her, especially if she's used to cutting off the cuddling to avoid escalating to sex. There's no way for her to know that cuddling is all you want at the moment, and unless you specifically explain you mean "platonically," she probably thought your earlier conversation about "not wanting to touch anymore" was sexual.

    Fact is, many people who were abused by family members as children were not necessarily abused via force or violence...often it is through those simple, theoretically harmless acts of hugging, cuddling, etc. as an "intro" to more inappropriate things. That's actually how abusers "get" their victims with little to no struggle. It's sick, I know, but it's usually a deliberate choice on the abuser's part, and it leads to all kinds of screwed up associations in the poor kids' heads. You may be following the exact same script as Susan's abuser, in which case no wonder she wants to shut the process down. That script is normal for a husband/wife, but that's not what she thinks of when it begins; to her, that's not a husband/wife thing, that's an abuse thing. (I am speculating, of course, but since she won't tell you herself that's really all you have to go on.) You need to be as different from him as you can...and one of those ways is by making it clear that cuddling does not always, or even ever (for the moment) lead to sex. If there's any way to break that association, that will help.

    That said, Susan's unwillingness to talk at all and calling your (mild, from what I can tell) questions "interrogating" does not bode well. Obviously a therapist would be freaking awesome, and you can suggest it (again?) and see what she says, but I'm guessing that will be a huge no from her. Maybe enlist the help of a family member? A sister?

    She sounds like she's in a lot of pain.

  2. Thanks so much for this comment, Mel. Like your email to me (which I have read several times), what you have said is both insightful and well written.

    Susan does have a sister, and a sister who can well and truly relate, as she was also abused by their father. The sister is in a new-ish relationship (three or four years old), and the sister and her beau seem almost ravenously sexual... at least as far as their PDA would suggest. I wonder if Sue's sister will find her libido petering out over time as well.

    Unfortunately, I can't see the two of them really talking about it, though I will certainly suggest it.

    Sue is a lovely woman in all kinds of ways, but she just doesn't talk about these things.

    We are polar opposites, I guess. I ask her how her day has been, and she might give me a five minute answer. To me, we've done little more than say hello. To her, we've had a big heart-to-heart!

    I'll also explore with her your excellent touching suggestion (i.e., making it really clear that it is not about sex). BUT I gather that Sue doesn't like to be touched full stop. Not on a train, not in the rain, not on a mat, not by a cat. She is one of the only women I know who doesn't find the idea of a massage (or even a foot rub) vaguely attractive -- whether it be from me, or from a professional.

    Maybe this is as a result of her abuse, or maybe it's disposition.
    It certainly isn't how it was at the start of our relationship, so at least she's had the capacity to enjoy touch at SOME stage of her life...

    You may well be right about her being in a lot of pain. But if she is, I think she is coping with that by making herself totally numb to it. Cut off from her pain; from her need for touch; from her sexuality. From her husband.

    I don't want to sound too negative, though. There are glimmers of hope. I'll write about them in another post another time...

    thanks again, Mel, for your thoughts, your insights, your caring about our situation. :)