Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sexless marriage, now an affair

[I've edited the question and added titles for the readers. The gist is that **SPOILER ALERT** she's in a very cold, sexless marriage and started having an affair that's now coming apart too.]

Dear Edahn,

Sexless, painful marriage
I'm a 40 yr old woman, married for 22 years. We were young and crazy. I don't believe I really loved him, because I didn't know what love was, and from my husband side, I think it was puppy love; he was possessive and controlling. I never was able to have sex with him. I never really trusted him because of the way he treated me, so the natural solution for him was to find someone else, but we never separated, we stuck together, like roommates, friends, we cared for each other! About 4 years ago, we decided we need to have children. My husband did not want to have regular sex with me, so we tried in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination unsuccessfully. I felt extremely lonely. I often went to bed with tears rolling down my face!

I meet another guy
Last October I met someone first over the phone who works in my field. We started e-mailing each other, I really felt sparks immediately from the first day! He's 35 and married! But he was interested in me and wanted to know about my sexual life, and like an idiot, I immediately told him about my relationship with husband, never had real sex, etc. He came over to see me that same weekend and boy was it intense! He made feel like a REAL WOMAN, the best thing that ever happened to me..I was a little nervous, but he made it easy for me to get close to him, and give myself to him, I don't know how and why I trusted him that way, but he was sweet and gentle, and extremely hot! This was a turning point. I realized what I was missing all my life, the touch of a man who cares! A man who can make someone like me feel incredibly beautiful.

I start to feel better about myself, but the guy starts backing away
My self confidence shot up, felt very attractive, very energetic, can't stand the site of food. I lost close to 35 pounds in less than 2 months. I'm exercising 4 hours a week, and I'm shrinking and feeling more beautiful. Unfortunately, my inspiration does not want to return my calls, or e-mails, he's ignoring me completely, he talked to me for a month or so after our hot meeting, but every time we talk, he says let's talk in a month, and he keeps on saying that I'm too attached! I can't wait for a whole month. Just the fact that I have interaction with him over the e-mail gives me butterflies, and when we talk about what we did, and how I want more of it, I get extremely wet. At the end of our conversation he asks for a month off. What is that, a game? What is he trying to do? Early this week, he started ignoring me completely, I e-mailed him an apology, saying that I acted like a child, and he was nothing but a sweetheart to me, but he still he won't answer. I promised I won't bug him again. I wear a rubber band around my wrist, and I snap myself every time I feel I want to e-mail him.

Trouble coping
I feel so lonely again. I hate my life at home. This is the holiday season but I can't get in the spirit. I can't feel happy, all that I feel is longing and sadness! And he's probably just doing great with his wife. Songs remind me of him, the place where we met that I see everyday reminds me of him, his words are still playing over and over in my head sometimes at 2 or 3am in the morning. I don't know how to overcome my need for him, my lust, my love of being wanted? Maybe you can shed some light and advise me what should I do and how to get over this. This was my first ever real deep sexual relationship with anyone.

There are a lot of layers to what's going on here. The most significant, to me, are dependence on other people's approval, the resulting anxiety that that creates, and the depression that ensues when you lose someone or are too anxious to be yourself. The first thing I'd recommend is finding a really good therapist who practices Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I think it would be appropriate for you, but you would need to consult a therapist in person to make sure it is.

As I see it, you've developed a strong attachment to this guy because he's alleviated some of the depression and staleness that has invaded your life. That depression is a result of being in a cold, resentful, lonely marriage, and not properly managing your self-concept. You've stopped viewing yourself as someone valuable and wonderful and this guy has given you a reason to start caring about yourself again. (By the way, you really want to make sure you pace yourself with exercise and eat healthy, rather than just not eat.) You've developed a slight addiction to new sex (which is always exciting) and to the way he motivates you. The problem is that he's only wants sex while you've come to depend on him for emotional sustenance too. He's backing away because he doesn't want that responsibility.

So what can you do? Well, you could pretend like all you're interested in is sex, but that's a bad idea for 2 reasons. First, it's impossible to pull off. Your body language, tone, excitement, conversation, and frequency of contact will reveal your emotional attachment. Second, I think you're better off without this guy in your life. (A) This affair is going to complicate the relationship with your husband which is the deeper, looming issue you need to address if you want to be at peace. For that, I think you should visit a marriage counselor. (B) The fact that you're looking for more than he is will result in disappointment. (C) Aside from your marriage, I think you need to take a look at your life and see what's going on. What steps do you need to take to achieve peace of mind? What challenges do you face? What is it that you're seeking? Is it healthy or unhealthy? How do you best deal with depression and anxiety? Those are questions that are going to take lots of reflection, studying, and introspection. This experience taught you what you're missing in your life. Learn from it, study it, but pursuing the relationship itself isn't the answer -- it's a distraction. You're just going to have to say no, just like you were saying no to any other addiction. 

Your long-term happiness depends on how you relate to yourself and how you relate to the content of your experience; it doesn't depend on whether or not you continue your relationship with this guy. Think of this guy as a sign pointing you in the right direction. He's not the destination itself. Quick story. The Chinese Philosopher Chang Tzu told a story about 2 people who both lost a sheep. One got very depressed, and turned to drinking, sex, and gambling to forget the situation. The other decided it would be a good change to investigate his mind and human nature. "Both men experienced the same misfortune, but one man lost himself because he was too attached to the experience of loss, while the other found himself because he was able to let of gain and loss." As I see it, you have the same choice and same opportunity. (Story from Lieh-Tzu: A Taoist Guise to Practical Living, highly recommended.)

To sum up, some aspects of this affair has brought you some relief, other aspects have brought you more problems, longing, and suffering. Use this experience to start looking into yourself, your life, and your unhappiness and start reflecting on what it means to be happy and at peace. What changes do you need to make to the way you see yourself, to the way you view life, and to your marriage to restore balance? How will you deal with depression and fear? By turning to something outside of you to soothe it temporarily, or by summoning inner strength and hope? How will you establish your self worth? Based on your inner goodness and kind-heartedness or based on how other people value you? This is a great wake up call! Don't ignore it! Honor it. :-)

No comments: