After 34 years of LD and refusal…is it time to say goodbye?
Hello. I’m FragileHeart, a woman who has been (not always happily) married for 34 years to a man with lifelong LT and behavior that alternates between LD and sexual refusal. For those of you who were part of the original MB forums, you might remember the question I posted back in 2011, “After 25 years of LD….is there still hope?” At that time, many of you came to my rescue with words of hope and encouragement and I felt embraced by your replies because for the first time ever, somebody HEARD me and recognized the pain was in. If any of you are here…thank you again!
I took all of your suggestions – drawing a line in the sand; TRT; a sleep study for his apnea; couples therapy, etc – and together my DH and I enacted all of these. The improvements from his CPap machine and TRT were truly amazing! For the next 18 months our marriage had the physical intimacy and frequency of sex and play that I had always hoped for. This signaled the end of our 8-year bout with sexual anorexia, preceded by 17 years of LD. I hoped it would last. It didn’t.
I’m not sure what went wrong, but after our family doctor put him on TRT ( his original T level was 301ng/dl), he peaked at an all-time high of 785 in just 9 months. For the next year all seemed to be well and then his T. declined rapidly. By the end of 2013 – just 18 months later – his levels had plummeted to an all-time low of 202ng/dl and our sex life went with it. In the summer of 2014 he went to see an Endocrinologist who tested my DH much more thoroughly and gave us the results – “His T is an adequate 372 and all his other levels look fine! He’s good to go!” From that day on, my DH declared that his days of TRT were over. I’ve never broached the subject again.
Interestingly, my DH’s refusal days also ended. He saw his past behavior as a sin and has never said “no” to sex again, but his chronic LT has led to continued LD and lack of initiative. In essence, our sex life (or lack of one) is completely my responsibility. Not being one to take it lying down (sorry for the pun!) I purchased an entire library of “how to” sex books and read them cover to cover; researched extensively about the causes of LT (usually just a symptom of a deeper medical problem); learned more about our Attachment Types (I’m Anxious/PreOccupied. He’s Fearful/Dismissive); listened to podcasts about the affects of childhood trauma; and have basically worn myself out trying to figure things out.
What I’ve discerned is that I was traumatized by a violent caregiver in childhood and have “triggers” that are set off when I feel rejected or unable to escape my abuser. Unknowingly, my DH’s refusal kept activating my “fight or flight” response over and over and over. For many of the first years of my marriage, I was trying to (literally) find a way of escape out of my marriage. My husband felt very much like my past abuser. It was also at this time (20 years in) that my health began to decline.
I’m now in menopause and my desire has lessened substantially, but the lifelong lack of intimate touch and sex has taken its toll on my mental and physical health. I have suffered from depression, adrenal fatigue, AFib and autoimmune disease . Thankfully, they can be kept in check by eating clean and stress management techniques. Not wanting to exacerbate these conditions, I stopped confronting my DH back in 2014 and tried to cope with the lack of intimacy and sex in my marriage. For the past 6 years I thought we were doing okay. We traveled internationally, took long road trips across the country and comfortably slipped back into our “best friends w/ an occasional quickie” groove. We started as best friends and I had hoped that this companionship would be enough to satisfy my longings. I really don’t ask for much and if I sense him “drifting away”, I express my concerns and he assures me that he loves me and agrees to try harder. Sadly, these have often been only empty promises. Which takes me to why I’m posting here today…
For many years I have prayed that God would keep my heart open to my DH and be receptive to him and not allow a wall of bitterness to come between us. Over and over again I have had to choose to forgive. Do you all know Jesus’ command to forgive “70 X 7 times?” Well that’s what I’ve had to do. Literally!! From past experience, I know the effects of unforgiveness and didn’t want that poison to creep into my soul.
Despite all that has happened in our marriage, I have always desired my husband’s touch. Just a gentle back rub is enough to send chills up my spine! And if I needed some assurance, I’ve been able to reach out to him and draw him to me….until now. I’m not sure when the change happened in my heart, but I’ve noticed that on a few occasions my husband will try to kiss me or be playful and I recoil at his touch! The first time it happened it took me by surprise and I thought it was just a “one off” kinda thing. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but in the past few months this recoil has progressed to revulsion and has become more pronounced. As I’m writing this post, the very thought of being physical with my DH actually sickens me. So, I’m asking for help from any of you who may have experienced this sudden paradigm shift and what to do about it. Have any of you experienced this?
Again, I thank you in advance for your thoughtful responses. I am so grateful for the safety of this forum and all of you – my brothers and sisters in Christ. God bless you all!
I am truly sorry that you are going through this.
I’m really short on time at the moment, but maybe you could find one hour somewhere to watch the video linked in this thread.
It would’ve saved my marriage some grief if I had seen it sooner. [Ignore the invitation to purchase anything, the hour long webinar is quite helpful in and of itself].
My husband and I have been working with Jay Dee from Undercovering Intimacy, and it has REALLY helped.
But I have a VERY willing partner.
And I have to admit that I am a tad confused, it sounds like your husband wasn’t willing AT ALL in the past, but he is now?
It’s your reaction that has changed?
All I know for sure is that if he’s WILLING, you’ve definitely got a decent chance.
The longer I look at this, the more I realize that webinar is sooo right.
We can’t change our type of desire, be it spontaneous or responsive.
It just IS.
And the more fun-sucking we make intimacy, the worse it is for both of us.
You can work with a good willed responsive spouse.
Do you have a good willed spouse to work with?
Hi workerbee. Thanks for the video link. It didn’t show up at first but now it’s here.
Let me clear up any confusion. Our sexual dysfunction started on our honeymoon. I had been widowed the year before (at 26) and was now entering into my 2nd marriage with this Christian man I’d dated years before (he was now 33). I had no indication that there would be any intimacy problems between us, as it was hard to remain pure during our engagement (but we did). That being said, my DH’s LD and refusal started very early on. We fought over our low frequency for years and it was not until our last child was born that the overt refusal began. I was 38 at the time; he was 44. This was the first full year of his refusal. When our son turned 1, my DH would respond to advances from me (occasionally) but would never initiate sex. Actually, he told me that I was too assertive and I needed to let him take the lead. So I did…and nothing happened. Once again, I became the one to encourage and entice…hoping he’d respond. This went on for 5 years until I had a bit of a mental/emotional breakdown. Shortly after that, I started on antidepressants and stopped initiating altogether. This began an 8yr drought which ended in 2011. I went off the meds, got on TMB and found the strength to draw a line in the sand – “either something changes or I’m leaving you.” This was the start of a our change but it petered out after 2-1/2 years or so. At this point, we’d been married 25 years…9 of those years were sexless.
Fast forward to now and I have a 68yr old husband -a good provider and loving father – but unable or unwilling to look at the damage he’s done to our marriage. When a month or two passes and we’ve not had sex, I gently remind him that it’s been awhile since we’ve been together and he promises he’ll “get right on it.” His promises are empty and there is no initiation of sex. I truly can’t tell you when was the last time we were together…the weeks have turned into months. So, to answer your question – No – my husband is not willing to work at this problem. We have had the same conversation for the past 9 years – promises of sex but no follow through. I would guess that my DH is a responsive lover but is unwilling to go out of his comfort zone. He would much prefer a quickie that allows him a physical release but leaves him without any responsibility to meet my physical needs. I’m not trying to sound hard-hearted. I’m simply trying to express just how difficult this has been for me all these long, lonely years.
The change in me – let’s call it a shut down – was gradual…initially I would have done ANYTHING to have my DH respond to me sexually. Now, after years and years of getting nowhere with him, I think my heart has simply closed. I long for his touch, but it doesn’t feel safe and soothing any more. If truth be told, I feel like a child that’s been beaten by it’s father. The father stops hurting the child and wants to be loving and tender, but history has taught this child that this person is not to be trusted. They are cruel. So the child freezes or recoils at their touch. This child was me (years ago). Sadly, it appears that history has repeated itself and now it is my husband who has hurt me repeatedly and is not to be trusted.
I hope this explains my situation better.
I appreciate your response.
I understand a bit better now.
I still encourage you to watch the webinar.
I think you’ll gain greater insight and understanding.
It may not offer you a solution, but it’s possible it could.
I understand that you are not getting your needs met in the marriage bed.
This is not acceptable.
But drawing a line in the sand, even if you are quoting scripture, is unlikely to help your husband change.
He is at heart a responder.
He reacts to your initiation.
Have you initiated lately?
Has he turned you down?
Or did you just talk about the problem.
I swear, the more the problem is talked about, the bigger it gets, the wedge between people grows, and the lower drive spouse feels more like a failure.
Nothing can be said that won’t make him feel like a failure.
That doesn’t mean you ignore your needs.
But if you initiate, does he respond?
If he does, he’s a willing participant and it’s time to do less talking and start having more fun.
Bring up what has to be brought up, in short duration with minimal fanfare.
If you are judging his care for you by waiting on him to initiate, maybe you haven’t been paying attention.
He’s a responder.
He’s already taught you who he is, you just don’t want to believe it.
Finally, you said you have been recoiling at his touch.
Are you telling him it’s not safe to initiate?
I understand the heartache of feeling that your husband doesn’t pursue you.
That you aren’t desired.
I also know how hard it is when there finally is sexual intimacy and you are left unsatisfied.
Neither are great, but one is easier to fix than the other.
If he’s willing, it should be easy enough to not let you leave the marriage bed unfulfilled.
But I would make it a fun objective, not use a hammer.
If I am sounding harsh, I truly don’t mean to.
Been in your shoes, and those shoes are worn out and muddy. And you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t want to still fight for your marriage.
Thank you all for responding to my post. For the sake of time, I’m going to respond to each of you on this single reply.
SeekingChange: I have considered separation and the thought of finding a quiet place to retreat to, has been on my mind for a long time. I don’t believe in divorce – the dissolution of my parents marriage after 36 years was like a bomb going off and not one of us (adult children) came out unscathed. Even after my dad’s death 26 years ago, my extended family has never fully recovered. I cannot and will not do the same to my own! At this moment, I’ve not the financial means to leave and have considered looking for full-time work, although in my profession (teaching), jobs are limited at the moment. I am praying and asking for wisdom on how to proceed. Thank you for your suggestion.
newwifenewlife: I have often wondered if a sex therapist would be able to help us overcome our hurdles. This issue really does seem Herculean in size! One thing I neglected to say in my initial post…from the very beginning of our marriage, my DH was a tentative lover and not very confident in his masculinity. LM was a silent affair…I was not allowed to speak during the act, nor would he speak to me. I have often wondered if he was a victim of sexual abuse, as it always felt like he just wanted to get our intimate times “over with” and many times he would O without making a sound. I often didn’t even know where he was in the LM process because of the silence. If he had an O before me, then our LM was over. Period. He would never touch be below the navel…almost as if my female parts repulsed him. That being said, it might be helpful if we went back to the very beginning and started all over again, letting naked cuddling and non-sexual touch be our starting point.
JLoydH: This is my first post on this current version of TMB forum. The original website looked completely different than this one and I believe the Administrators shut down the Forum for awhile before it was restarted. Does that make sense? My original posting on that site was in May 2011. I’m not sure if folks from that original site are involved in this current one. As to the recoiling issue, I don’t think he has noticed. My DH is almost 68 and as his T. levels have continued to decline back into the low 200’s, he’s becoming less and less physical. In all honesty, it seems like our marriage has become asexual – there is no longer any physical attraction. I believe this is due to low T and mine is due to the years of sexual rejection and broken promises. I think that a separation would do more than shake my husband out of his stupor. I think he has always feared that he would not be able to make me happy and I would leave him. So rather than trying to do something…anything…he just gave up and went silent and pretended that everything was okay. It’s not.
Scott+Zelda: In response to your question, the only thing that has changed (other than the Covid epidemic) is that my husband recently retired (June 2019) and is now home with me 24/7. In the months leading up to the lock down, he and I were having a great time traveling and experiencing new places and cultures. These vacations are always a bit of an aphrodisiac for us! When we do something that brings us joy, it releases oxytocin and draws us together. I’m not talking sex every day…but maybe twice in a month. (which would be a record for us!) Now that Covid has shut down the world and “clipped our wings” so to speak, we’re together all the time. More than once I’ve jokingly said to my DH, “Please feel free to find something to do on your own, we aren’t conjoined twins! This is not said in a cruel way, but rather as a way to get him out of the house. Maybe I can explain it this way – my desire is for more physical contact with my DH and when I feel that he’s become distant, I make it very clear that I want to be held and touched, whether or not it leads to sex. Oddly, my DH has always prided himself on coming home right after work, and not heading out with the guys for an evening! Somehow, he hears me say I need more touch, but he thinks his very” presence” at home is enough to fill my needs. It’s maddening really! I would rather that he be out 6 nights a week with “the guys”, if I knew for certain that just 1 day was for me alone. I’m sure that everyone would agree – it’s possible to be in the same room (or house) with someone and yet (emotionally) be miles and miles away. This is how I feel. He’s here…but not really here. Does that make sense? Also, I have no problems with showing affection to others – hugs and kisses are a welcome sign of affection for me. Just not with my husband.
I have experienced some extreme shifting with my husband, but in a much smaller window.
With your question you started your post on, about is it time to say goodbye….. a separation (not divorce) might be a good next step. It could give you both a chance to step back and evaluate what’s really going on, what you want, and some space and quiet to really seek and hear the Spirit on what your next step should be. It might be more eye opening for your husband, than it will be for you.
How sad and painful that must be emotionally and with the death & grieving for so many dreams.
What SC said as I would hope it would get his attention.
One other thought, what about pleasure mapping? (search in previous posts here) What about naked cuddling and touch for connection?
Thank you for sharing your struggle with us FragileHeart, I am a relative newcomer to this board and don’t remember seeing you post before. Yours is one of several I’ve bookmarked from HD wives (or at least the H’er drive spouse in the marriage) that reveals the opposite side of the coin than the more common sex and intimacy-starved husband.
How did your husband react when you recoiled from his approaches, such as they were? Low T and his physiology notwithstanding, it seems possible that he became accustomed to your pursuit and automatic receptivity to any overture he made. Is it possible that your present state of mind may be the first opportunity you have had in a long, long time to hit the “reset” button with him?
I am not suggesting that you become a gatekeeper but I do agree with SC that a separation (not divorce) may be a helpful next step. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Can’t give a full answer now, but do want to offer a few things.
First, my sympathies. My DW went through a “revulsion” phase for several months shortly after our fourth was born, and it really hard on our marriage (though was a catalyst to great improvement later). For her, there were definite causes—being touched out, breastfeeding, hormones, etc. Are there any possible causes that might correlate for you? For instance, did you become a caregiver to someone elderly, experience some big shift in your life with COVID, or similar?
Second, have you explained this revulsion to your husband?
Third, is this revulsion, which seems mental, limited to just him? Can you touch/hug others without feeling it? Not that I suggest fantasy, but if you have you fantasized about another, did you feel said revulsion? I ask these because it makes a big difference if it is everyone or only your husband.