Therapy has taught me that those who grew up in traumatic households often gravitate to partners that resemble what they know…in other words, if, as I experienced, the adults in my life were emotionally unavailable, the partners I sought out as a teen and young adult also tended to be emotionally unavailable.
My husband and I have been married for 13 1/2 years. I met him, 33 at the time, when I was a young and idealistic 19 years old. Initially, the “idea” of him seemed appealing from a rebellious standpoint. I, the self-proclaimed good girl, thought it might be interesting to sow some wild oats and sleep with an old guy.
What I wasn’t smart enough to identify at the time was that I NEVER left people. I was never a one night stand (by choice) kind of girl. No…because I have anxious and insecure attachment issues, I tended to stay in all sorts of relationships because I could never bear the pain of hurting someone else.
So, here I was…19 years old. Setting out on an exciting adventure…that turned into a relationship. Six weeks into this relationship, my husband’s father died. He was absolutely gutted. To this day, he hasn’t processed the quick death of his dad and he has internalized so much guilt over it.
At this point in our relationship, I knew a few things. I knew that the sex wasn’t great. I knew that he could take care of me. I knew he was kind. I also knew that he had some severe depression.
Stupidly, as most young women believe, I thought I could heal him. I thought I could make him better (ladies…you can’t. No one can do somebody else’s healing work). I also thought, at the bright young age of 20, that sex didn’t matter. I thought I’d had enough of it that it didn’t matter if I was comfortable and happy.
The thing is…now, at 35 years old, I have realized so many things.
The first: When someone has severe and chronic anxiety and depression, they have to want to feel better. They have to seek out medications that work and therapy to work through the bullshit. You CANNOT, and I repeat, CANNOT, make them better by giving all of yourself. You come back empty, and they still feel as miserable as when you started. You also love yourself in the total lack of boundaries created by this dynamic.
The second: Waiting for someone to sexually desire you can fuck with your brain. I could literally (and have!) walk around my house naked and my husband does not notice. There is no flirty sex talk. There is no physical affection. If my husband wants to have sex, it tends to be in the middle of the night, when I am sound asleep. No foreplay, just a roll on top of me and get done quickly situation. Maybe once a month.
For years, this screwed with me. As a woman, I couldn’t help but question myself. Was I not sexy? Was I too fat after having kids?
The answer to these questions…NO. I am sexy. I am fit. Other men notice me, desire me.
But the one who mattered, did not.
The third: My love language is physical touch. The first time we went to marriage therapy, we discovered our love languages. It makes total sense that this would be mine. I need physical reassurance. Hugs, caresses. I don’t need words.
But, there is ZERO physical affection in my marriage. Like clockwork, my husband would touch me two times a day. On my way to work, he’d peck me goodbye. At night, when I rolled over to go to sleep, he’d rub my back–once up and once down–and say goodnight.
For years, I tried to convince myself that my needs and desires could be ignored. It was a trade-off. I could be monetarily comfortable–go on trips, decorate my home, buy what I wanted–and keep the family together for the kids.
But the weight of feeling so unwanted never went away. It just became bigger and bigger inside my heart, until I just couldn’t stand it any longer. I talked to my husband, and told him what I needed. That I just couldn’t do this anymore. At this point, he began to promise to do all of the things I’d been begging him, for years, to do.
Counseling. New meds. Viagra. All the things.
However, a part of me has to ask…why does he only desire to work on himself–address his own mental health and our intimacy issues–when I am at my breaking point?
Should I have to be ready to separate before he is ready to do some work?
He thinks so….
I think….I think it is too late.
The marriage therapist we last saw said, She doesn’t need a father. She needs a lover and a partner.
I had never considered this dynamic. But, you know what?
He was right.
My husband will always say he “takes care of me.” He does. He fills my car with gas. Mows the lawn. Tells me to drive safely.
But…is that love?
There is no intimacy. We are friends. We are roommates. I do love him…but, I have realized I am no longer in love with him.
I have hope that there is more out there…that there is a person who not only wants to be my friend but also a passionate lover.
So…the journey to separation and divorce is beginning. I’m scared shitless.
But, I am also hopeful.