Dear Annie: My husband and I met 20 years ago and had a passionate, whirlwind courtship. Two years after we were married, intimacy gradually became less and less frequent.
In a nutshell, my husband hid his physical issues from me, which were caused by a surgery that he had undergone as a kid. The surgery did damage to him, which worsened over the years.
While he was a great step-dad and hardworking man, he tried blaming me for our lack of intimacy, saying that I was being too vanilla. When I challenged him on that, instigating slightly kinky sex, he started becoming depressed and withdrawn. After a particularly bad patch, which showed he was becoming involved in stupid, dangerous, "macho" events, I got him into therapy.
That helped, up to a point. The counselor told him outright that there were more ways to be sexually active with a loved one than just "the one way." I emphasized my complaint by stating that this relationship wasn't what I signed on for and perhaps we needed to divorce. He agreed to try, and I thought we had turned a corner.
Nope. It's been over 12 years since we've been intimate. Our relationship is like that of brother and sister or good friends. But, for me, the love has died a slow death.
This is especially true now that we have moved to another state. We are without friends, and my daughter is grown. I'm angry and sad that I stayed so long, believing his declarations of love, but he never got a physical evaluation or listened to our therapist. One thing I learned from this experience is that I have been an enabler.
Today, I told him I'm dreaming of buying a small camper and living alone. -- Missing Intimacy
Dear Missing Intimacy: Your fantasy of driving away in a camper is completely understandable. When our bodies are going through even a small trauma, we either fight (conversations in therapy), flee (the camper) or freeze (12 years of no intimacy).
You are trying to stop this unhealthy situation any way you can, and that makes sense. Before you run away and profess a life of solitude, maybe try therapy again, and tell him exactly what you told me in this letter. Without communication, nothing will change. Hopefully, you can figure out a way to make your marriage work, but if intimacy with him remains impossible, you can separate on amicable terms and not just run away.
Dear Annie: I understand how "feeling powerless" is feeling. One thing I do each day is to focus on gratitude. I am grateful for my home, my pets, friends and loved ones in my life. I also have people I talk to over the phone, which helps me not feel like I'm alone in my feelings over the situation we are living in. I also set small goals for myself each day, which include some kind of self-care and exercise. I am never down or depressed, as I just find ways to not go there anymore. What you think about comes about. This has worked for me. -- Grateful in Oregon.
Dear Grateful: You did it. You found one of the main tools to experiencing joy.
"How Can I Forgive My Cheating Partner?" is out now! Annie Lane's second anthology -- featuring favorite columns on marriage, infidelity, communication and reconciliation -- is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.