One step forward, two steps back.

Relationship Counselling / Sex Therapy : Session #4.
It’s 3 weeks since our last session.
At Session #3, The Big Bad had been mentioned as a subject for future discussion.
Obviously by The Big Bad, I mean SEX.

We didn’t start talking about sex.

How were we doing?
My Wife opined that We had been burying our heads in the sand.
Sue (our counsellor/therapist) was sympathetic and understood that sometimes that’s a safe way to deal with things.
I observed that We have been sticking our heads in the sand for years.

Contrary to our last session, when I was inclined to withdraw from contributing, I said how I felt much of the counselling process had, to date, been about My frustrations.
My Wife said that reflected how She felt My frustrations were the defining issue of Our difficulties. She thought She was ok with the other things, and it was Me that was dissatisfied.
Obviously, this is patently bollocks. She knows damn well there is a problem and that a relationship takes two, and … and … and  … and I observed how the implication is that it’s my fault. That I am the problem.

Can someone tell me why I am the problem? Maybe I am. But am I the only problem?

And relatively quickly there was mention of The Physical Relationship.
I picked up the baton, and then just as quickly had to haul on the brakes …
Me: [… yada yada yada … something about] … The Physical Relationship. Hang on … hang on … let’s stop beating about the bush. We’re talking about SEX!
And then all three of us carried on talking about The Physical Relationship. [cue internal exasperated sigh]
My Wife brought up Her need for an emotional connection before sex was a consideration.
Sue thought that was understandable.
I said I wasn’t sure which was the chicken and which is the egg. And anyway, sex had always been difficult. It had never been an easy ride.
[And yes, I was aware of the double entendres with my use of bush and ride. Neither were intentional innuendos, and I nearly stopped myself using them both, but y’know what … fuck it!]

My Wife made cursory reference to the difference in our libidos. She observed that Her needs are minimal: whilst I want sex once or twice a day or whatever, She may only want sex once a week … or less.
Patient Reader, if my Wife wanted sex once a week I would be delighted. If She wanted sex once a fortnight I could at least be vaguely satiated.

Sue asked whether there had been a trigger to the end of The Physical Relationship?
My Wife suggested it was after we became parents.
Well colour me cynical and condemn me for calling that too easy a card to play. I reprised my assertion that our difficulties with sex had long predated parenthood. I was quoted as having said, years ago, that on becoming parents I had become a Third Class Citizen. And before you condemn me, Dear Matriarchs, consider how, when a couple become parents, everyone asks after the welfare of the physically, emotionally, hormonally assaulted mother, and the beautiful, innocent, delightful little darling … and yet, when the father has to adopt a role absolute support, who has ever asked of that father how are you coping? As men we are supposed to be getting in touch with our softer sides, and yet we are simultaneously obliged to be relentlessly indestructible. No one asks how fathers are.
BUT … let’s not forget … and I had to iterate this … OUR problems with sex and hierarchy and control go back way before We were hit by the sledgehammer of parenting.

I related how I’d given up trying to initiate sex long before we were even married. There was just no point. I just met with rejection. And my frustration of explaining this now just ground to a halt … my frustration just leaving the word … “just” … hanging in the air.
Sue: Just what?
Me: I’m biting my tongue. Because I don’t want to criticise <my wife> And yet again the discussion is coming round to Me.
(Considering Her objection to my referring to Her as “my Wife” I used my Wife’s name).

Somehow we got round to the fact that what I want form a relationship is to be able to give. At Xmas and for birthdays, I almost always prefer giving to receiving. I am someone who wants to give.
I need to be able to give.
There was discussion of our choice of restaurants, and how I can say let’s go to X and We will then look at 5 more restaurants before we don’t go back to where I suggested.
Why did I not say what I wanted? She supposed I was going to say I was always acquiescing?
Sue suggested it might be good ir I said what I wanted.
But what if what I want is to give? Yet I’m not allowed to do that.
[Ed: For all that we here at AM Publishing Inc take the piss out of AM, please afford him some sympathy here. AM’s partner’s orgasms are far more important to him than his own. And this is indicative of all his relationships – platonic, romantic and sexual. He wants to give. He wants to make things good for other people. He really does. Perhaps more of that in future posts.]

My Wife brought up the issue of The Theatre Show. How, in the early years of our relationship, I had bough tickets for Us to see The Theatre Show for Her birthday. I had made it a surprise. I had told Her We were going out for an evening experience, but as we walked to the venue She got really up tight about the fact that She didn’t know where She was going. If She had known in advance, She could have  enjoyed the anticipation.
I couldn’t remember specifically, but I was as certain as I could be that We had discussed The Theatre Show.
Ok, so She wants Us to have discussed what We are going to do. We had discussed The Theatre Show. I had listened. And I had bought tickets. Did She not trust me to get it right?
Not entirely.
I brought up how I had gone to great lengths and expense to get a second edition copy of a book She had lauded numerous times imported from the USA. (I had wanted a first edition, but had failed in the timeframe.) And when I had given it to Her She had been dismissive as She already had a copy.
She doesn’t want people to go to great trouble when it isn’t for something that She wants.
I put my hand up, like a reluctant school boy, and asked if I could offer one word.
Permission was granted.
Maybe, my Wife conceded, but …
Sue tried to dig into this a little with my Wife.
Again, somehow it came back to My difficulty in dealing with how my Wife is.
Is this, Biassed Reader, yet another example of it all being blamed on me?

There was also discussion about how, when I suggest a restaurant / holiday / new toaster etc, that “We” invariably keep looking at options and end up with something/somewhere else. In my head, if I suggest something, it’s because I like that option. I explained this in the context of some training my Wife did years ago, in which She was introduced to aspects of Japanese culture – in Japan, rather than someone saying they’d like a window opened, they will ask someone else if they are warm enough. (Or something like that.)
She again conceded this MAY be valid … though later threw in a rebuttal because in Japan there would be so many other cultural influences underpinning it.
Me: Can I offer the same word again?
Sue: Yes?
Me: Control.
My Wife: You didn’t say freak.
Me: That’s your word. I’d never heard the phrase until you used it to describe yourself.
This lead to Sue asking me How would it feel … if I was more positive about my suggestions. To take control.
And again we were back to me having to make changes.
I pointed out that I have taken control. I have withdrawn from sex. I have taken the decision to move out of Our bedroom. I have taken control.

As we came to the end of the session, I tried to make some headway.
If I keep suggesting something could my Wife see that it might be what I want to do? She conceded.
A couple more questions to Her in a similar vein, trying to get Her to acknowledge my point of view may have some validity. She conceded, apparently reluctantly.
Could She see my why I find it difficult to show affection towards Her? She started talking about the relationship.
I asked the question again. Again, it was evaded.
And a third time. And only when pressed for an answer, there was a “Yes, but …”
At least these concessions, as hard won as they were, felt like progress, and I said so.

This is like so many replies that come from Her:
“Sorry, but …” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.” To me that’s not an apology or acceptance of responsibility, but rather an expression of disappointment that someone else thinks they have been wronged.
Then there’s “Thank you, but …” which means I didn’t want it.
“Yes, but …”
To my mind She just keeps displaying a reluctance to accept any responsibility for Our problems.

As we drove away from Session #4, there was silence in the car. Neither of us spoke.

5 Responses to “One step forward, two steps back.”

  1. I think I already said, but I think your wife has a similar problem as my future ex-husband. I see it in the way whaterver you suggest is always met with rebuttal.
    It may be different, but sure feels similar.
    If I said I needed the sun for a holiday, we’d undoubtedly end up going skiing. If I said I wanted snow, we’d end up on the beach. If I had a meeting planned at a time when he wanted to take a holiday, then I had to cancel, no matter how important to me, because “he needed the break, being the one who worked” like what I did had no significance whatsoever because I wasn’t the main bread-winner.

    I see many similarities. Even with sex. I always wanted more, until I gave up because it was too hard to get any, when I did it wasn’t satisfying and the next day I’d get ‘punished’ for having had it (even if it basically amounted to rape) by being lashed out during the day.

    Here, I read you always feel like the blame is brought back to you. And I concur.

    I hope there is a solution to your problems. Hang in there!

    • Similar, perhaps. The same, not necessarily. For example, She is very accomodating when I need to work, and I genuinly don’t think the fact that She is the bread winner has any significance. And when We have had sex, the next day has been great.
      Whether responsibility is being correctly apportioned, watch this space.

    • I know. Just something to keep in the back of your mind.
      When I lived with him, I didn’t believe/realise how bad he was for me.
      These things happen in all sorts of different ways, depending on the people in the relationship.
      I’m watching 😉

  2. corsetandstockings Says:

    That sounds like it was tough, probably for both of you.
    Given your progress so far, I suspect you will either be in counselling together for years (possibly getting nowhere) or at some point Sue will say there is no point in continuing – certainly at the moment it feels (to a reader) like stalemate…

    Keep going AM!

    • Realistically, our previous session was tougher, as was the conversation that followed in the evening. (See next post.) To what extent it will be a protracted or fruitless process … who knows.

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