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How to communicate after a contentious divorce... Following a contentious divorce and custody battle, there are often high emotion and tensions between the parents. Research shows that constant and chronic conflict between the parents negatively impacts the children. The children sense their parents anxiety in their voice, their body language and their parents behavior. Here are some suggestions from Dean Stacer on how to avoid conflict.
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Author Topic: Addressing a Very Long Term Marriage and Intimacy  (Read 893 times)
discontent

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« on: June 10, 2018, 05:25:18 PM »

Since we first met in college decades ago, my spouse has always seen religious counselors for guidance and later counselor therapists and even obtained a doctorate in counseling (I believe to address self concerns). However, only after decades of marriage did I realize that concern appears to be mild or moderate BPD. Neither she nor counselors revealed that to me. My research suggests it.
I tend to be easygoing and friendly. During our early relationship she told me of cutting episodes, worthlessness and suicidal thoughts as well as drinking to excess, however, we were close. I attributed it to a demanding father who favored her brother and saw myself as a partner who could help. I saw some "craziness" and thought early about leaving the relationship when she threatened suicide; that episode passed. We were going to wait until after grad school to marry, however, she obtained a work position that encouraged it before.
Episodes of rage followed over the years but only occasionally, early hitting me on the arm until I told her I would not accept that treatment and later throwing items. That stopped over time. Now after decades of marriage the blowup rage is quick and done, typically telling me "FU," if I happen to defend what appears to be increasing criticisms of me about minor items, but then after giving time to quiet it is as if the incident did not occur. Anger directed at others is typically due to jealousy (our daughter's mother-in-law, neighbors when they go out with others and did not include us).
I discovered her affair in grad school only a few years ago. She was livid when I mentioned it, indicating it happened three decades ago and did not explain or address it. Since then I have lived in a constant state of frustration. Sex was never at all frequent and I discovered she felt sexually abused as a child and later at school. She informed me years ago that she had "zero interest." I then tried counseling to ensure I was "listening" and the counselor observed that she appeared to be calling all the shots.
Now I am in limbo. It is a relationship and we have a fine very close family (children know and would not blame me if I left, however, are supportive either way). Yet, at this later stage in my life I am extremely frustrated for an intimate relationship. I have never had an affair and realize that is a bad solution. We only have one life. I would appreciate how others in advanced relationships and years address similar situations.
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BetterLanes
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« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2018, 07:19:57 AM »

Hi Discontent,

Disclaimer, I am female and kind of the inverse situation to your post so not very qualified to make suggestions (though also in a sexually unsatisfactory long term marriage). Except I wanted to ask what kind of religious counseling did/does your wife have and what religion does she/you both follow? If either or both of you are Bible-believing Christians, maybe you could consider approaching this with her through a discussion about mutual self-giving in marriage being the right thing to do (1 Corinthians 7:4-5). I'm not suggesting for a moment that you should use this verse to make your wife provide sexual services against her inclinations. But it could be a way other than expressing your own feelings to get her to recognize this isn't the normal / correct / advisable situation in a marriage and that it causes issues. Then maybe you could start talking about what help (physical or mental) she needs, or you need as a couple, however you have to phrase it, to move on from the situation.

Again, not that I have any good solutions in this area and sorry if that wouldn't be relevant to you or her. It's just something I wonder if you could try to depersonalize the discussion a bit.

HTH, BetterLanes

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zachira
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« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2018, 07:49:47 AM »

It sounds like you have done everything to make your marriage work and you feel there is little hope that things will get better. On this site, we do not advise people to either stay or leave, because in no way are we experts on what is best for another person. That being said, I do want to share a few thoughts on what you have shared, and I hope you will take what I say as something to think about, use what is relevant if any of it happens to be useful, while remembering you will always be the expert on what is best for you.
Leaving a marriage is a very painful process because it can involve facing all the pain in living color, and it is not unusual for people who have gotten a divorce to be in more pain for a long time after the marriage ends than when they were actually married. This is because we oftentimes are too busy surviving and still have hope that things will change, so we cannot completely process the pain until the marriage is over.
Staying in the marriage means finding a way to make things better for  you. It means becoming less negatively affected and overwhelmed by the behaviors of your wife.
Whatever you decide to do, and you do not have to make a decision now, there are many tools on this site that can help you in dealing with the difficult marriage you are in. There are also many people who are/have been in marriages similar to yours, who are here to listen and help you.
Please keep us posted on how you are doing, and let us know how we can be the most helpful.
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discontent

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« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2018, 01:02:03 PM »

BetterLanes and zachira, thank you for taking time to reply.
Allowing her unexplained anger and unfair criticisms to pass presents a different personality; moments, hours or a day later with a considerate, giving attitude. Confrontation does not yield good results; I contain my independent need to respond. I am unable to understand the anger or get her to express reason(s) for it, which I suspect is unexpressed blame.
BetterLanes, I appreciate the perspective of a woman viewing this from a similar situation. Both women counselors I consulted were easy to speak with. I valued their views. I discussed the situation with 2 males, a college best friend and a minister, who listened. Neither could offer a response. Close female friends are my spouses' friends. I would not engage them for fear of placing them in a difficult position.
Religious? yes; especially my spouse. We grew up in protestant churches (thought I might become a minister at some point, but could not foresee that life). My spouse converted to Roman Catholicism (RC) during grad school despite being very engaged with our protestant church and the minister's family. She always liked RC formalities. I supported and respect her conversion though I do not embrace many RC views (I have taught at a RC college). She reads extensively works by Thomas Moore and other catholic writers. I discovered "The Soul of Sex" by Moore she obtained. I read it, which encourages spouses to be intimate. Discussing Biblical encouragement, however, would not yield a good result. I believe she tried through counseling to be more intimate, however, it conflicted with her early experiences as a child and teenager. She stopped counseling six years ago when I discovered her grad school affair. I suspect she confessed the affair to God. Sees no need to address it with me. Has she had other affairs? I don't think so but trusted her. (The only writing I found among our papers was 10 years after grad school that she wanted to commit adultery with a close priest friend of hers, which I do not believe transpired or was communicated to the priest.)
So, I will keep exploring, respecting the life we've built but dealing with the anger, criticisms and absence of intimacy. (My parents always shared a common bed. I vowed growing up I could never stay in separate beds when married. Here I am pushed into that life). While I do not want to be selfish in that regard, believing intimacy is a healthy lifestyle; yet know many single people who live without sexual intimacy, I will continue to view this site for perspectives of others who have found approaches.
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Red5
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« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2018, 01:03:22 PM »

Hello and welcome discontent,

This is a good place to come to, to vent, and also to learn.

I can concur (personally experienced) with many of the things that you have written,

I was married/divorced in another life, twenty-two years... .and then I have since remarried, now about seven plus years to another pw/BPD (suspected, no dx).

Can you tell us ball park, not specifically, as you may want to preserve privacy;... .how long have you been married, and how many children do you have, and are they beyond teenage years now?... .ie' are and your wife empty nesters?

Its very difficult to be in a relationship with a borderline.

Since I have come here, I have learnt more and more, and this has enabled me to make changes to the way I handle things (react) in my current marriage.

To stay or leave, that is up to you.

As others have written here, if you stay, then the relationship/marriage has to be sustainable for you to exist in it.

That's the hard part, to me, the decision to leave is a long process, many indicators have to have become illuminated to me so to speak, ."every rock overturned" as they say, before I would finally come to the decision to leave, as was in my first marriage.

As far as an intimate relationship;... .for me, I have pretty much "written that off"... .as at my age, and under the circumstances, I have pretty much settled and accepted my "life billet" here as it is, .long story;... .as well I have taken up the role as "caretaker" now... .I know that sounds kind of bad, .but that's the way things are for me... .sexual intimacy, between my u/BPD wife and I;... .I have to say, at may age, .that has "declined", as in I have all but given up on that, quite a while ago; as in years ago now... .and as time passes, the "urge" to even try/engage also declines... .hmmm?

Keep posting, tell us more when you can;... .and again welcome,

Red5

 
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“We are so used to our own history, we do not see it as remarkable or out of the ordinary, whereas others might see it as horrendous. Further, we tend to minimize that which we feel shameful about.” {Quote} Patrick J. Carnes / author,
BetterLanes
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« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2018, 03:05:51 PM »

Hi Discontent - That's interesting, H and I are RC. I had always assumed that intimacy or the lack of it was not something that was really important to the Catholic church except in the matter of procreation. However I believe attitudes are changing now. Maybe you want to get her a copy of Pope Francis' Amoris Laetitia. I admit I haven't read it all yet but there may be some helpful material in there. There is some acknowledgement of the difficulties that can present in long term marriages.

If your wife is focusing on Catholic rather than Protestant religious writings, and reading Catholic religious writings (especially older ones) rather than being directly interested in the Bible itself, I think she will find it pretty easy to spiritualize away the need for intimacy. There are a number of medieval stories of saints who achieved sainthood basically by not having sex in their marriage. I wonder if the ritual, formality, and theology is a good place for her to hide out and not address physicality or confront her earlier experiences. I was wondering if she would be able to reframe intimacy to help her be more comfortable with the idea regardless of her current level of interest, but if that's the only type of teaching she's getting then perhaps that might not work out as an approach.

HTH, BL
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formflier
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« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2018, 04:47:23 PM »

Welcome

I too have a very religious... protestant wife.  The "rules" are very selectively picked when she reads the Bible... gets religious counsel... and all that.

Listen... .if you want more sex, you need to address that directly with her... .and see if she wants to be involved.

If religion is important to both of you... .there is no missing the "commandment" in the Bible.

So... .it's really decision time for both of you.

I suspect she "wants" to be married... but doesn't "want" to have much sex with you and yet doesn't want you to "go elsewhere".

She wants it both ways.  

We can certainly help you through this, but... there is no getting around the above choice.

Do you see this the same way I do?

FF
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discontent

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« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2018, 11:04:38 PM »

Thank you Red5, BL and FF and wishing you HTH.
There is some relief in relating the experience, which I have dealt without sharing for 4 decades.
We have 2 adult successful, well adjusted children, who have been exposed to the BPD episodes.
Red5, staying appears to be foregone absent a better alternative. Certainly age takes a toll on ability, however, it has not lessened aspects of desire for some intimacy (which would not be the same with a disconnected 3rd party); yet I crave it on some level.
BL, I viewed Amoris Laetitia online with key words and am ordering a hard copy (due to its length). It appears to be an excellent resource.
FF, you confront my greatest challenge, to address it directly with her. In my prior 2012 attempt I wrote her a "love letter" recounting the beginning of our relationship, closing with: "A hollowness and loneliness invades me that I only see filled by a more intimately connected relationship with you.  I want and need to hold you.  Aware that I may have lost you in the past, I have difficulty bearing the hurt and void of not being closer to you. As the entirety of our relationship is important, I respect your feelings and any boundaries you place on the sexual part of that relationship.  Even as I miss that aspect, I welcome becoming a fuller part of your life.  Please guide me to know how." It resulted in anger and silence for days and a livid response that she was very comfortable with a "superficial relationship." That reaction placed me in a deep quiet on the subject since then that I need to find a way to readdress. Perhaps the Amoris Laetitia might be that opening.
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BetterLanes
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« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2018, 02:43:53 AM »

Hi Discontent,

Great. I ordered "The Soul of Sex" to see if that is interesting! The reviews describe it as "difficult" and it sounds like it isn't necessarily practical.

I obtained Amoris Laetitia earlier this year before discovering that BPD was a thing. I've dipped into it at several places but I couldn't get through it because the parts about good marriages and mutually supportive discussion of issues pushed my resentment buttons. "But he doesn't think that! He wouldn't ever respond like that! How can I - or really Why should I - think like this about the relationship when he doesn't?" Etc. I'll read it again now given my new perspective. Check out this from "Old wounds" (section 239), in the Pastoral Care section:

Understandably, families often experience problems when one of their members is emotionally immature because he or she still bears the scars of earlier experiences. An unhappy childhood or adolescence can breed personal crises that affect one's marriage. Were everyone mature and normal, crises would be less frequent or less painful. Yet the fact is that only in their forties do some people achieve a maturity that should have come at the end of adolescence. Some love with the selfish, capricious and self-centred love of a child: an insatiable love that screams or cries when it fails to get what it wants. Others love with an adolescent love marked by hostility, bitter criticism and the need to blame others; caught up in their own emotions and fantasies, such persons expect others to fill their emptiness and satisfy their every desire.

- It's probably best you don't put highlighter pen all over this passage before handing the book to your wife but I can see how that might be tempting. The suggestions in the next paragraph about sorting this out include for both parties (with the assistance of a pastor assumed in this chapter) to "come to grips with their own history" and make "a sincere self-examination", and for the [BP] spouse that "Unresolved issues need to be dealt with and a process of liberation must take place." I don't know what actions all that translates to in practice and I don't know to what extent Pope Francis does either. The book is an overview and I don't know whether or not a more specific instruction manual for priests doing this pastoral work has been produced. But hopefully this material will give you as you say an opening to restart that discussion with her, and maybe also with a Catholic priest or counsellor.

Your letter was very sweet, and IMO if she wasn't able to receive that in any meaningful way, she needs to hear it from someone else. And what better wingman could you really have in your situation than the Pope. (I know that sounds weird.) Ignoring or getting angry with what he has to say about it would be an inconsistency with her professed belief system that I expect she would notice. If she won't listen to the Pope about it, you will at least have more information on the depth of the issues and the severity of her difficulty in confronting them.

Best wishes, BetterLanes
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formflier
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« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2018, 09:00:36 AM »


Certainly we are early in getting to know each other and learning the situation.

Usually the solutions on here are counter-intuitive.  So... I would not right any more love letters.  It likely "chased her away".

This is a friendly conversation about a serious topic.  First conversation would only have an implied threat... .later conversations would be more explicit. 

I need sex and desire to solve that inside our marriage, however... .if you choose not to be part of that solution, I need sex.

You don't get married to be celibate.  And there don't appear to be medical issues here. 

What are your thoughts on how the first conversation would go?

FF
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BetterLanes
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« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2018, 02:18:47 AM »

Hi Discontent and the similarly afflicted,

Facebook last night suggested to me this very interesting article from the UK newspaper The Times. (How does it know what you have been thinking about so quickly!)

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-truth-about-midlife-infidelity-7ljl3plzz

It is paywalled but actually you can just give them your email and get two articles a week for free. IMO it is worth signing up to read this. It's written by a woman (Karin Jones) who dated a number of married men whose wives wouldn't sleep with them. (So not at all very like the other thing I suggested reading!) Spoiler, as she states, she doesn't offer any actual solutions or have the POV of the wives. It might be helpful though to see how the men discussed here also have difficulty in raising the subject with their wives. Obviously they went down the path you (D) said you didn't want to, but it might be useful to see the feelings and responses of some other men in that situation.

Maybe this will also be interesting that I found when searching the Times website for the above link. (What The Times will now recommend and advertise to me based on my search terms so far does not even bear thinking about.)
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/midlife-sex-yes-yes-yes-you-must-do-it-dvt5q89t8
It appears to be quite sensible despite the clickbait title, about the physical and/or psychological importance of midlife sex, but I can't read it till next week without paying.

Best wishes,
BetterLanes
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