Something has to give. We can’t live like this.

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My husband is so nice to me in mundane ways these days. He is trying TOO hard. I think he knows that I’m still ambivalent about our marriage, even three years since his affair. He makes breakfast, goes to the grocery store, and runs laundry. When he washes towels, he lays two clean ones on the side of the tub for me to find the next morning.

He can be so thoughtful and tender-hearted. Nice, right? Or it would be if we were both happy in our marriage right now.

I’m not looking for that kind of service. I’ve been selfish enough to accept it. I should stop that. Maybe if he didn’t feel like he was going above and beyond in those areas he would try harder in the ones that matter most to me.

Like sex, for instance. We had drifted out of most of our sex life before his affair. Too often, we’d start in the bedroom and he’d put so much pressure on himself to perform (a verb I detest in this context) that he would go soft and be unable to finish. While I knew the issue with his erectile dysfunction was mostly because of self doubts bouncing around between his ears, no amount of my encouragement or enthusiasm or even just ignoring it seemed to make things better. It started to affect how I saw myself as a sexually attractive woman, and it became too depressing to even bother. When a man goes soft and stays soft while you have him in your mouth (and you know what you’re doing), it is very discouraging.

That situational depression added to the clinical depression I was already in, intermittently from mid-2008 (when my daughter ran away) through 2012 (when I found out about the affair, and “having no feelings” was no longer my problem).

He said we stayed sexless for two whole years during that long period while I was depressed — as if it lasted that long and as if my emotional remoteness and anger about the money were the only barriers in our relationship. I don’t believe it was anything close to that long. (I thought it was a long and barren six months.) But I will acknowledge that time period was a blur for me. We did have a long and lonely hiatus while he was working multiple jobs in an effort to not lose our house because of his financial mismanagement. Needless to say, that stress didn’t help with his ED. And my anger at him for causing the money problems didn’t help either. Neither did the fact he was entirely pre-occupied with his affair partner, spending hours on the phone with her while he was at work (which I didn’t know about, either).

I began to think, well, I guess this is it. He can’t have sex anymore, and so neither can I.

After his affair, we resumed our sex life at first. Suddenly he wasn’t having the erectile dysfunction he’d always had before. And suddenly he was being very creative in ways he’d not been in years, doing things he’d never done before.

It made me think about the hot and new sex he must have had with her, even though he keeps claiming that their sexting affair was just that — a so-called “emotional affair” with no actual physical contact.

Hmm. Riiiiiiiight.

His newfound enthusiasm in the bedroom also made me think about some of the things we discussed after the affair came to light. Like small things he had been angry at me for and that he had never communicated previously. He was so fearful that disagreeing with me would end our relationship that he shoved down his resentments and eventually put our marriage in jeopardy by doing the one thing guaranteed to hurt me the most.

Shortly after the affair came to light, as we were working to pick up the pieces of our marriage, he was so much bolder and more confident in the bedroom with me. Perhaps from his experiences with her, or just from knowing that he was desirable to another woman. Or maybe because he felt like he had evened things up with me by devastating my self-image and hurting me so profoundly with his affair — maybe that was part of the “justice” he delivered with his affair, balancing out all the small arguments he had foregone over the years with this one grand “fuck you” gesture of turning to another woman. That thought was maddening, but I kept having sex with him because the intimacy felt so good, even when the emotions were raw. It was one way we could really be vulnerable and close with each other.

Slowly, that brief period of intimacy faded too, though.

A little more than two years after the affair, in late 2014, I began to slip into a depression again but caught myself and went back to therapy, got my meds adjusted and started talking over things with my therapist again. During that period, I was off sex again for several weeks. I also went through several illnesses. (I’m 54. We have things go wrong at this age. Allergies. Arthritis. A bulging disk in my back that occasionally flares up. A polyp in my lower intestine. A hemmorrhoid that flares up often as a memento from 23 hours of labor with my first child. And my body’s newest pissy attitude: Irritable bowel syndrome brought on by chronic stress, according to my doctor, who tested me to a fair-the-well for other causes. It’s caused months of agonizing stomach cramps. Yeah — old age and emotional pain will do a number on your body.)

But I gave him the green light as far back as the first week of JULY that I was well enough and wanted to sleep with him again, please. And he won’t touch me.

I feel punished and slighted all over again for not being the wife he wanted.

He says it’s because he has gained a lot of weight (as have I), but I don’t think that alone is it. I don’t care if he’s fat. He’s still my husband and sexy to me. But maybe what he’s not saying is that I’m too fat for him, and I’m not sexy enough for him.

He says he wants to lose some weight, so he’s eating less and walking more. … Am I supposed to wait until next year for a love life again?

See what an inability to communicate can do to mess up your mind (and your sex)?

I want to have sex with my husband, but after the affair I haven’t wanted to be the one to initiate it. Even so, I’ve let him know MULTIPLE times that I want him, very explicitly. So far, he’s done nothing about that.

And that is humiliating. And infuriating. And sad.

I get part of it. I’m still standoffish with him. He wants to stop in the middle of the room and have a deep lingering kiss. I just can’t, and it’s not only because of his chronic really bad breath. He’s going to have to start somewhere else with me, because that’s not it. Not when we’re distant in all other ways. He is not reaching out to me emotionally, talking to me, even holding my gaze and talking with me, much less having sex with me. I think maybe he’s just puttering along, hoping that I “get over it” with little or no help from him.

I still I can’t help feeling triggered by some things that hurt me. (Do you have any idea how many books and TV shows and movies include infidelity? Nearly all of them. I am a fast reader, and I used to read 4-5 books a week. Now, maybe 2-3 a year. Seriously.) And he’s now become impatient with my lack of progress in getting over his affair. He tries. But he is tired of my pain. (Oh, the entitlement in that sentence.) He feels “ambushed” when I bring up the subject, so I asked him what realistically could I do other than to say I need to talk about something related to the affair? How could I preface it in any way that doesn’t feel like an emotional sledgehammer to him? ANYTHING feels like an ambush when you don’t want to talk. Right?

He nodded. We still don’t talk about it, ever, unless I bring it up. And even then it’s with the knowledge I’ll be putting him on the defensive if I’m even the least bit honest about my anger or pain.

Guess it’s not so surprising we aren’t having a sex life right now.

Is that pride on my part or his? I’m not sure. I just know that it feels like I’m making myself vulnerable to terrible pain again if I am the one to make the first move. I still feel so wounded and rejected from the affair, and I don’t want to be rejected again these days. (It’s not like she was any kind of a hottie — it’s just humiliating for my husband to sext another woman, even if she was fat like me too. It hurts to know she spent years smugly and secretly enjoying my husband’s intimate attentions.) I think he would sleep with me if I actually started something in bed. But I want him to be the one to start things. And he apparently doesn’t want to, no matter what he says about fearing “performance issues.”

Why the fuck am I so intimidating to him? Why won’t he take me to bed when I want to sleep with him and he says he wants to? Am I that hideous? Is he that angry still? What is he fearful of?

So that leaves us as close roommates. And I don’t want just a friend lying beside me. I want a husband. I want intimacy with someone who I can trust will not hurt me. Maybe that’s not him anymore, because he burned my trust down to smoldering embers on the ground with his affair, but I’ve been willing to try.

Or maybe he’s already picked up an affair with someone else and just is being much more careful about it this time. He says no, but this distance between us is eroding my already scarce peace of mind.

I worried about that enough that I looked for him on several dating websites. I saw one profile that made me think it might be him. I wasn’t sure, though. Still am not.

So here we sit, neither of us satisfied.

I’ve been listening to some podcasts and some YouTube videos, trying to get insights into our issues. I’ve been listening to a lot of shows about narcissism. I don’t think that my husband is one, but he does have a few narcissistic traits. He can be very proud and is sensitive and easily wounded. I never would have thought of him to have a malicious bone in his body until he got angry with me and started carrying on with another woman. So sometimes I don’t think I really know him at all, after nearly 21 years.

One thing that really stayed with me from the videos I’ve watched was someone recounting what a male narcissist said when explaining why he and his woman were still together despite the pain he was causing her. Why would he hang on, and why would she want him to? He said (maliciously) that hope is the last thing to die. Wow. That really rang in my ears. Hope is the last thing to die.

I don’t want to stay until I see that snuffed out too. And I also don’t want to leave.

Something has to give.

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