My wife was sexually abused by her former husband. Over the course of our marriage she has constantly felt rejected by me sexually for a number of reasons. Many times her hurt extended from feeling like I wasn't as interested in sex as she was, particularly if my physical response wasn't obvious and immediate. She would sometimes say that at least with her former husband she felt desired/had value that way. This has been a long standing (basically the entire marriage) issue between us, one I feel has never fully been addressed. I know that part of her feeling of rejection more recently stems, very justifiably, from my behavior during the affairs, where I would say I couldn't because of homework even when it wasn't just homework I was doing.
A few months after the second D-Day we had a fight the morning after we had been intimate. I don't even remember what it was about, but I do remember that she said that it tainted the intimacy the night before. That she was with the wrong me. That hit me like a lightning bolt. It's something I've thought about every single time since then. I hope that it's made me more aware and careful with my wife's feelings.
Last week as we were getting ready for bed I told my wife that I wasn't tired. I suggested going out to the family room to watch something on tv. With the size of our household it is exceptionally rare for she and I to get any private time outside of the bedroom. She was hurt by my suggestion. She worried that I was looking for outside stimulus again. That I was 'bored.' I tried to explain that I wanted to spend time with her. That we used to do so before the kids got older. That we rarely got to pick the shows we want to watch. She correctly pointed out that that wasn't how I phrased it. I need to be a lot more direct and explanatory when I initially propose something. She also said that my recommending that when we'd been flirting all day was painful and felt like a rejection. I didn't see it as such. Honestly, I was very much hoping for the cuddling on the couch to continue when we went to bed. When she brought up this rejection I realized that I am almost wary of sex. Not other types of physical intimacy, but sex feels rather like a minefield at the moment because of the above. All of the worries make it hard to focus on the connection and the act. She recently said to me that she had been using it as a way to find a connection with me because she wasn't feeling it. She said she got flashes of it, but that it wasn't really there.
On Saturday we were getting into bed and discussing what had happened earlier in the week. She mentioned that after all the flirting my tv show suggestion was just another rejection. I thought it was a good chance to have a frank discussion about intimacy. I very badly want to divest that physical connection of all the accompanying stressors that I thought both she and I were bringing into it.
I told her that when she would refuse to continue intimacy if my physical response wasn't quick to confirm my desire had often made me feel inadequate. That her juxtaposing my desire next to her ex-husband was very hurtful and confusing to me. That was the last thing I got out during that conversation. She immediately drew away from me, wouldn't look at me as she talked. Said that she was sorry if I felt that she'd pressured me into it. She was visibly upset and said that she didn't want to talk to me any more that night. She went out and sat on the chair in the family room. I came out after a few moments of stunned wtf-ery and asked if she wanted to talk. It was dark and all I saw was that she shook her head. I'm never sure if when she says she doesn't want to talk she actually doesn't or is displeased with the tact I'm taking or feels its fruitless. She ended up sleeping on the couch. I slept on the chair in our room.
The next day she was cut off from me the entire morning. She wouldn't look at me or talk to me. In the closet after church as we were changing I asked if she wanted to talk, she said no and then went to watch something with the girls, but soon went to take a nap on the bed. After she woke up I came back into the bedroom and asked if she wanted to talk now. She was visibly and audibly annoyed with me. Said that just because she said that she didn't want to talk didn't mean that she didn't want me to talk. That it was unfair of me to place the burden of communication on her whenever there was a confrontation. I said I didn't feel that this was a confrontation, that there was an issue that we should address together. I sat in the chair and said that I felt that sex had become a loaded topic for us. That it was burdened by a lot of unexamined and undiscussed baggage. At this point she started rocking back and forth and (I thought) rubbing her temples. She was actually covering her ears. She didn't respond, after a moment of me asking if she was okay (she'd been sick recently and often has headaches) and offering to go get excedrin she lied down on the bed, her hair completely covering her face. I paced around the bed watching her, wanting to go to her, but she's made clear her opinion on touching before talking. After a minute or two she started shaking and I realized she was crying. I clambered up onto the bed and put my arm around her. She was still for a moment then extracted herself (rather ungainly, but that memory foam is hard to move across) from the blanket and locked herself in the bedroom closet.
I sat outside the closet door to talk to her. This has happened a few times when she has panic attacks and me talking usually works. It didn't this time. I made the mistake of saying at one point that I see where our daughter got it from, referring somewhat wryly to locking herself in a room when she's upset. That was a massive mistake because of our daughter's eating disorder issues this past year. At the time I didn't examine it though. I told her that I was very worried about her; about her possibly hurting herself because of things she'd said a few weeks prior. I was freaking out more than a little bit myself. I said I was thinking about breaking down the door because she was completely unresponsive for a long time. I asked if she wanted me to get her Dad or someone. Asking about her dad was probably a mistake, as he comes with his own set of issues for her, but he's been the only go-to to reach her when I can't except for the kids, who I didn't want to involve. Eventually she asked me to go get one of our oldest daughters. They both came and sat outside the door, trying to talk to her and getting no response. Our second oldest daughter asked me what happened and I gave an abbreviated explanation. My wife and I have made a point of keeping the pain of our R away from the kids as much as possible, and, frankly, I am uncomfortable talking about the physical intimacy issues between my wife and I with the kids.
Daughter said that it might be best if I left then. I nodded and went out, they locked the door behind me and were back there the rest of the day. I went out to the family room to play with our two youngest. Our oldest daughter came out periodically to very conspicuously play watch dog and keep me from trying to go back, telling me to stay and sit down every time I moved and being visibly angry and non-responsive to me asking if my wife was okay.
Later that night, after we'd returned from the family dinner (save my wife who stayed locked in the bedroom) second oldest daughter came out while I was playing a video game (as the door was still closed) and said that she loved me. That she wasn't sure how I could blunder so badly. I asked what happened and what her mom had said and she said she didn't want to talk about it. Informed me that she didn't want me to try to see my wife the rest of the evening and that I would probably need to sleep on the couch. I said that that was alright and that I wouldn't try to see her yet. It was a struggle not to freak out at this point, but that wouldn't really have helped anything.
A few minutes later our fourteen year old son came out and said that they (wife and oldest two girls) wanted to talk to me. I went back to the bedroom, our daughters were on the bed along with my wife, who seemed exhausted and at times barely awake. Second eldest daughter then told me again that she couldn't believe how much I had blundered. Explained that my wife hadn't been able to speak on Saturday night or earlier that day on Sunday. That I couldn't have done what I did if I had been paying attention to her. That I couldn't have paid so little attention to her unless I was in 'that place' (disconnected/foggy/wayward mindset). That I couldn't have called my wife crazy (the comment about our daughter with the eating disorder) if I hadn't been in that place. I caught on to the implications of me saying that earlier at this point and immediately recanted and apologized. Asserted that I didn't think she was crazy and that that was an insensitive and stupid comment.
She explained to me that my wife had disconnected/disassociated from her body from the stress of what I was saying. That she had been number and unable to move, breathe, or talk normally, both on Saturday night and in the closet that same day.
I repeatedly tried to explain my actions through my point of view. Tried to tell them what I had been trying to do and how the whole thing came about. What I had meant by things that I had said and that some of the things that they said I had said I hadn't at all. When I questioned these things the immediate and angry response was that I was dismissing what they were saying, that I was stubbornly sticking to what I thought and what I felt. That I was calling them liars and calling their observations and feelings into doubt to discredit them so that I could dismiss what they were saying.
Regardless, daughter told me that everything I said was just more proof that I was in that mindset. That I couldn't have failed to observe my wife's pain and respond accordingly unless I was stuck in that mindset. She posited several things about my intentions in doing certain things over the past two days. When I said that they were not the case, that I'd been feeling something else (or hadn't thought about that at all) she was skeptical. Dismissed it as me not even knowing what I thought/felt. That her mom's interpretation of my likely motivations was more trustworthy. When it was clear to me that they weren't interested in the events from my point of view I became increasingly frustrated. Resorted to just saying 'okay' in a frustrated tone whenever they informed me that a fact I saw was not actually that way. They said that this was patronizing and more evidence of being in that mindset.
I find it very difficult to talk in these situations for a number of reasons. Like many of us here I suck at communicating what I'm feeling. It's difficult to organize and respond to the accusations one after another after sitting in a vacuum of information that evening. I'd known she was upset, I didn't know that she was catatonic.
They'll often dismiss what I say before I finish saying it if it's similar to what I've said before, cutting me off mid-sentence repeatedly. Finishing an open ended phrase for me and then being skeptical when I try to clarify. We have had a great many of these conversations, they often take a long time and are highly stressful and painful. I can't really fault them for wanting to get through it. But this time I found the entire thing infuriating. Our eldest daughter kept asking me how I could be responding the way I was (quiet, frustrated, angry) after seeing the pain I'd put my wife through.
They said that I was trying to make it be something wrong with my wife physically or emotionally rather than owning that I caused the pain and accompanying physical effects.
Several times I tried to close my eyes and think past the swelling anger and frustration the conversation was causing. They said that this was me cutting myself off from them and detaching, and that me closing my eyes made it clear who I was angry with. I asked if they'd rather I responded angrily and the conversation derailed from there. My wife said something that I couldn't hear and then the girls kicked me out. I came back a few minutes later to ask my wife if she'd felt numbness on one side of her body or had had trouble seeing. I was worried she'd had a mini-stroke. She's often said that she's found her heart racing uncontrollably for seemingly no reason. My grandmother had three strokes herself, so I know I'm at risk and the symptoms. Our second oldest daughter was incensed and said I was trying to make it be something wrong with her again and told me to get out. Later came out and said they thought it was psychological disassociation from the stress, shook her head and walked away.
The next morning I messaged second oldest on google talk because my cell was dead. I asked if it was okay if I e-mailed her mom because she'd told me to be very careful about trying to talk to her. She reiterated that I needed to be very careful. I said that I would do my best. She replied with "..." and I asked what that was for and then clarified that I'd use utmost caution. She said that it was already obvious that I was being defensive in my responses to her and that that showed I was still in that mindset and needed to be very careful. I said I didn't understand how I'd been defensive and would re-read. She didn't reply. I e-mailed my wife. Said I was sorry for causing her so much pain. That I wanted nothing more than to make sex be stress free and a way to connect. She said that her only issue with sex was that I'd rejected her. This made no sense to me considering everything she's said to me about it, but I didn't question it.
That afternoon, after I picked up second oldest daughter from her internship I went back to the bedroom to get my laptop so that I could get back the recipe I'd looked up earlier for dinner. Oldest daughter opened the door, asked rather bluntly what I wanted. I said I needed to get something, and she said she'd get it for me, her stance and tone very much aggressive because her mom was on the phone. I said I'd just come in and go out. She said I might walk too loudly. I said that that was ridiculous, I was clearly very annoyed. I wanted to put my things down, get my laptop, and I very badly wanted at least some visual confirmation that my wife was okay. Besides that it was doubly frustrating to me that she was explaining to me that it might be hard to not hear something important, as if I wouldn't know that being hearing impaired. I also know that my wife has ears like a mutant superhero bat. She often reacts to things being said on the other side of the house.
Second oldest, who was right behind me, snapped at me to watch my tone then went into the room, I followed in and grabbed my laptop and left to go make dinner. That evening after a very, very long phone conversation that turns out was with the current girlfriend of my wife's ex-husband seeking advice about the sexual abuse he was subjecting her to, the girls explained what the phone call had been about. My wife had gone to tell her parents, initially inviting me but then changing her mind and telling me to ask the girls.
A bit later at bed time I was sitting in the chair while my wife was on the bed. I was waiting for the kids to go out so I could talk to her for what was basically the first time in three days. The girls all came into the room, asked me what I was doing. I said I was waiting to talk to my wife. Oldest said "not now!" I said I wasn't going to talk about any of the things from the day before, that I just wanted to check on her. My wife said I could do that with them in the room. I said that I was amazed and respected her helping out her ex-husbands current girlfriend. That is must have been hard to recount all of those things, but that I felt it was a good thing. This made her angry, said that I'd long benefited from her putting herself through trauma to help me, which is very very true. I don't think I said anything else after that. Second oldest pointed out that I was still angry and that she couldn't believe any apology or positive statement from me when I was angry and defensive. It's true, I very much was angry. They all seem to think that I'm angry about the way my wife feels though. My snapping at oldest daughter about my noisy walking was brought up and that infuriated my wife further. I was told to get out, I spent an indeterminate amount of time (probably 10 minutes?) in the closet just trying to calm down. They insisted that I had just made everything about me. Which I truly don't understand. I wasn't even the one who brought anything to do with me into it. I didn't say anything after the initial statement. My wife said I was being abusive by holding on to my anger.
After a while oldest daughter peeked into the closet and asked which room (family or living) I wanted, ostensibly, I suppose, to get me moving. I waved the question off, said I'd be out in a second. She said "no, now" and I repeated myself, after which she stepped out. I grabbed my stuff and went out to the living room. I made a brief post on the forums then spent the rest of the night reading them. I turned on the tv, put it on sports, because I wanted the light, rarely get to pick what to watch, and thought it might help bleed some of the agitated energy away. In the end, I barely looked at the thing, instead reading through the forums rather voraciously. At some point hours later I read something, I don't even recall what, on here that caused me to laugh in surprise, which oldest daughter noticed as she was passing through the room.
The next day I posted on the thread I'd made the night before a few times. About dealing with anger. From her posts over in Reconciliation, my wife was in disbelief that I could even be angry. When she got home she said she needed to talk to me. Asked me what I had meant by my last post and why I was angry. I explained that throughout the conversations over the weekend I'd felt that nothing I said or felt mattered. That I felt I was being punished for trying to share with her something that had been eating away at me for years and years. That the dynamic of these conversations made me feel ganged up on and that I wouldn't be heard. That everything I said and did would be dismissed as being from 'that place' or 'that mindset.' That rather than addressing the underlying concern the only thing that seemed to be being talked about was where to assign blame.
She asked if I'd be willing to go talk to her parents. That it was either that or I leave the next day. I said okay (because what else do I say to that?). They weren't home at the time, however. I told her I'd rather talk to an actual marriage counselor rather than her parents. She said I didn't have time for that. We went back to the bedroom and talked more. She started looking up plane ticket costs to send me to stay with my mother, something that has happened seemingly every time there's a confrontation. After a few minutes I got up to go check on the kids, but she stopped me, asked what I was doing. I said that she had said that she wanted to talk, that looking up ticket prices wasn't talking. She asked if I understood where she was and what was going on.
I responded that I had felt increasingly that she didn't want me. That she has had this idea of who and what I am/would be in her head for her entire life and that some of our conflicts came when I didn't live up to that. I said that wasn't the source of all or even most of them. That I chose to have affairs, that I had made many, many bad choices and wasn't shifting responsibility for them. That made her very angry, she walked over and took off my glasses, balled her hands in my shirt beneath my throat and pushed me back on the bed, dug her nails into my collar and jaw. Kept asking how I could say that after everything she'd done for me. She asked if I was done and I said no. I tried to tell her that there were several things with the marriage that I felt needed to be resolved for it to be healthier. Things that predate the affairs and continue day to day. Not to dismiss the affairs or their impact, but to acknowledge that there are other things to work on together as well, both related and unrelated.
She brought up things that I'd said and I tried to clarify what I'd meant by them or by an action. She said my doing so was denying the impact of them when I said them. That I was dismissing how she felt by telling her what I meant by what I said. Maybe I should start prefacing those with "I'm sorry I made you feel that way when I said... Here's what I meant."
We were both crying by this point. She called her parents, who were home by this point and asked them to come over. While we waited she asked if I understood where she was. If I was empathizing with her at all. I began saying what I was feeling from her, but then her parents walked in followed by the oldest two children, thus interrupting that.
Wife offered to let me explain my side of the story first. She thinks that I think that she spins information or that I think she's maliciously painting me in a bad light. I explained an abbreviated version of the above before I was cut off and wife and the oldest two took over explaining. I visibly reacted negatively to some of the things they said, whereupon my wife would explain, sometimes correctly sometimes not, what I was likely thinking and feeling. Which I was grateful for. No one interrupts her when she's talking and when she says what my thoughts and feelings are it's taken more credibly than when I do.
The girls reiterated that I had called her crazy. That I had said I'd break down the door, though the way they said it made it sound like I was being aggressive or threatening when I did so, which was completely stunning to me. Oldest brought up me laughing at something I saw on the forums as emblematic of me not understanding the gravity or being disconnected. They said me watching sports was a way to distract myself so I didn't have to feel.
Her mom said that I was acting like a kid. Her dad said that I was stuck in my head again. That I wasn't feeling it. I admit I was blank faced and not very responsive. I didn't feel that there was much point in saying anything in that situation. Her dad asked me to do a little thought exercise. To think back to the last time I felt close to my wife and how that felt. Then imagine if I could do what I did while feeling that way. I said no. I think they are all convinced that I'm mad about the way she responded or her feeling hurt.
Her mom then echoed what my wife said earlier that I was being abusive. My wife was pacing and crying and this point. Her mom said that those feelings were real. That I should be on my knees sobbing for forgiveness (this comes up a lot actually, during these talks). It was decided that I'd be staying at her parents' house. That I wasn't allowed over without permission for any reason. I grabbed some things and followed her dad back to the house. The three daughters showed up a few minutes later with all of my clothes in trash bags. My youngest daughter told me that she wished I could love her as much as she loves me.
Apologize for the length. I'm feeling exhausted and hollow from recounting it. I would very much appreciate some perspective on this. My IC is out of town this week, unfortunately. I really think we should go to MC. I need better tools to talk to her. The ones I have are meant for cutting and defending it seems. I need a plow and a spade, not a sword and shield.