20 Ways to Marriage Improvement and a Better Sex Life

My postings become ever so scarce, mostly because there has been no real movement. Well, not much. And none in the right direction.

Arwyn has effectively learned how to game the whole counseling business and keep the topics in safe territory. As an avoider, sometimes this suits me emotionally but not so much in reality. And the larger question of just how committed Arwyn is to any meaningful degree of intimacy remains to be seen. She does like to talk about selected topics, and sometimes I’m perfectly keen to engage her in these conversations about what to do for a vacation or fixing the house or about the kids. But there has been no real physical affection the last few weeks to speak of. The thing is that she seems perfectly fine with that.

We did go out of town for a few days (with the kids) and that was a trip that had fun moments but was bereft of any affection. And the few times I tried to just reach out to her were met by simple indifference or moving away. Last night, I had finally just had it. We went to bed at 9:30 (way early for me and about right for her) and I did want to just cuddle and snuggle. And yes, I would have liked some sexual intimacy with that, but I was simply starving for some real reciprocal physical touching. She was having none of it. She was in her typical inverted position and I actually inverted so we were both in the same direction although not in the same plane when it comes to covers of blankets. She complained that her back was hurting and mine has been bugging me for the past week as well. Part of my problem is the lack of physical comfort, which I need to find a way to deal or cope with. But she gradually got more irritated with me being so close to her and my breathing. I finally suggested that maybe we needed to get new beds…one for each of us. she asked me what I was talking about and I suggested that that is the way we were practically sleeping anyway. She took some offense and pointed out several times in the last two weeks when I was tired or not feeling well. As if she was keen to have sex on those days or had any intentions or inclination toward any physical affection then.

I relented and got back in my own position in the bed under the proper plane of covers. She said she was just too tired and I said that was fine. “However, you need to understand that just because I’m not pawing you all the time that does NOT mean I am okay with involuntary celibacy.”

“That’s fine.” she responded.

“That’s the problem; you’re too fine with it.”

And that is where it ended.

shit. I feel like I have bloodied myself over and over against the same brick wall. What I said last joint counseling session is more true than ever and is also a reason for my lack of blogging. I feel spent. I’m tired and tapped out. I simply don’t have the energy to keep rolling that big boulder up the hill just to have it roll right back down again.

Sure we had fun with the kids last week. But I could have probably had more fun with the kids without Arwyn’s whining and fussiness and paranoia. I could have been with my sister, a nanny or Arwyn’s mother. Yeah, these are good times just being with someone I care about. But we are essentially strangers to each other and that seems to be the way Arwyn prefers it. THAT is a very bitter pill to swallow.

Let’s see if I can list the interventions attempted in order to improve our marriage or deal with the lack of intimacy in no particular order. I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in these if I were you, considering they haven’t done much for me so far.

  1. Dr. Phil’s Relationship Rescue: she bought this one for herself but never did it. But I did and did all the stuff without the benefit of the workbook. She never touched it. When I got to the part where I had to interact with her, she said she wanted to wait until she had a chance to go through it herself. And that’s where that ended.
  2. Praying together: I bought several books on this and Arwyn looked them. But this lasted less than 2 weeks because Arwyn couldn’t decide on a good time to do it.
  3. Date night: tried this several times with several permutations with the latest being a “media free night.” Some okay talking and even some decent sex happened on occasion but it was never a consistent thing. something else always pre-empted our night.
  4. Real dates: A local church used to offer respites once a month that we did at times. But they were for 4 hours and took place at odd times like 10-2 or 2-6 0r 9-1 and sometimes 5-9. The ticking clock really got in the way of feeling relaxed. But our youngest was conceived during one of those respite times. But neither of us were really into the inconsistency of this program.
  5. A raft of self-help and relationship books as well as a ton of research into various peer-reviewed journals. Many of these were good, but I was the only one reading them. It gave me dandy insights that I could share…
  6. iVillage Clashing Libidos/Mismatched Libidos or whatever it might be called now. It can be a really nice support group and it can also be a snake pit. iVillage had some really screwy terms of service as far as what was considered appropriate or not and I was forever testing limits. I probably called some stupid people stupid and got fire for it more than once. Which led to…
  7. Blogging. Here we are! My own space so I can write my own stuff and interact with whoever I want, whenever I want. Or not. All without censorship. I made some nice virtual friends and for awhile this was the place to be for relationship issues. Some of this has helped keep me moving things along through it being a sort of accountability/support group. Maybe my lack of energy is caused by less blogging on it as much as it is a result of it. Reading other folks has been a source of good ideas and inspiration at times.
  8. Chastity play. That was a major theme of this blog and the archives still bring in bus loads of kinksters. At times, it did seem to help in various ways, but when Arwyn’s interest in that venture waned, it was less and less fun to do by myself. In fact, I began to resent her more for her total lack of interest and involvement in this kink. I know it isn’t her fault if she’s not into that sort of thing, but it looks like non-interest in ME. And I’m still looking for refutation of that particular view.
  9. 2-minute intimacy. That was my own pet campaign, where I tried to just get two minutes of hugging/holding each day. It was a bit nightmarish, because I discovered that 30 seconds was the best I could get consistently. I’m sure I came off as being overly needy during this, but it was based in small part on one of Dr. Phil’s exercises (which may have come from Schnarch) which involves hugging until relaxed.
  10. Schnarch. This is not a program, per se, but his material has provided me with a good deal of insight. I would say that I did benefit a great deal from it, and have benefited from occasionally revisiting it. Basically, it is more about altering my own attitude more than Arwyn’s behavior. However, it also allows for some integrity in the midst of conflict, which is why I felt I had to let Arwyn know that I was not okay with the way things are at the moment.
  11. Individual prayer, supplication, Bible study and generally wrestling with God over this issue. Otherwise, I would have flown this coop long ago. This has been a spiritual journey more than anything else.
  12. Counseling. Mustn’t forget this! Afterall, this was a major thing that my blog readers spent years clamoring for. Oddly, most of the folks clamoring for it have never done it themselves. Or not so oddly. And about now is where readers/commenters will tell me I haven’t found the right counselor.
  13. Compromise. Yes, this is what marriage is all about, right? So when Arwyn was too tired, not interested or whatever the reason not into sex, I could ask for a handjob and she would do it more often than not. BUT it was decidedly NOT remotely what I wanted or needed. It became an emotionally sterile procedure designed to medicate me and get me off her back. At least it made me more aware that intimacy was what I wanted and needed.
  14. Money and gifts. The getting of gifts happens to be a love language of hers, so sometimes this actually works. I can seemingly buy some genuine affection for about $200, or so it seems. Cash does seem to be an aphrodisiac of a sort, which seems to be true the world over. Money can’t buy love, but it can buy something that looks an awful lot more like it than what a lot lot of people get from those who claim to love them.
  15. Extra chores, extra help around the house, extra appreciation, extra extra, extra! All these extras gave Arwyn a lot more time in order to invest in other interests. I was not one of them. I know, I should be able to do them just because with no expectation of anything in return. But the extras depleted me and added extra stress and another avenue of criticism when they weren’t done right. I’m not talking about washing the car once a week. This is floor, toilet and shower scrubbing, vacuuming type stuff. Plus the cooking and groceries that I always do.
  16. Give myself a make-over. Losing gobs of weight, stopped smoking and did more stuff with the kids. These were all major points of contention for Arwyn as far as how she viewed me. Or so she said. But honestly, these were just more conditions and obstacles. I think the “no deep kissing because you smell/taste like smoke” was the most telling. She just does not go that way, period. The above things were good, in and of themselves and make me a better person/father all ’round. But there was always a part of me that was hoping that these things would help win her over.
  17. Talking, confronting, arguing fighting. Off and on over the years, we get into it over the sex and intimacy issue. for her, intimacy = talking. For me…not so much. I’m willing to do my version and hers at the same time or switch off but sex is just important for me to feel like I’m a man married to a woman and not just a roommate or girlfriend. so we have blow ups and blow outs about it. Things might improve for a week but it slides back again.
  18. Avoiding. This is something that I’ve tried more often than not, and is definitely Arwyn’s tactic/intervention of choice. Basically the idea is to outlast the other person or outlast the problem. Either way, I get screwed and not in a good way.
  19. Solo sex. Hey, if I can’t be intimate with my wife, perhaps I can deepen intimacy with myself. Chastity play extended into this arena as well as the aneros and the fleshlight. Sure, I learned a thing or two about kinkiness and subspace and what trips my trigger, but that’s not exactly the sort of intimacy I was looking for. It certainly is not the sort of relationship that entered into my mind on my wedding day. “Wow, I’m married! Now I can stick stuff up my butt!” Right.
  20. Affair. The closest I ever got was that deal with Cleopatra a few years ago. We spoke on the phone once and it wasn’t even phone sex or cybersex, it was more like exchanging frustrations and flirtations. About the same time I got flirtatious with a co-worker or her flirting with me more like. Heaven knows I enjoyed that attention, but both women had way more issues than I wanted to deal with as if I didn’t have enough of my own! It never even got to much of an emotional level but I won’t lie. I was seriously flirting with the idea of having an affair.
  21. ENQ – I did this twice. The first time, Arwyn said she would do it, but did not. The second time she did it when the therapist assigned it. Hat tip to Joanna who brought that up.
  22. Toys. These would be toys to enhance HER pleasure, specifically some cock rings to help me maintain a firmer erection plus some added textures to hit her buttons. Initially she seemed somewhat positive about it, if not a bit reserved. But when it came right down to it, it was a disaster. She refused to even try them.

#20 is not exactly “marriage improvement” so probably shouldn’t be on the list at all, but it was something I thought of at the time as a way to cope with the constant rejection. And that’s really what keeps bringing me down. Intimacy issues and hang-ups would be a lot easier to deal with if they didn’t come bundled with so much rejection. I can not touch my wife, hold my wife, caress my wife or kiss my wife in the manner that I would like to without getting told that I can’t.

Well, there you go. I’m probably missing some things from the above list, but you get the idea. This has been a very long process. Ordeal. Journey. Whatever. It has been long spanning no less than 10 ten years and going back to the beginning. To be sure I made mistakes and have tried to own up to them to Arwyn. I have asked for forgiveness but I’m not sure I ever got it from her, but you can not compel a person to forgive you or to love you. And that’s where I am; not too sure the woman I love loves me.

19 Responses to 20 Ways to Marriage Improvement and a Better Sex Life

  1. Dave says:

    When you put it all together in a list like this, even though I’ve been reading you regularly for a while, it really does strike me how one sided your struggle has been. That’s been clear all along, of course, but it really does show in this. I have no suggestions, but I do still hope that whatever you decide to do next, it’s something that works for you- with Arwyn, would be a benefit, but at least for you.

  2. Monica says:

    I’ve been following your blog for several years now, and if anyone could be said to have tried everything, it’s you. I can’t express how much I admire your integrity and persistence. I myself have given up on my own marriage for reasons similar to yours. I wish I had your spiritual maturity.

  3. Desmond Jones says:

    What? Has Hell frozen over? Digger has a new post up? Will wonders never cease?!

    Not much to add to what’s been said above, I’m afraid. I’ve been tagging along here for upwards of three years, and I’ve seen some signs of promise, and some signs of. . . well, just call ’em reasonable cause for despair. . . I’ve given you plenty of advice over the past few years, and I think I just have to confess that you’ve got a tougher hut to crack than is susceptible to my meager powers.

    Like Monica, I admire – a lot – your integrity and persistence. And like Dave, I wish for you (& Arwyn) something better, and mutually life-giving. But I’ll be darned if I know what that is. . .

  4. Trueself says:

    Add me to the list of admirers of your integrity and persistence. It didn’t take me trying nearly as long to just give up and go my own way. I’m not sure doing that was better or worse than what you’ve been through, just different, but I do wish I had strength of character closer to yours.

  5. aphron says:

    I don’t know what to say. You’ve given it the “college try.” Whatever may come, you cannot blame yourself for not doing enough. If someone keeps moving the goal posts, how can one score? Changing the rules in the game only benefits those that control the rules. Like everyone else, I don’t have any wise sayings. You’ve already read it or heard it. I guess it boils down to this: a life time of living with a roommate instead of a wife or divorce. Sadly, I don’t see any way around that. Your tale probably explains why “empty nesters” get divorced after their kids are grown. Your tale only proves the only thing we can change is ourselves. Expecting someone else to change only leads to despair.

  6. Rosie says:

    It does seem like you’ve tired everything – and hit a brick wall with each one. You’ve read and thought and worked and tried; even done the counseling. It is so sad that having the help of a trained professional didn’t work. I’m curious WHY the counselor wasn’t helpful? He should have set a task and then rechecked that it was done. Were there just too many excuses as to why doing something was not possible? Which means he was just too accommodating.

    What do you think would happen if you did go in next time and say, “Well, we tried some things, nothing changed, so all that is left is divorce.” It would just be interesting to see what each of THEM might have to say. And really, what else is there to do??

  7. 2amsomewhere says:

    There’s a fine line between character and martyrdom.

    To bastardize a lyric from the late great Warren Zevon, “I’ll be a martyr when I’m dead.”

    (returns to his web service programming tasks)

  8. Joanna says:

    I read down a ways…. and stopped at the ENQ. The place where Arwyn said, of sexual fulfillment, “Why bother?”

    Boy, there’s a whole world there. A whole world. Why bother, indeed? I’m late to the party, having only found your blog last week. And yet I have to say, I would love to hear Arwyn’s side of this. It seems to me that she is not asexual.

    Instead, I would guess she’s brimming with sexual energy.

    The question is why she chooses to withhold it. From you? From herself? I suspect not from herself. So I would wonder about who she’s having an affair with. And I would wonder about other outlets for her sexual energy. And I would seriously wonder what happens when you finally get to the point of saying, “Ok. So. About this sex thing. I’m going to go find some. I’m committed to this marriage, but hey, gotta do this. So do you want to get divorced, sign on to me researching a second partner, or do you want to sign on to be my sexual partner? Because really, I -am- moving forward with being a sexual human. Today.”

  9. Stephanie says:

    You are a saint. Perhaps you should give her the list?

  10. Ginny says:

    I, too have been following your blog for about six months now, and have read much of your archives. Your sheer grit in “hanging in there” for all this time is simply amazing. But like some others who’ve commented I just have to say enough is enough. By that, I don’t necessarily mean divorce (yet) but I do mean you MUST tell her in no uncertain terms that you are finished. And, give yourself (and her) a hard deadline (60 days/) that will mean that you WILL move out, contact an attorney to draw up a formal separation agreement and MOVE FORWARD. Something, I promise you will then happen. Then you can begin a new chapter one way or the other! BTW, I am in the midst of divorcing myself after “hanging in there” for 19 years………G

  11. Cat says:

    I would say just get a divorce and live your life but from what I have read the only thing you would have more trouble recovering from than the lack of intimacy is a failed marriage. So what to do? Hell I can meet you once a week and buy you a cup of coffee and give you a hug. I will even hug you for more than 2 minutes…

  12. Emily says:

    Dear Digger

    I think your post is very honest, but it is also maybe missing the fact that there has been some real movement in this relationship. Not as much as you would like, clearly, but some. But you are coming off a very low base and real change is always hard and subject to slippage.

    Signs I see: Arwyn actually did do the counselling, your sex life did revive at least somewhat and included (importantly) some satisfaction for her also, you have both been very honest with each other about what you want and don’t want, and you don’t seem as distant as you were. You also seem to be better able to cooperate as parents and financial partners.

    And you seem to have grown as well, Digger. You seem a lot less defensive, quite a bit more open, and somehow easier to be close to.

    But I agree that the real question is whether you can continue to keep pushing that boulder up the hill.

    What did your counsellor say about the apparent slippage and your exhaustion? Does he ever confront Arwyn or you, or are things allowed to slide?

  13. diggerjones says:

    Hmmm, how to handle all these comments? I’m not keen to ignore them, so I’ll sort of batch them. Maybe.

    Dave, Desmond, Monica and Trueself, thanks for all weighing in with support and being inspired. But I would hardly think of myself as some sort of role model, except for creativity in persistence.

    Monica, Ginny and Trueself, I sense that y’all are being a bit hard on yourselves for not going to similar lengths. You might be simply better at seeing the writing on the wall than me and may come out ahead in finding some enjoyment instead of hitting the wall for years and years. I think there are folks around who got out and the only regret was, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?”

    Hopefully that won’t be me. But it could be.

    Yes, Aphron, I think you’re right. With so much ill will built up it’s not hard to see why parents split once the child raising is done. Why don’t more spouses see that?

    Rosie, the reason why the counselor wouldn’t or couldn’t help is kind of obvious to me now, and it was going in; Arwyn did it, but never really truly went all into the process. While I was surprised she went, I am not surprised that she doesn’t put much into it. Counseling helps those who want to be helped.

    Let’s see…Aphron, 2am, Ginny, Joanna, and Cat, all hint to varying degrees that it might be time to cash out. Not surprising since I sort of feel that way and conveyed it in this post at times.

    Thanks for bringing up the ENQ, Joanna. I had forgotten about that and also remembered another item to add to my post. Which then might make it easier to clean up and follow Stephanie’s suggestion of showing it to her (and possibly the therapist). But there will be some work involved in turning this from a post to a useful account fit for consumption that way.

    Thanks to those of you who became X-lurkers and piped in!

    Heh, Cat, your offer sounds HIGHLY tempting! If it were 2 hours instead of 4-5 hours away…and if I drank coffee…But a failed marriage, at this point at least, would be difficult to manage, you are correct.

    You’re right, Emily, there has been positive movement even if at a glacial pace. The counselor is seeing each of us separately this month, so I’m not sure how much confrontation is going on on her end. It looks to me like things are kind of allowed to slide. He doesn’t confront me, really, so I doubt if he does confront her much.

    It’s not a totally lost cause, and I’m sure there are things left to do. It would be difficult to not be there for the kids if it came right down to it. But time to move to a new post.

  14. […] a month and I hadn’t seen any real work on  our relationship or marriage.  I brought up a few things I had tried.  So I asked what she had done.  Every time we have a joint couple’s session, the […]

  15. Dotty says:

    I personally believe there is more to the story…her side. Possibly you are a closet alcoholic? Or there is another reason your wife no longer respects you the way she once did? You need to be more honest with yourself about what the true reasons are for her losing this respect and address this ion your life. Sorry but these are my thoughts.

  16. diggerjones says:

    Nope…not an alcoholic Dotty. Though that is something I have not seriously tried. What could it hurt? Arwyn’s dad was an alcoholic and the counselor had been keen to work on her on those issues. AND I suspect he sexually abused her at some point (her dad, not the counselor). But I have no real proof except her Dad is a bit of a hot button. She loves him but kinda doesn’t. And won’t talk about certain things when he is the topic. As far as being honest, you COULD try reading a bit more of my blog. This blog is ALLL about honesty. I wrote about sticking stuff up my ass for heaven’s sake! But perhaps…maybe…I DO have a blind spot somewhere. I didn’t find it while probing up my ass, so I am certainly open to other suggestions as to some place I have yet to venture. Or other avenues beyond self-help, self disclosure, 12-steps and counselling. Yes, I am a mess. But I’m not convinced any amount of cleaning I do will make a difference as far as her view of me. But you seem to have a certain view so let me ask you: If you were married to a closet alcoholic, would you ever regain respect for him again? Even if he cleaned up? Or would you forever be waiting for him to relapse? When you get to a certain level of contempt, is there ANYTHING a body could do to regain your respect? For my own part, wherever it was I crossed that line, I’m not really convinced that anything I did would restore things. It was blown within the first few years of my marriage. I was neglectful and more into my work than her. So I spent years in addition to the life of this blog trying to turn things around by whatever means I could think of. She DOES have a story to tell, but she is done telling it to me.

  17. I don’t know how anyone can read about the efforts you’ve made, Digger and conclude that there must be something wrong with you. The only thing I see wrong on your end is that the pain of remaining where you are still does not outweigh the pain of changing your circumstances. But you have your reasons for that, and who are we, your readers to judge whether that is right or wrong? I certainly can’t. I spent ten years beating my head against a wall, blaming myself, and trying to do things different, be a little kinder, not make him angry. You’re in a sexless, intimately bankrupt relationship in which you tolerate Arwyn maintaining control over her comfort zone at your expense. It remains up to you to decide where the boundaries of your comfort zone are and what you’re willing/not willing to do to maintain it. What I see is someone who is willing to give up a lot because issues of morality and family are more uncomfortable to you than a lack of intimacy and sex. how that equates to there being something inherently wrong with you, I’m not sure. If there is something Arwyn has a problem with, then the decent and helpful thing to do would be to address it with you. If she has a problem with you, and leaves you in the dark about it, then that’s really her problem not yours.

  18. It leaves me wondering if Dotty is projecting her own resentments about her situation onto yours.

  19. crystalarber says:

    What is it that keeps you in this Marriage?

    Search for that answer.

    You could leave the marriage, but until you understand why you have stayed, it’s likely you will meet another Arwyn.

    My hats off to you for digging. Keep going.

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