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December 17, 2019 12:47 am  #1


Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

Throughout our 8 years of dating (before our marriage of 3 years no kids), we never had sex due to flashbacks from childhood sexual trauma (and religious conviction). Through 5 years of psychotherapy her sexual triggers moderated significantly, but we almost never had sexual passion. Lots of tenderness and cuddling. I was always confused how I could never move things to the next level as my other relationships seemed to do so easily (short of gentile contact). 

When the supreme court passed marriage equality, an emotional floodgate opened up. She told me she thought she might be gay. Given I was moving away anyway, we separated, but later got back together when she said she loved me and thought she was bi. Our relationship since has been periods of considering breaking-up/ending the marriage due to her orientation and returning to a bisexual identity (the largest immediately following our wedding). Two of those cycles have concluded with psychotic breaks ending in hospitalization. Now she's on medication for bipolar and depression. The latter clearly went untreated during psychotherapy. Since her strongest conviction about lesbianism was coincident with these poor mental states, it is difficult to tell if repression is causing poor mental health or poor mental health is confusing orientation (she just wants to solve the bad feelings she has and grasps at any change that will do that). We have incredibly tender moments. Sex is not great and rather boring from my view, but she has come to like it more and more, in the sense she loves to orgasm. My issue is that while we can climax, it doesn't feel that my masculinity is related or participating in the encounter. I somewhat participate, but her physical response is not because of me. She says she doesn't typically think of anything when having sex, but sometimes movie clips (hetero or homo,but in both the woman is the more interesting part). She does like it occasionally for me to 'take charge.'

This is massive improvement. Comparatively, that gives us hope. In the grand scheme of things, it seems that from 1-100, we've come only a moderate distance in 12 years. She for years didn't like kissing. Now she initiates it, but it isn't very 'good' usually. She's admitted to crushes on girls growing up, enjoys watching erotic movie clips of women on women, and routinely finds women attractive on the street. She admits she rarely finds a man sexually attractive. She dislikes my body type (typically alpha-male, broad shoulders) and prefers thin more androgynous men. She dislikes penetration (due to pain and, in regards to fingers, associations with trauma). She is also Korean, so we have different cultural notions of beauty and romance to contend with.

For years she disliked women as they were 'catty' and she preferred hanging out with boys. She was a tomboy and, despite damaging sexual experiences with men, preferred the company to boys and they her. That caused other girls to be jealous of her growing up, hence the 'catty' thing. As her healing has progressed (especially some mother issue) she has come to have fulfilling female friendships. This is a good thing, but also worries me about the future. She's never been with a woman and laments not having the opportunity of exploring that side of her. 

Her father was an alcoholic and she hates goodbyes and has abandonment fears. This scares me. We've nearly separated many times, but have never gone through. I am unhappy, sometimes depressed, and tired of trying to change myself. I've become more gentle, caring, tried changing my wardrobe, my weight. And now am taking classes to learn her mother tongue so we can connect more easily (though she's perfectly fluent in English). It is beginning to feel like I cannot change enough! The result is I've become super attuned to her states and trying to preempt her stress to guard against any deterioration in mental health. 

I'm well aware of the unhealthy tendencies in this situation. The highlights are that we communicate very well, are quite open about feelings, have discussed extensively the possibility of separating, and have a group of friends that know about our situation and it details. 

Maybe she is bi and sex with a survivor is just like this and I need to learn to adapt (this is the main question we hold). Maybe my notions of masculinity/femininity don't fit this relationship well, but that doesn't mean I'm justified in ending it. There has been no infidelity. I'm tired, so tired. I think I could have the courage to make a change, but could not live with myself if it turned out mental health obscured our decision-making. If she ended up with another man, I would be devastated. 

 

 

December 17, 2019 4:31 pm  #2


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

enduringagony wrote:

My issue is that while we can climax, it doesn't feel that my masculinity is related or participating in the encounter. I somewhat participate, but her physical response is not because of me. 

yes.   exactly.  you've identified that so clearly.  That's it.  It's a real issue.  It is core, it will not change for either of you.  She is bisexual or gay and you are straight.

For me it was the same dynamic - we were having sex, weren't we, yes we were but his ability to perform was despite not because of me and so my experience of his masculinity was muted to say the least and my femininity wasn't rating at all - looking back it seems to me that my self esteem plummeted within weeks of sleeping with a gay or bisexual man.
 

 

December 18, 2019 2:05 pm  #3


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

enduringagony wrote:

Lots of tenderness and cuddling. I was always confused how I could never move things to the next level as my other relationships seemed to do so easily.

My issue is that while we can climax, it doesn't feel that my masculinity is related or participating in the encounter. I somewhat participate, but her physical response is not because of me.

I am unhappy, sometimes depressed, and tired of trying to change myself. I've become more gentle, caring, tried changing my wardrobe, my weight. And now am taking classes to learn her mother tongue so we can connect more easily (though she's perfectly fluent in English). It is beginning to feel like I cannot change enough! The result is I've become super attuned to her states and trying to preempt her stress to guard against any deterioration in mental health. 

I'm tired, so tired. I think I could have the courage to make a change, but could not live with myself if it turned out mental health obscured our decision-making. If she ended up with another man, I would be devastated. 
 

I’m sorry you find yourself here and for all the pain that’s going on for you and your wife.

I see bits of my story in yours. My GIDXH lost interest in me a year after marriage. The marriage began to be based upon helping him with mental health issues, particularly being molested as a child.  He went to therapy, but our sex life never improved. He had suppressed memories of others sexually abusing him come to the surface.

I felt like I lost myself —lower self-esteem, gained 60 pounds, stopped wearing makeup and stopped wearing pretty, feminine clothing. The next problem after the sex abuse issues cleared up was my changed appearance. I lost the weight and returned to my prior appearance. No, then it was something else as the reason for no sex.  I suspected he was gay for many years. I found proof on FB.  He denied it and I ended the marriage.

As a suggestion, you may want to see a therapist alone.  You may wish to focus on how to decrease your depression and to deal with your marriage issues. 

Take care & I hope things work out for you. :-)

Last edited by MJM017 (December 18, 2019 2:11 pm)

 

December 19, 2019 1:42 pm  #4


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

Hi, I don’t mean to reply to my own post. Sorry about that!

Your story struck a nerve with me. I’m three years out from my divorce & I’m still processing what happened. 

My late GIDXH used a few tactics to keep me in the marriage. The one that worked best was to keep me invested in fixing his long term & ever shifting mental health problems. These “prevented” him from having sex with me. His going to therapy by himself & reporting some tiny progress meant hope for the future. I had a lot invested in this marriage.

He was actually stringing me along. He was an abuser too. He would have had sex with me if he wanted it. He just didn’t want to. I was fed up and tired with the charade.

I am so glad I took care of myself and my needs. It was very hard to do but it’s doable.  I was ecstatic when the divorce was finalized.

Again, I suggest going to therapy alone to put the emphasis on yourself & what you want from this marriage. It’s ok to leave it if you want to.

Best of luck.

 

December 23, 2019 11:24 pm  #5


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

MJM017, I especially resonate with the reports of progress from therapy. For five years of psychotherapy fear of my touch did diminish immensely and she was always having epiphanies and breakthroughs that felt life-changing. The passion, though, was always lacking except on rare occasions, usually when we were getting together after a break up and had not seen each other for a long time. After we were married, there was no interest in sex. It was not until she went to the hospital for the first time, came out to her parents, and then determined she was gay, asking me to move back in, that we finally really tried. Being a virgin myself, I have nothing to compare it to, but it all still feels lacking. Though it is no longer like climbing a mountain, it's definitely walking uphill. 

I confronted her the other day. She feels things are fine at the moment and feels secure in her identity. I remind her, though, that she has either come out or seriously questioned her orientation over 10 times in the past 5 years. Twice in the last three months. The questioning these days lasts about a week and then its over, like nothing happened. It lingers with me for months. Since this last confrontation she has been very affectionate and into me. Reading the stories from others, this seems like a common phenomenon to many. 

It didn't really occur to me before that she could come out (of the closet) and then go back in. I hear other describe similar experiences. I not experience her as mean or cruel. Rather, she is quite empathetic. We do, however, have a contest of narratives going on--how I experience the marriage and how she does. I become the the sex obsessed one (and honestly I wonder at times if I am). I also feel bad about myself (though that is getting better). 20+ lbs since marriage. Little direction. Last year was drinking more than normal. Just feel so stuck and directionless. Further, I feel like I'm always supporting (like you said) her process. I supported her through the abuse stuff. Then mental health. Now trying to help her discern a career. She seems very responsive to stress. Stress = no sex. I don't think that's uncommon for many people from what I hear (I'm rather the opposite), but it sure doesn't seem to take much stress. 

Finally, sometimes brick wall between cuddling and sexual touch baffles me. How do these two things not connect? Cuddling does not always need to lead to sex, but ti doesn't feel like they are often on the same spectrum! She needs physical touch more than most and uses it to calm down and relax. She feels love through it. But it doesn't feel like the closeness she gets out of it is physical (if that makes any sense). It is emotional, but communicated physically. Gah, parsing these things is mind boggling. 

Others may say these are signs of the obvious. I wish I could be sure. So many spouses it seems have affairs. Honestly, that seems easy. How do you make a judgement when both parties are working in good faith!? And currently, she is quite content the way things are. I still wonder about the sexual abuse side of the equation. I have not seen that addressed by the SSN and how it complicates things. 

(and Lily, I quite agree/resonate with all you said).

     Thread Starter
 

December 27, 2019 4:42 pm  #6


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

Hi, I think maybe that sense of something being lacking is instinctive.  I wasn't a virgin when I met my ex but I might as well have been for all I knew.  After about 3 years together I woke up one morning and thought something is lacking, it's just not progressing - I still didn't know any better but I actually left him.  I went to live at my brother's flat and he came and found me there and asked me to come back saying he loved me.  yeah really, he loved what he got from me.

I'm not sure what sexual abuse has to do with sexual orientation, and it's very common as is physical abuse, fiscal abuse, psychological and emotional abuse.  Have I left anything out?   

Even if everything else is going swimmingly, the emotional stress of that sexual orientation thing is there.

My normal blood pressure is slightly lower than average.  I hadn't had it tested in years, but when TGT  (the gay thing) hit I had a panic attack, it made my heart ache, I was visiting a friend and it happened at the thought of going home.  It didn't last long but I went to the doctors, I wanted a referral for counselling.  Acknowledging the emotional stress, recognising he was gay had sent my blood pressure up so high that my doctor wanted to put me on medication.  I said I would come back in three weeks for another test first, and when I did my blood pressure was back to normal.  I was no longer under that stress.   From a medical treatment perspective I was making a lifestyle change instead.

Last edited by lily (December 27, 2019 4:46 pm)

 

January 27, 2020 3:44 am  #7


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

Thank you, everyone, for your honesty and open discussion.  My heart goes out to each of you, resonating with much of what has been shared.

I met my husband in '82 when we were both active duty and stationed in NC.  My husband of 38 yrs came out a month ago, the week before Christmas.  This has been very hard for me to navigate through. I understand it's okay not to be okay; to be angry, grieve, feel all the effects as if the man I married had died.  Yet, I also recognize that the man I fell in love with, married and began a life with never truly existed, and I don't know how to digest that.

With his confession in Dec.,and the ensuing weeks since, he has admitted many situations that have dissolved the foundation of our family, the core of our unity.  "Tell the truth, as the truth will set you free!", is his new motto...  with his truth he claims he feels free and happy; yet as his freedom soars incredible pain sears my heart, the foundation of our family and life together dissolved. Who is this man I married?  The times he held me, loved me, made promises to me?  Now he just seems a stranger...

We are both 61.  We agreed prior to children, I would give up my career in the service so to be home with the kids, as we were both "latch- key" kids and didn't want that  for our kids.  So, any work I found was during school or evening hours, minimal wage.  Any opportunity I was offered where I could advance in a new position, he would get angry and refuse support. 

Moving 23x  for his "work", though he has since confessed other motives, my job security was non- existent.  As I continue this journey into my "golden years", it will not be with the man who I thought was my best friend, who I loved dearly.  The solidarity of our family has been destroyed as I grieve the love for a man that never was and a life that he created with me as his cover up. Yes, I get it... we were the generation where being gay was not accepted, layered with being gay in the military in the 80's was an immediate dishonorable discharge.  

But with his recent confession of several incidents of deception just a few months before we dated and then several years after we married, it is hard for me to see his actions as unselfish.  I understand there is a lot to process with his coming out, and that he has lived a life that was untrue to himself as well as to me for all of these years.  I wish I could be angry, hate him, throw things at him, but that isn't who I am.  Right now, I don't know how to be as I am scared and feel alone, unprepared to find a way to support myself and become independent as I once was, without the person I built my life around.  Somehow, through it all, I need to keep it all together for our kids, to be the role model of understanding and support that I have been their entire life, yes, even to support my husband, one foot in front of the other with grace, but I just want to escape.  I have my eyes focused on hope, compiled with feeling numb... how crazy is that?  The good days peep in on occasion, the not so good waging war in my mind.  I know this is not my fault.  I know being gay isn't his either.  But he needs to stop flip flopping back and forth, saying he dreams we are together again, then telling me he is gay.  I feel used, emotionally, mentally, as he says he needs me and is happier when we talk.  This seems unfair to me.

I do talk with a therapist, we just completed my 4th session.  She's nice, seems good, and we plan to discuss my goals and how to achieve them.  I understand it has been only a month.  I also understand that the anger I feel helps motivate me to seek appropriate action, not to react, but to make better choices.  I was told I need to become selfish and do what I want.  Well, I am unsure how that is going to help me right now. 

Thank you for your time.  May you all be well.   
 

 

January 27, 2020 7:43 am  #8


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

C by the Sea, becoming selfish and doing what you want will help you because it will enable you set the boundaries you will need to get through this.

For example, I don't see how it is helpful to you for your husband to keep off-loading confessions of his  transgressions onto you. If you don't want to hear them - or about his dreams - tell him so and cut him off when he tries to go in that direction. As I told my children as they were growing up, behavior has consequences.

You have legal rights and you need to learn what they are under the laws where you live. Start making copies of financial records so you know what you collectively own and owe. If he has a pension plan find out the details. My ex came out after 30+ years of marriage: at our ages the financial aspects of  separation and divorce are crucial.

As soon as you have your information and yourself together, consult an attorney because it will give you a map to navigate this new world.



 
 


Try Gardening. It'll keep you grounded.
 

January 27, 2020 12:22 pm  #9


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

C By the Sea,

Abby and your therapist are right. You need to take care of you! If you have trouble with the idea of it being selfish, reframe it. It's not selfish! It's self-preservation! He left you in a leaky dingy and got back on the cruise ship. You are bailing water and he's calling you from the promenade where he's having brunch to talk about his problems. Turn that radio off and save your batteries! You need that valuable energy to survive! It's for you to decide how to use it now. Not him. You deserve a life too. And that's not selfish. That's fair and just. He's been poking holes in your little boat for years. Don't let him do it anymore. You rebuild and sail away from him to a happier life.

 

January 27, 2020 4:19 pm  #10


Re: Experience with a questioning spouse with past of sexual abuse?

Chiming in, like Whirligig, to say I agree with Abby and your therapist.  Whirligig's analogy is a good one.  
You feel used because you were used.  There's a huge difference between staying in the closet because it meant a dishonorable discharge, and deciding to use another human being as cover, to deceive her, and to cheat her out of years of her life.  
Unfortunately, the feeling you describe of having the rug pulled out from under your past is part and parcel of the straight spouse experience.  

 

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