Please help, sadness is destroying our intimacy - Talk About Marriage
Physical & Mental Health Issues Marriage and relationships are difficult by themselves, but coping with physical or mental health problems can make things even more difficult.

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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-17-2009, 12:21 AM Thread Starter
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Please help, sadness is destroying our intimacy

Let me apologize in advance for the long post.

My wife and I have been married for two years. We are both educated, physically healthy, and in our late 20s. My wife is the sweetest, kindest, and most thoughtful person I know, and she has said similar things about me on many occasions. Neither of us is abusive, we are both prepared to make sacrifices for each other, and we share household responsibilities in a fair way. We spend good, quality time together almost every day, and can talk extensively on any number of subjects.

My problem is that my wife seems to suffer from two problems (both psychological, one of which is sexual), and I feel I have reached a point of mental and emotional exhaustion trying to cope with them.

First, she has been in a constant state of sadness since she was in her early teens. This has, over the years, manifested as everything from low self-esteem, to mood swings, to a general morose, to full-blown I-want-to-sleep-all-day-and-I-sob-three-times-a-day depression. She is, in every sense of the word, always sad. I have not known her since she was an early teen, but her own accounts—as well as the accounts from her family—indicate that she has NEVER had a period of emotional stability or high-spiritedness in the last 10-15 years.

Second, she experiences virtually all of the textbook symptoms of someone who has suffered long-term sexual abuse as a child (i.e. severe anxiety attacks brought on by no apparent cause during sexual intimacy, an inability to talk about sex or sexuality, feeling herself to be “dirty” or “broken”, a visceral negative reaction to seeing virtually any depiction of sex in movies or in writing, crying afterwards, etc, etc.). These things will happen to her even when she has been the one to initiate sex (which is rare), or even when she is masturbating alone.

These things are things I knew about when we got married, and are both things I was (and still am) understanding of, and wish to help her with, as she is a very special person and I love her dearly.

Here, however, are the complications that leave me lost and feeling alone:

1. She has been to numerous counselors over the last 15 years, has been diagnosed with (at various times by various doctors) chronic depression, social anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and dysthymia (ongoing life-long minor depression, basically). She has been treated for each and every one of these conditions, with therapy, lifestyle changes, dietary and exercise changes, dialectical behavioral therapy, and virtually every medication on the market—all to no avail. Not a single things has brought her even close to what her or her doctors would consider “normal” or “healthy”. In fact, none of these things have seemed to have any effect whatsoever, much to the chagrin of her family and her therapists. The only exception to this is Xanax, which will, when taken, relieve any anxiety she may be feeling, but has no effect on her depression. As a result, she feels (and thus I feel) hopeless and pessimistic, imagining an entire life spent in melancholy and low-spirits on the good days, and catatonic depression on the bad days.

2. Our sex, though frequent, feels boring and lacking in any intimacy or excitement. When we first got together we had sex around 4-6 times a day, and over the course of a year that slowed down to about twice a day (with all of the above issues I mentioned showing up regularly). Now we have sex about 5 times a week (usually because she wants to), but we are both bored with it. The problem here is that while she wants sex, she doesn’t do anything to make me feel wanted. She will touch my shoulder or rub my leg, and if I don’t start touching, kissing, caressing, and generally acting lustful toward her, she will get sad and feel like I don’t want her. Unfortunately, even when she initiates things, she wants me to do all the work. She will lie there for 10-20 minutes, with no visible sign of arousal and no reciprocation, wanting me to turn her on, even though she has done nothing as yet to turn me on. It is like she expects me to be always-aroused. All of this wouldn’t be so bad except that her paralyzing trauma always prevents her from being able to tell me how she wants to be touched, and no matter how much I tell her what I want, she finds herself unable to do it (e.g. sexual flirtation, sultry glances, passionate kissing, etc.). As a result, it is becoming harder and harder for me to continue to think of her sexually, because she perpetually acts (and always has acted) so non-sexual and non-sensual (even though she enjoys having sex regularly). It is almost as though she craves my sexuality, but feels none of her own. We’ve tried buying, reading, and implementing the advice from a half-dozen or so books on overcoming sexual issues, and none have seemed to help in any noticeable way. The worst part about it is that nine times out of ten we can’t even talk about it, because whenever we try she becomes frozen with anxiety, and will begin to sob with tears at the mention of anything I would like her to try, or the mention of anything I am frustrated about, or at any suggestion of using any sort of roleplaying, or erotic fiction, or exchange of fantasies, or anything else that is commonly recommended by “spice up your sex life” guides.

Here’s the kicker: though she suffers from all of the symptoms of childhood sexual abuse, even after several years in therapy (including a 2 stays in a psychiatric hospital) with several doctors, and extensive exploration of her background, and with a clear memory of everything else in her childhood, she can recall no abuse whatsoever. No strange people in her upbringing, no shadowy figures in her dreams, no family members or family friends that make her uncomfortable to be around, nothing. Furthermore, her mom was herself abused as a child, and is very vocal about bringing any such abuse to light, and even with her mom’s help, no one can recall anything even mysterious or unusual that may have happened to her. She’s even had therapists so sure she was abused they have accused her of lying because she can’t remember any such thing happening.

I don’t know what to do anymore. I am at my wit’s end. I am tired of feeling sexually un-attracted to my wife (who is very pretty, by the way), am tired of feeling like I am making love to a robot, of having a partner who is so non-sensual and unresponsive, who is so emotionally understanding, but so unable to actually perform any of the actions that she and I both wish she would. All the books, and all the therapists talk about coming to terms with the trauma, but have no advice on what to do when you can’t remember the trauma (if there even was any, which my wife thinks there was not).

As for the depression, it is hard to constantly face life’s challenges with someone who is so consistently pessimistic, low-spirited, and defeated. When we try to talk about things, she freezes up. When I hold her for an hour, she unfreezes, but is still unable to talk about the issues. When I walk way, she cries. Her constant sadness has made me sad. I find myself so depleted from spending hours a day dealing with her issues that I have no energy left with which to take care of my own things. Distance often helps me recharge, but when we’re apart, she gets even worse, and so after the day or days apart are over, things are worse than they were before.

I have a good circle of friends, but none of them have any experience with such intense depression and sexual anxiety, and so have little to say on the matter. We cannot afford any more counseling or doctors, and all the ones we’ve dealt with have been of no help anyway. I feel like I have nothing left to give, and the thought of this continuing for our entire lives fills me with dread. I don’t know what to do. My wife is the most beautiful, sincere, sympathetic, understanding woman in the world, and I love her dearly, but as time has gone on, I have found myself more and more feeling like I just don’t want to be around her. She is not abusive, nor is she demanding or unfair. I just don’t know how to make this work.

Please, if anyone has any input, especially with how to deal with sexual anxiety or any ideas of other possible diagnoses for her symptoms that might lead us to find more effective treatments, I would be forever in your debt. What do you do when, for all your effort, books, doctors, medication, and counseling don't work?

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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-18-2009, 04:13 PM
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Re: Please help, sadness is destroying our intimacy

Is it possible that no abuse actually occured but that her mother by being so vocal about abuse, confused the young girl she once was about sex in general?

Has she been treated for PTSD? Even in the absence of an event to pin it on, it seems like this is what she is experiencing on some level. Does she have flashbacks of any sort even though they're not about her? (Does that make any sense? When she is in a sexual situation, what is she thinking and what images come to mind?)

Is she taking Xanax? From the way you describe it, it doesn't sound like she's taking it regularly and if that is the case, why not?

It is tough when sex is all on you. The pressure to be innovative on your own is difficult to deal with. I don't know what kinds of things you do now so I am not sure what to suggest past getting a toy -- one for you and one for her and then use them on one another. Tell her what you are going to do before hand and don't ask her opinion. My reasoning isn't that you want to show no regard for her feelings it is that if she can't talk about it, and you are waiting for her agreement, you'll never get there.

If she's bored, too I find it very surprising that she's afraid to talk to you about what she'd like. Either that or what she would like to her seems so freakish that she's upsetting herself (and this would go back to somehow getting an idea that all sex is bad or dirty.)

I have to say that you being the caregiver here is going to drain you and you are going to have to take a lot of time for yourself and she's just going to have to deal with it. If not, you'll burn out and stop going home eventually. You'll turn to someone who can meet some of your needs.

Is she on disability? If she's as bad as you say, I would be surprised if she can hold down a job.
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-18-2009, 11:57 PM
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Re: Please help, sadness is destroying our intimacy

if you love her really , you should try to work things with her
i think you should love her , like the first days when you met her , because in my opinion love wich make the feeling of sex move ,
by the way my husband is very satisfied with me when i am with him in sex but unfortunately our relation now is going to end by a divorce ,because of the miss undertood we have after he trvalled , when he was with me here things was fine and we didnt get a year yet , and we started to argue while he is being far from me
but we just lived with each other 1 month and he travelled to his own country to apply for my visa , but unfortunallty we are going to leave each other
because of the miss undertood we had not because of me being far from him

so married life is a different included things not only sex ,
it is many things togther wich chould be equal tohave a very a equal marriage life if you have one things less , you can loose your marriage life

Last edited by jennifer22009; 09-19-2009 at 12:14 AM.
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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-20-2009, 09:49 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Please help, sadness is destroying our intimacy

In response to your questions, dobo:

The possibility that no abuse occurred, but that circumstances in her upbringing have resulted in a confused mish-mash of images, including that sex is unclean, and something men “take” from women, and so on, is something we have discussed extensively—the strange thing is that her parents are actually pretty healthy-minded and easygoing about sexuality. I think this is certainly possible. She is less convinced that it is.

She has not ever been treated specifically for PTSD, and this too is something we have talked about trying. Unfortunately, we are not able to afford any counseling or treatment right now. I’m finishing a PhD, and she’s finishing a second Bachelor’s degree, and so we’re living very frugally, on part-time jobs and student loans, and have no medical insurance. The health care provided by our respective universities is not extensive, and has no options for ongoing psychological counseling. She says she doesn’t ever have flashbacks of any kind, other than just the kind of painful memories we all have about former lovers who treated her badly (but these sexual issues pre-date any relationships she ever had, so while they may contribute, they aren’t the original cause). Generally what will happen is that she will be going along just fine (though timid and passively), and all of a sudden her arousal will instantly go away, and she’ll start thinking she is “dirty” or “bad”, and will curl up into a fetal position, oftentimes crying. We’ve given this a great deal of thought and experimentation, and there doesn’t seem to be any particular trigger for this.

As for the Xanax, there are two issues: first, it is considered a “controlled substance” because it has an addictive quality. As a result of this, doctors are loathe to prescribe it, and generally treat her like she is a junkie trying to score a fix when she asks them to prescribe it. In her home-town, she had a regular doctor who had seen the beneficial effects it has on her, and was happy to prescribe it, particularly because she only takes it about one-third as often as the prescription allows, so she has very little chance of addiction, and has never shown any signs of abusing it. Second, we aren’t in a financial position to shop around for a cooperative doctor. The upshot is that the places she has gone have made her feel so bad about asking for it, that she just decided instead to stop taking it about a year ago.

We have a couple of toys, but much of the problem is precisely that—she finds sex and her own desires dirty, and thinks it makes her a bad person even for talking about it. I’m a very gentle listener, and I am someone that everyone I know regards as easy to talk to, but even still when this subject starts to come up, she will dissociate so quickly and strongly that it’s like she just disappeared from the room. The problem is that it’s not so much the addition of kinky things that she or I would like, it’s that she is an almost completely passive lover, and I just need her to be more active (e.g. talking, touching, moaning, moving)

She is not on disability, though I often wonder if she could be. Since she is currently in school, that isn’t something we’ve pursued but from what she has told me (she has researched it a bit) it is very difficult to get psychological disability, and the process is apparently somewhat humiliating.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-20-2009, 11:57 PM
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Re: Please help, sadness is destroying our intimacy

It really surprises me that she can manage school if she's this disabled. Do you think that in any way she's playing this more than is really true? I ask you because going for a second degree after the first shows a great deal of commitment and focus and I have a difficult time believing that she can manage that but not other things.

God, I really don't know how you cope. I can honestly say that I am not sure I could handle a relationship with someone who is this messed up in the area of sex.

Regarding Xanax, who cares what they think? If she needs it and it works, you have to go after what you require. To me, the attitude of those you are asking for the medication is nothing but an excuse not to do the right thing for herself. Yes, it sucks to deal with. But the alternative is to suffer and that's simply unacceptable.
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-13-2009, 08:55 PM
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Re: Please help, sadness is destroying our intimacy

Shoeless Joe,

I too have drained my husband and our marriage with my depression. I also found that on some some occasions I was so down that I couldn't perform sexually. I still am battling this illness, but fortunately my libido is thriving once again.

I hope this doesn't offend you, but is there a chance your wife may not be attracted to men at all? I suggest this because you say she still wants to have sex, but for whatever reason she is not comfortable discussing it and is not able to stay aroused.

If she is indeed not confused or at odds with her sexual preference, there is a chance she could be resistant to antidepressants. In learning about various medications for my own depression, I read that a small percentage of individuals simply do not respond to traditional medicinal treatments.

I wish I had more to offer, but I am certainly no relationship expert. Good luck.
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