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I've read a few threads here and identify with some of the feelings if not the actual situations, rather than add irrelevantly to an existing thread I started writing my own feelings down as a way to try to understand them and this is what came out. I'm still searching for how to resolve my issues, I think I needed to come across these methods of counseling 20 years ago.

Me: M 68 Somewhat introverted, painfully shy underneath, professionally successful, retired.
She: F 69 Somewhat extroverted, sociable, positive, kept changing occupations - none highly accomplished, retired.
No children.

I've stumbled across the MarriageBuilders site while searching for understanding of my own situation. The content of Love Busters and the subsequent pages makes much sense to me and I feel it helps put words to the feelings I've been struggling with.

I've been married for 41 years, for the most part happily, but there has always been an undercurrent of sexual frustration and something else I wasn't understanding.

Our relationship developed gradually 43 years ago as my previous long term one ended. In all honesty it was meeting my current wife that finally killed off the prior almost marriage. Because of circumstances, our relationship developed over a protracted time and much of it done long distance. This in turn had the effect of establishing pretty good communication early on in our relationship with sexuality not front and foremost.

I would rate our love as unconditional since it all just sort of felt right from the start. Although being of different personality types there is obviously a bit of appreciated interdependence because of it rolled into the mix as well.

The bad news is there has always been the problem of mismatched sex drive. From what I'm reading that's not at all unusual. In the early days this only caused mild frustration as a certain level of compromise was worked out, but post menopause sexual release became a singular activity. I continued to compromise for the next 20 years in this area since I entered into the relationship fully aware there was a great difference in that area compared to with my first partner.

When filling out the Love Busters questionnaire I became aware sex is not mentioned as one of the love busters! This perplexed me for a while until I realised Sex problems are maybe just manifestations of Dishonesty and Independent Behaviour. It occurs to me when we have discussed sexual problems and I thought possibilities for change had apparently been acknowledged or agreed upon, when no change eventuated it in fact felt like I had just been deceived by a lie in order to end a difficult conversation. When sex problems arose her Independent Behaviour reasoning was that I should just accept her disinterest and deal with it without any regard to what that did to my feelings.

In another regard I have always worked hard (probably too hard) to establish our living standards and financial well being as a primary goal. Once this was established she had no real incentive to work and dropped out of the workforce, against my wishes, which was another manifestation of Independent Behaviour at a significant life turning point. Around that time we did have a brief effort at Marriage Guidance counseling and came to an agreement over what to do next which included moving to a new town. In many ways things worked out pretty well in the new place but I feel I put a lot more effort into making it work than she did and the sex issues never got any better they only became more estranged.

I have felt for a while that although she has been thankful everyday for our lifestyle and shows that in many small ways, because my Sexual Fulfillment needs haven't been addressed I have not felt thanked at a deep emotional level. I guess thankfulness to me would have been a considerate accommodation of my need for sexual fulfillment. Because of her sexual aversion it feels more like she can't rather than she won't, if that makes sense. I don't think I have asked for a great deal but I have been frank I wanted the original joy of sex of our early relationship to persist and I wanted to continue to experiment as we aged. I wanted her to be emotionally present and a participant when those feelings began to fall away. It could have been something as simple as dressing sexy with stockings for a date night or as much as helping with a handjob since she has suffered from vaginismus post menopause. However the only thing that has been on offer is just a cuddle, which I have pointed out (and confirmed here in the Emotional Needs discussion) is not sex. More than ever I now feel any request from me of a sexual nature is perceived by her as sexual harassment. I have instead been left to take care of myself with lonely wanks. Frustration eventually led me to try some things like erotic massages but while those provided some immediate release they lacked the essentialness of closeness.

I think it is the feeling of lack of thanks for the big things that has hurt me the most. At 69 with 40 years of accumulated resentments I'm having flashes of anger over this now and I'm not sure where to go from here. The reality is there is not going to be any sudden flash of sexual revival and cathartic make up sex.

I have shown her this website and suggested we fill in the questionnaires but she says it would be counter productive since writing things down might put into words something she thinks might be taken badly and couldn't be retracted. I can possibly see the logic of this for something that might be shared in the radical truth suggested for the Personal History sharing, but I think knowing each other's Love Busters is pretty important.

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Welcome to MB.

Do you know your wife’s top emotional needs? Do you get any UA (undivided attention)? Do you go out on dates?


FWW/BW (me)
WH
2nd M for both
Blended Family with 7 kids between us
Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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FWW/BW (me)
WH
2nd M for both
Blended Family with 7 kids between us
Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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We have no problems being available for, providing and engaging in undivided attention. We start each and every day for example with a long walk before breakfast. Recreational companionship and conversation are not missing.

How do you characterize a date? Yes we go out together to restaurants, picnics and other outings; but there hasn't been a sexual overture to any outing for a long time. To me a Date implies some degree of sexualization.

I have read The Question of the Ages piece. We certainly tally up way more than 15 hours of engagement a week, the problem for me is that none of that time can be perceived as sexual fulfillment. If you asked me what my wife feels is missing from that time I am at a loss to be able to give an answer. I know my Giver and Taker have been fighting each other for a while over that. My Taker has been oscillating between conflict and withdrawal recently.

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Originally Posted by Mature
How do you characterize a date? Yes we go out together to restaurants, picnics and other outings; but there hasn't been a sexual overture to any outing for a long time. To me a Date implies some degree of sexualization..

You are not wrong and if there is no sexual spark, that would suggest either that you are not making her feel desirable or that she is avoiding you. I suspect it may be the latter as you refer to sexual aversion in your initial posting. Take a look at Overcoming Sexual Aversion.

Sexual aversion can be caused by an unwilling partner feeling under an obligation. Overcoming it will take patience on your part and a willingness to try on her part. Remember that SF needs to be enjoyable for you both. Be sure to explain that to her.


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I think I was in the process of applying the advice in https://www.marriagebuilders.com/how-to-complain-in-marriage.htm and https://www.marriagebuilders.com/how-to-negotiate-when-no-one-wants-to-raise-the-issue.htm by writing a letter, as much to put my own feelings in words as anything else. I have great difficultly finding the right words to express myself in person off the top of my head, it just often comes out wrong and probably sounds too much like criticism. It took me some time to find the words to write and just before I was about to hit the send email button my wife came in and asked what I was doing. It was emotional as she has said before she didn't want to see these things written down so I read it to her instead and it was accepted with good grace and I feel it is leading us in the right direction now.

I hope she will write me her list of Love Busters eventually. I have found His Needs, Her Needs in the catalogue of our local library and will borrow that next up to see if we can maybe read it together.

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Welcome to MB.

Are you saying you and your wife are now starting marriage builders?

Have you read Love Busters? If not, I highly recommend it. It would be good to see what Love Busters you are committing and work in eliminating them.

Do you know your wife’s top emotional needs?


FWW/BW (me)
WH
2nd M for both
Blended Family with 7 kids between us
Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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BrainHurts I think I covered that in my original post. We have always been each other's best friends, ever since we mated and that won't change. For the most part we have met each others emotional needs for 40+ years. There has just been the occasional resentment arise, mainly around big issues and changes in our lives that have accumulated small withdrawals from the love bank over those 40 years without replenishing them. To say I wasn't fully aware of the differences of our sexualities at the start would be untrue, it would be unfair to say the opposite that she was also fully aware of those differences. That would be my fault but I don't think I had the maturity in my 20's to fully understand it or know how to deal with it.

It would have been useful to have these insights in our twenties, but I was reading things like Robert Ardrey and The Territorial Imperative then, not His Needs Her Needs. I also know I'm lucky I did find the person I did when I did. Timing is everything, I think we both feel if we had met 5 years earlier nothing might have eventuated.

I don't use the term mated lightly. It's more than just love or sex,

I'm chatting here because I don't really have anybody other than my wife close enough to bounce these types of thoughts off and I need to write them down to get a handle on them. Thanks be to the anonymity of the internet that places like this exist.

BTW, what does FWW/BW WH mean?

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I've just finished reading "His Needs Her Needs" and I see my life in between the pages.

Perhaps one of the most painful passages was this:

One of the tragic ironies of my job appears when I counsel couples in their seventies for sexual incompatibility. Almost always they resolve their problem within a few weeks and many experience sexual fulfillment for the first time after forty or fifty years of marriage.

Really?

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Have you thought about writing Dr. Harley?


FWW/BW (me)
WH
2nd M for both
Blended Family with 7 kids between us
Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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Email your questions to Joyce Harley at mbradio@marriagebuilders.com. When your email question is chosen to be answered on the radio show, you will be notified by email directing you to listen to the broadcast. If you would like to consider being a caller, include your telephone number. You will receive a call to explain the procedure.


FWW/BW (me)
WH
2nd M for both
Blended Family with 7 kids between us
Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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OK so after reading "His Needs Her Needs" I found my library also carries the audio book version of "He Wins, She Wins". I have started listening to that today. This treatise makes a lot of sense to me as well. I'm unsure what order the books are intended to be read. I guess I am going to have to search out Dr Harley's other books now to find out what seems to fit where for me.

Notwithstanding what I am reading, I also tried searching google for other concepts that might match my predicament, trying to see how alone I am in my thoughts. This was of interest to me because of some things Dr Harley says in He Wins She Wins about meeting Emotional Needs when they are apparently appalling to your mate. (I note now Dr Harley also uses the term mate for ones wife, not just a partner!)

Following on from this I came across the concept of "Toxic Positivity", a term I had never heard before. I think it describes part of my predicament and also how it is destructive to a relationship. I am sure I would have used the term defensively in conversation before, if I had know it, trying to navigate and discuss our issues while being denied empathy and being labelled depressive in response. Although I now want to use it, I'm chastened by Dr Harley's distinction between complaints and criticism. I recognize that by being angry enough to want to hurt by hurling the accusation at my wife would hurt me as well. My wife tells me she is always happy no matter what the situation is and that my apparent depression about our problems is something that is my problem and is not normal. Not normal? Joint Agreement? Undivided Attention? Not Normal! Toxic Positivity seems to me to explain exactly why she doesn't want to read His Needs Her Needs or fill in the Love Buster and Emotional Needs questionnaires. It would be too challenging to her "Positive Attitude" view of life that would require her to acknowledge empathy with my feelings.

This is a dilemma. Her positivity is part of her attractiveness to me. Although I have objectively been successful in life, my character still has an underlying shyness and insecurity that her positivity counterbalances.

Oy Vey!

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I think Dr. Harley could help you if you reach out to him. He says in one of his radio shows that one of Joyce's attributes he was attracted to when they were dating was her cheerfulness. He tends to be quieter, less cheerful, a little more negative, he says. But he insists she brings out the best in him.

It can be tough for a cheerful person to be married to one less cheerful. The more cheerful person will sometimes find the other to be not much fun to be around. Conversations can be impacted as well. Dr. Harley also talks about a "negative feedback loop" that is hard to break out of. The more negativity that exists in the marriage, the more it snowballs.

It is pretty normal for sex drives to be somewhat mismatched in marriage. Men have lots of testosterone while women have less and it's testosterone that creates the physical sex drive. Women do enjoy sex, of course, but they can be happy with a bit less sex than a man would, in most cases. If you were to eliminate all love busters and meet her need for great conversation, affection, or whatever she would say are her most important ENs, chances are pretty good that if there were a prospect of enjoyment for her, she would be happy to meet your need for SF.


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To be honest I can't at the moment think of what would be helpful to ask of Dr Harley. My other half has now read "His Needs Her Needs" and (with some difficulty) answered the Emotional Needs questionnaire, but even so is still holding out on answering the Love Busters one. It would appear I am meeting all of her needs under the status quo, maybe not all to 5 stars but more than enough to be good, so she has no real incentive to change anything much and is therefore reticent about exploring more of the Marriage Builders suggestions. She sees it as me pursuing my own personal therapy and not something that will necessarily be of joint benefit.

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Originally Posted by Mature
To be honest I can't at the moment think of what would be helpful to ask of Dr Harley. My other half has now read "His Needs Her Needs" and (with some difficulty) answered the Emotional Needs questionnaire, but even so is still holding out on answering the Love Busters one. It would appear I am meeting all of her needs under the status quo, maybe not all to 5 stars but more than enough to be good, so she has no real incentive to change anything much and is therefore reticent about exploring more of the Marriage Builders suggestions. She sees it as me pursuing my own personal therapy and not something that will necessarily be of joint benefit.

That would suggest that your wife is not head over heels in love with you. If she was, your needs would come ahead of hers. Are you flirting with her, are you romancing her, do you tell her she is beautiful, irresistible and magical every morning as you wake up? Try going from 'more than enough to be good' to amazing and see if that helps.

By the way, you never answered my question on a possible sex aversion. That would require an entirely different approach.


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FWW/BW (me)
WH
2nd M for both
Blended Family with 7 kids between us
Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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Originally Posted by living_well
[quote=Mature]
By the way, you never answered my question on a possible sex aversion. That would require an entirely different approach.

Sorry if you think I was avoiding answering your question, but I do think I stated this fairly clearly in my original post. For a black and white answer, Yes I think Sexual Aversion is a problem.

It is however difficult to see how to engage in the suggested steps of overcoming sexual aversion for a 69 year old who hasn't really bought into Dr Harley's ideas. Reading His Needs Her Needs has helped bring these painful feelings to the surface, but my mate is still resisting reading He Wins She Wins, which I feel is the best chance I see of her reading the chapters on Sexual Aversion. We don't seem to be able to discuss this constructively, although we are making some progress, but I fear it is seen as a sacrifice on her side not a joyful joint agreement.

I could be wrong but I don't believe the major cause of the sexual aversion is love busters in this marriage, it seems to me a preexisting condition that I can also recognize in her siblings. This is not just an issue of PIV sex, we are both now too old and physically challenged for that. I find it difficult to explain what is missing, as elementary and shallow as this will sound, she doesn't seem to be able to comprehend what power a black bra under a white shirt has over me.

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I believe you will get some great help if you were to email Dr. Harley. He is very insightful and has helped thousands of couples.. If you let him know that you have posted here and link your post, he could see the background of your marital challenges. He can speak with you live on his radio program which is very helpful. Your wife could join the call if she wants. If she doesn't want to, they will be happy to speak with just you. The Harleys make it very easy as they are both very engaging. Dr. Harley will speak with you off air first for a while to better understand your situation. After the call, you can continue to email him.

He helped us immensely in our marriage. At the time we reached out to him, we had been married for 30 years; now we are almost at 42 years and still learn a lot from his radio show.


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Originally Posted by Mature
I could be wrong but I don't believe the major cause of the sexual aversion is love busters in this marriage

That is correct and why I said sexual aversion needs a different approach. Sexual aversion is going to prevent her from wanting to get too close to you so meeting her emotional needs will put more pressure on her and increase the aversion. I agree with LWFH that Dr Harley is the place you need to go.

Imagine if you had a spider phobia and your wife told you to read something that would cure your aversion? Your initial reaction would probably be to run for your life. Advice from a third party like Dr Harley will be far easier for her to handle and he is very soothing.


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Originally Posted by Mature
[quote=living_well][quote=Mature]
It is however difficult to see how to engage in the suggested steps of overcoming sexual aversion for a 69 year old who hasn't really bought into Dr Harley's ideas.


One age-old suggestion here is to not just spring this kind of stuff on your spouse.

A bit of this can explain her hesitance.

You have to work on "selling" the program to her by doing your best to model what it may look like.

It is entirely possible that while you are certainly very interdependent after a lifetime together, that she simply isn't in a fully bloomed romantic love with you.

So, do your best with what you have; meet the needs she has identified as best you can. Ask for feedback. Set up some mutually enjoyable dates - be adventurous if you can! The more fun and exciting your shared experiences are, the more in love you will be with each other. Since you like to look stuff up, the phenomenon behind this is called misattribution of arousal.

You want to make as many deposits as you can.

If she has an aversion, and she isn't in romantic love with you, it is possible she is seeing this as a manipulation - and by nudging her too much towards taking this all in, it will appear like you are trying to educate here, this is a disrespectful judgement.

You can do this. Buckle down and work on your own expertise on your wife, and really crank that balance up!


"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." - Niels Bohr

"Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons." - Michael Shermer

"Fair speech may hide a foul heart." - Samwise Gamgee LOTR
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