6 thoughts on “Why Not3

  1. Anonymous

    Dear Alison,

    I am so glad I have found your website. Reading through it has been very helpful. Here is my situation: I recently left my husband of almost 2 years. We met online and hung out just a few times before he had to move away for 3 years. During this time we wrote to each other utilizing mainly the internet and snail mail. I really fell in love with him because he had a lot of qualities that I admired and lacked in myself – in the best light, he was independent, self-focused, and determined, and in the worst light he came off as cold, selfish, lacking in empathy and compassion. During our correspondence I often was the one to reach out and ask about him, which resulted in very long, rich, descriptive messages about his going-abouts, which were very rarely reciprocated with any kind of interest in myself. As a result, a lot of our correspondence turned into sort of mini-stories that were not connected and did not build on each other. When we would converse over the phone, it often felt like I was interviewing him. When I tried to communicate to him my observations and expectations, he most often would not respond, and if pressed to respond he would tell me that either it was all in my head, or that he is simply not the kind of person to ask questions – thinking that if there was something interesting to say I would say it. I found this lack of compassion very hurtful, but for some reason, be it insecurity, or wanting so much for this relationship to work, I repressed it as best I could. When we got married many of our mutual friends (we were from the same town and found to share many friends) thought we were a bad match. When he met my family he was very distant and uninterested in them. Right after marriage, because he was in the army, we moved away from all of our friends and family. It was an exciting time for me and I quickly found a job I loved and made new friends. We made a great home together and I loved the feeling of stability in my environment for the first time. It felt like communuty. The only problem was that we were not getting along very well. He stopped having interest in having sex with me almost immediately after marriage, which I took very, very hard. I am a very sexual person and find that physical intimacy is extremely important to the growth and comfort and development of trust in the relationship. When I tried talking to him about it, he sometimes responded by asking me to have faith and wait, but not talking any further about it. Sometimes he would get angry and tell me that the more I ask about it, the less he wants it. I understand that me wanting him when he didn’t want me was probably very unattractive to him, but I was not prepared for this and had no idea how to deal with it. Not long after it came out that he spent a lot of time watching porn. Most of the time while we were apart and while we were together. He had it on hard-drives, computers, phones. It was everywhere. He even had photos of his friends, naked, saved onto these drives. What hurt me even more was that I had been sending him photos of myself during our time apart, and he didn’t have not one. This lead to a great tear in our trust, for both of us. I had violated his privacy. Despite all of this, we both still loved each other and wanted it to work, so we kept trying. But what I found out was that in order for him to be happy, and to keep the peace, I had to never bring up any concerns. If I did, he became angry, which made me angry, and would fight. It wasn’t just about sex, it was about everything. He expected me to do a lot for him, and when he didn’t need me, he expected me to keep my distance. He also drank every Friday night, until 6 in the morning. He was not a violent or mean drunk, but the problem was the entire next day when his hangover made him very mean and irritable. I know all of this probably sounds like a pretty bad relationship, but we did have so many tender and nice moments. We loved talking to each other about things. Conversation was easy, he still didn’t ask about my day, but it was mostly okay because I took it as a part of his personality and started telling him about my day instead. The point is that when he was happy and in a good mood, it was wonderful. But often he was not, and he seemed to resent me at those times. I often wondered how much I contributed to his bad moods, how much of them were my fault. If only I was more patient, more loving, less expecting of him, it would give him the chance to grow and flourish into a kinder, more compassionate man. I ended up leaving after a month of us basically not speaking to one another, me sleeping on the couch, and he fining an excuse to never address our situation. It culminated in an ugly fight where awful things were said and I reached my breaking point, deciding that I just cannot tolerate this amount of dysfunction. He called me a quitter. He old me I shoudn’t leave, that we should let it rest so we can heal the broken trust, but I was weary of letting it rest. I thought we needed serious and immediate outside help. I wanted us to get counseling because we could not properly even speak to one another without it leading to a downward spiral. I guess my question is, does it sound like my husband may be lacking in compassion and is it possible for couples to work through situations like this, given the right tools and desire from both parties? I still love him very much, and I know that he wants things to work, too, but I think he doesn’t know how. I can forgive a lack of compassion if only the person is aware of their lack and how it might affect the other. Or, is it best to let him be and allow him to find happiness with someone who may have more similar needs to his?

    Thank you for taking the time to read this, I know it is very long and still I have left out so much.

    Anonymous (is it possible to erase some of my comment after reading it? Thank you, I understand if not)

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      I would also like to add that he is an extremely intelligent man, well read, and has very strong ethical standards. He has never met his father who left him and his mother while he was an infant. He also has not spoken to his mother in 4 years. He speaks very poorly of her, calling her a psychopath, but I have had a very rich correspondence with her and find her to be a very kind and caring person. I wonder if because of his dysfunctional family he may not have learned or developed good social/family/compassion skills and if that is something that can be learned at the ripe age of 40, or if at this point in life the stress of having a relationship that requires compassion is not worth it.

      Reply
      1. Alison Post author

        Compassion is the key-stone to a good long-term relationship–see my article on “Compassion in relationships.” A lack of compassion often comes from not receiving much compassion as a child, or from living in very volatile circumstances. And of course you can have empathy for him but it doesn’t mean that you have to remain a martyr. Compassion is difficult to learn as an adult but could occur if there were desire to do so. The key is that the person is highly motivated to gain compassion.

        Reply
    2. Alison Post author

      Dear Anonymous,

      You asked me my opinion, and from everything you say, I doubt that your relationship will improve, and its current state is very onesided and bad. For whatever reasons, you are not a priority and he does not care very much about how you feel. He may care about you leaving him, but not about how happy or satisfied you are, what you think, and what you feel.

      He became addicted to porn, which is very damaging to a relationship. He was rejecting you sexually, but cared more about his porn than your feeling undesirable and rejected. Then he turned it into an argument about you impinging upon his privacy. I completely disagree with him. Here is my view on privacy vs. secrecy in marriage: “Privacy vs. Secrecy”

      He is not curious about you, which is evident in his lack of questions about you. You can’t have an intimate relationship without mutual caring and curiosity.

      Along the same lines, you can’t improve your relationship if you can’t or don’t bring up concerns. In fact one of the most important factors in a good relationship is the ability to bring up concerns without the other person getting angry or withdrawing. How can a couple grow and enjoy their relationship more if either they can’t talk about what bothers them or what they’d like more of in their relationship, or one of them is always accommodating to keep the peace.

      Relationships should not be this hard! You wonder whether you should simply be more patient and loving and lower your expectations. I don’t think that will change anything for you. You will simply be pacifying him, but still unable to talk to him or feel desirable.

      In the following article I have some tips as to how to deal with emotionally volatile people. It is generally best not to marry them. I worry about you agonizing and trying so hard, and not seeing your husband make much effort or have much motivation to please you. It has to be a two way street.
      “Emotionally Volatile People”

      As I said, I am very concerned that he was addicted to porn while allowing you to feel undesirable. I also think it is more than weird that he has naked photos of friends. I also don’t think it’s a good sign that he has cut off his mother, unless there has been abuse. This is a sign of strong emotional fusion and a lack of resilience, as well as possible narcissism.

      If he were super motivated to get counseling and to improve the relationship, not simply out of a fear of losing you, but an acknowledgement that he needs to change, there might still be some hope, but I still would be doubtful.

      Sorry. Let me know how it goes.

      Alison

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Dear Alison,

        Thank you for your response. It is helping me in gaining understanding in the situation – mainly that that it isn’t necessarily my fault that it has not worked out. In my grief I have been trying to reason and explain what happened by reading and researching similar experiences. I noticed you mentioned potential narcissism at play, so I did a lot of research on the topic. It would seem that a lot of the factors at play are typical to being in a relationship with a narcissist, however, it just didn’t seem completely on point… especially since it seems like my husband genuinely does not want to hurt anyone, and that at times he is aware that he is “different” and his behavior can be extremely disturbing (even to himself) but it is difficult for him to even think about/comprehend this. At times he has joked about being on the autism spectrum and that if it had been as big as it is now (diagnosis wise) when he was a young boy, he probably would have been immediately diagnosed along with his group of friends. Even though he spoke about this, there still was a very real disconnect between the potential effects of autism spectrum on a relationship and our communication problems. I wonder if it is possible that this is the culprit to our miscommunication. Do you think that he could fit this definition? He has trouble with eye contact. One time we went out to dinner and the ENTIRE time he scanned everything in the restaurant, avoiding me at all costs until the food came, at which point he focused on that. He has very focused interests and is very observant without emotional attachment. He has a group of friends he has maintained friendships with through childhood and the ones I’ve met are really great people. He can become very ANGRY, and what seems irrational and counterproductive to me, when routines or set plans are changed. It causes him unrest and anxiety and he tends to blame everyone else for this anxiety. When we first started having sexual intimacy problems he told me that he never realized how much of sex with another person is based on emotion. This disturbed me, because I didn’t know he was experiencing an emotional disconnect during sex, whereas I find it very difficult to have sex with another person without an emotional connection. He also loves animals and they seem to be a great source of comfort for him. He is so kind and loving with them, and I was wondering if this is because they don’t cause him any anxiety because he doesn’t have to try to meet any expectation that he doesn’t understand. Do you think he could have Asperger’s and that could be the root of our problems? We have only lived together for 1.5 years, do you think I gave up too soon? Obviously I had to leave the situation at the time because it was extremely painful and abusive, but could it be based on serious misunderstanding? Of course I still love him very much, but am weary and guarded. Do you have experience with autism in relationships?

        Thank you Alison!

        Reply
        1. Alison Post author

          Hi again,

          Yes, it definitely could be Aspergers! I’m sorry I didn’t think of that. I’ve read maybe three or four books written by people with Aspergers, all interesting, but the one that you must go out and buy today is “The Journal of Best Practices: A memoir of marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and one man’s quest to be a better husband.” It is outstanding, and funny as well. David Finch, the author who finds out he has Aspergers as an adult when his marriage is having trouble, describes what his life is like and what he has to do in order to make his marriage work. You should buy a copy for your husband as well.

          I am still very concerned about the pornography though.

          Let me know how it goes.

          Alison

          Reply

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