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ravi_the_traveler

Sorting it out after many years of marriage...

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ravi_the_traveler

Hi.

 

I just need to talk, as I'm trying to get balance. I feel alone, and scared, and hurt. I also want to talk about this without betraying the confidence of my partner, so please excuse my vagueness in many matters. Just high level. I am still processing things. I also apologize for the stream of consciousness. I hope it flows, and maybe I'm only writing this for me. Anyway...

 

I have been married to my partner for a good amount of time (more than a decade, closer to 20 years than not). We both were right at 20 when we got married, both from a very Christian conservative background. I love my partner, but I cannot lie when I say that part of me getting married so quickly was because of my desire to have a physical relationship with another person, and I wanted to do it the right way according to our religion (at the time, important to mention we have since fallen out, 10 years ago). I am very high libido, and when we were dating they were as well. In fact, for the first few years, it was pretty fantastic from my point of view. We had sex frequently (few times a week), but they were never long sessions and foreplay was never much. But, it was enough for me and I was happy. We both decided to not have children, but given we were both saddled with debt from school. As such, I started the grind early on in our marriage while they continued to pursue higher education. We moved a lot with me trying to find a job, but eventually landed where we are now (and have been for 12+ years)

 

About sometime halfway through into our relationship, our sex life dried up. There are a lot of reasons why, but it was the beginning of the time when my partner began exploring their gender identity. Things became tense between us, but because of other work circumstances it was difficult to see if relationship problems were my own issues (which as any human I have my fair share of). Traditional gender roles were upended at my house and that meant a lot of changes for how we handled household affairs. It's been quite a journey in itself there, but it was gradual and one thing at a time. I always have believed in equality in marriage and tried my best to support them in that endeavor by ensuring I'm doing my fair share of house contribution as well as work.

 

It was during this time I started going to therapy myself. Partly, I was trying to sort out my own issues because I wanted to work on our relationship. I felt it very much a "don't throw stones at glass houses". While I was not perfect, my problem was that I did not know how to express myself emotionally. It was repress or anger. I did pretty well as the "vulcan", but anytime we ran into problems I would not be able to communicate properly because it was just anger. Never abusive, I just would not be able to take the 5 seconds to breath... I would just react and yell. It wasn't great. To be fair though, we in our marriage really did not have many issues. They have always been supportive of me and my career as I have for theirs. I feel this context important to share because I could not find the right way to communicate my frustrations about sex in a healthy way. At the core, I want to feel wanted and desired and loved, and if for whatever reason my partner just isn't feeling it, I don't feel right asking and certainly not demanding sex.

 

During these therapy sessions, we finally got to the matter of it: I was upset because was not having my needs met. This felt selfish of me, and I felt dirty, shameful. Old religious guilts found their way back into my psyche. It was during these times as I started to talk to my partner trying to properly communicate my needs that I learned about various traumas they experienced. Immediately the feelings of guilt and shame multiplied, because I also felt like a rapist. So, I pulled back. It was clear during these talks they were working on things themself. Anytime sex came up, they would clam up. At this point, we were having sex once every 4 - 6 weeks. I never felt so ugly, and I just couldn't understand why they didn't want me anymore. And, when we did have sex, they were checked out. We spent a lot of time working on how I could compromise, where I could try to help healing (even though I did not have the full context of what was going on). 

 

I shared with them that this was bothersome to me, and I didn't want to engage with them sexually unless they was into it. This began the long dry spell, where they were into it less than a handful of  times that year. That was a very painful year as I was really trying to be supportive. There was clearly something going on, they aren't telling me about it, just more time. The downside is that this lack of physical connection started bleeding into our actual life and we became more distant there as well. I tried to rekindle things many times with help from my therapist based on what was going on, and each attempt kept coming up with no good.  We even went to a therapist ourselves for over a year. This helped us work through some communication issues in general we had, but we never were able to address our physical relationship.

 

Four years of this. That was about how long I could take. We would have sex, but it would be few and far between. I tried a lot of things for me to address the sexual energy, pouring into more healthy endeavors. Learned a few skills, strengthened my bonds with my family, took care of my body, etc. Never once cheated, because I promised I wouldn't. Thought about it a lot, to be honest, but it always made me sad to think about not having sex with my partner when I'd have just overwhelming surges of hormones. I thought that maybe I'd chill out as I got older, but as I'm well into my 30s, I still feel like a teenager in my drive. It's been maddening to not be able to do anything about this. Not able to talk about it because they'd clam up, and not willing to go outside of the marriage, not for religious sake, but because I made a promise to another person. My word is the only thing I can count on, so I try in all things to stick up to my end of the bargain. Selfishly, I kept thinking that my partner wasn't though... I could never mentally get over the hurdle to talk about going out of marriage because I am attracted to my partner and want to be physical with them. It just kept being confusing to me why. To get across the hurdle, I tried to keep things in check by masturbating when needed. This also helped me sort of calibrate what I actually needed vs desired, which was about 3x/week. Seems like a lot, but I didn't want this to be a clinical thing to just help me get by. I wanted to feel desired.

 

After four years, I told them I was at the end of my rope. I wasn't sure what to do, and that I needed help. I needed them to be involved with me sexually, and it was important to me in ways that I was having a hard time controlling. I shared that while I haven't strayed, the thought kept getting stronger and stronger and I really needed help with this. What's frankly crazy to me is that at first it was preference, and then it started becoming about my physical well-being. For a long time I thought I could just deal with minimal sex, but I stared to have issues. I was more angry than I wanted to be (balanced out with meditation, but it was a struggle). I started to not be able to sleep, waking up with these incredible urges to just get down and dirty. I legitimately was having a hard time. They agreed to try and start working on things (hooray, a success!).

 

Three weeks later, they got sick. Very sick. Concerned of death sick. Migraine headaches every day, two and three a day, for 3 months straight. It was torture to watch them suffer and not be able to do anything about it. Best I could do was keep Gatorade and food stocked for when they could get out of the literal cave we had to build to avoid light. Bedridden. Nights were so hard then, because my partner was suffering and yet I'm still sitting here with these needs. I felt so ashamed. I did my best to help nurse them back to health, but in truth all I could do was watch. This followed by another 3 months of them changing medications in order to counteract the migraines. We learned that these medications really mess up your GI tract, and my partner learned that they were unable to eat anything but potatoes. Only thing they could keep down. They lost a lot of weight, and it got sketchy there for a bit. I was very worried. They finally started to get better, stabilize, and be able to eat, leave the house, etc. It was about the time they were able to be mobile I tried to talk again. I felt horrible for asking anything sex, but at this point it was now more about sex. I was essentially alone even in person while they were suffering. They didn't want me around, so I was just in the other room. I was there, but we were not together. I felt so disconnected from them, at this point I didn't even know what to do, and said I was considering leaving. It was hard, but 15 years of confusion, rebuff, loneliness, and not wanting to break my marriage bonds I wasn't sure what else to do. We agreed to go to counseling to try and work through things.

 

Enter about three months of therapy, and each session my partner would just lock up anytime either myself or the therapist would ask questions to try and even establish a baseline. Our goal was to work on baby steps to resume intimacy with things like back rubs and massages. No expectation of sex, just getting more physical. They would have a panic attack trying to think about the exercise.  Full on panic attacks would ensue. It was brutal. I really felt for them as a person that they were unable to process this for a number of reasons, but I needed to figure out what I was going to do for my own needs. The therapist recommended  we both go talk to individual counseling for a bit.

 

That was six months ago. I haven't asked much about what has been going on in their world at counseling because I assumed at some point when they were ready we'd talk again. Last Thursday, my parter shared with me that they identified as non-binary grey-asexual. It was out of the blue, after wonderful date night where we'd both been drinking. I was blind-sighted. We were literally about to have sex for the first time in almost a year, and when I asked them if they were sure they wanted do to this they locked up, and it all came gushing out. All the details. I did my best during this conversation to assure them that I loved them, valued them as a person, and appreciated the trust to share this information with me. I did nothing but listen that night. I felt both immediate relief for some reason as well as despair. Relief in that they were able to figure out ways to express themself in their true self. Despair in knowing that things would change. Not sure how they would, but they would. Problem is, they said some things related to how they felt about sex that really touched me in a way I didn't know possible. Really cut deep... more or less that invalidated any sexual encounter we ever had as a couple. I didn't realize just how much sex meant to me in a relationship until then. It hurt so bad, because that was my connection point, it's when I felt closest, the thing I shared *only* with them.

 

And then the next several days have just been confusing as all heck. I've gone from anger to hurt to betrayed to upset to happy to alone to who knows what else. Over the years I've shared with them how much sex meant to me. I've cried so much over the last few days. I feel even worse. More like a rapist, more disgusting, more alone.

 

I met with my therapist yesterday, and shared how hard I'm taking this. I want so hard to be supportive, and I am. I still love them. But, how do I deal with this new data, given this is more than just trauma. It's their sexual orientation. One that is pretty much on the opposite end of me. I reiterate that I can't imagine having sex with them because we've tried the consolation sex, and because of past traumas they check out. I can't in right mind be a part of that... feels more like abuse than compromise. 

 

We also talked at great length last night. I asked for honestly, I would give the same.. I asked how about pronouns, how long they had been thinking about sexual and gender orientation, etc. During this, they asked me some pointed questions back about my own desire to have a physical relationship. I had to reiterate it was very important to me, and that it pains me to think we're at this impasse right now. Neither of us wanted to hurt each other, but here we were... 16 years into a relationship after an 8 year discovery period. I reiterated I valued them as a person, I still love them, and will support them. They asked me if I though things would work going forward and I honestly had to say that I didn't know. 

 

The hardest thing I've had to do is to ask my partner to stop kissing me for right now. Even the smallest peck, I want to jump all over them... even after this long and after this much drought. That's not fair pressure to them as they are still working through things with their therapist, and it's harder for me knowing for sure there won't be any sex at the end. We are hugging. I still tell them I love them, and I still share the same bed. I just have less certainty about how I'm going to get my needs met now, and what I'm going to do about that.

 

It's context to move forward, but I'm not thinking more than day to day right now. I'm saddened how much this is affecting me, I'm saddened by the situation, and I'm saddened that I need this as much as I do. But, it's taken me almost as long as my partner to figure out they do not as it has for me to figure out how much I do, and an even longer enough time to work through most of my guilt and self-esteem to make my needs known. We talked about open/poly, but they made it clear they wouldn't know if they could deal with it.

 

I'm just lost. This is my family. This is only such a small slice of our life together these last few years. We had have quite an adventure. I love this person. I can't reconcile no sex, and I can't reconcile "sex, only under specific conditions". During the deterioration slope of several years, this behavior became apparent when the bar to get them turned on kept getting higher and higher. Eventually, I couldn't do it... it was just too much to align the stars, moon, skies, groceries, dishes, laundry, cats, floor, dusting, and frankly anything else that needed to be done before we could get them to even consider the prospect. :cake:, as I am coming to learn.

 

I've done a lot of research over the last few days to try and understand where they are coming from, and trying to figure out what I want to do. I'm not going to do anything immediately now because it'd be a reaction of emotion, but the road ahead seems hard. I'm not eating, barely sleeping, and just trying to not lose my job right now (which I have spent the better part of my morning writing this because I can't do anything else but think about it).

 

Not sure how to end this. Thanks for reading this far.

Edited by ravi_the_traveler
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anamikanon

hug.

 

It is hard, but there are lots of people here who have been in similar situations and are willing to listen. There is a lot of collective wisdom that I hope helps you.

 

This is going to be hard to believe, but I think there are several positives in your post.

 

  1. Regardless of the past, you are now talking freely.
  2. You are respectful of each others needs (regardless of whether you can fulfill them easily)
  3. You still love each other - this matters - this is where solutions are born.
  4. The hardest part of not knowing is done.

Difficult parts I spot.

  1. The hardest part of finding your way to something that works is ahead of you and it is going to suck till something works.

Keep talking. Keep loving each other.

 

I would highly recommend talking extensively of what both of you need, what you are okay with and what you are not okay with, seeing where there is some middle ground that both of you enjoy and so on.

 

You seem to be doing most things right instinctively. Now it is a matter of plodding through the miserable part to the other end. And it does get better eventually - whether with a solution or with exhaustion or with separation - time will tell, but with enough efforts, you will have enough clarity to make a choice that works for your reality.

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anisotrophic

oh shit, @ravi_the_traveler it really hurts "when the other shoe drops" as @anamikanon put it recently. I'm so sorry.

I second @anamikanon's advice, to take care of yourself, and to know that it's going to take time.

but with the shoe dropped -- if you and your partner are communicating, with empathy, I think it's very likely that you'll eventually get to a place that was happier than you were. Focus on understanding each other first, I think.

(For example, my partner did eventually become positive about open/poly as we better understood the difference and pain we caused each other -- and I haven't done it and don't plan to any time soon, just having it there made a huge difference. It was something that needed discussion over a timescale of months, though.)


(And with respect to your experiences, it might be helpful to contextualize your own gender/orientation -- and your partner's historic gender -- I think as we transition, who we were is a large part of what we are. These things do tend to matter with respect to how sexuality plays out in a relationship, especially if you started out more "traditionally".)

I needed a lot of therapy ... I went in for gender identity issues and my therapist suggests my partner might be ace. (Which he confirmed in the weeks that followed. He doesn't like to mess with words like "gray" that might encourage me to hope for attraction/desire on his part.) The months of therapy after that? Forget my goddamned gender! Now I'm now in shock and misery that my partner (of well over a decade) wasn't, isn't, and will never be attracted to me. I think my experience was relatively mild, I'd known something was off, but never understood what.

The pain you are feeling is awful and real, and you're going to have a grieving period.

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SCPDX

What @anamikanon and @anisotropic said. 

 

I’ll also add not to give any weight to any thoughts you might have that you may not have handled the situation well. Nobody handles this well. 

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Chimeric
3 hours ago, SCPDX said:

I’ll also add not to give any weight to any thoughts you might have that you may not have handled the situation well. Nobody handles this well. 

Conversely, you have handled this with empathy, maturity, and nuance.

 

Asexuality can be a complicated maze to navigate; gender identity can be a complicated maze to navigate. Overlaid, those two things can become a beast of an obstacle course. But it is abundantly clear that you care for your partner, you are doing everything as right as you can be. This doesn't necessarily mean that you will get everything you want from this relationship - but in the end, both of you will end up getting what's good and right for each of you.

 

I echo what the folks ahead of me have said already. The hardest part is not knowing. Now that you know, the two of you can go about working things out. Communication is vital in this adventure - for both of you. You're off to the best start the two of you can get. It will hurt - a lot - as you go along, but you will make it to a point that is comfortable for you both, howsoever that may manifest.

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anisotrophic

Well... coming back to this... I...

I don't think gender changes, or understanding oneself to be asexual, needs to be ... like this. Maybe it depends on the person, but ... there's a lot of aspects of this where @ravi_the_traveler describes distancing / poor communication on the part of their partner: clamming up, locking up in shared therapy, not communicating what was happening in their individual counseling over the course of six months, only communicating it when they were about to have sex after a year. Not exactly brilliant communication skills there? If this is the truth their partner has achieved, it was achieved in a protracted, painful way -- and communicated very poorly.

From what was written, it seems like ravi was enduring a lot. I don't think we should glorify the martyrdom of suffering for a partner. Being asexual or transgender does not obviate responsibilities of being good to one's partner, it's not a "get out of jail free" card. And I think it would be fair to feel bitter or resentful for pouring yourself into trying to do the right thing, only to discover that the end is more of a punishment than a prize. Anger is also a reasonable response to have. I'm not encouraging you to discuss anger and betrayal with your partner -- I suspect you're afraid to say anything negative to them because they are likely to clam up... But I want to validate these, I think these feelings are allowed and reasonable to have, maybe something to take to therapy.

You should value yourself, you can do that while still caring for your partner. Avoid sunk cost fallacies. You haven't mentioned kids so... you've got less keeping you together than some of us here. From what's happened, I'd be concerned whether the two of you can have the level of communication and empathy needed to be a happy mixed couple.

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anamikanon
58 minutes ago, anisotropic said:

I don't think gender changes, or understanding oneself to be asexual, needs to be ... like this. Maybe it depends on the person, but ... there's a lot of aspects of this where @ravi_the_traveler describes distancing / poor communication on the part of their partner: clamming up, locking up in shared therapy, not communicating what was happening in their individual counseling over the course of six months, only communicating it when they were about to have sex after a year. Not exactly brilliant communication skills there? If this is the truth their partner has achieved, it was achieved in a protracted, painful way -- and communicated very poorly.

From what was written, it seems like ravi was enduring a lot. I don't think we should glorify the martyrdom of suffering for a partner. Being asexual or transgender does not obviate responsibilities of being good to one's partner, it's not a "get out of jail free" card.

100% agree with this.

 

My earlier post was from a sense that they are also finally communicating and from a sense of moving forward and not at all from a sense of "sucking it up". I am glad you said it clearly. It is the part I meant by the below lines, though I didn't put it explicitly.

 

12 hours ago, anamikanon said:

Now it is a matter of plodding through the miserable part to the other end. And it does get better eventually - whether with a solution or with exhaustion or with separation - time will tell, but with enough efforts, you will have enough clarity to make a choice that works for your reality.

Communication is indeed a vital part of making a relationship work and more so when there are issues that run to the core of our identities. And this is worth saying explicitly, that @ravi_the_traveler, working on the issue involves sensitivity to BOTH of you. BOTH of you have needs that aren't met or compromises that make you deeply insecure and there is nothing inherently more important or less important about the needs of either.

 

The part where your partner rejects an open marriage or poly, for example is what I was thinking of when I typed "separation" in my earlier comment. The idea that they can't offer you sex and they can't tolerate you being sexually satisfied with anyone else either is very.... dehumanizing for you. At the same time, I'm also seeing this as an unfolding situation. Many conversations will follow. I am looking at you saying that they don't understand how important sex is to you and they will eventually understand it - whether with explanations or realizing that it could threaten the relationship itself.

 

So a lot of refusals, insensitivity, etc also has to be seen from the lens of them understanding the importance - whether it is ignorance or a dismissal of your needs. A lot of asexuals think that sex is overly advertised, so to say and the little/nothing they feel about it is the universal reality and it takes quite a few explanations for them to understand that there exists a LOT of pleasure in sex for us and it is entwined with our idea of love and feeling loved.

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ravi_the_traveler
Posted (edited)

I certainly appreciate everyone's comments thus far. I certainly appreciate that I'm trying to boil down a long relationship into a post. It's still quite overwhelming. Nonetheless, a lot of these comments are beneficial. Truly. Thank you.

 

@Chimeric I am most fearful about the chaos you mention. Truth be told, I expected some flavor of asexual. I've been grappling with that for a while. There was a point a few years ago (I want to say around year 4 or 5, when we first went through counseling), where I asked her if she thought she might be asexual. Quick denial, and moved on. 🤷‍♂️ But the fact that there is gender expression really throws a 🔧 in it for me because it's two massive things to work through... on top of all the things it took to get here. I'm literally shaking as I write this, fearful, angry, and scared about how to navigate these waters. It's so much. I've been asked to understand and compromise in small ways for so long, I'm having a hard time just because of the way we got here.... not because of the circumstance. I feel used and taken advantage of. They kept to themselves for years about this, kept me at a distance, and then when I finally push the issue and say I'm going to leave, I get one final extension to try and sort it out only to have that door shut in my face. And when my partner is telling me how upset they are about how I've been hurt, it's a weird feeling of "I'm sure you didn't mean to" and "you go fuck yourself".

 

I've given my life for this person, and all I asked for was some action every once in a while. I get it took a long time to get here, and my therapist has told me it's the best path possible and most folks in my situation would not have. Literally until last week I was holding onto the idea things would sort themselves out. When we went to couples therapy, all I was asking for was to figure out how to communicate a way where we could have physical intimacy that was comfortable for them. Couldn't even get that far. I'm really trying to keep looking at everything through the lens of what I've learned, but the time horizon we're talking about has been so long. I know it's raw. I also don't know what to expect in terms of how long it'll last, and what I'll do about it. I'm literally just... at an impasse.

 

@anisotropic I very much appreciate your second post on this matter. Here are the weird feelings I have on the "fair to feel bitter" card. My therapist actually shared with me many of the things that I did in order to sort myself out and be a partner in an equal marriage actually helped create the safe space for my partner to actually discover and explore the gender and sex alignment they have now. They did not come from a great childhood situation and they have a great job, a stable career, colleagues. Their sibling... literal trainwreck. Their life... not much better. My partner: They did the work, but most of this urging was on my part. Trying to get them to work on education, self, etc... Selfishly, I had hoped that if I poured myself so purely into my partner that it would return itself with bounty in the way that I needed it. Def some religious bullshit leftover, but I had so many oddball notions about how my partner would fall so much in love with me that I would just have the best sex of my life. With my partner. The one I married.

 

I know I fell out of the religion a long time ago, but frankly this is the last vestige of it. I really had hoped that all that bullshit I was taught growing up about "saving until marriage" would pay dividends unbound. It just stuck with me, because I held onto for it for so long, and acted on it as soon as I could. It's hard for me to admit that I'm such a high libido, and for years I've been trying to figure out how to come to terms with high vs low libido. Now, it's just closed door. Full stop. Except, if the situation arises that they can't tell me how to get to.

 

Oh, and then throw in gender orientation. I don't know how I feel about that yet. It's hard to puzzle in when I was only focused for so long on the sex aspect of it. Really trying to understand...

 

I want to be empathetic, but right now I'm at the end of my rope.  I'm trying to figure out what an appropriate cooldown looks like so I can make some rational decisions. I know this is raw emotion.

 

It's so raw. :(

Edited by ravi_the_traveler
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ravi_the_traveler
Posted (edited)
49 minutes ago, anamikanon said:

The part where your partner rejects an open marriage or poly, for example is what I was thinking of when I typed "separation" in my earlier comment. The idea that they can't offer you sex and they can't tolerate you being sexually satisfied with anyone else either is very.... dehumanizing for you. At the same time, I'm also seeing this as an unfolding situation. Many conversations will follow. I am looking at you saying that they don't understand how important sex is to you and they will eventually understand it - whether with explanations or realizing that it could threaten the relationship itself.

This would be hard. I would very much like to think about this as an unfolding situation, but I can't see me successfully keeping together two relationships right now. I just can't. And, if I'm physically yearning for someone, I fear that if I start in an open or poly relationship I'll realize that's what I want and then it'll be over anyway. The core of it though is that I am committed to resolving this need. It's why we are where we are, because my partner said that if they had their preferences they'd just hole up and this would never come out. I'm pushing this issue, I'm resolved to making sure my needs are taken care of. It's just painful. You're right though... it's dehumanizing and I feel trapped.

 

They always say you never know how you'll react until you're presented with the actual truth of a decision. This is very much a foggy situation. I still don't know how I'm going to act.

 

Edited by ravi_the_traveler
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Sally
1 hour ago, ravi_the_traveler said:

 And, if I'm physically yearning for someone, I fear that if I start in an open or poly relationship I'll realize that's what I want and then it'll be over anyway. The core of it though is that I am committed to resolving this need. It's why we are where we are, because my partner said that if they had their preferences they'd just hole up and this would never come out. I'm pushing this issue, I'm resolved to making sure my needs are taken care of.

 

There's a little cognitive dissonance there for me.  You're afraid of an open relationship because if it's good, then your current relationship will be over.   Then you say you're committed to resolving "this" need -- your physical/emotional need for sex?  But your partner would prefer to just hole up; however, you're pushing the issue because of your needs.  So how do you suppose that your need will be satisfied with someone who doesn't feel as you do about sexual intimacy, and doesn't want to be in a relationship with someone who's having physical/emotional intimacy with someone else?  Perhaps your partner is realizes that you feel that if you did start an additional relationship, then that would be the end?   It doesn't take much sensitivity to see that that could be the case.  So you're afraid to open the relationship up, and your partner doesn't want to deal with that, and yet you expect something good to come out of this?  Can you see the dissonance there?

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anamikanon
2 hours ago, ravi_the_traveler said:

It's why we are where we are, because my partner said that if they had their preferences they'd just hole up and this would never come out. I'm pushing this issue, I'm resolved to making sure my needs are taken care of. It's just painful.

There is no "if" to your partner having their preferences. They have holed up and the one time they were going to be with you intimately, they dropped their identity bomb on you instead (which is also another refusal, even if with a very grave distraction). Earlier, it has been migranes and severe illness, upset, etc. Whether they are distressed or not, to a large extent it appears that their preferences seem to be the only ones in play and you are not successful in making sure your needs are met, regardless of resolve. That is current reality.

 

Do we get upset, sure, we do. But we aren't upset 24/7 and your partner seems to have made no effort to get back to you when less upset. Or even to get back to you with a coherent explanation when less uspet. She is overwhelmed with her reality and not aware of impact on you. You are overwhelmed with her reality and unable to assert your needs. Your needs are currently not visible playing out. This needs to change if this is to be a relationship between equals. A disproportionate awareness of their distress may make it harder to initiate such talks and in the process ignore your own distress, but if you want this situation to work, the talks will be necessary.

 

That said, it is not looking optimistic if you can't handle multiple relationships, they don't want you to either, they don't want sex with you and in the past have shown signs of extreme distress when they attempt compromise. Combined with the other descriptions of deterioration in your relationship, I am inclined to wonder whether the refusals for sex have less to do with asexuality and more to do with her no longer seeing you as an intimate partner.

 

Take this with a large pinch of salt:

 

Being expected to have sex with a man she is not attracted to will throw most women into distress - for whatever reason - low libido, asexuality, evolving gender identity, lack of attraction... If it is required by their role (wife) and circumstances don't allow an exit from the marriage, it could feel like rape.

 

I have always been a very sexual person, but my previous marriage was abusive and I lost all interest in sex (or for that matter, anything else) with my husband. All I wanted was for him to leave me alone. The idea of him being intimate with me used to freak me out. He felt entitled to it and often earnestly tried to talk to me about his needs. I wasn't interested in fulfilling them. I suffered through that due fear of making it on my own with a disabled infant in tow till I could get out, but every rare instance of sex in the last two years of marriage to my mind is flat out rape. This was the first time in my life that I got a migrane (I have also worked with victims of domestic abuse, and a LOT of them describe actual headaches/migranes at the thought of sex with husbands - stress). I had never experienced one before. There is no amount of understanding or compromise he could offer that would have me wanting him in touching distance again while other things he did that caused our marriage to break down continued - in his case, alcoholism and routine domestic nuisance and anger. It was repulsive. The issue wasn't me wanting or not wanting sex. It was me not wanting him close at all. And the sex had always been good, if not phenomenal till the marriage went south. The issue wasn't sex at all.

 

Even without a relationship being abusive, the idea of being expected to have sex with someone you no longer find attractive (even if from changing identity) could be a powerful stressor. If she has such extreme distress over it there may not be a whole lot you can do about it. So when you say you are trying to make things work, this is one thing to consider. What is it that you are imagining as "working"?

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anisotrophic

This is all my opinionated two cents based on what you've written but...

 

@ravi_the_traveler I think you should give up and assume there's not going to be any more sex with your partner. They are probably trying to force themselves into it. Your frustration in the past might have taken the form of pressure to have sex (and to forgive yourself for that, you didn't know your partner couldn't change), that's done, you're just frustrated about the shit communications. Make space for them to not have sex with you ever again.

 

I think you should also say that you are not going to be celibate indefinitely, and going forward you want to be talking to them to chart the best path forward for both of you. There is no rush to figure out which path you take, but at the moment you suspect that's going to be a decision between open/poly & breaking up in a way that is handled well for both of you.

 

They might be associating their female gender identity with their sexuality. That's for them to work out.

 

(One thing I emotionally associate with being female? Striving to be attractive to my partner. Having my partner initiate and ask me for sex, to desire me. Sigh. But now I'm done being female, I don't think it's worth worrying much about what role my partner played, don't blame him for it... he never withheld sex for any significant period, and I never gave up asking for it, he didn't communicate badly, we just didn't realize asexuality was an "option" and that he always just wanted to make me happy. Which makes me feel loved in a weird way. Anyway... it's been a very different & contrasting path to losing my female gender identity, for me.)

 

Good luck. And give yourself some space to grieve. It's a real shit prize when self sacrifice doesn't turn out so well, it wasn't your fault. Life does that to us, sometimes an investment fails... doesn't mean we were wrong to make those choices, just that we had some bad luck... investments generally have some risk and not all investments will succeed. I try to keep in mind that people get hit with shitty bad luck things they can't control in a lot of other ways, especially with health.

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ryn2
7 hours ago, ravi_the_traveler said:

They did the work, but most of this urging was on my part. Trying to get them to work on education, self, etc... Selfishly, I had hoped that if I poured myself so purely into my partner that it would return itself with bounty in the way that I needed it.

While my overall situation is different I, too, did the above.  I’ve learned that there are no guarantees and that the beneficiary of all that (to some degree selfish, or at least self-protective) giving may just say thanks (or not) and exit the situation without ever returning the favor.

 

Doesn’t mean helping someone out is the wrong thing to do... just that helping someone out with the expectation they would do the same if the tables were turned is misguided and shouldn’t factor into the decision whether or not to help in the first place...

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ravi_the_traveler
9 hours ago, Sally said:

So you're afraid to open the relationship up, and your partner doesn't want to deal with that, and yet you expect something good to come out of this? 

Kicker is, I'm not sure I ever suggested anything good is going to come out of this. It's probably the problem I'm having the most with... each solution (at this point) seems like a no-go, and we've both taken hard stances on needs in this area. Frankly, it was me that proposed poly/open because my parter continues to be insistent for me to be around. When we first started talking, they acted as if I was going to abandon them and they needed to find a new place within a month.

 

6 hours ago, anisotropic said:

 It's a real shit prize when self sacrifice doesn't turn out so well, it wasn't your fault. Life does that to us, sometimes an investment fails... doesn't mean we were wrong to make those choices, just that we had some bad luck..

It's a good life lesson. I've learned this over and over and over again, this one just hurt a bunch because it was personal. I get it, I'll get over it, and I'm still proud of how I conducted myself throughout our relationship. 

 

Just bites.

 

8 hours ago, anamikanon said:

Even without a relationship being abusive, the idea of being expected to have sex with someone you no longer find attractive (even if from changing identity) could be a powerful stressor. If she has such extreme distress over it there may not be a whole lot you can do about it. So when you say you are trying to make things work, this is one thing to consider. What is it that you are imagining as "working"?

This has been on my mind constantly, if only for dealing with trauma. I was considering suggesting separation so that they'd have actual room to not have any pressure from me *at all*. I have already said that I won't ever ask for sex again as part of our discussions with hopes that it helps. The wrench in this is that my needs are known, and I'm not asking, but it'd be foolish to assume I'm not giving off an energy right now that also creates pressure. I don't know how to help that except for being out of the picture.

 

I don't have any idea what working looks like. Take away all of the new data, we've been living as roommates for a long time. Fun to watch some TV with, and we eat meals together at home. Most certainly a good and trusted friend. It's also a hard world out there economically, and as I try to expand my mind I see scenarios where if they really want me around and in their life that we're in a bigger house where either myself or they can have an outdoor guest house to create that space as well. If all we're doing is Netflix and Not Chill, I don't know why I need to live in the same house to make that happen.

 

6 hours ago, anisotropic said:

I think you should also say that you are not going to be celibate indefinitely, and going forward you want to be talking to them to chart the best path forward for both of you.

Most certainly have made that point clear. I think that's what causes the most angst in our conversations. They tell me that touch and being held is important, but no sex. So, it's a lot of upside for them and little to none for me in that area. I get frustrated, they get fulfilled. I've said this is no longer tenable for me over and over and over, and at least once during each of our conversations so far.

 

 

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ravi_the_traveler
3 hours ago, ryn2 said:

just that helping someone out with the expectation they would do the same if the tables were turned is misguided

This has been the hardest pill to swallow. Anytime I had challenges over the years, I thought to myself "I only hope they'd do the same for me if the tables were turned". Even with the best of intentions, that's not how it goes.

 

I don't want to be cynical about this point, because I trusted my parter almost implicitly in this regard. It just adds to the hurt and loneliness. 

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anisotrophic
4 hours ago, ravi_the_traveler said:

Most certainly have made that point clear. I think that's what causes the most angst in our conversations. They tell me that touch and being held is important, but no sex. So, it's a lot of upside for them and little to none for me in that area. I get frustrated, they get fulfilled. I've said this is no longer tenable for me over and over and over, and at least once during each of our conversations so far.

It sounds like they don't understand how important sex is to people that are not asexual.

Most sexuals experience sex as having a strong emotional aspect, very entangled with romantic feelings. Sexual rejection feels like romantic rejection. Many aces, when they come out, struggle to reassure their partner that they still love them. Sexual partners that haven't had sex report having "fallen out of love".

I think mixed couples can only be happy if both partners feel loved and respected for the (a)sexualities they have. Orientations can be denied, but they won't change. It's unreasonable to hope an asexual person can discover sexual desire. It's also unreasonable to hope a sexual person is going to be happy with physically intimacy that produces an unfulfilled desire for sexual intimacy.

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ryn2
7 minutes ago, anisotropic said:

Most sexuals experience sex as having a strong emotional aspect, very entangled with romantic feelings.

This is the part that still causes me a great deal of confusion over my own sexuality/asexuality/?

 

It does seem to be very common/typical, though, even though it runs against the US male stereotype of “putting up with [her] feelings in order to get some.”

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anisotrophic
6 minutes ago, ryn2 said:

This is the part that still causes me a great deal of confusion over my own sexuality/asexuality/?

 

It does seem to be very common/typical, though, even though it runs against the US male stereotype of “putting up with [her] feelings in order to get some.”

Maybe *you* should be confused about your gender too! 😂

 

Join the party!

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ryn2
1 minute ago, anisotropic said:

Maybe *you* should be confused about your gender too! 😂

 

Join the party!

I’ve always felt pretty gender-neutral/somewhere between male and female, but (so far, at least) presenting as male hasn’t felt more appealing or authentic to me than presenting as female does.  I feel like some of both and a lot of neither.  😂

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anisotrophic
10 minutes ago, ryn2 said:

I’ve always felt pretty gender-neutral/somewhere between male and female, but (so far, at least) presenting as male hasn’t felt more appealing or authentic to me than presenting as female does.  I feel like some of both and a lot of neither.  😂

Aces have a lot of overlap with NB/trans fwiw (not sure if the OP was aware of the overlap). I feel like an unabashedly weird token sexual whenever I'm in the gender section of the forum :D

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ryn2
46 minutes ago, anisotropic said:

Aces have a lot of overlap with NB/trans fwiw (not sure if the OP was aware of the overlap). I feel like an unabashedly weird token sexual whenever I'm in the gender section of the forum :D

Yeah, I wonder if the two things coincidentally tend to occur in the same people, or if either influences the other.

 

I always seem to end up a tweener!  I don’t feel like my experience has been ace - I get the sex jokes, wanted to have sex, sought out sex, had lots of sex - but on the other hand I’ve never found sex emotionally bonding in any way (if anything, it’s been isolating) and may have been more interested in being desired than in what that led to.  Now that I’m old and not desirable I’ve lost interest altogether.  I’m fine pleasuring other people but don’t like reciprocation or me-focused foreplay.  I also like cuddling in the sense of sitting right up against someone but don’t really like being touched beyond that.  I have no idea how to initiate a relationship without sex, which is clearly not the right way for me to initiate one.  *shrugs*  I guess what I am is weird.

 

~

 

To get back on topic, I like OP’s suggestion of maintaining a good friendship or QPR with their partner (while also moving on from a sexual relationship standpoint).  It would be an adjustment but seems like it has the best potential for happiness for everyone.

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festiff
6 hours ago, ryn2 said:

Yeah, I wonder if the two things coincidentally tend to occur in the same people, or if either influences the other.

I think a reason is once you've questioned either for yourself, you're more likely to question the other 

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anamikanon
12 hours ago, ryn2 said:

I’ve always felt pretty gender-neutral/somewhere between male and female, but (so far, at least) presenting as male hasn’t felt more appealing or authentic to me than presenting as female does.  I feel like some of both and a lot of neither.  😂

This is so me. Sexually, I'm attracted to only men so far and respond as a woman, so it has been simpler to identify as "woman" but for almost everything else, gender is neutral. Social behavior, sisterhood/brocode type friends can be either gender, I relate to positions of authority in a way that is distinctly different from both men and women... no real feeling of either being male or female. Also no real feeling of "male/female" identification being missing. I am me. That works.

 

For that matter, even though sexually I have only been attracted to men so far, I can't confidently say whether this is because of preference or opportunity which is why I usually add "so far". I don't actually know any lesbians/gay men well in real life - or perhaps I know, but have missed all cues and don't know/care about their orientation. Being mostly asocial, the number of people I'd know well enough to know their orientations is limited and I don't do gossip about others at all, so that isn't an avenue either. In other erotic things - say porn preference - I can enjoy homosexual, heterosexual, all kinds of porn. More about how it is than who is doing whom. 

 

Edit: Shared mostly because I am sexual, but the ambiguity is here too. Perhaps it is more about one exploration of identity making it easier to bring nuance to others - whatever they may be - rather than actual corelations?

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ryn2
3 hours ago, anamikanon said:

Social behavior, sisterhood/brocode type friends can be either gender, I relate to positions of authority in a way that is distinctly different from both men and women... no real feeling of either being male or female. Also no real feeling of "male/female" identification being missing. I am me.

Same.  For me this has been true all the way back to toddlerhood.  It even showed up in my reading as a kid, where I would imagine myself as whatever character I felt (I) most (wanted to be) like even if that character was male.  I didn’t learn that some people don’t do that until I was in my 40’s and arguing with a friend about liking the novel Dune.

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Telecaster68
6 minutes ago, ryn2 said:

Same.  For me this has been true all the way back to toddlerhood.  It even showed up in my reading as a kid, where I would imagine myself as whatever character I felt (I) most (wanted to be) like even if that character was male.  I didn’t learn that some people don’t do that until I was in my 40’s and arguing with a friend about liking the novel Dune.

I do the same, identifying with basically whoever the main or most sympathetic character is. 

 

So these people who will only identify with a character of the same gender, how do they cope with a main character of the other gender in a show they'd probably otherwise really go for? EG Males identifying (or not) with Carrie in Homeland? 

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ryn2
8 minutes ago, Telecaster68 said:

So these people who will only identify with a character of the same gender, how do they cope with a main character of the other gender in a show they'd probably otherwise really go for? EG Males identifying (or not) with Carrie in Homeland? 

The person I was arguing with would end up disliking the show unless there were characters of her gender she could identify with.  She might even label it sexist.

 

Most (het) people I’ve discussed it with would develop a crush on an opposite sex character they identified with and identify directly with a same sex one.

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Telecaster68
Just now, ryn2 said:

The person I was arguing with would end up disliking the show unless there were characters of her gender she could identify with.  She might even label it sexist.

 

Most (het) people I’ve discussed it with would develop a crush on an opposite sex character they identified with and identify directly with a same sex one.

I generally develop a crush and identify with the same person, if they're female.

 

Thinking about this, I'm not entirely sure how anyone can know they feel male or female; you'd have to know what it was to feel not-male or not-female, surely? And we can't do that because we can't jump out of own physical-derived identities. And the people who don't have the normative physical gender characteristics also can't jump out of that, either, so they don't know what they're not.

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Serran

I honestly never understood feeling female or male... 

 

I also cant relate to women much. Get along better with guys. Do more male centric stuff. Cannot enjoy a "girls night". Generally prefer mens clothes and would love to get rid of my feminine body parts (boobs, uterus, vagina). 

 

But, end of the day, I dont feel male or female. I just am me. So... when people say they feel either I cant understand what it means. 

 

I try to respect gender issues cause I know its important to people. But it has to come from a just accept whatever is said, dont understand at all. 

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ryn2
9 minutes ago, Serran said:

I also cant relate to women much. Get along better with guys. Do more male centric stuff. Cannot enjoy a "girls night". Generally prefer mens clothes and would love to get rid of my feminine body parts (boobs, uterus, vagina).

Same, although I’m finding I seem to have more in common with some other women as they age (and, likewise, less in common than I once had with men as they age).

 

11 minutes ago, Serran said:

So... when people say they feel either I cant understand what it means. 

I’ve had enough people explain it  that I get it; I just don’t experience it.  This was another factor that led to the demise of my therapy relationship, as my therapist insisted that by definition how I felt was feeling like a woman because I am one.

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Telecaster68

I'm fine with having male body parts and dressing in what's perceived as a male way, though I suspect if I was a woman I'd dress much the same way (jeans and t shirt unless there's a reason not to) and that would be interpreted as androgynous.

 

My male friends are much the same and when we fall into other groups where men talk about stereotypical male things (cars, DIY, roads, sport, etc) rapidly get bored and veer to towards the womenfolk. 

 

I think there might be something in a wider cultural sense going on here. I get the impression US and some other countries are far more bothered about differentiating male and female behaviour than in Europe.

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