Depression Wrecking Ball

September 16, 2009


I suffer from clinical depression.

It’s a wrecking ball, especially destructive of marital joy.

If my bouts with depression were confined to being bummed out, or periods of sadness, I doubt they would have had the wrecking ball impact on the joy of our marriage they’ve had.

But that’s not the case.

In its more sinister forms, depression can manifest itself in paranoia, temper tantrums, enraged outbursts, panic attacks and other expressions of groundless fear, anxiety, and anger.

In my case, these outbursts come out of nowhere, are attached to meaningless things, and scare the hell out of my current wife and scared the hell out of my previous ones.

Thirty years ago, I punched a spider web in our car’s windshield because my first wife bit into a cookie as we were taking off to see her in-laws.

I have suddenly, irrationally, without warning raged at my first wife drinking orange juice from a mug instead of a glass; I’ve jumped two feet off the ground in purple anger because my second wife thought I should be making some phone calls about a publication I was editing sooner than later; I turned purple and screamed in the face of a girlfriend because she spoke ill of a former student of mine who’d been subleasing her apartment.

Over ten years ago, I was laid out by the flu and was resting comfortably in bed, getting ready to either listen to the NCAA basketball final on the radio or watch it on television.

Millie came home from a day of work and burst into the bedroom to see how I was and started opening a window in the room.

God, and I mean God, only knows why this set me off.  My teeth clenched, my face reddened, turning toward purple, my body shook, and I yelled at her to stop.  It was my mental illness taking over, battling with panic and rage against the suffocating feeling that I was being controlled, that Millie was trying to run my life, do what I she thought I couldn’t do myself; or deciding I needed windows open..and, in my diseased mind, if I’d wanted them opened, I’d have done it myself (even though I was laid out flat with the flu).

That moment froze Millie’s libido and it’s never thawed.

She’s told me as much.  I so shocked and frightened her with this panicked, angry, irrational, sick outburst that she has never been able to give herself over to having anything like uninhibited sex with me.

And so began, as I see it, our slow descent into joyless marriage.

I’ve worked hard to deal with and treat my depression.  Medication has helped a lot.  Conversational therapy, less so.  I have never worked with a therapist who seemed to work with me as an individual.   The therapists I’ve talked with always see me as part of what “studies show”.  I’ve never believed the therapist was addressing my unique psychological or emotional make up, but addressed me as a part of some trend, or as a series of abstracted symptoms.

Treating the depression has worked and not worked.  The purple-faced outbursts have almost gone away.  If it hadn’t been for a panic attack when my dog went after Millie’s dog a couple of weeks ago, I’d be pretty clean for the last several months, if not the year.

But, it’s not just the outbursts.  Depression wears me out.  I’m often fatigued and nap often.   My fatigue and the time I spend sleeping or lying down, often while working or writing, really bothers Millie and sucked more joy from our marriage.

Both my teeth-clenching, frightening outbursts and my struggles with fatigue have widened the distance between me and Millie.

As long as Millie feels disturbed, distrustful, angry, ripped off, disillusioned, and distanced by how my mental illness affects me, and her, I don’t see how we can have anything but a joyless marriage.


Sex Buddies

September 15, 2009

sex chart

Many, many years ago Sarah’s marriage was falling apart and mine already had.

We were really good friends and seized the opportunity presented by our failed marriages to become sex buddies.

It was the best sex of my life and lasted for just over a year.

It was misleading, though.

For both me and Sarah, sex was not only a way to have fun together and become even better friends, it was a means of relieving the stress of our marital difficulties.  We experienced sex as a retreat, as a way to not only escape our troubles, but to help build each other’s esteem.

I loved this way of having sex.  We both knew that one day our sex buddy time would end, that we really were not cut out for a relationship that involved getting involved in each other’s business, but we were ecstatic to enjoy the time we had.

Why was it misleading?

Well, Sarah spoiled me.

When we stopped being sex buddies and got involved in other relationships, I went into these other relationships thinking that these other women would also look to sex with me as a way to relieve stress, as a means of comforting one another, and as a way of having at least a brief interlude of fun and mutual affection in the midst of otherwise difficult times.

It’s never happened again.

Millie and I haven’t had sex,I mean intercourse, in, well,I’m sure it’s been almost ten years.  I honestly don’t remember the last time, but I do remember being naked together on an afternoon not long after 9/11 that was wonderful, but we didn’t have sex and I remember Millie coming on strong to me a couple of times when we were drunk and I couldn’t perform.   These incidents were at least seven, if not eight, years ago.

I’ve learned that when she’s under any level of duress, Millie cannot surrender herself to sex.

It’s pretty much that simple and over the last several years, thanks to family illnesses, kids having accidents, pressures at work for Millie, and other points of stress and duress, Millie’s libido died.

It’s odd.  For me, if I’ve had a tough day at work, with conflict, too much work and too little time, or if I’ve had to participate in a painful or tedious meeting, coming home, relaxing with Millie, becoming playful, seducing each other, having the evening climax with sex would be a perfect way to let go of the work place, surrender myself to playfulness and fun, and relieve the tension.

Not Millie.  The stress gnaws at her, tightens her up, and makes having fun with each other nearly impossible.

Millie unwinds by drinking some whiskey or wine.

In the past, the booze would sometimes loosen her up to feel relaxed enough to play in bed, but about eight to ten years ago that disappeared.

For me, not making love in the midst of stress has heightened my sense of stress, anxiety, and fatigue. By masturbating, I can bring myself to orgasm, thus having the physical sensation of pleasure and release, but it’s a poor substitute for making love with my wife.

I married Millie so we could become mates in the life of the mind and spirit.

I married Millie so we could be sex buddies, too.

That hasn’t worked out.  I don’t think it ever mattered that much to Millie.  I see sex as central to marriage and a long term relationship.

To Millie, it seems insignificant.

Having a sexless marriage contributes significantly to our joyless marriage.

I Love My Wife

September 15, 2009


So here’s the deal.

I live in a joyless, sexless, flat marriage with a remote wife.

And I love her.

I don’t want a divorce.  For starters, I’ve been down the divorce road before and I hate the experience.  I don’t want to have to figure out the division of money, pension, belongings, any of that.

And I love Millie.  I’ve committed my life to her.  I hate the idea of breaking that commitment and the suffering that would ensue.  I’m also faithful to her.  My fidelity has cost me some of the excitement and pleasure I wish I had in my life, but my conscience is clear and that matters more to me than excitement.  I might even mean more to me than joy.

My love for Millie isn’t romantic, but if she took one small step toward me, romantically, I’d love to have romantic fun again.  Even after eight or nine years of sexless existence and even thought we haven’t shared a kiss in at least five years, I still feel romantically and sexually attracted to my wife.

I don’t act on this attraction because Millie rejects my advances and I’ve quit making them.

So I don’t play out my love for Millie in the sexy, exciting ways I might hope for.  I’ve surrendered to the fact that I may never have sex again and that Millie and I might very likely live out our lives frigidly.

We have, however, built a life of shared responsibility to things that are larger than whether we have fun or do exciting things.

And, now that I think more about it, it may be in these responsibilities and in some of the more Platonic elements of our marriage where some semblance of  joy exists.

For example, we have three adult children (step-children for me, another complication) and two of the three are struggling to find their footing.  Mitzy is a new mother and has almost no money, but a very healthy baby.  Ted took several years to graduate from college and now that he’s done, he’s unemployed, has financial obligations he can’t meet, and lives in our basement.

Mitzy’s future will improve when her husband enlists in the Army and begins to earn a regular, livable income.

Millie and I have worked together to help Mitzy and her husband stay afloat with the birth of their new baby.  Millie did the heavy lifting when she stayed Mitzy and her husband for around two weeks around the time the baby was born and lit a fire under the two of them to get their shit together.  It was hard exhausting work for Millie.  That’s Millie’s way.  She’s fiercely devoted to her children and Mitzy needed a lot of help, much of it painful and exhausting, and Millie stuck her nose in the middle of it, at a cost.  The experience of the baby being born, the parents being almost totally unprepared, and helping the parents deal with bureaucracies, paperwork, things broken down, an empty pantry frayed Millie’s nerves.  It exhausted her.

I don’t know if Millie valued my support from back here at home.  She hasn’t said much.

I love Millie for her fierce love of her children and I love supporting her children, even as they frustrate me when they are knuckleheads.

Millie is also highly intelligent and when we talk about things related to our work as teachers or to the world at large or talk about the world of music, writing, creativity and other things we care about, it’s very stimulating.  When we have these conversations, our marriage, for a short period of time, feels less joyless.

It’s no small thing to love a person the way I love Millie, for her devotion, principles, hard work, intelligence, insight, artistic gifts, generosity toward friends and children, and honesty.

Taken together, these things I love fuel my physical desire for Millie, as does my memory of her skin, the way she smells, her eyes, her mouth, the way her body feels in my hands, and the enjoyment of kissing every inch of her.

Sex, with Millie, for me, was a consummation of all these ways I love Millie, and I hunger for this consummation.

Millie doesn’t.

I think she finds some relief that we are financially able to support the children.  She enjoys a laugh with me once in a while.  Sometimes she enjoys when we talk.

But, by and large, Millie walls herself off.

It adds much weight to our joyless marriage.

Last Night’s Dream

September 14, 2009

I almost never have a dream at night that keeps coming back, even if I awaken from it.  I awakened four times from this dream, and each time, when I returned to sleep, the dream came back.

I dreamed that my wife, Millie, came to me to confess that she’d been having an affair. She detailed the affair, how it started, where it took place, and why it ended.

In the dream, I said I wouldn’t talk about the affair unless our getting a divorce was off the table, no longer an option.

She agreed to this and so we aired out our feelings about the affair and ended up, in the dream, holding each other. It was almost like a break through in our marriage, a time of rare, painful honesty that drew us closer together.

The weird thing about the dream was that she had the affair with a friend of mine who has been dead since 1984.

In the dream, not only was he alive, but his conscience was unbothered by the affair and he was unaffected by how devastated I was.

So, what does it mean to have a dream about my wife, my partner in our joyless marriage, having an affair with a dead man, the ultimate in unattainable lovers?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that the dream is haunting me. I’ve been cheated on before and the dream stirred up the feelings I had before when I was cheated on. They are feelings unique from any others.

So, today, I’m making my way through the day wondering if my wife has been in the arms of another man or woman.

We’ll see if anything develops from my wonderings, from the fears and memories stirred up by this dream.

More on the Dream

September 14, 2009

I’ve been thinking more today about details from my dream of Millie having an affair.

This friend of mine who died in 1984 was a compulsive home buyer.  I’ve never known anyone like him.  He regularly sold whatever house he was living in and moved to another one, sometimes as often a twice or three times a year.

It was weird, and as I think back on it, and the circumstances surrounding his death, signal he was in trouble.

But, in the dream, once Millie got the fact out before us that she had been sleeping with my friend and that we weren’t going to divorce, we started talking about my friend, in this light banter  — along the lines of me wondering how many different houses she’d fucked him in, but that led to something I didn’t find so funny:  they’d fucked in our bed.

I thought the affair had only taken place outside our home, but it took place in our home, as well.

I began to realize that when I had taken off during the summer to visit my mother and other family, it had opened the way for Millie and my friend to be lovers in our bed.

I shook myself awake from this development and decided it was time to feed the dog, get some coffee, and leave the world of my dark dreams behind and see if the waking world might be better, even in my joyless marriage.