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.