Is there hope? HELP please!

Hello everyone,

I discovered this forum two days ago, and I still can't believe that after all these years of being at a loss, desperate and lonely in my relationship I may have found what it was all about!

It's a strange feeling - at first, it seemed like a revelation; I felt a sense of exhilaration, relief, and hope. Finally, so many things made sense! But now I am also scared about what it all means for the future, and wonder if it is too late to unlearn the destructive / negative cycles we've been mired in for at least 6 years.

We separated (at my instigation) just over three weeks ago, after I found a flirty message from another woman which indicated to me that he still was not dealing with flirtations in a way that I consider to be respectful to me and our relationship. 

The separation has been very hard on both of us. We still love each other, but we are stuck in negative patterns and can't seem to make it work. I think at this point we are both skeptical about our prospects and the possibility that we might still have a chance to be happy together.

But now that I've found so much that echoes our issues and struggles, I wonder - is there still hope? Can we start over with a clean slate at this point? Build a new foundation with this new awareness? 

I sent my spouse a couple of links on the subject last night, and asked him to please take a look and think about its possible relevance to our relationship. I debated doing that because I was afraid he would take it personally - like I'd be blaming him for our struggles, but I thought that at this point I can't lose much more as our relationship is already in shambles. 

We are meeting with an EAP counselor this afternoon, and I don't really know how to handle it, and what questions to ask. She may not know much about ADD and its effects on marriage, so that may be a problem...

I haven't heard from my spouse since, so I don't know if he's read any of it at this point, but he promised me that he would take a look before out appointment this afternoon.


Here's my story:

I have been in a common-law relationship with my significant other for just over 7 years. He is a wonderful person: he is kind, generous, tend er, ambitio us, intelligent, and I love him dearly. We have had intimacy issues for over 6 years, I have been feeling neglected, rejected, lonely and pathetic for wanting to share more intimate moments with the person I love.

We moved in together after dating for 6 months. We loved each other very much, but the decision to move in together was due largely to circumstances: I was an international student and would have had to go back home to work in order to fund another year of study. This brought some serious stressors to the table: he was not happy with where he was at, not sure what to do next in his life, and we were very tight financially (I was in school and he had to support me that year). 

I realize now that my attitude towards sex (for me, a great way to have fun and relieve stress) couldn't be more at odds with my partner's. It doesn't take me much to get in the mood, and in fact, when I am stressed I tend to feel hornier.

What made matters worse is that when I started to notice the lack of intimacy, I found that he had been watching and downloading porn online, and had turned me down repeatedly but meanwhile had been looking at images or videos. That was very hurtful to me, and I confronted him about it that day, but I was in tears and upset. We didn't have a conversation about it, I think he just apologized and made light of it - all men watch porn at one point or another, and he said that a lot of it was inherited from his university years, some was sent to him by friends / roommates - ie, it was part of university culture, so to speak. 

Yet, generally speaking, I felt him pulling away from me that year. I turned into a caretaker (which I already was for living under the yoke of a narcissistic, passive-aggressive mother who turned me into her parent / caretaker / confidante). My self-esteem was already suffering from feeling like I was a burden to him (even tough he reassured me that it wasn't the case), and the lack of intimacy made it worse.

It took me a while before I could bring up the lack of intimacy (I grew up in a strict family where sex was totally taboo) and I spent a fair bit of time trying to validate my feelings for myself - that it was a healthy component of a relationship, that I had a right to have those needs, and that it was a way to express our love for each other. But I didn't have the skill or the tools to discuss the subject with him rationally, tactfully, and without getting upset.

The first time I talked to him about it, I had had a drink or two (to make me braver...not a good idea), and probably brought it up in a way that was confrontational rather than calm and loving. I brought my own issues to the table, as I have not grown up in a healthy family and did not have any communication skills; growing up with my tyrant of a mother, I had to keep my feelings bottled up and was blamed for many things that were not my fault or responsibility. 

During the first few arguments my partner and I had, it was like I had a lump in my throat and I could not utter a single word; it felt, literally, like I had no voice, and I would completely shut down. Meanwhile, I would have all these negative thoughts running through my head, mostly self-berating thoughts and suicide ideation. It has gotten better to some extent: I can now express my thoughts and feelings, even though it is still hard and takes me some time before I feel that I have built enough strength inside me to utter them out loud. 


This is a bit of a digression, but I know that my difficulties with communication and my tendency to shut down and to get upset (I still have suicidal thoughts during arguments, though not every time, and it takes a lot of effort for me to stop them) has made things difficult in my relationship with my spouse. He would always tell me that he's the one who's holding out the olive branch, and yet I don't meet him halfway to end the argument. I've never been able to admit to him that in those moments, I'm in a very very dark place, I feel like I'm trapped at the bottom of a well, with nothing to hold on to, and it takes me some quiet time alone to calm down and to come back to the real world. 

I still feel a lot of despair during arguments, like there is no hope left whatsoever, and I know that it's upsetting to him and not helpful. I bring my own issues to the table. 

In addition to the porn (which I couldn't help but take personally at the time - what is wrong with me that he'd rather look at images than have sex with me), there have been a number of 'incidents' which have hurt me and caused resentment in me: a few flirtatious exchanges with other women where he was crossing the line; signing up on ''; and even signing up on a dating website. Each time he apologized, assured me that he didn't intend for any of it to go further, and that he simply wasn't thinking. He also recently called it 'escapism' - which I am now beginning to understand I think. I'm not prudish when it comes to sex, and would love to try new things with him, to really come out of our shells and have fun together. I've expressed that to him, and we had a short glimpse of a more sexed-up life when we shared some fantasies by email the last time our relationship was really shaken up by a flirtation of his. 

This was short-lived, however. We gradually went back to having sex about once a month. Resentment on my part has contributed to the deterioration of our relationship. I've become high-strung, critical, and tense around him. The intensity varies, but it is always there. Sometimes I manage to let it go a bit, to try and focus only on the positive, think about all the qualities that I love in him. But deep down I'm still sad about the lack of passion in our relationship, I've been feeling like I'm dying a slow death, and that he robs me of a healthy sex life when I am still young, attractive and should be enjoying this wonderful component of human life. It has made me feel depressed, it's taken a lot of focus away from my studies, and I think that I've been getting repeatedly ill because of the stress and depression I've experienced due to this issue. It's just been so sad. I would wonder, aimlessly, 'we love each other, we are attracted to each other, we are only 30 (have been together since we were 23) and healthy, so why aren't we enjoying our sex life together?'

I recently heard someone say on a radio show that 'resentment is like relationship cancer'. That couldn't be more true. I can only begin to imagine how hard it must have been for him to be so good to me in so many ways, and yet be resented and criticized. When he first told me that I made him feel like 'sh**', like he was a failure, like I didn't love him, I was horrified but defensive. I didn't see where he was coming from. All I could think of was that I do a lot for him, that I put him first in many ways, and that I am the one begging for attention, I'm the one who is made to feel like 'sh**'. Now I see the other side of the coin, and I wish I could erase all the times that I made him feel criticized and inadequate. 

It has taken quite a while before we first went to counseling, but we didn't get anywhere with it. We didn't make time for the homework and exercises, and since the therapy was through his EAP program, it didn't help that the sessions were infrequent. He excels at his job, has taken on quite a lot of responsibilities over the last year, and has even started another degree at the same time. He is under a lot of pressure and is spread really thin, which doesn't help. No wonder that after putting in so much work and being exhausted on the week-ends, the last thing he wants to do is read relationship books. 

So many descriptions on this forum echoed things I've experienced in my relationship, behaviors on his part, and simply the dynamics it creates between the spouses (mothering / resentment / pulling away) that I feel quite a bit of relief. I feel like a lot of guilt and blame has been lifted. 

Among the symptoms that I read about, some relevant ones are: distractibility (zoning out, tuning me out, eyes glazed over), hypersensibility to touch, mind racing, difficulty 'being in the moment' (his words), possibly self-esteem issues, trouble connecting / being intimate, need for stimulation (taking on a lot and being spread too thin), forgetting appointments / meetings, possibly impulsive spending (which has improved), and it seems that the inequitable household responsibilities could also be related to this (from what I have read).

But what are our prospects? How do you know whether it's too late and too much damage has been done? I couldn't handle any more flirtations / hurtful behaviors when I am here longing for intimacy and connectedness with him. I am now trying to take care of myself, and realizing that my fragile ego is a casualty not only of the lack of intimacy but also probably of ADD. 

Any suggestions for where to go from here would be greatly appreciated. I'd be surprised to get a response today, but just case, if anyone has any advice on how to discuss this at my counseling appointment this afternoon would be a huge help.

Thanks so much in advance, and many hugs to all of you dealing with similar struggles.