This is an actual case regarding a relationship gone wrong from the files of Dr. Joyce Morley, MarryBlack.com’s Chief Relationship Officer. Names and identifying information may be changed for privacy. Actual quotes from clients are used.
“I am not clear about what my wife wants,” stated Ben, a tall, somewhat aloof and shy man. “Our main problems seem to be verbal communication and sex. I have been having emotional and back problems since I married. I can’t talk with Chris about issues that bother me.
“We met through a dating service, dated a few months, and then I proposed. We never thought that we were sexually incompatible. We had premarital sex, so I thought everything was fine. We even have a child. But now my back problems have caused groin problems, and I don’t want to aggravate my back.
“Chris’ family is affectionate, and my family isn’t. She wants sex at least twice a week, and I say once a week. I am trying to be more affectionate.
“I’ve always tried not to be a control freak. I am realizing that there are things that I worry about and I allow them to hinder me.
“I am introverted. I received mixed messages growing up. My speech problems caused me embarrassment, and I began to withdraw from others by my senior year in high school.
“My mother has been visiting for two weeks, and for the first time ever, I asked her for a hug. My grandmother dipped snuff, and I never wanted to kiss her.
“I feel [these relationships and my speech impediment] have hindered my [ability to] communicate with Chris. Chris likes attention, but I don’t because I have always received negative attention.
“Her being sexually abused by her stepfather has also affected our relationship. We basically have a wall up between us, and I have become complacent about the marriage.”
“I attended therapy for six years and participated in a group to deal with the incest I suffered while growing up. The problem is that Ben and I [don’t connect], especially sexually,” explained Christine, a tall, attractive woman who seemed weary and tired. “Our first sexual experience was not good.
“When we first married, there was no sex for two weeks. Ben’s mother stayed the night on our wedding night. I asked for sex and did not get it. This started arguments.
“We probably have sex once every six weeks. Ben says his back has been bothering him and uses this as an excuse to keep from having sex.
“My mother was very affectionate with us. My stepfather sexually abused me for seven years as a child. He threatened me never to tell anyone until I was fifteen. He then became emotionally abusive. I became promiscuous after the abuse. Ben’s rejection and control trigger memories of the abuse.
“I believe Ben’s complaints are psychosomatic. His mother had many physical complaints. I am very angry. I am bothered that I have not had sexual relations with Ben in two months. I need sexual intimacy at least twice a week.
“Our schedules are very hectic, and I get flustered because I am not having my sexual needs met. I can’t get my work done.
“I now see Ben as a friend and not as my husband and lover. I am not physically attracted to him. He is boring and offers little or nothing to bring excitement to the relationship. When we have had sex, I didn’t feel as if I had a part in the sex. The foreplay reminds me of the sexual abuse I experienced as a child.
“I am willing to settle for sex at least twice a month. However, if things don’t change, I don’t know if this marriage will last. I don’t want to end up like all of the other women in my family. The women in my family have bad relationships.”
Dr. Joyce’s View:
Because Christine and Ben met through a dating service and married quickly, they did not have the opportunity to fully explore each other’s backgrounds. They both entered the marriage with baggage. However, because Christine previously received psychotherapy, she was farther ahead than Ben in confronting her issues.
Ben, like many men who are socialized to believe that the problem is with everyone else, was in denial about his contributions to the demise of the marriage. He had poor communication skills, felt inferior with Christine, and wallowed in his self-pity and negativism, which were traits he graciously accepted from his mother.
Ben was the keeper and the protector of the females in his family. He knew how to protect them, be the handyman around the house, and provide external comfort. However, he never learned how to be affectionate or intimate with females.
His first sexual experience was as a young recruit in the Marines. He faked pleasure to “fit in with the boys.” Hence, he feared that Christine would find out that he had also faked his sexual abilities before marriage and that he could not live up to her sexual expectations.
Ben’s physical complaints were directly tied to his feelings of inadequacy. It was natural for him to complain as an avoidance tactic, because this was how his mom handled problems in the household.
Neither Ben nor his family believed that he deserved Christine, and his family made him believe that she was too beautiful, too strong, and too intelligent for him. He not only felt inadequate with Christine, but had feelings of inadequacy caused by his speech impediment.
Through the process of couple and individual psychotherapy, Ben explored the issues surrounding his family. He learned to be an adult and began to believe that he ‘qualified’ to have a woman such as Christine.
Although Christine had been through therapy for the sexual abuse by her stepfather, she had not obtained closure on the abuse. Christine gave Ben mixed messages regarding her needs and wants. There were certain things that Ben could not do to approach Christine intimately because of the sexual abuse (awake her with foreplay as she slept, etc.).
Christine had to clarify her needs and wants regarding Ben as a man, as her husband, and as the father of her child. Also, she had to stop comparing him to her stepfather.
A genogram was completed during the course of their psychotherapy. A genogram [pronounced: jen-uh-gram] is a method of graphically describing relationships between individuals. It also charts the effects of influence on family members.
Ben and Christine learned how these patterns of behavior, feelings, and thoughts were negatively or positively affecting their family, their marriage, and their ability to be affectionate, and intimate with one another.
The counseling also helped Ben to understand the devastating impact sexual abuse had on Christine and her ensuing need for intimacy.
Currently, Ben and Christine seek psychotherapy once a month for maintenance. The marriage has been salvaged!