Let's talk about...... sex

Old 04-17-2008, 07:49 AM
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Let's talk about...... sex

The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage
Al Anon Family Group Headquarters 1971

(although the text refers to alcoholics and alcoholism, I believe that we can use addict and addictions interchangeably)

The Nature of the Dilemma

While the drinking is active, and day-to-day problems absorb the attention and energies of the spouse of an alcoholic, the matter of sexual maladjustment often falls into the background. There may be difficulties, of course. Some alcoholics, sexually stimulated by liquor, may make brutally aggressive and sometimes violent assaults, to which their spouses react with fear or disgust. Others become totally incompetent sexually, depriving their partners of this vital element of marriage.

The interaction and attitudes established in such ways are often too deep to be changed simply by the alcoholic becoming sober. Years of compulsive drinking may have brought about radical emotional changes in both partners to the marriage: the alcoholic may be inhibited by guilt over his behavior while he was drinking, the spouse by remembered violence, deprivations, infidelities and other humiliations. These reactions may persist even long after the drinker has become sober. Help is needed to re-establish a healthier relationship.

Troubled wives and husbands often take it for granted that their marital discords are due entirely to alcoholism, whether the alcoholic is sober or is still drinking. Yet alcoholism itself rarely creates all these problems, and sobriety itself usually does not cure them.

Many professionals in the fields of human relations believe that alcoholism and sexual maladjustment have a common psychological basis.

When a woman marries a man who drinks alcoholically, she may be accepting a sex problem along with the alcoholism. Many a person enters blithely into such a marriage with the romantic notion that love will overcome all that the magic of togetherness will transform the devoted but alcoholic lover into a sober, responsible husband. This risk is often doomed to failure. She soon learns that even love is no match for the compelling desire for alcohol. And to make matters worse, she may find herself confronted with a sexual inadequacy or indifference that in itself may stand in the way of his achieving sobriety.

On the other hand, a woman who is maladjusted herself, due to influences in her background, may find a convenient excuse for her problem by blaming it on the alcoholic.

A man who marries an alcoholic may find he has a wonderful sex partner as long as she is drinking, but that she becomes unresponsive when sober. Or if he is unable to respond to her sexual demands because he finds her unattractive, even repulsive when she is drunk, she may humiliate and ridicule him. Such scenes are not easily forgotten and can cause difficulties which carry over into sobriety.

Yet one dependable fact emerges: the re-establishment of a satisfactory sex relationship may be brought about if both partners are willing to contribute to the partnership the patience, loyalty, respect and honest which are built into the Al-Anon program.

With this in mind, we have ventured to deal with this broad and tangled subject because we believe that the principles by which Al-Anon members try to live can help to solve this problem, as it does so many others.

An earnest and concentrated study of the Al-Anon program, in depth, will help us to become more tolerant, confident and loving, teaching us to accept the faults of others as we seek to correct shortcomings in ourselves
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:55 AM
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This is such an important element in any good relationship yet it's not something many people are able to discuss openly and honestly. It's certainly not something I've heard discussed at my face-to-face meetings, although I'm sure there are meetings/places where it's been a topic.

I just remember being so confused, frightened, turned off, lonely, and of course I didn't have anyone I could talk to about all of it... and there were times that my A and I had some big darn fights about sex. I can look back at those moments and realize that they really weren't about sex at all... but it was all tangled up in what we were going through~ which was a marriage affected by the disease.
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Old 04-17-2008, 08:20 AM
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the girl can't help it
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Sex is very difficult to talk about. I miss having sex. We have tried to talk about it. There is some kind of wall there.

What I need to consider is do I want to live this way for the rest of my life? Can I live without it? Yes I can but, it is not very fun...
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Old 04-17-2008, 11:09 AM
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Absolutely Cats! Thanks!

This issue is one of my biggest issues in my marriage - well, lack thereof actually.

It wasn't just the sex - it was everything that went with it - we had none of it, no intimacey, no partnership, no laughter and no joy. If we had a healthier sex life, I do believe we would have had a healthier relationship. Without that connection, we're just room-mates. Why marry and tangle ourselves up trying to create a life together? That's what I couldn't figure out - I would ask him, "why are you married to me?" - I knew I was there to try and I wanted to have sex with my husband - he didn't, It left me feeling vulnerable, confused, unloved and ugly because he wouldn't look at me or touch me.

As a society, we do seem to find it uncomfortable to talk about, but never again will I avoid reaching out to my best friend, or some other trusted friend if I am feeling confused, hurt or anxious about something, including sex. I think if I had been more open and reached out, I would have had "reality" checks and feed-back for myself long ago that this is not normal behavior, this is not normal for a woman mid-30's to live sexless. I cried, begged, pleaded, straddled him naked - he looked around me to watch TV! I will never humiliate myself like that again either!

Oh this journey has taught me so much!

Thanks Cats -
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Old 04-17-2008, 12:10 PM
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continued from The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage:


In solving the intimate problems of marriage, one of the most difficult obstacles is the unwillingness of one or both partners to sit down to a frank discussion of the matter. This wall between people might be labeled, “Let’s not talk about it.”

Sex is, for most people, a most difficult topic to talk about. It is so highly charged with emotions of one sort or another – guilt, resentment, bitterness, love – that a reasonable exchange of views and grievances may be virtually impossible. A talk may start out calmly, but as soon as one or the other accuses or reproaches, tempers flare, along with the determination to retaliate. Nothing can be accomplished in this way, which may explain why people give up before they start talking things out and dismiss the whole business with, “Let’s not talk about it.”

Interviews with many Al Anon members reveal that this happens frequently. The alcoholic may resist confessing past experiences that may have led to the current impasse. The aggrieved partner wants to know how he or she has failed, and what can be done to restore the marriage status.

This bewilderment shows clearly in such statements as these.

“He’s improved in so many ways since he became sober in AA. He’s more than thoughtful and considerate. For the first time he’s sending me flowers on occasions; he remembers my sizes and brings me fancy little gifts. It’s almost like a courtship, but that’s as far as it goes. He hasn’t even kissed me in ages. When I try to make an approach to him, even a little one like a peck on the cheek or a pat on the head, he draws away and says, ‘Let’s not start anything.’

“What am I supposed to think? I’ll tell you Sometimes it seems to me his little attentions are to keep me quiet while he’s having an affair with someone else. I’m afraid something about me repels him. Other times I think he’s sorry for me and wants to comfort me because he can’t bring himself to any intimacies with me.

“I asked a friend who’s a marriage counselor (my husband just wouldn’t go with me) what it’s all about and she said, ‘He’s probably deeply troubled by guilt over the way he treated you when he was still drinking. Not knowing him, I can’t tell you what to do about the situation, but it might help if you could get him to have a frank talk about it. Don’t make any secret of the fact that you’re interested in sex and that you want him. Don’t be coy about it. You’ll have to convince him that you aren’t concerned about anything that happened in his drinking past. Explain to him that now that you’ve had a couple of years in Al Anon you realize how much you were at fault in the many fights and difficulties that happened while he was drinking.’”

Another attractive young wife, bewildered by her husband’s coldness, tried the age-old trick of being a temptress. She had noticed that the women he usually found occasion to chat with were the more obvious glamour types, flaming red-heads or blondes, with effective makeup, an aura of perfume and seductively designed clothes.

Since in her own personality she was rather conservative, always immaculately groomed and charmingly dressed, she limited her first attempt to a new hair style, a slight increase in makeup and brighter clothes colors than usual.

The effect on her husband, once he did notice the change, was one of irritation. “Who are you on the make for, dressed up like that?” Naturally she was hurt, since she couldn’t imagine why he liked eye-stopping effects in other women and not in her.

At home she tried other ways to call his attention to the fact that she was a woman, a loving wife who wanted his husbandly attentions and intimacies. She took perfumed bubble baths, donned alluring negligees. That didn’t work either. The first attempts were greeted with silence. The final one brought an outburst, “Oh for Pete’s sake, get dressed and let’s go out.”

What is a woman in this position to do? Her husband refuses to go to a psychiatrist or to a marriage counselor. He will not discuss sex, nor the reasons for the absence of it. His wife refuses other outlets. She is in love with her husband and wants no one else, although she has had several opportunities. She feels there is no choice but to accept the difficult continence that has been forced upon her. And like most of those interviewed, her shy attempts to bring up the subject were drowned out with, “Let’s not talk about it!”

It never occurred to her that he set her far apart and above the women he found it casually amusing to talk to. She didn’t realize that he wanted her exactly as she was, someone to be proud of and to adore. But at a distance! It just couldn’t have occurred to her that his inability to make love to her stemmed from his own feeling of unworthiness.

There was another woman who found herself in a similar situation. While her husband was drinking, she often felt such a revulsion at his approaches that she flatly refused to have anything to do with him. She knew some of the instances in which this drove him to other beds, and although she was bitter about that, she realized that she at least a share in making it possible or necessary for him to turn to other women. Then came sobriety, with the customary pink-cloud elation. As his health and activity improved, he devoted much time and energy to rebuilding his business. He seemed to delight in being able to provide his family with much better living than when he was drinking. His sole activity outside his business was attending AA meetings and talking with AA friends.

As this happy way of life went on, the wife supposed that resumption of their sex life would follow in due course. But it didn’t. He seemed to have adopted a monastic discipline which ruled out all pleasures, even marital. He appeared to be wholly concentrated on developing his own personal perfection as he saw it, in which sex was something to be offered up as a restitution for his past sins.

His wife somehow grasped his motivation and made a realistic appraisal of her own role. Having refused to sleep with him when he was drinking, she did not entirely blame him for his present attitude, whatever its actual cause might be.

She did everything she could to please him, to make him feel he was once more head of the household. Still no change.

As months went by, tensions increased. She carefully examined all the alternatives. She didn’t want to give up her husband, but she wanted him to BE a husband; yet she had no intention of continuing this ascetic life which came with sobriety.

One morning, at breakfast, having come to a decision during a sleepless night, she announced, “Now, my friend, you and I are going to straighten out this problem of our non-existent sex life.”

“Let’s not talk about it!” he protested, “It just isn’t something you drag out into the open.”

“Oh, yes it is. If it’s important enough to threaten the unity of this family, we’re going to find out what’s wrong. I can tell you that I’m not going on this way. I’m a woman, a wife, with normal desires for intimacy with my husband, whom, by the way, I dearly love. I want to know whether it’s something about me that makes me unacceptable, or whether something’s irking you. If it’s sickness – emotional or physical – there are steps to be taken, if you want to. But we have to get this thing cleared up, I know this isn’t romantic or seductive to put cards on the table like this – but that can come later, when we understand what’s wrong.”

After a long silence, her husband finally explained that it was his feeling of guilt about his drinking, his neglect of his work and the consequences to his family and, finally, the several casual affairs that involved actual sex relationships with others.

“I just can’t get over these things – not right away. But I can tell you that you’ve made me feel a lot better by letting me know that you really want me, and care about me even though I was such a heel for so long.”

This young woman reports that she now knows what honeymoons are like, though she never did before, even the very first!
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Old 04-17-2008, 12:51 PM
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Excellent post on a most important topic, CP.

I've been waiting for an honest, open, dignified discussion like this. I'll bet most of the people in these forums can relate in one way or another. I plan on showing this thread to my lady. The one I love. We have some "relearning" to do. Fortunately, neither of us are shy about talking. This thread will aid us in identifying some issues past and present.

You have done a great service by initiating this discussion.

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Old 04-17-2008, 12:57 PM
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I can relate to every scenario - including the last one. I tried them all, none of them ever worked. But, he wasn't in recovery - still isn't, and I didn't know about the addiction at the time(s). Doesn't matter tho, it was still an issue, and it turns out, a valid one. But, for a while there, I allowed myself to be led to believe I was unreasonable and crazy that I didn't feel "loved". I now know that I had the right to my needs and feelings, and letting myself be convinced that I was unreasonable or crazy even for them was definitely not OK.

Reading that there are sooooo many others like me, enough that *my* scenarios (this one and countless others) are detailed in publications - somehow it's comforting. I felt so alone in my struggles for so long, and I obviously didn't need to be.


I learn so much from all of you! Thanks for sharing!
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Old 04-17-2008, 07:07 PM
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I miss it all, but most of all the intimacy. The feeling of "we" whether we were holding each other in bed or going away for a romantic weekend--all with complete trust in each other. I'm still angry sometimes, but I used to be very, very angry. During this time I almost justified having an affair. Never did and I'm glad I was true to my own morals. I thought, well, if he's lying to me about everything and neglecting my needs, why shouldn't I? I knew I would feel guilty for the rest of my life. So now I'm almost forty, frumpy, and well....still lonely.

Thanks Cats for bringing up something we usually like to discuss.
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