I'm in a sexless gay couple

Why am I not getting what I want?

Published March 25, 2013 12:00AM (EDT)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (Zach Trenholm/Salon)
(Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

Ugh. I am 49, gay, in a sexless relationship and unappreciated. I halted my lucrative career when my employer wanted me to move overseas. My partner has a business here, which would've been impossible to run from there. I left my firm, and I am now running my partner's business. Incidentally, he reneged on the move overseas. He had initially agreed, then changed his mind.

I am miserable. I am 49. We have pets. I am not terribly rich, although many would call us that. I guess we have more than most. I'm pissed that I always cave. I always acquiesce. My needs and desires are always secondary. Or dismissed. Rarely heard.

I'm 49 ... I can't start again, can I? My dogs need me ... I love them. What about them?

I long for appreciation, affection. I can't give it to him because he deprives me. He must want it, too. I know people divorce or break up all the time. Why can't I? Am I that weak? I'm so alone, afraid. We're viewed as this model couple ... high achievers, attractive, well-educated, traveled, connected. I think I don't care about a lot of that, but my inaction says I do. I'm not shallow, I'm afraid. What advice do you have?

What Have I Become?

Dear What Have I Become?

What I hear is that you are in a muddle of panic. You started the letter with "Ugh," which is a cry of emotion, so you were in an intensely emotional state when you wrote it, and then you poured out how you were feeling. What I hear is that perhaps you were also inebriated a little bit.

So what I suggest, the advice I have for you, is to find some way over the next few months that you can slowly untangle the threads of your life one at a time to see how they are connected. This must be done. It can only be done slowly. You need an understanding of why you have done the things you have done and the way to get that is to slowly untangle these threads. For instance, why have you become a high-status couple? It must have meant something to you at some point because it is not easy to do. You must have been wanting something and thought this was the way to get it.

Probably you wanted these things you say you want today -- affection, etc. -- and so you did these things, but you didn't get what you wanted. You realize that now, at age 49. You took a certain path, and that did not get you what you want. So now your first reaction is shock and dismay and horror and panic and a kind of helplessness. That is OK. That is how it feels at first. It will feel that way a lot at first. This is a starting point.

As you slowly untangle these strands of desire and disappointment, you will begin to see that you put aside certain more fundamental concerns. They have come knocking now.

If you can take a vacation from work and just spend some time sitting in the park or walking, that would help. If you have family connections that are supportive, that would help. You may need a period of rest.

You probably need a therapist you can see every week for at least six months or so. But who doesn't? Come on now.

Everyone should be in therapy. I should just make that a blanket statement. There is not a single fundamentally sane person I can think of who would not benefit from regularly sitting across from someone else who is interested in what you have to say and wants to hear your memories and will listen and make suggestions about what you may be going through. I can't think of a single person who wouldn't be helped in that way. So, I get tired of every single person who writes in I say that to. Did you like that sentence? That's how people talk, isn't it? But I'm not sure it's completely grammatical. Maybe if I punctuated it like this: So I get tired of. Every single person who writes in, I say that to. I wonder if I can get away with that. Ruth, can I get away with that?

Seriously, everyone should be in therapy and everyone should be doing yoga, even me.

Why? Because life requires thinking and figuring out. And thinking and figuring out can not easily be done without structure. The mind and the emotions require structure, just as the body does. Certain stuff we don't want to talk about we have to talk about. There's another of those almost avant-garde sentences. I am going to plead leniency because my dog died.

Is it rude of me to suggest that you may have been inebriated when you wrote this? Your letter goes from one thing to the next without the usually intervening process of judgment and weighing. All the strands are all knotted together.

So my advice is to find a setting in which you can untangle these strands one by one and discuss and ask questions and find what beliefs you have had that led you to do these things. That means finding a good therapist and sticking with it for a while.

Best of luck to you. If you do these things I think you'll be fine.

By Cary Tennis

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