Here is a scenario. What do you think is going on here? What do you think may happen next? What would you say to Tom or to Mary? Do you think this scenario is common or unusual? How? Why?

Mary was, like many girls, rather frightened of sex as an adolescent. She had a few boyfriends but never felt cared for. They only seemed to want sex and she was too shy to give it to them. They thought her proud - “stuck up” - but really she was just scared. Then she met Tom. Tom was gentle and considerate. He did not pressurise her. He bought her little presents and did romantic things. Soon she was very much in love. The relationship progressed very gradually and eventually he proposed, she accepted and they were married. They had a lovely honeymoon in Italy.

It is now twelve years later. Tom and Mary have two children aged ten and nine. Tom and Mary hardly ever have sex these days. Mary feels a vague sense of repulsion when Tom approaches her and when he senses this he backs off. The result is that they have sex about once a month or less. The family life goes on in a conventional way and to outside observers it is a perfect marriage. However, Tom is confused and frustrated and Mary is deeply unhappy. Tom holds to his belief that if he just loves her enough all will come right in the end, but his love is becoming more and more a ritual and less and less an emotion. Mary feels profoundly guilty. She thinks, “I have a lovely, kind husband. Other women would love to have such a considerate man. Yet my body does not respond to him. I know that I am hurting him by my rejection, but I can’t help it.” Her feelings of guilt add to the difficulty and she is in a vicious circle of negative feelings.

Eventually Tom and Mary have a frank talk. She finds herself saying, “I feel that I need something that you cannot give me.” Tom senses the truth of this, but does not know what to do. He suggests that they try having a period of separation. “You could go away somewhere for a while. I will look after the kids.” Then, imagining it, he adds, “But I could not stand it if you went with another man. If you did that, I think I could not take you back.”

Mary now feels trapped. She realises that she wants experience of a different kind of sex from that which Tom can offer, but she also senses that if she had such experience she probably would not want to stay with the kind of man who would provide it. She does not want to leave nor lose her children, but she feels suffocated in the marriage. If she were to leave it she would be seen as, and would feel herself to be, the guilty party. However, she cannot get what she feels she needs where she is. “Am I to live in this miserable state forever?” she asks herself.

She talks to her friend Jean. She explains the situation and her feelings, adding, “There must be something wrong with me. I’m sure other women don’t feel this way.” Jean says, “Why don’t you have an affair? You don’t have to tell Tom anything. Just play around a bit. If something happens you can cover the time by saying you have to work late. That’s what men do.” Mary responds that she already feels guilty enough about the way she is treating her husband and could not imagine deceiving him on top of everything else. “I am the guilty party, already,” she says, “I don’t want to make it even worse.”

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Replies to This Discussion

Well this is what I think…but I am not sure what I would say to them…
I think that this is a common situation, well at least my opinión . Of course life changes and love is put to test from time to time. It is quite usual that having children of that age there is a strong and necessary routine operating in the family. This routine becomes a ritual which is usually focused on children and their care, and couple¨s life rests on the trust that “we love each other”…Little by little we tend to see each other only on the surface and, since we are so focused on actions and goals, we tend to give up contact with the heart, we tend to see only other¨s actions, words, manners , manias or foibles… we are in trance , that is to say, we have lost contact with the heart. Then one can think “I need something you do not give me”…We can claim for different actions or words from the other…again…But that is not useful because our heart is asleep, the problem, in my opinión, is that we have lost contact with our heart, the vibration of Life, the Light once we were able to see…we are not really loving but needing. I think it is common to show some sort of reaction: distance, coldness, proud, jealousy…
Sometimes some kind of sudden crisis, problem, or argument can make us feel defeated and this is great because this can help us to see reality and  awake... Because this sort of suffering can destroy the “normality”, the trance, and our heart is really felt…Then we can see the other in a deeper way again, and one can feel profoundly again… Connection appears again, and, well, I think sex is a normal answer to those feelings and will appear more naturally from them because we are able to see beyond and we feel alive …Of course not always things develop in this way, sometimes we can decide to separate. But we can take this decisión from the heart ,not from our necessity

What do you think? From talking to a variety of people - mostly women - I have the impression that this scenario is not uncommon and that there can be a variety of contributory factors including the changing perspective as a person matures from age twenty to age thirty, the exhaustion from looking after small children, modern ideas about sexual roles and mores, and so on. Also, it is difficult to prescribe a way forward. None of the simple options are entirely satisfactory. The whole scenario illustrates some of the difficulties of modern marriage.

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