LOVE SCENE INVESTIGATION
Gerald is such a catch. Tall, athletic, successful as a TV host/ party promoter and close to his family. He was very passionate with me at first but now … I don’t know if it’s work stress or me. He says he’s just tired and dismisses me with a chaste peck on my forehead. Then he’s always criticizing my appearance. He won’t touch me sexually at all. Basically his attitude is: “No sex for you. You haven’t earned it. You’re not thin enough. You could maintain yourself better — I mean, look at my sister.” His sister is a young, single, Black female addicted to retail and the spa/ salon life. Do I seriously need to waste my paycheck that way so he’ll feel inspired to treat my ladyparts to some attention? So I am trying to lose weight (5 lbs.) and tone up. Also to be manicured, pedicured and spectacularly well-groomed. Maybe when I get it right he’ll love me like he used to, you know?
Stan and I had a great relationship for 5 solid years. Then his Dad died suddenly after being on heart medication for over a decade. My own father died when I was a teen so I totally sympathize. Now it’s been three years since we buried his father and our sex life is gone, baby, gone. Stan stays angry, depressed and uncommunicative. Unless he’s putting on a show for his friends or co-workers, it’s pout, grumble, monosyllabic answers, sloped shoulders and smoking a ton of marijuana everyday. I am just devastated that he has no love or affection for me anymore. I’m like, “Hey! I didn’t kill your Dad.” His stance is: “No hugs or kisses or handholding for you anymore. Ever. Because I’m angry and sad so you’re S*** Out of Luck.” Imagine if I were asexual forever after my Dad died. There’s sadness and grieving but come on already. It’s not like no one else ever lost a parent. my boyfriend go? Did the pod people get him? I must sound like a complete bitch.
Withholding affection. I bet you never saw this problem on the horizon.
Suddenly your man refuses to even acknowledge that you need to be taken care of. And that means sharing hugs, kisses, massages and lovemaking. He’s intentionally detached and uninvolved with you; you could be dating your aunt or a nun from your Catholic grade school. He’s just there, denying you intimacy and keeping his thoughts, hopes, dreams and feelings secret from you. You try to connect in a thousand different ways to no avail. Whether depressed or on the down low, your man is getting off on the power of seeing you yearn and need. The more unsatisfied you are as he remains just beyond reach, the more in control he feels of you and your relationship.
It’s a not-so-nice fact of life that grieving isn’t wholely sympathetic and pretty. It can be angry, ugly and punctuated by bouts of lashing out.
A Withholder sometimes needs to dominate, dupe and demean even the women he initially desired and admired. Suddenly you’re not that attractive anymore. And he’s constantly correcting your slight mistakes, making you feel guarded, and dumb. He makes you feel like you’re always doing something wrong. This gradual chipping away at your confidence and self-esteem sets you up to be treated even worse later on as if you deserve it.
You feel badly. Your man’s loss of interest is devaluing you. Occasionally, he throws you a bone–cries so you comfort him, eats dinner with you, says kind things—to lead you to dismiss your sense that you’re being mistreated. All the while he’s conditioning you to think less highly of yourself and to accept his unloving, inconsistent behavior.
Now it may not be malice — just water finding its own level. He’s miserable so he needs you to be miserable. He’s asexual so he needs to make you asexual. He’s getting sex elsewhere so he needs to wean you off his, not that he wants you to find it somewhere else either. Because you want to hold on to the fantasy of the ideal relationship he cultivated, you go into denial. You accept his excuses for months and years. No sex, little affection, no validation that he really even wants you. You stomach your growing fears and doubts. You rationalize his inexplicable absences, his coldness in bed, his busy dismissal of your attempts at intimacy, his increasingly frequent emotional withdrawals, his curt and icy replies, his petty and mean-spirited ways of punishing you for being needy or for not “giving him his space.”
Have a talk. Get counseling or get him to see a psychotherapist.
If that doesn’t improve matters, you need to seriously look at the front door.
It ain’t so bad – y’all can still be friends. And you can find a man who’ll act like he actually likes you and wants you as a woman in every way.