Posted by: itneverrainsinseattle | December 3, 2009

The Letter

I wrote this post last night, but without the letter available to me. My intention was to tell the story as I remember it and then just fill in the letter after I got to work, where I keep my private journals hidden. It’s the first time I’ve reread the letter in years. Aside from being shocked at how pathetic our situation has been now for all this time, I’m still reticent to share the letter even under the safe anonymity of a pseudonym. It makes me sound pathetic, I think. What’s more… the fact that Penny never acknowledged the letter makes the whole marriage sound even more pathetic. Still — the whole point of this blog is to help me get it all out there in the open, see how it looks, dissect it, deal with it for what it is, and then move forward. So, here we go….

One of the things that I most need to work on is being decisive. While being decisive is, I think, the key to getting anywhere worthwhile deliberately (as opposed to occasionally stumbling upon good fortune while you meander aimlessly through life), there have been moments when being decisive hasn’t quite worked out the way I’d intended.

After Penny and I had been married for a couple of years, it was clear that our intimate relationship wasn’t going to get better on its own.

By the fall of 2001, we were just over two years into our marriage. We were having sex no more than once a month, and the lack of intimacy in our marriage was already taking its toll on my psyche. In every other way, we had it as good as two people could hope: we were both fresh off good paying jobs and were now embarking upon building our own business (with every reason to expect success); our debt load was virtually non-existent except for the (manageable) mortgage; we were living in a brand new townhouse in a vibrant, walking-friendly downtown neighborhood; we were materially comfortable; and we enjoyed an active social life with our many mutual friends.

The stresses that had surrounded our previous break-up and reconciliation were left behind in our cross-country move. The people and the places involved no longer played a role in our lives. The weather in our new location was sunnier, with more moderate temperatures — no snow to shovel, no heat waves to wilt us. The financial strains had mostly been resolved (except for the fact that, with our new business, we were again running the household in the red). And yet, despite all of this, Penny still deflected my advances. Instead of “it’s too soon (since our problematic break-up),” or “I’m too wound up about my job,” or, “I’m worried about all this debt,” now there were excuses that I couldn’t resolve: it was too late, or it was too early, or she had work she needed to do, or she was tired, or it was that time of the month, or she had a headache, or she strained a muscle during our bike ride, etc.

Once a month or so, she wouldn’t offer any excuses… but even then, she was hardly an eager partner in the bedroom. While this wasn’t exactly “kiss-less sex,” it was certainly passionless. And as much as I hate to say this, I also began to suspect that she was faking her orgasms, which only contributed to my own declining libido every bit as much as her constant rejection.

I did what any intelligent, self-respecting man would try to do. I tried to make myself a better lover. I tried to be more romantic — I took her on the dinner train for her birthday one year, on a romantic balloon ride the next. Flowers? Yes. I-love-yous at the end of every phone conversation. I would ask her what she liked or didn’t like when we had sex; she didn’t like to talk about (or during) sex, so I tried my best to work with any cues she did give. I was as attentive as I could be. I made suggestions, tried to lead, tried to follow… to no avail.

So as my self-esteem dwindled, I stopped going to bed at the same time as she did. I’d stay up late and play solitaire by the fireplace rather than risk rejection. The combination of sleep deprivation and eating too much of the wrong foods led to the inevitable weight gain. And all the while, I tried to figure out what I could do to make it better. I brought the subject up a few times, but she didn’t want to talk about it.

Perhaps our history was an insurmountable problem after all. I was increasingly convinced that she felt she was settling when she agreed to marry me. And while I didn’t want to give up on her or on the marriage, I knew that without intimacy, I couldn’t stay with her much longer. Finally, I decided to write her a letter, gently suggesting (perhaps too gently) that things had to change. I was thinking: next, we either see a therapist (a move I dreaded, having had a less-than-stellar prior experience with a couples counselor) or we see a lawyer. I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready to walk out, but I knew that’s where we were headed.

I still have a photocopy of the handwritten letter. It was undated, but I know it was written in mid- to late-October, 2001. It amazes me how much of the lexicon in this letter is still part of the baggage in my head:

My dearest,

I would normally not write about this. I would normally talk about it. I talk things out. You do not. In the past, I’ve tried to talk this out with you, with no success. Telepathy hasn’t worked. Other attempts I’ve made have also failed.

I want you to take an active role in our sex life. I want you to want to.

This is what has been eating me up inside for the past few weeks. I’m not sure which straw broke the proverbial camel’s back — whether it was another night/morning of ambivalence toward sex, another not-kiss, or what. Call it ‘activation energy’ or ‘the tipping point,’ the result is the same: too many ‘little’ rejections = one big fat message of rejection. Since talking about it has always upset you in the past, that option was cut off. So, I stewed. I am stewing.

The irony is, of course, the more I stew, the less I want to make love. Even if you instantly started shwogin interest and tried to take an active role, I would resist… being fiercely not-in-the-mood. And, that aside, the more I stew, the less reason you would have for wanting me sexually, anyway. Who could love a grouch?

This isn’t an attack on you. This is about me. I feel like shit.

  • When [mutual friend] says at [our weekly get togethers] she misses sex, I want to chime in, “I know how you feel.”
  • I feel like you pretty much only want me sexually as a sperm donor — and even then, you show no more interest when your ovulating than when you’re not.
  • I want romance as well, and that, too, seems hard to make happen. You tell me your family doesn’t make a big deal about special occasions/birthdays/holidays, and so you find it difficult to do so. Fine. But, for every [business] meeting I’ve missed (which, admittedly, is Very Bad), you’ve done likewise for date nights we’d set aside. Romance is about priorities, not presents, and I don’t feel like a priority. (God, i sound like a girl. I even ask for directions, and you don’t…)
  • I still want you as passionately as I did after that whole fucked-up situation in [City]. But I’m beginning to feel like I lost that battle, and the prospects for winning your romantic love are dwindling.

The stress of being unemployed, of having too much to do, and none of the inspiration to do it, is all aggravating my energy level. I’m finding it harder to fight for your romantic attention.

So what do I do? What can I do? What do you want me to do?

I want you. I love you. I need you. But I also need you to want, love, and need me. That includes sexually. What can I do to make you want to take an active role in our sex life? Failing that, what can you do to make you want to take an active role in our sex life? Failing that, what do we do?


In the morning, as I left for a business appointment, I set the letter where I knew she would find it. When I returned at the end of the work day, the letter was gone. There was no doubt she had to have read it. I was nervous about what she would say. Would she promise to do what needed to be done to save our marriage? Would she tell me that it just wasn’t working out?

I was completely unprepared for what she did say. She never once referred to the letter that I recall.

Instead, she simply told me she was pregnant.



  1. Wow. Just…. wow.

  2. Yeah…WOW. And that was 2001? And you’re still doing this? Wow.

  3. Huh. And that kind of says it all.

    Keep sharing. It’s good to purge. I believe that those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it.

  4. Reading about your (mostly) sexless marriage has been helpful to me, especially in light of the relationship I’m currently pursuing. (Have you ever considered that your wife might be gay?) I’ve been wondering if I could be happy in such a relationship, and your blog has given me some things to think about. However, I think a bigger deal breaker for me than lack of sex would be lack of physical affection: touching, holding, rubbing, cuddling. You’ve said that your wife tries to sleep as far away from you as possible. For me, a little coitus can go a long way (I have an active fantasy life and don’t expect my sex life to match that), but without other kinds of physical contact, I don’t think I could do it.

    Fascinating story! I can’t believe she never responded. That seems really disrespectful. The key to a good sex life is good communication, and it seems you lack both.

  5. GAY? I can’t believe that never occurred to me!
    I think Snark B is onto something. That really would explain SO much…

  6. Sad post, great ending. Since wow is already taken, FUCK. That must have been ironic.

  7. […] posted a comment to my entry regarding “The Letter” that summed up the very thing that’s been vexing me ever since I re-read that letter […]

  8. This happened to me once also. She had already thrown me out of the house (this was right as the first Gulf War began), and I was ready to go. After about two weeks, my elder daughter began trying to track me down. When I talked to her, she was inviting me to Easter dinner. It was at that dinner that I was told that I was to be a father again, and I was asked if I was moving back in again. I did, things were OK for a while, but we eventually got back to where we were – fighting our war. I should have stayed away.

  9. […] I finally worked up the nerve to demand something more — when I finally wrote Penny the Letter — she announced she was pregnant. That overshadowed, for a time, the low level discontentment […]

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