I remember the pain of dealing with my alcoholic partner in the area of intimacy. Even though he was right next to me, I was alone and aching for human touch, warmth, and affection. Months would go by, and I would get nothing from him but cold indifference. I didn’t want to leave him or be unfaithful, but I couldn’t take the emptiness I felt inside, either. Whenever I would broach the topic, he would recoil and say I was unattractive, fat, or just not really his type. Usually he made me feel guilty for seeking affection by telling me I was too needy. I would give up trying to initiate any deeper connection for another few months until my longing became unbearable again. I would literally cry out of frustration.
It wasn’t until much later that I discovered the reality of the situation. Alcoholism had taken his ability to physically respond, and he would take his shame out on me. But by then I had already started to question my own sanity. Was I really asking for too much? I wondered. After all, I had learned in Al‑Anon that an expectation is a premeditated resentment.
In time, though, I realized it was futile to expect this person to give something he just didn’t have. However, I was pursuing an equally futile endeavor trying to learn how to be happy without love and affection. I learned that my needs were legitimate and not unreasonable in a monogamous romantic relationship, but I had to accept his choice not to fulfill those needs. And as long as we remained together, I was not free to pursue a new relationship that could better meet those needs. In the end, I found the serenity I needed to detach with love and part ways with him. Even though he is still active in his disease, we remain friends today. I see now that’s probably all we should have been from the beginning.
I eventually met a kind, gentle, and loving man who is all I could have wished for. We have decided that physical intimacy will wait until after marriage, and the decision has allowed our emotional and spiritual connection to flourish. When I came to believe that I deserved more, I found it.
By Autumn A., Maryland
The Forum, January 2020
This is my story. Thank you for writing about it. My spouse had been dry for many years-but not emotionally sober. The pain of, what felt like rejection, was unbearable. I’m still seeking out a relationship that is similar to that one; so I can “auto correct” what happened to me. As long as I stay in Al-Anon and keep attending meetings, reading literature and staying connected, I will heal from my devastation. I’m growing and moving away from those relationships that are not fulfilling. I hope someday to find a healthier relationship where we can be equals.