The one thing that very nearly did in our dating relationship was the lack of physical intimacy. We moved from friendship to a dating "couple" and for two years there was nothing more than kissing and cuddling; we slept together, literally, from about the 3 month mark of our relationship but nothing happened. This was not for lack of trying, but these efforts to engage him physically were always rebuffed, leaving me feeling confused and humiliated. Finally, I had a moment when I knew I couldn't continue in this way. Sex is not everything, but it isn't nothing either. It felt like a powerful passive-aggressive tool, and it was the one that started the process of chipping away at my self-esteem. In my past few relationships, the sexual side of things was consistently fun, spontaneous, and thoroughly satisfying; yet here I was doubting my ability to connect physically, and looking at myself with a more critical eye as I tried to understand how he loved me but was clearly unattracted to me.
One day, when I was on my way from the city where I lived to the one he was in, I stopped to do a little shopping. In a women's clothing shop, a song came on that stopped me in my tracks. I actually had to take something into a fitting room to hide the fact that I was beginning to cry. The song was, "I Can't Make You Love Me", by Bonnie Raitt, and at that moment it felt like she was speaking right to me. I knew right then that the pain of ending the relationship would be difficult and would involve a true grief process, but that continuing on with someone who clearly did not want to make a life with me - that was a daily hurt that was not going to go away. There was nothing more he needed to know about me, given that we'd spent nearly all our time together when we were friends before we were a couple and then two years of dating, yet he didn't know if he was ready to settle down and accept that I was the person for him. I couldn't understand how he wasn't ready, how he didn't know we should be together forever - in that moment, however, I realized that if he was still unsure, then the answer was surely that he simply didn't want me. In that case, I knew it had to be over, that I would be unspeakably sad but that I would eventually be able to move on. I arrived at his apartment ready to end the relationship. When he asked why I didn't bring my bag in, I said we needed to talk. He kept stalling then after dinner put on my favourite piece of music and produced a ring. He'd had it made a few months earlier, and had taken it to Florida with us the month before. He hadn't proposed because he couldn't find exactly the right sunset, or the prettiest beach, or the right weather. His focus has always been on optics - what makes him look the best, or what superficial feature of an event would make the perfect story. But in the end, we were engaged.
A physical relationship did develop in the ensuing months, but it was hardly worth the wait. Again, in true narcissistic form, the only pleasure to be had was his; and in keeping with his passive-aggressive personality type, this physical intimacy was often used as a weapon or as a means of communicating. When I was pregnant with our first child, I gained 60 lbs, and only lost 10 after his birth. Then I had a second pregnancy, and gained more weight. The subsequent 5 years were characterized by indirect criticism of my weight, including one incident that was particularly jarring. He went into a 3 or 4 minute tirade about the weight he had gained - since our wedding, he'd put on maybe 3 or 4 lbs. I'd gained 60. The tirade was mean, and it was nasty - "what kind of person lets themselves get so obese", "how stupid must you be to gain this kind of weight", "one look in the mirror should show how disgusting and repulsive this is", etc. etc. When I began to cry, he got angry and said, "not everything is about you". In those 5 years after our second child was born, he did not touch me even once. Most nights, he didn't even say goodnight, just turned his back and went to sleep.
By the time my marriage came to an end, I had no self-esteem. I don’t think I’ve ever felt as lonely and the sense of abandonment by my own husband was overwhelming. The loneliness I experienced in my marriage was worse than any I had ever felt as a single woman.