My Partner Is Impotent & I Am A Failure As A Wife.
Or at least that’s how it feels. Sometimes.
We both deal with depression. In a relationship, that can be a mind-fuck in and of itself: how can two people prone to sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, pessimism, and inertia help each other?
For us, it works very well. Usually. We mirror each other. One will see what is happening in the other and (most of the time) can pull things together: Let’s go for a hike. Do you want to talk? Can I have a hug? Let’s just sit in silence, together.
We deal with our depression and anxiety differently. As an obnoxious creative type, determined to find expression in every flutter of my always dying and always living heart, I tend to reach outward in my struggle.
I live suspended in the abyss, and I sit in the roaring silence of eternity. I flirt with the vacuum. I know what demons lurk there. I’ve fought with them, danced with them, and, one day, we sat down and decided that our choice was either to fight, fuck, or hit the fence.
Two of those options meant death or madness. I chose the one that meant life.
For better or worse.
Yes. My demons and I make love. Sometimes they take me to places that nearly rip my mind apart, and at others they show me parts of myself that have long been buried or cast out as pieces that are shameful or bad or broken.
My demons make me sit in it all, and together we watch. Together, we try to understand.
After all, my demons and I are together. I created them: they were birthed from the special soup that was my mind multiplied by my circumstances divided by my brain chemistry and the square of my soul’s journey.
For me, there seems to be no other choice but to learn from them, with them. To re-absorb them.
I can’t run forever. And I certainly can’t fight forever.
This is a difficult endeavor and oftentimes I feel like an alien life form: sure, they’ll say, be depressed, but must you be so emotive? Must you feel everything, all of the time, and be determined to make it a part of your path?
Yes. For me it actually became that simple of a choice, borne out of that desperate of a situation. The months that turned into years that I sat in my mind cave with back to my demons, to my life, suspended in the numb womb of a breakdown, I felt nothing. I saw nothing. I expressed nothing, I created nothing.
I sat my ass firmly down on the path, and refused to budge.
I was essentially a breath and a heartbeat animating a meat sack, lines blipping on a machine that pretended a life.
Why is this important in terms of my partner and I?
The way that we have learned, or chosen, to deal with our demons has determined how we engage with not only our inner world, but our outer world as well: including each other.
I want to reach out, to connect, to share experiences and learn from each other’s pain because I realized in my cave that my demons weren’t a singular, special just-for-me entity: they had cousins. Legions of them.
And I feel that the more I can connect with people and show them that they, and their demons, are not alone, the less lonely (I hope) we all feel.
My partner does not feel this way. He internalizes. He takes the stress, the anxiety, the sadness, the magical poison sauce of his own depression and lets it run through his blood, as vital to his process as the pumping of his beautiful heart. Where I long to connect, he yearns to disengage, to zone out.
He believes that if he doesn’t look the demons in the eye, if he sets up distractions and booby traps for them to play with, then they won’t catch him.
He’s running for the fence.
This manifests in our physical relationship in a lack of sexual intimacy. We hug and we cuddle, but we rarely make love with our bodies.
He cannot let down the guard in his mind, the one that is keeping the demons busy, protecting himself from the vast onslaught of emotion that might be unleashed if he were to let himself fully feel, fully be. To embrace all of this for him is beyond terrifying.
And so he has learned to shut it down.
I imagine it is a lonely, frustrating place. A place that feels like failure, and disappointment, and betrayal. Not only has the mind turned against you, but now the body proves to be unreliable as well.
I don’t discount his experience or feelings in any way. I simply cannot speak for him. I can only speak for myself and my experience.
It’s lonely. I hurt. Sometimes I ache for him: not for the mere act of it, although that’s always fantastic, but for the connection of my soul mate/best friend and I engaging in sacred devotion of each other. I want to look into his eyes and feel him move inside me, and smile.
I want to feel his breath, rising and falling with mine. No barriers. No walls. As vulnerable and naked and exposed to each other as possible.
Sometimes the absence of it is so profound it feels like my heart will break.
I feel rejected. I must be doing something wrong, be unappealing to him, for this kind of reaction to occur. I know: he says it’s not me, it’s him, but it wasn’t always like this. Is it because I’m getting older? Am I not sexy? Most importantly: does he not feel connected to me?
I feel guilt. Soul-crushing, heart-rending guilt. I cannot reach him. I cannot help him. In this, the most sacrosanct of commitments, I fail. I cannot fulfill my role as wife/lover/partner/confidante. I cannot fix this. I have let him down. I let our marriage down.
My demons beckon me. They don’t always fuck nicely. Sometimes they reduce me to ashes and I’m left shaking, wide-eyed and soul-stripped.
But I always learn from them. I can’t outrun them.
I don’t want to.
I won’t run from this, and I can’t fight it: but how can I fix it?
Neither me nor my demons have an answer.
Francesca Brio is an artist, writer, dream-weaver and universe-adventurer. Her feet are never idle, and her heart is always overflowing with wonder at the life around her: always persevering, always thriving. Life and love: they always find a way. Even when it seems impossible. Through her life making art as art, she seeks to inspire the feeling in her fellow travelers that each moment is a dawn, every breath a new beginning. To remind them their heartbeat’s song is whispering, “Keep going; the adventure is not over yet.”