Clarification

Noah emailed me. I’m going to respond here because I’m like that.

When you talk about you dating other people and it not working out because it “feels tainted to me,” there’s something I think is worth pointing out.
It’s not just when I ask you the same question repeatedly that you feel like you need to say whatever it takes to get me to fuck off. When you’re dating other people, the “whatever it takes to fuck off” can and does happen any time you feel pressured. Which often includes when I feel bothered, or disapproving, or frustrated about something unrelated.
So at those times, whether you feel “anything to fuck off” graduates to “lying” or not, you’re okay with telling me things that are clearly untrue, and I may or may not have any way of knowing if they’re true, any time you’re feeling stress. And you chose (and/or would choose) to date other people when you’re already under stress and you reasonably expect me to disapprove.
You’re not wrong about the whole thing feeling tainted to me. But I think you mostly miss what part feels tainted and why.
From the same post, but not otherwise related:
There are many non-sexual services you perform for which I praise you, do things for you and/or otherwise acknowledge it. When we’re talking later about a service that you feel doesn’t count, I’ll often mention that I praised you for it, or that I did something I felt was in return and/or to appreciate that service, and you’ll counter with something else you do for me. There are, of course, many things you do for me.
What I get from those exchanges is that me appreciating you mostly “doesn’t count” if you’ve done more for me than I do for you. It seems like anything less than “me winning the points game” is the same as “I don’t care about anything non-sexual you do for me.” A thank-you or other small acknowledgement only counts if you feel like I’m “winning”, and “winning” is only a thing I’m going to make you pay for later.
That, too, is complicated.
I’m not sure if there’s some more formal and specific way I could acknowledge service for me that would be better. I tend to start from “oh, thanks,” often followed by some specific description of what you did if it’s not clear from context (I often skip a description if you’re, say, in the middle of loading the dishwasher since I consider the task I thanking you for to be obvious.)
That’s… okay, I guess? But if seems clear that you don’t long-term consider yourself appreciated for such things. I’ve done a fair bit of praising you for things you do, especially in recent years. If you feel completely unappreciated for anything non-sexual, that suggests the praise and thanks are doing what I hoped they would.
We’ve talked about acknowledgement before. At the time we agreed that “thank you” is most of what you’re looking for. But it doesn’t seem to count, which suggests it’s not currently doing what we thought it would years ago. It may be time to revisit that discussion.

It’s reasonable that you think I don’t understand what you feel was tainted but I’m not sure that you entirely understand what I mean either. I think me *dating* was absolutely not going to work out no matter what I did and I was a serious asshole. When I told you I was dating because I needed to and you insisted I come up with more and I said because I need to feel pleasure during sex and you kept insisting I come up with more of a reason I got really mean. I’m sure you remember what flavor of mean I was being better than I do.

The part *I* was referring to being tainted was literally just the sex part. You spent years and years and years pressuring me for sex. I was finally able to show up for the once or twice every day you have been pressuring me to perform forĀ years and even when I could finally do that you were god damn mad at me every minute.

Sure I was being an inconsiderate asshole in every other way… but if you tell me the sex the sex the sex the sex is the only thing that can make you happy…..

I tried all the other ways to make you happy and I failed. So fine I showed up with the sex and then it sucked too.

I can’t show up with the sex you want without being that kind of asshole. I can’t. I’m not fucking capable. I know that you don’t want me to have another serious partner who takes time and energy and prioritization. I get that. But you also frequently told me/showed me for many years that you also can’t be happy unless I’m providing an amount of sex I can’t physically stand unless I’m doing a whole host of other supportive behaviors for myself that suck for you.

I know that it is shitty to turn and date other people when under stress. I haven’t had a part of our marriage where I haven’t felt enormous stress to provide sex I don’t necessarily have any interest in and yeah I’m totally not fucking managing that. Because enough years of “if you are under stress you don’t get to go do anything to cope with the stress” means I’m going to crack.

You know how you told me for years that you loved me and cared about me and wanted me to feel good in my body but you were very happy to fuck me dry while I cried and grimaced and lay like a rock under you?

At some point I lost my ability to just absorb that and act like I was ok.

So I said some very mean things. Many that weren’t really true and I was just being an asshole. Yup. That happened.

I know the dating wouldn’t have worked even if I had been less of an asshole. That was going to be tainted even if I did it right. But when I managed to suck it up and provide all the sex you wanted for years… it still didn’t count and that bugged the shit out of me. Because it isn’t the sex. You will complain for years that you can’t be happy without the sex but if the sex appears and you lose all of the other sycophantic shit I’d been doing for years things went up like a Roman candle. You want everything. And I’m supposed to just… make that happen no matter how much it hurts me.

I am tired of bleeding so you can get off.

I don’t know how to deal with the depth of fury I feel about this. It isn’t all about you. It isn’t all your fault. But you are sure fucking wrapped up in it too.

You absolutely do tell me thank you in the moment for things I do for you. But you also tell me that no one who loves you could think that you should be in our marriage because I am so terrible. Which sure makes it sound like alllllllllllll the other stuff I have done has no value. If our marriage is so bad that you shouldn’t be here… that means that the “gratitude” you feel for the things I do is pretty small potatoes. I’m such a problem that you should leave.

Being married to me is so bad you should leave. So who fucking cares if I empty the dishwasher or if you say thank you. The service is stupid and pointless.

You have told me that you can’t talk to anyone about our marriage because…the implication was that there is no redeeming value here.

So what does thank you mean anyway?

I am having a hard time with the fact that you would tell me something so mean like, “I can’t talk to anyone about our marriage because no one could be on my side and think I should stay” and then that turns into “I didn’t say that” and now thank you for the dishwasher is supposed to be the measurement of how well you appreciate me.

You think you should leave. Because I am awful. No. I don’t feel appreciated.

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