Yesterday I began a critical review of my current health situation, with a view to improve my future results by making some new decisions based on the current facts and trends.
Here is a recap of the situation as I see it now. I am taking the symptoms I listed yesterday and discussing each of them in the context of my current method of dealing with them, and/or discussing the cause of each of them as best I can, given that I’m not a doctor or scientist trained in this.
Frequent urination – especially at night, interrupting my sleep.
The whole issue of urination and bladder control is interconnected with so many of my other underlying issues so it’s probably a good place to start.
Problems with urination are a little bit like the canary in a mine that warns of trouble. One of my earliest indicators that I had a problem, (and it might be diabetes) was having a need to urinate frequently, both during the day and at night. This started in my thirties, almost thirty-five years ago.
Diagnoses of the problems with my urination were complicated by a discovery, in my thirties, that I suffer from a relatively mild form of spina bifida, which despite it not being debilitating does have some significant neurological effects on my lower body, including sexual response and bladder control. This wasn’t great news to hear when I was only in my thirties, but everything the doctor told me about the possible side effects of spinal bifida occulta has surfaced from time to time since then.
Like many other men with any problems with their genitals and urinary systems, including urination or sexual performance, I generally tried to ignore the problem as much as possible. After discussing the potential effects of the problem with my lower spinal column with the back specialist I tended to ascribe any problems to the back and nervous system, including periodic difficulties with both urination and sexual performance.
In the spring of 1985, when I was 32 years old, I also exacerbated the problem, by choosing to undergo a vasectomy, without understanding in advance that the operation could have unintended side effects. Unlike what I had expected, the operation resulted in swelling of my prostate and my testes and an infection in my urethra and bladder. For more than a year I suffered severe pain from both urination and sexual expression, and my soreness persisted for several years before fading away completely. A prescription was given to me to reduce the swelling of my prostate, but it took some time to take effect, and as it was significantly swollen, there were physical effects on both sexual function and urination.
As one might expect, given the pain, there were also emotional effects and a significant impact on my intimate life, in ways I would not have normally expected.
My reasons for having a vasectomy still seem as valid today, as they were at the time, however, part of the decision to go for it turned out to be less true than it is in most cases. My medical results included significant pain, reduced enjoyment of life, and a much higher level of anxiety about the whole subject than was probably warranted.
The argument for having a vasectomy is that it is generally considered a relatively benign surgical procedure, done in the doctor’s office as a day surgery. For a woman to have sterilization surgery is much more invasive, not to mention that it results in huge hormonal changes. My wife and I both thought a vasectomy would be less problematic, and we were probably right, despite how frustrating and painful it turned out to be.
It continues today, as so I suppose I’m used to it. However, continuing declines in muscles and nerves is also contributing to further problems, which require a certain fastidiousness to avoid embarrassment because of weakness in bladder control. It’s not promising for the future, because if it continues to decline I can see a future including adult diapers. It may be already as bad as it is going to get, at least that’s my current hope.
So my problems with sexual function and urination really started then, and it was only somewhat later that I realized that my need to urinate more frequently as I was getting old might have a relationship to diabetes.
Poor sleep – several things wake me up at night, variously including frequent urination, frequent cramps in my feet and calves, pain my shoulders and hips, dry mouth and nasal congestion, sleep apnea, hay fever, and difficulties breathing.
I’m not sure that I’m doing this analysis in the right order, but this is the order I listed my symptoms yesterday, so I will follow this list and get to the underlying stuff as it comes.
I have a lot of trouble sleeping through the night. I have a CPAP machine to help me deal with my sleep apnea, with which I have been having problems. The problems with the CPAP machine aren’t really with the machine itself, but with on again off again sinusitis that makes it almost impossible to sleep with the device forcing me to breath through my nose. So when I’m congested I don’t put it on. So it doesn’t do anything if I don’t use it.
So one of the new decisions I’m making as I do this analysis is to start using the damned CPAP every night possible. When I was using it, it did improve my blood sugars and I suppose it improved my sleep, although I didn’t feel much more rested then that I do now. In other words I’m still exhausted most days, regardless of the CPAP.
The problem with cramping in my legs and feet is another thing that wakes me up in the middle of the night fairly frequently, although not every night. When it first started up a few months ago, I asked a doctor and she advised me to use Magnesium and Calcium together to help. I started taking them every day, and my cramps in my calf muscles has been reduced to once or twice a month, instead of every night. However, this remedy has not improved the cramping in the arches of my feet, or the muscles in my toes.
Other body pain and neuropathic pain are also problematic in getting a decent night’s sleep. Arthritis and rotator cup problems wake me at various times in the night, and make it difficult to get back to sleep. Neuropathic pain which is merely irritating during daylight hours seems far more painful when I am at rest. Ergo, more interrupted sleep and more pain.
Chronic pain during waking hours – moderate to severe pain in my feet, neuropathic pain as well as mechanical distress, including pain caused by walking on supersensitive soles of my feet, as well as my toes.
I am taking Gabapentin, an anti-seizure medication which has shown to help with neuropathic pain. It may be providing me with some relief from the neuropathic pain, but the benefits are still uncertain to me. Would the neuropathic pain be worse if I were to wean off of Gabapentin, due to the numerou side effects cited in the literature?
Also… periodic moderate pain in my back and shoulders, and more serious pain in my lower back and hips when walking more that 1,000 to 2,000 steps.
Various types of chronic pain plague my waking moments, including arthritis in my hands, shoulders, hips and legs. Tendonitis has my hands bound up with pain. Inflation combines with ongoing pain.
Persistent breathing problems – mild to severe asthma on a continuing basis, almost always somewhat symptomatic but much worse when exercising or physically stressed. Sometimes exacerbated by emotional stress or conflict. Of all my symptoms my breathing problems are the most intrusive, making ordinary activities difficult or impossible. I am currently taking three separate inhalers to remediate the asthma and borderline COPD. All of them have side effects which make my sinus and throat problems worse, and while they help me breathe, they make my singing voice harsh.
Chronic physical exhaustion and fatigue – comes and goes during the day but is worse during periods of relative inactivity (sense of exhaustion) and during periods of exercise (weakness and muscle fatigue).
Addressing these symptoms is something I haven’t really been able to address, yet.
To close the blog for the day, I’ve decided to stop here and pick it again tomorrow or Friday. All of this thinking is making my head hurt, but I realize that I haven’t really given enough thought to the role of the many drugs in my system, and how their many potential side effects may be effecting me.
There can be no time more suitable than the present to make
better choices for my future health and well-being. New choices mean reviewing and carefully
considering alternatives not previously pursued, or if previously pursued,
inadequately. In some respects, this
analysis reflects a continuing and necessary re-evaluation based of my current
state of health, not as a snapshot, as it were, but rather as a streaming and
changing set of conclusions and actions based on them. However, this analysis is specifically about
now and the immediate future, with a clear understanding that nothing is ever
completely settled in these issues, and there is new information available on
an ongoing basis.
More simply put – This self-analysis is about resetting how
I go about living my life with due consideration to what I have learned about the
conditions and diseases that currently plague me. How to do better and improve my health for
the future – this is my object.
Much of what will be expressed here rests on certain
persisting patterns of behavior which require significant modification. In other words, I must change if there is to
be any real improvement in my health reality. And based on what I know about
achieving anything of consequence in my life, it will need to be outlined in a
program of specific steps, which depend upon my own actions rather than on
others. My physicians can only provide
me with information and treatment within what I’m willing or able to do
myself. My partner, as supportive as she
has tried to be over the years, is not responsible for any part of this,
despite my tendency to try to lay responsibility at her door particularly for
my dietary habits and lack of blood sugar control.
Frequent urination – especially at night,
interrupting my sleep.
Poor sleep – several things wake me up at night,
variously including frequent urination, frequent cramps in my feet and calves, pain
my shoulders and hips, dry mouth and nasal congestion, sleep apnea, hay fever, and
Chronic pain during waking hours – moderate to severe
pain in my feet, neuropathic pain as well as mechanical distress, including
pain caused by walking on supersensitive soles of my feet, as well as my
toes. Also… periodic moderate pain in my
back and shoulders, and more serious pain in my lower back and hips when
walking more that 1,000 to 2,000 steps.
Periodic breathing problems – mild to severe
asthma on a continuing basis, almost always somewhat symptomatic but much worse
when exercising or physically stressed.
Sometimes exacerbated by emotional stress or conflict.
Chronic physical exhaustion and fatigue – comes and
goes during the day but is worse during periods of relative inactivity (sense
of exhaustion) and during periods of exercise (weakness and muscle fatigue)
Dizziness upon standing – it is sometimes acute
and sometimes minor
Mental fatigue and a sense of a loss of acuity
and sharpness – I am finding it difficult to concentrate on mental tasks which
require the application of my intellectual skills and professional skills. I still feel capable of creative work for
relatively brief periods, but fatigue quickly overtakes me, and I must put
things aside, while I attempt to recover my energies and focus.
Forgetfulness and feelings of anxiety regarding
Visual deficiencies – lately I can only read or
work on the computer for a certain period before my eyes begin to become less
effective, making it necessary for me to interrupt my work or reading, and brake
completely from work that require visual acuity. Eye fatigue contributes to my overall sense
of fatigue and exhaustion. Note: I probably need new glasses, something
I will discuss with my ophthalmologist on Friday when I next visit her.
Conditions and/or diseases
Slightly elevated cholesterol
Asthma and bronchitis (borderline COPD)
Evidence of diabetic damage to my eyes
Arthritis in hips, hands, shoulders, lower back
Tendonitis in hands and wrists
High and low blood pressure
Allergies to a broad band of common allergens
including pollens, animal dander, dust and others. Anaphylactic reaction to Cipro and Penicillin
I have had recent visits with my family doctor, my Endocrinologist
and my Respirologist (Pulmonologist), plus an upcoming CT Scan in early June at
Burnaby General, and an eye exam this Friday.
I’m clearly a heavy draw on the medical system with all these frequent
appointments to deal with various ailments.
Clearly I’d like to see less of them, and they would like to see less of
me. All we have to do to accomplish this
feat is to improve my health sufficiently so that they wouldn’t need to see me
Diabetes blood sugar and neuropathy management
My most recent visit with my Endocrinologist, as usual, thorough,
with a significant discussion about changing my medications, in particularly,
moving to two different types of insulin every day, with a long acting insulin
injected in the morning with design purpose of bringing my premeal and fasting
insulin down to ideally 7.0mml or below and then having me take fast acting
insulin with each meal, dividing up the insulin between the meals, more or less
based on the prorated amount of food being ingesting at each meal.
In order to manage this much more intensive insulin regime,
it will be necessary for me to check my Blood sugar levels first thing each
morning, as well as 2 hours after each meal.
The goal of the fast-acting insulin is to return my blood sugars to
10mml or below within the two hours.
In order to maintain such a frequent reading of my blood
sugar levels, I need to have a new form of monitor with a patch blood reader
that sends the information to a monitoring device, either my iPhone or one that
comes with the patch. I submitted the
request to Blue Cross two weeks ago and am currently awaiting approval. Note: I
should follow up with them before Friday to make sure they are working on this.
The Endocrinologist wrote me prescriptions for the insulin
and the device, as well as had his assistant prepare the forms for Blue
Cross. Once I have approval, I will need
to deliver these forms to the Pharmacy for processing.
The Endocrinologist and I had a fairly long conversation
regarding various aspects of my diabetes including the need for me to have my
eyes re-examined, thus an appointment this Friday with Chui Luca, my Ophthalmologist. We also discussed my weight gain since being
diagnosed with diabetes with him expressing some thought that while weight loss
would be desirable many type two diabetics in my circumstances find it very
difficult to lose weight while taking insulin.
Not only does insulin contribute to weight gains, but so do Jentadueto
and Invokana my other diabetes treatment medications.
In addition, gabapentin, which has been prescribed for my
neuropathy due to diabetes, also leads to weight gain along with other symptoms
I am experiencing.
The more common side effects
of gabapentin include:
abnormal eye movements that are continuous,
uncontrolled, back-and-forth, or rolling
clumsiness or unsteadiness
drowsiness or tiredness
Talk with your doctor about
precautions you can take for side effects from gabapentin:
Ask your doctor for advice on diet and
exercise to help manage your weight if you are concerned about possible weight
gain from gabapentin.
Don’t drive or operate heavy machinery until
you know you can function normally while taking gabapentin.
Talk to your pharmacist about
over-the-counter medications that can help relieve some of the more common
digestive system side effects.
Gabapentin side effects may
make you want to stop taking the drug. However, don’t stop taking it without
first talking to your doctor.
Stopping gabapentin suddenly
can cause serious problems, such as withdrawal symptoms or the return of
seizures. Your doctor will help you stop taking the drug safely.
Medically reviewed by Lindsay Slowiczek, PharmD on December 20,
2016 — Written by University of Illinois-Chicago, Drug Information Group
In addition to the two new forms of insulin, and the
gabapentin for treatment of the diabetic Neuropathy I also take two other
2.5/1,000 MGs – taken twice daily prior to morning and evenings
Medical Editor: John P.
Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Last reviewed on RxList
Jentadueto (linagliptin and
metformin hydrochloride) is a combination of two 2 oral antihyperglycemic drugs
indicated as an adjunct to diet and exercise to improve glycemic control in
adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus when treatment with both linagliptin and
metformin is appropriate. Common side effects of Jentadueto are:
Get medical help immediately
if you have severe side effects of lactic acidosis (symptoms include muscle
pain or weakness, numb or cold feeling in your arms and legs, trouble
breathing, dizziness, lightheadedness, tiredness, weakness, stomach pain,
nausea with vomiting, or slow or uneven heart rate.
Jenadueto is available in the
following strengths: tablets containing 2.5 mg linagliptin and 500 mg metformin
hydrochloride or 850 mg metformin hydrochloride or 1000 mg metformin
hydrochloride. The maximum recommended dose is 2.5 mg linagliptin/1000 mg
metformin twice daily. Jenadueto should be taken daily with meals, with gradual
dose escalation to reduce the gastrointestinal side effects due to metformin.
300 MG – taken once daily prior to the morning meal.
Medical Editor: John P.
Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Last reviewed on RxList
Invokana (canagliflozin) is a
sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitor used to control blood sugar
in people with type 2 diabetes mellitus, in addition to diet and exercise.
Common side effects of Invokana include:
sensitivity to sunlight,
reactions (including skin redness, rash, itching, hives, and swelling),
The recommended starting dose
of Invokana is 100 mg once daily, taken before the first meal of the day. Doses
may be increased to 300 mg in patients who are able to tolerate Invokana at 100
mg doses. Invokana may interact with rifampin or digoxin. Tell your doctor all
medications you use.
Asthma and Bronchitis Medications and treatments
After spending 10 days in the hospital in 2016 with severe
pneumonia, when I was discharged my Respirologist at Centrio Medical Centre diagnosed
me with COPD and prescribed three different inhalers to treat the disease.
Spiriva 2.5 mg
Spiriva 2.5 mg – two puffs with morning medications
Medical Editor: John P.
Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Last reviewed on RxList 2/12/2018
(tiotropium bromide) Inhalation Powder is an anticholinergic drug used to
prevent bronchospasm (narrowing of the airways in the lungs) in people with
bronchitis, emphysema, or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Common side
effects of Spiriva HandiHaler include:
Tell your doctor if you have
any serious side effects of Spiriva HandiHaler including:
or painful urination, or
The recommended dose of
Spiriva HandiHaler is two inhalations of the powder contents of one Spiriva
capsule, ONCE DAILY, with the HandiHaler device. Spiriva may interact with
atropine, belladonna, cimetidine, clidinium, dicyclomine, glycopyrrolate,
hyoscyamine, mepenzolate, methantheline, methscopolamine, propantheline, or
scopolamine. Tell your doctor all medications you use. During pregnancy,
Spiriva should be used only when prescribed.
Symbicort 200 mg – two puffs with
morning medications and two puffs with dinner medications
Medical Editor: John P.
Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Last reviewed on RxList
Symbicort (budesonide and
formoterol fumarate dihydrate) is a combination of a steroid and a long-acting
bronchodilator used to prevent bronchospasm in people with asthma or chronic
obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Common side effects of Symbicort include:
joint pain, or
Tell your doctor if you
experience unlikely but serious side effects of Symbicort including:
patches on tongue or in mouth,
infection (such as fever, persistent sore throat),
changes (such as nervousness),
problems (such as blurred vision),
thirst or urination,
For patients 12 years of age
and older, the dosage of Symbicort is 2 inhalations twice daily (morning and
evening, approximately 12 hours apart). Symbicort may interact with
antibiotics, antifungal medication, MAO inhibitor, antidepressants,
beta-blockers, or diuretics (water pills). Tell your doctor all medications you
are taking. During pregnancy, Symbicort should be used only when prescribed.
Budesonide passes into breast milk. It is unknown if formoterol passes into
breast milk. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.
Salbutamol 100ug – two puffs as required
Medical Editor: John P.
Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Last reviewed on RxList
Ventolin HFA (albuterol
sulfate inhalation aerosol) is a bronchodilator used to treat or prevent
bronchospasm in people with reversible obstructive airway disease. Ventolin HFA
is also used to prevent exercise-induced bronchospasm. Ventolin HFA is
available in generic form. Common side effects of Ventolin HFA include:
dryness or irritation,
Seek medical help immediately
if you have rare but serious side effects of Ventolin HFA, including:
The dose of Ventolin HFA for
adults and children for treatment of acute episodes of bronchospasm or
prevention of symptoms associated with bronchospasm is 2 inhalations repeated
every 4 to 6 hours. More frequent administration or a larger number of
inhalations is not recommended. For exercise-induced bronchospasm, the dose is
2 inhalations 15 to 30 minutes before exercise. Ventolin HFA may adversely
interact with diuretics (water pills), digoxin, beta-blockers, antidepressants,
MAO inhibitors, or other bronchodilators. Tell your doctor all medications you
are taking. During pregnancy, Ventolin HFA should be used only when clearly
needed. Discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor. It is unknown if this
medication passes into breast milk. Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.
Other Medications Prescribed or recommended
Tecta 40 MG
Medical Editor: John P.
Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Last reviewed on RxList
Protonix Delayed-Release Oral
Suspension and Delayed-Release Tablets (pantoprazole sodium) is a proton pump
inhibitor (PPI) used for short-term treatment (less than 10 days) of
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and a history of erosive esophagitis in
Common side effects of
site reactions (redness, pain, swelling),
or stomach pain,
The recommended adult dose of
Protonix is 40 mg once daily. Protonix may interact with atazanavir,
nelfinavir, ampicillin, blood thinners, digoxin, diuretics (water pills),
ketoconazole, iron, or methotrexate. Tell your doctor all medications and
supplements you use. Protonix is not expected to be harmful to a fetus. Tell
your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment
with Protonix. Protonix passes into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby.
Consult your doctor before breastfeeding.
APO-atorvastatin 40 mg
Medical Editor: John P.
Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Last reviewed on RxList
Lipitor (atorvastatin) is a
statin used for the treatment of elevated total cholesterol, LDL,
triglycerides, and to elevate HDL cholesterol. Side effects of Lipitor include:
Contact your doctor if you
experience serious side effects of Lipitor including:
wasting and muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis),
or memory problems,
thirst or hunger,
of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
The recommended dose of
Lipitor is 10-80 mg daily. Erythromycin (E-Mycin), ketoconazole (Nizoral),
itraconazole (Sporanox), cyclosporine (Sandimmune), indinavir (Crixivan) and
ritonavir (Norvir) decrease elimination of Lipitor. Lipitor increases the
effect of warfarin (Coumadin) and cholestyramine (Questran) decreases the
absorption of Lipitor. Lipitor should not be taken during pregnancy because the
developing fetus requires cholesterol for development, and Lipitor reduces the
production of cholesterol. Lipitor passes into breast milk and could harm a
nursing baby. Breastfeeding while taking Lipitor is not recommended.
Ramapril 10 MG
Ramipril side effects
Ramipril oral capsule doesn’t
cause drowsiness. However, it can cause other side effects.
More common side effects
If these effects are mild,
they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe
or don’t go away, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. The more common side
effects that occur with ramipril include:
or faintness due to low blood pressure
Call your doctor right away if
you have any of these serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel
life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious
side effects and their symptoms can include the following:
pressure. This is more common when you’re starting the drug or increasing
doses. Symptoms include:
or hypersensitivity reaction (angioedema). Symptoms include:
of your face, lips, tongue, or throat
pain with or without nausea and vomiting
problems (jaundice). Symptoms include:
of your skin or the whites of your eyes
(edema). Symptoms include:
of your feet, legs, or hands
blood cell count. Symptoms include:
spot on your skin caused by internal bleeding (purpura)
abnormal heart rate or palpitations. Symptoms include:
like your heart is fluttering
potassium levels. Symptoms include:
(irregular heart rate)
kidney function. Symptoms include:
urine output when urinating
Disclaimer: Our goal is to
provide you with the most relevant and current information. However, because
drugs affect each person differently, we cannot guarantee that this information
includes all possible side effects. This information is not a substitute for
medical advice. Always discuss possible side effects with a healthcare provider
who knows your medical history.
Senior dosage (ages 65 years
As you age, your kidneys may
not work as well as they used to. This can cause your body to process drugs
more slowly. As a result, more of this drug may stay in your body for a longer
time. This increases your risk of side effects. Your doctor may start you on a
lowered dose or a different schedule. This can help keep levels of this drug
from building up too much in your body.
Kidney problems: 1.25 mg once
per day. Your doctor may increase your dose to 5 mg taken once per day if
needed for blood pressure control.
Renal artery stenosis or
dehydration: The starting dose is 1.25 mg taken by mouth once per day. Your
doctor may change your dose as needed.
Dosage to reduce the risk of
heart attack, stroke, or death
Adult dosage (ages 18–64
2.5 mg taken by mouth once
per day for 1 week. Then 5 mg taken once per day for 3 weeks. Your doctor will
increase your dose as tolerated to 10 mg taken once per day.
This a revision to some of the issues I have addressed in my last several posts.
Marriage isn’t simple, and it sure isn’t heaven or hell.
COPD – it turns out that I don’t have it after all. What I do have is a great unknown, but whatever it is seems to be better than COPD, because it is treatable and can be controlled, unlike COPD.
I have prematurely given up Hope for a better life. Just because everything went to hell in a handbasket doesn’t mean that I have to accept my fate as given. I can still change everything.
Katherine and I are still living together, maybe not so much as husband and wife, but still struggling to find a way to cohabitate without driving each other crazy. Our issues have been enumerated and clarified, but not resolved or resolvable. Where do we go from here. I don’t know.
It turns out that I don’t have COPD. What I know is that I still struggle to breathe, which my respirologists says is a result of bronchial inflammation and asthma. She seems to believe that increasing my inhaler should reduce the impact of both, and improve my breathing. My recent experience of declining vigor and serious lung impairment needs to be put into a different context, one that has the possibility of significant improvement through new decisions and activities.
New hope is an odd thing. I hadn’t realized how deeply I had been affected by all the stuff in my life over the past five years. What is true also, is that I have been willing all along to believe that my life was more or less over, and old age was merely a bad post script to that.
I know it is time to turn over a new leaf and figure out just exactly I want for the next period of my life. I don’t have to accept decrepitude even if I do have to accept that advancing age and declining health options are real. I can fight this. Set some goals, Commit to specific changes.
Things I already know but haven’t been doing lately.
I should have learned to stay away from women outside of my marriages. It’s not that I run around on my wife, but rather that while I am not sexually faithful to only one person she and I agreed to live together as husband and wife, with a specific agreement to provide her with some comfort that I would be sensitive to her feelings and not cause her to be confronted with my relationships. We agreed that I would be discrete, stay away from anyone in our circle of friends, and not inflict disease or another child with a lover on our marriage. I was also to keep the details of my “affairs” to myself. She didn’t want to hear about them.
It might sound unusual, and maybe it is, but it was a natural outcome of our situation, and how we became a couple in the first place. She had been one of my lovers during my first marriage, who had become pregnant with our son. The pregnancy had led to an ongoing relationship as friends and parents, as well as sometime lovers, which meant that when my previous marriage ended, we were still involved with each other even if mostly as the parents of a small child.
During my first marriage, my former wife and I had an explicitly open marriage. It’s not very good training to being a successful husband.
I don’t know for sure, but I think that a lot of marriages become virtually sexless after a long period of time together. Whether that’s true or not it may or may not reflect an underlying problem in the relationship. My marriage has been sexless for more than a decade and was pretty much very low sex from almost the beginning. My marriage is not typical, I’m sure, but the reasons for not having sex with your partner can be highly unique to the two of you.
The only real problem is not the lack of sex, it’s more likely the lack of real communication and trust between you, on this subject, if not on any other number of subjects, including this one.
My partner and I still live together in the same home, but the marriage (as a sexual relationship, that is) is largely over, although we live together. We have five kids between us and more than 40 years of being involved with each other.
My previous marriage was already in trouble when I met and became involved with my wife. In the beginning, things were okay with us, and after my first marriage broke up we moved in together and ended up married after another child was born.
We both came into the marriage with unrealistic expectations. After explicitly agreeing to an “open” arrangement with me, she actually thought that I would change completely and become a different person and not have intimate relationships outside of our marriage. I thought that she would be as good as her word, and be willing to be open as long as I didn’t cause her to be embarrassed, or bring home any diseases.
We were both living a fantasy, with serious long-term consequences. I went along my merry way, living pretty much as I did during my previous “open” marriage, and she went on living in a belief that I had changed my behavior, despite our agreements to the contrary. Part of the deal we made at the beginning when we got married, was that would keep my external relationships to myself, and not expose her to the embarrassment of having to deal with them on an ongoing basis.
Well, that didn’t work out so well. She ended up feeling completely betrayed sexually and emotionally, which she more or less kept to herself for more than 30 years. She also withdrew emotionally more and more over the years, until it got to the point where sex would have been totally pointless since we no longer even shared emotional intimacy.
She, on the other hand, assumed that I was lying all along. In other words not telling her that I was faithful, when in fact I was not. I assumed that she was well aware of my other friends when she actually hoped that they didn’t exist, but she was always angry that they probably did.
She, however, wouldn’t now feel as though she has been living a lie for all this time, and so angry that it’s impossible for her to get over it.
The weird thing is that I really can’t imagine my life without her in it, and don’t want to. But it’s far too late in my life to change who and what I am, or what I have always believed. Same is true for her. What can we do?
It has occurred to me many times that it would have been a lot better off if I were not me. Or at least, made a life with someone who shared my desire for multiple partners rather than someone who really feels that I ruined her life.
My family moved quite a bit before I was born, and up until I was in grade nine. As evidence, I have to tell you that I was born in Calgary, in 1953, the fourth born of six kids. The first was born in 1947 or 48, in Langley, BC, where my mom was teaching school in her first teaching job. Unfortunately, he died early, at about one year old, from some infectious disease that pretty much drove my parents away from BC, back to Saskatchewan, where my mom had originated.
When you’re really young, newly married, and really bad stuff happens, I guess going back home to be near family is pretty normal. Mom and Dad both got work in Saskatchewan, and so my two eldest living siblings were born there – in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, where Judith was born in 1951 and Elaine in 1950. By the time I was born my parents had moved to Calgary, closer to my father’s family and relatives.
In 1953 Dad was working as a salesman for an Oil Company Supplier, on the road five days a week, more or less. My very earliest memories are of sitting on my father’s shoulders watching the Calgary Stampede parade, with my sisters sitting on the roadside curb. What sticks out in my mind today about those memories is that I was pretty excited to see the parade and that my dad got me a cowboy hat. That’s pretty much it for my memories of Calgary, even though we stuck around long enough for my youngest sister, Katherine, to come along in 1956. In the year follower her birth, my dad got a job in Powell River, at the Powell River Paper Plant and Mill. My younger brother Douglas was born in Powell River in 1957.
My mom started teaching again in Powell River, temporarily as a substitute and part-time teacher. In order for her to get full-time work, she needed to move to a larger school district, Vancouver, BC where she then worked for most of the next 30 years as a secondary school teacher. She had a temporary position at UBC as an Associate Professor during the late 1960’s while she obtained her Master’s Degree in Arts, in Sociology. In 1971 she turned full time to the Vancouver School Board, just before I entered UBC myself as an undergraduate student.
So in about 1958, with a new baby in tow, we moved to Richmond, BC. Mom had her new job as a teacher with the Vancouver School Board, and Dad moved to a new job in sales with a company called Plant Maintenance Equipment, located in Kitsilano in Vancouver, BC as well.
Although I don’t really have too many memories of Powell River, where Douglas was born, I do vaguely remember taking swimming lessons at the beach and earning a Certificate for completing the course. It was the summer I turned five, and my mom was kept pretty busy chasing after five small children and living in a tiny cottage. I still remember vividly the old Rambler Stationwagon my dad drove the year we moved and sitting around in the living room waiting for my parents to return from Vancouver, where they had gone looking for a new house.
We were all so excited to move to our new home. When I first saw it, I was astonished that we would be living in a brand new house with a private yard. It seemed wonderful, and it even had its own private ditch in front of the house.
Across the street was still in the process of being developed, and there was mostly vacant land between Francis Road and the Vancouver International Airport that we could see out our front winder, even though it was miles away. The most impressive thing, however, for me, was a giant pile of dirt in the lot directly across the street. It’s hard to imagine now that we all got so excited moving again, but clearly, we were pretty good at it by then, and we all looked forward to the new rather backward at the past.
As a family we would only move once more, and that was to a home in North Vancouver, where I stayed until leaving to attend UBC, and my parents stayed until my Dad passed away, and Mom moved on to an apartment, leaving the old house to my wife and me, with our raft of kids.
My wife of thirty-four years and I are on the verge of divorce. In hindsight, it was always pretty inevitable since we always wanted completely different things from life, and what we wanted depended on our partner being someone completely different than who they are, especially in term of the fundamentals of marriage itself.
It took a very special kind of blindness to last this long, a willingness to overlook a fundamental flaw by pretending that it wasn’t there, but a flaw so deep that once exposed it can never be overlooked again, covered over, repaired or forgiven.
This huge rift between us goes right back to our earliest days, the days when I was married to someone else and she became the mother of my son, born as a result of a brief but torrid relationship which had resulted in his birth, less than 10 months after we first met.
Nobody would have have thought that such a start propitious. Having a child out of wedlock wasn’t something that either of us had imagined when we engaged in the obviously dangerous tryst. But for me it turned out to be less of a moral challenge than it is to her, to this day. She has never forgiven us for committing seriously immoral conduct, or herself, for that matter, for having slept with a married man.
It makes no difference to her that I was upfront from the beginning. There was no hidden marriage, or implied statements to the effect that I was single, or almost single. When she and I met, I had no intention of splitting up with my first wife, nor she with me.
We had an open marriage by mutual choice, arrived at by long discourse and mutual interest in exploring beyond the boundaries of marriage. My former wife was well aware that I had a number of outside female companions, several of whom we even shared. The fact is that we did split up within five years, but our open marriage was not the primary source of our going our separate ways. There were other, far more serious fault lines between us, not the least of which is that we both carried within us the net effects of physical, sexual and psychological abuse as children, most of which we skillfully concealed from each other, but which were the real cause of our breakup.
Our lovers had nothing to do with it. Well, maybe they did, and maybe my current wife had something to do with it. Having a baby with another woman put unbelievable pressure on my first marriage, even though I had concealed the existence of the child from my ex. Maybe this supposedly idyllic and idealistic “open” marriage had more than a little wrong with it. If everything was so open and above board I would not have hidden such an important thing as having fathered a child with another woman from my ex wife.
We’d actually discussed what we would do if this happened, although we’d both committed to using protection. We’d mutually agreed that we’d handle it together, and make room in our lives for any such child, and the mother as well. We’d extend our marriage to include them, for the sake of the child as much as for our own sake, as well.
The truth is that we had both failed to disclose important things from each other along the way, and the baby was simply the last and most significant of those lies between us.
So when my wife and I moved in together, after my ex-wife and I split up, there was a lot of things we should have discussed before getting pregnant with our second child together. By the time it came around to deciding to get married it was already too late to work out how we were to deal with our mutual expectations of marriage, and what it means exactly to get married.
There’s no place like home?
Instead we got married with a simple agreement that since it was unlikely that I would ever be sexually monogamous we would leave the “faithful” out of the marriage vows, but leave in the marriage vows, promises to stay the course, be loyal to each other’s best interests, to look out for the other person’s growth and do anything we could do to be the best partner possible, but not including fidelity.
She believes that I took advantage of her naivete, or alternatively, she really didn’t understand what it mean to live with an unrepentant polygamous man, within vows that didn’t even suggest sexual fidelity or exclusivity.
She says that she didn’t really believe me when I said that I was always likely to have friends and lovers outside of marriage, but that I wouldn’t let those relationships interfere with my relationship with her, or with my responsibilities to my kids.
In hindsight, I should never have moved in with her after the end of my first marriage, and most certainly shouldn’t have fathered two more children with her.
If she exercised willful blindness about my nature, and my apparent incapacity to live within a conventional marriage, then I also was willfully blind. I never really understood her feelings on the subject, which she never articulated in so many words, but has demonstrated without a doubt at times over the last thirty four years.
She didn’t ask, mostly, and I didn’t say. On the few occasions when she did ask about outside activities or relationships, I repeated what we had agreed to at the beginning of our marriage. We had agreed that we wouldn’t talk about it, I’d keep it away from my home, and I wouldn’t ever be intimate with a friend or close acquaintance of hers. She said that she didn’t really want to know, and I took her at her word.
I knew that our agreement was tenuous, at best, because over the years I came to understand that the only way she could deal with it was to pretend that it did’t exist, as if I really didn’t have any outside relationships, nor would I want to have any. She told herself that my refusal to promise to be faithful, or to discuss any variation on the original stance, was a cover-up, but not for my being unfaithful, but as a face saving device so that I wouldn’t have to acknowledge that I was a changed man.
She knew that my self-image always contained my sense of being independent and free to engage with anyone as a free human being. She knew that I believed that I could be faithful my promises to her, without having to accept a value system in which I simply don’t believe.
There were moments over the years when this fault line caused difficulties in our relationship, when she was sure that I was involved with someone. But since we had no dialogue about it that actually illuminated anything, she stuffed her feelings down and held back from expressing her sense of shame and outrage at my values and my inherent sensuality.
One result was the effective end of our intimate sexual relationship more than a decade ago. Although it was never raised by either of us, my unwillingness to commit to sexual fidelity seemingly made it impossible for her to fully participate in sexual congress. She submitted to sex rather than made love, a fact that made it less and less attractive to me over the years, and also made it less and less possible, due to my declining sexual performance generally.
Finally, a year or so ago, it all came out into the light. Somewhere along the way I had been exposed to a STD, discovered in a routine battery of blood work, which required me to inform any sexual partners so that they could be tested to protect themselves.
The first person I told was my wife, who went immediately into a slow burn which quickly turned into an inferno.
She said that she wanted a divorce. And sooner rather than later. Some days I think that she’s changed her mind because we get along so well, and do so many activities together. And generally we do get along really well, and cooperate in our lives together. But when I start to think that things maybe will heal over, it explodes out all over again.
From her perspective the only reason we’re not separated right now is that my health and economic situation is so bad that I wouldn’t be able to function on my own. Up until now it has been true, and without something changing it might be true for years.
My income is from CPP and OAP, for a total of $1380 a month, which when combined with her income, allows us to live a reasonable life. On my own it would be pretty much impossible, and the situation wouldn’t be much better on her own either.
But things aren’t actually getting better between us, and whatever store of goodwill and affection sustained us for so many years, despite the underlying fault line, is getting pretty thin.
I remember saying a long time ago to a friend that “when one person in a relationship has contempt for the other, the marriage is over, completely over, and no amount of effort can bring back the respect and trust once it is gone.” This has never been so true, and when I hear the scorn and disrespect in my wife’s voice, I’m scorned right to the core.
I know. I should have known better. Even then, I should have done better. Although, for the life of me, I have no idea how I could have done better, except by changing myself and my values fundamentally to suit her. Or alternative, persuaded her to adopt my views on life.
However, it is now far too late, and in her heart she really can’t forgive me for “sleeping around” on her for all those years. Even if I were to change and be willing to promise to change now, it would not make any difference to her.
She is convinced that I have betrayed her and that I continue to betray her, not for my acts of betrayal, but because I am unrepentant and refuse to apologize for being exactly who I have always said I am, and done exactly as I always said I would.
It is irrelevant to her feelings today that she knew exactly who I was, and what I believed from the first night we met. I am who I am, and to her, that’s disgusting.