For 30 nights he has worked, 13 hours a night, complaining all the while of the torture of climbing up and down the towers and the painful effect on his bad feet. Even though I know it has been hard on him, I admit rather guiltily that I've enjoyed the nightly pleasure of isolation, the freedom from his constant need to control.

Tonight he’s home. He quietly asks if I will go to bed with him. Although I fully know it will end in frustration for me, I acquiesce. Attempting to prolong that moment, I spend a period of time mindlessly watching TV. I finally feel exhaustion overcome my body. I realize I must move or risk dozing off in the recliner, so I get up and grope my way in the dark to the bedroom. As soon as he senses my presence he turns his back to me, as is his custom, and as has been his custom for over a decade. The only physical contact he attempts is when he throws his lower leg over my ankles.

Is this move meant to pin me down, or is it a small gesture toward making a somewhat impersonal connection?

How did we get here? At one time he eagerly awaited my return home from work. Once I got home we were constantly holding hands, hugging, reconnecting physically. This seemed to upset or confuse his daughters, so he began putting distance between us.

Somewhere along the line he became focused on pleasing himself exclusively, indulging in desires stoked by porn and multiple partners -- my body, devoid of any humanity in his eyes, a mere tool for his use. Intent on regaining some kind of emotional connection, I insisted on intimacy being between only the two of us and banned the porn.

From that moment on he refused to acknowledge any physical attraction for me.

From his own admission it seems this is not the first time he has behaved in this manner. His previous wife sought a lover when she tired of the emotional and physical distance he put between them. We met soon after, and it appears he used me, flaunting my sexuality and physical attractiveness to make some kind of point, either to himself or her.

Even though I do not invite the attention, there have been times when other men have teasingly flirted with me in front of him. He loudly tells them to go ahead, because it will save him the trouble of dealing with my needs. The truth is, he never acknowledges that I have any needs at any other time, much less make any attempts to satisfy me. Nevertheless, I’m humiliated by this response.

In the building where I work there is a man who is not only ruggedly handsome, but also intelligent and charming. He seeks me out to greet me with warm hugs and light conversation. I have dubbed him "Sir Hugs-a-Lot." His attraction to me is obvious, but his behavior continues to be professional. Next week he will move out of state, meaning this temporary “fix” for my skin hunger will vanish.

Soon I will be completely deprived of any kind of meaningful physical closeness.

So please tell me -- is it possible to have any kind of happiness in life when you feel like the human equivalent of a dirty dish rag? It appears that my fear of being untouchable has now become the new reality for my life.