I'm sorry to hear you are struggling. Glad to hear you are arranging counseling though. That's a good step.
Now that sex has been taken off the table, we have been unable to find other ways for him to feel like we are still connected and in a good place. He constantly feels rejected and as though "He doesnt belong in my life"...
So what are you suggestions to meet connection needs in the marriage?
What are his connection to meet connection needs in the marriage?
Could he articulate the connections needs with need type words?
He is very much a Gift person with strong leanings for Physical Touch as well. I am aware that not giving him this right now is hard for him. I am also having a problem with the amount of touch he wants.
If he was not respecting limits, it's good you put the firmer rules down. Just because he's a spouse doesn't mean he gets to paw you over willy nilly without obtaining consent. That's fresh!
If he needs more touch in his life -- do you have pets? A dog? Anything like that? Could that be something to think about? Fostering animals if you don't want a permanent pet?
What about appropriate hug attention for the children or the elders in your lives? Hugs for both kids and seniors is not the same as a lover, but it doesn't hurt. Seniors esp as they age lose partners and family and friends and don't get a lot of touch any more or need extra help moving around, getting things from up high, etc.
Maybe he wants to volunteer in places like animal shelters or senior centers. Give him a sense of value/purpose outside of "Willow's partner" as well as engage "touch" in the work.
At the very least -- think about going for a walk more often. Exercise is an underused antidepressant.
Since he wants to date and find a GF - what's that solve for him? Does he say? What's the main objection there for you? (I could guess... but I kinda want to hear your POVs. Maybe that would give clues to alternatives?)
Sex releases a lot of feel good hormones -- and if he's in the habit of sex as a pacifier -- could he be doing the suffering withdrawal thing? If he's never learned to self -soothe that's another layer here?
In case you haven't read them and if they might help:
Have you considered some of this is stages of grief?
He's feeling real loss and mourning for what used to be between you -- the monogamous marriage? Maybe he'd be ok in the end, but he's just has to do his mourning time first and needs mourning support / help realizing this IS a mourning time and NOT the end of the world or the marriage?
Is he doing self-respecting behaviors or self-disrespecting behaviors? Could he do MORE self-respecting behavior to help improve his self-esteem? What are his thinking patterns like? Is he his own bully in there? That could be things to bring up in counseling.
We have an appointment with a counselor next week to begin therapy, which we probably should have done months ago. We will do what we can to try and save our marriage. I am hoping she will have some new tricks for us.
"Save our marriage" is not a mission or a goal. It is a possible outcome. The way you write it makes it sound like a shared want. I will assume it is a shared want -- so then things aren't hopeless here. You sound more stuck on the HOW to go from point A to point B and first defining better what point B IS.
"we would really like to keep our family intact if we can." That doesn't define WHAT shapes "intact family" could be that are acceptable. Or HOW to achieve them. Could better refine that.
"He says he wants to embrace it" Ok -- so it is not a lack of willing but a lack of tools/support then? Again the HOW of it? Oercoming obstacles in the way of it? WHAT are the obstacles? How can they be removed? That could figure in your strategy somewhere.
Could keep talking and figure it all out -- ID all the little pieces first. JUST ID.
Could then organize thoughts and pieces with the counselor to figure out what exactly you both are dealing with here, what the overall mission is going to be, then set up the goals, then set up the behaviors to support the goals to be doing/not doing. Which in turn move your closer to meeting the mission.
You don't need *a* plan. You need a collection
of plans to fix all the little broken bits and address all the needs in an organized way. A strategy.
Then it is broken down to behavior done/not done for his "to do" list and yours. Things you can actually execute. With some check points in there with the counselor to see how both are holding up their ends of the deal. If plans need adjustments and tweak along the way or what.
Then when the final checkpoint comes you can assess if the state of the marriage is improved or not. "Saved" or not. Or close enough so where both parties want to keep investing in it a bit more.
You guys can do this if both are willing. Better if both are willing and ABLE already, but at the very least both are WILLING to try. If not both ABLE at this point, then part of the strategy will have to include a plan for getting the skills to BECOME able.
"ABLE" can be solved. "Willingness" is either a "yes" or "no." So... could determine the willingness of both partners at counseling.
Just loose thoughts in case they help any.
Hang in there.