I loved sex. Though I came to the party a little late by some standards, when I got there, I discovered it was my kind o' party.
I fully embraced my sexuality. I believed I was sexy...without relying on stiletto heels and garters.
I had a few lovers – mostly long-term boyfriends with whom I enjoyed frequent and pretty awesome sex. I tried a one-night stand and it left me feeling kinda yucky. The way you feel after you finish a bag of chips you weren't sure you wanted in the first place.
I think my attitude about sex was healthy and open-minded – there were some things that didn't appeal to me (tied to my bedpost? Not for me) but if it turned other people on and was between two consenting adults?? Go for it.
And then...I met and began dating the guy who became my husband.
At first, everything was fine. Sex was fun and fulfilling.
But slowly, things got...weird.
He didn't like my underwear – my used-to-be-white-until-they-aged cotton briefs. He wanted garters and stilettos. I felt comfy in flannels and faded jeans.
I checked out Victoria's Secret and ordered a few things that looked wildly uncomfortable. They were.
I wore them anyway.
He was only mildly impressed.
And slowly, our sex life withered away. The frequency continued...but the fulfilling part had vanished. Or rather, it was physically fulfilling...but spiritually empty.
It was – simply – sex.
I was mystified. I read books. Tried talking to him. Cried a lot.
Things got worse.
What of course I didn't know through all this was that my husband had a sex addiction. Mixed in with a few longer-term but emotionally vacant affairs were a number of "hookups". Blow jobs in a parking lot.
In the meantime, I'd discovered it was easier to put my sex drive on ice.
I became pregnant. Then pregnant again. And again. (Clearly we were having sex...but it was more like scratching an itch than making love.) My body was preoccupied with either building babies or feeding babies.
By the time the babies no longer needed my body, I had lost touch with it. I certainly didn't feel sexy. And felt incredibly UNsexy to my husband. By then we were fighting a fair bit – mostly about how little he did with the kids. How little support I felt he gave me. How frequently he was absent from the dinner table.
As fate would have it, I met someone else. I found myself intrigued. For the first time in years, I felt desired. Sexy. Interesting.
At no point did I act on this attraction, though I was pretty sure it was mutual. I introduced him, jokingly, as my soon-to-be-second husband. But behind the joke was a desperate plea for someone to notice the pain I was in.
I finally told my husband that I thought our marriage was in trouble. (Ya think??? I'm a bit slow sometimes...). I told him we needed to get counselling to figure out how to reconnect.
So we did.
Two weeks later, it hit me like a brick – hard and painfully – that my husband was having an affair.
I confronted him. He read the customary cheating-husband script. (No I'm not. Well, sorta...but it was only one night. Well, okay it was more than that but it's over. Well, okay, it's not really over, but it didn't mean anything. Well, okay maybe it went on for a few years...blah blah lying blah.)
Fast forward four years and though, in some ways, our marriage is better than it ever was (we talk! we spend time together! his chair isn't empty at the dinner table! we laugh!), our sex life has quite literally died.
It's easier, I've discovered, to simply banish all desire for sex than to wade into the murky waters of sex with a formerly (will I ever truly trust?) unfaithful spouse.
It feels...scary. Terrifying, actually.
So we're starting slowly as per instructions from our truly incredible marriage counsellor.
With full body hugs...NOT leading to sex.
To simply get used to once again having full-body contact. To feel and hear his heart beat and remind myself that he's a human being who majorly messed up. But is doing what he can to make up for it.
To reawaken in myself the awareness that physical touch isn't always a gateway to emotional pain. It can – indeed should – heal.
I'm even starting to feel sexy again. I don't have the marathon-toned body I had when my husband and I started dating. It's got the marks of motherhood and age...which can be sexy in its own right.
A friend recently referred to a 40-plus year old woman, who would NOT be confused with a supermodel, as "juicy". And I loved it. She was juicy. She exuded a confidence and a sexuality that had nothing to do with size 0 jeans and perky breasts.
So I'm talking to myself a lot lately. Telling myself I'm "juicy". Telling myself that my husband isn't a sex addict because I wear cotton briefs. Reminding myself that sex isn't about gymnastics but pleasure.
Somewhere in the pain of emotional rejection and physical infidelity I lost my mojo...but I think I'm hot on its trail.