The first time I made out with my husband we had been dating about 3 weeks. I remember the first night we got naked together. His clothes came off and he was on top of me and I thought to myself, "Oh no, this is not going to work." I was not attracted to his body; I was used to being with hot, young guys with muscular, sculpted bodies. I was like a guy in that way: I needed a hot body. We ended up having sex and it was just "meh." I was disappointed--everything else about this man was just so wonderful. He was handsome, sweet, mature, confident, fun and he seemed to worship me. It was the first real thing I had felt in a long time. I just wished the sexual chemistry was more potent. But I told myself not to despair, and that sex can always be improved with practice and discussion. The next few weeks went by and the sex got a little more exciting. We were definitely lustful for each other and it was fun to be with him, but the mechanics were sorely lacking. I didn't like the order he did things, I didn't like his lack of attention to certain areas, and I didn't love his motion in the ocean. But I was determined not to worry since everything else with us was so great. We were falling in love.
From the outset it was clear to me that our physical bodies were just not in sync sexually. But then a few months later I started to notice differences in our libidos, too. We would come home drunk from a fun night out and I would want to start making out before we'd even made it through the door. He was easily embarrassed and would push me away in public and then when we got home he would want to order late night pizza rather than eating me, so to speak. It was extremely frustrating. Similarly, on weekend mornings when I would want to reach over and touch him first thing, he couldn't help but reach for his Blackberry instead. These were huge red flags, and though I knew it was a big deal, I ignored them. I had a great guy who wanted to marry me, I hadn't really had that before. And then, when he proposed to me shortly thereafter, I said yes. How could I say no? I knew we had sex issues or work on, but I thought that if I didn't accept his proposal, I would lose him forever. So I just figured we could work on the sex while we were engaged.
During our engagement I decided to be proactive. One night during sex I stopped and asked him if he would change positions. I started to give some instructions on how I would like things to go down--this did not go well. Offended, he stopped and rolled over. He lost his desire to continue. I knew he was sensitive but, my god, was he so sensitive that I couldn't even talk about sex? My previous boyfriend loved any sort of commentary or instruction. It felt so normal and natural to me to be able to talk about what I wanted sexually. But now I was learning that I couldn't, and I was devastated. I rolled over away from him and cried silently, wondering what I had gotten myself into. I knew in that moment that I was making a huge mistake and not being true to what was important to me. Yet the next day I moved on and continued with the rest of my otherwise lovely engaged life.
As time wore on, the fact that we were sexually incompatible made itself more clear. We were having less and less of our horrible sex. We were newly engaged and only together for a year, we should have been doing it all the time. Instead, we making love twice a month. It was a BIG problem and I knew it.
And then we got married. It was a perfect day and he was amazing and romantic. That night in our hotel suite we had the best sex and the most physically connected night of our lives together to date. He was amazing, the sex felt amazing, we did it multiple times. It was all unprecedented. I was thrilled--it meant that we were capable of having great sex! Our honeymoon was pretty great, too. The sex wasn't as earth-shattering as out wedding night, but it was very frequent so that made me happy. My happiness was short-lived because after our wedding and honeymoon we went back to subpar, infrequent sex.
Here we are many years later. I am sad to admit that my husband and I have had sex less than 10 times a year, every year since our wedding. I am angry, embarrassed and sad and I largely blame myself for putting up with it. Yet life distracts me. My children distract me. Over the years pregnancy distracted me. But I can't help but know that I went from a life of having sex 300 times a year to 10, if I am lucky.
My husband and I have discussed this at great length. I always bring it up, and he knows it is a problem. He blames his low libido on our other issues. He does not feel understood or appreciated, so in turn that does not make him feel sexual towards me. I have grown to understand his position but I still maintain that a man's sexual desire should be strong enough to overcome trivial things like stress and bickering.
When I was looking for marriage counselors I came across an article about sexual incompatibility in couples. It said that if a couple has sex less than 10 times a year, then they are in a "sexless marriage." It felt like another nail in the coffin of my marriage.
I feel angry and rejected, and every night I wait for him to make a move to further prove my point that he won't. It's a horrible cycle. Yet I still have faith. Despite everything, I believe in the rare moments when we are totally happy and enjoying each other without the daily stress of work and life, we want to touch each other and be intimate. And I remember our wedding night and how good the sex was and so I know it is possible. But it does feel so far away. And taking the steps to fix our problem isn't happening. Talking about sex and my dissatisfaction with our sex life is not easy. My husband shuts down, cuts the conversation short, changes the subject, so it's never a productive conversation. I often feel like I have given up and it's not even worth trying. Now I watch gorgeous men on TV and fantasize. I have my little electronic friend who satisfies me weekly. Every time I have an electronically induced orgasm I tell myself I need to find a new lover. I can't go through my life not having sex. And I need good hot, touch-me-all-over sex. I crave it, it is part of who I am. I have buried this over the last seven years and I don't know how much longer I can fight it. I am not ready to go out there and cheat, but I think about it all the time.
If my husband and I ever do break up one day, it will be due to our sexual differences. I think one day I will hit rock bottom and simply tell him that I need to have sex with other people.
I don't want to have that conversation. We have had loving and enjoyable physical experiences, and I want to get back there. My husband is an amazing father and provider, a real family man, and we share a lot of interests. But I am so angry and resentful that my husband doesn't touch me more and doesn't want to spend more time making love. My commitment in 2014 is to let that anger go. Start fresh and be kind, loving and open. I want to try to be the more sentive and nurturing partner that he needs and see if that gives him the comfort level he needs to open up sexually and be more physically intimate. I am going to give it a try.
Reprinted with permission from Elizabeth Street. Want more?