Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Response

I was very moved by the response to the post Why I Cheat, not because I wanted approval of or support for my choices, but because I was struck by how many of us struggle with sexual issues at home. Having a mismatch in sexual desire between spouses is not uncommon at all, but when you're living with it, you feel alone because folks don't talk about it.

Sure, there's a common refrain from men worldwide that their wives don't give them enough sex, but accepting that that's "just the way it is" minimizes the issue and discounts the huge amount of pain that the situation causes men. And when the wife is the one with the greater sex drive, it's just as hurtful.

Recently, I had lunch with a friend whose marriage was on the rocks and her husband had moved out.  She was talking about it, asking for advice and my thoughts on the situation because she couldn't figure out why they had just become so disconnected.  She shared many personal details about their relationship, but none were sexual.  I asked her, "How's your sex life?  What's going on there?" She looked shocked that I even mentioned sex and she quickly said, "Oh, everything is fine in that area.  We have no problems there."

Bullshit.

My question is, why can't we talk about this stuff? Talking about it with a spouse (and that's the exact person with whom we should be talking) is extremely difficult. We don't want to hurt their feelings.  We're afraid we'll say something wrong and make things worse.  We have lost confidence that even possible to change things, so why bother?

I think it's so hard because it gets down to who we are as men and as women. It's about our emotional identity and our sexual identity and messing with those is just dangerous. It's Pandora's Box; you don't know what's in there but once it's open there's no putting it back in the box and there may be no controlling it.

But why wouldn't my friend discuss it? She couldn't hurt me by discussing it.  She wouldn't harm the friendship.

Why do we choose to be miserable, rather than talk about it?

There's another blogger who suggests that men tell their wives about their sexual expectations of them and that they explain that it is part of their marital responsibility and they will be expected to turn their husbands on and participate with enthusiasm. The problem with that is that you can't make people want you - at least not for long.

When we had been married several years, my husband made a similar demand.  I was working full time, I had a two year old at home, and I was going to graduate school.  And he wanted enthusiastic sex every other night regardless of how I felt emotionally or physically.

I tried.  I was successful for a while, too.  But then I started to dread "sex nights" because it became a huge source of stress and pressure, and I knew that if he didn't have sex that night he'd become sullen and quiet until he did.  And then there was the schedule.  If I missed a sex night, he expected that I make it up, which meant two or three nights in row. And it was my responsibility to initiate.

After several months, I couldn't handle it anymore, and sex had become no fun for me at all.  It was a chore, and at a time in my life when I was dealing with extreme stress in most areas of my life, it only added more.  It wasn't a loving communion between partners anymore. It was an oppressive control mechanism.

I finally broke down in tears one day and told him I couldn't handle it anymore.What shocked me was that he had no idea how unhappy I was.  Why?  Because I wasn't talking to him about how I was feeling and I was "performing" well in bed.

What he was really trying to tell me months before is that sex was very important to him, that he became physically and emotionally uncomfortable when he went for days or weeks without it. What he gave me instead was a command to perform.

Fast forward 20 years...... The situation is now reversed. I become physically and emotionally uncomfortable without regular sex, and he feels like sex is a chore and he has to perform.  The difference is that when we were younger, he didn't notice how I felt about it until I completely lost it. Today, I notice every sigh, reluctant touch, nod of the head when he's about to doze off.  Part of me gets very angry.  Why can't he just fake it like I was forced to do years ago?  If I could pretend that I was really into it, why can't he?

But I don't want him to pretend to be happy.  I want him to be happy. I don't want him to feel the emotions I felt back then.  I love him.

So, we keep moving forward, dealing with it as best we can.  Sometimes we talk.  Sometimes we fake it.  Sometimes we really connect and have great sex.  Sometimes I feel like a lousy wife who can't inspire her husband to want her.  Sometimes he feels like a lousy husband who can't satisfy his wife.

But we always end up looking past the sex and see our best friend.

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I genuinely appreciate all the comments and the many emails written by folks who didn't want to comment but wanted to share their own stories. If I haven't responded to you yet, please be patient.

6 comments:

Same sassy girl said...

Thank goodness for bloggers like you, Kat, who will share and get the rest of us thinking and writing and talking about it!

Ben said...

Wow. What can I saw? My wife and I have been married longer than you, Kat, and this post cuts to the core of what have been, at times, some big issues .. some that even nearly led to divorce. Why? We thought we were communicating but we were not. All your points are right on target, and, as a loving husband, I now accept that my wife had these same criticisms of me when her life was more stressed. We did not talk about it. I did not recognize how serious this was for her. And she did not understand me. As they say, too soon old, to late smart.

the naked lady said...

>>>"The problem with that is that you can't make people want you."

This is the issue right there, Kat. No one talks about their sex life sucking because it means *someone* in the relationship is sucking. As you said, the general perception is that men are the ones who want the sex always, and women "hold out."

So for a woman to say that the sex isn't happening, people hear that she's not being attractive enough. What woman wants to admit that she's failing to attract her "poor" husband?!

When my husband started losing interest in me, I was actually told to "dote on him a little more." Like it was *my* fault that he stopped trying! It isn't one partner or the other; it's a complicated act that both people have a part in. I wish it was as easy as black and white.

Anonymous said...

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Excerpt from an article on low testosterone from Easy Health Options .... check it out, this could be a big part of your husband's problem.

Bob said...

You're the best Kat!

WestsideTori said...

Kat, you're making me cry....again.