Is sex vital in a marriage? Do I need a new perspective, a new conscience, counseling, or a divorce? (NSFW)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (42 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
The husband and I have been together @15 years, married most of that time, generally with great harmony, shared opinions, few disagreements. But now it seems like I believe we are in crisis, and he thinks everything is fine, or will be as our kids get older. (We have two great preschool kids, both of us are 40ish.)
For me, the crisis is about sex, love, and communication, sex being first in line. Bear with me for one paragraph of history to set this up.
I don't remember our physical relationship ever being hot, but we were a strong and loving couple, and it was good enough for us. I never thought of sex as a deficit point, or if so, one that mattered much. But in recent years, as the kids crashed our lives and we got overwhelmed working full time, sex flat out fell off the radar. So did a lot of the day to day touching and intimacy. In recent memory, sex is now once or maybe twice a month, with many months skipped.
I checked in with my husband on this recently. He would agree that current levels aren't ideal, but he remembers our having a very active and satisfactory sex life, and is sure we'll get back there eventually. Frankly, I don't remember it ever being very active and wonder if he's got some nice nostalgia going. Also, I appear to be the only one really dissatisfied with the current situation, and trying to change the pattern.
Even if we agree we're infrequent, I am the only sexual initiator, period. But I can't keep this momentum going by myself, in part because when the sex does happen, it's draining and unrewarding.
We have gotten through our two most recent sexual encounters with me almost totally untouched. There's little to no kissing (it's like trying to kiss a wall). He doesn't reach out to touch me. I get him ready with oral or hand, and I may be untouched by the time I get into one of the two routine positions he prefers. (Any others are by request, and there's a sense I'm pushing things.) I generally bring him to orgasm, while I am anywhere from mildly satisfied to just considering that it's good exercise. I've tried talking during the act, but was told kindly enough that it does nothing at all for him. I don't feel wanted, I don't feel much pleasure; if anything, it feels like maintenance, and it's rough on the ego.
In two recent sessions, afterward, I asked a pointed question. After one, I asked if he was mad at me. I was floored at the answer: No, of course not, did he miss something, everything is fine! After another, I asked why he would not kiss me; he said we're just out of practice because we haven't done any kissing recently. I still don't understand that answer.
I don't think this is anger or punishment or dominance. After all, I ASK beforehand if he wants this, he shows up. I even got a smile and a hug before the last round, where I felt like the ask was welcome and appreciated. But the experience was so passive on his part and awful for me.
So, ready the judgment. I have gone along with this for I don't know how long (really, I don't) without much thought or fuss. I'm busy, I'm tired, I didn't have strong desire, what's the big deal? Well, now I do. I am aware this is not right, that it's broken. I know this because I'm having an affair.
A friend kissed me, and being kissed with desire, being wanted, was overwhelming. It made me realize what I was missing out on, potentially for a lifetime. That I was worthy of desire, that I was capable of it. I'm supposed to turn that away? I told myself that if I could keep my behavior contained, and I was still attentive to family, so that my transgression just made me a happier person, then I could live with it and so could they. That this could be like my having a sexual therapist. I could learn, and then bring what I learned to benefit my husband.
It's been too effective, if anything. I'm awake to my body in a way I haven't felt in a decade or more. I know what it's like to have an active partner in bed, one who tells me and shows me that I am wanted, who plays and experiments and tries to find what will work for me and us. It's night and day. It's stabilizing and loving. We've talked about how neither of us wants to destabilize our primary relationships. I would laugh out loud with disbelief if you told me a year ago I would type this: my lover wants me to understand that my feeling desire is healthy, and to help me bring that back home in a way that could improve my relationship with my husband.
I would like to feel intimacy again with my husband, to enjoy him and know that I am pleasing him. I do not expect to match the intensity I've discovered elsewhere, that's unrealistic. But I want something more and different than the clinical, intimacy-free, satisfaction-free, blue-moon dynamic that we have now.
I do not want to hurt or divorce my husband, or hurt my children, or disgrace my extended family. Also, my husband and I are really very effective life partners. I do not know if I love him or not at this point; it's hard to think clearly on it. We still tell each other that we do. I trust him. I can see a long life spent with him, retirement and old age and end of life with him. We are friends and financial and intellectual equals, with no dominance issues or other big red flags.
I have three ideas for next actions. One, bringing pron into the marriage. I've asked my husband about it, offered to source it, said I'd do it unless he objects. He's mildly skeptical of the value but won't stop me, I'd say. Two, it seems like a no-brainer to get us into counseling, but keep reading why that will be really awkward; in a nutshell, I'd have to convince him things are broken. Three, maybe discussing nonmonogamy.
Here's what really spins me, and is material for the counseling and nonmonogamy: based on our most recent relationship discussion, my husband says he thinks we are fine. A-OK. He's happy. Really, things are good from his perspective. So, clearly we have some communication gaps that may need to be closed here. I suppose he's not thinking of things like WHY he's being asked after our rare encounters if he was mad, or why we don't kiss.
It's Schroedinger's relationship. It's fine. It's dead. It's both. Theoretically I could just keep on keeping on and get through clinical encounters once or twice a month. But I would like things to be better between my husband and me. I want to express and meet my needs more openly and honestly. This is a lot of dishonesty and cognitive dissonance.
Trying to anticipate your questions: there is no abuse in the relationship, or in my husband's history or mine. There was a painful divorce in his parental history and I think he would avoid it himself if at all possible. ...I am in good shape and he is mildly overweight; he's aware of it but I don't think neurotic. We are not religious. I do not believe either of us is clinically depressed; his work is stressful, but he has said, firmly, that overall he is happy, and I don't think he's fronting or in denial.
So: do I need a new perspective? Counseling? A conscience? A slap? A lawyer? Thank you for your counsel.