My first sexual relationship began just before I turned seventeen and ended on my eighteenth birthday. Three weeks later, I met my next partner, and three years after that we were married. And we still are. He’s been with me my entire adult life, sharing my days and nights, my bed, and my body. Because of him, I don’t know what it is to be single. I don’t know what it is to not have regular sex.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
See, back in 2008/9, I discovered that he’d been having a yearlong affair with someone from his past. My initial reaction was to smash things and tell him to get the fuck out of my life. I hated him for betraying me and I hated her for knowing about me while I was ignorant of her existence. As far as I was concerned, they were a pair of deceitful rat bastards and they deserved each other. So, I tried to make him leave and it looked like he was going to go. But seconds before I slammed the door in his bullshitting, lying face, he did something that eventually saved our marriage.
He challenged me.
He said he couldn’t believe I would let everything go without a fight, that he’d thought I was a stronger woman than that. I was well aware that it was a last-ditch effort to avoid being kicked out on his arse, but in that final, panicked volley of words, he’d managed to throw down the only gauntlet I was ever gonna pick up. Call me a bitch, call me an arsehole, call me a cunt, it’s all fine by me. But one thing I will not let anybody call me is weak.
So he stayed. I let him stay, and the six months that followed were the most uncomfortable I’ve ever lived through.
That first night, I let him seduce me. I let him touch me, let him lead me to bed, let him fuck me. He cried while he did it, whispering how much he loved me, how sorry he was and that he’d never hurt me again. And I just lay there, totally numb, neither feeling nor caring about what he was doing. Once he was done and he’d fallen asleep, clinging to me like a grabby little koala, the feelings came.
Disgust that he’d touched me, that he’d been inside of me, that part of him still was. Disgust that his head was on my pillow, that he was breathing and crying on it. My predominant feeling was self-disgust, though, because all of that had happened and was happening because I’d let it.
That was when I decided he wouldn’t be touching me again until I explicitly invited him to do so. And I made it very clear that said invitation might never be extended. For the first time in my life, I enforced not just sexual abstinence on myself – on us – but also outlawed all types of affection that involved touch.
During conversations with friends concerned about the state of my marriage, I would often refer to myself as being celibate, largely as a joke to take the edge off the uncomfortable reality of my situation. I didn’t truly equate my touch-ban with celibacy because the word holds more weight than I felt my circumstances could hold up. I wasn’t abstaining for religious reasons, or social ones, or cultural. I was doing it to protect my heart from further damage.
I’d expected it to be easy. I didn’t think I’d miss his touch because every time I looked at him, I felt a surge of hatred so strong it scared me. But at the same time, it confused me, because underlying that hate was the rawest kind of need that I’d ever felt. It was born not just of frustration at the sudden absence of physical contact, but also anger and the desire to punish.
Of all the things I learned about myself during that period of my life, the fact that I’m capable of wanting to use sex to harm someone remains the most disturbing. I can’t say for sure that I’d be capable of using sex as a weapon, but I don’t like knowing how often the thought occurred to me.
Anyway, as I said above somewhere, this period of abstinence lasted for just over six months.
After five weeks or so he started slipping in ‘accidental’ touches here and there. I won’t claim that I didn’t want to cave and initiate sex every single time because I did. It got to the stage where something as simple as hip-bumping while doing the dishes would have me taking extra baths just so I could masturbate. It made my skin crawl a bit, especially when I knew he was outside of the bathroom listening, but I couldn’t stop myself. See, it wasn’t even about orgasm half the time, it was about touch, both external and internal.
This taught me a lot about my appetite for sex. I’d never given much thought to how high or low my sex drive was because I’d never had to. Whenever I wanted it, it was there, or at the very least he would have a hand in my DIY efforts. When he confided that he hadn’t masturbated since I put the brakes on, I learned that my need for sex has always been a lot higher than his. I also learned that orgasm was never the driving force behind it for either of us. Closeness was.
Then after probably three months, affectionate touch started to become a daily thing. We would hold hands if we went anywhere. He’d lean into me on the sofa while we watched crap on telly. At bedtime, he’d get closer and closer until we were spooning. That was something I didn’t really want because I prefer being the big spoon, but after batting him away a few times I ended up relenting and cuddling in bed became a thing again.
Strangely, in the last couple of weeks before our period of abstinence ended, I came to the conclusion that I could live quite happily without ever having sex with him again. I’d stopped missing it, stopped feeling ferociously aroused whenever he touched me. Our hands-off words on approach had certainly made the heart grow fonder, but my libido was at an all-time low. I’d almost convinced myself that he’d made the transition from lover to friend and that our relationship had run its course.
It was while I was figuring out how to tell him that we’d tried but it hadn’t worked that my sex drive came back with a vengeance. Our awkward conversation became an argument because of something I’d said, and it got ugly. Cruel words were spoken, threats were made, all of them by me. He took every bit of shit I flung at him because he felt he deserved it, and that infuriated me. I wanted him to fight, to fuck me off, to grab me and shake me so that I’d stop hacking chunks out of him with my voice. I was looking for his fire.
And I found it.
Right there on the kitchen floor in the middle of the day. It wasn’t the prettiest sex we’d ever had, that’s for sure. All of our anger, frustration, resentment, and unspoken words went into that fuck. We fought for dominance, we swore at each other, clawed at each other, yelled at each other, cried buckets of tears. It was painful, violent, and over unsurprisingly quickly, but while it lasted it was fucking glorious.
Afterwards, he commented that he’d hated me for cutting him out of a part of my life, but that he’d come to understand that it had been necessary. By not allowing sex to muddy our feelings we were able to work on the other stuff. Telling the truth, learning to trust, learning to be friends again. We were able to figure out what had been missing, where it had all gone wrong. It had been a lack of communication, our ships in the night work schedules, so necessary for our family’s upkeep but disastrous for our marriage.
And while I wasn’t able to forget (and won’t ever, I don’t think), I learned to forgive. I remembered that I loved him and why. From there, things only got better for us as a couple. In our ongoing efforts to make things better we discovered our loose brand of Ds, we explored kinks and sex toys. We explored each other in ways we hadn’t before because we’d missed each other and wanted more than we’d had before. Ten years later, that’s exactly what we’ve got.