I do not want to talk about this. In fact, this topic can sprout wings and leave for Mars for all I care. Unfortunately, I can’t escape the repercussions.
Looking in the mirror each night, I see an ugly woman. I see chopped off hair, bad posture, ugly glasses. I see ugly white skin covered in scars, legs crisscrossed with spiderveins. One day I realized what I’m really seeing.
I see an unloved woman. I see myself through my husband’s eyes.
Even with a little time and distance, I struggle with guilt and shame. I do blame myself—my head says the man was a first class jerk, the little guys with the hammers inside my heart keep saying something else entirely.
Heffalumps and Woozles
Sex is the elephant in the room. The biggie no one wants to discuss, the thing the beast considered my biggest failing as a wife.
How hard can it be to have sex? It’s one of the most basic life functions, right up there with eating and sleeping. What’s so hard about taking off your clothes and wiggling around until the husband is happy and satisfied?
I don’t know. He never was and nothing I did ever fixed things.
He said we didn’t have sex often enough. I wasn’t enthusiastic enough. I wasn’t sexy enough. He called me frigid and said I had issues. When I asked to go to counseling together, he refused saying he didn’t have a problem, I did. If I wanted to go fine, but he wasn’t paying for it. That left free counseling at the church where my father was a pastor, probably not the best option.
When I left, he made the rounds of our friends, speaking in private to the husbands. Later I would hear back from a couple of wives who wanted to give me a chance to explain myself. The beast said I left his bed a year before I moved out. No idea what else he said, but this seemed to be enough ‘proof’ of what a rotten wife I’d been and of his saint-like patience all those years. I didn’t bother trying to explain.
I do know what he told my own mother. Along with saying I’d cut him off, he cried and said I couldn’t stand him touching me, that I had sexual issues relating to my childhood and he’d been extraordinarily long suffering over the years considering. That a man can only take so much. So what if he was angry? What would anyone expect? He was frustrated. He’d done more than any reasonable man could be expected to do. After all, he’d been completely faithful for thirty years.
Saying I left his bed is a blatant lie. I did not leave his bed. I was way too scared to say no. But the rest is difficult to sort out. Because of that one falsehood, I cling to the notion that much of what he says isn’t true either. But I will admit, some days it’s a stretch. Because it *is* true that by the time I left, I couldn’t stand for him to touch me any longer.
Men Will Be Men
During those last ten days, my husband assured me that nobody would believe me and any man who heard his complaints would take his side. Honest to goodness, I think he may have a point. I want to believe that some man, somewhere would understand what I’m about to write without sympathizing with my husband. I don’t like thinking that all men think in lockstep when it comes to physical intimacy.
This is not nice and it certainly isn’t one bit fair. It’s prejudice. But all I can tell is the truth and the truth is this. I don’t like men much right now.
I’m going to put myself out there and talk about the Great Unmentionable. In the South we have a term I’ll employ here—delicacy. I’m going to try to be delicate so as not to offend anyone, but right up front I’m telling you plain and simple, I’m talking about sex and I’m going to use appropriate terminology. My husband told his side of the story using code words and let others draw their own conclusion. I’ll explain a few of those as we go.
Some of my thinking may be very off so fair warning–you can’t take what’s said here and turn it into gospel. These are simply my experiences, my observations, my story. Since I intend to practice celibacy for the rest of my days here upon earth, I have no idea what healing might look like. But here’s my mantra right off so you don’t miss it.
I don’t believe people have a right to engage in sexual relations. My husband believed this with every fiber of his being. For years, I agreed but I just could not make it work. Now, I believe physical intimacy is a gift from God above and the beautiful culmination of a love lived well together.
Problems in the relationship are often found in the bedroom. Lack of trust, fear, anger. If something is desperately wrong, forcing one party or the other to go at it anyway can be devastating.
Sex also provides a looking glass to examine the relationship. I believe that’s a good thing. In a normal, healthy couple, something goes off, you examine, you work things out, you make up.
This is not that story.
The only thing I know to do is tell my side. It’s a little raw and not for kiddies. I’d rate it about a PG13. There’s just some things I can’t tell without being descriptive.
In The Beginning
As soon as we got back from that awful honeymoon, the anti-husband told me there would be no more cuddling. I could not rest my hand on his leg, snuggle up next to him on the couch, rub my hands across his shoulders. As we did plenty of cuddling before the wedding, this came as a shock.
His reason? He said it wasn’t fair. He said if I wanted affection I had to pay up. All physical touching had to end in orgasm, preferably his.
In practicality, this meant I never had the opportunity to warm up to the idea. If I’d had a bad day, worked a double shift, experiencing all day morning sickness, I couldn’t hug him unless I already knew I wanted to finish the job. It also meant, I couldn’t allow him to hug *me* because he made it very clear that hugs must proceed to completion. Writing this out, it sounds crazy but I’m not even slightly exaggerating. In all the years, this policy of his didn’t change. In fact, it became the first codeword. He’d ask for affection instead of sex. Then he could complain that I refused to hug him. It was one of his favorite jabs to take in public.
Combined with this was his anger if I refused his advances. And by advances, I mean using his physical size to pin me down and get started without any preamble. He’d simply walk in, throw me on the bed (or floor, or table) and start taking off my clothes or groping private areas. The only way to say no was to push him off and the man was twice my size. He called this ‘rejection.’ So now I was not only refusing affection, I rejected him which hurt his feelings.
Refusal was met with badgering. He kept me awake for hours after I said no. Now you might think from this description we weren’t intimate but nothing could be further from the truth. We had sex daily, sometimes multiple times. A typical example–we’d already had sex, I had six hours to sleep before a major exam the next morning, get up to pee trying like crazy-nuts to be oh-so quiet so as not to wake the beast, go back to bed and… gotcha. I said I wasn’t in the mood. I was exhausted. I had to get up the next day. He got angry and whined and moaned and begged and tried every manipulative tactic until I gave in just to get some rest.
I Can’t Get No. . .
Afterwards, he was never satisfied. Either I wasn’t enthusiastic enough or I wouldn’t go along with some of his favorite ideas. Bondage seemed to be his thing (shocking, I know.) That man always wanted to tie me up naked somewhere. He told me I wasn’t attractive, especially without make-up. I needed too much of his attention to reach orgasm which was essential to his fantasy. I suppose just looking at him should bring me to a glorious climax but for some odd reason, this never happened.
Combined with his raging fits, life was becoming a waking nightmare. Then, after some teaching at our church on the scripture about a woman’s body belonging to her husband, he expected access to my body sexually even when I was asleep. He thought it was his right as my husband to be able to climb atop and get busy whenever the urge hit. So there goes the nighttime.
I will not say we made love because we didn’t. Not once, not ever. My husband was my only teacher in this area and he taught me to perform ‘jobs’ and then told me what he wanted. (I’m not typing those words out, dadgumit. Think of an explicit term that ends in ‘job’ and use your imagination a little.) Eventually, I felt like a whore doing ‘jobs’ for my room and board. I’ve never told anyone that before so count yourself special.
Then sexual intercourse started hurting. He saw this as a sign of weakness and refused to take it into consideration. He said I was lying to get out of sleeping with him. Because my pre-marriage enthusiasm had evaporated, I wondered if he was right. My body said it hurt but from what I read, from what I was told, it *shouldn’t* hurt. I began to doubt my own reality.
I found that if I complained, he got more “robust and vigorous” (please read between the lines here) which made the pain worse and which I assume was because of his anger which he took out during intimacy. For certain, he’d be mad when he finished because I’d ruined it for him. For obvious reasons, I stopped complaining but the pain did not go away. At least a year later, the doctor diagnosed me with Chlamydia which if you aren’t aware, is a sexually transmitted disease that causes physical intimacy to be painful. The doctor said something along the lines of, once this is cleared up, you’ll be able to have sex again.
When confronted, the beast denied giving me an STD. He got angry. (Big surprise). He said I probably got it on a toilet seat (because I always rub my bare genitals on naked toilet seats) and I was faking the pain anyway because it ‘couldn’t possibly hurt that bad’. Then he gave me his favorite line, “If you don’t trust me, I might as well have an affair.” By this time, I was ready to make the introductions.
He said I was frigid. I was a disappointment. This wasn’t what he expected from his own wife. I tried telling him how I felt, talked about my need for affection without demands, asked him to go to counseling with me (he refused saying I was the one with a problem), read every book I could find on the subject. I began hoping he’d have an affair just so I could get some rest.
The raging fits continued. At this point, he blew up about once a month although his simmering temper, pouting, silent treatment, door slamming built for weeks toward each eruption. During this time I was expected to do my wifely duties.
I was a virgin when we married. I had no idea what might or might not be normal. Teaching from our church wasn’t helping. We had several middle aged men teaching the young married couples. We were taught in a mixed group. For some reason, the teacher’s wives never spoke. I well remember the series on sex.
“It may be morally wrong to have an affair but there’s always two sides to every story. If you haven’t given yourself openly, enthusiastically to your husband, can you really blame him for seeking comfort in another woman’s arms? Yes, your husband may sin, but you share the blame. In God’s eyes, who’s fault is it really? Remember this verse—For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. (1 Corinthians 7:4) ”
“There’s nothing dirty or unclean about sex. The marriage bed is undefiled. Whatever, whenever. Christians should be having the best sex—the more the better!”
“Christian women are horrible prudes. Lighten up! You want to keep your husband happy? You want a happy homelife? Meet his needs. Go past your comfort zone, then go further!”
I felt like I was in hell. I learned to go through the motions without feelings of any kind. Sex is a physical act. I could act out physically and shelve those feelings somewhere for the time it took to get done. Parts of my body stopped responding to any sort of touch. I pretended they did. I deserved an Oscar.
But there were limits to my ability to disconnect and finally I told the beast, once a day and you leave me alone between times. I have to work, I have to finish my school assignments, I have to rest.
He was furious. So what else is new?
But over time, it took longer and longer to stuff those feelings inside. I could not stand by the sink getting yelled at about the dishes and strip my clothes off ten minutes later while he had angry sex to make himself feel better. After being told how unattractive my body was, how I needed to work out, to get a tan, to stop growing hair so fast on my legs, etc. I could barely stand to look at myself in the mirror. My husband was not attracted to me. He could have done better, his friends said so. I was such a disappointment.
I wanted to hurt myself. I stopped eating. My weight hit the hundred pound mark. He said I needed to tone up.
At about the three year mark, I told him, every other day. I can’t do this anymore and I refuse to do anything you’re coming up with from those dirty books you use to read. (At this point, I thought his use of pornography was past tense). I wouldn’t budge. At this point, if he left for another woman, good riddance. I’d enter a nunnery and take the blame for everything. I just didn’t care anymore.
The whining and begging grew less boisterous but he found other ways to punish. He picked at everything I did, criticizing everything from the music I liked to the shape of my thighs. I was starting to feel like every sexual act was an assault.
I tried. I really did. Nothing pleased him. If I tried something recommended in one of the self-help books, dressed in some wild outfit I’d found at a store I could barely make myself walk through, he’d always just say something along the lines of, you can do better next time or it’s a start we’ll see if this improvement continues. I do not remember one word of kindness. Not one.
Because the men in our church were the ones teaching on marriage (usually the topic of female submission) I decided to ask a few women. Yes, I told them what was going on. Some of the advice I received during this time:
From my mother: “That’s just how men are. Never refuse your husband. Men are physical creatures who experience love through sex. If you have relations with him every time he asks, he will love you. He won’t be able to help himself.”
From the woman’s Bible Study leader: “Honey? You’ve got a young, virile husband there. He is a good looking man. Take a look around—if you don’t take care of him, someone else will.”
From the associate pastor’s wife: “You come from an uptight family. You’ve got to loosen up some. Here’s some books to help you out.” Here she points to a boxed set of books on her shelf. Flipping through, I found pages and pages of naked couples, groups of three or more. I must have looked pretty shocked because she laughed at my reaction. She said the human body was a beautiful thing and there was nothing wrong with looking at God’s creation.
(As a sidenote, by this time I was pretty desperate. I did go buy these books and kept them under my bed. I would look at the pictures, think of being somewhere else, with someone else and then shove them back under the bed before my husband got there. This seemed to work for awhile until a funny thing happened. My conscience smote the crap out of me. Didn’t matter who gave me those damn books, I was getting in trouble with my Savior. I repented and burned them. I also vowed never to go asking for help again.
This is definitely a two-parter. Please be praying for me as I try to complete this.