Fast forward almost a year into our marriage. Life is ambling on with unrelated ups and downs until one Friday, my husband has a conversation with a friend which makes him think about All The Things:
He feels not only rejected and depressed, but embarrassed, ridiculed even, as if this is a joke I’m playing on him, or a lesson I’m teaching him for something he’s done in the past. (I don’t know any of this at the time, but immediately assume what happened based on his silence). He clams up, gets distant. I shrink with vulnerability, feel pushed away, dread divorce. The weekend isn’t ruined but each night we go to bed silent and upset.
A month later, during a women’s retreat, I finally tell someone. I tell a whole group of someones. I never bring it up myself of course but when I’m asked how often my husband and I have sex, I feel like a shower curtain has been flung open and I am standing there, exposed. It’s as if I’m admitting that I’ve been lying to them this whole time, that I acted like I was ‘normal’ but really I’m this sex-withholding wife and life is horrible and my relationship is a lie. But they just want to understand. Questions are asked, suggestions are made.
And then one catches my interest:
What if I gave myself a break and decided to not have sex for 30 days?*
Yes, it’s ironic, because obviously we’re already not having sex, but this was different. This wasn’t a ‘not having sex because I can’t.’ This was a ‘not having sex because we choose not to’, or, ‘because it’s forbidden.’
My first thought? What’s forbidden is always more tempting and this basically always turns me on. But the second thought was more of a surprise: relief. I could already feel a wave of relief coming over me: How amazing it would be to be able to enjoy my husband? To flirt with him, hold him, cuddle him, look at him, and touch him without worrying that A) sex would cross his mind and he’d expect it and then feel rejected when it didn’t happen, or that B) sex would cross his mind and he’d know it wouldn’t happen and he’d feel rejected preemptively.
So when I returned, I nervously/full of hope explained this experiment to him – we rarely never discussed the topic so openly and he remained silent as I talked. I thought he was upset – that I told someone, that random people were suggesting things for our sex life like it was an interactive game, that I’d be willing to ‘experiment’ on something so serious.
Instead, he said he was open to anything. So we discussed some rules.
For him: If the ‘issue’ gets to him at any point and he feels upset, communication lines need to remain open – he can’t clam up and get distant like he usually does, otherwise the intimacy we’ve been building goes out the window for me and I have to start from scratch.
For me: When he initiates touch, I’m not allowed to make ‘icky faces,’ especially not at his penis, which essentially pushes him away.
For us: Touch and play and flirt and cuddle without the pressure of either of us thinking/hoping/dreading that it might lead to sex.
So I will put updates on here about that 🙂
This might seem like I’m treating the situation lightly, being ironic or making it sound ‘easy’, but I’m taking this quite seriously. I don’t know that the experiment will work but the immediate relief from pressure is already worth trying it out.
I also think it’s important to say that I’m not sure I would’ve necessarily been up for it even a few months ago, and so don’t think this is something that could work for everyone.
But I’m excited. And I’m finally open to trying something and that is a big step in itself.
* It started with the Big Magic podcast. It was about a woman putting so much pressure on herself to write that she couldn’t. The suggestion? Stop writing. No writing for 30 days no matter what. At worst, it’ll give her a break. At best, she’ll go so crazy not writing and she won’t even last the 30 days.