Our hide-and-go-seek sex life

Photo via Flickr.com; some rights reserved.
Photo via Flickr.com; some rights reserved.

I wonder how many people feel as conflicted as I do about having sex with a spouse who has been unfaithful.

My husband’s multi-year emotional affair ended in mid-2012. Our sex life has been erratic since then.

He has always struggled with erectile dysfunction, but it was much, much worse in the years just before his affair. It got to the point that I didn’t even want to have sex with him. It was too painful to see his embarrassment, to feel my lack of sex appeal when he stayed soft despite my best efforts, to overcome the thundering silence afterward.

When we started sleeping together again shortly after his affair came to light, the sex was spectacular. I enjoyed it, and then felt horrible as I thought about where he’d learned new skills. (Believe me, after 18 years of marriage at that time, you know what your partner’s repertoire is.)

He still says he didn’t sleep with her. Maybe he did; maybe he didn’t. Maybe he just was able to get hard with me again once he saw how his infidelity destroyed me. I don’t think he would admit it to himself, but I think he was a little glad to know that he had that deep of an inpact on me and that he “got me back” for neglecting him. (I’m not blaming myself. I have just felt that vibe from him sometimes.)

Maybe his ED is related to his mental issues about performance (a word I hate) and being good enough. Or maybe it’s related to my weight gain or his weight gain. Maybe all of the above.

I remember sometime around 2006ish when I was getting some care from the doctor we both used. We started talking about some questions I had regarding the Levitra (ED pill) he had prescribed my husband. The doctor stopped at one point, looked at me steadily, and delivered the following statement as if he were imparting something of great importance: “You know, there has to be desire there in the first place.”

What … the … fuck …

I stammered some answer, and the doctor REPEATED himself. That time, I got angry and said, clearly, icily, “Yes, I heard you the first time.”

Did my husband tell him he didn’t want me anymore? Or did the doctor see the ED problem, looked at me and drew his own conclusions? Who the hell knows. Neither of them fessed up. But I’ll tell you this: It didn’t motivate me to change. It made me give up. Talk about having “body issues” and shame.

I should mention that both my husband and I are seriously overweight. His belly is big enough that when we spoon, none of the naughty parts touch me. I miss spooning. And I’m self-conscious of my own fat. And too depressed to do a lot about it in recent years. (That is changing now.)

So in the fall of 2014, when we were once again trying marriage counseling with a different and very nice woman, I at one point said that I didn’t have any desire for him at the moment. Zip, nada, nothing. And I resented that he took my desire from me because of his affair. He seemed shocked and hurt. The counselor reminded him to have patience. It takes time.

We stopped going to the counselor for the Christmas holiday and we never went back. I didn’t see much use, because it was just him sitting there, sputtering that he was a good guy and trying, and me weeping and saying how much it still hurt, how the joy had leached out of the marriage for me, and how horrendously he had wounded my self-esteem.

My husband doesn’t change, even though I do. The counselor was completely blind to the passive-aggressive things he does or to his underlying contempt for me at the time of his affair. She just saw a bewildered middle-aged man and a wounded, angry wife. She wanted to apply the bandaid of time to what feels like an amputation.

We limped along as a couple, occasionally having sex, having more and more neutral and even pleasant days together, but the sex dwindled. I felt like he was both my husband and a stranger to me. Our bed eventually went cold.

Then I began wanting him again. Just a little at first. Then a lot. Eventually, in July this year I said plainly to him that I was ready to get back in bed with him and that I missed the intimacy and pleasure of sex. I wanted him. I said it several times. Also in August. By September, I said, “You know what? I’m not going to ask anymore. I can take care of myself. You let me know when you’re ready.”

I should have initiated sex, I know. It’s hard to put yourself out there when your husband has chronic ED, you’re feeling compared to the other woman, and you have kind of an ego thing going where you want HIM to be the one knocking at your door, so to speak.

Last night, I was looking at him settling into bed beside me, and I think he saw the longing in my eyes. He kissed me, looked into my eyes again, and kissed me again. We had sex for the first time in MONTHS. It felt so good for him to have his hands on me again.

And yet … he still could not stay hard. And it’s so dispiriting to feel someone trying to shove a half-inflated balloon into you. He still came, while he was still soft.

I have no idea whether this is purely a physical thing or it’s mental, but I suspect the latter. There have been times when he has had NO problems.

Although I basked in the afterglow of FINALLY having sex again with him, I also wanted to sigh about the ED, not this again. Any talking I try to do about it, even in the gentlest way, mortifies him. I don’t make a big deal when he’s having ED problems. So what is bouncing around between his ears that is keeping him from being at full attention in bed with me?

I am going to work on me and me alone. And I am going to keep letting him know that I want to sleep with him. I am going to let him resolve the ED on his own for now. I don’t know what else to do.

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