Shared by Catherine Grant
I was two years into my first marriage. I had arrived at a sex toy party that a friend from work had thrown, shown up early, and brought a chocolate fountain. Later, in a circle of giggling, half-drunk women, the seller at the party pointed at me and said, “You’re the biggest prude in the room. You showed up early, brought food, you’ll help clean up, too. I’ve got you pegged.”
My face was red and hot, not because he had me pegged at all, but because showing up to that party to begin with, to buy a vibrator that I would use to give myself the first orgasm I’d had in a year, was out of my comfort zone. I was a sexually abandoned spouse, and going to that party was a painful admission that I was a married woman who couldn’t get sexual satisfaction from my own husband.
The sarcastic sex toy pusher was completely wrong on quite a few levels. I’m anything but a prude. I have an above-average sexual appetite, and never had issues pleasing my partners. I was also a good wife to my ex-husband.
My ex, let us call him simply “F,” and I were married when I was 23. Both of us decided that we wanted to remain celibate before marriage as part of our faith, and so we were true to that. I didn’t even see him without pants on until our wedding night, and we did nothing more than kiss. To his credit, I think F tried to warn me that I might be in for some disappointment.
How it Began
“I don’t think I care about sex as much as you do,” he said to me.
We didn’t discuss it beyond that first comment, and later I would look back on that opportunity for full disclosure with heart-wrenching hindsight. I was so in love with him, though. I thought we would overcome anything by sheer will, and by the strength of our love for one another.
As newlyweds, we had sex less than twice a month—and that pace would be maintained for almost a year. Finally, I broke down, asking him what was wrong. “Am I somehow making you angry? Is there something you want me to do?” I asked.
Of course I thought it was my fault, because what kind of husband doesn’t want to have sex with his own wife? I expressed my anguish and depression over his neglect and he told me he would change, that things would get better. When I asked him why he rejected me constantly, why he never initiated, the only response I would ever get was, “I don’t know.”
A year later our situation in the bedroom had only become more complicated. I think that third year was the period that we went an entire twelve months having sex only once. I started exhibiting physical signs of anxiety and depression. I was constantly thinking about sex, my association with the act fusing with feelings of guilt, self-loathing, and loneliness. I brought up my worries to F less and less frequently, and our communication over our sex-life devolved into an endless loop of arguments, brief periods of effort, and then backsliding into old habits. Rinse, repeat.
Aching for Intimacy
We had hit our four-year anniversary, and I broached the subject of kids. I felt like a fool for bringing it up again, but my heart ached to be a mother. At this point, thoughts of divorce hadn’t entered my mind. It wasn’t an option. Conversations of cherubic faces and baby names quickly turned into another argument, another one-sided conversation, where I tearfully asked him if he would do what it took to be a father. F promised me our sex life would improve so that I could get pregnant. Two months later, we’d had sex only twice.
After that last broken promise, I hit what I call a “critical mass event.” For a couple years at this point, I'd been consumed with thoughts of sex. After F's broken promise to have sex so we could get pregnant, I'd hit a limit I didn't even realize was there. I went out of state to a friend's birthday party—without my husband. She had a friend helping set up at the house. I thought he was cute, and I could tell he was interested, too.
He and I began what I call “the dance.” We flirted, found reasons for contact, and by the time the birthday party began, the pheromones were firing loud and clear. I got drunk that night and made out with him in a half-blacked-out haze. I also made out with one other guy there, as well as my girlfriend that was hosting the party. I felt like a starved animal gorging myself on intimacy without regard for anyone's well-being, including my own.
The next morning, the mix of hangover and shame left me feeling awful. My friend that hosted the party was hiding from me. She blamed herself and her environment for my infidelity. I sat her down and told her everything I'd been dealing with for the past almost four years with F so that she could absolve herself of guilt.
At that point, I hadn't shared what was going on with anyone, not even my mother or my best friend. The party host friend was in an open relationship with her husband, so I felt like her more liberal views toward sex would make her a safe confidant. Hearing that I hadn't had sex with my own husband more than a dozen times in the past two years blew her mind. She encouraged me to do what I felt I had to do to be happy.
I came home that afternoon and immediately told F what happened at the party. He was understandably hurt, but his reaction was muted. My mind went back to that past New Years’, when I came home from a party and told him that someone on the dance floor had grabbed me, even after I expressed disinterest and told him I was married. F had just shrugged and said “Well, maybe you shouldn't go back.” No jealousy. No protectiveness over me.
I'd told F about the New Years' party because, in truth, it had felt good to have someone hit on me. When a stranger had touched me without permission, I hadn't wanted it to stop. Being wanted felt good. This time, there were no blurred lines. I'd flat out cheated. I expected, even wanted, F to be angry, to storm out, to show some kind of passionate response. Instead, he just held me while I cried and begged him for things to change.
Addicted to Love
After F's muted reaction, I'd messaged the friend I'd done “the dance” with and was intimate with at the party, and apologized for my actions, and for hurting him. I could tell from the sum of his actions and words that he was completely enamored of me. His attraction and the memory of our forbidden kisses in the dark mixed into a syrupy, drunk feeling in my heart that was highly addictive. The next couple weeks, I would go see this man again and again. We'd consummate what began as a desperate mistake into what was unquestionably infidelity.
I told a co-worker about how I felt about the man at the party, and that I didn't think I could give up feeling that alive and wanted. I admitted to carrying on an affair with him, even after telling my husband I would give him a second chance. Her response was apt. “Of course this feels good, Cat. You're going from the lowest low to the highest high. Just don't do anything stupid.”
I didn't listen. I continued to cheat on F, stalling the inevitable conversation that we would be splitting up, until finally he called me out on it. He was monitoring my emails and Facebook messages.
“I know what you're doing.” he said to me one night. “You should be ashamed of yourself. Do you know how hard cheating is on a marriage? It's worse than the death of a child.”
I wanted to ask him what textbook he'd read that from. It was like arguing with a robot. I told him that I would be moving out in a couple weeks and I put in my notice at work, then called my mother to ask her if I could stay with her for a little while.
Beginning to End
A week later, F told me he didn't love me anymore. Contrary to that, he started following the formula from the Christian marriage advice book The Love Dare. He and I had gone to see the movie that previous fall, and it had struck a note with me. Not because I thought it held any merit, but because I recognized from the story that my marriage was failing. The mixed messages of what he wanted from me just pushed me further away.
F left little notes on the mirror, on the steering wheel, on the door, about how he loved my smile, my kind spirit, my faith. What I really wanted was for him to make love to me, to plant kisses all over my body, to tell me how much he wanted me. I wanted him to fuck me, not “make love”, for the first time since we'd been married, and he just wasn't capable of that. His sexual repression was so deep that he couldn't even talk to me about sex. Conversely, I'd been consumed by the desires of my own body for months. I felt like a prisoner on the verge of escape, and there was no way in hell he was pulling me back in.
The Love Dare was formulaic, something F did out of desperation, and instead of making me feel hopeful it gave water to seeds of doubt that he knew how to emotionally cope with a broken marriage, especially one faced with infidelity. Our marriage was supposed to be centered on God, but I'd committed the ultimate violation of that. I'd invited another man into my bed and had sex with him. My mind couldn't comprehend a life-long marriage without the kind of sexual intimacy that I'd been experiencing from someone who was, essentially, a stranger to me.
Furthermore, F's responses to our emotional crisis were sterile and catch-all, ripped from a dogma that I felt betrayed me in its prayerful answer to problems that were so much more nuanced and complicated than I’d ever expected. When F asked for us to go to counseling with our pastor instead of a sex therapist, I had already made my decision to end our marriage. I'd already gone so far down the rabbit hole, that I didn't think there was any coming back from it, and I was right. I would never regularly attend church ever again.