Dear Neil: What is it that blocks me from having sex with my husband of twenty-four years? Probably anger—at the years of belittling, unkind verbal responses, lack of empathy, lack of interest in my concerns, long periods of unresponsive silence, disregard for my personhood, outbursts of inappropriate anger, repeated acts of aggression and hatred.
The apologies and declarations of love after these bouts were supposed to smooth our way into bed, and I dutifully acquiesced. As a woman brought up to submit, I did, day after day, week after week, year after year until six years ago, when I just couldn’t anymore. I expected to be offered a divorce. But then he began to improve his behavior, began thanking me for simple things, listened, was kinder and more attentive, and he was more respectful of me as a person.
It was only when I completely “died” in this relationship that my husband began to respond. Now he seems to care. Now, when my heart is closed. I have a high need to nurture, but I don’t seem to be able to trust him enough to be vulnerable and open to him again.
Over the years, many women I know have discussed experiences similar to my own, that sex was an expected “right” no matter what the treatment was.
Last year I began to work with someone who is also married. He makes eye contact with me, listens well and responds. He values my opinion, and is attentive, nurturing, thoughtful, sensitive and caring about me.
He has guided me through situations, but has also asked for my advise. He always makes time for me, and cares when I have not called for awhile. He has a way of looking at me that makes me feel sexy and very desirable. I cannot stop thinking of him and what it would be like to make love with him. My fantasies are wonderful, but very lonely.
I do not believe in affairs, so while he and I are both married we will never know what a sexually intimate relationship with each other would be like. Our only physical contact has been to shake hands. But just knowing him at this level has been a gift to me, because it has reawakened what I thought I had lost.
Awakened in Littleton, Colorado
Dear Awakened: Read on.
Dear Neil: I think it is about time that men take some responsibility for unsatisfactory sexual relationships. Men could, for instance, begin asking if they are looking and acting sexually attractive. Bad breath, wind, and underclothes that need washing do not turn women on. Why not emphasize sexy male lingerie on a clean, well-presented male body?
Being squashed under a heavy body, sexual foreplay that hurts, and kissing with an unshaven, rasping face can lead a woman feeling uncared for.
There are some key things men could do that would turn this situation around. These include checking out with a woman about if, how, and when she would like to have sex. The biggest turn on for a woman is a man who shows affection apart from sex, and who helps with house work.
New Zealand Woman Who Knows From Whence She Speaks