A sexless marriage makes for increased intimacy? Believe it.
Two months ago, I made a decision that would affect my nether regions in ways unknown: I lounged in a hot tub. I even Instagrammed it. There was no naughty business to be had; it was just me and some Bud Light Raz-ber-itas in a very hot hot tub for like, two hours. I then did what no vagina-having person should ever do: I spent the remainder of the day in my damp swimsuit. The next morning I woke up to two unfortunate realities: a ridiculous Raz-ber-ita hangover and widespread vaginal burn. Sh*t.
After popping a few pain relievers and WebMD-ing myself with a urinary tract infection, I began the arduous process of drowning my internal organs with all the water and 100% pure (and repulsive) cranberry juice I could get my mitts on in a desperate attempt to rid my lady bits of Satan’s static burn.
Three days later and no closer to relief, I briefly considered visiting my doctor, but not before treating myself for a yeast infection, because a 7-day course of Miconazole 2% couldn’t hurt anything, right? Wrong.
I have homework to check and Housewives to watch, but that doesn't mean I undervalue the pleasure and importance of sexual intimacy with my husband. (And honestly, when we’re doin’ it more often, we bicker less and have more patience.) But because hell hath no fury like a literal vagina on fire, there would be no sex between us. And there would be no sex for a very long time.
Post hot-tub and fruity beer incident, weeks went by and I convinced myself that my symptoms were improving, as anyone with a rational fear of doctors would do. Sexual healing will be good for me! I decided, so after a month of abstained loving, I attempted to engage in very careful sexual relations with my husband. We didn’t get very far on, ahem, account of my (literal) burning bush. It was practically biblical. Major bedroom bust.
It was obviously time to see my doctor.
I made a visit to my primary doctor who promptly ordered a buffet of vaginal, blood, and urine labs to test for everything I secretly hoped (diagnose me!) and didn’t hope (but not with that!) I had, half-expecting her to deliver the news that I was suffering from some yet undiscovered exotic vaginal parasite for which there is no cure.
The results came in: all was normal. Except it sure as hell didn’t feel that way.
"I suggest you refrain from swimming pools, hot tubs, and sexual intercourse until you begin to feel better, or until your husband goes on the hunt for some strange." (Well, maybe she didn’t say that last part, but you totally know she was thinking it.) "You need to see a gynecologist."
As my sock-clad feet entered cold medical stirrups for the third time, I shimmied my booty to the edge of the exam table with high hopes. There were speculums and swabs, pokes and prods, orders for more tests, and finally, the words every suffering woman hopes to hear: "You have the most normal and happy vagina (her words, not mine) I’ve seen all week. I’m referring you to a urologist."
And so the drought continues.
My husband pretends two months without lady lovin' doesn’t bother him because he’s a good guy. He sees the ice packs and heating pads. He holds me, dries my tears, and picks up new random natural supplements daily in the hopes of bringing me relief. He cares for me with kindness and understanding, while somehow managing to bring humor to a very unfunny situation.
Say what you will about the importance of sex in a marriage, because I’ll agree, but I'll also tell you this: sex isn’t everything.
Marriage is made up of so many parts: companionship, comfort, kindness, patience, love, sex and understanding. Marriage is sickness and health and all the other trying promises we secretly hope our marriage will somehow escape. It’s making good on love when things feel scary and uncertain. It’s even loving your partner when they’re unable to love you back in the emotional or physical ways you need most. Deep, right? (I've had a lot of time of think with all the sex I'm not having.)
There are times when intercourse serves as an all too easy route to perceived, uninspired intimacy. We trick ourselves into believing that sex is this bold and personal thing (after all, we’re naked and there’s even natural light!) and sometimes it is. But sometimes it's not. Truer intimacy, beyond the bedroom, is challenging and scary. It involves vulnerability and trust, honesty and sacrifice. If you’re getting all that in the sack, HIGH-FIVE, SISTER. You do you. Or rather, you do each other.
But for us, for now, it’s about finding new ways to express affection and appreciation.
We're talking more. We're holding more. We're understanding deeper, and maybe that's because we have to. A shift in the ways we express physical intimacy may not have been what either of us asked for, but it's strangely beautiful, if not fiercely human.
But damn, I really miss getting lucky.