Anne: Jim and I had been married for six years. Over those six years I felt my sexual interest wane bit by bit. I remember the nights when we couldn't get enough of each other. We had no issues experimenting with different fantasies, positions, toys or foreplay. We were playful, and laughter from our bedroom flooded the hallway. We were like kids feeling a sense of wonder and curiosity with each other. Slowly over time it all diminished, and I couldn't help but wonder why. Months would go by and I would not have any interest in sex. It became a chore, and I couldn't do it anymore. I faked my orgasms for years until sex became repulsive to me.
Jim became angry and obsessed with having sex with me. The more he pressured me, the less I wanted him until one day he said we are either going to fix this or end up in court. I knew I didn't want a divorce, but saw no way out. I was depressed and anxious every time we went to bed. I knew I would have to perform, and it made me want to disappear. Jim became aggressive and demanding. At first I was submissive; doing anything to get it over with. But there came a time that I couldn't tolerate sex, or him. That's when we decided to give counseling a try. It was there I learned that I was angry with Jim.
I had lost control of my life in so many ways because I was submissive and subservient, so withholding sex was the only way of controlling my life. I was unconsciously using withholding as a tool or weapon to gain some control in my life. What I learned was that I had to find my voice. I had to learn how to express myself when I was feeling a certain way. I had been avoiding my feelings for so long that I didn't even know how I felt. I went along with Jim on just about everything. He chose the movies, the restaurants, the vacations and the cars. I had little to say about anything. I was collecting emotional stamps, and our marriage was deteriorating because I was too fearful to be honest. I didn't even know how to be honest anymore. I had suppressed and repressed my feelings for so long that I was split from them. They were buried somewhere deep down, but I didn't know how to reach them. Repressing my feelings had become my way all my life. My parents made all the decisions for me, and then Jim got the job. I chose Jim because he was strong and decisive. The very thing that turned me on to Jim when we first met was the same thing that turned me off. I never felt that my opinion was as good as his or that it really mattered. I didn't even know I had an opinion.
When we entered therapy, I could barely speak. The therapist had to guide me through the wall I weaved so well to protect myself. It took months for me to recognize that I was angry. I was not only angry at Jim, but at my parents and all the other people I allowed to bully me or dissuade me from what I wanted, needed and truly felt. I was like a robot. I didn't know who I was.
My only recourse to control my life was to withhold sex from Jim until the therapist helped me work through the anger and fear I was harboring from my past. I thought it was my way to exert control over my body. The irony was that I never had control. My lack of sexual desire was my body trying to communicate with me that unless I resolved my issues, my sex life would be a flat line; a representation of death.
The next step was to teach us how to communicate. This came long after I learned to recognize and verbalize my feelings. I was so numb that I didn't even know I had feelings. Instead, I tried to act them out. Once I was aware of my feelings and learned to express them, my marriage and my life changed.
Jim and I talk now. If I have a feeling, I express it. I have learned how to effectively communicate without shame, blame, judgment or criticism. Our therapist gave us tools and resources to use. She taught us how to fight fair and not be afraid to share our feelings for fear of hurting or making each other mad. I learned that there is no intimacy without conflict. My withholding sex and not feeling sexy anymore was my anger being acted out. Once I had permission to voice my feelings and saw that the level of intimacy rose, my sexuality blossomed again. I now know that my sexuality is me; not just a part of me, but all of me. If I love myself enough to express my needs, wants and feelings, then my sexuality will surface along with my self esteem. I could be heard now. I found my voice, was able to orgasm, and best of all—I love having sex with my husband again.
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