Heartbreak

The Profoundly Sad Reason I Freeze Up Every Time My Husband Wants To Be Intimate

Photo: Tiko-Aramyan / shutterstock.com 
couple looking distraught and disconnected

For a long time, having sex with my husband has been very difficult.

I want to have sex with him because I love him very much but, when we set out to make it happen, I freeze up, like an iceberg. My brain shuts down.

His touch only makes me anxious. I desperately want the whole thing to be over.

So, I wait it out, do what I have to do to bring it to a conclusion, pretend that it was fun and get on with my day.

I have been doing this for years and it has slowly been eating me alive.

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Why aren't I comfortable with married sex?

Last week I talked to a sex therapist to get her thoughts about why I feel this way about having sex with the man I love.

A man who I embrace often. A man whose butt I pat when I pass by him. A man I enjoy hugging when he is naked, just getting out of the shower.

I love being touched by him and touching him back, as long as we aren’t doing it with the intention of having sex.

My therapist and I talked about why the touch that leads to sex makes me so uncomfortable. I described lying prone on my bed, dreading what was about to happen, wishing I could be anywhere else but there.

She asked me if anything had ever happened to me in the past when I was lying prone on my bed.

My answer —  why, yes it had.

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The trauma that holds me back

When I was in college I was raped by a boyfriend who came home drunk. He wanted to have sex and I didn’t but he proceeded anyway.

I made the choice to lie there, waiting for it to end, instead of fighting it.

It was the 1980s, and this is what we women did when something like this occurred (which it did often). I swept it under the rug but I know now that these events stuck with me and affected my view of intimacy going forward.

I looked even further back, to when I was a teenager. I remember that the messages around sex were so conflicting. Boys wanted to have it but, if we gave them sex or any other kind of sexual experience, we were considered "fast." 

Men only wanted to date the "good girls" but sought out girls who would have sex with them on the side. I had no idea what I was doing and often found myself as one of the side girls.

After college, my relationship with sex got even more complicated. I started to confuse sex with love and went home with men on the first date, hoping that sex would lead to a relationship. More often than not, that was the only date.

And when I didn’t have sex with someone on the first date, I was called a tease.

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Married ... but not feeling it, sexually

When I did get married to my first husband, I did so for love. I had never really enjoyed our sex but it wasn’t important to me because I had so many conflicting feelings about it.

I put up with it because I had to and that was fine because I got the family I had always wanted.

As our marriage went on, I continued to have sex with my husband because that is what a wife does but, as the years went on, doing so was at the expense of my mental health.

Once a week I would fire up only to be left in tears when he fell asleep afterward. This went on for many years until I stopped having sex with him and he left me for another woman.

Now, here is the thing — I have never, in the course of my 40-year sex life, put these things together. I saw them as things that happened to me over the course of my life, things that could be compartmentalized and that weren’t affecting me now.

Last night, I told my new husband about the discussion with my therapist and how my discomfort might be the result of past trauma. He heard me and expressed sorrow that I had had to go through all that I did.

And then he said this, "For me, sex was in no way connected to trauma or pain. Sex is a wonderful thing that I think about all the time and I want to have it as often as I can.”

At that moment, I realized that my husband’s experience around sex was so far disconnected from mine and that that might be the reason that sex with him was so difficult.

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Bridging the sexual divide with my husband

For many men, first and foremost, sex means the purest form of pleasure.

Wars have started over sex. Great men have fallen because of sex. Henry VIII broke with the Pope and started the Church of England so that he could have sex with Anne Boleyn.

For many women, sex is so fraught. Yes, we can find pleasure in it but lurking within us is the baggage created by a lifetime of sexual experiences that were confusing, caused pain and rejection, and led to self-loathing.

Unknowingly, I have brought into sex with my husband a lifetime of pain and confusion around it.

I think that I want him to make me feel safe and to right all the wrongs that were done to me over the years. And I know that, if he could, he would, but he just can’t. For him, sex is sex. Yes, he wants to make love but, ultimately, sex is just sex, something that only brings pleasure.

Armed with this knowledge, I am going to work with my therapist to see if I can work through the baggage around my past experiences with sex and see if I can come together with my husband in a way that is fresh and open and not weighed down by anxiety and self-loathing.

I am sad for the girl that I was, the one whose past sex life was so traumatizing, but I am hopeful for the woman I am now and know that, armed with my newfound knowledge, I can achieve the intimacy and connection that I want with the man I love.

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Mitzi Bockmann is a certified life coach and relationship coach. With over 10 years of experience, she helps clients find happiness in love and life.

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