Warning: Sexually Explicit--Possibly Offensive--But Absolutely Honest
Anyone who's read my blog knows that I was inappropriately introduced to sex between the ages of 9 and 12. So it has always been somewhat mysterious, frustrating, and uncomfortable for me, and arouses extreme conflict inside of me. My exploration of same-gender sex was brief. I have to say, I was most comfortable, sexually, within that realm--I wasn't afraid. But it never felt quite right. When the physical experience was over, I always wondered why I didn't feel some deep connection with the person with whom I'd shared intimacy. I think the answer is that I had shut myself off from deep emotions of any kind, to avoid being hurt or betrayed. It really wasn't possible for me to feel that connection. I bring this up because my lesbian friends talk of completely belonging to one another, of being mentally and emotionally intimate, as well as physically intimate--not something I've experienced. So I have to admit it's possible for others to feel that way, and to enjoy their relationships, even if I have not.
When I made the decision to commit completely to God and my religion, that required me to at least TRY a heterosexual relationship (marriage). The thought of being touched intimately by a man, or of seeing or being with a naked man, TRULY, made me physically ill. I really could not understand how what I had experienced with my cousin could ever translate itself into a loving expression within a marriage. So I started exploring. I've actually laughed about this with David, because we were talking one day, about types of porn available, and he mentioned that he thought romance novels, aimed at women, were pornographic. I asked him, jokingly, if he'd ever read one--he said, "More than just one." I asked him why--he didn't answer. So I said, "I've read them, too. I wanted to, somehow, figure out what this opposite sex attraction was all about." He started laughing, and agreed that's why he read, as well. I told him my parents caught me reading a particularly "steamy" one once, and sort of came unglued. I had all my reading material censored for nearly a year after that. It didn't matter, I just went to the library and read. One of the biggest sources of ironic humor in my life is the "If only they knew..." factor. If only my parents had known the REAL reason I was reading...it makes David laugh, too.
So I searched totally inappropriate sources to find out about physical heterosexual love, which only made things worse, of course. I did try to talk to my parents a little--it was disastrous. I asked my mom, one time, if she ever French kissed my dad. She gave me a lecture on respecting their privacy, then made me feel terrible guilt and horror about French kissing, in general. To this day, even with my husband, I have difficulty indulging in that intimacy. My parents, fairly openly, showed affection to each other--but (and it embarrasses me to this day to even mention this) they talked baby-talk to each other when they were feeling "frisky"--how WEIRD is that??? I can't even think about it--they still do it and they're in their 60's. Needless to say, none of this was helpful as I tried to figure out normal heterosexual behavior. When I was 16, I finally had a youth leader who wasn't afraid to discuss love and marriage. She never divulged inappropriate details, but she answered our questions as well as she could. I learned that she felt valued because she knew she was attractive to her husband. I learned that she enjoyed sexual intimacy and even initiated it. I learned that one could have sex even during the menstrual cycle. I learned that she thought her husband had a gorgeous body (totally incomprehensible to me!!). I learned that one could enjoy sex when pregnant, and sometimes the experience was even better than when not pregnant (she conceived twins during her sojourn as our leader), because of the spiritual sharing of the ability to create life. I had SO MUCH to think about, thanks to her simple but honest explanations of married intimacy. Interestingly, six years later, her husband left her for another woman. I'll never understand why--she was beautiful, sexy, loving, and kind (and given my SSA--you can take my word for this!). People are weird, that's all I have to say.
By the time I was ready to marry my husband, I was pretty committed to trying out this heterosexual thing. I was DEFINITELY committed to never again acting on my homosexual feelings. I had taken the steps necessary to become worthy to be married in an LDS temple (for anyone NOT LDS who is reading this, it requires sexual purity, honesty in all dealings, sustaining of church leaders--local and general, church meeting attendance, payment of tithes and offerings, adherence to the Word of Wisdom--a health/eating code, not supporting groups that oppose or act against the church, baptism and membership in the church, a testimony of the church...basically, absolute commitment to living the gospel of the LDS church), and I thought I was pretty prepared to be a wife. However, I remember sitting with my fiance in the temple, waiting to go into the room where the marriage would be performed, and I said to him, "Let's not do this. Let's just go home, and pretend we don't want to be married. I'm scared." Darrin's eyes got big, and he said, "Please tell me you're joking." "No, I'm not joking," I said. Darrin pulled me close to him, kissed the top of my head and said, "We can do whatever you want, but I'm never going to stop wanting us to be married." So we got married, because I decided, that day, that was what I wanted.
The "being married" part was actually pretty fun. I loved living with my best friend. I enjoyed trying to balance books that never had much money in the asset part. I loved living in a horrifyingly bad apartment, going to college, and trying to find a million creative ways to prepare Ramen noodles or mac and cheese. I loved going for drives with my husband, always having someone to love me, holding hands... but there was a problem.
I remember after the marriage, we went to my aunt's home to change clothes and and get ready for our reception (it was held in a small town 5 hours distant). Darrin and I were sent to change in the same bedroom. So, there we were. I felt myself break out in a cold sweat. I had to remove my clothing in front of a man. It was interesting to note that Darrin immediately noticed my discomfort, and asked if I'd like him to turn around--to not face me--as we changed. I was embarrassed, said of course not, and hurried into my traveling clothes. He did the same. Then he walked over to me and just held me. I felt myself relax and feel safe again.
Our wedding night was disastrous. In spite of careful planning, my period started that day. I was miserable. I was embarrassed. I was scared. A freak storm manifested itself, dumping a foot and a half of slush in the roads. Our reception went an hour longer than planned. After it ended, we slowly drove to the first hotel we could find (the one we had reserved was too far--the roads had been closed), which was a DUMP. We got ready for bed--we were exhausted. I told Darrin I had started my period. He, probably thinking he was being wonderful and understanding, said something about having the rest of our lives to work out marital intimacy, and went to sleep. I sat on the bathroom floor, and wondered what I had gotten myself into. I had been trying to prepare for physical intimacy with a MAN, and now I wasn't even going to have the opportunity to see if all my preparation would work. Part of me was relieved. Part of me was terribly disappointed. All of me was really, really sad. I'm not sure why it was so crucial to me that I be able to have intimacy on that night--but it was. After about two hours on the bathroom floor (I shudder now when I think about how NOT CLEAN that floor probably was), I was freezing to death.
I crawled into bed with Darrin. He awoke, looked at the clock and asked me where I'd been. I just said I'd been thinking. He wanted to know what I was thinking about. I told him, I knew it was uncomfortable, but I wanted us to try to be intimate--we didn't have to have sex, if that was too gross for him, but we could cuddle and explore. He walked to the bathroom, grabbed some towels, and spread them across the sheets. Then we got undressed and cuddled. I was SO scared. It was not fun, it was not exciting, it did not make me feel attracted to my husband. His body was hard, and hairy, and I was extremely frightened by the fact that HE was aroused. He just held me and stroked my back. I kept reminding myself that people do this every night, and no one dies, and most really like it. I allowed him to touch me, forcing myself to not flinch. I tried to touch him. I was too scared. I wanted to cry. At one point, Darrin asked if I'd like to attempt penetration, I said, okay. I guess I felt if HE was trying, in spite of everything, I should, too. I don't know why, but the experience was exceedingly, physically painful, beyond any pain I had felt in my life (and I was a cutter). I didn't cry out, but I couldn't stop a small whimper of pain. Darrin stopped immediately, pulled me close and whispered, "I'm so sorry." I wept silently, knowing I was never going to be a good wife, knowing I could never "perform" to my husband's satisfaction. I felt all the feelings of being used, unclean, broken, flood over me, and I told Darrin right then, that we should probably consider divorce. I would never be what he needed. And then, still weeping, I fell asleep. I have no idea what Darrin did, but I woke up, five hours later with him still beside me, still holding me. And I guess that's when I realized that, no matter what, Darrin was in this for keeps.
I have always succeeded in my endeavors in life through my inborn stubbornness, and my practice ethic. I decided that I was going to LEARN to have heterosexual sex before I died, and I was going to LIKE IT. I can't imagine how weird this must have been for Darrin. I scheduled having sex with him every night. It was always painful. It didn't seem to get any better. But I DID get used to being with a naked man, so I suppose that was positive. After about three weeks, Darrin suggested, very gently, that we explore other sexual options. He said we didn't have to have penetration, we could just enjoy a massage, touch each other, explore what feels nice. But I was determined that I would succeed in this intercourse thing. He reminded me that this wasn't all about me--it was about us--and we weren't having fun yet. Sex--fun??? Darrin said, "Yeah, it's supposed to be."
So I stopped practicing with a purpose, and started just going along for the ride. I stopped equating sex with my husband with the abuse I had experienced as a young girl. I shut down any emotions that cropped up during intimacy, and concentrated only on the physical sensations during the experience. And, amazingly, after about a month, I was able to have REAL heterosexual relations with my husband. No more pain, no more tears. And sometimes, I even enjoyed it.
For nineteen years we had a functional sex-life, which brought forth three beautiful children. Interestingly, I have never had a problem, as many women have, achieving vaginal orgasm--I give Darrin the credit for that. He's always been more concerned about my physical needs, than he has been about his own. But I can't say I've ever felt that sex was a necessary component of my marriage from my standpoint. There was a time, when I suffered an extended illness, when we went MONTHS without intimacy. Sometimes we went MONTHS without intimacy, simply because I didn't want it. I'm appalled when I remember the many, many times I've said, "No, not tonight," to my sweet, loving husband.
When I entered counseling, six months ago, I decided I needed to explore allowing feelings to enter into my sex-life. For the first time, I allowed myself to think of sex as "making love." I allowed myself to think of it as a physical expression of how much I love and appreciate my husband. The thing that inspired me to do that were some words said to me in an e-mail from David: "I just get so frustrated because other people don't even know what they have. They have physical and emotional desires that, if they use them properly, can be fully expressed through marriage." Interestingly, I had never thought of sex as an "expression", more of just an act. I started thinking about what it means to allow someone to have intimate access to oneself, physically. To me it's all about trust. I trust you. I trust you to not hurt me. I trust that you will still love me and respect me, regardless of whether the act is fulfilling or not. I trust you with my physical imperfections, my emotional flaws, my personal deficits. I trust that you love me, and will continue to love me. I trust you to protect me when I am vulnerable. I trust you to never betray me in any way. In this most intimate part of my life, I belong to you, and only you. I trust that you feel the same way.
When I started exploring the emotional aspects of physical love, I was amazed at what happened. I started feeling an even greater appreciation for the husband who has endured me for 20 years. I felt a deep intimate, almost spiritual connection, as our bodies "became one." I felt so much gratitude for our marriage, for our friendship, for our love. I found myself feeling sexual desire for my husband, not just at the appropriate time (in bed), but simply when holding hands, or sitting beside him in church. Once I felt an overwhelming desire to make love with him while in the movie theater--and no, we didn't--but I wanted to! Sometimes, after making love, I felt an enormous rush of joy that we belonged together, that we COULD and SHOULD have sex, that it was an integral part of what made us feel joy.
I can't explain why, but in the past six months, I believe I've finally completed the last step of "falling in love" with my husband. I have come to understand the difference between a sexual experience, and making love with someone you truly love. I've realized that unemotional sex, really doesn't form the same bonds that create a desire to be together eternally--and that's what I want with my beautiful man--to always be together, to share our wonderful friendship, to consult with one another, to laugh and play together, to hold hands, to cuddle, to be parents, to be in love, to make love.
It takes me a long time, but sometimes, finally, I get it.