Anne: Jim and I had been married for six years. Over the 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 and foreplay. We were playful and laughter filled our bed. We were like kids, feeling a sense of wonder and curiosity with each other. Slowly over time, it all diminished and I had to ask why. Months would go by and I would not have any interest in sex. Then it became a chore, until finally 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 would make me want to disappear. Jim became aggressive and demanding. At first I was submissive; anything to get it over with. But there came a time that I couldn’t tolerate sex or him. That’s when we went into counseling. 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 that withholding sex was my 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 had a feeling. I had so long been avoiding my feelings 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. I had suppressed and repressed my feelings so long, that I was split from them. They were buried down there somewhere, but I didn’t know how to reach them. That had been 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, what I needed and what I 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 numbed out that I didn’t even know I had a feeling. Instead, I acted 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 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 it might hurt or anger each other. 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 see 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, I experience my orgasms and best of all, I love having sex!