|Store your sexuality away in that box. It'll keep. Maybe.|
Today's truth teller is crazy madly in love with his wife, but his wife is physically--and possibly emotionally--unable to have sex with him. And that's pretty much been the story for the last 23 years.Where does that leave him? That's what he's trying to figure out.
Ever hear of “vulvodynia”? Me neither until I read about it. It’s one of those woman-things that’s quite real but insurance companies don’t pay for diagnostics or treatment for whatever excuse they’re using on a given day. The scuttlebutt is it can take up to ten grand to find out. Then there’s not a whole that can be done about it. She doesn’t have an official diagnosis. But when you’ve been around Her for over a decade and you both know the exact nature of the problem, when you read the symptomology, it’s not rocket science, no matter what the insurance bastards have to say.
All those blissful billions of nerve endings sistas have, in Her they experience a massive malfunction when stimulated. Instead of pleasure, they send PAIN! to Her brain. And they don’t all agree with each other across the topography of Her magic places; up near the clitoris, they say PAIN!, along the outside of the labia 5 mm from the bottom they say YAHOO!, inside the all-powerful opening, they say everything from WTH? to PAIN! To YAHOO to JEEBUS WTF ARE YOU DOIN’?! So yeah, so much for the science lesson and now that we know the problem has a medical name, my husband-guilt goes into overdrive—I may NEED sex, most preferably with Her, but if it hurts Her, then “sex” just turns into the thing I have to “sacrifice”—or else I’m a selfish male asshole, isn’t that how it goes? Once sex is out of the equation, all the “other” problems that come with 23 years married and quarter century living with Her go into a slow nuclear burn.
She was the girl I “did the right thing” by… I was abstinent until our wedding night, because that was how She wanted it and I wanted to be with Her more than any other girl I’d ever been around, let alone those I’d been with before Her. She rolls her eyes every time I say it, but it’s the authentic truth: I saw Her in her younger sister’s dorm room and that was it, no other female human being had any appeal to me whatsoever. It wasn’t my “other brain” that sang, it was the whole deal, head to toe, both brains included. I must have done something right that first night out because we began to see each other a lot, She drove five hours to see me, I moved to her town first chance I had so five hours was five minutes. I wrote her mammoth
letters, I wrote songs for her that my band played at gigs, I
photographed the daylights out of her although she protested (a lot).
We got married [too] young. Her mom wrote her a letter trying to talk
her out of marrying a 23 year old musician/photographer/writer
—“dreamer” was what her mom said, and I think “loser” was
in there somewhere; thankfully FIL-to-be loved me. I was
working-class like him but college educated and could spend hours
under the hood of an old car with him and honestly have a great time.
He’s quite possibly the most honorable guy I’ve ever met.
Then came the wedding night. She was the fourth virgin I’d been with out of a dozen others from the time I was fifteen (I know that makes me a high school and college boy-slut jerk, right?). The other three virgins, things worked out fine, I actually went and found out how to make those first times better than the way most women describe them—maybe they lied to me. I’ll never really know. She brought me with her to the “lady doc” and She did her homework assignments with me as prescribed. I did extra homework to make sure everything was going to go well, because I’d waited and She deserved nothing but my very best.
So we were both a little shocked after I came up grinnin’ like fool from giving Her a nice and loud, jumping-all-over-the-damned-place-orgasm, when intercourse, after appropriate recovery and well-earned snuggling, was impossible and waaaay more painful that it should have given all the conscientious preparation—in retrospect, we were both shattered. Unfortunately we were too ashamed and scared to tell each other just how shattered we were— for the first decade or so that we were married. The honeymoon wasn’t the intimate emotional-physical-sexual discovery and bonding experience we’d planned. Instead it was just another one of our many trips together, except that this trip was an emotional nightmare and we talked very little and we only tried to have sex one other time, again to failure and a lot of me apologizing for letting Her down. I was convinced it must be my fault.
Our marriage was publicly known to our friends and family as the model for “doing it right” but in private, in our bed, it was emotionally tortured and sexually just awful. In the first year I kept trying to get her to take this all to her doctor. I was a fix-it guy, something doesn’t work you go fix it. In the meantime you work around it. I had a vocabulary, I had some experience with a bunch of other fun things to do with two human bodies. I didn’t know what “vanilla” meant back then but I discovered She was a vanilla’s vanilla. Missionary only or nothing, well, almost nothing, She’d let me go down on Her, which I was all too eager to provide because all I wanted was to make Her happy. I couldn’t help but wonder it that was a response to our wedding night shocker or if She just really was “not into anything else” as She told me that first year. Over the first few years we tried to have sex and failed. Eventually intercourse, as brief as possible and as an afterwards She endured, was possible. Bottom line, She refused to go see a doctor and refused to try any workaround. I just wanted Her to be happy so I settled. That’s what a “good guy” does. I loved Her.
I was devastated but I loved Her. And it hurt even worse that Her body was (and is to this day at late forty-something) rockin’. It was like coming to the table every meal, every damned day, where the table is loaded with chocolate covered strawberries and champagne and never being allowed to even touch any of it, well, one strawberry, a couple times a year, and I had to down it quickly so it wouldn’t hurt her too much. That’s been our “sex life” for 23 years.
Somehow we managed to have two kids. We were stupid, thinking: well, maybe this will be something we can do right, in spite of the “problem.” Economics put me home as the Stay-At-Home-Dad. It was kinduva “choice” for me, I had already bailed on my arts careers in favor of a desk job but the economy was tightening up around the millenium, both of us wanted to raise our own kids and, since we couldn’t afford daycare anyway even with both our jobs, I had the time so I downshifted. Ha! More like “shifted-sideways” because any SAH parent knows kids are never “down” even when they’re unconscious.
Now that our kids were a distraction from our intimacy crisis, our silence about the “problem” continued until I went back to college to finish whatever-degree-was-cheapest-and-fastest-to-finish and could get me back to an arts-based career (I was always a better artist than a paralegal), and when our eldest entered kindergarten. One day, out of the blue she tells me matter-of-factly, no tears or anything, our wedding night devastated her. “It was one more thing in my hard life that was hard. I always believed sex was going to be something easy, natural, organic I could count on to not be more work. But it wasn’t and it isn’t and I’m done with sex for good.”
I was devastated, hell, beyond shattered all over again. I felt numb, surely She didn’t mean it. After two kids, birthed the way evolution geared it, she still had a body that was rockin’. That table filled with chocolate covered strawberries and champagne I was not allowed to touch? Not even on the table anymore. I blamed her for waiting until she was married. I kicked myself for being stupid for breaking the Rule for Her that I established when I was still in high school: no moving forward with a girl without sexual compatibility being established. It was a socially unpopular Rule (one my fundamentalist parents would have freaked out over had they known) but it had always weeded out girlfriends who liked the idea of me more than me. Until Her. And here we were thirteen years married, I broke my Rule for Her and I was getting’ spanked for it (not even the fun kind).
I had a shitstorm to deal with because I was around younger twenty-somethings every day on campus and four different women (older twenty somethings) made me an offer no man could refuse, except me. I was still head over heels in love with Her. I had thirteen years emotionally invested in Her and the last thing I wanted to do was complicate that—it was plenty complicated already, dammit—and I already knew Her shit; why would I want to have to learn to deal with another woman’s? And I kicked myself for it while simultaneously glad I still wanted Her more than those very appealing other women. I was noble, it’s what a “good guy” does, right?