I’m attracted to him, but I haven’t been able to get closer.
My husband and I have not had sex in a year and a half. We’ve had sex maybe 10 times in the last five years. I am a sexual trauma survivor. These two things are directly related, but it’s taken me years to make the connection.
Our sex life wasn’t always like this. For the first six months of our relationship, we had sex all the time. Passionate, mind-blowing sex, in fact. Knock-your-socks off sex. So you can imagine my husband’s confusion when I suddenly seemed to lose interest.
It was around the time we moved in together, and I didn’t know what was wrong. We thought it was hormonal, and I switched birth control. We thought it was related to some major life changes, so we waited it out. We thought it was a difference in libido, so we tried things like taking sex off the table for a month. We tried hooking up but not having intercourse. I started going to therapy. The problem only got worse.
My husband began to feel like I wasn’t attracted to him anymore. He stopped trying to initiate things. He grew resentful. We talked about options like opening our marriage. We had a lot of conversations about the fact that this wasn’t fair or what he wanted in a relationship. Since I have also been interested in women, he questioned whether I was attracted to men at all.
Meanwhile, I felt despondent. I felt detached and numb. I knew I was attracted to my husband, because I felt it. But I didn’t want to have sex. I wanted to kiss and cuddle without it leading to anything else. Sometimes I’d give into some form of sexual activity, but I always felt empty and used afterwards. There was always an elephant in the room. It felt like it was between us when we got into bed at night.
What’s funny is that I’m a certified rape crisis counselor. I can talk about the effects of sexual trauma on sex until I’m blue in the face. But I couldn’t internalize it and apply it to my own life. I was sure that there was a different problem. I swore that my trauma hadn’t affected me to that level. And for years, I used sex as a coping mechanism.
In the years leading up to meeting my husband, I found myself joining the “sex positive” movement. I wore it like a badge of liberation. I was determined to take back my body. I found BDSM and kink, and I jumped in with abandon. I thought I was free. It’s only now, with clear vision, that I can look back and see that I was not in an emotionally healthy place to be making these kinds of decisions. At the time, I viewed a lot of these activities as consensual but I recognize now that I was not emotionally healthy enough to be consenting. It is absolutely possible to participate in fully consensual BDSM. But for me, at that time, I wasn’t capable of it and I didn’t realize it. And the result of this is that it traumatized me more.
That all came to a head for me when my husband and I moved in. What I know now, that I didn’t know then, is that all of this is normal. What I know now, that I couldn’t internalize then, is that I was coping in the best way I knew how. And it’s because of the safety that I finally felt with my husband and in our relationship that the symptoms of my trauma finally shone through. And now I’m left undoing not only the harm that other people have done to me, but the harm I caused myself under the guise of sexual liberation.
Today, my husband and I are seeing a wonderful counselor. What we’ve learned, together, is that it’s normal for sex to be great at the beginning and to taper off when the survivor begins to feel “safe.” My dissociation and numbness around sex are also normal. It was hard for him to understand at first, because dissociation doesn’t look traumatic to someone witnessing it; it just looks like lack of enthusiasm. Which is why, for so long, my husband thought I just wasn’t into sex with him. As we, and I, start to work through this stuff, I get triggered. It gets hard. It gets uncomfortable. But I choose to think of it as progress, as a sign that I’m beginning to move through the numbing phase and onto the healing phase.
We both know that we have a long road ahead of us. We know that we won’t go back to having wonderful, consistent sex tomorrow, or even next week. But now that we’re both on the same page and the problem is clear, we feel a freedom and a closeness that we haven’t felt in a long time. The fact that we’re tackling this together brings us an intimacy that we lost when we stopped having sex. And while having regular date nights and finding activities to do together doesn’t bring quite the same intimacy that sex does, we’re taking steps in the direction of healing and we both finally feel hopeful that one day, we’ll have sex again.
Curated by Erbe