(As told to Pulkit Vasudha)
Not now, darling, he said
I felt a familiar thrill as I wrapped my arms around his waist and brushed my lips against his neck. He looked into my eyes with sadness, pecked me chastely and turned away.
The days when my whole body tingled with sexual tension were long gone. After seven years in a nearly sexless relationship, I had given up. I still loved him, yearned for him, and desired him as I did in the heady days of early romance. Only a few weeks after we started dating, our sex life had started to dwindle, until three months in, I was begging him to make love to me, to hold me as he wanted me. Now, we had awkward sex once or twice a year.
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We did love each other, deeply
Our marriage wasn’t loveless, just sexless. He made me so happy in so many ways but the aching lack of sex gnawed away at me. I spent days wondering why he didn’t find me sexy. What had I done to turn him off? Was he seeing someone else? Was he secretly gay or cross-dressing or binging on porn? What could I do to connect with him again?
I’d tried speaking to him so many times about his desires, his fantasies, his past sex life, his hopes for ours – vain attempts at bridging the chasm of intimacy in our lives. He would sit with his head in his hands, clawing at himself in his own frustration. He said he wanted us to be intimate, sensuous, in love. And I wanted to believe him, I desperately wanted to believe him, but physically, we had become strangers to each other. I could see the pain in his eyes, “It’s been so long, I don’t know how to touch you. To hold you, any more.”
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To the world, we were a happy couple
We had two beautiful children. To the world, we had been busy in the bedroom but in truth, our marriage was plagued with anguish and arguments about sex. The thought of separation crossed my mind, but our love was too strong to be thrown away.
I downloaded Tinder but none of the coquettish young men stirred my fancy enough to swipe right. I even considered gigolos – who knew they were so abundant and accessible! But I realised I already had the man I wanted – why didn’t he want me?
Blogs and magazines stressed that love remains long after sex has faded away, but no one talked about the absence of sex from the beginning of a great relationship. It was astonishing how many of my friends were in similar sexless marriages. One had a relationship that was reduced to the swapping of presents bought at airport kiosks. Another had had a fabulous four-year honeymoon before childcare and professional stresses killed her sex life. Yet another way in a 15-year abusive relationship and certain her man was cheating on her. Sharing our stories, the pain and crude jokes about sexless lives with girlfriends was cathartic.
A few months after we started dating, I had asked my husband to see a psychiatrist. “I don’t need to see anyone. I can sort this out myself,” he said. Finally, five years later, after I threatened to leave, he went to see a sex counsellor, then we went together to marriage counselling. Though it didn’t work and my husband still couldn’t explain his lack of interest in sex, I noticed he was more willing to talk.
A few months later, we were making to-do lists in a notebook when I looked at him playfully, secretly hoping this wouldn’t lead to yet another argument and hours of silence.
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Things are now looking up
I asked him to write down some things he missed about sex. He had five minutes.
He looked uncertain but wrote ‘1. Go down on him’. “OK, carry on.” When he had finished seven, I wrote seven things I missed. Write seven more, I said. By now we were out of things we missed and were talking about things we wanted. We started working together, helping each other, making suggestions, asking questions. When we finished we had a numbered list of 31. Our month of sex. We even had a time scheduled.
The next day, anticipation was foreplay enough. The feeling of being desired and pleasured was ecstatic and set the tone for the month that followed. Sometimes we waited till the babies were in bed, but often we sneaked in time to do the deed in the day. There were days when we were tired and just talked but it didn’t matter. I had my man and we’d found our mojo again.