There’s been some infamously fascinating conversation about sex and the passive aggressive man in the comments on this post.
I don’t want to give the impression that we never have sex, or that we’ve never had great sex. Like everything else with him, it’s consistently inconsistent. (By the way, I’m still battling my privacy freak self to even have a discussion on the internet that includes the word sex and my private life. I just feel this is one of those topics that too many of us have suffered in misplaced shame with.)
One of the posters that commented on the above linked post really nailed it down:
“in my experience a PA will do what you don’t want. …they find out what you want and desire and then withhold it or they find what hurts you and then they do that more…Mine would try to come on to me – only at times he knew were inconvenient for me – so he knew there was no chance that sex would happen. If I made myself available or approached him later… he wouldn’t want it then. That is a typical PA move. He would get my hopes up and dash them later on. And then he could also blame me”
“…he would only want to have sex when I didn’t want to …anytime really that was inconvenient for me). Later when it was convenient for us both …he wouldn’t want it…he could be free to resent and blame for our lack of sex….In my case I knew the withholding sex was punishment for me.” (Bronze)
Oh my. I remember an office Christmas party many years ago. I was working a temp job for a large financial institution. I had my hair done during my lunch hour, borrowed a smexy black beaded cocktail dress from my girlfriend, and brought my party makeup with me to jazz it up before I took off from work to meet up for his office party. Conveniently, it was the day of the office party where I was working too. I got ready for his party, and enjoyed a bit of ours before I left. One of the very top men in the company swung my direction a few times to smile in obvious admiration. (staring at myself today, I feel sure this was another person in another lifetime) I was feeling the happy feeling of a woman when she’s looking her best, and on her way to a party. The owner of his firm had an actress from a popular t.v. show on his arm that night. It was kind of fun when the owner diverted his attention from her and flirted with me a little. The actress he brought gave me the cutest smile, the barest shake of her head, and almost a wink as if to say, “Men!” I had frequent invitations to dance, and someone snapped a romantic looking picture of us while we were sitting at a table. I still have the picture. My husband was very attentive, touched me often protectively, and did some flirting with me himself. We looked like a beautiful young couple destined for romance.
Only most of you reading probably know how the evening turned out. No sooner did we walk out in the parking lot towards our car, when he mentioned he wasn’t feeling quite well. Had a bit of a headache. Was feeling tired. Just not feeling quite right. Whatever the exact words, they rang a familiar dissonant chord that I recognized with unwelcome understanding. I’d heard many verses of that same song so many times in our years together. He had every sane reason to enjoy a willing, available, and attractive wife that night. Let’s just say that I knew the stars were not going to align that night. It would instead be one more night of lying in bed, wide awake and listening to him sleep. Feeling the most painful alone feeling, hugging the edge of the bed with silent tears, and the panic feeling of hope grasping at nothing in the dark. I was in my late twenties.
Another poster (AlonewithGod) asked, “Can somebody explain to me how a man in the prime of life can just do without sex? Isn’t there a physical need?”
I’ve asked that question so many times. I’ve asked him! I remember asking him a few times if he was attracted to women or to men. I wasn’t being mean or sarcastic when I asked. I just needed to know and to understand. He swore then and still does that he’s attracted to me. I believe he was being truthful saying that, but oh how unattractive it made me feel to not have a husband acting on desire for me. I learned that attraction can be present and tightly controlled. Once I told him that I could describe myself to him in one word: resistable. In answer to the question posed above as to whether there’s a physical need, his choice has been to secretly have sex alone. And lie about that to me. He’d choose that many times over mutual enjoyment. Even when we’ve seemingly been getting along. Even when he’s lead me on by saying that we should be ‘close’ soon, and when I’ve responded with affectionate agreement to his comment. The thing is that he’d make a comment like that when having sex wasn’t possible just then. Later when it was, he’d act as though he hadn’t said it earlier. Even when I approached him affectionately and openly, thinking that open communication would make it ‘safe’ for him.
Until I didn’t want it anymore. Then he’d start pursuing me. Only if I no longer wanted it.
Another poster mentioned the Madonna complex. I’ve thought about that too, but the puzzle piece doesn’t quite fit here. Feeling in control of himself and of me, and punishing me, does fit.
In years past, I was so easy going that I told him that if he was in the mood and I wasn’t, that I was still quite agreeable to have sex. Touching and being touched was still a positive for me. I also told him that I didn’t care about times he might want a ‘quickie’ (easy and quick, no foreplay needed, just one sided sexual release), as long as he was willing to have intimate making love intimacy later. (That offer eventually soured for me when it became clear that he was only interested in his personal release, and didn’t follow through on the mutual intimacy much. Then I felt used.) It didn’t matter to me if I was coming on or off my period. Nursing a baby or pregnant. Whether I had a cold or was feeling under the weather. I was extremely affectionate, open, and giving in this area of relationship. Most always, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. If he said he wasn’t feeling well, I reluctantly accepted it and believed him most of the time.
A revealing thing happened in my early thirties that planted serious doubt for me. I was at the end of the pregnancy with our fourth child, in fact, I was a month over my due date. Up until that time, I’d remained easy going and available through all four pregnancies. Once I hit the third trimester, I’d always kind of given up on sex being fulfilling for me, other than just being touched and hugged. I think that I was just naive, and questioned my ability to enjoy it past that point when I had such a big belly. When I was pregnant, I would always reassure him that it didn’t matter, and he could still have sex as often as he felt like it.
Well. What do you know. His libido and health had this miraculous surge during my third trimester. Four times in a row. He became consistently interested in having sex often. Sex that was all for him basically. Still, I quelled my suspicions. Since I was so overdue, I was advised to walk until I was tired, soak in a nice long bath, then I was instructed to have sex and be sure to reach orgasm.
Huh? What? Um… I stared doubtfully at the belly about to birth a twelve pound baby. (twelve pounds and four ounces to be exact) People routinely asked me if I was going to have twins or triplets. Um… how would this even be possible? At that point, I was desperate and determined for labor and birth, so I followed the instructions. All of them! Let me now tell you that it is possible. Just a few hours later, I was in labor.
I didn’t think much about it until I was pregnant with Baby number five. I was actually kind of happy about the memory at that point, and said to my husband, “Isn’t it great? Now I know that I can enjoy having sex all the way through the pregnancy!”
Or not. For four pregnancies, he’d always told me how sexy and beautiful and attractive I was when pregnant. Why should it be any different this time? Because this time I wanted it, and I could enjoy it.
No more third trimester you’re-so-sexy-pregnant-that-I-want-sex-more-often. Nope. Back to the rare oasis of good sex, and then desert of withholding between.
There are also the times that we’ve argued about the lack of sex, or the times that I specifically would ask him ‘why not now’ and he would respond with some ridiculously petty thing. Maybe I didn’t offer to make him lunch. I was on a long phone call and ignored him when he wanted to talk to me. He was sick of my books and papers on the end of the table. He was tired of helping around the house and felt others weren’t doing enough. The reason doesn’t really matter. Not because I don’t care about how he feels or what any legitimate reason might be. The reason doesn’t matter because like everything else, there was an endless supply of reasons. No matter how many reasons or complaints or accusations I tried to address, just like whack-a-mole, new ones would pop up. Endlessly. I just gave up trying to pretzel myself or read his mind. I told him once that it felt like he was saying, “If only you could jump ‘this’ high, then I’d be free to show love to you.” So I’d jump and practice, and practice and jump, until one day I’d excitedly say, “Husband! Watch this!” And as I was running towards the bar to jump, he’d raise it a few inches.
I was Charlie Brown running at Lucy holding the blasted football over and over and over.
Only it was my heart and soul that was being wounded each time.
Does he feel attraction? Yes, I think so. But feeling any kind of need that he isn’t entirely in control of, feeling any kind of need that means he needs someone else to fill the need, is something for him to control and resist. Since he also needs someone to push against and resist, I’m the one that he resents and resists. He resents me for feeling the kind of love that he knows he doesn’t entirely experience. For parts of my soul and being being vibrantly alive with passion while those parts in him were stunted and disconnected. Maybe he resents me for being a living, daily reminder that he chooses not to do the work that would change that. Rather than changing himself, he diminishes me, maybe to destroy the evidence that passion exists. I don’t know. The reasons are theories, but I just know how it plays out and what it looks like.
And feels like. It looks and it feels lonely. It feels unsafe. And because of the times that we’ve had good windows of sweetness, tenderness, and making love, it feels incredibly sad. To resist that is just insanity. I cannot understand. Heaven knows I can’t fix or change it.