My Spouse and I Had Stopped Having Sex. Here's How We Were Able to Rekindle Our Passion.
"I was convinced that our relationship was doomed."
They say that bad things always happen in threes. Well, two years ago, all it took was two bad things to send my marriage into a tailspin.
Early one winter morning, my husband John and I found out that his sister had cancer. A few days later, I lost my job in sales at a highly reputable company where I'd been working for nine years.
It was one of the hardest times John and I went through as a couple. We relied heavily on both of our salaries to pay the mortgage and our bills, and we didn't know if a single income would cut it. I spent my days on job websites, my sleep quality was deteriorating, and my anxiety levels were through the roof. Between the practical stressors of unemployment and the emotional stressors of my sister-in-law's illness, we were both distraught.
A few weeks went by and without any promising professional prospects, I was not feeling good about myself in any way, shape, or form. Nearly six weeks into my unemployment, I realized something was dreadfully wrong in my marriage: John and I had not been having sex at all. Nothing. For some couples, a month and a half may not sound like a huge deal. But for us, having previously had sex at least three or four times a week for the past eight years, it was certainly out of the norm.
We were spending a lot of time talking about his sick sister, the family dynamics, and my lack of a job. We had in-depth conversations about how we could cut expenses until I found something stable again. Understandably, none of that chatter was ripe for foreplay.
I decided the best thing I could do was to speak to John directly about our lack of physical intimacy. The following night in bed, I said to him, "Baby, it's been an entire month and a half and we have not acted like husband and wife at all. Nothing has happened in the bedroom."
I thought maybe initiating the conversation would lead to some physical touch, but I was swiftly rejected. John said that there was a lot going on and that he hadn't been in the mood. "I'm tired," he told me. "Let's do it tomorrow night." He coldly turned off the lights and went to sleep while I laid awake, even more worried and anxious than I'd been before.
Well, the next night came around and nothing. A few weeks went by and still, nothing. I didn't want to bring up the subject again since I certainly didn't want to get rejected again, so I came to a simple conclusion: My husband was no longer attracted to me.
I was convinced that our relationship was doomed. Numerous scenarios started playing through my mind. Maybe he's cheating on me, I even thought. I really didn't know what was going on, but I knew I was at my wit's end trying to figure it out alone.
So, I went to see a therapist. I never told anyone about it because that would mean telling them about the state of my marriage, which made me feel ashamed and embarrassed. I decided that I would rather speak to an impartial stranger than risk being judged by my friends, who tended to boast about how much great sex they were having.
But even the prospect of leaning on an expert was terrifying. I was petrified walking into my first session. My throat was insatiably dry, but I was trying not to drink too much water because my bladder was already nervous. Meanwhile, my stomach was filled with the kind of not-so-great butterflies that made me feel like I was either going to faint or throw up.
When the therapist asked me why I was there, I nearly ran out of the room. I felt extremely uncomfortable, embarrassed, and out of place. But then, I remembered how hard things had been and how much effort, energy, and internal strength it took for me to actually be sitting in front of him. I wasn't about to waste it.
And I'm glad I didn't. The therapist turned out to be a true lifesaver. Over the course of our six sessions, he made me realize that love is not sex. Yes, sex can be a way of expressing love, but it is not the be all or the end all. He explained to me that there are different forms of emotional intimacy and they don't all have to be physical.
He also helped me see that maybe John and I did still love each other, but we were just both shutting down emotionally because we were worried about his sister and our finances. And he also pointed out that I had not been communicating effectively with John. A healthy relationship needed honesty and openness. I had been spending so much time in my head, I hadn't given John—or our marriage—a real fighting chance.
He suggested that John and I sit down to talk about how we were really feeling. A few months prior, the idea of setting myself up to get rejected by my husband again, whether emotionally or physically, would've paralyzed me. But that evening, I went home feeling determined to speak to John.
When I told him that I thought we needed to talk, he completely agreed. "I thought you weren't attracted to me anymore," he said, initiating the conversation. I was shocked. I told him that I had thought the same thing about him and suddenly, a wave of relief washed over us.
We agreed to start communicating more openly and to make a distinct effort to connect with each other again. I suggested doing a date night once a week, where no matter what was going on, we would put time aside to go out together, away from the dishes in the sink and the stress at home. We stuck to it and soon enough, the most amazing thing happened: We were laughing and having fun together again. That was what was ultimately missing from our marriage.
In just a few weeks, John and I had miraculously rekindled our relationship and the sex just came naturally as a result. We certainly did still love each other and the chemistry was still there; I think it had just been hidden behind the stress and depression that we were experiencing.
Fast forward two years later and things with John and I have never been better. I've settled into a new job and John's sister is finally in remission from her cancer. Everything in the bedroom is very healthy and back to normal, and we can even joke about the time when things went wrong. I know now that with the ability to both laugh at ourselves and talk about our concerns, John and I can get through anything.
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