Once We Were Sexless But Now We Are Sexy As
I have already mentioned that I love my husband dearly and that we are happily married and have recently celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary. In a nutshell, we have survived. And I have also already mentioned that things weren't always as rosy as they are now and we have had to climb some pretty big mountains along the way, not the least of which is mental illness.
So I am going to jump in the deep end and say something about that time in our marriage when things were not going well and then talk about how things came right.
Some of you might be able to relate to what I am saying and probably many of you won't. After all, everyone is different and you can't generalize. But at least it is a springboard for discussion. As you know, I believe there is always hope. It is never too late. And I am speaking from experience.
My husband was part of God's plan for me. Of that, I was totally convinced and I never doubted it. Before we got married we had a wonderful time and got on like a house on fire.
Then we got married and all of a sudden I took over from Mum. His Mum. We were too broke now to have much of a good time. We were warned about it not being such a good idea to get married in poverty but we were far too idealistic to take the slightest bit of notice. We were undergraduates when we married. And my husband was focussed very much on his degree and his career.
Suddenly it felt like all the romance was gone. It seemed like I was on the periphery of my husband's life rather than at the centre. He was outstanding in his teaching career and I was struggling in mine. I felt that he was competing with me and inconveniencing me.
So the seeds of resentment started to grow.
Then down the line came our first baby. The delivery was problematic and excruciating. The second stage of labour was extremely prolonged. Our baby was traumatized by the birth and had OCD from day 1. As for me, I had nightmares about it for months. My milk didn't come in till day 5 and I was never forwarned about this possibility in any of the classes I attended. My baby had big problems. He was feeding every hour right through the night. I was totally exhausted from lack of sleep and nervous tension and I did not feel supported by my husband who was still focussing on his job.
I didn't think I would ever be able to face going through another pregnancy, but I did. And from day 1 of the pregnancy it was like a gigantic attack of gastro. Morning sickness like you wouldn't believe. I suffer from low blood pressure and I had major problems just trying to stay conscious enough to look after my young son. And again I felt like there was very little support.
Back then, I didn't know the first thing about mental illness. I didn't recognize it for what it was. I had never heard of personality disorders. I didn't have a clue.
So when I was heavily in labour with my daughter and told my husband I would have to be taken to hospital he said well, I needn't think he was going to take me, and I was wounded and confused to the core by his apparent lack of empathy and consideration. My parents took me in the end and I only just made it.
My husband was at home looking after our son and it was abundantly obvious that he was struggling with it. So the next day I went home with all 17 stitches from the perineal tear and a caution not to move or lift anything. My husband promptly moved the bed in such a way that I would have to pull it out from the wall to make it. And he kept doing this.
Now, it is clear as the sun in the sky that the guy had problems but I was fiercely loyal and I never said a word about it. But the time came from the depths of my despair and misery and exhaustion when I started talking to my parents about it. And guess what? They could already tell that things weren't right. It was my father who suggested that my husband really had a psychiatric problem. And that struck terror in me. Fear of something I knew nothing about. Fear of facing a future of more of the same. Fear of just never being able to make it all work out.
I tried to communicate my feelings and concerns to my husband but I felt he wasn't hearing me. He certainly wasn't changing any of his behaviours. I can remember a period of my life back then when I was so upset, so sick and so miserable that I just wanted to die and I begged God over and over to just take me away from this life.
There was no sex happening. That is because of refusal on my part. I felt too resentful and hopeless about the relationship. I wanted there to be a breakthrough but everything I tried (and that included a marriage guidance cousellor) had failed.
The days turned into weeks and months. Eight months passed. Then my husband finally asked me, "Do you still have feelings for me?"
I truthfully answered, "Yes."
"Then why aren't we having a physical relationship anymore?"
Now, when he asked this, a little surge of joy passed through me. He cared. He was feeling it. He was asking the right questions.
"Because I don't feel secure enough in the relationship. I am feeling resentful." The marriage guidance counsellor had advised me to always take ownership of what I was feeling and avoid blaming. So even though I wanted to say, "You make me feel unimportant and used" I didn't.
Now, I was frightened about how my husband would react to this but I also figured that things couldn't get much worse. He didn't say anything but he started taking the trouble to spend more time with me. We started going on drives and picnics on the beach etc. I could see that he cared.
Around that time I read a book about the life of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi. When interviewed about his wife's sanctity, her husband Domenico said, "She always gave me my rights and never demanded her own." This impressed me hugely, educated me very mightily and challenged me to the core. To make it even more interesting, Blessed Anna Maria had had a perineal tear filled in with molten lead. Go figure!
So I talked to the good Lord about it and I recalled our marriage vows. For richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. Forsaking all others and cleaving to that one alone. I knew that I had made a serious obligation and sex was part of the bargain and my feelings were not the be all and end all of the matter. So I made a commitment to God to straighten out my act. And I asked Blessed Anna Maria to pray for me. And from that moment on I never refused my husband.
At first, things got worse about our relationship and how I felt in it. Both my husband and my son had quite pronounced and obvious mental health problems and we had some very hairy and interesting situations ideed. I had to hide the knives. I had to watch my son become too ill to attend school. I had to home school him while nursing my husband in a severely psychotic state and looking after new baby no. 3. Oh, and just to add spice to the situation, my husband could not tolerate the sound of the baby crying.
Other really sad things happened too. I have already mentioned some in my story about my daughter and in my story about my son. Due to problems in the pregnancy I gained a huge amount of weight and had no chance of losing it. I have mentioned that already in my story about photos from then and now. In that story I mentioned that sometimes life deals us blows. If you want to see how I looked at that time, go read that story.
But things changed. They didn't change because I suddenly gained knowledge and insight. It is more a case of looking back and seeing from the clarity of hindsight what it was that made all the difference.
First, I had said in Q&A that I think the secret to a longlasting relationship is the grace of God because no matter how hard one person tries, it can all become undone by the other person. And that is first and foremost what has turned the situation around.
My husband learned, through his illness, that he has a loving and devoted wife. Where other people refused to tolerate, refused to understand and refused to help I understood, tolerated and helped and got him through, thanks be to God. He started referring to me as "his rock". God sent us the help of a truly gifted and insightful social worker who helped me understand mental illness and co-dependency better and who encouraged me to have faith in the "God of breakthrough". The God of Breakthrough is what David called God after he defeated the Philistines.
I learned what a difference it makes just to use the right words. I would think about what word would best describe what my husband was experiencing and I would speak the opposite. For example, if I thought he was feeling rejected, I would try to use words of acceptance. If I thought he was feeling unloved I would use as many words of love as I could.
When we moved to New Zealand where my husband had a new teaching appointment we were still in the motel when the Principal came around and asked me to teach too. What about the new baby? He said not to worry about it. He would find a good carer.
Now I am just going to pause to say something about this. My dream of marriage was to be a full time mother with a large family and a beautiful home. I did not want to be a working mother. And that is why I was prepared to put up with financial hardship. .. But standing here changing my plans was my parish priest. And my husband was in complete agreement with him. And that is when I realized how much my husband wanted me to work.
He didn't just want more money. And I don't want that to sound like greed. We really needed it. He wanted me to help him, to support him, to share his life with him, to be able to experience the day together. So I said yes.
Let me tell you, it wasn't the end of the world, having to have a carer. I worked part time until baby no.4 was toddling and he was asleep while I was at work. But it did make the world of difference to my husband's happiness.
And in spite of the never ending trials, our love was growing. But things were tough. Bullying, being foreigners in a new country and mental health issues were really taking their toll and my husband was desperately homesick. Plus his father was dying. He had another breakdown, more psychotic episodes. I was coping by doing his workload as well as my own. And was taught by the social worker not to do that, not to prop up the illness.
One night while marking a little voice whispered to me that I should apply for a job in Australia just as my husband had done. Full time. I wrote to the same employer he did and explained the situation honestly from the heart. I asked him to phone me and tell me what he thought about it (he was a priest too.) Six days later he phoned and asked me when we could both start.
And we haven't looked back.
So here's what it is like for us nowadays. We share our day. Our day begins with me totally checking him out. Every morning I tell him he is the sexiest dude that God created or words to that effect. I make sure I get my hands on him in the morning and not on the bits he is self conscious about. He gets up early and dusts, vacuums and makes the lunches because he is grateful to me for working. We listen to the news on the way and talk about it. We pray together. We teach next door to each other. We check on each other throughout the day. We notice each other. We work hard and we play hard. We make sure we have got exciting things to do to look forward to. We look forward to our weekends and holidays. We have great times. No matter what I do, he now is there by my side and he now realizes that love is too precious a thing to take it for granted or expect it to take a back seat to other things. And the sex is great.
To sum up I would say this. Love comes from God and must be blessed by God in order to survive difficult trials. Otherwise, it is just a disordered affection. So you do have to turn to a higher power.
God changed my plans for our marriage and gave me more happiness than I ever could have believed was possible.
You are not being disloyal to your spouse if you seek help. If there are problems it is important to talk about it. Problems do not just go away.
In my youth I failed to appreciate just how much stress certain things created for my husband. It is important to alleviate these stresses, be it financial, difficult in-laws, health problems or whatever. Get help.
And don't refuse your spouse. That is a big no no. Acts of love increase love. They really do. God will look after the rest and make it come right if you uphold your end of the bargain.
Make time to be together and make your spouse feel prioritized.
And communicate without blaming.
I could say a lot more, but I think that is enough for now. I hope it helped.