Recently, I received a few anonymous notes from readers about secrets they’re afraid to divulge to their partners.
Three different folks all took the time to tell me about their secrets surrounding sex and their significant other.
Married for 11 years with zero intercourse.
“My husband has erectile dysfunction from a medical condition and one of the medications he takes for his condition and we haven’t ever had intercourse. We’ve been married for eleven years.
I married him knowing this about him. I guess originally I was worried people would try to talk me out of it. I don’t want to come off as a martyr in any way.
I used to really enjoy sex in my past relationships. Now, it is my past. I have a lot of dreams about sex and sometimes I orgasm from these dreams.”
This particular reader indicated that they want to keep this secret, and I get it. I imagine they really do love their husband and don’t wish to give him grief.
Personally, I was married for two-and-a-half years, and we never had intercourse either. Our situation was a bit flipped, however, because I was the one with the medical condition (vaginismus).
I was so ashamed. I felt like a terrible wife, and the truth is that I really wanted to have penetrative sex. But back then, I didn’t know I could talk about it. And I felt too overwhelmed to get the help I needed.
At the end of the day, I felt like I was on my own, and the marriage didn’t survive.
I don’t envy anyone who has to live in an eleven year marriage without enjoying sex. But I would definitely encourage them to talk about it for their own sanity.
The truth is that there are so many different kinds of sex, and it’s possible for many couples dealing with erectile dysfunction to create a better sex life together with plenty of communication and exploration.
No more anal sex, please.
“My secret is I don’t know how to tell my husband that I don’t want to perform anal sex on him anymore. We have been doing this every week for the past 10 years.
I am afraid he will get mad.”
Marriage is a funny thing. Despite living so closely to another person, it can feel impossible to “come clean” and tell them how we really feel.
It’s normal to feel pressure about letting our loved ones down. I don’t enjoy disappointing anyone either. At the same time, it’s so important to speak up for ourselves.
Our partners can’t read our minds. Though, who knows? Maybe they do have some sort of inkling regarding our difficult feelings, but they’re equally as nervous to broach the subject.
If you want to come clean to your partner about this kind of secret, I think it’s important to gentle and honest not just with your partner but yourself too. If anal sex is a dreaded chore for any reason, it’s going to need to be discussed or ignored.
I don’t blame anyone for trying to ignore this kind of secret. But holding such feelings in can lead to a lot of resentment.
I think it’s worth discussing whether or not there’s a compromise that might be manageable for both parties.
Our sex life isn’t enough.
“Married to a woman who has very low libido/interest in sex (always has been this way). I love her, but after 35 years w/kids gone, I need more.
We are older (I’m 64 and wife is 62). We are not overweight, both eat well and exercise. My wife uses an estrogen patch (came about due to me having to talk about it–nothing would have been said otherwise) for better lubrication. She has never in 35+ years initiated sex, nor does she seem to want it. She dresses in frumpy clothes when we are alone together. NO interest in dressing sexy (she knows I would like this). She clearly does not want me to go down on her (basically says it doesn’t get off). I got her a vibrator, and she gave it back to me, inferring it would be ineffective. I brought up opening the marriage, which she vehemently vetoed. Felt that I would be drawn to whomever I would be having sex with. We are Christian, and realize that opening the marriage could be tantamount to adultery. But… She says she likes the ‘closeness’ when we have sex, which I do too..but she does not get sexually excited (pretty much just lays there), and I ALWAYS have to organize our time together. . Does not want to experiment with different positions. Sometimes feel like she is just a vessel..might as well just masturbate, which is NOT acceptable to me. I feel like I am getting closer to ‘cheating’ (hate that word)… don’t really want to.”
There’s an awful lot to unpack here, but frankly, I don’t think this is a great way to live for either spouse. It sounds like this isn’t just a case of mismatched libidos, but incompatible sexual appetites.
My understanding is that this kind of disparity isn’t something most couples can successfully troubleshoot on their own. If we talk about making compromises, one party is likely going to feel like their freedoms have been infringed upon.
I don’t personally see a satisfactory solution without trying couple’s or sex therapy first.
Furthermore, I think it’s worth noting that this kind of dissonance in a marriage isn’t that uncommon for many Christians. Purity culture of the 80s and 90s has been a significant impairment, and speaking as a formerly Christian woman, I was not adequately prepared for a healthy sex life.
If anything, I was set up for sexual dysfunction. That said, I do want to be clear that there’s nothing wrong with a person who simply doesn’t like or want sex. The answer isn’t automatically that they’re doing it wrong or that they’ve been traumatized.
But it’s a much more complicated conversation when one spouse’s sexual needs vary so greatly from the other. There aren’t any easy answers.
This is the sort of scenario that makes me believe sexual exploration before marriage matters. Sexual incompatibility happens, and it would often be better to know early on if possible. Though, incompatibilities can also arise with time.
Ultimately, if one partner feels so close to cheating, things have already gone off the rails and real intervention is in order. Even if a wife isn’t pleasing her husband sexually, or vice versa, they don’t deserve to go through the pain and trauma of cheating. Cheating can impact a person’s ability to trust anyone again.
So many sexual secrets. But what are we afraid of, anyway?
It’s complicated. I think most of us are afraid of hurting the people we love. Or, we fear rejection.
Despite it being 2019, there’s often still so much shame surrounding sex. I grew up in an environment where it often felt impossible to ask questions or talk about sexual desire.
And that shame surrounding sex can be so loaded… but maybe it doesn’t have to be. Maybe we can turn the tide by finally sharing our secrets.