It’s true. I know you were thinking this was some clever title to get you to read this blog, but it’s not. It’s just the truth. During one of our roughest patches of marriage, I think it was the very thing we were fighting about that saved us.
My husband and I have always—and still—primarily fight about three things:
2) Money, and,
These are the same three things that most married couples fight about. If you think about most of your arguments, you can boil them down until they fit in to one of those three categories.
We fought about sex a lot. In fact, we couldn’t even have a conversation about it—it always resulted in a fight. I had spent eight years straight pregnant with or nursing someone. And even after all of that, my youngest child was just two—I was still wiping multiple butts on a daily basis. I have told you before how much I enjoy those first few months but how the constant touching, hanging on and neediness of toddlers drove me crazy. Someone was always attached to some part of my body: nursing on a nipple, hanging on my leg, sitting in my lap, being carried on my hip, sleeping in a sling, or punching my thigh when they didn’t get their way.
Days often seemed long and like there was no end in sight—no silent refuge, no hole I could crawl in to spend time alone, no magic force-field I could turn on to keep them all away. And then…
Jeff would come home from work. He was gone all day and always got to have lunch out with his work friends (fine, except the days when he was too busy on a murder or sitting on a perimeter to mark out for lunch). I was home meeting the needs of others first (and back in those days, almost never met my own needs even very last—an important lesson for sure). I worked from home and even when we finally got a nanny, I was still here during the day and the default parent. He, from my perspective, was skating through this whole thing and was just another person whose needs I had to meet before my own. He would want to touch me. Kiss me hello, rub my back, stand and hug in the kitchen, grab my butt while I was cooking dinner.
Oh, the nerve, I thought. I knew my kids couldn’t help needing me and hanging on me. I knew they didn’t know any better and it was in fact my job as the primary care giver to let them do so without getting angry or resentful because they couldn’t do it all on their own (although sometimes I certainly did lose it).
But my husband was an adult. I could certainly get angry and built up resentment towards him for his level of neediness and I could be certain I never met his expectations. I clearly was not conscious of my choice to almost punish him for what I was feeling about myself—but that was exactly what I did.
He would make advances and I would shoot out a cold chill. I would start a fight or I would find all the excuses in the world to set it up so that there was 0% chance we would have sex that night.
“I ate too much.”
“This is my favorite TV show.”
“I have had a terrible headache all day.”
“I still have so much to do before I can go to bed.”
Whatever the excuse was, I would start laying them down early. Sometimes, he paid no attention to them and as soon as he would crawl in to bed, I would tense up with fear that he would come my way and expect sex. Here we go again, I would think, meeting someone else’s needs while all I want to do is have some time to myself.
He can control himself, I would always think. And, he should be able to read my signals, and not even try anything. He should understand I have had little people hanging on me all day—he should know better. But he didn’t. And, what I learned is I didn’t know better either.
A few things I didn’t realize at the time, until my therapist really helped me to understand them.
First, not meeting my own needs throughout the day was my own choice—and it was a very poor one that was self-destructive.
Second, continued physical rejection by someone they love is a very powerful feeling for most men (even if they are not always aware of it, because you know, it’s outside the four feelings they know how to articulate: happy, sad, mad, glad) and is incredibly damaging to a relationship.
Third, having sex with my husband would significantly improve our relationship and I wouldn’t always feel so overwhelmed by the responsibilities—plus, I might actually enjoy it. I had definitely forgotten about that part.
She suggested we schedule sex. Yep, you heard me. We schedule it. Start with two nights a week, she suggested. And so we did. It wasn’t always pretty, or romantic, or even fulfilling but it created a new habit and removed a few huge barriers from our relationship. That, I believe, saved us from one of the most destructive cycles we had been in during our married life.
And here’s why. I knew when to anticipate it. I gave in and didn’t have to fight. I committed to it. Now, that may sound strange—like it was a chore—and at times, that is how I saw it (quiet frankly, still do sometimes…just being honest here). But it actually made things easier for me. It significantly reduced the negative energy I put out and allowed me to not always be so on edge about whether his motives were to have sex or not. I took a hug for a hug and not a sexual advance. It changed the way I read and responded to his body language.
It also eliminated the nightly work up, the anticipation and completely eliminated the continued rejection. He knew on those scheduled nights that when he went in for it, he would score.
And, because the pressure was off, we were able to actually talk about the issue of sex instead of always argue about it. It suddenly felt like we were on the same team about it instead of working against each other.
Oh, this is another important point about the plan we implemented. Last thing of the day, when I crawl in to bed was just too late for me. I admitted that was part of the problem and we had to adjust. The kids were old enough we could walk out of the room and go upstairs alone but too young to really realize what was going on. “Mom and Dad are going to fold the laundry,” we would say. Later, we added that we had to “work on the taxes” and now both are jokes among our kids.
Sex has become a very important part of our relationship. It’s not always perfect and sometimes life does get in the way, but it remains at the heart of this good thing we have going on for almost 20 years now.