I baked my husband’s favourite oatmeal chocolate chip cookies after supper last week. It was Valentine’s Day and we hadn’t done anything special to acknowledge it. I hadn’t made any plans for us, and I wasn’t expecting that he would. Our silence on the subject implied an agreement that nothing would differentiate this day from any other. I did place a card on his pillow after work. Intentionally choosing that time rather than the morning, lest it initiate an obligatory and guilt induced errand during the day to reciprocate in some form.
As we sat eating our nachos and smokies, my heart wrenched a little. The flickering desire to connect with my husband more intentionally and intimately was growing stronger. I’ve been missing him. There is a widening crack in our marriage. It’s ironic how stagnancy does that. How inactivity doesn’t just stall development, it feeds the foulness in a marriage no longer striving for healing. The wrong things grow.
I began devising a way to redeem a small part of our evening. Cookies. Milk. Dreams. Talking about our wedding anniversary the following week. Making plans for spring break and summer vacation. Daydreaming about sailing away (literally) into our retirement years. Scheduling time together. The security of there being an us. That was all the romance I needed.
But I didn’t get it. As I sat at the kitchen table, anticipating the emotional intimacy of jointly sharing our hopes and desires for the coming weeks, months and years, my husband walked into the room. He said some kind words of appreciation for the cookies, bent down to give me a quick kiss, grabbed his snack and promptly disappeared. And I didn’t stop him. I sat there alone. Confused and sad. Wondering why he didn’t choose to sit down with me. Wondering why I didn’t invite him to.
I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Holding back my words, my thoughts, my desires and needs. Reclaiming pieces of my heart that I have decided are no longer safe with my husband. The bruised, broken pieces that I had cautiously, but courageously, offered back to him in the last four years as we began healing and recovering from the betrayal, rejection, neglect, and abuse of his sex addiction, intimacy anorexia and a twenty year sexless marriage.
I have done a tremendous amount of work in the last four years to heal from sexual betrayal trauma, as well as the deep wounds of sexual sin inflicted on me by both myself and others. I have embraced a recovery program that has included counselling, a recovery support group, and reading and completing numerous workbooks and recovery materials.
And I have prayed. And wept. And prayed. And burrowed into the Bible. Where I discovered refuge and the promise of forgiveness, hope, grace, and extravagant love. Where God’s comfort, strength and healing power began tenderly restoring His daughter to a new life of wholeness. Where I received the assurance that it was safe to trust God with my heart. And as He drew me towards my husband, I began to understand and believe that it would be okay to trust my husband with it too.
And now my heart aches. The pain of sexual rejection and neglect continues to wash over me. I wrestle with resentment, bitterness, envy, self pity and intense sadness. My hope for God designed, mutually fulfilling sexual intimacy wanes. I am angry at those who have falsely offered me the assurance that when my husband overcame his pornography addiction, his brain would become rewired to sexually desire me. Well, he has, and he doesn’t. He denies the latter. But as recovery teaches us – believe behaviours, not words.
I don’t know for how long we can blame his former pornography addiction and compulsive masturbation for the lack of sexual intimacy in our marriage. I don’t know if, or when, the issue shifts from the effects of past porn use to a current unwillingness or ability to prioritize sexual health.
It appears that we will likely never have a conventional sex life. As we have both neared the age of fifty, the physical health of our bodies has betrayed us. It is my desire to find ways to compensate for and overcome these obstacles to cultivate and enrich our sexual intimacy, whether short or long term. An intimate connection that will work for us and be uniquely ours. My husband does not share this desire with me. And that hurts. A lot.
But what hurts even more than the continued sexual deprivation and neglect is the prevalent dishonesty, deception, and avoidance related to our sexual issues. My needs are being ignored and shamed. As are my requests for communication. I feel like I am being strung along as I was for the first twenty five years of our marriage. Being manipulated to keep the boat from rocking.
I am being denied the opportunity to improve our sexual intimacy, and I am being denied the ability to mourn and grieve an integral part of marriage. Of my marriage.
The last several months, I have been unable to fully trust my husband’s words and behaviours. That makes me sad. My heart is his. My body is his. But he can’t or won’t accept that gift. And I don’t know why.
I struggle with this. I recently encouraged a friend by telling her that if she was struggling and wrestling, that meant she was still showing up every day for the battle. She hadn’t surrendered to the enemy.
I haven’t given up either. Even though some days the temptation is strong. I truly believe that God continues to heal, restore and redeem that which pornography and addiction destroyed in our lives and stole from our marriage. I’m awaiting the final victory. Just wishing we were waiting together.
Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4