I’m tired, for now, of talking about the pregnancy epidemic in my peer group, and stressing over what I want to do with my life. I want to change the subject for tonight, to something that’s a little more lighthearted and a lot more fun – or would be, if I was having and enjoying it.
So let’s talk about sex.
As I’ve mentioned here before, sex is something that happens for me about once a week now, which is less than what’s considered normal for someone of my age and status, but by no means constitutes a sexless relationship. It usually happens on my terms, because even though Doug still makes advances, I think he has been conditioned to believe that they will never be accepted, and now takes indifference, and even subtle acquiescence, as a no. It’s good for me, to have to initiate, because it’s slightly outside of my comfort zone, but it can also be frustrating when I’m trying to drop hints and Doug doesn’t pick up on them.
With the ball in my court, I feel like I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Whenever the subject of sex comes up, I always feel guilty, regardless of the context. I feel guilty that we don’t have enough sex, that maybe it’s a sign that things aren’t as good as they used to be, that we aren’t as good as we used to be, or that it makes me a bad/inconsiderate girlfriend. And this sucks, because no other aspect of a relationship calls the whole thing into question and leaves it open to judgment like that. I mean, no one ever superficially predicts the success of a marriage based on how often the couple cuddles.
On the other hand, a lot of times when Doug and I do have sex, I end up feeling guilty too. I mean, the sex part of it feels good, but there’s very rarely an afterglow. More often than not, I end up feeling dirty, regretful, or somehow violated, even though I was the one calling the shots. We get cleaned up, we go to sleep, and I try not to think about what just happened.
It’s a horrible effect, and I have no explanation for it. Again, it causes me to call my relationship and my self-worth into question: Am I disgusted by Doug? By my own body? Is this relationship going the way of my last one? Do I believe I don’t deserve pleasure?
This has never happened to me before – or maybe once or twice, with my ex-husband, when things had gone south, and I began to become aware of how unenjoyable our physical relationship really was. In the past, with Doug and almost all of the men who preceded him, however, my afterglow would last for hours, even days. I remember when we first got together, I would be at work and suddenly remember some detail from the night before – something new we’d tried, something one of us had said – and I would have to slip into the back to collect myself because I couldn’t stop smiling. Now, I’ll be brushing my teeth the next morning, and instead of remembering and smiling, I’ll remember and have to stop myself from saying “ugh” out loud.
I’ve told Doug about this adverse reaction before, and told him it’s nothing personal, because I don’t want him to accidentally notice and wind up thinking I don’t enjoy the sex that we have. Sex, like I said, feels good when we do it. It’s always on my terms. It’s supposed to be the physical manifestation of our love, the deepest connection we can possibly have. Who knows why my stupid gut reacts the way it does?
I was at my mom’s house this evening, reading her Oprah magazines while waiting for dinner to be ready, and I happened on one man’s account of his wife’s miscarriage and how they were trying to recover from it. And to clarify, let’s say I had a failed pregnancy – the zygote never took – but this woman had a miscarriage. Where I saw a little empty sac, this woman saw a 14-week-old fetus that, days before, had been moving around healthily inside her. The article, which is worth reading in its entirely, explains what happened, how the couple has been trying to cope, and the support they got from their friends in the weeks following the tragedy.
And somewhere in there, tucked into the list of things that were thought and felt and done in the wake of his loss, the author admits that, “My wife and I tried to make love, but, in her words, it was the ‘scene of the crime.'”
Is this what’s wrong with me? Why I generally don’t want to have sex and end up regretting it when I do? It’s not a conscious thought. But I’ve admitted here already that, given the certainty of my contraceptive verses the strength of my desire to conceive, sex feels like a pantomime. And that’s not a conscious thought either; it’s what I get if I dig underneath all my surface-level reasons for not wanting to do the deed.
“Scene of the crime.” It would certainly explain why I feel guilty, subconsciously thinking Doug and I are criminals. So maybe the next step in my healing process should be to try to find a way to reclaim sex. Now… How do I do that?