Moment that ended my sexless marriage
"I'd always equated sex with love and love with sex," says Michelle*.
Before I married Mark, I'd slept with four men in total. I didn't love them all equally but to be sexual with a man, I needed a deep sense of connection to share the most intimate part of myself.
I'd describe myself as relatively vanilla in the bedroom then. I'm still not into any kinky stuff like dressing up or role-playing. I just like regular healthy sex. For me, sex was always about expressing my love for my partner.
Mark was 31 when we met. I was just shy of my 26th birthday and six months out of a passionate 19-month relationship. My older sister started dating one of Mark's best mates, and we met at a party.
I was attracted to his solidness, both in looks (he was a beefy looking, tall, muscular man) and personality. He was the salt of the earth kind of guy. He loved his family, friends, craft beer, fishing and the Sydney Swans. He was a master builder and had just gone out on his own.
At that stage of my life, my biological urges were leading me to seek a good provider, a best friend, a close confidant and a long-term faithful lover.
As I was to find out Mark was all those things, apart from being a lover.
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It didn't start that way. When we first started dating, we went through the honeymoon phase, and we'd have sex most times that we'd share a bed.
Sex was satisfying. I'd orgasm about 80 per cent of the time. It wasn't one of those relationships where we'd be tearing each other clothes off, but I didn't mind.
I had come to accept that part of adult life was that passion wasn't as important, as connection and commitment. I had a dedicated partner who talked about our future together in front of my friends and family.
After about a year, sex started to tail off a bit after I moved into his apartment. Mark had a very physical job, and as he was always out of the house by 5.30am, he'd return home tired. My career in sales was also super busy.
I first noticed something was up when I'd want to have sex on Sunday mornings, which had always been my favourite time for making love as you're both relaxed and there are no time constraints.
Mark would often want to be doing something else like a gym session, but I pushed it to the back of my mind as what he lacked in sexual passion, he'd made up for in flowers, picnics, and weekends away. However, I was acutely aware that it was me that used to initiate sex more often than him.
We'd been together for nearly two years when we got married.
After saying I do, sex became much more infrequent. I don't even mean intercourse, I mean, kissing, flirting, and touching.
When my friends used to complain about how much their partners wanted sex, I'd keep quiet. It would have been disloyal to divulge that Mark hardly ever wanted it. It made me feel as there must have been something wrong with me, as then he was continually turning me down.
It turned into a battle of wills, the more I pushed for it, the more he withheld. He'd always come to bed later than me. I lost count of the times that I would lay there and silently cry. I would resort to bribing him. I'd cook dinner and say I'd do the dishes if he'd have sex with me. It was pathetic as sometimes he used to take me up on it. However, when it came to orgasming, he never came inside of me.
I felt rejected, angry, and helpless. My self-esteem took an absolute battering. I started to see myself very differently. I'd always been relatively okay with how I looked. I've never been stunning, but now I saw myself as somehow defective. Undesirable.
It became the most significant issue in our relationship, as I was ready for a family, even though our sex life was practically non-existent. I'd try all different strategies to make him want me. I'd leave him alone and not mention sex (then things would be great) until I'd flip the other way and demand sex.
About four years into our marriage, I finally confided in my sister about how desperate I'd become, even threatening to sleep with somebody else. She suggested that Mark was either gay, having an affair, or didn't want children.
Whenever I broached it with Mark, he was categoric in his denial. He had never had any sex outside of our relationship. He wanted a family but just not right now as running his company put an enormous amount of pressure on him.
He told me that the more I hassled him, the more he went off sex. I internalised this as being my fault. Then I'd drop it again before months would pass, and the same cycle would start again.
My sister said we needed professional help. I'd often pleaded with Mark to go to the doctor to see if it was a physiological issue like a hormonal imbalance or to see a sex therapist, together as a couple. Whatever it was, I'd said, we could overcome it as a couple. He'd agree, but when it got closer, he'd make some lame excuse.
Eventually, I secretly went to see a sex therapist alone. She told me she believed he was asexual. I had to decide whether, at the age of 32, I could resign myself to a sexless marriage and kiss that part of my life goodbye entirely.
Then I used Mark's laptop. He'd left a PayPal tab open. It linked to an account that wasn't with the usual bank we used. Over the previous four years, he'd been paying out money to different companies. Each month, there were differing amounts from $200 to $900 a month.
The secret account alerted to me that something wasn't right. Then I looked through his browsers history and found that he'd been on numerous cam sites.
He wasn't asexual at all. The betrayal was sickening.
I'd been made to feel like I was some sex pesterer and he'd been getting his needs met from various women online. When I confronted him, he lied again but then couldn't dispute what had been going on. He eventually had to admit what he'd been doing, but he couldn't explain why.
I tried to make it work with him for a few months, but I think by then, I was done. It took a long time to recover my self-esteem. I started to date again and had a lot of casual sex because I felt as if I had to make up for the lost time. Weirdly, I've ended up associating sex as something to do when you didn't love somebody because I couldn't trust anyone.
I've been divorced now for four years. I'm still waiting to meet someone that I love and wants to have sex with me. I don't know why it's so hard."
This article originally appeared on Body and Soul and was reproduced with permission
Originally published as Moment that ended my sexless marriage