For those of you who read my last post and are wondering, “That’s it?  She left her husband because he was reading her email and wouldn’t let her use the mobile phone?”

Well, no.  I found it easier to write about the small things– the little warning signs.  The big, overarching, negative themes of my marriage are a little more difficult to be calm and write about.  I know what they are.  I just have to dust off my English Major skills, be objective… and outline a three-paragraph essay.

Just kidding about the essay.  (Mostly.)  Here goes.

When you’re an Evangelical Christian, there’s not too many reasons to get married young.  Of course there’s the reasons people assume, and snicker about: a) the young couple wanted to have sex but wouldn’t because their Christian beliefs prohibit sex before marriage, or b) they were already having sex, felt guilty about it, and decided to make it legal.  I’m pretty sure everyone assumed one of those were the case when I got married at age 18.  But actually, here were my reasons: a) I liked him, b) we had a good time together.

Sure, we made out, and it was fun.  But I was perfectly happy making out, and didn’t have any religious angst over not being able to Do It.

That’s mainly because I wasn’t sexually attracted to him.

I hadn’t experienced lust yet, in my short life.  I was very sheltered.  I didn’t even know what lust was, really (except sinful).  I didn’t know how to be in a relationship, or even what to look for in a mate.  My parents skipped over that critical parenting step (to be fair, they said I should find a godly man, but didn’t say anything about compatibility), and I didn’t figure it out on my own through dating or another adult mentor.

All I had was a vague sense of superiority– as an individual, because I got married young and I knew what I was doing (ha), and as a Christian, because we didn’t have sex before marriage and we are still happy.

Of course we were happy.  We were 19 years old, and with him active duty Air Force, the military took care of everything.  But I’m getting off the subject, which is, I wasn’t sexually attracted to him.

With no advance planning, we eloped on a Thursday, and after all that drama (and the commute to Lake Tahoe’s charming selection of 24-hour wedding chapels) (which is a cute story in itself, though I’m not sure how cute it is now that we’re divorced…), I just wanted to go to sleep.  My husband, of course, wanted to have sex.  But since we were at his place, if we were to have sex, it would be on a bunk bed (the top bunk, fyi, with the lower bunk unoccupied).  “Can’t we just wait ’till the weekend?” I asked.

But he couldn’t wait.  He had to talk me into it, too, and I gave up graciously: “Fine, let’s just get it over with.”  It was painful– really painful– and embarrassing.  I had no idea what to do, but apparently, he didn’t need or want me to do anything.  I just lay there and actually cried a little.

The next time we had sex– at my place, on an actual bed– was better.  Sex got to be fun, and it was pretty much mind-blowing at first. But I have never forgotten that first night. He didn’t care what I wanted.  It felt like I didn’t even need to be there.  I said no, and he didn’t take no for an answer.  So the first time I had sex, with my husband, on our wedding night, it was rape.

There’s so much wrong with that that it’s hard to unpack.  Firstly, that I didn’t want him– not a good sign for a married couple, but an issue that I was completely unaware of.  Second, that he didn’t care about my desire to have a nice “first time” or my desire to rest after an emotionally exhausting day– we both had to go to work the next day, and I would have to drive over an hour to get there first thing in the morning!

His pushiness and sense of entitlement to my body regardless of my will, and my lack of desire for him — to say nothing of his blindness to the fact that I didn’t want him– these would be the issues that broke down our marriage.  It killed any love I might have had for him, leaving me only with a sense of duty to be a good wife.  I enjoyed being a good wife, most of the time.  But it killed us in bed.  A sense of sexual obligation combined with a complete lack of desire is the death blow to intimacy, in bed and otherwise.  And he never learned any sensitivity or generosity– why should he?  He only had to break me down with guilt, or just wait until I was tired enough and then keep me from sleeping if I didn’t want to have sex.  I’d eventually get out the bottle of KY and roll over just to shut him up.

After about five years of sex being a chore, as he was starting to get on top of me, I finally said what I was thinking: “I feel like a whore.”  He immediately got up, left the room, left the house, and didn’t come back until the next day.

As you may know, that’s not a good way to solve a problem in a marriage.  Unless maybe you’re in some kind of fundamentalist, polygamous sect.

“At first,” he said to me, in our bedroom, “I felt really bad.  I don’t want to be the cause of you feeling like that.”  I remember feeling a huge sense of relief, that finally we were going to work on this, maybe fix it.  But then he continued.  “But then I decided that it’s not my fault you feel like that.  It’s your fault.  And you have to do something about it.”

“I decided that it’s your fault,” he said.  I remember that very clearly.  And that was it.

Sure, I should have fought it, fought the “decision” that he made for me.  I didn’t just accept it right away; I know I argued.  I don’t remember what was said.  But a couple things prevented me from completely rejecting his decision.  One was the feeling of absolute shock at what he had said.  I was not prepared for such cruelty, and didn’t know what to do about it or his refusal to see my perspective or take even an ounce of blame.  I can’t force him to treat me like an equal human, after all, even if I occasionally had the strength to assert myself as one.  The other thing that prevented me from fighting him was the 25 years of programming from Christianity, telling me that I am not in charge and that my husband gets the final say.  I’ve been two years out of Christianity now, and I still feel an automatic submission to males.  I have to watch myself carefully and fight it really hard, but it’s stuck in my subconscious, on every issue, from pastors to professors, and yes, to the so-called head of the household.  I’m starting to understand why some women may decide to be lesbians or celibate and treat every male they come across like an idiot– that’s certainly the easy way to fight one’s upbringing.  When you add my personality trait to avoid conflict and be accommodating, I was not much of a match for someone like my husband.  Certainly not when we’d been married all of our adult lives and I didn’t know any better.

Over the next few years, we would try a few new things in the bedroom.  I would read erotica to get myself in the mood, but I found I’d rather just do that and masturbate than try to get it on with him.  I got a sex positions guide that was like a deck of cards, but that ended up giving sex a sort of clinical aspect. I didn’t feel anything when we were together.  I mean, my buttons got pushed sometimes, and sex would feel like maybe sex is supposed to– I was starting to figure it out after reading all that erotica– but I can push my own buttons by myself.  I don’t need an inconsiderate, insensitive, bullying, orgasm-obsessed (his orgasm, mostly) partner to get on top of me and get sweaty in order to have good sex.

Then, two years ago, I found that I no longer believed in the Christian god.  I think we both knew that that was the beginning of the end.

I started making some gradual changes, and he started making some, too.  He quit his job to go back to college, and we had some money problems that he wanted to solve by simply asking his sister for money.  He wouldn’t stick to the budget I’d set, and he had some money in a separate account from financial aid which he spent however he wanted, while I paid the mortgage and most of the bills with my salary and his GI Bill income, which was about to expire.  I wanted to stop going to church, but he pressured me, and somehow I found myself going to more church activities than I’d done for a long time.  He tried to get me to hang out with his friends, where he could keep an eye on me and where I felt mostly ignored.  Of course I was trying to make atheist friends, which he fought tooth and nail.  I started drinking so that I could loosen up enough to even lay in the same bed as him.

So this is the time when all the “little things” started happening.  Neither of us were acting like we were on the same team anymore.  He was becoming more and more authoritarian and misogynistic, and I was becoming more independent.  I had a brief struggle with depression, which he blamed on my atheism.  I knew our relationship was over.  I just had to admit it to myself.  Or, as he put it on that day he decided for both of us, I had to do something about it.

So I told my husband that three things have to happen if I am to continue living with him.  I will not go to church and he will not ask me to go to any church event.  I will have separate property that he will not touch (a long-standing disagreement– everything was “ours”).  And I will be the only one to initiate sex; he will not touch me otherwise.  He agreed immediately, then threatened suicide and disappeared.  A couple of his friends called me that evening, worried, because he’d called them and told them I’d left him and that he was suicidal.  He was gone all night and I slept perfectly, by myself.

Let’s just say I knew which one of my ultimatums would be a problem.

I spent the next week unable to sleep, waiting for it.  And  sure enough, I was informed that sex is required.  I don’t remember the exact words.  It was something about how I can’t expect that from him; it’s not really a marriage if we don’t have sex.  And you know, he’s right.  It took a few more days to gather up the rest of my courage and leave him.

Funnily enough, I was trying to explain to my mother the problems in our marriage when she said, “Your father and I haven’t had sex for years.”  But they are still married and live in the same house!  “That wasn’t an option for him,” I told her.  “And anyways, I was so unhappy.”

My mother gave me this advice: “Happiness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

Well.  How do you respond to that?  By saying, “You should know, mom, you’ve been depressed for years, you’re just jealous that I did something about my unhappiness and you prefer to stay in yours.”  But I didn’t say that.

If that wasn’t bad enough, my husband told my brother that I’d left him and he didn’t know why.  So my brother calls me and asks me, “What happened, you seemed so happy!”  He’d seen us the previous week, at my mom’s Disneyland birthday trip.

“I wasn’t happy,” I told him.  “I’ll tell you more details when I’m ready.  Not now.”

He says: “I just want to know why he’s being kicked out of the family.”  I didn’t give him the necessary response, which was, “Well then, you marry him, see what he’s like in private, and then when you divorce him, I’ll support you.”

I pretty much quit talking to my family for now, and not least because my ex is still in contact with them, and I don’t want him getting any information about me through them.  I’ve called my mom a few times, emailed my dad a bit, visited my good sister when she was in town for Disneyland…  And now my grandma is sick and wants me to move back up there and live with her.  And I hate letting my ex spoil my relationship with my family this way, but if I went up there, I’d be trading in the people who support me and believe in me for the people who should, but don’t.  And I need the support right now.  Trouble is, I don’t know how much my grandma needs me.

Shit, that was long enough.  Felt good to get it out of my system.  Of course now my wrist hurts and I’m hungry  🙂


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One Response to “sex”

  1. teambaby Says:

    Wow. That’s a scary story, Alice. Scarier still is the possibility that, if you wrote to your family just what you wrote here, based on the few comments you’ve recorded from your mom and brother, they still might not understand what a bad marriage it was and why you had to get out. But I understand and even though I can’t relate exactly, I can get some sense of how subtly awful it was and how that knowledge snuck up on you over the years.

    I wish I had more time to respond and maybe I will tomorrow, but I wanted to at least comment so you know you’re being heard.

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