My ex-husbands harmed my sexuality

In recent weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about how my sexuality was harmed by my ex-husbands. I allowed their abuse or dysfunction to inform my thoughts about myself in this area. Their behaviors gave me confusion and insecurity around my sexuality. And thankfully, that’s changing fast now that I’m in a new relationship.

Allow me to explain.

My first husband and I are on good terms now. He’s apologized to me several times for the cruel way he treated me. Although he still has work to do in this area, he’s changed and matured. Our children still refer to him as “the asshole” and limit their contact with him, but he’s softened and I hope he continues to.

He and I had a good sex life.

It’s part of the reason why, when I would leave him after his behavior became intolerable, I ended up going back. I repeated this pattern several times until I left for good, when I feared that the relationship would end with one of us dead. This is not an exaggeration. Our last encounter as a married couple was violent. I was terrified of him. It took years after the marriage ended for my nervous system to settle, and stop expecting abuse.

Thankfully, my second husband (who came out as gay and is the inspiration for this blog) was kind to me. I’ll always be grateful that he helped me heal from that trauma.

The fact that my first husband was skillful, patient and giving in the bedroom while also being emotionally and verbally abusive was confusing and a real mindfuck.

I don’t know if it made me confuse love and fear in my mind and body, but it surely didn’t help me have a healthy vision of what love should feel like. (Being raised in a cult also makes you associate love with fear.)

Despite the fact that we had amazing sex, we didn’t have it often.

This is because it’s difficult to get in the mood when someone is cruel to you. The body has needs. Desire has a “go” pedal. But it also has a “stop” brake. When someone is screaming at you while you are curled in the fetal position, crying on the floor of your closet, it’s hard to get interested in sex an hour later.

I suppose I assumed that the infrequent sex was my fault. Everything else was, after all… according to my ex. He couldn’t acknowledge his anger issues, his volatile Jekyll/Hyde mood swings, his emotional cruelty.

Our daughter suspects he has Borderline Personality Disorder. Perhaps he does. He was raised by an abusive addict mother, then an abusive alcoholic grandmother, then a pedophile aunt. Accustomed to being abused by women, he didn’t know how to act when he got a good, kind, loving, innocent young bride. And neither did I. I thought that I could love him hard enough to make him better. To heal him from his trauma. How foolish I was.

When we divorced, I was hornier than a teenage boy.

I immediately began to attract the attention of men. Men my age (early 30’s at the time), and men who were barely 21. It was fun to flirt and return the attention of attractive, interesting men. And I was shocked at how much I wanted sex.

That period of my life should have been a clue that there was nothing in the world wrong with ME, my sexuality or libido. I was a red-blooded, sexually desirable (and desirous) woman. But I didn’t make that connection just yet.

Enter my second husband.

When we met, I was not as attracted to him as I had been to some men I’d been involved with in the past. He actually reminded me of a childhood friend who was like a little brother to me. That initial “ick” factor took some mental coaxing to overcome, but I did get over it. He was in great shape physically, and was tall and had light eyes I liked. He had a boyishness about him, an innocence. He would come visit me and I could see that he was nervous. His lack of sophistication was endearing to me. I wasn’t looking for Don Juan.

Mostly I was impressed by the kind of dad he was.

Being a mom of 4, I was very concerned with accidentally attracting a pervert. I loved how much time he spent with his daughter, who he had primary custody of. Good dads are sexy when you’re a mature woman. I liked the way he smelled (very important to me!) and enjoyed being affectionate with him. I felt safe in his arms and when we cuddled and kissed, I felt relaxed.

The first few times we had sex and he experienced “systems failure”, I chalked it up to performance anxiety and nervousness. It’s not that uncommon after all. He would talk about how attractive and sexy I was. He wasn’t accustomed to my passion. His first wife had been a cold fish by his description. (Later on in conversation with her, I would learn that she doesn’t have low sex drive at all, she was incompatible with him.)

Photo by Nik Shuliahin 💛💙 on Unsplash

Initially, I was sexy and passionate enough for the two of us.

I was quite literally jumping his bones three times a day. He couldn’t keep up. He couldn’t even have sex once a day. He either couldn’t get an erection or couldn’t keep one.

Our sex life quickly became a game of “get/keep him hard”.

It became all about HIM. Forget me having an orgasm. The focus shifted away from mutual pleasure giving to the mechanics of his erection.

Very early on I realized I’d made a horrible mistake. But I felt trapped, ashamed, and tricked. He had experienced this same struggle with his first wife, and didn’t seek help for his problems. I also noticed he had other health issues that bothered him, that he was ashamed of, that he’d not addressed. Red flags.

Because our sex life was so stressful, embarrassing and the source of shame and difficulty rather than pleasure, the frequency slowed way down.

Once again I initially blamed myself. I spent hours reading books about sex and marriage from the library. I Googled endlessly. Questions like “why doesn’t my husband want to have sex with me?”, “Is my husband gay?”, “How do I help my husband with erectile dysfunction?”, “What to do when your husband loses his erection”, etc.

We rarely spoke about the issue. I didn’t want my husband to feel more shame. I knew he was mortified. I tried to tamp down my own desire.

The unfortunate result of this was that when he was able to get hard and wanted sex, I wasn’t as interested. I couldn’t go from zero to 10 in seconds. Because he’d lose his erection if foreplay took more than a minute or two, I would let him have intercourse with me when I wasn’t ready. Even though he was on the smaller side, he would hurt me. I often bled a little after sex.

It only occurred to me very recently that, although he never forced me to have sex, this kind of unenthusiastic “if you must” type of experience isn’t exactly consensual. I believe I experienced trauma from having many, many, many encounters like this over the years.

Eventually, I experienced an involuntary “freeze” response when he would (rarely) reach for me.

He was always very bad at signaling when he wanted sex. It was awkward and weird. Interestingly, his first wife described the same experience to me. He just didn’t know how to communicate with his partner. He didn’t know how to warm me up.

I tried to explain to him that, due to the issues in our sex life, I had to turn the knob down on my thermostat in order to survive. I had spent so many nights crying myself to sleep, depressed, wondering what was wrong with me or my body that it was incapable of producing desire in him. He would talk about how beautiful I was, and I would immediately think, “If I’m so beautiful, why doesn’t your dick respond to me?”.

I would frequently give him oral sex to try to coax an erection out of him, only to have him go limp in my mouth. If there’s anything worse than sucking a shriveled up, one inch cock, I don’t know what it is. That experience itself was horrifying. I couldn’t it anymore, so I quit. It was just too mortifying.

All of this, I believe, showed up as trauma in my body.

After awhile he began to be subtly aware that I would freeze up at his touch. I didn’t want it to happen. Even bad sex is usually better than none at all.

And to be fair, rarely, we did have good sex. Over the years, he learned how to please me and was generally unselfish and giving. He learned how to give me orgasms, and it made him feel proud when he could. The issue wasn’t that he was selfish or a jerk. He did try.

The issue was that he’s gay, trying to be heterosexual.

I’ve read that some gay men marry beautiful, sexy women in an attempt to convert themselves. They may even feel sexual attraction and chemistry. But once the sex begins, their bodes just can’t respond. I believe the times he did have a great time in bed, he was pretending I was a man. Hard to do unless I was giving him oral sex or he was entering me from behind in a very dark room. I’m thin and curvy, I’m not masculine at all.

Photo by Dainis Graveris on Unsplash

Enter my new beau.

I met a man rather unexpectedly. While I was interested in getting back into the dating scene, I expected to go on a handful of dates, some interesting and fun, some awkward and boring, maybe even some terrible.

But I met an incredible, funny, sexy man and he and I have been spending a lot of time together ever since. I’m completely blown away by how attracted I am to him. He’s considerably older, a first time for me. Yet I cannot keep my hands off him.

We’ve been having lots of sex. Lots of cuddling, lots of kissing, lots of making out, lots of rolling around naked in bed just touching, and lots and lots of sex of all kinds.

I’m learning from this relationship that there was never anything wrong with me.

I cannot get enough sex with this man. I want him every day, twice a day or more. We don’t live together, and I have to fit time with him around our work, and my kids (his are grown and out of the house). It’s not easy to do, but I simply can’t be sated. I want him morning, noon and night.

I knew that healing from the ways that the cult harmed my sexuality would have to happen inside a relationship. You can’t heal sexual trauma by reading books. It has to happen in the content of actual sex.

But I didn’t realize that this normal, healthy sexual relationship would also bring me back to who I am: a sexy, desirable, normal woman who loves and wants lots of sex.

I’m so thankful.

I’m so thankful to have met this amazing man who has a wonderful sense of humor about sex, who isn’t afraid to laugh at himself and doesn’t take himself or sex too seriously. He wants to learn what makes me happy in bed, and is open to feedback. Instead of getting in his ego when I communicate my needs (which would ruin the experience with my second husband), he’s eager to learn. He’s earthy and sweet and affectionate and happy to make out on the couch or kiss for hours or fuck me hard if that’s what I want.

It’s ALL GOOD. All of it. Good sex doesn’t have to look like this linear thing with a prescriptive beginning, middle and end. It’s ALL fun and pleasurable and wonderful.

I’m so thankful to my beau for reminding me of who I have always been.

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