This is how long I led a sexless life also devoid of intimacy and human warmth; it wasn’t a choice, it wasn’t an agreement, it was an accident, one of those things neither of us took upon ourselves to remedy or even discuss. Being a born communicator, I tried for a while but all my attempts fell on deaf ears so I eventually gave up trying.
Depression had begun eating away at my sense of self so I chalked it down to my absence of libido and chose to ignore that my husband didn’t seem to mind. At all. He greeted the absence of sex just as he did everything else, with apathy.
For the longest time, I believed our sex life was yet another casualty of my disappearing down the rabbit hole of depression for five whole years. I took the blame and I carried the guilt so he wouldn’t have to, ignoring the one principle I’ve always held as sacred in relationships. When there’s an issue, chances are both parties almost always share responsibility in some way.
When I emerged from depressive numbness last summer, it was easier to blame myself and my illness so I could put this particular worry to bed and focus on rebuilding a sense of self and a life that works.
By then, I didn’t feel human anymore. One morning, I didn’t even recognize the woman with dead eyes staring back at me in the mirror. During those years, I lost everything, including my humanness.
I was left to hold my own hand throughout; my husband perceived my illness as an income loss and an inconvenience rather than something that could kill me. I even lost my name.
Not wanting to live anymore because life had become so unbearable without human warmth was all I could think about.
Imarried in 2013 and our sex life died less than four months later.
It was already dead by the time I started sleeping on the sofa a year after that because my husband’s extremely loud snoring meant I never got any rest, something he didn’t seem concerned about. Try as I might, there was no resuscitating our sex life, there was no conjuring up any kind of intimacy either.
I know better than to try and hug someone who resents my existence or to seek their attention by any other way. I know better than to try and open up to someone who will weaponize my vulnerability and use it against me during arguments.
But it took me a while to accept the dearth of human warmth was the price I had to pay to maintain a semblance of dignity, at least in my own eyes. There was little I could do for my heart during those years but at least I could make sure to protect it, I could make sure not to subject it to lies.
At the same time, I was hell-bent on trying to shield my husband from my illness and not put added pressure on him. Never having been good at stating my own needs, I hoped the “in sickness and in health” part of our marriage vows would be enough.
When it wasn’t, I didn’t have the courage to face further rejection. Could I have approached him and initiated sex? Of course, but that is the wrong question.
Should I have?
Emphatically not, as I was already too diminished to add to it. Intimacy demands complete trust, and I realized trusting him with my vulnerability again might be the last straw. My self-preservation instinct demanded I keep my distance so I did.
It was no hardship as there was no lust, no desire, no connectedness anymore.
Whatever little love was left I hoarded for survival, a lesson I had learned early on in life: You can’t force anyone to pay attention to you or to love you.
Further, love is neither a commodity nor a reward; love is not transactional. Anyone who misappropriates love or holds it hostage doesn’t love you. And they can’t possibly love themselves either if they don’t recognize how precious, how valuable, how rare, and how resourceful true love is.
Therein, perhaps, lies the problem. To engage in sexual intercourse within such a context is unthinkable to me. I didn’t want pity sex anymore than I wanted pity hugs and he seemed uninterested in either anyway. While I very much doubt he has been getting his needs met elsewhere, I would cheer, celebrate, and self-combust with relief if that were the case.
The truth is more complex than that and I can only guess at it as we’ve never discussed the topic. Based on the tenor of our interactions, I surmised romantic love had died along with mutual attraction. Without communication, all I’m left with is conjecture and my side of things.
Resentment isn’t sexy, apathy isn’t sexy, being made to feel invisible and not talked to for up to 10 days at a time isn’t sexy.
It is traumatic.
Reaching out may have been sexy though, at least in the sense that it would have shown me there was a desire to communicate and connect, but it’s too late for that. Which isn’t to say I’m not open to dialogue or helping him come to terms with inconvenient truths but that is the extent of what I can and am willing to do.
Dead bedroom is a term I came across online.
When I realized what was happening, I turned to research to try and understand how to best address the issue. I even turned to fiction and started writing a novel based on our marriage while I could still function. Instead of helping me process life as it had always done, the raw, impassioned, and suffocating nature of what landed on the page made me stop.
I recoiled in horror and went on to lose my writing voice for five years, a tragedy for a journalist. No longer being able to trust my brain had caused my imagination to go into overdrive and compensate for the information I was lacking, or so I decided.
I shelved the story of April and Oliver and couldn’t face opening the file until a few weeks ago when I was in a safe, supportive space where my chronic illness and tendency to wobble and break down are never frowned upon but accepted as part of who I am for now.
I was surprised at how much I had written and how hard I tried to transform heartbreaking reality with humor, which is how I tend to cope with difficulty. Humor, the thing that got so frequently misconstrued in my household we stopped laughing, too.
Ihave had to accept my husband was no longer attracted to me for reasons I still ignore.
Mentally, depression caused me to collapse. But I didn’t change much physically, apart from what happens to bodies that practice yoga with gusto. Having read up on how beneficial it was for mental health, I taught myself what little I know to try and mitigate depression. Day after day, it was the one thing that brought me reliable relief. It never lasted, but for at least an hour, I was able to get out of my head and out of my life as I accessed much-needed calm.
Because I no longer went out of the home, my appearance became plain, unkempt, yet unfailingly clean. I lived in yoga pants and old shirts with holes, no makeup, and didn’t see a hairdresser for 1.5 years because there was no money for such an indulgence.
None of the above should have mattered but maybe it did?
My husband and I got married out of love, or at least I’m sure I did, but since that love didn’t survive illness, the force that brought us together may go by some other name, which I don’t know.
Our sex life had never been the fireworks, “can’t keep my hands off you” kind but I didn’t matter much to me. I figured it would improve with patience and practice, just like yoga. But the deep emotional and mental connection that made me move half a world away and undergo a grueling immigration process out of love fell apart.
Alienation took its place.
Apart from the role depression played in the demise of my marriage, I don’t know what exactly happened on my husband’s side as he has never told me and likely never will. All I know is that this darkness must be left in the past or it will undoubtedly darken my future.
Now that I have one again, very much against all odds, I simply can’t afford to risk it.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.