I'm sorry this has been so long coming, but have we met? I've written this post about 100 times, in my head. While showering, while driving the kids around, while chopping veggies for my fabulous Leftover Fried Rice Dinner. The only place I haven't written it, is here.
(Don't remember the first one? You can catch up here)
This is the day. The day I sit down, collect all of those flotsam and jetsam thoughts and give you Part Two of the Sex Post.
I closed the first post with these words:
And that, folks, is why I think
sex killed my marriage. But what sex did to me, after my marriage
died? That may be even worse.
It wasn't until about a year after my husband left me that it dawned on me: I no longer had a sex partner. Prior to that, I was essentially a zombie, shuffling through the days, making sure the kids stayed alive and the electricity stayed on and the refrigerator stayed full. My libido went into hibernation.
And then one day, it woke up. It hit me, like a ton of horny bricks: my on-call lover was gone. I'd been faithful to one man, and one man only, for the past 13 years. Before this sudden change of life, having sex had been as easy as reaching under the covers in the wee hours of the morning and giving my man a squeeze.
As I have said before, our sex life hadn't been earth shaking or mind blowing or time consuming. But before he started humping someone else, it had been nice. It was comfortable and warm and sometimes sweet. And then it was gone.
This is when the trouble started. I wish, oh how badly I wish, someone had pulled me aside back then, and told me to wait. Told me to focus on rebuilding my heart, and rebuilding my family, before casting that big ol' net out into the rough seas of Dating.
Of course, I didn't wait. I took the well-meant advice from friends (get on Match.com NOW) and family (if you don't get remarried right away it'll NEVER happen) and decided to get out there. I had several post-divorce dates, and lots of post-divorce sex.
What I didn't have, is post-divorce love.
Maybe it was the adultery. Being dumped for someone younger than you leads to all sorts of self-esteem damage. Was I not pretty enough? Not limber enough? Did having four babies and then nursing four babies turn my body into something more like a household appliance versus something sexy and wantable (not that a Viking cooktop doesn't get me all sorts of tingly, but that's another story for another time). Bottom line was, I ventured out into post-divorce dating thinking this:
It's all about the sex. In my confused, hurting brain, I had equated sex with love. The more you have of the first, the better chance you'll get the second. I had come to the conclusion that sex, or the lack of it, had killed my marriage. So I went out there determined to never let sex ruin another relationship of mine again.
I'll be completely honest: the first few times, it felt good. It felt so nice, just to feel the weight of a man again, to hear that breath in my ear and to feel the heat from another human being radiating onto, into me. Our bodies are wired to have sex, and I was relieved to discover that everything of mine still worked.
But after a while, the shine wore off. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't dead...my body still responded to the stimuli, and it still felt good. Sometimes great. It was how I felt after the deed had been done that left me wanting.
I felt empty. There was no afterglow, no warm fuzzies. None of those butterflies nor that feeling of being held; both in someone's arms and in their heart, that feeling you get when you have just bonded with someone on a level that transcends physicality.
There was no love.
I remember way back in the summer of 2006. My first summer as an almost-divorcee...I was at the home one of my dear friends shares with her husband. We were sitting around one of their legendary backyard fires, drinking some beer and gabbing about life while the kids ran amok, their shrieks of laughter piercing the hot bubble that is a July evening in Minnesota.
I was, as I was wont to do back then, discussing my life and all of the changes that had happened in it. This time, I was talking about the time Big Daddy and I had gone to the pastor for last-ditch marriage counseling and all I got out of my husband was that our sex life wasn't exciting for him anymore. I remember my friend's husband sitting there, a look of bewilderment and disgust on his face. He looked at his wife, and then back at me, and he said:
"It's not about the sex!"
I remember, at the time, thinking he was wrong. Thinking that this was coming from someone who had been lulled into a marriage-coma and had no idea what he was talking about. Of course it was all about sex...if it wasn't, why was I alone? For Pete's sake, my husband had admitted to a Man of God that he left because he wasn't excited by me anymore. What else could it be about?
It's taken me almost 6 years, and many glow-less mornings to finally get it. I think back upon my list of suitors and how I jokingly called them my "victims" and gave them ironic (and I still think, pretty funny) monikers:
Curiously Cheap George
Ben, the Mullet Man
Craig the Segway Guy
and of course, John McCain
I entered into each of these "relationships" with the mindset that sex=love. In order to have the latter, I'd need to provide the former. I'm ashamed to admit that sex happened early on in each of these relationships, oftentimes on the first or second date. And even more ashamed to admit that a couple of those "first dates" were the two of us drunkenly rolling around on the floor like fraternity brothers having a wrasslin' match.
After things with McCain came to an abrupt halt a few months ago, I felt something shift..like you can sometimes feel the barometric pressure change just before a big storm. I knew that I was done doing things the old way, the way I'd been told was the right way. The way that our society tells us is not only normal, it's AWESOME and FANTASTIC and EVERYBODY'S doing it.
It was the words of my "friend" Becky..I put friend in parenthesis because Becky and I don't know each other outside of this blog..but I feel a kinship with her, and I hope that rustling sound I hear isn't her filing a restraining order against me. Where was I? Oh yes. It was in her words that I finally started understanding what I'd been feeling. She wrote about how she and her now-husband waited until they were married before jumping in the sack. About how they'd both been hurt in their previous marriages and that together, they decided that they'd get to know each other...really get to know each other before sleeping together.
Now, with all due respect to Becky, I'm not sure about the "until marriage" part of this. Only because at this point, I really don't know if I want to get married again. Like, ever. But the waiting? Yep. I agree with her there. However, I do know what it's like to get emotionally attached to someone, to fall for what's between their ears and then be really sad when I found out that what's between their legs didn't work. Because no matter how much I connect with someone mentally, it's still going to be important to connect physically. So that's the only misgiving I have with the "wait until marriage" thing. Sometimes it takes a test drive to find out how the car runs, if you know what I mean. Yes, I just said that. I'm sorry.
And really, nothing is ever carved in stone. I mean, if Jon Hamm showed up in my bedroom, wearing a dirty martini and nothing else, I'd probably do a little back-pedaling (and I'd probably slip him a roofie*, but that's beside the point). I have friends who did take the sexy leap very early on in their post-divorce relationships and things are going just fine and dandy for them, which is so awesome. I'm over-the-moon happy for them.
Sex is fun and exciting and it's a beautiful thing. I love it, and that's not just my pre-PMS hormones and the fresh image of Don Draper and vodka talking.
But I love myself even more. I love myself despite the fact that I've made some bad choices, and done some stupid things over the past few years. I love myself enough to overlook those things and to start fresh.
..what sex did to me, after my marriage
died? That may be even worse.
I think I phrased that wrong..it should have read, what I did to sex. I put sex on a pedestal, I made it my white whale. It became the elusive snake-oil that I was sure would be the cure to what ailed me. A decent therapist would probably tell me that I used every man I slept with as a stand-in for my long-gone husband...as an imaginary "do over". Or maybe they'd tell me that I was doing what millions of people have done forever: looking for love in all the wrong places.
So there you have it. What's sex got to do with it? Apparently, nothing. And everything.
I'll leave you with what should be the theme song for this post:
If you need me, I'll be wookin' pa nub...hopefully in all the right places this time.
*chill, people. It's a joke. Unlike date rape, which is definitely not a joke. But really, Jon Hamm? No judging.