What's Sex Got to Do With It? Part Two (finally)

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:

Professor Plumb
Curiously Cheap George
Ben, the Mullet Man
Craig the Segway Guy
Cabin Boy
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.


  1. Awesome post as usual! You can join me on the celibacy wagon (been on it over a year). Personally, I have no desire to marry again, so I don't see me waiting for marriage (I can finally say that without guilt). I was celibate for over 3 yrs after my divorce but I have been doing the "casual" thing the last few years and know that it's not for me. I have always been a relationship person and if I'm going to have sex again, I know it has to be in a committed relationship.

    1. Can I sit up front with you, my dear? Because I have a feeling you and I would have a lot to talk about.

      Yay for you, that you have shed the guilt. There's enough pressure on us already, as single moms, to let any of the guilt-trips get to us. We have no time for that!

      Thanks, as always, for chiming in! I'm glad you're here.


  2. OK, first of all, I especially love any post of yours that mentions Jon Hamm. I believe we're kindred spirits in that sense. Second of all, you're awesome. After douche-bag left (I may start referring to him as DB instead of BD), I'm sure you were experiencing a myriad of emotions that I can't begin to understand. But after the McCain era ended you realized what wasn't working for you anymore, so good for you! Don't ever sell yourself short.

    1. Traci we are so overdue for a night out. We'll talk about you, your life and kids,and Jon Hamm.

      Thanks, as always, for your kind words and support. You're a gem!


    2. Traci, *every* woman is a kindred spirit in the Jon Hamm sense! :)

      (And yeah, Jenny knocked it out of the park again. I'm thinking of making real non-subtle threats to get her to write her book -- we need that baby on the market!)

    3. Salish, it's getting close. Tell you what..I'm working on a cover letter to send out to literary agencies that I've stalked..um I mean researched on the interweb. Would you be willing to look at it when I'm done and make sure I don't sound crazy? I'd love that.

      Whatever you ladies do, don't Google "Jon Hamm + underpants". You're welcome.


    4. Oops, you said DON'T Google that, and I totally did :) And you are right Jenny, we are soooo overdue for a night out. It's going to happen....I don't have nearly enough hens in my chicken coop (hope that doesn't sound too weird).

      Stay safe out there today my friend...the roads look like they're a bitch!

    5. Yes! I'd be totally honored to vet your cover letter. I'll friend you on FB if you like, or maybe you can already send me things on there since I'm a Happy Hausfrau page fan? Whatever you're comfortable with. (I'm too lazy to be a stalker or anything, trust.) :)

  3. Your honesty is shocking and refreshing. BTW when I went to click the link to read the first post, it took me right back to this post. (I'll come back and check tomorrow)

    1. Thanks girl..I've read just two of your most recent posts and I'm already picturing us as BFF's. Thank you so much for the tip about the link, fixed it. That's what I get for watching "Bones" and writing at the same time.

      Thanks a million for chiming in!


  4. I'm right there with you on the Test Driving aspect, for pretty much the same reason you test drive a vehicle actually: if you're going to commit the time, energy, and money into something you plan on keeping for many years, you better make sure it works for you.

    But, I'm glad you've come to where you are emotionally, because ultimately dating isn't EXACTLY like buying a car. There's a lot more to it than just if you're sexually compatible, because, frankly, if there's love there--real love, respect, friendship, and honesty--you two will find a way to become sexually compatible. That's what I think your friend's husband was on about, that it's not actually about The Sex. It's about all the things that lead up the act, and what comes after. Those are what really matter.

    Sometimes, holding off on that act can give you a better platform for those feelings to develop. Other times, it's irrelevant. But, I think that most important of all is the recognition that you've been able to show here that you were doing something, it wasn't working, and that you will try something ELSE. More than whatever conclusion you came to (even if it'd been the exact reverse of what you went through, from needing emotional connection to just wanting The Sex), the fact that you've been able to step back and see what was really going on is what more people really need to do. Bravo.

    1. "It's about all the things that lead up the act, and what comes after. Those are what really matter"

      So what you're saying is, a good relationship is like a sex sandwich..the good stuff leading up to it and the wonderful stuff that comes after, that's the bread. The sexy time is what's in the middle.

      As someone who has a healthy appetite for both food and sex, I appreciate an analogy I can really sink my teeth into.

      In all seriousness, I do love what you wrote here. I agree 100%. There is SO much more than sex.

      Thank you, very much, for chiming in.


  5. Great post, lady.

    But keep your hands off Mr. Draper.
    He's mine.
    Although, apparently, there's plenty for the both of us, if you catch my drift.

    1. Didn't Tom Petty sing a song about Mr. Hamm? Freeballin'?

      Thanks friend. I'd share with you anytime.

  6. Rustle, rustle! I think we'd be great friends, even if I did have to Google both Jon Hamm and Don Draper. Had no idea who they were!

    And have to say that I'm more of a Hugh Jackman and Colin Firth kind of gal :)

    I'm glad you finally wrote this post, Jenny. Epecially this: "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." I love it when people wake up and see society's crap for what it is!!

    It's when we let a freewheelin', anything goes society steer us that we go so horribly wrong. I'll repeat an earlier comment ... we have a culture that is full of perverse and dysfunctional behaviors, but the only thing that culture allows to be called perverse and dysfunctional are traditional values and the people who hold them.

    I hear a lot of whining about ex-husbands, and how difficult it is to find a good man. Yes, it is. But WHY are the good men so scarce? Is our culture making fewer of them? Why are so many women in a similar place as you, Jenny?

    If we want real men, men who will be real husbands and fathers, can we women maybe raise our standards so the men will, too? We need to teach our sons to be the kind of men who respect women, and wait. We need to teach our daughters to be the kind of women those men want to marry. We lead by example.

    Sexual intercourse has a boatload of real-world consequences. "Two consenting adults" is a euphemism designed to make you think you're operating in a vacuum. In most cases, a LOT of people are going to be affected by what you do, in and out of the bedroom.

    Our children are watching us. Along with all the other things parents do to make and keep their kids healthy, kids need to know what causes pregnancy and how to prevent it. They should also know, from watching their parents (and hopefully a TON of other adults in their lives!!!) what a loving and respectful couple is. Your friend's husband is a good example of that.

    My husband said something the other day that I actually wrote down. "The greatest threat to human potential is lack of discipline." I like that, on several levels.

    And when you're a single adult and find yourself attracted to someone, and you exercise a little discipline, there are lots of ways to determine physical compatibility without intercourse. I agree with Anonymous on that point. A mature, respectful platonic relationship can evolve quite nicely into a committed, physical one, without hurting any of the other people in our lives. Our mistake is becoming fixated on the act itself, instead of all the other very necessary prerequisites surrounding and leading up to it.

    1. Becky, I read this while at work and have let it steep a bit. As usual, I love what you have written. I love all of it.

      Yesterday I read a news story about a girl who had been assaulted while she was passed out, at a party. This wasn't in Steubenville, but another town in another state. There were pictures passed around online, the girl was taunted on the web and in real life.

      She killed herself. Kids were arrested. Lives were changed, permanently.

      And as I read that story, I recalled what your wise husband said: "The greatest threat to human potential is lack of discipline."

      What potential was wiped out that one night, the night she drank herself to sleep, the night some boys decided it was okay to rape a girl passed out on a bed, the night somebody took some pictures of a crime being committed and then posted them online?

      I'm not comparing my choice to abstain from sex to this awful tragedy. But I'm wondering what these kids saw as they were growing up. What they were shown, what they were told. How they came to be teenagers who decided to make the choices they did. It's mind-boggling, and it's depressing.

      It makes me think.

      Thanks, as always, for your insight.


  7. That was a kick-ass fire. Was that the Night of the Bunny? Most of those kids were being a-holes.

    I don't recall that as being a "he said."

    1. That was indeed a kick-ass fire! Just kids being themselves, right? They sure were little. And yes, if memory serves that was Night of the Bunny. God I wish there was a picture of that.

      I'll never, ever forget Gary saying that. Ever. It stuck.


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