Marriage Of One

The First Year

I feel I must apologise yet again for a really long article. On one hand I have felt the pressure for brevity, but on the other, I again feel that the first year was too significant to skimp details on.  The events of that first year are instructive and important to understand everything that comes after.
When I get around to the articles for the years after, I’ll be rolling the years up into combined articles and skipping details that I feel do not contribute to further understanding of the issues.
The next article after this is The Early Years.

Right off the bat, I guess the first thing to admit is that ours was rushed marriage.  It doesn’t matter why now, it is still a marriage if only in name (and I think it is more than that).  A consequence of this is that issues that should have been sorted out before marriage in our personal and lives and in our new joined lives were left to be resolved AFTER.

The Honeymoon

We had to have a short honeymoon.  It was disappointing for us both as I would have liked a longer one and so would Susan. But to her credit she did not complain or make an issue of it – Susan I must say again is not materialistic or greedy in any sense of the word.  Furthermore, we had to endure a fairly local honeymoon.  We made the best of it, but exotic holiday it definitely was not.  Still, we did enjoy ourselves.

The honeymoon itself was instructive.

Susan brought some lovely soft figure-hugging negligees to wear and came armed with some sex manuals.  On the face of it she was ‘prepared’ for anything.  In reality she refused to French kiss, fought off penetration (even with just one finger), and resisted oral sex (although she did succumb to receiving it eventually).  The penetration issue was something that was going to be with us for a very very long time. (I guess we are still living now with some of the repercussions of that.)

I was disappointed and even a bit embarrassed with the turn of events.  However, it was just a few days into our marriage and life stretched out before us full of possibilities and pleasures.  Problems and challenges would be met head-on by both of us.  We were a team now.  Or so I thought.

Honeymoon Over

The first consequence of our rushed marriage was that for the first few months of our marriage we were still living separately, seeing each other only for weekends (and not every weekend either).  During this time, we worked on gradually merging our lives.  It was a stressful time for both of us but particularly for me when amongst other problems I found myself out of work for awhile.

Weekend sex when it happened rarely got beyond what it had during the honeymoon.  I was starting to get frustrated, but told myself that when we started to live together much of the stressful issues would have been resolved and we wouldn’t be able to keep our hands off each other.

About 4 months after we were married, we moved into our first joint home.  Far from a sexual bonfire the night of moving in, we slept in exhaustion.  And even though we were well settled by the next day it was well over a week before we had any kind of sexual contact.  That was followed by no sex for about a week, and then again with a gap of several days before the next session.  What was really bizarre to me was that it didn’t seem to bother her at all.  I understood later that this was a key symptom of her problem: she does not feel lust, so the excitement of a new home is just that and ends there.  The freedom and possibility with (a relatively!) new man probably never entered her mind.

In the 13 or 14 months that we lived in that house, Susan laid the foundation and shape of our marriage.

No sex. Period

My first lesson, I started to learn even before we moved into our new home: the power of the period.  In my first relationship I was aware when my girlfriend was on hers but it never seemed to matter.  We still did what we wanted but she did not want me to touch her ‘down there’.  Okay, accepted.  But with Susan things took a much more restrictive turn.

Susan would start talking about her period about 1 week before she was due to start it.  And she would effectively stop sexual activity (in those days intercourse was not an option) because she said she could “feel it starting”.  Then of course there was the one week of the period.  Following this, she would be feeling bad for a few days because she had ‘just come off her period’.  It became clear to me after several months of this that she was absolutely obsessed with her period.  I now have a theory about this, but that is for another article.

But the upshot of this was that we were having sex during the one free week, and sometimes once in the week prior or post the actual period week.  Sex averaging once or twice a month – in our first year of marriage.  The writing was on the wall.

The Rules

The second lesson was about Susan’s sex rules.  Initially I thought her refusals (e.g. with kissing, or playful sex) was because she just wanted to take things slowly.  I was always under the impression (bolstered by her negligees and sex books) that she was fairly open minded.  She even said she would like to ‘experiment’.  We even occasionally watched porn together.

In reality however, she had a very short tether as to what she would or would not do, and what I could and could not do.  In other words her rules dictated not only what she would not do, but also what I was not permitted to do (and when and how I could do what was permitted).

So over a few weeks I learnt about the don’ts: French kissing, playful sex, unplanned (spontaneous) sex, sex in places other than the bedroom, oral sex, using sex toys, using food or anything that could be messy, and even moderately rough sex (like play-fighting) was all disallowed.

I want to be clear that she never actually sat down and said these too me.  I found out by trial and error.  If she was asked she never admitted even to the existence of the ‘rules’.  If confronted, she would say she was tired at the time, or wasn’t in the mood, or wasn’t used to whatever it was and was uncomfortable with it.

In short then, sex in those days – the first months of our marriage – was very restrictive.   I remember thinking back then that in the absence of intercourse, we of all people should have really made the most of foreplay and non-penetrative sex.  And yet we did not.  Sex, when it happened was basically just mutual masturbation preceded by some kissing and caressing.


It was in the first couple of months after we began living together that we tried intercourse for the first time.  And she found it very painful.  So painful that even a single finger could not penetrate her without her drawing away in pain.  I tried to get her to breath, relax, have a bath, a strong (alcoholic) drink.  No chance.  She interpreted this to be her body saying that she “wasn’t ready”.

After a several more weeks Susan sought help. It turned out that she had vaginisimus.  She was put on a plan to help her relax her vaginal muscles to allow penetration.  This consisted of using a set of vaginal dilators to help her muscles relax, get used to the sensation of penetration, and stretch the muscles.  She was to start with a very thin dilator and work up to thicker ones over a few months.  I was pleased that she had taken the courageous step of seeing a sexual health doctor about this and wanted to support her.  I went more than once to the doctor with her during her program.  On the first occasion however, we talked about it and we decided we should do the exercises together.  It would help build trust and intimacy on one hand, and I would motivate her to do what could be painful exercises regularly – 2-3 times a week was the prescribed frequency.

I only helped her on the exercises once or twice.  Two things emerged very early on.  One was that it was painful and she didn’t want me to physically help her – she wasn’t going to grit her teeth and just do it for something as trivial as consummating her marriage.  Second was that she had no intention of following the doctors 2-3 sessions per week schedule.  For most of the stages, she did one or two sessions per month – usually in the day or two leading up to the monthly review with the doctor.  She made it clear (without saying so) that she did not want my help.  The beauty of it was that although she only did the exercise once or twice in a given month she always managed to fit the dilator in and move to then next stage.  Therefore, she never learnt to correct her attitude to the exercises (and therefore to her underlying sexual attitude).  The only trouble was that with each increasing size she had to grit her teeth even more because although it was ‘fitting’ in, and the vaginal spasms had stopped, she was still not getting used to the sensation of penetration.  This I believe is the key to why our sex-lives never took off even when penetrative sex became possible.

The frustration I felt and the rejection I felt meant that during the first year of marriage we went for 3 months without any sexual contact.  It was a misunderstanding in a way, but it was probably also inevitable.  I’ll come back to that in a minute.

As a result if my memory serves me, it took over 6 months for us to move on to the stage where we could try actual sexual intercourse.  Even that had to be done in a controlled, slow and mechanical way.  Doctor: 2-3 times a week, Susan: 1-2 times per month.  So practice was short and infrequent and progress was slow.

And that was how we consummated our marriage after15 months as part of a controlled, mechanical medical exercise.

The First ‘Drought’

I mentioned earlier that we experienced a 3-month drought inside of the first year of our marriage.  It happened during the ‘dilator’ exercises when she basically blanked me out of motivating or helping her with the exercises.
I felt quite bad about it, because I believed that she wanted to have intercourse with me and that she would do whatever it took to get to that stage quickly.  In addition I expected that she would want to spend the time doing the exercises in the least ‘medical’ way possible.  That was to turn it into a fun sex game, whilst gaining the prescribed benefits.

But she clearly did not see it this way. I can’t be sure how she saw it because as I said, she did the exercises erratically and rarely.  And she didn’t speak about it.  Perhaps I put too much pressure on her – by trying to hold her to the doctor’s prescription.

The result was that she pushed me away and didn’t speak about it.  I thought she wanted the space to deal with it all her way and stopped talking about it too.  And I thought that all intimacy was going to affect her, so I stopped initiating sex or any kind of intimate contact too.

I found out later (during a lunch-time ‘date’ with her) that she did not expect this and was quite hurt by the distance I had put between us.  In the spirit of the reconciliation I didn’t turn the question round: in those 3 months why didn’t she approach me or initiate any kind of intimacy or even talk about it?

The lesson I learnt in the years following is this: droughts start by her pushing me away and are sustained by me either giving her space (in the early years) or me protecting myself (later years and now).  And because I sustain the drought (by not initiating – and checking to see if I’m ‘allowed’ to have sex with her on her terms and rules) it is all my fault!

But back then we just kissed and made up.  I thought that was that and it wouldn’t, couldn’t happen again.  Wrong again.


Whilst all this was happening – or perhaps as a result of it – I learnt something else, lesson three.  Communication with Susan was more difficult and frustrating than I could ever have imagined with someone as apparently gentle and reasonable as she seemed.

During the first few months I was desperate to learn about my new wife.  Her childhood, her teenage years, her friends, family, life, relationships, dreams, fantasies.  I asked and nearly always drew a blank.  She either could not remember or had nothing to remember or did not want to talk.  So I talked, hoping with every passing week to draw more out of her.  I was not very successful.  To this day, much of her life is a blank to me.  She remembered so little of her childhood I remember thinking that something terrible must have happened to her in early life: abuse or even rape.

In the context of my growing awareness of her sexual repression and vaginisimus it seemed a reasonable thought.
I’m fairly certain now (at over 8 years of marriage) that she was not herself physically abused – although she was bullied by both parents emotionally and mentally.  What I am certain of is that she must have witnessed it: I found out years later (and not through her) that her father was a wife-beater and had no qualms of doing it in front of his children.

When things get strained between us, particularly during lengthy droughts (if the drought is short, say 6 weeks or less – she won’t even realise that there is one), she will close up completely.  She has rarely made the attempt to break the ice, leaving it to me to finally start a talk.  The usual routine then is that the drought will end sometime over the next day or so – only to start again after a week or two.  Even if I wanted to, it is very difficult to maintain a sex-life when your hands are tied with rules, penetrative sex is complicated, and the effort is entirely one-way.

As far as sex went back then, she said even less.  She had nothing to say because her mind was and is a sexual blank.  I used to send her saucy text messages by phone.  She rarely acknowledged them.  And even more rarely replied.  The gutting part of this was that sometimes the message was simply “I love you xxxx”.  So I eventually stopped.

False promises

Susan had one sure-fire way of ending uncomfortable conversations: she would promise to change, to do this or that.  Whatever we were talking about.  In the early days I believed her and would be disappointed.

But I would believe she meant it, and gave her the benefit of the doubt for trying – even if it seemed to me that it was half-hearted.

But she kept this up for years and it sometimes really felt quite cynical.  I stopped believing her.  And a few years ago she stopped making promises after I pointed out that she never delivered what she promised anyway.

By the way, this is because of one of her key weaknesses: see About Her – she cannot take guilt.  If she feels guilty she will say whatever or do whatever short term action it takes to assuage her guilt and/or make me feel better.  Hence the promises.

Getting help

The details on this are a bit fuzzy in my mind because I don’t have any notes about it.  Shortly after the 3-month drought (and the resumption of the 1-2 sessions per month pattern) I decided to take action to save my marriage.  I called a marriage counselor and they said they would contact me in about a month with an appointment.  I didn’t tell Susan what I had done.

I told her after they contacted me and I had made an appointment for a few weeks time.  We went to see the counselor and I did most of the talking.  It really was just an introductory chat and nothing was supposed to come out of it, other than an agreement to continue if the counselor felt she could help and if we wanted to proceed.  Susan just went quiet.  She seemed to be quite intimidated and yet also quite defiant that a stranger could possibly tell her something about her own sex life.  Maybe she felt defensive.

(This defiance/defensiveness came up several times over the years when the subject of getting help was mentioned to her.  She has only now got over it and is seeking help.)

I was ready to take on the counselor’s program, but for one thing.  In the two weeks leading up to the session Susan had done something amazing.  Although she had not broken any of her sexual ‘rules’ she had started to initiate sex and we had sex nearly 4 or 5 times – in two weeks.  To this day I don’t know whether this was unconscious or she deliberately sabotaged that session.  Either way during the session we decided that as she had improved we should wait and see how things went.

As we walked back to the car Susan made it clear she didn’t think much of the counselor.  “They don’t really know anything” was her phrase.  And in the week after the session with the counselor we had sex – wait for it – 0 times.  After that we went back to the old monthly pattern.

I knew then that she would not get help from anyone (although I did raise the option a few more times over the years).  She was determined that “we” would work it out.  “We” being her word for saying that she would work it out.

Helping ourselves

Whilst we were waiting that month for the appointment with the marriage counselor we were working on our own plan to save our sex-life and marriage.

Susan got it into her head that our sex-life was failing because we were not spending enough time alone together just talking.  (This is yet another gem that she keeps polishing.)  You may wonder how this is feasible when we were married and living alone in our own home.

Our life-style may shed some light on it.  Susan would say she was tired at about 9 or 9:30pm every night.  That meant she generally would not have sex later than that.  Nine o’clock was too early for me to go to bed, but I would be prepared to have sex at about that time, because any earlier and we would be busy doing other things in the house, such as chores.

And Susan never initiated sex earlier than 9pm either.  So that left – well pretty much no time at all for sex.  Anyway we were spending time together right?  Well we did the chores together.  Then if her sister rang she would be on the phone from anything like a few minutes to one and a half hours.  She was usually too tired to have sex with me, but never too tired to talk about her sister’s boyfriend troubles till 10:30pm.  (More about THAT in a minute.)  So viewed like that I guess that we actually weren’t spending that much time ‘alone’ together.

I’m not sure whose idea it was, but we started to have a weekly lunch ‘date’.  That is we would spend our lunch-time together once a week.  On the face of it it sounds great.  In reality it meant that I had to drive from one end of town to the next (a journey of 20 minutes), pick her up from work, then drive to a park to have lunch for 20 minutes then drop her back at work and drive all the way back to work.  It was insane.  But I did it.  For several months.

Often the lunch was eaten in silence.  Sometimes we talked about hurt feeling from days or nights before.  Sometimes these ended with no resolution, sometimes with one of Susan’s undeliverable promises.  Rarely did they ever lead to anything positive, nor can I remember a single joyous or funny lunch, although there must have been at least one or two.

I can’t remember if the ‘dates’ just dried up and stopped or if we stopped when Susan changed jobs soon after we bought a new house.  Either way they failed to change her or to bring us closer or to improve our sex life. But we were spending time together.  Maybe the dates were important not for what did happen, but for what didn’t.  Maybe they just stopped us drifting apart.

The Outside In

When I married Susan I knew at least one thing about her.  Family – and extended family – was very important to her.  I knew – and I was right – that I would be competing for her time and energy with everyone else.

What I didn’t expect that I would have to extend this competition for emotional and mental time too.  And not just with family but with friends, work, as well as her personal challenges and problems.  I certainly never expected sex to be the thing that would be so high (if not highest) on her list of things to sacrifice in order to deal with all the other demands on her time and attention.

I’ve already mentioned the phone calls with her sister – who virtually became a third occupant of our marital bed on numerous occasions.  But other issues also tore at the fabric of our intimacy and love-life.  Her parents (one or the other or both), other siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts, her job (which she hated), the temperature of the house, upcoming social or family events – in short anything that could be a distraction at any time of the day was squeezed into the few hours we had alone together – and squeezed US out.

She said to me (and repeated it at several times over the years): “I can’t just switch off and ‘do it’.  I have to be in the mood.”  I tried to learn how to get her in the mood.  And over 8 years later I’m still trying to work that out.  The one thing that I have cottoned on to is that these distractions are all just excuses in her quest for perfection: a perfect backdrop to what she thinks should lead to a perfect sex-life (although I doubt she knows what that is).

And as soon as one distraction is over or resolved, another existing one or a new one moves in to fill the void. Sex just keeps getting pushed aside, because it is meaningless and pointless to her .

To be honest, I never expected her to switch off from the people in her life or thinking about them or helping them.  I just wanted, needed her to switch ON to me.

Living in hope

Although my image of marriage and my confidence in my own marriage in particular had taken a heavy beating over its first year, and we had not consummated our marriage, AND we had experienced our first ‘drought’, I felt nervously confident about the future.  After all, with a marriage that starts like that the only way is up. Right?



  1. i am speechless.

    Comment by Rachel — January 29, 2009 @ 8:30 pm

  2. I really appreciate your honesty about this.

    Comment by OliePants — November 16, 2010 @ 3:40 am

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