Reading through my handful of cards last night at the table, I felt triggered on every possible level. I was sitting, safely, at the kitchen table, playing a few rounds of “Where Should We Begin”, a game developed by Ester Perel, LMFT, and renowned sex therapist. I should have felt safe. But I didn’t.
I first saw Ester around 6 years ago, giving her 2017 TED talk. It was amazing. Her language around marriage and sexuality struck a chord like nothing ever had. It made sense of so much of my married life and why I was so desperately unhappy and unsatisfied.
I had been married for almost 24 years at that point and had talked about divorce for several years with my then-spouse. From the time I reached my late 30’s, I knew there was something truly wrong with my marriage. But it wasn’t until 2016 that I began to find the words for it.
Thus…the experience of life with a covert narcissist. It was a quiet and lonely nightmare, It was wordless and confusing. Until it wasn’t.
This go-around, I don’t want “confusing and wordless”. I don’t want to be lonely, nor do I want to be quiet. I want “it” all on the table. I want intimacy on every level possible, no doors left unopened.
However, there are some doors that are completely closed. And I’m pretty sure I don’t want them opened. And I don’t like it. I know its a problem because…
Because when I look at my cards (words below), I didn’t want to know his answers:
The first time I masturbated…(I was 43 years old…seriously)
My most persistent sexual fantasy is…(Two men…what women doesn’t fantasize about that?)
The most memorable place I’ve had sex…(a dreamy room in an Italian inn, white flowy curtains, mountains, and sheep outside)
The most scandalous photo that could leak of me…(literally none)
My most cringeworthy sexual memory…(every single one with my ex-husband?)
I’M SO BORING!
I’m in a position (no pun intended) that I never imagined I would be in… middle-aged, with my 3rd partner ever…and feeling inadequate. My life, compared with many other people’s, has been boring.
I didn’t party in my teens or 20’s. I didn’t really want to. I’ve always been rather quiet, though I do love people and take good care of them. I never slept around, had one-night stands, had any kind of non-committal relationship, nor did I want to. I really didn’t even know much about that life.
By the time I was 19, I was married and at 25, I had my first child. In between there, my life revolved around my then-husband; his education, his jobs (or attempts at them), his reading and expansion. He was going to take care of us (the future us) and he deserved that, right?
Well, no matter, I had a strong sense of loyalty, to say the least.
One funny incident happened while living in Prague, while we taught English. On my way to work one morning, I literally ran right into a man…a tall man…a gorgeous man. My jaw dropped and I stood there with my mouth open. I didn’t say “excuse me” before 5 seconds ticked away. I was mortified. And he was the most beautiful human I had ever seen.
I went to work, did some shopping, and headed home. My first and only instinct was to tell my husband about it. I actually felt like he needed to be told. He didn’t say anything in response. I mean, he did spend an inordinate amount of time talking about Linda and Lenka, the women he woke up at 5 am for every Thursday morning, to teach them English.
He never stopped talking about how gorgeous they were, their hair, their clothing so stylish, their breasts coming out of their jackets…and how they hated the feminist movement; how they loved being “owned” by their men.
I had no words for that, either. It was disgusting. And yet…there I was. I wasn’t “supposed” to feel inadequate. I mean, I was his wife. Lucky me! I had him. They didn’t. What a stupid man.
Back to the present. Being compared with other women is torture. It’s something that I’ve experienced for so long that I cannot believe it still isn’t happening. And it’s a problem.
Every day that passes and I don’t feel desired by him, I wonder,
· “I know his ex-wives were gorgeous and I’m expecting a lot of the women he was with were as well. Am I just not sexy enough for him? I mean, I am 48 years old. I’m not overweight, but I’m not what I used to be. I certainly don’t look like her and her and her.”
· “What is wrong with me that he doesn’t want me? Am I too happy when I see him? Am I not happy enough? Do I annoy him? Do I seem desperate because I get to a point where I have to ask him for sex? What other choice do I have?”
· “Am I not exciting enough for him? He has had plenty of sex with women he doesn’t even know. Maybe it’s because I am not racy and edgy like them. Maybe it’s because I am boring. I am a classical musician, writer, student, and mom. Yikes. Maybe that’s it. I don’t excite him.”
· “Or is he just comfortable and steady and this is what real life is going to look like with him…forever? And how does that feel for me?”
· “Is he just tired and “the leftovers” that I get are not enough to allow him to want me? Or is it really because he is not awake until he gets his coffee…and then goes to work right after that? Is it really just timing?”
The questions are endless. The insecurities are ridiculous.
I was at Victoria’s Secret last weekend with my daughter, getting her some things. She was going through the undies, picking out a few, and said, “Hey, I don’t need 5 pairs, why don’t you pick a few?”
Instead of thinking…”Yeah, that sounds nice. I could use some new ones.” I thought, “Well, I can just buy some from Wal-Mart. He’s never going to see them anyway, so I don’t need fancy underwear. That’s apparently not his “thing”.”
…a depressing and frustrating thought.
Hopefully, in time the insecurities will wane. But every day that passes and I wish that I were a libido-less, post-menopausal woman makes me a little more sad.
He loves me. He’s just in a different place than I am. And I’m working on making that okay. It is requiring me to get a new scale to weigh things in and learn how to use it. It’s going to take time. And in the meantime, I’ll keep hearing those stories in my head, knowing that they will get quieter over time. Because what he does offer is beautiful and so good for me and my kids. And he is with me…totally with me.
Yet, there are traces of those other women. They each took a part of him. I am well aware of that. And he willingly gave it to them. He’s a good person and not unlike millions of other men out there who did the same.
But he is mine now.
“Repeat that 100 times a day.”, my heart says.
Until I figure it all out, I’ll be here, enjoying my new undies, even if he never does see them.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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