Like many couples, when my wife and I first met, the sex was great. No, actually it was amazing. The best sex of my life.
But after a year and a half together, something changed. She no longer wanted to get it on. It was a fatal blow, or so it felt at the time.
"I just don’t feel like sex anymore," my then-girlfriend said to me.
It was the classic "it’s not you, it’s me," line, only it wasn’t some sugar-coated way of telling me that she was no longer interested in walking through the world with me. She was being honest. She still loved me, she said, and I saw the devotion in her big, green eyes. She just didn’t want to have sex anymore.
I’ve always been a very sexual person. At first, the thought of not having sex was enough to make me want to run for the hills. "Sex is as important as eating or drinking and we ought to allow the one appetite to be satisfied with as little restraint or false modesty as the other," said the 18th Century French philosopher Marquis de Sade, and I vigorously agree.
Taking away sex felt akin to starving me of a basic necessity. I fought with my now-wife for a long time about it. I blamed her. I blamed myself. I blamed the American medical system for not creating better solutions for women with a diminished sex drive. I blamed friends who boasted about their active sex lives.
But the connection my wife and I shared was undeniable. She was my soul mate. The fierce love I felt for her ran deep—so deep that it actually undercut the sexual tension I felt and thought I needed to survive.
My wife never stopped loving me. That much was clear, even though at first when her sex drive tanked, I questioned whether her falling out of love with me might be the cause.
But her newfound asexuality was something she sort of settled into more than something she affirmatively stepped into. The catalyst may have been her early-onset menopause, which left her with a decreased libido and also came with other symptoms, including . But her complete loss of sexual desire and attraction came later—when nothing seemed to change how she felt (or rather, how she didn't feel), and she started to see her asexuality as part of who she was.
The official definition of asexual is to be without sexual attraction or desire, according to The Asexual Visibility & Education Network. My wife said it felt like someone just turned a switch off, like a battery that lost its charge.
Still, it took me a few years to really understand that her asexuality wasn’t my fault, and it wasn’t my burden. It took me a few more years to figure out how to live it. And not just live with it, but come to terms with it in a way that was honest and mostly OK.
It may sound strange, but my strong faith in my wife and my devotion to honoring our monogamous marriage has allowed me to do without sex while shedding the feelings of blame, guilt, and mourning that I’ve previously felt. I love my wife religiously.
We tried all kinds of aids—everything from hormone replacement therapy, to internet-rated creams that were supposed to make your nether regions hum (and also burn in a very unpleasant way, apparently), to massages, to reading sexy passages in books to each other. Nothing worked. We also talked about open relationships, but her asexuality was by now deeply entrenched, and it didn’t feel worth it to risk the trust we built for a romp in the hay with a stranger that had no guarantee of being good (and a high possibility of creating more tension between us).
While I recognize that open relationships and alternate dynamics work for some, I’ve experienced firsthand how they can go sideways. I know how fragile trust is and how instinctual jealousy is, even with my incredibly mature and supportive wife, and I value what we share too much to risk that. Besides, the physical act of sexual relief could be achieved without a second party.
In my opinion, a relationship is really about having an emotional and spiritual connection to someone, and that was something I already had with my wife. It was something I had never lost. We still shared so much between us—amazing meals and travel and family time and holidays and snuggles.
Of course, my hormones and my desires fluctuate with the calendar, and some days are more challenging than others. Sometimes I even ask my wife to lend me a hand (or a couple of fingers) to physically pleasure me. Some moments I still cry because I miss the buzz of sexual tension in the air and the feel of our bodies wrapped around each other, naked and eager and physically vulnerable.
All of this requires an incredible will of mind, body, and soul, especially given my rich sexual history and strong sense of sexual identity. But I am generally happier than I've ever been. For much of my adult life, I let my libido guide my decision-making, a terrible way of being that led to many heartbreaks.
Now I think, why engage in something that isn’t fulfilling, like (for me) sex with a stranger, or forced sex with my wife who isn’t into it?
Author Garrison Keillor best sums up how I feel: "Sex is not a mechanical act that fails for lack of technique, and it is not a performance by the male for the audience of the female; it is a continuum of attraction that extends from the simplest conversation and the most innocent touching through the act of coitus."
My wife and I create moments of intimacy in a million different ways each and every day—a long embrace, a kiss goodnight, an inside joke followed by a long belly laugh, eye contact that tells a whole story without having to say a word—and I wouldn't trade that for all the orgasms in the world.
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