Clint Edwards loves his wife and has an almost insatiable desire for her. Why does he sometimes feel as if that is a bad thing?
I hadn’t spoken to Mel since I got home from work. We hadn’t had sex for almost two weeks, so I was giving her the silent treatment.
I only give her the silent treatment when it comes to sex because I usually feel like I am out of options. And honestly, I am not happy about it. I feel really pathetic every time. I’m not sure when our marriage shifted to silence as a means of negotiation. Mel does it too, though, but for different reasons.
*That week, each evening after work, I’d washed the dishes, vacuumed the floor, got the kids ready for bed, and put dinner away. I always got up in the night with the kids, too. I’d been doing that for some time. In fact, Norah didn’t cry out, “Mommy” in the night anymore. She cried for “Daddy.” I hadn’t taken Mel out in the past two weeks, but we’d snuggled on the sofa and watched a show several times. With kids, working two jobs, and school, sometimes that is the closest we can get to a date.
I don’t do all these things only to get sex. I do them because I love my wife. I do them because I love my family. And I understand that they are required to make a marriage work. But the really strange thing is, whenever we go too long without sex, I think about my obligations as a husband, and then wonder what I’m doing wrong. I wonder if this dry spell is a result of me falling short somewhere, and in some way, and our lack of sex is some kind of punishment. I get frustrated, and then wind up acting like an asshole as a way to get back at something that probably has nothing to do with with me not fulfilling my obligations, and everything to do with the everyday stress of raising children.
Sometimes I dream that Mel has left me, so I sit up for a few hours realizing that I can’t keep a budget, cook worth a damn, decorate a home, grow a garden, manage my emotions, sleep alone, care for the kids, or organize anything from my files to my dresser. I would be lost without her. But each time we go too long without sex, I become conflicted.
Mel is beautiful, and I have an insatiable hunger for her. I don’t think that is a bad thing. But it’s about more than just sex. When we don’t have sex, I get painful. I get lonely. I get frustrated. I look at other women more, which I hate, but somehow do subconsciously, before I have a chance to stop myself. I question my marriage more, which I hate even more. My self-confidence goes down. I feel less attractive. I feel like I’ve lost something: my charm, my appeal, my ability to seduce the woman I love.
I find her more attractive now than I did when we met. I know her better, understand her more, and rely on her always. Her advice is better. She smells familiar, wonderful, like flowers and honey. Her hips curve, eyes are mature, and hands are compassionate.
She is a beauty.
Ironically, though, while I want her more, she seems to want me less. It’s frustrating. People often tell me that a man gets more attractive with age, but I don’t feel that way. I’ve gained weight, I’m getting a little gray, and I’m grumpier, less impulsive, and I snore.
I’m not self-confident. I want her to want me as much as I want her, because if she desires me, it shows that she still finds me attractive. The question I always ask is whether it’s Mel’s job to help me feel more self-confident? I wonder if Mel would find me more attractive if I was more confident. Perhaps the problem has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with me. When I think about that, I feel even less self-confident, and I wonder if I might have a twisted circular problem that cannot be solved by sex.
Mel is busier than ever before with volunteering at our children’s charter school, taking classes of her own, and dealing with our four-year-olds fits. She’s attempting to be a full-time stay at home mom, a job I experienced last summer and can attest is very demanding, while finishing her degree. She’s pregnant. Her life is demanding and her hormones are askew. The last thing she needs is me asking, and asking, and asking for sex. It is near the top of my list of priorities, while it is near the middle of Mel’s, and no matter how hard I try to change that, her priorities stay the same, and so do mine, so once things come to a head, once I am feeling frustrated and crazy, I pout because I feel it is my only way to get close to her, to feel like she still loves me, to feel, just for a moment, that I am still the charismatic, impulsive, attractive, and charming man she married.
Once the kids were in bed. Once they stopped asking for cups of water, books to look at, to be tucked in again, and for one last kiss good night, I sat down at the kitchen table and started grading papers for my online classes. My second job.
“You’re not talking to me,” Mel said.
Her arms were folded, left hand rubbing her right elbow, her head turned to face me. “What’s wrong?”
In anticipation for this moment, I imagined how I would react. I’d tell her my frustrations, how I felt about our sex life, how I need sex to help me feel better about our marriage. To feel more self-confident. To help me feel like I was still close to her. Still valued. In my mind I said it so eloquently. But when I was face to face with the woman I loved, I got tongue-tied.
“It’s nothing,” I said.
Luckily we’ve been married long enough for her to realize that there was something wrong, and to know what that something was.
“I’m sorry we haven’t has sex for awhile,” she said. “I’ve just been busy with school and the kids. I always feel behind with everything. I can’t keep up. I can’t seem to find time for myself, even.” She paused for a moment. Took a breath. “The house is a wreck. I don’t have time to exercise. I’m behind on my homework. I’m pregnant, which is making me want to sleep during the day.” She went on, telling me that she was behind in her volunteer hours at Tristan’s charter school, and she was afraid he might get kicked out. She hadn’t looked at the budget in weeks and was afraid we might be over drafting our account. She listed out her life, her obligations that were extensive. Obligations that I knew of, but wasn’t thinking about at the time because all I could think about was sex.
“I just…” Mel stopped speaking for a moment.
It isn’t always like this. Some weeks are better than others. Sometimes we connect time and time again. And in those moments, I feel very in love with her. But I am always surprised by how quickly my mood changes. How our sex life can be going well, then we miss a few days or a week, and somehow things change in my head. I get frustrated quickly. I don’t know why I am like this, but honestly, I hate it. And I have to assume that I come across as frustrating, contradictory, and unsatisfied.
“I’m just really frustrated,” she said.
And in that moment, as I look at her hunched over the table, stressed out and tired, overcome with frustration, I felt like an asshole. I always do in moments like this. She was trying to do big things. I don’t know what it is about sex that fogs my mind. I don’t know why it makes me see things as one sided, when it’s not.
I reached out and rubbed Mel’s back. I exhaled, still a little frustrated, but feeling more compassion now. More understanding.
I kissed the back of her head. Then she looked up at me. She was still crying.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just been a while.”
“I know,” she said. “I’m sorry, too. I love you. I’d like to have sex also. Tomorrow. For sure tomorrow.”
“Okay,” I said. “Tomorrow.
Photo: r.f.m II/Flickr
*Editor’s note (1/27/14): At the request of the author, we have added two paragraphs to this essay as it was originally received and published. To be clear, the way in which this essay first appeared on GMP is the way in which it was sent to us, and no sections were removed by our editors. We are more than happy to add Mr. Edwards’ additional paragraphs (seen at the asterisk), as we agree that it adds to a greater understanding of his intent.
Editor’s note (1/26/14): A single line in this post has been slightly modified from how it originally appeared.