Saturday, November 12, 2005

Chapter 11 - Sex - The Ups and Downs

I guess I had to get to this part sooner or later. How does an affair change your sex life?

Even before the affair started, this wasn't exactly the highlight of our marriage. I'm a guy. I wanted/needed sex more than she did. It caused tension at times. That's the story of most couples I know, at least as far as I know.

But there were some pretty long dry spells. As a conflict avoider, I wasn't good at being up front about my feelings and needs and would withdraw. When I withdrew, she was even less interested in sex, and I withdrew more, and so on.

Around the time the affair started, we slacked off. A lot. But we had done that before, so it didn't necessarily raise any red flags.

Immediately after the affair, I couldn't even undress in front of my wife. Honestly, I was repulsed at the thought of sleeping with her. All I could think of was what she had done with him. She seemed dirty to me.

We tried for the first time a couple of months after disclosure. It was a heat of the moment kind of thing, and as long as I was just acting on hormones I was fine. But then my mind set in, and the images started flowing. Uh-oh -- I'm not as good as he was. She's comparing us. I bet they did this and it will remind her . . . .

And so much for that erection.

So it was a race. Whenever we tried to have sex, I knew I had to orgasm quickly, or I would start thinking about the affair and the evening would end in disappointment. Of course, on the rare occasions that I succeeded in the sprint, her evening would end in disappointment.

Another problem was the antidepressants. I started on Celexa soon after disclosure, and eventually switched to Effexor. One side-effect of these drugs is "delayed ejaculation," at least for some men. So even if I succeeded in focusing on the moment, eventually one of us would start looking at the clock. For one reason or another, every episode seemed to end with a whimper, not a bang, because of my performance anxiety.
Truth is, she wasn't thinking about the affair or the other person nearly as much as I was, or even as much as I thought she was. A lot of it was just in my head.

Like everything else, it took time for our sex life to improve. It did not get better until both of us got better. For me, that meant forgiveness, in stages, and becoming comfortable that I didn't have competition any more. She chose me, I would remind myself.

I think this is a way men and women react differently. I remember my wife asking me, Why have you never asked if we loved each other? There were two reasons. One was that I knew it wasn't really love, regardless of whether they thought it was. Second, I was too freaked out about their sleeping together to care about the feelings that may have been present.

I think it must be easy to have great sex in an affair. There's the newness and excitement of a relationship. And you're only giving your best to each other. Anybody can get along if you never see each other with bed-head and morning breath, and you don't have to deal with kids and mortgages and fixing dinner and mowing grass. What kind of relationship is that? I just don't think it can be love if your only giving someone a little part of your life. So I guess I came to realize, it doesn't matter whether or not the sex seemed better to her. To this day, I don't know if it did or not, and now I don't care. It is better with me -- even if it's sometimes clumsy or too short or too long - because I love her.

So after the affair, my ego was blown, and as a result our sex life was too for a while. I guess good sex can improve a bad relationship sometimes, but for us the relationship had to come first.

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