I heard him pad softly into the room mere minutes after I had shut off the light. I held still. As he climbed into bed I felt myself involuntarily stiffen then relax as his chaste cheek kiss meant I didn't need to worry about having sex tonight.
Steve and I were a fair way past the honeymoon period with two small ubiquitous boys.
I felt a vague sense of guilt about my physical withdrawal from my husband but I soothed it by talking to friends over wine and tea. They were tired too, they were nursing and snuggling and tending to kids. They were stretched literally and figuratively.
We excused each other. Our bodies were not our own, but neither were they our husband's.
The next morning Steve was making us family brunch with both boys underfoot when I came downstairs after sleeping in. Usually he played records and worked at the griddle, frying pan and cutting board at once. The silence registered in the back of my mind as I slipped my arms around him for a front-to-back hug. It was his turn to stiffen. Moving around the island I hopped up on a stool and started picking at the raspberries that he had begun spooning out on the plates.
'What's wrong?" I asked him. It wasn't with tenderness, but closer to an accusation. I knew what was wrong. He asked for so little from me. None of it through words, but a physical appeal, and I had been rebuffing him for an unreasonably long time.
Instead of apologizing, or leading him upstairs to really apologize, I picked a fight; going on the offensive was a lot easier than dealing with the reality of our shrinking sex life.
“I can't believe you are pissed at me. You know how tired I have been, it is totally unfair to be angry because I wouldn't have sex with you last night."
“It's not that…" Here he trailed off. I was just revving up, gaining ammunition. He never talks to me about what he is feeling, blah blah. Somehow I didn't move forward with my next line of attack. I saw the slump of his shoulders as he flipped the pancakes that he made from scratch without his usual flair. I could do it, I could beat him down until he was left apologizing to me, but this time I didn't.
I had expectations for him as a father and as a husband. I wanted him to work full-time, do the majority of the cooking, tickle and toss our kids, take out the trash, and listen patiently as I ranted about how obsessed everyone was with strollers. I felt entitled to a partner, a chef and a cheerleader.
What did he want from me? It was a short list. To feel as though he could make me happy. Secondarily he wanted to be satisfied in bed.
That was something I could give him.
I know the catalyst to connection for my husband is sex. For me it is conversation. It doesn't seem fair that I justified withholding sex for days or weeks at a time. I would never accept a husband who ignored my attempts at conversation for a week. That would be ridiculous. I ignored my friends' assertion that sex on Saturdays was all we needed to offer.
I silently set myself the goal of sex five times a week.
To make it easier to get started I decided I would call these more frequent sexual interludes “quickies" requiring less intense attention to timing, mood-setting and foreplay. A sort of in and out if you will. I would shut the door while the kids were watching TV and lead him into the bathroom. I set my alarm 5 minutes early and woke him naked. We decided to include a vibrator in our everyday sex, ensuring that we could both be satisfied in a reasonable amount of time.
Seven years later we have sex 5 to 7 times a week. Nothing like the tangled sheets of our early days, but from what I can tell from book club far more than our peers.
He feels the kind of connections that he craves. He looks at me with love, strokes my hair and asks me questions. I have my chef and partner. Beyond that, I have a friend and supporter whose physical affection I no longer rebuke. I also have orgasms at the hand of my husband, and that makes us both happy.
This article was originally published on The Good Men Project.