14 years of marriage is like two seven-year itches combined into one giant wool sweater. Even extra-strength balms like wine and frosting don’t offer much relief anymore. At this stage of life, the stressors are real and the responsibilities are not sexy. We used to be so into each other. Now, any person-in-person action is strictly for prostate health.
Recently, my barely sexually-maintained husband told me about a sex dream he had. Apparently he’d been hoping to get some when he came to bed that night and as usual, I had not. I guess I had homelessness or the plight of sea turtles or something equally depressing on my mind, so we talked tragedy until we fell asleep. Still, somehow, he managed to have a sex dream.
It wasn’t just any sex dream. It featured Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime. He kept saying “in her prime” as if it were crucial for me to know he was referring to the version of her from the “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” poster, in which she rocked a gold bodysuit while clinging to the meaty calf of Chevy Chase. I mean, anyone who grew up in the 80s and who has seen the deleted scenes from “High Fidelity” has a healthy appreciation for Ms. D’Angelo in all her eras, but it’s not like we have the poster above our marital bed or anything.
The worst/best part of his dream was that he could tell Beverly D’Angelo wasn’t really into it. She wasn’t comfortable in the position they were in and kept trying to change it up and it just didn’t go well.
So he woke up, unsatisfied, having not satisfied Beverly D’Angelo in her prime.
After I stopped pointing and laughing at him, I started to reflect. Why would he be dreaming about bad sex with 80s icons? It had to be our lame sex life, right?
There’s not a lot of intercourse happening at this stage of marriage. When there is a miraculous hour that the children are asleep in their assigned beds and the adults are awake in ours, the pressure is just too great for me. I find myself reaching for my phone to read the news or wander Facebook and before I know it, I’m mired in the world’s pain and disgusted by whatever it is they put into chicken nuggets. My poor husband just wants some good, good loving and I’m crying, yelling, and wiring money to chickens.
I remember when we were more hot than tired. Now there are big bills, kids to maintain, endless meals to prepare, and Louis CK shows to watch. These all trump intercourse.
Having kids took over everything, especially for me. I was their comfort, their food, their Elvis. It was intoxicating but also exhausting. That level of need, plus a full-time job outside the house, left no energy for intimacy. We used to want each other. These days, a million other priorities pull us in every direction, and I just want to be left alone.
It’s taken me several years to realize that I need to put some of me back together again. I am still gaga for my kids, but I think I have finally learned that I truly cannot give them more than I have. I need to hold some back for me, and maybe for my husband, too. Besides, even if I do try to give my kids everything I have, they will just take it and spill nachos all over it. They will take it and still complain. They will take it and call it a “diaper head.” Sigh. I’m learning this lesson slowly.
Somehow, despite all this, he still wants to have sex with me. And Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime. But mostly me.
While the details of his dream were endlessly amusing to me, I was not surprised that he is having dreams about being sexually unfulfilled. My lack of interest in sex seems to be hurting his feelings, and that’s not good. I want him to be confident and feel wanted.
In an effort to reward him for sharing that wonderful, terrible dream, and to rekindle at least some of our early enthusiasm for each other, I began making an effort to be kinder and more affectionate. I tried so hard not to interrupt foreplay with stories about what I found on the bottom of one of the children’s feet. (Feces. It’s always feces). I found opportunities to do fun things we used to enjoy, just the two of us, to try to feel light and free again – like playing Cribbage, which is a real panty-dropper math card game. We began getting away on dates more, even if they were just to Ikea.
“Just to Ikea.” Ha! Who am I kidding? There’s chocolate and coffee and mattresses and organization units at Ikea. It’s like a self-help aphrodisiac. Say “Hemnes desk with add-on unit in the white stain” again. Yessssss.
At night, I’ve committed to putting away my phone so that the miseries of the world won’t join us in bed. And most importantly, I’m working on the hard task of finding myself in the midst of motherhood. If I’m confidently me, maybe I’ll confidently want to shag. That’s the plan, anyway.
Overall, he’s glad he shared the dream with me, because it opened up a lot of dialogue and opportunity for growth in our relationship.
Though I do think he wishes I wouldn’t insist on calling him “Sparky” now.
We don’t always get what we want.
This article was originally published at Together Magazine.