There’s a silent (relationship) killer in town. And its name is ‘Not Getting Any’.
I’ve thought long and hard for months about posting this blog publicly, because obviously it is/was a private matter. But this shit is IMPORTANT. I also thought it would go some way towards explaining why I’m so passionate about talking openly at every opportunity about sex in all its guises.
Too many times I’ve regaled friends and acquaintances with my sad tale of Not Getting Any (I’m the kind of person who will happily discuss dildos with random strangers in the bus queue), only for them to say ‘that happened to me but I was too embarrassed to say anything’ or ‘my husband/wife really doesn’t fancy me and it’s upsetting, but I don’t know how to say anything’.
Plenty of us go through droughts in our sex lives, usually down to being single and bemoaning the lack of decent potential partners. But what if NGA strikes when you’re in a relationship? Even more so, what if that relationship is (you thought) a really good, healthy, steady one – what then?
For more than a decade I was with someone I loved very much, but whose interest in me waned dramatically somewhere around our youngest son’s second birthday. Given that childbirth and the tiny baby period was done and dusted, I’m pretty sure that neither of those had anything to do with it. He just gradually stopped wanting. The problem was that I still wanted – I wanted very much, and I wanted with him. I wanted that relationship to WORK, goddammit.
And I tried to make it work. Oh boy, did I try (I got the distinct impression that he found me very trying). The last three years we were together were peppered with rows in which I was made to feel like a needy nymphomaniac, followed by crying sessions in friends’ kitchens as I desperately tried to figure out what would make him want me. Because it was all my fault, right?
I tried talking about it – his stock answer was that he ‘just wasn’t bothered’. When I suggested it was strange given the previous years of eagerness, he suggested that ‘maybe it just tails off as people get older’ (er, no – I was pretty sure that people still had sex after their fortieth birthdays).
Then I fell into the age old self improvement schtick – maybe if I was dressed nice, did my hair more, etc.? Nope.
In desperation I went in the other direction and said that perhaps we should agree to never ever touch each other, because maybe then temptation might kick in and he’d suddenly want to rip my knickers off. Worth a try, right?
Nope. In fact he seemed rather pleased that I’d stopped asking.
Nothing worked. If I wanted so much as a hug I had to ask for it, yet he swore that he loved me and didn’t want anyone else. Things got worse and worse, to the point that I felt stressed pretty much all the time. The stress wasn’t because of NGA, it was because I was being made to feel that I was unworthy of attention.
Have you ever tried to explain to outsiders that you’re considering dumping your partner simply because you are NGA? Use of the word ‘simply’ is intentional – people often can’t believe you would cause such upheaval ‘simply’ because you want more shagging in your life. How shallow, to consider breaking up an outwardly happy family just because you have itches that need a good scratch now and again. Surely the emotional wellbeing of the children is more important than their mother’s sexual needs?
Of course I thought about the children. I did nothing but think about the kids for a very long time, for fuck’s holy sake. And then I decided that actually, they would be far better off growing up with a mother who didn’t feel constantly neglected. Who wasn’t on the verge of tears all the time because she already felt utterly alone in her relationship. Who didn’t put up with such a blatant lack of respect for her feelings.
Because that’s what it was about – lack of respect. If he’d said ‘I just don’t fancy you any more’, or ‘I have no sex drive whatsoever, it’s not your fault at all’ or even ‘You are a massive bellend and I secretly hate you’ – then at least it would have been honest.
The straw that broke the camel’s back came one night when I’d got dressed up ahead of us going out for drinks with friends. I looked HOT. I even said ‘LOOK I LOOK FUCKING HOT THIS EVENING’ (I was pretty much all out of pride by this point) but got nothing but a shrug in return. After sulking my way through the evening I gave it one last attempt when we were back home in bed, curling round him in the hope he might relent and actually, you know, kiss me or summat.
What he actually did was laugh and say “Sometimes you’re just like Amy Farrar Fowler.” You’ll only understand the level of desperation that’s implied with that comment if you’re a fan of Big Bang Theory (and if you’re not then we probably shouldn’t be friends anyway). I did try to find a clip but for some reason people only seem to put the cute bits on YouTube, not the scenes where Amy is constantly rejected by Sheldon.
So anyway, what. The. FUCK? So now my desire for intimacy was a fucking joke? Way to go, Mister I Loved You Once But Now You’re An Asshat.
Things limped on for a while, but something had switched off in my brain. Why should I bother with someone who clearly didn’t care that they were constantly hurting me? Why did I feel guilty about wanting to have some kind of sex life?
Because we’re so often told that it’s not the be all and end all of a relationship, that’s why.
THIS. IS. BULLSHIT.
If you’re with someone in a relationship and you supposedly love each other, then you should be having sex. If your relationship is more or less platonic then you are not lovers, you are housemates. And at least when you share a house you get the whole bed to yourself, rather than having to make space for someone who sleeps as far over the other side as possible to guard against accidental touching.
If you have medical reasons for not having full sex, then of course it’s a different kettle of fish – but you can still be intimate. However, a complete lack of intimacy (and purposeful avoidance thereof) is not on. IT IS A CROCK OF SHIT AND YOU SHOULD NOT ACCEPT IT.
Try relationship counselling, if your partner will try it (mine wouldn’t). If it doesn’t work, then start making escape plans. For what it’s worth, yes my kids struggled with the split. But I’d rather they grew up knowing what a healthy relationship looks like, rather than thinking two grumpy people existing in the same space is the norm.
Then go find someone who actually fancies you. Because you deserve it.