This is a very, very sensitive topic for me. I’ve always considered what happens in the bedroom, should stay in the bedroom… private. But I need to talk about this. I need to talk about sex. I apologize profusely for the “too much information” vibe of this post.
And again, this post may be triggering for some readers.
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My relationship with my boyfriend is suffering from what I can only describe as an aversion to sex on my part. I attribute this aversion to flashbacks regarding the rapes and a lifelong, general disinterest in sex. Even before the rapes in ’98, I never had much of a sex drive which has left me feeling pressured to “perform” in all 3 of the long-term relationships I have ever been in. My current boyfriend and I met online back in 2000 while I was attending college. I’ve referred to him as KR in “My Story” and here. Quick recap since I didn’t go into much detail about our relationship in that post: We went on our first date in July 2000, and he moved in with me the following December. We dated for a little over a year and a half that first time we were together. The reasons for our break-up in March 2002 were complicated. I felt completely overwhelmed at the time and could feel myself slipping into a deeper depression. I had just been hospitalized for the fifth time at a psychiatric hospital. While I was in the hospital, he moved us out of my apartment and in with a friend because I could no longer pay my rent. In retrospect, this move was the final straw for me that caused me to break up with him at that time.
However, KR and I remained close friends even after the break-up and talked occasionally. In November 2006, I was facing homelessness again. KR offered to take me in when no one else would. I accepted, and we’ve been together for a little over 7 years this time. I’m not going to say that it’s been any easier this time than the first time because each of us has our own issues that cause us to struggle financially as well as emotionally. I don’t blame KR for this any more than I blame myself. Placing blame does absolutely no good. I accept that our struggles are part of who we are, that the person he is and the person I am does the best we can in order to survive.
I thought he felt this way, too. How do you live with someone for almost 7 years and not accept that person for who she is? I get that people fall in and out of love. That’s just a fact of life. However, KR knew my history from the get-go this time – from the beginning – prior to my moving in with him. He knew that I have problems with sex. He knew that sometimes I dissociate and have flashbacks. More recently, he expressed his dissatisfaction with our sex life, which he feels has been an issue from the beginning of our relationship. KR has a very high sex drive, much more so than me. He actually told me that he wants it as much as 3 – 4 times per day, but that he would settle for 2 – 3 times per week. I, on the other hand, would be happier with, maybe, a couple of times per month; but usually, I give-in to the pressure about once per week (which, quite frankly, is way more often than we were doing it the first few years of our relationship). I have been trying.
KR complains constantly that his “needs” are not being met while I constantly feel pressured to “perform.” And that is, for all intents and purposes, all sex is for me nowadays, a performance. I’m lucky if I can remain present for the performance – even luckier if I can’t. Sometimes, it’s easier to simply drift away to a happier place. More often than not lately, even the slightest touch sends me into a panic. The constant groping makes me consider the possibility that my body is not my own, but rather an object or a toy for KR to play with for his own pleasure. That may sound harsh to others; but I feel as though I have no say in the matter, no right to say “no.” KR tells me that I can say “no;” yet if I do, he withholds all affection or worse yet throws a moody tantrum that would put a two-year old to shame.
For instance, there was an incident last September when KR tried to get me to perform oral sex, something that is incredibly triggering for me. I actually said “no” for the first time in my life, a blatant “no” (believe me when I say, this was quite an accomplishment for me). Usually, I simply show hesitance or protest in other passive ways because well, to be honest after thinking about it a few minutes, I’m not really sure why. Oral sex is something that truly disgusts me, makes me want to throw up, kind of disgust. I have performed this act in the past if I can get out of my head long enough to do it; but it is not something I enjoy. That night, however, I said “no.” Rather than respecting my assertiveness and my boundaries, KR was completely irate and said, “Well, I guess we’re done here!” And stormed off. After a few minutes, I flat-out asked him, “Do I or do I not have the right to say ‘no’ to something that makes me so uncomfortable?” He replied angrily, “I’m 38 years old. I’ll be damned if I never get another fucking blow job!”
Sex with KR was not always this volatile, but I have really struggled to deal with it. I understand that he has “needs” and submitted to having sex more times than I can count because of my love for him. The flashbacks resulting from sex that I experienced during the first 5 or 6 years with my boyfriend were much less frequent. A couple of those flashbacks really stand out in my mind as being quite severe. I’ll spare you the details of what goes through my mind during one of these; but I’ll share that the emotions and, sometimes, the physical sensations are so extreme that I have literally broken down in tears, sobbing uncontrollably. Lately, at least for the past few months, these are happening with much greater frequency. Things between KR and me have grown more and more intense during this time, too. Arguments and financial stress are tearing us apart, as well as all of this (my unresolved issues over the rapes) coming up again. I’m confused and feel pressured all the time. He’s frustrated, telling me to face it by having more sex. He has lost patience with me and my issues.
Early yesterday morning, I experienced the worst flashback I have ever had during sex. It was brutal, to say the least. He had had a few beers, so it was a lot rougher than what I’m comfortable with. After it was over, he passed out, drunk on the bed. I got up and got a shower, just standing there, crying before I collapsed into a ball sobbing. I stayed in the shower until I used up all the hot water and it ran cold over me. After I finally got dressed, I went to RAINN’s website to chat with someone when I couldn’t calm myself down. She tried to help me get grounded because I was feeling “beside myself,” for lack of a better word. We ended up getting disconnected when I clicked on a link she shared with me to other grounding resources. I should have reconnected with her, but I didn’t. I’m ashamed to admit that I ended up self-harming, which I haven’t done for many, many years (at least, not with a razor blade). Hopefully, by admitting it publicly, I’ll be less likely to do it again.
Afterwards, I went numb for a few hours. By the time I finally went to bed, it was 8:00 am. When I finally woke up around 4:00 pm, KR acted like nothing had happened; so I thought it must all be in my mind. I’m just so confused. I don’t know how to make sense of anything anymore, and I’m constantly second-guessing myself. I feel like I’m reliving a past nightmare. I’ll admit that I avoid a lot of things, sex included; but is my boyfriend correct in thinking that having more sex is the answer to wanting sex and dealing with the symptoms of PTSD? I don’t think I know what a normal, healthy sexual relationship looks like. I get so exhausted with fighting off advances that I don’t feel like I have a choice but to give-in. Is this just “normal” for women?
This is causing both of us an incredible amount of stress. It’s beginning to feel like a power struggle with no solution. I want to be able to satisfy him, but I can’t. Physically and emotionally, it is just too painful. The resentment he feels towards me is completely understandable; however, his lack of understanding for my perspective and lack of validation of my feelings are not. I would hate to throw away a 7 year relationship (13 year friendship) over my lack of sexual desire. Like KR said, we are compatible in every other way, intellectually especially; but sex is a major problem. Again, I feel hopeless. If history repeats until we learn the lessons we were meant to learn, what am I failing to grasp? Why can’t I process all of this junk and just be over it already? Therapy appointments are too far apart, and I have no one else to talk to. I’m feeling all alone out on this limb. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Like I said, I can’t make sense of this. Please, help me understand what I’m supposed to be doing.