This is my personal story about my marriage and sex and love and it has taken me a lot of courage to put it down.
I’m going to turn fifty-two and my body craves sex, but it is ruthlessly denied because I choose to remain faithful to my husband. I was a naïve twenty-three year old in the midst of my Masters when I got married to a wonderful man nearly nine years my senior.
Though it was a completely arranged marriage, I fell in love with my husband after the very first meeting. On the flip side, my marriage brought with it an end to my quite brilliant academic career, though it also provided an escape route from my very strict, orthodox middle-class parents to a life of unimagined freedom, courtesy my husband.
We had great sex and were totally compatible in bed. In the initial years, we had sex every day, many times a day and stolen sex during visits to our hometown when elders were around. My husband urged me to experiment in bed and it was only an innate shyness about my body that held me back. I was very bold, outspoken, a rebel in many ways but oddly, I was very shy in all matters pertaining to my body–especially in talking about them.
Perhaps it was my puritanical convent upbringing and a mother who never discussed any controversial topic, leave aside sex, to blame. In those days I had a voluptuous and sexy figure but that never inspired any confidence for me in bed. I always felt too fat. And growing up on a staple diet of very bland 1970’s Mills & Boons and Barbara Cartland doesn’t exactly teach you the tricks of the trade. My partner, on the other hand, was stick-thin and pigeon-chested but had watched tonnes of porn so it definitely gave him a head-start in the bedroom scene and a certain confidence as a result.
My marriage was like the little girl in the nursery rhyme –
‘There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad she was horrid.’
Same with our marriage. When the going was good, it was wonderful. We had some wonderful times filled with laughter, leg-pulling, and travelling. Our acquaintances never believed that ours was an arranged and not a love marriage. Nearly a decade older, my husband didn’t look his age, had boundless energy and was the heart of any party, a true charmer loved by young and old.
But when it was bad, our marriage turned truly horrible. We fought often and very bitterly. Post fifty I’ve realised, that my husband has this mental image of himself of being a ‘good boy’ – a ‘liberal man’, a ‘man who does household chores without being prompted’, so amongst our friends and family he was thought to be the perfect man. Other women would urge their husbands to be like mine. They never wasted an opportunity to point out how unbelievably lucky I was to land such a catch in the matrimonial market.
Of course, I resented this. We fought on the flimsiest issues and I became the thorn in my husband’s side – the one who questioned his image of the perfect self. Of course, this realisation is all very recent. According to my husband, I am still not obedient enough. I still do not listen enough.
I was impetuous, blurted things out and flew into rages. But within half an hour I would cool down and promptly forget whatever the issue was. I never bore a grudge. My outspokenness and immaturity landed me in trouble numerous times. Saying sorry never was easy for me. My husband, nine years my senior and wiser, expected my repentance to be instant and the crime to never be repeated. But alas, it was not to be.
Looking back, I’ve come to realise that after every fight, big or small, my husband has emerged victorious. How? Because after every altercation big or small, he meted out his punishment to me, the silent treatment, which not only meant being verbally excommunicated but also extended into the bedroom where he refused to touch me. The span of this punishment became longer in direct proportion to the duration of our marriage, going from a couple of days, to weeks and to months. The phrase ‘bearing a grudge’ took on a whole new meaning.
Nothing had prepared me to deal with this form of punishment. I was a very straightforward and uncomplicated person. Having never seen it in real life, nor read about it in the thousands of times I consumed as a voracious reader, nor seen it depicted in any movie, this silent treatment bewildered and hurt me as nothing ever could.
I screamed, ranted, cried, begged and literally groveled, but nothing moved my man. After every small and big fight, surviving the silent treatment was like waiting for the big thaw; when his anger and hurt had subsided enough and he deemed it fit to smile a little, talk a little and even have sex a little.
Those were the days when I didn’t know of Google Bhagwan. Never knew that this too was a form of mental abuse, never knew how to seek justice for a punishment so disproportionate to its mistake. I was young, alone in a big metro, no relatives or parents whose shoulder I could cry on and definitely no friend because to everyone else (friends, relatives and peers) I had somehow and most undeservedly got hold of the best man on the planet.
What happened as a result? Lesser and lesser sex. Weeks became months; months became years, years became decades. Nearly thirty years have passed. And today it’s the norm. I schooled myself to get used to this deprivation. I learnt to stop crying myself to sleep and turn to the other side carefully so that no part of our bodies touch in bed. We got older. From his side love ended, mere tolerance began. Marriage became a routine. Our daughter became old and wise before her time, having been a witness to this complex marriage and learning to adjudicate during our fights.
Somewhere in all this, I think my husband developed erectile dysfunction. We used to know each other’s bodies so well but now we never talk about this. Perhaps it’s a fear psychosis? As he thinks I have no clue to his problems he might be scared that if called to perform, he’ll fall flat on his face. I would still like to be able to kiss or cuddle, just to touch and to feel the warm luxury of intimacy. But foreplay or cuddling without the final act is to him a deposit with no returns hence of no interest.
Sometimes, I blame myself for allowing all this to happen, not being able to seduce my husband, learning the bitter truth about myself so late. The truth that I may be highly intelligent, very successful in my workplace, fearless and an icon of coolness to the younger generation, but I still couldn’t really keep my man. Menopause came early, creeping on me as I turned forty-five. No hot flushes… no nothing, easy-peasy but it left behind its worst signature – a gain of ten kilos.
Do I need sex? Well, not really but I’d definitely like some. At least once in a while just so that I can remember what the good ol’ days were like. I’m dry as a desert. Never tried lubrication, never tried a vibrator, where’s the need? I’m great at fantasizing if I’m feeling a real need. But deep down there is a sense of shame and a sense of worthlessness because for me my sex life ended before I really understood its importance or experienced its full possibilities or just, really got down to enjoying it.
Why do I stay and still put up with this? Because even today I love my husband, I haven’t met a man better than him or more interesting than him.
And then as the rhyme goes: when we are good we are still very very good (sans the sex part).
This piece has been republished from Agents of Ishq where it first appeared.
Anamika S is a storyteller, bookworm, traveler and movie addict who’s trying to follow her heart where it takes her.