When I began to make changes in our physical intimacy, I had no idea that things would lead to where they are now. Our marriage is in the best place it’s ever been. In general, I feel more loved and cherished and married than I knew was possible.
I wish I could say that it’s always easy, but it isn’t. And I haven’t had sex in a week.
A week ago tonight, we had a particularly vigorous romp. It was the kind that sated us for a couple days—which is exactly how long it took to learn that it gave me a particularly nasty UTI. (Men, you may want to close your eyes for this next part.) It was the kind that had me bleeding. When the nurse at urgent care saw my urine sample, she even commented, “Holy cow, honey, you must be in a whole lot of pain.” Um, yeah. You know how they say blood is thicker than water? Well, it’s thicker than urine, too. Ow.
Antibiotics are a wonderful thing—but they lead to unpleasant side effects even before they really work. I spent the next several days with a very upset stomach, a low-grade fever, pushing fluids, going to the bathroom a lot, being light-headed and dizzy, and just feeling physically yucky.
On top of that, I was trying to wrap up the Respect Dare. That process stripped so many of my walls down to the foundation. I am still emotionally vulnerable. My heart feels naked.
Over the past few days, I’ve been challenged several times to decide whether to follow what I learned in the Respect Dare or to stand up for how I thought some things should be handled. Each time, I’ve decided to try to be respectful and not step in my husband’s way as he handled things. Each time, I fought a battle within myself, struggling to give the process I’d just gone through a chance to take root. And each time, I was left feeling emotionally stranded. I would fight this huge internal battle that resulted in visible physical trembling—and either my husband didn’t notice (so I felt invisible) or he noticed and said nothing (so I felt irrelevant).
Over the weekend, I made several attempts to emotionally connect with my husband. I asked him to go on a short walk with me. No. I asked him to join me in the back yard while I mowed. No. I offered to provide him with a sexual release. No to that, too. My resentment tried to bubble up, but I became sad instead.
Last night, my husband asked, “How are you feeling?” Now, I could have thought, “Oh, that’s sweet. He cares about me.” Instead, my mind went back to my refusing days when I was so relieved to have my period and the multiple days of serious pain I used to experience with that. I didn’t hear, “How are you feeling?” I heard, “I’m horny and want to know when I can have sex again but don’t want to sound like a clod for asking when that will be.”
When Adam and Eve learned they were naked in Eden, they stitched leaves together and covered themselves. I’ve been wanting to do the same thing with my heart. I’ve been fighting not to start laying some bricks down and get a wall started. I don’t want to have a naked heart that my husband doesn’t even want to look at.
It’s a heavy week for me. It is the week before the semester begins at my campus, and I have been constantly busy scheduling my professional staff, interviewing and hiring student workers, assisting students registering at the last minute, getting ready for a full day of meetings tomorrow, and hoping I have enough time to prepare for everything that needs to be done by Friday, when I am giving five back-to-back presentations.
Next week, I deliver my daughter to college for the first time. I know that is part of a sore place in my heart right now; it is a part of my husband’s heart right now, too. This will be our first child to leave, and we both know that everything will feel different next week, and the week after, and the week after that.
For everything I’ve experienced during the past week—lack of sex, UTI, Respect Dare, and even mental stuff I can’t completely leave at work—he’s experienced that as well. His experience is different from mine, but it is there nonetheless. He stands, figuring out how to step into a space I’ve released to him. He desires but doesn’t want to be selfish. He wants to support but knows I prefer not to have him tell me how to fix things. He knows that when I am constantly surrounded by people at work, I need time to myself at home to recharge my batteries.
I want to lay bricks, but I know I won’t. The walls I’d knocked down exposed both of us, not just me.
My husband stands with a naked heart just as I do—and I realize that I’d rather be naked with him than naked and alone on the other side of a wall. And that is how I know that even though it isn’t easy right now, we are still good.