Not having sex with my husband? It was a revolutionary idea! Our marriage was, so I thought, based on sex. What was going to happen if we did not have sex? Part of the sexual addiction in our home showed itself in our relationship. I was used to having sex on a daily basis, if not more often. My feelings of being loved were largely based on the fact that my husband very frequently wanted to have sex with me. In order to avoid arguments, I had long ago given up trying to say “no” when I did not want sex, and I had felt that I could count on a fairly smooth relationship by giving in. Then my husband began attending recovery meetings for his sexaholism. And I started attending S-Anon meetings.
After we had attended our respective groups for several months, he asked if we could go through a period when we did not have sex. Being angry and resentful, I replied that I had had enough sex for a lifetime and that abstinence was fine with me.
But was it really “fine?” What happened to me during that period of not having sex was incredible. I became very fearful that my marriage would not last, that my husband would leave, that I was not attractive to him, and that we would disagree even more. I began to realize that I used sex in an unhealthy way, too! For example, I would start an argument and see how long it would take me to manipulate my husband into bed, thereby dissolving our argument. I flaunted myself in front of him to satisfy my need to know that, indeed, he did “love” me because we would then go to bed. The tool I had used so successfully to manipulate my husband had been taken from me. but I learned that I could live in the same house, share the same bed, touch, hug and kiss my husband without having to have intercourse. I learned that I needed to communicate using words, rather than manipulation. I learned that even without sex I could still have a marriage and an even better relationship with my husband.
When my husband wanted to end the period of abstinence, I had grown enough to say “no,” and we had a period of 21 months in our marriage when we did not have intercourse. Would we ever have sex again? It was very frightening for me to realize that the decision of when I was again ready to be sexual would be mine to make. I ended the period of abstinence with the knowledge that I was loved for myself, not just for my body, and that I had become a woman who could love and participate more fully in a sexual union. Abstinence was a crucial part of my growth in S-Anon, even though I was not the one to initiate it. I am very grateful that I did have the opportunity to learn that sex can be an extension of an intimate relationship and not the only basis for our marriage. Today I feel cared for in our marriage, and I can give as well as receive.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 69-71.