I wrote Sex & the Covert Narc four years ago, and it continues to be my most often read entry. I decided it was time to update my thoughts in regards to sex.
If you read my 1st blog you know that sex was one of the triggers my ex used. When I was getting ready to leave he’d throw out our lack of sex and convince me that this was the cause of our marital issues, and it was all my fault. In later years he insinuated that he had the right to cheat because of our lack of sex.
Here is what I’ve learned about this as I’ve advanced in my recovery.
1 – Our sex life was not abnormal for a couple of 20+ years, with 3 children and a business. There was a natural ebb and flow. At times we would have sex several times a week, at other times we could go a few months with no sex. For most couples, this is completely normal.
2- I did not cause him to cheat by asking him if he was cheating. What a ludicrous accusation!! Honestly, I’m still embarrassed for being sucked in to this one. In a normal relationship, if one partner is suspicious of the other, the one being suspected will never say “If you continue to accuse me you will force me to cheat on you”. It is simply ridiculous.
3 – I was not frigid, as he suggested. As I look back with clearer eyes this allegation blows up. I had two long term boyfriends before my ex-narc, and I enjoyed sex with them. I was never accused of being frigid, because I wasn’t. When treated properly I loved sex.
4 – I did not use sex as a weapon. This is a big one. As I Monday Morning Quarterback our relationship I realize that he was the one using sex as a weapon.
5 – It is not at all unusual to refuse sex when you suspect your partner is cheating, especially if your partner has had a vasectomy. Everyone I’ve talked to who has been cheated on says the same thing – having sex with the cheating partner felt dirty.
6 – Health spouses do not expect sex from a sick partner. When my ex tried to have sex when I was deathly ill, then got mad when I said no, he was demonstrating total lack of empathy for my situation. As an ovarian cancer survivor I meet woman after woman who tells me that she and her spouse have gone several years without sex, and he accepts that because he loves her. Novel concept to me.
I lived in denial for 20 years. Despite all evidence pointing to him cheating I chose to accept his excuses and lies, and to stay with him. I wish our marriage had not played out this way, but it did. I have 3 amazing children, and I will always be grateful for them, but the damage is insidious.
When I first separated from my ex I wanted to rip my skin off. There was no amount of scrubbing to clean how dirty I felt. Before him I connected sex with love. I had sex with men I loved. When we first separated I thought that the reason I felt so dirty was because I had sex with him, knowing he was cheating. As I’ve recovered I have come to a different realization: I felt dirty because I had sex with someone I didn’t love.
When we were engaged my ex’s father gave us a copy of love is a decision Gary Smalley. The essence of the book is that everyone has moments during which they don’t love their spouse. Life, and relationships, are really complicated, and couples go through rough times that leave both parties wondering why they married; what is was that drew them to their partner. During these times, successful couples make the decision to love each other.
When I first read the book I found it ludicrous. I was knee deep in the worship stage from a narc and the thought that I would ever have to make a conscious decision to love him was unfathomable. We hadn’t been married long when I realized how important this was. Within the first two years I experienced many a day in which I woke up and had to say to myself “I choose to love him today”. As the years moved on, this became my norm. Each and every day I awoke and reminded myself that I chose to love him. No matter what he did, how he treated me, how many times he raged, lied, and cheated, I made the decision to love him. This is why I wanted to remove my skin.
Yes, I was horrified that I’d allowed this man to touch me after touching other women. Yes, I felt like shit that I had sex with a man who was gaslighting me. Yes I felt dirty for going along with all of his bullshit. But that wasn’t the most important aspect.
The most important aspect was that for me to have sex, I had to love him. Over the years I made the conscious decision to love him. and often it was specifically made so that I could have sex with him. I decided, on more occasions than I can count, to tell myself that I loved him so that I could satisfy him with the sex he wanted. That is why I felt so dirty. Even though I knew he was a serial cheater, I forced myself to love him and have sex with him.
While I no longer feel dirty, I have no desire for sex. I think part of this is physical. The surgery for ovarian cancer is harsh, and many survivors never have sex again. More importantly for me though is the discomfort I felt having had sex with someone I shouldn’t have had sex with. For 20 years there was a negative association around sex. I doubt I will ever be able to shake that. Unfortunately, any memories of healthy sex with other boyfriends, are gone. All that is left are the memories of sex during times I wished he wasn’t touching me.
I don’t think this is the fate of everyone coming out of a narcissistic abusive relationship. For me, I also have health issues which interfere with my energy level and how I feel about my body. It is hard to love your body when it picks up every virus and bacterial infection it comes across, and I believe that to have good sex, you must love your body.
I suppose my message is this: if you feel like you want to rip off your skin, if the mere thought of him touching you makes you feel sick and disgusting, this will end. There will be a new phase and it will be a better phase. Hopefully you will go on to experience a loving, healthy sex life. If you don’t, you will get to the point in which you no longer want to remove your skin. And hey-that’s something, right?