Mars and I began marriage counseling in fall of 2010. Our marriage was sexless and lacking any sort of affection whatsoever. I was invisible and ignored. Mars didn’t notice when I wore a new outfit, got a hair cut, or lost weight. He never touched me, not even on the arm in passing. When we started therapy, it had been nearly 2 years since we’d had sex. Coincidentally, as I entered my late 30s, my sex drive increased dramatically. I became obsessed with the idea of having sex or, hell, even any type of physical touch.
I was miserable.
3 months into counseling and nothing had changed. Mars rebuffed my advances and efforts at foreplay. I was out of my mind with desire. The last straw came one day while running errands at Target. Every guy I saw, whether attractive or not, was suddenly fodder for a sexual fantasy. I had to talk myself out of propositioning one and inviting him to get frisky in the “family restroom”.
What the hell was wrong with me?!
In this crazed state of desperation, I approached Mars and told him about my raging libido. I told him if he didn’t give it up soon, I was going to pursue it elsewhere. I admitted that I didn’t know how the logistics of that would work, i.e. who, when, and where??
A few days later, he initiated foreplay and we broke our 2 year 4 month dry spell. It was glorious. When I asked him why he changed his mind, he said “I didn’t want you to look outside the marriage.”
The period of sexual activity was short-lived. I’d regularly have to put some pressure on him to “put out” but I felt terribly guilty about it. Why didn’t my husband want to have sex with me? It was clear he was only doing it out of fear and obligation.
My self-esteem suffered. I wanted to be desired.
Toward the end of my marriage with Mars, we started discussions about opening our marriage. In hindsight, I believe it was a desperate last-chance effort to save our marriage, or at least extend it while our children were still young.
I remember calling Mars from work to tell him we needed to come to a decision about what to do with our marriage. It shocked the hell out of me when he said that we should consider an open marriage. He told me that he’d done a Google search and found a therapist in Berkeley that counsels couples in open marriages.
I didn’t know how I felt about an open marriage, but I told him to make an appointment with the therapist so we could explore the issue further.
It’s not a surprise that he didn’t make the appointment. I felt like I was the only one putting any effort into the marriage (which he confirmed on the night we separated). However, more importantly, I realized that an open marriage wouldn’t solve our issues… and it wouldn’t provide me with what I ultimately wanted: a loving monogamous relationship. I wanted to be in love.
The partner I wanted and dreamed about wouldn’t be okay with me being married. He wouldn’t be okay with only being a peripheral part of my life. He wouldn’t be okay with me having a whole life separate from him.
My ideal partner would insist on being my only squeeze. He’d want to build a future with me.
I told Mars that an open marriage wouldn’t work for me. So we trudged along a few more weeks until the implosion, i.e. when he announced that he wanted to discontinue 4 years of marriage counseling because he doubted it was working. When asked what he wanted to do instead, he looked bewildered. He didn’t want to do anything. He then admitted that he hadn’t been trying to improve our marriage because he didn’t think it could be fixed.
I wanted more for myself.
I wanted more for our kids. I didn’t want my kids to think that the state of our marriage was acceptable. Our marriage wasn’t a good model for them. I wanted them to see us in a loving, affectionate, respectful relationship without grudges and bickering.
It was clear that a relationship like that wasn’t going to happen with their father. I’d have to find it with someone else.