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  • Writer's pictureSarah Foley

TSS - 015 ~ what came next

content warning: domestic violence, abuse, sexual abuse

Well… hello friends. I could really write this whole post apologising for my excellent/shitty ability to take months off writing at a time, but we all lived through the last year and know how all round fucked it was. So I hope you’ll forgive me, and know that I would have been writing if I had any energy to do so whatsoever. I started writing this post endless times over the past six months and could never finish it. I’m finally finishing this post now, on a deliciously long holiday from uni (I go back in a week so left it right to the end to be productive lol), already significantly tainted by Covid, but that’s life now really.

I should also point out now that if you haven’t read my previous posts, this one will make no sense to you at all... I’m sorry! This is the next chapter of my sexy story, but I promise after this one we are back to chatting about the sex lives of people other than myself.

In the last year, sex has taken up a variety of spaces in my brain and body- none more shocking than where I am now- intuitive sex (!!!!!) The last I wrote to you was when I had that eventful life drawing/penetrative sex for the first time in six months. My sexy self was reignited.

I wanted to write a lot about what came

after that, because it was strange and confusing and not as positive as I had hoped. But I had entered a particularly un-sexy world of social work placement and it felt frankly bizarre to be considering my sex life when I was spending my weeks with women tortured by men. I was working in a refuge for four months and it impacted my libido far more than I thought it would. I was already in a very fragile state of being ready for sex but not necessarily full body desiring it within my body, so the refuge sucked up all of the desire I had in me and turned it into angry energy, empathy and exhaustion. I didn’t know what to do with the contradiction of the stories of men I would hear from 9-5 and the phenomenal man I came home to. It felt inappropriate to come home and revel in my relationship with the kindest man when I was no different to the women I worked with all day. I didn’t feel deserving of the love of James compared to the women who came to the refuge. I developed an increasingly unhealthy guilt and inability to detach from placement. I felt so indescribably guilty for not experiencing abuse and for being able to leave abuse at the end of every day and return to my life of safety and love.

A few months in, I had a total breakdown and recognised that my attachment to the women I worked with was NOT healthy. This possibly seems irrelevant, but my sex was and always has been entirely tied up in how I am feeling, and during this time, I was not feeling sexy in the slightest. I was absolutely exhausted emotionally and physically, using all my spare time to do assignments for the coinciding uni subjects. Plus, it was lockdown so the things that would normally have given me (all of us) balance, were not really available. Sex went out the window as quickly as it had reappeared.

But, I wasn’t okay with this. I stressed and panicked and dissected over and over why I didn’t want sex. I accepted placement as the culprit for the first couple of months, able to recognise that I was experiencing a particularly emotional and exhausting period of work, but by November I was feeling more balanced and still we weren’t having sex.

So, there was nothing to do but blame James right?! What better way to navigate insecurity and disconnect than with unhealthy ingrained coping techniques?! I decided that there could be no answer except that James just wasn’t attracted to me anymore. We weren’t having sex because he had no desire for me anymore, and there was nothing I could do. Six months of no sex, and more of barely any sex had meant that he just didn’t see me that way anymore. And could I blame him? I had always known I was not a sexy person, so I had really been teetering on the edge of James realising that at any moment. I’d made that happen by taking any distracting sex off the table. He loved me, I didn’t doubt that, but he wasn’t attracted to me. He didn’t associate me with sex anymore. Or with sexiness. I was wholly convinced and devastated at the conclusion I had come to.

But, something else was going on in James’ brain that actually made a whole lot of sense, but further complicated our sexy journey.

As I’ve written in other posts, when I told James a year into our relationship that I was not in a good place with my sex, he interpreted that, fairly, as me having allowed a lot of sex to happen with him that I didn’t really want. This wasn’t the case, but James’ heart hurt thinking he had misread my tiny signals, and was feeling a sense of betrayal of the broken trust we had. Which was really very fair enough. He couldn’t believe that he had in any way contributed to my sexual disconnect, and was punishing himself for it. I told him over and over again that he had been wonderful, and I had consented to all of our sex, but in his mind, he had hurt me, and didn’t know how to know if I did want sex anymore.

We were heading into territory of James as a victim to my trauma journey, and I had those thoughts myself, and the associated anger that he was being impacted by my pain in a way that made it hard for both of us to heal. I was angry that when I was ready to have sex again, James didn’t trust that I was ready. Over and over again I asked him to trust me, to believe that I would tell him if I didn’t want to have sex. But he was so terrified of hurting me, that we put a massive halt to sex again. Not all sex though, just sex that I didn’t initiate. If I initiated sex, James was certainly, enthusiastically willing, but he would never indicate first that he was interested. Which FUCKED me up. My sexual self-esteem was too fragile at that point in time to be able to initiate every time, without thinking that James just really wasn’t that interested in me.

It felt like we were drifting sexually again while still being romantically wonderful. But I was starting to worry if we could ever be sexual again, if James wanted to be sexual with me again.

So I went back to see Meg, the sexologist, and ask how to connect with James sexually, why I was so impacted by his nervousness around my consent, and why I was so obsessed with being able to have regular adult person sex with James again. Meg was delightful and wonderful and suggested we slow down again, and go back to a similar sensation program to the one I’d done previously: taking out the possibility of most sexual acts and working our way back up, focusing on connecting and feeling deeply first. But was this not starting again? Hadn’t I already done this? Had I actually failed the first time around? But I knew that I was lost without guidance in this path, so decided that Meg’s plan was the best plan.

But it obviously was not that simple. James is his own being, (sometimes I need to remind myself this) so he has his own issues and his own thoughts and his own pace. He was going through his own things, hard things, which meant the task of taking on a slow and deepening sexual journey didn’t seem possible to him. He was just floating through life, barely staying up. I was consumed by the need to ‘fix’ our sex, in case avoiding it would be the end of the relationship. I was perpetually shuffling between feeling incredibly confident that without the relationship I would be absolutely fine, and thinking I couldn’t survive without him, all dependent on my mood. But at this particular point, it did feel like I couldn’t make it without him. And without sex, or much of it, it would seem like the months of no sex we had had were for absolutely nothing. I couldn’t let that be the case.

But, as I began to say, James was not ready or equipped to dive into sex that was only meaningful. And the physical element of sex was only there to connect me to the meaningful. But James didn’t have that in him, and I was furious. How dare he not want to fix this? How dare he not be willing to put the work in to heal our sex? No longer my concern but ours. I couldn’t argue with his reasoning though. I was watching him suffer with his mental health and could see that he was in absolute survival mode. So I didn’t tell him how frustrated I was, I pushed that down as far as I could go. Which considering my absolute inability to hide my emotions, was not long at all. James could tell I was not okay. I was not happy, and he characteristically would use any space or energy he had to make sure I was okay. He is a wonderful person. So soon enough I blurted out my frustration. And we shared how we felt and shared the difficulty and shared that we are absolutely head over heels in love and that we weren’t going anywhere even without sex. Compromise. James would not leave me if our sex continued to be a bit all over the shop, and I would let him tell me when he was ready to join my sexual journey.

All good right?

Haha. Not quite.

We got to December, lockdown lifted, and I flew to Sydney to see my family for the first time all year. I had also finally properly come off the medication I’d been weaning off for 18 months, so I was feeling ultra-vulnerable, very unsure of how I’d be without it, exhausted as we all were from another huge and unbalanced COVID year, and a little bit nervous about the first time my family would be all together in two years. It was also my first night away from James for months. It was all fine in theory, but it coincided with an early and monstrous period. I felt a monumental and bodily shift in me. I could just tell, out of the blue, that James didn’t love me anymore. Or perhaps he loved me, but he was not in love with me anymore. I felt like I was losing him, like I’d lost him. I wondered for the first time if it was over. We hadn’t fought, we were okay, but I just couldn’t feel his love. And James loves with his whole body and heart, so I knew the difference. I considered that his current mental health meant that he might not have space for me anymore. He just had to survive his pain and he’d tried as hard as he could to do that with me, but he was empty. I knew this, accepted it and felt torn in half.

I called him, anxiously ready to hear his confirmation that yes, he didn’t love me anymore. I had absolute confirmation bias so all I could hear was his disconnect. When you’re with someone as tender and wholeheartedly loving as James, the difference is palpable.

In actuality, he had an awful cold, thankfully not COVID, but one draining him of any energy, and I was extremely hormonal and emotional. If I was with him, I would have been able to read him and know he still very much loved me, but I couldn’t and I allowed myself to fall into catastrophising. I suppose in a way it was not my fault, that unhealthy coping mechanism has been present for my entire life as well as the very real emotional impacts of PMS. I’ve gotten so much better at self-soothing and reading the truth from my fears, but in this moment, I only had my fears. I was coursing with anxiety. And I told him. He wasn’t in love with me anymore, we weren’t connecting, we weren’t lovers. That actual conversation is a blur of tears and James trying to calm me in a withdrawn, very sick way. But what we realised, what actually came from that phone call, was that we both missed sex. A lot. We were physically incredibly intimate, constantly curling ourselves around each other, kissing, touching, adoring, but barely any sex. Sex had become so difficult, so obsessively thoughtful, that any natural desire we had was erased. That’s not to say that the reasons sex had changed weren’t valid, they absolutely were, but in turn, it gave me something else to worry about. I never felt ready enough, or centred enough, or grounded enough to do justice to all the work we had done to heal my sex. James didn’t feel like he could initiate sex with me in case I wasn’t 100% ready and perfectly in the mood to be having thoughtful sex. I felt triggered, and self-conscious that I wasn’t feeling those things. It was a cycle of overthought that was grounded in love and the desire to heal from both of us, but became another barrier to being present in my sex and took away from any progress that the thoughtfulness might have been cultivating.

As soon as we discussed it, it made total sense. I had obsessed over sex always, but in a different way in 2021. Always interrogating if I felt pleasure or desire, always disappointed when I didn’t. In working on pain reduction, I became hypersensitive to anything that might be pain. There was nothing natural about our sex at that point, because I wasn’t ready for that. I had to be in control and change the way I had sex to be able to feel safe in sex again. But in doing that, my anxious tendencies pushed me the other way. I was never quite ready enough for sex, anything in my easily-wound-up body that could be interpreted as trepidation, shut down any desire. In trying to create more desire, I became hyper aware to everything else.

And so, we decided to try, and just see how it felt, having relatively thoughtless sex. Sex without having to be 1000% emotionally prepared to be present during sex. Sex with less expectation. And seeing what came from that.

And in the way that hormones do, I settled within an hour of our conversation and felt totally okay again. I knew James loved me, and I also knew that as soon as I was with him I would have no doubt of that. The combination of so many things made me ready for a breakdown and a breakdown I had. I was back with James five days later and the love was real. I felt stupid for ever doubting it. Within an hour of James picking me up from the airport, we were fucking. It was arousing and so fucking refreshing. It didn’t hurt, and sex hasn’t hurt since then. I could feel myself actually attuning to the pleasure (wow), and I actually felt really sexy.

And it’s continued. Not constantly, but we have been having more sex in the last month than we’ve had in a long time. I can feel that my desire is growing. I’m also being turned on again by life which is so fucking exciting. TV and movies make me horny again, James makes me horny again. Massive fucking yes. I’m close to my period currently and haven’t been feeling the same desire for the last few days, which would make a lot of sense hormonally for me. So I’m observing, and enjoying. I’ll track the changes that I notice, and let myself just have sex when we think we might want to.

Can you believe this is where we got to? A year of focusing so much on sex and every element of my desire and pleasure, that led me strangely to intuitive sex. I know my desire will change, but for the very moment, I’m okay just knowing that I am capable of having painless, joyful sex. Who knows exactly which part of the last year led me to here, or how long it will last. But for now, I’m okay just enjoying myself and my freakin sexy boyfriend.

Ps. The photos on this post are James' photography of our January holiday by the sea, he's beautiful and talented <3



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