Here is a topic that is rarely discussed: Sex after marriage. Sex before marriage is frowned upon in my community but what about no sex after marriage? If a girl is considered to be improper if she engages in pre-marital intercourse, well here’s news for you; a married woman is considered to be an awful wife to not engage in post-marital sex. Some may say, and I’m sure some studies even suggest that one of the key ingredients to a happy marriage is sex, but we can all agree that a necessity is love and respect.
My ex-husband and I didn’t have sex after marriage. I was going through depression due to a major life change and one of the common symptoms of depression is that it diminishes your drive. Your interest to initiate or engage in any sort of intimacy dries up (no pun intended). During this sensitive period, my ex and I were also dealing with marital issues. It appears most women need an emotional connection with the person we are intimate with. When that connection is lost, it’s hard to get our mind to focus and be in the moment, and this results in an agonizing experience. It’s like coming down a water slide, bare back with the absence of water; a fun ride gone wrong. A sharp pain accompanied with a burning sensation. I was told to endure so I can make my marriage survive. Mind you, my marriage failed due to dissimilar priorities and incompatible values. However, it almost felt like people were implying that it was due to the lack of sex. Apparently, that was the root cause.
One thing I learnt during this time is that in our culture it is strongly believed that it’s the wife’s “duty” to take care of the home, conceive and satisfy her husband’s needs. That surprised me because I was under the impression that a wife’s duty and its definition has drastically changed by 21st century. A wife’s role should be whatever her and her husband decide it to be to create a happy home. We live in a time where women are also in the workforce, and the only constant in our lives is change. This belief of mine stemmed from growing up in Canada so I was bothered to hear what the duties of a wife are indirectly through my former in-laws. When our marriage failed, and the blame game began, I was blamed for the demise of my marriage for not keeping him “happy”. At the time, it made me feel like I failed at being a good wife and that I should have given in, despite the pain, because then I would have received the support and care I desperately needed while handling my depression. These are the type of thoughts that occur when you are depressed, you personalize and internalize what others say and start blaming yourself.
Ok so which comes first; sex or love? Well, don’t you know you have to engage in sex to receive love? This was basically what I was told during the fall of my marriage. I was told to be intimate in order to receive the love, care and support I wanted and needed when I hit rock bottom. “Well maybe, if she kept him happy in bed, he would stay home more” was one of the comments that was said to my family. My parents asked why I was not being “happy” with my ex to which I answered to literally while being oblivious to the actual implication of that question. Of course, when word spread like wildfire, I even had a relative of mine say “it is 100% her fault, for falling in love, getting married and then not wanting to do anything in bed”. Let’s not address the bigger issue here; depression, but let’s instead address the lack of sex. These remarks were devastating to hear. I was able to dismiss all this by telling myself that they’re coming from a traditional set of mind. That’s a lie, because I’ve had people closer to me in age, react similarly without intending to. I was told “Well c’mon, you can’t withhold that from him, it’s unfair, he’s probably very tense” and “well this is where they start to look elsewhere”. I was at my all time low and I was being told to deal with the pain, despite his lack of support through my condition, to just get intimate and that’ll do the trick. That maybe I'll receive the support I needed from a husband. My point is not to say don’t have sex, my point is to say don’t expect or encourage sex when the basics of a relationship are nowhere to be found.
Women are constantly under scrutiny for what they did or didn’t do. The unfortunate part is that sometimes the negativity is emitted from other women. The very same women who understand the excruciating pain that comes with engaging in sexual intercourse when your mind, heart and drive are not there are encouraging me to satisfy his needs. The very same women who would be outraged if someone blamed the rape victim for walking out late, or for wearing a short dress are now telling me that I’m probably not receiving love and support because I’m not tending to my husband’s “urges”. This mentality puzzled me because it made me realize that many people, including young adults are not aware of what they’re insinuating when they advise people to “give in” in order to obtain the basics in a relationship. This way of thinking needs to be re-evaluated. If men have sexual freedom, women should have the freedom too. Whether it is to engage in sex or not, it should be the individual’s choice to decide what they want to do, with their bodies for themselves, and not for others or as part of their “duties”.
For the longest time I believed that I was inadequate, that I was dysfunctional, and these are not the thoughts you want going through your head while dealing with depression because you adopt and internalize these thoughts. Now that I am in a better place in my life, I can tell myself and anyone in my shoes... that it’s okay to say No and to remember that you equally have a voice in what your role is as a wife. Women should know that just because you have signed legal documents and/or tied the knot, doesn’t give anyone the right to tell you what your duties are as a wife, especially when it comes to your body and mind. Talk to your spouse, have the conversation early with your spouse. Let them know how you feel and why you feel that way. Even if they are combative, talking about it with your spouse allows you to get it off your chest and to find a way to cope together. Lastly, don’t be afraid to seek help. Receiving help from mental health professionals goes a long way in equipping you with the right strategies to handle and overcome obstacles. Don’t forget to take care of yourself, always be in tune with your feelings and emotions because conditions like depression are creepers. And remember, you don’t have to endure pain to please someone else, especially if there is a failing of connection. Sex should blossom out of love and care; it shouldn’t become the path to love and care.