Fourteen years into marriage is like two 7 year itches combined into one wool sweater ant party. Even the extra strength balms (wine, frosting) don’t offer much relief. At this stage of life, the stress is real and the responsibilities are not sexy. We used to be so into each other and look for excuses to get inside one another. Now, any person-in-person action is strictly for prostate health.
Recently, my barely sexually-maintained husband of 14 years told me about a dream that he had. Him sharing this dream with me is still one of the greatest moments of my life, so now I will do you the courtesy of sharing it with you. (You’re welcome). Since hearing it, I have affectionately been calling him, “The Saddest Sad Bastard Of All.”
Apparently he’d been hoping to have some sex when he came to bed that night, and I was, uninterested, as usual, and instead had homelessness or the plight of the sea turtles or something awful on my mind. So we talked tragedy until we fell asleep. Still somehow, with the fortitude of a horny army, he must have fallen asleep with sex on the brain and had a sex dream.
It wasn’t just any sex dream. It was a sex dream about Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime. He kept saying “in her prime” as if knowing that it was the bodysuit and big hair-wearing Beverly D’Angelo from the 1980’s would somehow explain everything.
He didn’t know why he had dreamed about Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime. We hadn’t seen anything out of the National Lampoon vault in ages. I mean, obviously, anyone who grew up in the ’80s watching ‘Christmas Vacation’ and who has seen the deleted scenes from ‘High Fidelity,’ has a healthy appreciation for Ms. D’Angelo (in all her eras), but we don’t have a poster of her above our marital bed or anything.
He went on to say that the worst (read: best) part of his dream was that he could tell Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime, wasn’t really into it. She wasn’t entirely comfortable in the position they were in and she kept trying to change it up and it just…didn’t go well.
So, he woke up, unsatisfied, having unsatisfied Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime.
After I stopped pointing and laughing at him, I started to reflect. Why would he be having dreams about bad sex with ’80s icons? Clearly this was due to our current infrequent and unenthusiastic sex life. There’s not a lot of intercourse happening fourteen years into marriage. When there is a miraculous hour when the children people are asleep in their assigned beds and the adult people are awake in ours, then the pressure of being expected to have intercourse is just too great for me. I find myself stalling by checking the news and Facebook on my phone, and before I know it, I’m mired in the world’s pain and angry about the treatment of women, saddened by inequality, and disgusted by whatever it is they put into chicken nuggets. My poor husband just wants to get a little nookie, and I’m crying, yelling, and wiring money around the world.
I remember back to when we used to be so hot. Now we’re so, so old and tired. Where we used to have room for spontaneity and endless time together, now there are big bills to worry about, maniacal children to prevent from maiming themselves, endless meals to make, and Louis CK shows to watch. These all trump reserving time and energy for intercourse. We used to want each other NOW. Now a million other things NEED us NOW, and I kind of just want to be left alone.
Where did we lose our sense of urgency for one another? I don’t think it happened all at once. I think it was the slow, pernicious, draining of life force that is adulthood and parenthood. There was a time when we bragged like real assholes about how strong and dynamic our marriage was. Even at the 7-year mark, when we were supposed to have the famous itch, we really didn’t. We had no children at that point, and hadn’t tried to procure any. We were living across the country from our families and were sexy and adventurous, alone against the world like pirate queen and king. (Actually, that sounds more exotic than it was. We mostly exercised and went on weekend trips with our friends, piling 6 high into $40 hotel rooms and drinking local beer that wasn’t “craft” yet.)
The next 7 years, adulthood fell hard on us. We moved home, bought a house, got more education and big kid jobs, and then struggled to have two kids. So now, we have two marvelous children, a mortgage, careers and a fledgling business that allows us the thrill of trying to avoid bankruptcy.
Kids pulled our focus off of each other completely. They say that they will, and “they” are right. Children are fierce competition for the romantic marital relationship. They require all our time and energy, affection, and selflessness. All that love and energy that was once directed toward each other is now taken up by the kids. Intimacy through conversation has suffered, too. Now, instead of having soul-enhancing, deep discussions, we only find time to talk life logistics. We’re always running out of toilet paper, but somehow have 14 mustards in the fridge. Things like that. There’s little poetry in it.
Also, if romance requires any thread of mystery, having children burned that to the ground. My husband knew exactly what pregnancy and delivery did to all the inside and outside parts of my body because I articulated them to him or he saw them first-person. I didn’t hold anything back from him because I figured that if my body was on loan for our family’s child production, he sure enough was going to witness the graphic demolition of it.
Somehow, despite all that and my compulsive insistence that he regularly check my IUD string like my gynecologist, he STILL wants to have intercourse with me. And Beverly D’Angelo, in her prime. But mostly me.
This is why he’s the Saddest Sad Bastard of All. The pressures of life haven’t completely crushed his libido as they have mine. For me, having kids took over everything. I was their comfort, their food, their Elvis, their everything. It was intoxicating, but it was also exhausting. That level of need from the kids, as well as a full time job, left very little time to tend to my own mental or physical health or creative pursuits, and really no energy remained to focus on intimacy.
It’s taken me several years to realize that I need to put some of me back together again. I am still goofy for my kids, but I think I have finally learned that I truly can’t give them more than I have. I need to keep some back for me, and maybe for my husband, too. Besides, even if I do try to give my kids everything I have, they will just take it and spill nachos all over it. They will take it and STILL complain. I’m still learning this lesson.
So, while the details of the dream were endlessly amusing to me, I was not at all surprised that The Saddest Sad Bastard of All is having dreams about being sexually unfulfilled. It probably reveals insecurities he’s having about our sex life. My lack of interest in sex may be hurting his feelings. That’s not great. I want him to be confident and safe and feel wanted.
In an effort to give him something back for sharing that wonderful, terrible dream with me, I’ve been making an effort to be nice to him, to engage in real conversation, and to show him some affection. Maybe I’ll even stop bossing him around while I’m oil-pulling so he doesn’t have to see me drool coconut oil out the side of my mouth. I’ll commit to putting away my phone at night so that the miseries of the world won’t join us in bed. I’ll work on the hard task of diverting some of my energy from the kids back to him, to me, to us.
I’m making a genuine attempt to have more interest in sex and to ‘throw him a bone’ more often. Maybe he doesn’t have to be ‘The Saddest Sad Bastard of All’ anymore.
Of course, now I might have to start calling him “Sparky” instead.