I hate roses. Hate them. I don’t like the way they smell, they are expensive and they die quickly. They were always the flower of choice for Will…he bought them for his affairs and for me. On my fortieth birthday he had forty red roses delivered to me at work. It was a huge bouquet and the entire building saw it. I was humiliated and embarrassed. Forty was already hard and then this giant bush of bright red roses that dominated my desk, making it impossible to work, making me gag from the overwhelming sickening smell was like a bullhorn yelling out to my whole office that I was old. Older than most of the twenty somethings that I worked with. It was a long, miserable day. When I got home I dutifully said thank you, told him how beautiful they were and cried after unsatisfying sex and him falling asleep. Sex with Will was a one person endeavor. It was for him..not me. It never lasted long, that was a plus, and no matter what he did, it just wasn’t good. For me. He was too busy performing. Making sure he played the part. Pretending like I was the only one. There was never any real connection..he saved that for his O.W….even the prostitutes. After awhile, even the effort and the pretending was too taxing. He couldn’t even perform. His addiction had rendered him useless in our bed. In some ways it was a relief for me. He stopped trying, I stopped pretending, I no longer had to fake it. But I still craved affection, attention…love. I learned to live without it. Will, on the other hand, was getting it anywhere and everywhere he could. Of course I didn’t know that. I naively assumed he finally figured out that he was really bad at the whole sex thing and conceded that the effort was way more trouble than the payoff was worth. That’s the way our sex life has been for at least the last decade. I do wonder if he was any good with any of his other women. It is very easy at this point for me to go down that rabbit hole and wonder what would have made it better and start questioning if it was me but, no, I know it wasn’t.
I know because I did something entirely against my values and my character. I know that I am still capable of being wanted and desired. I know because a few months after d-day, I had my own affair. It was brief. There was a lot of talking, texting, time together There was affection, laughter, intimacy….and then…yes, amazing sex. I learned, at age 54, what the big “O” was all about. I found out that I had a G-spot and it functioned just fine, thank you. I never knew. I found out that I am capable of inciting desire in a man. That I AM desirable. Trust me…I did not think that was possible. Now, to be clear, I do not, DO NOT, advocate to anyone traveling this road to go out and have sex with someone. I did not go and look for it to happen. It was not in my plan or on my radar. I was definitely in a very triggered, PTSD fog when all of this happened. That is not an excuse, just a means to explain why I would do something so completely against my nature. What I will say, is that it was strangely validating and for the first time, sex was fulfilling and satisfying, and when it ended, I was OK. I was sad that I had hurt someone and degraded myself, but knew enough about myself to learn from it and take the lessons to heart.
I learned what we as partners confuse all the time. We believe somewhere that sex equals love. That is one of the reasons betrayal and sex addiction in our spouses is so devastating to us…why it causes the trauma. If Will could have sex with so many others but not me, then clearly, I am not who he loves. Not true. In the sick mind of the addict, he couldn’t perform with me because I was the one person he did love. Sex for him was medicating all the ugly in his life from childhood on. It became a means of escape and he didn’t want to escape from me. Only he did. Emotionally. That’s the dichotomy. When I had my affair, there was a true connection…it was not love, but a genuine intimacy and affection. No secrets, no pretense. Because of that, there was emotion. Not love but emotion. Something Will is incapable of. Something I have been starved of for my whole marriage.
When the emotion is taken out of the act of love-making, it’s just a physical need for release. It’s not love, it’s not really even pleasure. In my experience it is just a painful, empty, humiliating use of my body. That’s what married sex has been for me as the wife of an addict. That is what I am learning to heal from. My affair helped with that..likely the most unhealthy way to come to my healthy conclusion, but that’s just me. Brene Brown describes love/betrayal in this way:
“Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows, Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
Well, aside from the “rare” part, I believe that I can still survive all that has happened regarding the “love” in my life. I am able to acknowledge things for what they are and heal from the effects. As Valentines Day approaches and red roses are everywhere, as the stores are filled with hearts and chocolates, I am not fooled. I am able to distinguish the difference between sex and love and all the B.S. in between.. I am counting that as progress.
But I still hate roses.