Last week a French woman hit the headlines when she sued her husband for almost £9,000 for refusing to have sex with her 'for a period of several years' during their 21 year marriage.
As I pretended to giggle over the story with all the other mums at the school gate, it really all felt a bit too close to home. It had stirred up a huge swathe of emotions inside me. Frenchness and suing aside, I had been that women.
And I admired her going public, because my sexless existence had ended up becoming a dirty, horrid, embarrassing secret that destroyed my relationship and nearly destroyed me.
I spoke to no one about it, despite my wine-fuelled nights out with the girls always ending up the same way: frank discussions about sex. From the wails of the newly-wedded desperately trying to get pregnant, to the eeks from the new mums as to 'when' to get back in the saddle (and all those 'will it hurt' questions), through to our single chums' blow-by-blow (no pun intended) descriptions of their conquests.
But for many years, instead of joining in with the banter and the silliness, it would always be my cue to go to the bar, or the loo, or nip outside to phone home once the 'sex talk' started.
Amazing really, as I was hardly a prude, and certainly not noted for my lack of communication skills or need to constantly gossip, analyse and discuss everything from politics to shoes.
But talking about sex left me cold, simply because despite being, at the time, mum to a young daughter and in a long term relationship, I hadn't had sex since my child was conceived in 2002.
When my daughter was almost a year old, people started, inevitably, asking when we would have another one. I pretended one was enough. But one was not enough; I loved children and assumed I would have three or more. Yet my partner – who to be fair had never been the most highly sexed of men – had not made a single move on me since the night our baby had been conceived.
I genuinely had no idea why. I made it clear I was interested in resuming our sex life soon after our little girl was born. I'd had an easy labour and physiologically there was no reason for us not to make love. I had not 'let myself go'. I was always well dressed, well turned out – in fact, the same person as I was before. Almost every night I would make attempts to cuddle up in bed, to initiate some contact, only to be rebuffed, or accused of taking up all the duvet, making him too hot, fidgeting...
I wondered if it was because I was breastfeeding, or if it was because my partner had watched our baby being born. Perhaps he just saw me differently. I truly had no idea, and attempts to discuss – excruciating as they were - what to me was becoming an enormous elephant in the room, fell on deaf ears.
But still I could not bring myself to talk to my friends about it. I nearly 'fessed up one night when one of our gang was moaning at length about her husband's thrice weekly demands. The other women all joined in, agreeing their partners would have it 'morning, noon and night' if they could.
I remember tears pricking my eyes and a voice inside my head asking over and over why MY partner wasn't like that. I suddenly felt totally humiliated, rejected and hurt.
As one by one my friends with children the same age as my little girl started having second and even third babies, the situation became unbearable. My partner would hold my hand in the street, kiss me hello and goodbye, drape an arm around me on the sofa, but would never go any further, or reciprocate my attempts to do so.
I eventually became too embarrassed to even mention it to him and although a day did not pass where I did not worry about how it would ultimately resolve itself, I did end up in a mindset that a sexual relationship was something I just did not have in my life any more.
But then five years into the 'drought' the inevitable happened. Another man paid me some attention and I ended up sleeping with him. I was absolutely desperate for it to happen, but also terrified as it had been so long. Would it hurt? Would I have forgotten what to do? Interestingly, afterwards, I felt no guilt.
I had by this stage so disassociated sex with love that I did not consider what I was doing betrayal; more that I was just seeking a release, and having someone fulfil a need that I could not get at home. I even considered that it could be a good thing for my home-life if I was getting it elsewhere; things could trot along as they were at home, and I would get my needs met by my lover.
But of course it all ended in tears; my partner found out I was having an 'affair' (in quotes because, to this day, years later, I still cannot call it that). An affair is what you have when you are in a relationship with another person; my home situation had degenerated to a brother and sister like state. We rowed over everything, bickered and picked at each other constantly and there was absolutely nothing left between us, apart from our child.
When I finally admitted to my girlfriends on a night out what had gone on, there was none of the normal giggling that accompanied the wine-fuelled sex conversations. Everyone fell silent. One of my friends cried and put her arms around me. Another said she did not know how I hadn't sought it elsewhere long before I did. Not one of them judged me or criticised me for what I had done.
But they all felt sorry for me, and that actually felt worse. I'd have rather been considered a scarlet woman than a sexual reject.
I never did get to the bottom of why my partner refused to have sex with me. Now, almost nine years since he last slept with me, and four years since we split up, he has a new girlfriend. I assume they have a physical relationship, which is a further knife in my guts, particularly when my daughter asks me, as she often does, why she does not have any brothers or sisters.
But would I have ever considered suing him like the French lady did her partner? No. It practically reduces the sex to prostitution. All I wanted was to feel wanted and loved in a secure relationship. To have a normal, healthy family life. And no matter how many years pass, I really do not think I will ever forgive him for having taken that away from me.
What do you think? Have you ever been in a sexless relationship?
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