Hattie Gladwell 26th March 2019
In October 2018, my partner of five-and-a-half years left me for another woman.
I was heartbroken. I felt lost and alone. I felt abandoned. But I also felt angry — and not just angry at him. Angry at myself.
I was livid with myself for feeling this way. For letting me feel this way. Not just during or after the breakup — but throughout almost our entire relationship.
For three years, I had felt lonely in my relationship. Like I was the only one in it. I’d lost all sense of self-worth, and when he finally left, I was angry he was the one to leave me and I hadn’t found the strength to do so myself.
The beginning of the relationship was amazing. The first year was a roller coaster of love, affection and sex. But after a year-and-a-half of dating, all of that went out of the window.
The love, the affection, and most devastatingly, the sex.
He kissed me back, but as my hands moved down his body, he pushed them away, telling me he didn’t ‘feel like it’
Over the space of three years, I can count the number of times my ex-partner and I had sex on two hands. Eight. In three years — aka 1,095 days, we’d had sex eight times.
I don’t quite remember how or when we stopped having sex. It just kind of happened when I was least expecting it.
During the honeymoon period, we were having sex at least four times a day, every day, and then suddenly it all just stopped.
But it wasn’t me stopping it — it was him. And I couldn’t figure out why.
It started to make me worry. Why wasn’t he as interested? Why wasn’t he initiating it?
The death of our sex life started one time in 2015. I’d gone to initiate sex like normal. We were lying in bed together, and I went to kiss him. He kissed me back, but as my hands moved down his body, he pushed them away, telling me he didn’t “feel like it”.
Of course, that was completely okay. We don’t always feel like having sex, so I brushed it off and went to sleep.
But then a few weeks went past, and we still hadn’t had sex. And that’s when I realised he hadn’t even been initiating it.
I thought maybe it was a phase, so I didn’t question it. I would never want to be someone who forces their partner to have sex with them. But it did start to make me worry. Why wasn’t he as interested? Why wasn’t he initiating it?
I didn’t sit down with him until a few months later, when we still hadn’t had any sexual intimacy beyond a kiss. In those few months, I had started to feel insecure. Was there something wrong with me? Did he not find me attractive anymore? Did he not love me anymore? Was he getting it elsewhere?
I sat down with him and explained how I felt and that I was starting to worry about our sex life. He assured me there was nothing wrong, that he still loved me and was still attracted to me, he just didn’t have much of a sex-drive at that current point in time because of stress.
He even added that he did want to have sex — he had just become “lazy”.
Six months down the line and still no sex, my self-confidence started to plummet
It was a weight off of my shoulders. I was glad I’d spoken to him about it, as it had eased my anxiety a little bit. I assumed that things would just go back to normal when he was ready. But I waited, and I waited, and it never did.
Six months down the line and still no sex, my self-confidence started to plummet. I felt totally unattractive. Unwanted. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me.
I had tried to initiate it countless times but been rejected again and again. I tried to talk to my then-partner about it, but he would give me the same excuses every time.
I was told asking for sex is ’embarrassing’ and that it just made him feel ‘awkward’
Over the space of a year, it got to the point where I had to ask to have sex because I had become so embarrassed over the countless rejections from trying to initiate it. It felt like if I just asked, I wouldn’t have to lose any more of my dignity by being physically pushed away.
But actually, it just took more of my dignity away. And even when I asked, I would be given excuses not to have sex.
Not only that, but I was told asking for sex is “embarrassing” and that it just made him feel “awkward”. Which made me feel the smallest I’d ever felt.
And so eventually, I stopped asking and I started suggesting. Instead of, “Can we have sex?” it would be, “We should have sex soon.” Soon didn’t mean that day or even the next; it meant at least in the next month. Which is soul-destroying even just thinking about it now.
I started gaining weight. I stopped doing my hair. I stopped bothering so much with my makeup
It wasn’t for want of trying — I had tried to spice things up. I had suggested trying various things in the bedroom, and I dressed up a couple of times — to which I got rejected again — and I even asked if he wanted to have an open relationship.
Dressing up in sexy lingerie and suspenders and being rejected makes you want the ground to swallow you up. I felt all of what was left of my confidence and self-esteem get sucked out of my body.
And when I lost that confidence, I lost myself. At the start of the relationship, I felt wanted and beautiful. He made me feel that way. I felt like the most attractive woman in the world to him. But when our sex life died, that part of me died too. I started gaining weight. I stopped doing my hair. I stopped bothering so much with my makeup.
I wanted to have sex to say we’d done it. Because at least if we were doing it, it felt like we were still in a relationship
This wasn’t like me at all — I’d always loved making myself up. I know how to rock a red lip, and I straighten my hair religiously. But I stopped it all because I felt like I no longer had anyone to make an effort for. I didn’t even comprehend that I could still make an effort for myself. But when someone is making you feel so unattractive and so unwanted, you just feel like, what’s the point?
We did have sex around twice a year, but it was like something out of what you’d expect from a couple who had been married for 30 years (though I’m sure they still have sex more than I did) — once on Valentine’s Day or, perhaps, a birthday, and once on our anniversary.
It was boring and predictable, and it felt forced. Like we had to do it because it was a special occasion.
Sex stopped being enjoyable for me. Even though I wanted it, and I wanted to have it regularly, it was no longer for the right reasons. I wanted to have sex to say we’d done it. Because at least if we were doing it, it felt like we were still in a relationship.
It no longer felt like a loving thing, it felt like hard work
Having sex, to me, was a reason not to end it. It got to the point where I would think to myself, “If we can just have sex this month then I don’t have to end it next month.”
And when we did have sex, it was almost forced from my perspective, even though I desperately wanted our healthy sex life and relationship back. Because it no longer felt like a loving thing, it felt like hard work. Almost like a mission. If we could just do it, at least we can say we’ve done it and I don’t have to bring it up for another three months or so.
It was toxic and unhealthy, and I am mad at myself for not standing up for myself and realising I deserved better.
It wasn’t just the sex life that was dead — the relationship was too. After our sex life died we would spend most evenings in separate rooms. We wouldn’t go out, and it was almost like we were roommates over anything else. I was longing for a happy, healthy relationship, but he wasn’t interested in doing anything with me — he wouldn’t even cuddle with me on the sofa because I would “get in the way”.
My friends would tell me all the time that my relationship wasn’t healthy
But I didn’t have the strength to leave because I had become so conditioned to feeling bad about myself, to feeling I was unattractive and to being unwanted, that I thought if I left I would be alone forever.
If he didn’t want me, who else would?
It didn’t even cross my mind that I shouldn’t be focusing on anyone else, I should have just left to work on myself, and to rediscover who I am and what I need and deserve.
It’s so easy to tell someone to leave a toxic relationship. My friends would tell me all the time that my relationship wasn’t healthy. I would die inside as they told me about their frequent sex lives.
I started watching porn. A lot of it
I would lie and tell them everything was fine and that we were sleeping together at times where I felt too uncomfortable to share that I hadn’t had sex in months, but they could see right through it.
I was unhappy. Miserable. But I didn’t leave because I didn’t want to be alone — despite already being in a relationship where I felt lonelier than I’d ever felt before.
Not only did I lose my self-esteem, over the space of three years, I also lost the ability to orgasm. I haven’t orgasmed from sex since 2015.
I struggled to get off without any form of visual stimulation
When our sex life started disappearing, I started watching porn. A lot of it. I didn’t want to leave, and I also didn’t want to be with anyone else — but I needed to get rid of the frustration somehow.
So instead of having sex, I would watch videos of other people doing it, so that at least I had some form of sex in my life.
But doing this and only having sex that felt like a chore meant sex was just not physically enjoyable for me anymore, and I struggled to get off without any form of visual stimulation.
And this has left some damage since my ex left me.
Though when he left, he explained to me that it was never my fault, that I wasn’t unattractive and that it was all “him”, nothing mattered because the damage was done. He’d met me as a confident, self-loving young woman and left me as someone who felt they weren’t worth the attention of anyone else ever again.
Being left for another woman after years of being in a sexless relationship also isn’t great for your self-esteem.
Since the breakup, I have found myself in a new relationship with a very lovely guy, and I am pleased to say our sex life is absolutely amazing. I’m certainly making up for everything I missed out on over the years.
I’m finally feeling everything I should’ve felt
I’ve also re-found myself. I was single for a little while and spent time working on myself. I got my makeup bag out once again, styled my hair, rekindled old friendships and just had fun for a little while.
And then I met someone when I was least expecting it, and I’m finally feeling everything I should’ve felt in my last relationship all those years.
But, unfortunately, due to years of being unable to orgasm through sex, I’m still struggling to do so. It’s almost like my body is re-learning how to enjoy sex after it feeling so forced and so rare for so long.
I will never allow anyone to make me feel like that, ever again
But I am confident that I will eventually get there — I just need to cut my body some slack, because it really doesn’t know what it’s been missing.
What I am also confident of is that I will never, ever allow myself to be in a sexless relationship again. I completely lost who I was. I lost all the strength I had within me. But I will never allow anyone to make me feel like that, ever again.
To some, sex is just sex.
But sex can make or break a relationship. And it can have the potential to break you as a person too.
Hattie Gladwell 26th March 2019