My sex life
She sits inside a box on a shelf, silently waiting.
The box, so tiny, locked. Compartmentalised.
Occasionally – less often than I would like – I take the box down. Dust it off. Just often enough to feel okay about the frequency of sex I’m not having.
What is my relationship to her? How has that relationship changed over time?
If I could talk to this part of me, what would I say? That I’m sorry, that I miss it? I miss you.
What would it want to tell me? That it’s angry? Alone? Lonely? Forgotten? Neglected? Hungry? That it doesn’t feel safe? That it feels shamed? What’s wrong with me?
A kind of grief, on both sides. Unexpressed. Anger, loss, sadness.
This part of me, pushed aside, deprioritised, disowned, hidden away.
At first, by others. Former boyfriends, lovers. Don’t lead with it. Don’t be too sexual. Don’t be a slut. Be wild when I want. But when I don’t? Lock that shit away!
So I did, I say. I stuffed you down, pretended you weren’t there. I tried not to see you, hear you, feel you. My neverending to-do list took centre stage. My life. But not my sexlife.
One day, there’ll be time to bring you out, to set you free, to be yourself, but only after everything has been done (spoiler alert: it never is).
Only when he says so. When he’s in the mood. Oh, and only to the exact right degree. Don’t impose upon him, intimidate him, emasculate. Because if you want it, and he doesn’t… well, we just don’t talk about that, do we?
When the box is opened, only take out the fragments that he likes, on his terms.
It gets easier and easier to pop the box away. To shove things on top of it. Allow it to gather dust, difficult to reach.
But then he wants it and he’s frustrated and angry and rejected because you don’t want him right away. It’s such a hassle to dust you off, to warm you up. Too much effort. Why aren’t you just ready to go like you used to be? What’s wrong with you?
What’s wrong with me?
You start to feel broken. Disconnected. Why is it so difficult?
Why am I broken?
And you recall easier times. Before the dust settled. Before you deprioritised. Before you locked it away. Did you do this to yourself? Is this your fault?
It’s all my fault.
I take the box down. Not for him. For me. I open it, gingerly reach inside, simultaneously hollow and overflowing. I spill the contents out. It seems achingly familiar yet a stranger to me.
How can I invite her in, to become part of me once more? To welcome her, put her at ease? How can I be at ease with her?
Heat floods my chest and cheeks. Not desire – embarrassment. Those same cheeks wet with tears. Hot tears of anger, sadness, betrayal.
Why are you so foreign to me, when once you lived inside me? When did I learn to fear you? To be embarrassed by you? Ashamed of you?
Flowery words and sentiment. A eulogy. Yet you are not lost to me. You are within reach. You are part of me. I long to welcome you.
I welcome you.
I don’t trust you.
Why would you? I have betrayed you. Been ashamed of you. Been shamed by you.
I want to make amends. Can we start over? I know it won’t be easy. We may not always get it right. But I’d like to try. Will you help me?
I will try.
I will try.
We will try.
This piece was inspired by a dear friend and colleague, Kym Robinson, who generously shared a technique she uses with clients who are struggling to connect with their sexual selves. It resonated deeply, and so I wrote this for myself, and for the women I see in my therapy rooms every day.