Back to the Body

This is a follow-on to the “Boredom” page, offering suggestions on how to overcome it, so you might want to read that first. I was originally going to go straight into many specific ways to rev up a woman’s sexual imagination, but then I remembered that in my own case, after I had extinguished my libido to ensure my fidelity, there was nothing left to “rev up.” At my lowest point I had no sexual imagination whatsoever. I couldn’t even think of the subject of sex without feeling impatient or anxious, so any attempt to force myself to deal with sexual matters or to “push” erotic material on me would have been distasteful, and probably would have only made things worse. Something else had to happen first. It wasn’t just my mind that rejected sexual thoughts and feelings, my body was fundamentally tense and defensive.

I lived very much in my head at that period of my life. I had quit smoking and then put on even more weight with my pregnancies. My breasts lost some of their firmness and perk, my stomach pooched out, my muscles were flabby and even the smallest physical exertions hurt or tired me out. So I was embarrassed and disgusted with myself, and my body was not a potential source of pleasure but a problem, a nuisance, something I’d rather not have had to deal with. The biggest clue was that I didn’t want to LOOK at it. I was at home with my little ones at the time and seldom took the trouble to put on makeup or style my hair or do anything that would cause me to stand in front of the mirror for any length of time. It was wash, brush, comb, turn away. I kept myself clean, and that was it. No perfume, no lotions, no fussing.

I was trying to disconnect from this useless, ugly part of my existence. I was sensible, see. I was mature. I wasn’t interested in fripperies and frivolity. They weren’t important. I had a good mind and I was a reliable, generally cheerful person, active in the community and nice to have around. My body wasn’t me, it was just my carcase. I wanted to forget it.

So in order to get my libido back, I first needed to stop merely tolerating my physical self, I had to get back to liking it again. From my own experience and from what other women have told me, getting back into one’s body is a slow and gradual process. Most of us have to sneak up on ourselves, so to speak, although I have heard stories in which a deliberate, frontal assault on the problem (most commonly exercise and weight loss) has worked for some women.

So, what can YOU do to help your wife out of her head and back into her body? Don’t think sex, per se. Think senses. All of them, not just touch, but hearing, smell, taste, and sight, too. And think relaxation, which enhances the body’s ability to appreciate sensory stimuli.

You should encourage your wife to pamper and beautify herself, even if she doesn’t think it’s necessary. A lot of women who are avoiding their physical selves will tend to think that doing anything to or for their numb, despised bodies is a waste of time and money. They’ll tell their husbands that they’d rather get a present for the kids than indulge themselves in a pedicure or a new dress.

(Buying clothes is a particularly fraught exercise for a woman who’s overweight. She will feel that she doesn’t “deserve” anything new or attractive until she goes on a diet, or that she should make do with cheap and baggy stuff from Walmart until she’s thin again. You might think encouraging her to buy decent clothes in her current size will “give her permission” to stay fat, but in fact wearing junk usually makes a woman hate her body even more, adding to her sense that she’s a hopeless schlump, and it will be even less likely that she will try to lose weight.)

Professional massage is an ideal way to get a woman back in touch with her physical self, because it is intensive touch therapy and contributes hugely to overall physical relaxation, but some women might reject the concept because it means exposing the hated body to a stranger’s gaze. If she’ll permit it, you might offer to give her one yourself, but you need to undertake it as a bodily exercise for her and not as a prelude to sex. Sex might happen, of course, but try not to expect it. You may have to start with simple, brief kneading of, say, her neck or feet. And be warned: she may be paranoid about massages, thinking that you’re going to want a quid pro quo, or that you have some other devious agenda.

Even routine hair appointments and manicures can help. Getting one’s hair washed by other hands is a sensual experience all its own, and looking down and seeing unexpectedly pretty hands or feet can be exactly the kind of small personal thrill that women who are lost in their own heads need more of.

You might not be able to afford a day at the spa every couple of weeks, but the home spa concept can be a lot of fun. If she’s strictly a quick shower person (and most people who are avoiding their own bodies are), wash out the tub and encourage her to take a hot or cool bath, preferably with bubbles or scented bath gel or epsom salts (great for relaxation), and maybe with a glass of wine or tea at hand. Fragrance in general is a good way to induce relaxation and sensory revival. Scented candles, flowery shampoos and, yes, even your aftershave or cologne will help create a pleasurable atmosphere (literally).

Music (especially if she plays or sings herself) can also contribute to getting your wife back in touch with her body, and dancing is really ideal if she can be encouraged to try it. Going to see art or films of particular kinds can also help, but it’s a much more tricky proposition, since ugly imagery or aggressive sexual content might invoke an anxiety reaction rather than subtle encouragement. In any case, going out to a concert or dance or gallery opening will encourage her to doll herself up, and that might give you an opportunity to tell her YOU think she’s beautiful in spite of the way she might feel about herself.

The question of food is another tricky area, but as “Tom Jones” demonstrated back in the Sixties, there is very little in the world that is more sensual than sharing an exquisite meal. If your wife is not overweight, she may be maintaining her figure with eating paranoia or a deliberate rejection of the sensual lure of taste, so any attempt to encourage her to enjoy food with you might make her even more tense. “Fat anxiety” is one surprisingly common reason women tune out their bodies’ demands. It will be difficult for you to help her with that particular problem, but you do need to be aware of it as a possibility.

On the other hand, if your wife does have problems with her weight, the idea should be to encourage her sensual enjoyment of excellent food and to reject junk. Many people who are disconnected from themselves sensually become dependent on the quick comfort of filling up, because it is the fastest and least complicated way of “silencing” their bodies, and they tend to actually shy away from tasting what they’re eating.

Remember that above all you want her to RELAX, to tune into sensual reality, and enjoy all the pleasures her body can give her, outside the bedroom as well as in it. So in a way you DO want her to “let herself go.” If you’re constantly hovering and criticizing, demanding that she Control Herself in one way or another, you’ll not only incur subconscious “rebellion,” you might be encouraging self-hatred and the deadening of her physical self.

Comments in response to this post:
I feel compelled, somehow, to bare my soul to you and the world. I began reading your journal for fun. I thought it was funny. Now I feel it is sad. Sad, because it is true.

My first wife quit having sex with me, and my current wife rarely does. My first wife and I had great sex, intense sex, kinky sex. We were passionate about our sex.

We were young, and the real world crept in and destroyed our passion. There were bills to pay, and no money pay them. Resentment and anger overtook love.

Perhaps I was foolish. I lost sight of what was important. I wanted stability. I was tired of struggling and I let her know it. I blamed her. I belittled her. I cheated. She cheated. Neither knew until we finally split up.

I searched for and found a stable woman. Stable, though, came to mean boring to me. She suffers (not openly) because she knows in my heart I compare her sexually to my first wife. She knows, because I told her once, how interesting and fantastic sex was with the first.

Stability has meant that all the bills get paid. The real world is our world. There is plenty of money. More than I wished for when I was young and impoverished (when I was dirt poor, a little seemed like a lot). Yet, our lives are inane and drab.

She is a great mother and she loves me dearly. She doesn’t voice her concerns — not audibly anyhow. She does, however, when she sneaks a pack of marshmallow peeps or a half gallon of ice cream.

She has put on an immense amount of weight since she had the first of our 2 children. She is not happy with herself. Her unhappiness is further compounded by the fact that she feels that I am not happy with her. Consequently, she is trapped in a cycle like you described so eloquently. She comforts herself in ways that are destructive and negatively impact her goals. Her weight increases.

I have not revealed it here yet, but I have been aware of all this for some time. I have been biting my tongue about her weight. I have not been unkind when I have discovered the empty boxes of candy in the nightstand. I have tried to show her I love her.

I have encouraged sex by gently prodding her; reminding her that I still find her sexy. I’ve told her that sex is important, not because I want to get off, but because it is the only time we have to share that allows us to recall how we fell in love.

I miss getting off and red hot passion. I miss the intimacy more. There is hope. She looks at herself once and a while. I succeed every so often in making her feel good about herself. I read your blog and find some truth that opens my eyes or reaffirms my faith.

I will continue to offer the gentle kiss. I will touch her in affectionate, but non-sexual manners. I will not expect sex every time we cuddle. I love her, and I will find ways to show her.

Peace, Greg

Greg • 5/5/03; 9:29:16 PM #

Julia, You had me on the edge of my seat. I could actually relate to much of what you wrote until now. “…after I had extinguished my libido to ensure my fidelity.”

What, in the hell is that?! Maybe I’m taking this quote out of context (there have been ten posts after all) but ya finally lost me here. N and I are childless so perhaps I can’t empathize with a mother’s dedication to her children’s welfare. — snip — [I had quite a bit more written here but I’ve since deleted it. I just finished mowing the “back forty” something that hasn’t happened since November so I’m hot and spent and I’ve had a couple and I’d rather me do the talking rather than the beers. So I’ll pause for explanation if any is forthcoming.]:-)

rich pure&simple• 5/5/03; 9:36:21 PM #

Just as I suspected. That came out sounding a lot harsher than was intended. Note to myself. Never mix beer with blog. Obviously, you don’t owe me or anyone else any explanation for your own blog. My apologies. rich pure&simple • 5/6/03; 9:11:13 AM #
Greg: Sometimes this stuff is so heartbreaking.

I think one thing I probably haven’t emphasized enough is that some of these issues are simply Life As It Has To Be Lived, which is almost always disappointing in comparison to what we wanted from it, what we used to have, or what we could get away with when we were kids.

I’m not saying anybody has to ever give up expecting more, wanting more or striving for more. Only the individual himself can know what he can’t bear any longer, and what is worth the tradeoffs.

But being able to acknowledge that there ARE tradeoffs, that there are limits to what we can do or hope for, that it’s probably too late to have (or repeat) some longed-for experiences, that our partners are flawed and likely to stay that way … all these realizations are more or less bearable to different people at different stages of their lives.

But we all have to deal with those realities at some point. They’ll always catch up, no matter how hard we try to deny or get away from them. It seems to me that you are making your peace with these facts of life with more grace than some people can muster.

That said, I wouldn’t give up on your wife just yet. I’d try to think of ways to break out of your glum routine or change your reactions and expectations. Ask her, “Is there something you’ve always wanted to do or try?” Sometimes getting away from The Way Things Are can provide you with an opportunity to talk seriously and lovingly about your mutual issues.

She may have things she wants to tell you or things she wants to ask for, but she doesn’t feel confident that you really want to hear it. A break from your normal routine can sometimes help to clear that kind of logjam.

“…after I had extinguished my libido to ensure my fidelity.”

ya finally lost me here

Thanks for pointing that out. I realize now I didn’t make this clear enough in my previous posts on the subject. I sort of skipped it, I guess.

I figure (now, in retrospect — at the time it was a mystery) that some of my loss of libido was because I was so strongly attracted to sexual novelty that my subconscious shut me down completely, to ensure I wouldn’t be tempted by other men after I got married. If I didn’t ever feel sexy, there was zero chance that I’d go off the rails and fool around.

And as I’ve noted, I was struggling so much with anger and resentment at the time that running away was a distinct possiblity. So (at least this is my theory) I had to tune sex out. Totally. The flame had to die.

I stayed faithful, but it came at a price — my ability to enjoy sex when I was “supposed” to. When the children came along, there was even more at stake, and more reason for my inner self to reject the temptations of erotic feelings.

Julia Grey • 5/6/03; 9:45:16 AM #

Well, you know what I’m going to ask. Why didn’t you consider an open relationship? Roy Kay • 5/6/03; 5:37:04 PM #
Roy, this is not the time and place for that discussion. But I’ll try to address it later. Julia Grey • 5/7/03; 9:38:19 AM #
i loved the thing. where you said ” In any case, going out to a concert or dance or gallery opening will encourage her to doll herself up, and that might give you an opportunity to tell her YOU think she’s beautiful in spite of the way she might feel about herself. ” edina • 8/6/04; 2:31:43 PM #
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3 Responses to “Back to the Body”

  1. Colleen Says:

    This has been profound reading for me.

    I have never had the opportunity to read input or thought, written from a true and real experience, by a MAN, of his wife’s insecurity/loss of libido/loss of self.

    Frankly im shocked, and moved to tears.

    It has also created the urge to lay out some piece of my story, here, and i am just a guest who has happened across this from somewhere in a “cyber quest” to find something to identify with. Having found it here, i am compelled.

    I was 18 When i married for the first time. It was a young and idealistic marriage with a pregnancy as the catalyst for all decision. Another baby came 11 months after the first. I remember the fog of post partum depression, and the bewildering feeling that i didn’t know this body, that carted me around, any longer. It was a stranger to me.

    I was so young and so unconscious of my own modalities and behaviours….. i remember needing a lot of physical touch before i could even entertain the idea of sex, with my shy, gentle husband. He didn’t have the ability to understand or seek to understand anything that was going on, but out of some reflex of safety he never said or did anything that would give me extra cause, from him, for insecurity or comparison of myself to other women. It never even registered to me that he would find someone else attractive, I knew nothing about Male sexuality or how it really worked. I was so naive and just believed the pad answers he would give me when my feelings of inadequacy got large enough to invoke some desperate question about whether he still found me attractive, or whether he was noticing other women.

    We lived like that for 10 years. Somewhere near the middle at year 5 or so, i became able to care about my body and how i looked again. I was not all the way re awakened, but enough to enjoy sex and to somewhat with an ebb and flow enjoy my own body.

    MY marriage ended. The explanation of that is not my purpose here so forgive the skip over.

    Having come though the loss of female sexual identity in my first marriage to a place where i was awake, and connected to my body again…. gave me back myself. i enjoyed my body on my own! The idea and then practice of masturbation was even something that i discovered which was shocking to me. I was content. i loved my, not perfect, but 30 year old, childbearing self. i was short and curvy. i felt ok with who i was, to me.

    I met an amazing Man who i have come to Respect like no other, I love him and will always love him. I am re- married. I am now a Second wife.

    Greg you wrote:

    I searched for and found a stable woman. Stable, though, came to mean boring to me. She suffers (not openly) because she knows in my heart I compare her sexually to my first wife. She knows, because I told her once, how interesting and fantastic sex was with the first.

    This is my life now. the ache constant ache throughout every day. I have been married for 3 years to my new husband i am mother to his two children, and mother to mine. we have created a family, a home. we are hard working and honest. Honest to the point that i have been privy to all my husbands questions and acceptances of life.

    He still wants His ex Wife. my body is different then hers. 13 years of marriage to one women sexually creates a response to her that my 3 years does a confusing battle with in his mind, body and soul. He still craves connection with her. He always will. I know details because we have been a little unwise in our “being truthful” that have grieved my should and the inadequacy that this has bread is palpable. i have gained 30 lbs……i am feeling as much like a post partum mother as i ever did, and i haven’t had a baby.

    He doesn’t want to compare, of course. and neither do i. I don’t want to compare the naive safety i felt sexually with my first husband to the panic and anxiety that joins us in our new marriage and marriage bed.

    i will forever know her legs were longer, he could see more of her ( i am short, she was tall ). I will forever know that when he stops to re group during love making it is because he is trying to re focus and be present with me instead of searching for some familiar rest in a body that is now a ghost and isn’t the one he is with now ( me).

    There will always be a ghost in our bedroom . Standing ( or laying ) next to that ghost i feel as pathetic and utilitarian as i ever have in my life.

    this. is. heartbreaking.

    greg you wrote:

    I think one thing I probably haven’t emphasized enough is that some of these issues are simply Life As It Has To Be Lived, which is almost always disappointing in comparison to what we wanted from it, what we used to have, or what we could get away with when we were kids.

    Speaking from the wife’s perspective there is NOTHING in this world that i want more than to believe that what you wrote here is masking some hope that would,will, can, be found.

    I wish i could be what my husbands first wife was for him, i wish i could satisfy him like her……or, like me, but in a way that didn’t leave anything that was ( in your words) “disappointing in comparison to what we wanted from it”.

    I am so encouraged, however sadistic it is of me, to hear another man explain missing his first wife sexually the way you have. It gives relevance to the inadequacy i feel as a second wife, and yet it is the truth, without blame or condemnation. the heart breaking truth

    Colleen

  2. Colleen Says:

    please excuse the grammar and spelling 😉

  3. Anonymous Says:

    This seems like typical writings I have read from many authors. All women.


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