Our smoldering 15 year conflict over sex flared into flame one night in the fall of 1986 when my husband, Jerry, began to touch me.
"Not tonight, okay?" I said.
He rolled over without a word.
Heart pounding, I turned my back too. If I can't say no, how can I say yes? I thought. I felt like a prostitute. And that felt too familiar. Several times, beginning when I was four years old, my father had molested me.
Uncharacteristically, I stayed angry for three days, barely talking to Jerry. He spent the next three evenings in our detached garage. The fourth night, as I stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes after an uncomfortable dinner, I watched him through the window as he walked away.
Am I so angry I don't want to resolve this?
I dried my hands and followed him to his shop.
"Can we talk?"
He glanced up from the workbench where he was building a birdhouse. "If you want to."
"I don't want to be mad at you," I explained. "We keep coming up against this sex thing. I have to be able to say no, do you see that?"
"Yes, I do," he said. "But do you see I want to make love with you? You're the only one I can have sex with. If you want to talk theology with someone, you can have breakfast with Pastor Paul. I can't go have sex with anybody else."
"Yes, I get that," I said. "I want to make love with you too. I'm working as hard as I can on being available to you. But I don't think you have any idea how much sex feels like abuse."
Though I understood Jerry's logic, I didn't feel he understood the repulsive effect of the molestation images that flickered in my mind during our lovemaking.1