Lust Kills Love
With respect to sex and sexuality, compromise is often needed on both sides. In my case, our relationship began to really improve after I was sober about three years. Around that time we really began to make progress in these issues. We just didn't find success working together as a team on our pain and frustration revolving around sexuality till I was sober for a rather long time. Every marriage is obviously different, and I know of other guys who say their marriage improved (even in this area) after only a year or so. I am a slow-poke.
We only found the success in dealing with this stuff when we both felt a lot of good-will toward each other. As long as she felt cheated by me or unloved, it was a non-starter. So at some times when we were happy with each other, I asked her if she was OK talking about sex. That each of us could say whatever we wanted without getting interrupted and without counter-arguments. No debate - just hearing on both sides. Like a meeting for two people. My sponsor taught me to do that. She'd say OK and say that she knows I am not pleased. She made it clear to me that she really wanted to make me happy and wanted to find some pleasure here herself, but that the relationship meant so much more to her than sex itself did. I found that kind of weird. I was shocked to learn that plenty of the things I thought she'd like were not pleasurable for her, at all. I discovered that we were really two different people. Porn didn't prepare me for that. The ladies there just want to be used and do what you want, no? My heart was learning that I was living with another person. A real olam molei. There is more to marriage than whether I am fulfilled sexually. As crazy as it sounds, I never believed that before. Since then, I have been learning about this woman as a real, independent person; and living with her is often fascinating, never boring.
One more point, be"H. I found out that my wife never fantasized in lust terms, it seems. That's just the way she is. Years ago during one of my heavy acting out periods (when I was sure that all I needed was to make my wife more sexual, instead of make me more human), I heard (or read) that fantasizing and masturbation are the building blocks of a good sexual relationship. I believed it be'emunah sh'leimah, and, my G-d, how much suffering that caused me. It gave me a license to put all my energies into changing her. The result was horrible for her, but much worse for me, I think. I grew deeper into perverted lunacy, all the while looking like a pleasant, functional, frum guy. I was impossible.
My G-d seems to see the key to happy sexuality as having more to do with me being right-sized - with knowing and growing in my true place. He put sex into the very strict g'darim of marriage: I have a place. I can't stray from it... but at least it's really my place. And success will depend on what I make of what I am given. Second, my wife and I (and many other people I have met in recovery) have a happy sexual relationship without using schmutz and fantasy! Fantasy would only make it fake. I now recognize fantasy and masturbation as sex purely with myself... isn't it something entirely different than sex? And that it is actually an obstacle to me fully participating in the real thing. After all, when I am fired up with fantasy and lust, I may be in bed with her, but we are sharing the bed with my very own sex object! My body parts have changed from how they really function, into having an end in and of themselves. She's essentially out of the picture - and she knows that she plays second-fiddle to my eiver. Schmutz conditions us to believe that this is a turn-on, but it's not. There really is no room in the bed for the three of us. It's really us guys and our 'body parts' - and eventually, we don't even see our wives any more. And that is what I do, as an addict.
Hatzlocha and more gradual freedom to both of you. Freedom to love each other and to allow yourselves some comfort and nachas from each other.
You have both been through a lot of pain. May Hashem bring you patience and love this year, instead of pain.