God, where do we even begin with this nonsense? Of all the abuse that could have left the deepest traumas, why oh why did it have to be the sexual abuse. Why oh why… Even now, I’m always so confused on how best to first start introducing this sexy elephant in the room.
It’s no surprise, I suppose, as most of the friction in the train wreck that was my former marriage concerned bedroom material. From the get go, my ex-wife hid romantic interests that she later got caught philandering with, and I take full responsibility for not getting the heck out of dodge after the first debacle with a boy who worked at her grandparent’s business with her. I’m just going to call him Ground Zero (G.Z.) from hence forth.
Long story short, my ex had made a certain correspondence with her sister saying, “I wish I had met G.Z. before I had married The Ghost.” When she was confronted about this alarming proclamation, through some miraculous turn of events that can neither be explained my man nor god, all mentions of G.Z. had been erased from her phone! *Gasp* This is no doubt undeniable proof of the supernatural, and yes, I do plan on notifying the Templeton Foundation. She also secretly called her parents so they could listen in on the lovely conversation that followed between her and I. Boundaries weren’t her thing in case you haven’t noticed.
She begged. She pleaded. She cried. She told me she would change and that G.Z. meant nothing to her. She said he was just a “placeholder” for any guy that would give her attention since I wasn’t giving her the kind she wanted. Yes, I know. I should have just left there. I honestly don’t think she realized how much more awful it is to say that she would just leave me for any old dude, not just that guy specifically, as opposed to saying that she had fallen in love with someone else. Both are terrible, yes, but at least the latter makes sense. She might as well have said “He means nothing! The only reason I said I wish that I had met him before I married you is because you mean less than nothing to me!” Such are the ways of sociopathic narcissists.
It was really fun. (That is Ghost humor, if that isn’t clear already.)
The only reason I mention G.Z. is so we can have a launching point for how manipulation works in a long term sense and possibly reference it in future posts. Unlike anyone with even the tiniest margin of self-respect, I stuck around to try to work things out, and she proceeded to use therapy as a smoke screen to hide other affairs.
Again, it was really fun, and after seeing that she could get away with nearly anything, the sexual abuse really started. I sat idly by when she started to talk about how much like’s “turning guys on” at her second job at a local bar. I cut off over a foot of my own luxurious hair because she said that it made her think about women during sex. She would berate me in therapy, commenting on how sexually unfulfilling and easily replaceable I was, then get frustrated when I wasn’t in the mood once we got home. Guess what I did? Apologize. I rolled over and invited her to keep walking all over me.
After years of this kind of behavior, it was weird when she wasn’t behaving like a monster hellbent on reducing my ego to a tiny, quivering mound of self-loathing. Never before had I hated myself so intensely. After months of feeling less than worthless, she was finally caught sneaking around at a hotel near our last apartment complex, conveniently situated near the bar she worked at. It all clicked almost instantly in the form of a toppled domino chain of memories and missed red flags.
The more that I figured out, the more the trauma cemented itself. My sexual identity (among other things) was completely shattered, manifesting in weeping fits during failed attempts at masturbation, rampant nightmares, and a literal stutter. As one might expect, this development was as alarming as it was pitiful, and the cherry on top is the fact that most of these issues just aren’t super approachable in most polite conversations.
“Oh y-ye-yeah, I sound l-like this b-b-because my w-w-wiiii-wife is jerking off an ar-ar-architect.”
Though the zeitgeist around discussions of mental and sexual health is definitely changing for the better, we still have a long way to go. Ego also plays a huge role in both matters, and after any kind of abuse, exposing even more of an already bruised ego can be nearly impossible for most. That conversation needs to shift, and seeing as how no one else was planning on popping that cork any time soon, I started writing a book detailing all of my thoughts and saying exactly what I was thinking if anyone asked.
“Hey, I heard you and the wife were having a rough patch. How are you doing?” one might ask. To which I would reply, “Well, pretty terrible especially since I’m exhausted from lying awake every night, too scared to fall asleep and have nightmares about all the things other men are doing to my wife.”
Some people would look at me like I just kicked their dog. Other people would stand there in silence, realizing that they should stop asking questions that they don’t really want the answers for. Other, other people found a lot of comfort in my aggressive honesty, and slowly but surely that conversational door began to open. Strangely enough, the more comfortable I got with expressing my thoughts to others, the more I could process my trauma and learn what I wanted and needed, and since this two-part series is about sexual identity and sex after a breakup/divorce, let’s talk about how those things got processed.
Side bar: I get that I literally just posted something about suicide, and now I am going to be posting things about my own personal thoughts about sexuality, sexual dysfunction, and desire. I understand that I am making a lot of people uncomfortable (it’s what I do), but it is not done with the intent of being provocative or disingenuous.
First, even in the midst of the insanity that was the first couple months of the divorce/separation process my libido skyrocketed to levels that are still impossible for me to really comprehend. I’m pretty sure my lizard brain was just trying one last ditch attempt to make things work. Spoiler: it didn’t work. In fact, it made things so much worse. So, in typical Ghost fashion, I just kept talking to my closest confidants about how sexually frustrated I was and how I was so emotionally broken that I couldn’t even take “care of things” myself just for a moment of relief.
I had made healing a full-time job, though, and I was determined to reclaim the pieces of me that I felt like had been stolen. Sex was a huge hurdle. From years of conditioning, I had absolutely no idea what a healthy sexual encounter looked like, and as uncomfortable as it was to admit, I had to accept that I really needed to make some of those encounters. It is an odd sensation to go from a content monogamous to a raving animal with zero orientation or emotional availability.
I tried a couple tantric exercises, and meditation helped a whole lot with learning about myself and what I wanted. Taking care of my own needs myself got easier with more introspection, honesty, and patience, but that itch was never really scratched. It was immensely difficult to view connecting with someone else as anything other than caustic, because of how normalized abusive sex had become. I had found my identity, though, and newer, healthier boundaries and ways to think the whole matter. I was ready to risk an exploration into myself with someone else. I addressed it with my therapist, but it felt like I was just banging my head on the wall. (There is a joke there, I think, but I can’t quite tease it out.)
I blundered around for a bit, knowing full well that I would jump into the waters of a new relationship eventually, but I was/am self aware enough that getting into a romantic relationship was not only unhealthy but unfair for all parties involved. So what is one to do when they want sex, they want it to mean something, but they don’t want an exchange of exclusive romantic emotions? …
So that’s how I got into friends-with-benefits relationship.
This terrified me as much as it terrified my friends whom I intentionally neglected to inform until I was ankle deep. It was an experiment for me that I wanted to do on my own until I really had the words to explain the complex web of feeling that had been knotting up in my brain.
Seeing as how I had recently reconnected with a friend from college who was attractive, interested, and in the business of promoting healthy mindsets, I figured she would be a good candidate. We laid out the rules, and what followed was one of the most enlightening periods of my life.
Sex was fun again. I found confidence that I didn’t know joe-shmo’s like me could have. I found out that I was actually good at it, and that I was desirable in my own unique ways. I found out that my status as a divorcee, my lack of a six pack, and my openness about my trauma really had no bearing on the situation. It was liberating and exactly the bump of validation that I needed to know that I was on the right path to continue discovering myself.
I should probably give a disclaimer that engaging in a FWB situation is undeniably playing with fire, and both parties need to intimately understand what they are looking for from a relationship like that.
For me, I was looking for another point of articulation, a different vantage point, to see sex outside of the toxic, sexual quagmire that I had been stuck in for so long. She was looking to explore with someone she felt safe with. It did the job for both of us, and we emphasized the “friend” part of our FWB agreement. Coffee, Netflix, and real talk were an important part of the mix. Eventually, she caught feelings, and we ended things amicably one night, agreeing to take a little break and get back to things in the future if we so desired.
Part 2 of this series is going to focus more on perspective and healing, but I want this one to be a foundation to work off of. We betray ourselves when we begin to think that our sexual identities are defined by another person’s treatment of us. My ex had as much control over identity as my FWB; that is, only as much as I allowed. In that way, I was always in control, even if I decided to adopt their perception of me as my own perception of myself. Whether good or bad, that decision was always mine even though I hadn’t realized it. There is hope out there for people who feel like they will never be able to connect with someone sexually. If this Ghost can do it, so can you.
At this point in my life, I feel like I have a pretty healthy understanding of myself and where I measure up. For a long time, even after a couple other less serious encounters, I thought the most accurate view of myself physically would be to say that I was maybe a 6, but throughout all of this (as far a sexual attraction is concerned), I have adopted a new mentality. To someone somewhere, someone whom I don’t think I will ever be able to understand the rationale of, I am an 11. For some infinitely incomprehensible reason, some people out there think I look good based on their own subjective preferences that are completely detached from my own. The same goes for you.
No matter how undesirable or awkward you feel like you are, the fact remains that everyone is entitled to their opinion of you. I’m not telling you that you need to see yourself as some glistening pillar of sexual attraction, but I am saying that you might find it helpful to at least accept that other people may very well think that you are.
You don’t have to be your own type, but unhealthy sexual interactions seem to crop up when they stem from the constant need for outside validation. Sex is validating, no doubt. No one is arguing that, but I hope that maybe more people would at least try to operate under the idea that sex should be about encouragement, not about masking. It is easy to use sex to numb the pain of trauma and abuse; that’s why rebounds are a thing. But when we approach romance from the mentality that we are already complete beings, able to sustain a positive self image on our own, sex can be really anything we want it to be.
There is so much liberation in that, and while I don’t completely have that mastered, it has changed my life drastically for the better. Yes, I get acute bouts of loneliness. When I am feeling low or beat down, I know that a hookup might make that feeling go away for a bit, but like I mentioned in “You’re Going to Die, But Not Today,” I am responsible for everything in my life. I have no business putting my insecurities in someone else’s hands, and that is how I want to end this.
It is not my fault for being abused by my ex-spouse, but I am at fault for expecting that marriage would solve my personal insecurities. I was being emotionally lazy and dishonest with myself, and I took the fall for it. I reaped the rewards for thinking that someone else could solve any of my problems, but you know what? Part of being responsible means admitting when you fucked up and then fixing it, and man, am I proud of myself now. I royally fucked up my life, and then I tightened up my belt, stared into the void, and said, “Yo, we play by my rules now.” It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t fun most of the time, and the road to my triumphs were bricked with so many failures.
I did the work though. I am getting better day after day. You can too. In the next part, I’ll give you some tips as to how, but in the mean time, you can always contact me via the new “CONTACT” tab in the menu. No question is too personal, too weird, or too seemingly unapproachable. Don’t worry, everything passed my way is kept anonymous! I’m a Ghost after all. *Shrug*