“Can we go have a quickie?” I asked my wife on too many weekend afternoons to count.
She could have been folding laundry or preparing our family to leave to go on a Saturday hike. It didn’t matter. In my selfish requests, I wasn’t concerned about timing or appropriateness. It was all about physical connection and soothing anxiety for me. Drinking had long since stopped being about having fun. Drinking calmed my nerves and helped me relax, and so did having sex with my wife when she was least interested.
I was married. I was faithful. I worked hard and provided for my family. I thought I had an accelerated sex drive, and that my wife should appreciate that I was still attracted to her 20-plus years into our relationship. I was well aware of the strain my drinking put on our relationship. I thought our intimacy would heal wounds and draw us closer together. I didn’t understand that there was nothing intimate about my frequent interest in selfish sex. That which I thought would create a bond between us did nothing but push us further apart.
I didn’t get it. My solution was the problem.
Drinking alcohol is a selfish pastime. You can cross the invisible line that separates social, fun-loving drinking from addiction like I did, or you can think you have everything under control and believe booze is adding to your life. Either way, alcohol blunts our instincts. We praise alcohol for lowering inhibitions and making us comfortable in uncomfortable situations.
But do we ever stop and think about the reasons we are uncomfortable? Maybe meeting new people or socializing with strangers should cause us anxiety. Maybe our inhibitions are there to keep us from hasty decisions or rushing in where caution is advisable. Maybe blunting our instincts isn’t the benefit we all readily accept it to be.
Blunting my instincts made me a sexual predator in my own home.
My wife could always decline my advances, you might be thinking. And often she did. But with the selfishness brought on by alcohol consumption comes bravery and stubbornness. Sometimes, my wife acquiesced because she could see I wasn’t managing my alcohol-induced stress very well. Sometimes, she gave in because there were ways in which she did still love me, and at least part of her wanted to make me happy. Sometimes she agreed because I was relentless, and acquiescence was easier.
It wasn’t just about weekend afternoon quickies. Alcohol-induced sex is almost always selfish. Intimacy in a marriage can be destroyed in two ways. The couple can give up and stop trying, and intimacy can die from lack of physical contact. That’s not what happened in my marriage. For us, intimacy was destroyed by consistent physical contact where alcohol lowered inhibitions and made the uncomfortable all too comfortable for me.
I wasn’t cheating. Sex between two people who love each other is the point, isn’t it? Sex between married people isn’t shameful, right? It was healthy and expected. I deserved it, didn’t I? Look, a coldness had developed between us. I was just trying to warm it up.
And that was the biggest mistake of my life. I didn’t have a drinking problem. Well, actually, I did, but it wasn’t the main problem like I thought it was. My drinking made me brash and arrogant. My drinking left me feeling proud and entitled. My drinking made me believe that I could fix the chill in my marriage with brute force and physical attentiveness. The slow but inevitable destruction of my marriage was the problem. The alcohol just made matters worse.
I had the whole thing backward. I didn’t understand that intimacy, especially for a woman, is emotional and psychological long before it is physical. My wife didn’t want a quickie on Sunday afternoon, she wanted me to pick a restaurant without a liquor license thus prioritizing my kids over a couple of beers at lunch. She wanted me to fold laundry with her and listen to her concerns about our youngest not spending enough time brushing his teeth. She wanted me to come to Sunday dinner and crack jokes while complimenting the food instead of pouring myself sullenly into my seat at the table after drinking half a dozen beers while watching sports all afternoon.
She didn’t want more sex to fix our marriage. She wanted some damned inhibitions to make me less comfortable, less selfish.
I was clueless about what it would take to fix the intimacy in my marriage. In my sincere efforts to make things better, I had become a sexual predator. I thought sex was the key to fixing our problems, while, in reality, it had become possibly the very last thing my wife wanted from me.
I don’t blame alcoholism for our intimate dysfunction, but I do blame alcohol. You see, you don’t have to become addicted to destroy your marriage. Alcohol was driving my wife away long before my drinking ceased to be fun and became medicinal. Lowering inhibitions and making the uncomfortable feel comfortable-that’s what alcohol is known for. But naturally working through inhibitions and bringing loving comfort to the uncomfortable-that’s the stuff that builds intimacy.
Sobriety didn’t fix anything in my life or in my marriage. With alcohol out of the way, however, I was able to learn all of these lessons the hard way. It turns out, I’m not nearly as selfish and impatient without alcohol in my system. Without the shame from a night of overindulgence on my mind, I’m not nearly as in need of anxiety or depression relief in the middle of a Sunday afternoon. The lessons were there for the learning for me, but they didn’t come easy. Pain awaited me in sobriety as I came to understand the damage I had done when alcohol was a part of my life.
Realizing you were a sexual predator is devastating.
Finding that selfish neediness dried up in sobriety was some consolation, but my past behavior left me full of shame and self-hatred. It also left me with a long way to go to fix my marriage. We needed to build intimacy, and since I’d been doing it wrong all along, I didn’t have the first idea where to start.
But through trial, and lots of error, we are figuring it out. We started by dealing with the many resentments of the past. That led to building trust and letting love find a way back in. Intimacy is built on trust. Without a poison to lower inhibitions, comfort can only come from trust. You don’t have to cheat to destroy trust. You can be relentlessly monogamous to the selfish sex of alcohol, and trust will dissolve.
I’m not anti-quickie in sobriety now that intimacy is building in my marriage. For me, however, there is a lot of damage associated with selfish, alcohol-induced sex, and a quickie is a painful reminder.
I’d rather be patient. Since patience is so diabolically elusive in active addiction, it lets me know I’m on the right track when I have to work hard to make an uncomfortable situation comfortable. Life’s not supposed to be easy, and alcohol doesn’t fix anything. It just never does. My wife and I don’t have it all figured out yet, but we’re making progress. For the first time in decades, our marriage is getting better. Much, much better.
If your relationship has suffered from sexually predatory alcohol-induced behavior, I hope you’ll download our new ebook for free, He’s Sober. Now What? A Spouse’s Guide to Alcoholism Recovery.
Originally published at https://www.elephantjournal.com.