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By Carien Grobler

Deputy Digital Editor

Beyond the bedroom: ‘My marriage is now sexless’

"Our marriage was hot, and on weekends, we sometimes had intercourse two or three times a day. It was a big focus in our marriage . . . and now nothing is left."

“I tell my story because I hope and believe that there are more women like me out there. Women who live without sex.”

These are the words of Elaine Hugo* from Randburg as she recounts the sexless marriage in which she finds herself.

“Sex was a big part of our marriage before our son was born. I’m not cheap, but my husband and I had sex before our marriage. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other.

“He would grab my breasts when we were driving in the car, send me playful messages during the day, and sometimes even a sexy photo. Our marriage was hot, and on weekends, we sometimes had intercourse two or three times a day. It was a big focus in our marriage … and now nothing’s left.”

While she was pregnant, her sex drive was very high, Elaine says. “We were sexually active late into my pregnancy. I remember how on the way to the hospital my husband said that he’s very happy about the baby, but he’s also very happy to get his wife back. ‘I can’t wait to make love again,’ were his words.

“Our son is now two years old, and our marriage has lost all its fire. I don’t want to live like this. My marriage is slowly falling apart. Sex is 10% of the marriage when it’s right and in place, but 90% of your problems if not.”

Elaine says her marriage is dominated by conflict. “We fight about everything. From who scraped the butter with a knife full of Bovril to how to raise a child. I often stop in the middle of a fight and walk away because I know it’s not about the Bovril or the child, but about us. About the powerlessness because we both want to be close to each other, but I can’t bring myself to let him in.”

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She describes the situation as a nightmare she wants to wake up from. “Sometimes I think tomorrow morning everything will be better. I’ll feel better and not close up like a shell when he touches me.

However, her husband recently stopped seeking intimacy. “I must say he had a lot of courage; I would have given up a long time ago. He doesn’t touch me anymore. We lie like corpses next to each other in bed.

The reason for her behaviour is that she feels ashamed of her body, she says. “My stretch marks look like a road map running up my stomach and over my breasts. My breasts hang loose, and the loose skin around my stomach won’t go away.

“I’ve tried everything. I eat healthy, exercise three times a week, and drink lots of water. It’s not that I’m just going to sit back and do nothing about the situation.

“Before my pregnancy, I was beautiful. I effortlessly fit into a bikini, and I could see what my naked body did to my husband. Now it’s gone. I’ll never wear anything that shows my stomach again.”

Elaine says she one day confided in a friend and told her about their problem. “She ranted at me so much that I didn’t have the courage to go see a psychologist. I know the problem is in my head, but after she told me how ungrateful and selfish I am, I could never gather enough courage to share it with someone again.

“My poor husband now lives in a loveless marriage because I don’t want him to see and feel how my body has changed.”

Elaine says she made the decision to tell her story in the media to hold herself accountable. “I need professional help because the problem has become too big to solve it myself. It snowballed and has already caused so many other problems that someone will have to help me, and us, to start over.

“My baby blues never went away, they just got worse and turned into a condition where I now hate myself and my body. I feel depressed and exhausted. I can’t go on like this anymore.

“After my story is published, I’m making the call. I have to push through. And hopefully, someone reads it and realises that she needs to get help sooner rather than later. It doesn’t get better on its own. My marriage is proof of that.”

When should you seek help?

According to the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag), women should seek help after giving birth if they experience sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and irritability, and the symptoms last for more than two weeks.

Other warning signs are that a woman cannot resume her life as before, function normally and cannot handle everyday situations.

Treatment may include medication for anxiety and depression, psychotherapy, and participation in a support group.

Visit Sadag’s website for contact details.

*A pseudonym was used to protect the identity of the storyteller and her family.

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