|Photo courtesy of Don't I Wish|
As much as the idea of contractually negotiated sex rankled me (and mind you, this is not about the sort of contracts that some BDSM practitioners employ; it's along the lines of "per this contract we will have penis-in-vagina sex two times a week for the next six weeks"), it dislodged a memory related to sex that's likely to be equally off-putting to some: the ultimatum.
Somewhere around three years ago D gave me an ultimatum which basically said that within the next X period (maybe it was 6 months, maybe a year) I needed to find a way to get our sex life back on track. Or else. Or else what? Nothing really followed the "or else." After years of trying to negotiate, trying to get me to initiate, trying and trying and trying, he finally gave up and implied he wasn't going to try anymore. I got the message. Or at least, I got a message: that something unpleasant would happen if I didn't get my act together and stop treating him like a roommate rather than a lover. I never asked him to elaborate on "or else." I didn't want to. I didn't need to.
My turnaround wasn't immediate. It took a good six months or so before I mentally adjusted to the idea that prolonging the sexlessness in our marriage wasn't going to cut it. Nothing really changed in the way he related to me, but it didn't have to. The seed had been planted and the "or else" frequently tickled at the back of my mind.
The ultimatum scared me. It came at a time of tremendous transition for us, and at times I was deeply worried that if I couldn't find my sexual self I might lose him. The honest fact is that I probably wouldn't have lost him, but the thousand small unhappinesses would continue to grow and morph into something much larger that we'd never wrest control of.
How did we get to the point where an ultimatum was required? That's something I will explore another time. But we did get there, and somehow the gentle delivery of that demand changed something for me. He'd already told me in myriad ways that he wanted and needed my attention. I had listened, but I never really heard his deep, quiet need until he put it in such terms that all other sound was sucked into a vacuum and only those words rang in my ears.
I'm not sure what the conventional wisdom is on sex contracts, but the conventional wisdom on ultimatums in relationships is that they tend not to work, or at least not in the way we probably want them to. Furthermore, they should only be used when the ultimatum-giver is quite ready to lose the relationship if the demand isn't met. When I asked D not too long ago what would have happened if I hadn't changed my attitude toward sex, toward him, he confessed that he didn't have a plan. All he wanted was to get our sex life back, to be physically connected to the woman he's loved for so long, who he finds beautiful, and for whom he's lusted all these years.
Truth? Had he said that last sentence to me three years ago, I would have listened but not heard him. And nothing would have changed. Perhaps it took a tremendous act to jar me from the rut I'd traveled in for so long.