‘Why did I let it get so easy to say no?’: Meet the woman who says it’s her fault that her husband cheated… because she only agreed to have sex with him once every two years
- Sara Collins said she blames herself for her ex-husband Graham having an affair
- They would only have sex once every two years for their last decade together
- The mother-of-three now regrets not trying more in physical side of married life
There have been times when I’ve wanted to blame Instagram for my marriage ending but I know what — or who — is really to blame. And that’s me.
One summer morning in July 2019, I noticed my husband, Graham, had posted a picture of his empty plate on Instagram, having polished off a vegan breakfast at a local cafe. He pronounced it ‘yummy’ and, underneath in the comments, a woman had written her agreement, that yes, it was ‘yummy’.
Curious, I clicked on her profile — and my life fell apart.
On her social media page, there was picture after picture of my husband with her. One featured a ‘Danger of Falling’ sign, like you get on a cliff. Underneath it someone had written ‘. . . for a beautiful lady. Too late I’m already in deep!’
I immediately recognised my husband’s handwriting and it was then I realised that I had a huge problem.
I confronted Graham that evening and he admitted it was his writing. He told me he had been seeing this woman for four months.
I asked if they were sleeping together and he said yes. And what’s more, he said he’d never been happier.
It was an earth-shattering, humiliating and gut-wrenching night, one I will never forget.
And yet I know a large part of the fault for his infidelity rested with me.
Graham and I were having sex only once every two years, if that, and we’d made love maybe five times over the previous decade
I’d lost count of the times I’d rebuffed his sexual advances, closed my bedroom door on him and shut down any conversation around our love life.
Graham and I were having sex only once every two years, if that, and we’d made love maybe five times over the previous decade.
So when I read last week’s anonymous piece in the Mail by a married man who, after putting up with a decade of no sex, started to have affairs, I winced because it could so easily have been me he was writing about.
I, too, thought I had the perfect marriage, with three happy and healthy children and a doting, loyal husband.
I assumed that because our 28-year marriage had been carefully built on love and respect, our lack of sex life didn’t matter. Clearly it did.
On the outside, our life was pretty much perfect. We had a lovely, three-bedroom, end-of-terrace, house in Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, with an annexe for my late mother-in-law. It was a happy, busy home bursting with love.
I was the breadwinner, working on the front desk of the local leisure centre while Graham ran the house and home-schooled our children.
Fast forward to today, three years later, and, at 52, I’m single and still shuffling between rental accommodation.
Is this the life I’d envisaged for myself in middle age? No, it isn’t; I’d blithely assumed I’d be married for ever.
I assumed that because our 28-year marriage had been carefully built on love and respect, our lack of sex life didn’t matter. Clearly it did
The couple in their youth used to have an active sex life but later in life ended up rarely being intimate
Time after time, as I’ve looked around another dingy, rented flat or written ‘divorcee’ on my online dating profile, I’ve cursed myself for not prioritising my sex life and letting my marriage die. Why did I let it get so easy to say no?
When we first got together our love life firmly underpinned our relationship. We met through a mutual friend when I was 23 and Graham was 24.
We were a great match in every way from politics to religious beliefs. Within six months we had moved in and got a mortgage together. As for our sex life, I’d describe it as rather frenzied. It was not unusual for us to do it two or three times a day.
I was as happy as Graham was to initiate sex. And besides, why wouldn’t I? Graham was a tennis coach with a firm, fit body, and I shaped up quite nicely, too. I was a professional dancer, a size 8, with long legs and a flat stomach.
Our daughter, now 21, was planned. For the first year after she was born, as I breastfed her, there was a subtle shift in our sex life, but we soon returned to normal. Post-baby, I was a size 10, with fuller breasts and rounded hips, but I still felt good about myself.
Then, four years later, our son came along. Our sex life went on hold during the six months I breastfed. Once again, my thoughtful husband didn’t like the thought of us having sex while my body was needed by our son, which was fine by me.
Later, while parenting two children under five, we were having sex a couple of times a week. Yes, it was a drop in how often we used to do it, but we didn’t mind because we were so wrapped up in family life.
Taking stock, I’d say our marriage and family were rock solid. And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Everyone in our social circle said we were that perfect couple — we rarely rowed and supported each other in everything.
In 2016, Sara explained to presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield that sex was not a priority in her life
It was after our third child, another son, also planned, came along in 2008 that things changed. Following two natural births, he was delivered via an emergency Caesarean section. The moments leading up to it left me so traumatised, I hadn’t realised my son had survived.
On top of the emotional cost, there was the physical aftermath to deal with.
Scarring left me with an ugly, mangled stomach that ached constantly. I couldn’t sit down or stand up without pain. It even hurt to cuddle the children.
As for sex, it was firmly off the agenda. I was convinced that the scar would reopen.
Fortunately, Graham was incredibly understanding — he just wanted me to heal. This went on for 18 months, during which I just wanted to forget about ever having sex again.
By now we’d been together almost two decades; Graham was my best friend. I never worried he would leave me because we were that strong couple.
Two years after that horrific birth I was 42, a size 16, perimenopausal and feeling desperately unattractive.
After my previous pregnancies, I’d lost the baby weight. Now? Well, I simply couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror.
Each time I’ve breastfed the children we’ve slept in separate rooms, but this time I didn’t want Graham back in our bedroom. I refused to let him see me undressed.
He kept trying to be affectionate and initiate sex, but I’d push him away rather brutally. I can’t imagine how that routine rejection must have felt, but I genuinely couldn’t bear the thought of it.
And no I didn’t seek help. I just assumed Graham accepted how I felt, and that this was the new normal between us as a maried couple.
When I finally relented, two years after our third child’s birth, Graham was so loving and kept asking if I was sure I wanted to go ahead. It was over as quickly as it started.
By now, I was telling myself the reason we were having sex only once every couple of years was because the children got in the way of this part of our relationship. What if they heard us or walked in? But I know that was just an excuse.
At one point, I even suggested we have an open relationship — that’s how much I didn’t want to have sex — although I never actually thought he’d take me up on the offer.
I made peace with our almost sexless marriage, telling myself my husband was happy. He was a dad of three and family life was important to both of us.
Of course, he’d gently try to initiate sex, or talk about us giving it another go, but each time he tried to initiate a conversation I shut him down. Because Graham is such a caring and empathetic person, I thought he’d be OK with it.
Three-and-a-half years ago, when our youngest child was 11, Graham — a firm fixture on the Saturday morning Park Run — started meeting up with another woman to do the 5km circuit together.
Now, I’m not a jealous person, and I trusted him implicitly, so it honestly didn’t bother me at all. Before long, they had started going on bike rides and skateboarding together, too.
Looking back, the signs were there. Graham was taking more care with his appearance, and was much more upbeat and enthusiastic about life in general. I was just happy that he was happy and that the children were happy.
I was so trusting of their friendship that for four Friday evenings on the trot, when he told me he was ‘crashing’ at her place so they could get an early start for Park Run, I just thought what a great friend she was!
Then I saw that Instagram post. I was furious and humiliated, and I really let him have it. Even though he was upset, he didn’t apologise. I asked him to stop seeing her and he simply refused.
What came next are words that will haunt me for ever: when I pointed out he was throwing away a 28-year marriage for sex, he told me that we hadn’t had a marriage for a long, long time.
I was utterly devastated. The betrayal was so huge that for the following six months I just didn’t know if I was coming or going. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I came close to losing my mind.
Looking at it from Graham’s perspective, obviously the sex element of our relationship was more important to him than it was to me
I moved out immediately, and went to stay with my mum until I found a rented house for me and the children, who were, understandably, broken by the split. There were many tears.
Graham stayed in the marital home because his mum lived there, too, and he was her carer.
Today, a wiser me takes a less judgmental approach. I’ve given a lot of thought to the question of why men have affairs. I know lots of women will say it’s all his fault and no wife has a duty to sleep with her husband, but that’s not how I feel.
Looking at it from Graham’s perspective, obviously the sex element of our relationship was more important to him than it was to me. I wasn’t prepared to compromise or acknowledge his needs, and, in the process, I lost the love of my life.
Today Graham is 53, slim and healthy, a long-distance runner — he’s a catch for any woman. His affair didn’t last the course, but he has a new partner and, as bittersweet as it is to admit, she’s lovely. Whereas me? I’m a mature student at a university in Sussex and — despite forays into online dating — still very much single.
I never got my figure back and am battling the menopause, too.
If my daughter ever decides to get married I will be brutally honest with her about the physical side of married life.
I cannot understate how important this aspect is. Because if you aren’t having sex with your husband, there are plenty of women out there who will.
I like to say that Sara had a four-year headache. The number of times I heard ‘no’ over the years, it got to the stage where there was no point in asking any more. It knocks your self-esteem when an important part of you suddenly becomes redundant. I felt drained and unhappy.
I should probably have been firmer and told Sara how much our lack of sex life upset me. I do understand why she didn’t want to have sex any more; after having children, it is something you can go off, but men don’t have that same biological response.
Whenever I tried to talk to Sara about our lack of sex life, it was never the right time: she was either on the phone, on social media, watching television or she’d just shut me down.
Being knocked back again and again chipped away at my psyche. There was a point when Sara told me we should have an open relationship. It’s one thing to publicly state that, but quite another to be accepting of it.
So when an opportunity presented itself, it was easy for me to justify. This other woman gave me a little bit of happiness, and I didn’t feel guilty.
I’m not a cruel person, but I did it to save myself after years of being ignored.
I don’t think Sara is to blame, rather I regret that we allowed things to get to that stage and that communication broke down between us.
It was her decision to leave. Ironically, the affair fizzled out soon afterwards.
Today, we get on well for the sake of our children. Ironically she listens to me more now than she ever did before.
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