I'm immediately remorseful of the action I've committed whether I was under the influence or not. (Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
My wife and I have been married for almost ten years.
The other night we drank a lot. While sitting on the couch, she asked me to put on some pornography for us to watch. I found something to put on the TV and then things started getting hot and heavy on the couch.
I don't really remember too much between the couch and the bed, vaguely remember turning off the TV. I came to the bedroom with the light still on, and she was naked on the bed. I got naked too and climbed on top of her and made a really stupid decision to try and have anal sex with her.
Upon entering her, she rears up and asks me what the f*ck I am doing. The realization of what she was saying was like being hit with a bucket of cold water in that she was saying that I was raping her.
I'm immediately remorseful of the action I've committed whether I was under the influence or not.
In high school, she had a rape experience where she was drugged and sexually assaulted against her will.
I've been beating myself over the past few days, and my wife — who I love, respect, and can't live without — can’t look at me or speak to me.
Is what I did the same thing that happened to her in high school?
I've talked with friends and family, and I can't get through to her, so I think the next best option is therapy for both of us.
What's your opinion and how do you think I should move forward?
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I appreciate you writing in to ask this question.
So often we think about consent in terms of people we are getting to know. But the consideration (and nuances) of consent don’t go away in a long-term relationship.
Clear consent with a spouse or partner is as important as it is the first time you’re intimate with someone.
And it’s easy to forget that when you’ve grown to be comfortable with someone. But it is still necessary. Why? Because your spouse is a human being, not a robot. Something she enjoyed yesterday may not feel right today.
One thing that was not clear to me in your email was whether you stopped what you were doing when she responded the way she did. My read on this as that you did, but are nonetheless aware that you shouldn’t have forged ahead into anal sex in sneaky mode. Assuming you did stop, then no, I don’t think that what you did is the same thing that happened to her in high school. But…
It is your responsibility to work with your wife on establishing sexual boundaries and being aware of what could trigger that past trauma for her.
How you establish and communicate consent may look different in a marriage than a new relationship, but it is not any less crucial. A baseline model for consent in a relationship is asking your partner if what you are doing feels good for them AND checking in before a jump forward — do you want to have sex/ anal sex/ oral sex/ etc.
Your instinct to seek couple’s therapy is spot on.
You need the help of a professional to guide you to both better decision making and communication.
I also encourage you to open up the communication with your wife, when she is ready to do so, to talk about what would make her feel safe again sexually, what acts are strictly off the table, and if you need a safe word to use in the heat of the moment if there are things that she may like but not always be up for.
A note about the intoxicated factor… I have a general opinion when it comes to the fallout caused by alcohol or any mind-altering substances. If you behave ways when drunk/high that have negative consequences or are antithetical to who you are as a person, perhaps it’s time to evaluate your relationship with alcohol or substances. Just putting that out there as proverbial food for thought.
Lastly, some homework for you to get started on right now by educating yourself about consent:
- Project Consent
- Navigating Consent
- Learning Good Consent
- Asking For It - The Ethics & Erotics of Sexual Consent
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Peridot, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo