(For the purpose of pronoun simplicity, I am going to write this post, and the ones to follow, to refused husbands. Wives, if you are the one who desires more sexual intimacy, please keep reading, because I believe that pretty much everything I am going to say will apply to your situation, as well.)
I am starting to write a series of posts about dealing with sexless marriage. According to different writers and researchers, the phenomenon of marriages with a restricted or non-existent sex life is on the rise in America. One figure I’m seeing tossed about says 1-in-5, 20% of all marriages, are sexless, or nearly so. I’ve hinted at the topic in previous posts, but now I’m going to write about attempting to address and change a sexless marriage.
Before I do, however, I want to give some “pre-advice”, something for anyone who finds themselves in this situation, and that is to give serious thought to your approach before starting any course of action. Approaching a spouse who is throttling the marriage bed is not an easy task; a sexless marriage isn’t dealt with by a casual “Hey, you know, our frequency is down, and I think we should make love more often.” Anyone expecting a “You know, you’re right, let’s get it on” is living in La-La Land, and has low-lying Florida waterfront property in their investment portfolio.
Yes, a spouse who creates the sexless marriage needs to be confronted, but before the throttle-ee approaches the throttle-er, s/he needs to do some serious thinking.
Count The Cost
In Luke 14, Jesus told this small parable:
Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. (v. 31-32)
In the same vein, the refused spouse needs to decide if “going to the mattresses” is worth it. One man I know said that the stormiest two years of his marriage were the two years he refused to let the sexless state of his marriage be. He could have just “sucked it up” and continued in his denied state, but since he’d been pretty much denied for 15 years, he’d had enough. And so he and his wife fought about sex for two years. Anyone in the same situation will have to give this possibility consideration. After all, is a marital sex life worth the ruckus that it will take to create one, or is marital peace so dear as to be purchased at the price of accepting imposed celibacy?
In a previous post, I presented this quote from Dr. Corey Allan, taken from a past Sexy Marriage Radio podcast:
“Even before you have this conversation (and I’m going to speak directly to the partner that is interested in sex in their marriage), before you even have this conversation, you need to have a little, maybe a lot of soul searching. Is a sexless marriage a deal-breaker for you? What do you really believe? What do you really want in your marriage? Is life without sex with your spouse a possibility, is this a deal-breaker? That’s a rough, tough journey.”
I’m coming back to this, presenting it again and addressing this specifically to anyone thinking about confronting their sexless situation.
Stop And Think About It, First
Here’s why. It might go well. You say to your wife, “Wife, I’m not happy with our sex life; we don’t make love anymore; we need to reactivate our marriage bed.” And there is a chance that she might say, “You know, you’re right, let’s!”
But there’s also the chance that she will say, “Sex! That’s all you ever think about! You’re a sex fiend, a sex addict! Why don’t you learn some self-control!”
I know of one man who approached his wife with his concern and suggested marriage counseling, and was met with a full-blown, screaming temper tantrum in the middle of the kitchen, that only ended when he promised that he would never mention it again. That show of ‘strength’ on his part, being willing to back down in the face of emotional bullying and threatening, pretty much sealed his sexless state for the rest of his marriage.
So, before beginning the action of dealing with the sexless state of your marriage, heed Allan’s advice and do some serious soul-searching. Just how important is having a sex life with your wife? I don’t know your situation, the length of time that you have been frustrated in your marriage. I know of men and women who tell of being kept nearly sexless for twenty and thirty years.
If your situation is that it’s only been five or six years, ask yourself how long are you willing to go along in this way? Another five? Maybe ten? Can you go an entire marriage being denied a sex life? These are serious matters. And notice what Corey Allan says to consider, “Is a sexless marriage a deal-breaker for you?” Are you willing to stay in a marriage in which your spouse imposes celibacy on you?
“Don’t You Support Marriage?”
Yes, I do. However, in the words of that Cole Porter song, “I’m always true to you in my fashion, I’m always true to you in my way,” I support marriage in my fashion. However, my support for marriage might not look like someone else’s support for marriage. I have made clear in earlier articles that I believe that the Church has created an idol of marriage, and condemns Christians needlessly to a life of misery in the name of Holy Matrimony.
But let me turn this around and ask you this: do you know who ISN’T supporting marriage? The throttling spouse who chokes the sex life out of a marriage, for whatever reason, that’s who! After all, didn’t that spouse, in saying her vows, promise to enter into a sexual relationship? Yes she did! (Scotching any wrong answers before some decides otherwise.) When a man and a woman stand before the preacher or JoP and say “I do”, they are saying that they are willing to get it on and do it. A sex life in a marriage is not a topic for debate, it’s a given.
In my Covenant Or Contract series (begins here), I wrote that marriage is a contract which can be broken and voided. I believe that marriage is a sexual relationship, and if one spouse decides unilaterally, for whatever reason, that sex is ended in the marriage, then the marriage is ended. Why? Because that spouse has unilaterally voided the marriage contract.
And I’m not the only one who believes this to be the case. No less a personage than Martin Luther, the great Reformer, wrote that sexual abandonment of marriage is a valid ground for divorce, with no stigma of sin attached. This is from his essay, The Estate of Marriage (1522):
The third case for divorce is that in which one of the parties deprives and avoids the other, refusing to fulfil the conjugal duty or to live with the other person. For example, one finds many a stubborn wife like that who will not give in, and who cares not a whit whether her husband falls into the sin of unchastity ten times over. Here it is time for the husband to say, “If you will not, another will; the maid will come if the wife will not.” Only first the husband should admonish and warn his wife two or three times, and let the situation be known to others so that her stubbornness becomes a matter of common knowledge and is rebuked before the congregation. If she still refuses, get rid of her; take an Esther and let Vashti go, as King Ahasuerus did [Esther 1:1 :17].
Here you should be guided by the words of St. Paul, I Corinthians 7 [:4-5], “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does; likewise the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does. Do not deprive each other, except by agreement,” etc. Notice that St. Paul forbids either party to deprive the other, for by the marriage vow each submits his body to the other in conjugal duty. When one resists the other and refuses the conjugal duty she is robbing the other of the body she had bestowed upon him. This is really contrary to marriage, and dissolves the marriage.
“But I Don’t Agree With You!”
Fine. Never said you had to. It’s your privilege to disagree with me, as it is my privilege to disagree with you. However, my advice still stands: Before approaching a refusing, denying spouse, you must give consideration to just how far you are willing to go in seeking to restore your marriage to a healthy, functioning state. Next post, I’ll address addressing a refusing spouse with The Talk.