(For the purpose of pronoun simplicity, I am writing the posts in this series 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.)
In my two previous posts, I presented two versions of The Talk™, both written by a poster on The Marriage Bed forum. I spoke of the necessity of knowing ahead of time just what your boundaries are, just what you feel is acceptable or unacceptable in your marriage. In preparing his Shot Across The Bow, Job29Man decided that sexlessness would not make-or-break issue for him; he promised his wife that he would be in the marriage whether it was sexless or not. But he did tell her that her actions of neglect were damaging to the heart of their marriage. For his wife, Job’s version of The Talk™ was enough to break through to her heart, and bring about a change in the direction their marriage was heading.
For others, it might not have been enough. In the situation of another man that I know of, the wife’s preference for celibacy trumped any need to improve her relationship with her husband, and she opted for divorce. He did not have to initiate divorce proceedings over his sexless marriage; his statement that celibacy was no longer an option for their marriage was enough for her to initiate separation and divorce on her own.
Having been presented with two versions of The Talk™ and reading about three different outcomes from The Talk™ (Job29Man, me and the anonymous brother), I hope you can see that it is not merely a ‘stratagem’ to try to use to ‘get lucky’ with the wife. It is not an attempt to manipulate a wife into giving “putting out”, a way to get more sex; it is an attempt to change the dynamics of a marriage going/gone south.
One thing to keep in mind about The Talk™ is that it isn’t a first-step action. As I said last week, The Talk™ takes place after serious consideration, and should come only after lesser measures have been used to try to change the marriage direction. In Job’s case, I hope you caught this line at the end of his first paragraph:
I worked on this for about two years I think (time starts to blur here). I had many talks with her… to no effect.
“Two years”. “Many talks.” Job had been trying to communicate with his wife about their stinkin’ sex life for some time. For him, The Shot Across The Bow was the culmination of past attempts and failures to reach his wife with his concerns and needs. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment whim, but an attempt to communicate clearly and completely how her wrong actions were hurting him, and could affect their marriage.
Two Preparation Steps
As you prepare for The Talk™, thinking about what you want to say, and what it is that you want to achieve, going into this process, do two things: Pray and examine yourself.
Prayer is a given. While I am not one who is too sanguine about God performing Jedi Mind Tricks™ in answer to prayer, it is a necessity that you, as a Christian, approach this in a godly manner, and that you maintain a godly attitude throughout. In a podcast concerning shaking up a sexless marriage, Shannon Etheridge said that the tone of The Talk™ at its beginning will likely be the tone with which it ends. Begin with accusations and vituperation, end with bitterness, anger and entrenched positions.
Self examination? Yeah, most definitely. Think about it; if you were married to you, would you want to have sex with you? Are you a selfish lover? Do you think that it’s all about you and your jollies? Have you decided that since she isn’t going to have sex with you that porn is acceptable? Seriously, are you presenting the best “you” that you can? Not that you have to have achieved sainthood, here, but ask yourself: Am I really in this marriage?
In that same Sexy Marriage Radio podcast that I referenced above, Corey Allan tells of a husband hearing his wife, in counseling, say, “I like sex. I just don’t like sex with you.” Allan commends the husband because he heard it and didn’t stonker off, feeling all butthurt over that statement. Instead, he listened to what his wife was saying and realized, “Hey, I wouldn’t want to make love to me, either,” and changed. So, right off the bat, be ready to answer, is sex for you or for y’all?
Interim Options and Actions
Job hints that he had attempted to address their marriage in less dramatic fashion, prior to his Shot Across The Bow, and this brings me to the discussion of some different ideas and methods that you may want to consider using, as you address refusal and gatekeeping. These different approaches may occur before The Talk™, they may be part of The Talk™, or they may be the boundaries that are put in place after The Talk™. But these are just some action steps to consider as you think about what you want to accomplish.
1. If you haven’t done so, register as a member of the christian marriage forum, The Marriage Bed, and start reading posts in the Sexually Refused sub-forum. One thread that will give you possible ideas on how to express the pain and result of refusal on your life is the Analogies, Word Pictures and Metaphors thread.
2. Print out the following two articles by Julie Sibert, and give them to your wife to read. If she refuses to read them, sit down and read them to her, out loud (If, as I think could possibly happen, she walks out, just wait until she comes back, and pick up where you left off reading. Do not let histrionics deter you.):
As well, you might look at my post to wives, Lady, It’s Not About You!
3. Schedule marriage counseling with your pastor. Inform your wife that the marriage is not good, that it has problems, and that you believe that the two of you need counseling. Your wife may or may not accept your invitation to schedule an appointment with the pastor or a marriage counselor. In fact, she may be adamantly opposed to seeking counseling. The reason is that, for many wives, the facade of a Good Christian Marriage (GCM™) is their pride and joy, and going to the pastor *gasp* and telling him that the marriage has problems is an admission of failure. So it is quite likely that your spouse (husbands as well as wives don’t want to admit to failure before church leadership) will say “No way!” to counseling. So, just go ahead and make your appointment with the pastor or counselor, inform your spouse of the date and time, and tell them, “I’m going to see the pastor. You’re welcome to come to tell your side.” And go.
4. Withdraw romance. As one of my favorite posters once said, “Romance is a mating dance, and without sex, it is a fools errand.” Prior to marriage, romance, while not ending in sex, is pointing toward sex, as romance is the wooing and gaining of a mate; that is the looked-for sexual outcome of romance. Romance continued in marriage is still sexual, as it is part of the sexual play of a loving husband and wife.. To expect, or even demand romance, but deny sex, is selfish.
“But Brother Curmudgeon, aren’t we supposed to love our wives like Christ loved the Church?” Sure we are, but before you try to play that card, please tell me where Jesus took the Church out for Date Night, will you?
5. Consider withdrawing affection. After all, you were friends with your college roommate, not lovers. When your spouse imposes celibacy on you, you are reduced to being roommates. So live like roommates. In a previous post, I shared the story of a man who removed the care and affection from his wife’s life. When she came to him steaming about how he was neglecting her by not pampering her, etc., he told her that he had been treating her as she treated him, and that unless the sexless nature of their marriage stopped and she became his lover and partner again, it would continue. (Ask me, sometime, btw, about The Golden Rule Corollary™, a creation of mine.)
Well, you could have knocked her over with a feather! She announced then and there if that was the way he was going to act, she wanted a divorce, but was startled by his reaction. Instead of crumbling in the face of her threat., he merely got out a newspaper and started searching the classified ads for an apartment for her to move in to. When she saw that the threat of divorce didn’t scare him and didn’t make him kowtow to her, she agreed to his conditions that they begin marriage counseling together. The last I heard, the marriage was doing much better.
6. Remove/Return your wedding ring. I first read of this being done by a man who had been refused for 26 years. One morning, he removed his wedding ring and left it on his night stand. His wife saw it sometime during the day, realized the significance of his action (sex had been a source of conflict for most of their marriage), and took him to bed that evening. He explained that their faith tradition put great emphasis on symbols and tradition, and the symbolic removal of the ring was the wake-up call his wife needed. As a result, he and his wife had their version of The Talk™, and it changed the dynamics of their marriage.
I remember asking a group about this, and a man was adamant that this was wrong. When I asked him why, he said that one day he discovered that his wife had not been wearing her wedding ring for months, and that she was slowing moving toward divorce. He started going to counseling with his wife, and their marriage was changed. But he was still upset about that ring being off of his wife’s finger. After all, he told me, his wife had removed her wedding ring because she was starting to check out of the marriage, not because she was trying to get his attention. My reply was, “So? It shook you up, didn’t it?”
7. Separate bedrooms – If nothing else, this accomplishes two things. First, it removes the pain of lying next to the unattainable, being tortured by desires that she, at this point, cares nothing for. (I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have read of refused spouses being tortured from sleep by their refusing spouse cuddling up to them in the night, after just having turned them down for the umpteenth time.)
Second, it makes the statement that the bedroom is for lovers, not roommates. When you were at college, or sharing an apartment, you didn’t sleep with your flatmate, did you? Then why do so now? I know of many husbands who decided to sleep on the couch rather than with their refusing wives. Personally, I am in favor of moving the refusing spouse to the couch, and telling them, “This bedroom is for lovers; when you decide that you want to be a lover, you will be allowed back in.”
8. Redemptive Separation. This is just what it says, separation; different living arrangements. Not easy, certainly with a high cost (two living quarters, as opposed to one.) Please notice that the term is “Redemptive” separation; this is not a separation for the purpose of easing into divorce, but for the purpose of trying to save the marriage. I know of one wife who moved to another house, and within two days, her husband asked her back, met with a friend who agreed to help hold him accountable, and scheduled an appointment with a doctor to have tests performed to check out his testosterone levels. The marriage was turned around by the separation. Here is a link to a Wall Street Journal article from four years ago addresses this practice.
The Talk™ isn’t a gimmick or a trick. It is a fork in the road, a turning from the road that has been the that you have been traveling on, and start heading in a new direction. The Talk™ requires serious preparation and forethought, both in what is to be said, and in the speaker.