In my last post in the Addressing The Sexless Marriage series, I addressed some of the most common accusations and deflections of Refusers. In that post, I discuss one of the recriminations that is commonly thrown at a spouse who tries to initiate sex, “All you think about is sex.” In my post, I took the tack of ‘owning’ the truth of the statement, saying, in effect, “Yeah, that’s probably true. Just as it’s true that a starving man thinks about food and a drowning man thinks about oxygen.”
Recently, I read of yet another poor sod telling how his refusing wife trotted out that old line, “All you think about is sex!” It’s like a mantra: “Om, all you think about is sex. Om, all you think about is sex. Om, all you think about is sex.” I’m beginning to wonder if there is a correspondence course that teaches these tactics. I can see it now. Lesson 1 – “All you think about is sex.” Lesson 2 – “You’re such a pervert.” And so on.
I have been chewing on this, for several weeks now, thinking about addressing this particular statement; my inclination was to offer something that met the accusation head-on, turning the statement on its head with the rejoinder, “Well, all you think of is NOT having sex.” My reasoning for that is based on what different refused husbands and former refusing wives have said, that actively strategizing how to avoid sex is something that refusing spouses do. I have reached out to a couple of friends and gotten mixed feedback on the idea, and I’ve been chewing on their responses for some time.
On The Right Track?
In spite of the mixed feedback I received, I’ve been thinking that I am, partially, on the right track. I have actually given this idea to a refused husband, before. A couple of years ago, on a discussion board, a husband said that when he tried to confront his wife about the lack of a sex life, she responded, “everything is about sex for you,” and I suggested to him, “To her, everything is about NOT sex. How can I avoid it? How can I avoid him?'”
I admit to being flippant, but, this line didn’t just come out of left field. I had read many accounts from husbands who tells of different stalling, deflecting and evading tactics that their wives engage in, in order to forestall finding themselves in any situation that might even hint at intimacy. From refusing to be hugged or kissed, to changing in the bathroom to avoid unwanted tempting looks; from staying up late to watch the latest re-run of Seinfeld to coming to bed with the phone to keep up with friends on FaceBook.
As well, there were admissions by wives, former refusers and current, who told of these stratagems. Yes, they said, these activities and more were purposefully conceived and put into play with the intention of avoiding sex. In fact, the kicker, for me, was a comment made in response to my line, “To her, everything is about NOT sex.” One woman on that message board, a former refuser, said to me, “Librarian, I don’t remember you mentioning you were clairvoyant!” **
What could I say but “I. Am. The. Librarian. I See All. I Know All.”
Off Ramp To The Wrong Track?
Yes, I felt that my response was justified, as it’s based on experience. But it’s not satisfactory, for a couple of reasons.
First, while both lines, “All you think about is sex” and “All you think about is NOT sex”, have elements of truth in them, they aren’t helpful. Truthful, yes. But they are merely accusations, with emotion and hard feeling powering them. And this is the heart of the matter. Both parties feel aggrieved.
I will admit to being biased here. As has been pointed out to me, I have a concern for husbands who are suffering through truly sucky marriages that are draining them of God-given, God-intended life. And, yes, I believe that many would agree with me that refusal and gatekeeping are sin. So, it’s pretty much going to be accepted that the refused spouse (statistically the husband, but wives are refused, as well) has a real grievance.
But now I have to admit to not being omniscient (always a painful admission). While both parties may feel aggrieved, I am not privy to all the grievances that the Refuser/Gatekeeper may be acting upon. They might be valid reasons, such as porn, adultery, physical abuse, triggers from previous sexual abuse. Or they might be invalid excuses, such as really bad teaching about sex, true sexual aversion, guilt over previous sexual sin. It might be that the husband is a truly selfish lover; it might be that the wife keeps a point system and doles out sex when he’s earned it.
Be that as it may, those two lines, while being a good example of the internet’s shot/chaser meme, don’t get to the heart of the issue. Yes, the “NOT sex” response does have the effect of taking one more club from the bag of the refuser, nullifying one more excuse, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the matter, to the crux of what has happened to the marriage.
The second problem lies in the fact that while the refused may have valid reasons for feeling aggrieved, there is an excellent chance that it simply won’t matter. No matter how eloquently the refused husband may state his case, he cannot reach his wife’s heart. All too often, I read comments by wives in which they have said, in essence, “I just wasn’t in a place to hear what he was saying.”
It came down to the fact that the refuser no longer sees the refused as a lover, but looks upon her husband/his wife with a mistrusting, jaundiced eye. And further discussion, logic, even Biblical teaching didn’t matter: the refused is no longer trusted.
The Right Tack
So here we are: two people at loggerheads. Both hurting, both aggrieved, both feeling put upon. So, what’s next? One option (to my mind, a rotten option) is to call to mind the old Gershwin tune: “You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to. Let’s call the whole thing off.”
Or you can do what loggers had to do. According to Wikipedia, this logjam blocked the St. Croix River at Taylor’s Falls, MN, in 1886. It took 200 men, using dynamite, six weeks to break this logjam loose. Like those loggers, you have to begin “blowing up” your marriage. In Part 2 & Part 3 of my Addressing the Sexless Marriage series, I presented two different versions of The Talk™: The Shot Across The Bow and End of Normal Life. Both of these are possible ways to break the logjam that is your marriage.
The first of these Talks™, Shot Across The Bow, has the refused spouse telling the Refuser that the two need to have a serious discussion about the marriage, because the marriage is in trouble. That statement, in itself, is usually enough to cause ‘a disturbance in the Force’, if you get my drift. One of the features of the Shot approach is that the refused not only confesses to unhappiness and dissatisfaction in the marriage, but also commits to being open to legitimate criticism for his/her part in creating the present condition:
If you have rebuke for me. I am all ears. I want to be the best husband for you that I can be. You can lay it on me and I will not resist, but will redouble my efforts. I will withhold NOTHING from you. I will give up ANYTHING that you feel is needed. You just say the word. ~ Job29Man, TMB forum
This person is vulnerable and willing to hear any valid criticism. However, it must be VALID criticism, not just a bunch of excuses and deflections. Yes, be willing to hear about and correct your own failings. You’re not perfect, and there will be hurt on your wife’s side. But you don’t have to accept blame or responsibility for unreasonable expectations and demands. You are called to be a husband and a lover, not a whipping boy.*** Understand this going into The Talk ™: it won’t be rainbows and unicorns. Your spouse will get mad and you will hear things that will hurt. Maintain the spirit of the Shot Across The Bow, and be willing to listen for valid correction. You may have to wade through a boatload of manure to get to her hurts, but remember that is for the healing of your marriage.
Remember that the action of confrontation, of having The Talk ™, is the source of the power in this dynamiting, not your attitude. You are not coming into this conversation with all guns blazing. Rather, you are a husband/lover approaching his wife/lover, and you are seeking to restore a mutually satisfying love life to your marriage, one that has been missing. This is not just about you and your pleasure, but the pleasure and connection of both husband and wife. This is your goal, and what you should be communicating.
** The woman who made this comment is a reader of this blog, btw. You know who you are! 🙂
*** I love history, so I’ve got to share this. The whipping boy was a unique feature of European courts in the of the Middle Ages. A boy, many times an orphan, was brought into the palace to live, and was assigned the job of receiving the punishment that was due to a misbehaving prince. Because no one wanted to punish a future king, lest such offense be remembered and returned, instructors were loth to mete out punishment to future kings. So, in some odd logic, it seemed right to get someone to be whipped in the place of the prince.