This is the second of a series of posts in which Chris Taylor (of Forgiven Wife) and I dialogue about ideas and issues brought up in her post, A Wife’s Heart. (Here are the links to part 1, part 3, part 4,, part 5, part 6, part 7 and part 8). Chris and I have chosen colors to help with reading clarity in trying to incorporate our comments into her original text; my comments are in blue and Chris’s in purple. This second post should be short, as there was only one paragraph in this section that triggered a response in me. Here is that paragraph:
If your wife is resisting sexual intimacy because she is hurt, she is wrong as well. (If you’re a real jerk and are sinning against her, then that statement does not apply. It also doesn’t apply if your wife is carrying trauma such as childhood sexual assault.)
Tangent 1 – “Real jerk”? Yeah, doesn’t apply. I know that there are those who advocate that in marriage, there is never a good reason to say “No”, barring actual physical abuse. I’m also pretty sure that many would assume that I am in that group. While I DO advocate for there having to be a pretty darned good reason for continued refusal, I do count Total Jackassery as a valid reason for denial.
The phrase “continued refusal” is important. A “no” due to exhaustion or illness on occasion is far different from “no” most of the time.
Absolutely. When the default answer is “No”, when the Hubs feels he has to hold his mouth just-so or has to spin prayer wheels to get a “yes”, there’s a problem. When a ‘yes’-wife says “no”, it’s not the end of the world.
Quite a few women want to set sex aside until the rest of the relationship is better. In marriages that don’t involve Total Jackassery, this isn’t a good idea. Sex is part of the relationship, and it needs work along with all the rest of the relationship.
I don’t want to derail this, but maybe you could address the “I can’t have sex ‘cause I’m upset” mindset. I’ve seen it (lately in comments on Forgiven Wife, as a matter of fact), but doesn’t that smack of hostage-taking?
Yes, I suppose that in a way it is hostage-taking. Sex involves emotional and physical vulnerability for most women. When I couldn’t trust my husband emotionally, I simply couldn’t let myself be sexual with him. For my husband, sex was a means of healing an emotional disconnection, but for me, emotional disconnection prevented me from being able to connect sexually.
I don’t think it usually begins as hostage-taking—but over time, if those larger relational issues are not addressed, it can become a means of protective control.
Even now, five years after I began to intentionally change my approach to sex in my marriage, when I’m upset with my husband, the last thing I want to do is have sex with him. And I know that since sex matters to him, not having sex would communicate better than anything else just how very upset I am.
Five years later, I still feel that way. I suspect I always will. I have to make a choice to not let my emotional disruption interfere with our sexual connection. When I work past those feelings of being upset with him, I am always glad that I did—but I have to force myself to do it, and it’s hard.
[continued from above] However, a husband who is a jerk (and I would include verbal and emotional abuse as well as physical) is demonstrating unrepentant on-going sin against his wife. To me, this kind of situation requires a different response and should probably involve a professional.
My go-to response would be a packed suitcase on the front porch and changed locks, but that’s just me, innit?
Maybe a posse of her male relatives and church members would be a good addition, too.
And cricket bats. You can’t go wrong with cricket bats.
As I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve come to realize that I have two ‘words of advice’ for clueless Hubs, and that these word are becoming signature CSL mantras. Since that is the case, they are worth repeating here:
1 – Just because you have a dick doesn’t mean you get to be one.
2- You’re her Lover, not her John!
Tangent #2 – I’m going to toss a caveat into the discussion, when discussing CSA. Yes, if a spouse has past sexual abuse in her background, there do have to be considerations for what she can and cannot do. However, CSA is not a Get Out Of Sex Free card, saying to the Hubs, “Well, sucks to be you; them’s the cards you’re dealt.”
Instead, yes, both need to take this history into account as they go forward in their marriage. But the key phrase is “go forward.” Chris and I both know of at least one situation in which it appeared that the wife used CSA as an excuse to not have sex and enjoy the perks of a non-sexual marriage
One of the sad things about this is that as much as having a sex-free marriage can seem good (because it’s way better than having to face difficult things), women who choose not to work on their healing are missing out on so much that is wonderful about marriage. I know it’s scary, painful, and devastating to heal from sexual trauma—but on the other side of the difficult work of healing is the state of feeling healed.
For this exception, the wife has to be working hard to “fix” the problem. This isn’t an excuse to coast, but a challenge to rise to. If she is not working with a counselor and seriously working on her issues of CSA, then the Hubs has every right to be upset.
There are experiences that genuinely can make sexual intimacy difficult for a woman—CSA, growing up with men who demean or hurt women, and sexual assault come to mind. A husband should learn to support his wife in her healing—but not in her complacency. Healing from these things is hard, and it hurts. It isn’t a surprise if a woman tries to avoid that experience—but once we marry, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. If I have a past that interferes with marital intimacy (and I did), it is my job to work on addressing that until it no longer hurts my marriage.
A husband should learn to support his wife in her healing–but not in her complacency.
That sentence is worth the price of admission to the whole series. (You realize that that line is going to become a staple of this blog, don’t you?)
Every once in a while I dazzle even myself.
It would be nice if it were as easy as telling your wife she is wrong or pointing out her sin. Really, that would be so much simpler.
Unfortunately, if your wife is hurting, that isn’t likely to work
It may be that the way to her sexual heart is through helping her heal her whole heart.
Let me add this caveat as an extension of my recommendations and posts, here on Curmudgeonly Librarian: I don’t expect that one simple conversation, pointing out sin, wrong or frustration and hurt, will be the silver bullet that will set the universe aright. Hurts, hates, and habits are probably entrenched by the time that someone feels the need to address the sexless state of their marriage, and it will take time and effort BY BOTH PARTIES to correct what years have created. But thank God, it’s not impossible.
I agree on all accounts of this. Many of the conversations and approaches you’ve described are likely played out in multiple conversations over time, with consistency and a lot of prayer. Good will goes a long way, too.
See? Not so long, and no bloggers were hurt in the production of this post.
Next post, Chris and I will start discussing the section of A Wife’s Heart in which she writes about creating an environment for healing. And by “start”, I mean just barely get into the section before I kick over the traces. 🙂
I can’t wait. I’m pretty sure this is what you’ve been setting me up for.