Earlier this month, Sheila Wray Gregoire wrote an excellent article directed toward wives whose husbands are gatekeepers/refusers. Guess what? The eight steps that Gregoire gives to these refused wives who write to her is basically the same thing I’ve been writing for you refused husbands. So today, without further ado, I am giving my readers an assignment: go and read Gregoire’s Do I Have To Live With A Sexless Marriage? (it’ll open in a separate window), and then come back here.
I am not going to do extensive quoting from Gregoire’s article, but I want to go over her eight action steps, and relate what she writes to what you need to hear. Yes, I know that she is writing to refused wives, but listen up; if this is good advice for the goose, then it’s good advice for the gander. There is no reason on God’s green earth why it should be just rotten for wives to be refused but SOP for husbands to be refused.
So guys, listen to a woman’s advice on dealing with refusal.
- Get a Support Group and Pray Hard. This is a battle.
“Support group.” Yup, I have written about distancing, and I see finding support in others as part of this distancing.
“Pray hard.” Yup, I’ve written several posts about the need to work on yourself, to spend time with God, with His Word, in prayer.
“This is a battle.” Yup, I’ve written about WWIII, that it will get uglier before it gets better.
Gregoire is spot-on here. Find friends, spend time with other Christians, and spend time with God. Feed your soul.
- Have a game plan–Know what you want
“Before you start the conversation, know what you want to get out of it,” Gregoire advised. Yup, I have written several times about taking the time to pray and consider the cost. To think about what you want to say in The Talk™. I guess I haven’t said this, or if I have, I wasn’t specific, so let me put this out, here and now: know what it is that you want in your marriage, and be prepared with concrete action steps. It’s not enough to say, “We need to be more intimate,” get an “I’ll try” response, and then nothing changes. One guy I know said that his conditions were that they were to go to counseling and she was to read a certain book.
The important thing is to have steps in mind that are achievable, and in a time-line that is not open-ended.
- Ask to start praying together
I will admit that I have not made this suggestion, but I have a good reason for this. Gregoire, in writing this, is well-intentioned, but is playing to the GCW™ audience. In my Please Lead series, I spoke about Christian wives attempting to impose their visions/versions of spiritual leadership onto their husbands, expecting their husbands to be their Mini-Pastor On The Hearth.
When Gregoire says a husband and wife praying together can be “deeply intimate with each other. And ask God to work in our lives, and it’s His power that we really need”, I agree with her. This is true. But what is also true is that many GCWs™ do not respect their husbands as spiritual leaders. With this suggestion, I would give a caution. If your wife does respect your spiritual leadership, then ask her to pray with you. If, instead, she resents your spiritual leadership (or lack thereof, by her lights), then don’t. It will only result in opening another front.
- Insist on a conversation
Amen! Amen! Amen! Uh, hello. The Talk™, anyone?
This is a biggie, about which I’ve been writing for nearly a year, now. I love what she says about being persistent.
If he starts yelling or refuses to talk or says, “this is over”, you say, “I am not willing to accept that, and I do not believe that. If you will not talk about it now, then I will be bringing it up again tomorrow night and the night after that and the night after that. This is not going anywhere. We need to figure this out. So let’s settle a time when we can discuss this.”
So many times I have seen husbands write and say “It didn’t go well, so I guess that’s it, huh?” Why would you even think like that? If a woman writer can tell refused women to not let the matter drop, take the hint, Bubie; don’t let it drop! After all, it’s only your marriage and your life we’re talking about, right?
I get that, for many guys, thinking on your feet isn’t your strong suit, that when you’ve tried to address this before, your wife has deflected your concerns, maybe deflected blame onto you or even accused you of things that may have been in your past, or not even true (after all, “You’re a sex addict” is a favorite go-to line.)
Let me put it to you this way. Take the number of years that your wife has engaged in refusal and/or gatekeeping. Now double it. Are you willing to accept that you are only at half-time in being refused in your marriage? Are you willing to continue into the third and fourth quarters of your marriage, of your life, in the same way? There’s your motivation.
- Refuse to cover for him anymore
In this section, all of Gregoire’s recommendations and suggestions come under one of my go-to lines: tear down the facade! My constant refrain for Christian husbands dealing with long-term refusal is to come out from behind your wife’s cherished facade of having the happy Christian home. If you’re not happy, why support the lie that you are? Here are some of her statements to refused wives:
- one of the first steps to helping your loved one get help is to stop enabling them–to stop covering up for them anymore.
- be in separate bedrooms until your husband agrees to get some help.
- it’s okay to go to the pastor in private and say, “We’re having some marital difficulties
- It’s okay to stop going to social functions as a couple until he works on things.
Guys, Gregoire gets it. I have a saying that I’ve used before: if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got. Reading her article gave me a new line, and I’m going to start using it here:
I’m called to be good. I’m not necessarily called to always be nice.
Being a good guy might just mean that, sometimes, you can’t be nice. This is not an excuse to act stinkin’; instead, it means that you will no longer “go along to get along.” You’ll let the consequences of her actions come and not shield her from them. And you won’t hide them. You may be accused of being mean, etc., but you just do what is right. You’re not mean, just good.
- Stage an intervention
You know, this sounds familiar. Not from me, but the Bible!
“If your wife sins against you, go and tell her her fault, between you and her alone. If she listens to you, you have gained your wife. But if she does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. (Matt. 18:15-16)
If you’re tempted to say, “CSL, isn’t that a little harsh? Getting others involved in our private matters?”, would you say the same thing to Jesus? After all, a private matter between brothers is just as private, right? By the way, in the previous suggestion, notice the line about going to the pastor? That’s part of the intervention, isn’t it?
And I do agree with the statement by Gregoire about seeing a counselor. The Matt. 18 approach begins with The Talk™, “approach your wife in private….” If your wife resists attempts to change the marriage after The Talk™, then you go to your pastor, and seek counseling, or seek professional help.
So, again, Gregoire is dead-on. Are you listening?
- Decide what to do
Neither Gregoire or I can give you any guarantees; there are no silver bullets, no magic words and no Jedi mind tricks that you can employ that will automatically change your marriage. You can only do what you can do, and leave the rest up to God and your wife.
But, as I said, you can do what you purpose to do. Gregoire wrote: “What if he doesn’t seek help and refuses? Now you have some decisions to make about what you will do.” In several of my past posts, I have said that you need to sit down for some time before The Talk™ and think about what you want in your marriage, concrete steps to get there, and what will be your deal-breakers. Gregoire recommends a book by a Leslie Vernick, entitled How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong. I highly recommend Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend.
Whichever book you choose, “decide what to do” and do it. Don’t Milquetoast your marriage anymore.
- Be Prepared
In a way, this last one had me shaking my head. The automatic assumption that if a husband refuses sex, he’s gay? That’s like saying that your wife is just frigid and not doing anything to help her.
Be that as it may, there may be many reasons why your wife refuses:
- Good-girl syndrome
- Truly stinkin’ bad theology
- Past hurts (yours or others)
- Past sexual abuse
- Guilt over sexual sin
- Genophobia, true sexual aversion
And on, and on….. But Gregoire makes one statement that applies to both refusing husbands and refusing wives:
They’re running from the truth.
The truth is that God’s plan for marriage is a healthy sexual intimacy that binds husband and wife in a strong and loving bond, “one flesh.” By denying sexual intimacy, refusers are running from God’s truth. The only question now is, Are you going to continue to let her, or even help her, run from the truth?