A couple of years ago, I read a comment by a husband whose wife had been a refuser, but who got the message. In his comment, he told of an incident that was part of her receiving the message, and it’s a theme that I’m coming across more and more. In previous posts, I’ve described how a couple of husbands “let slip” to their wives that their supposed great marriages were only great for one person.
This third incident was occasioned by one of those “marital assessment” tests. The wife took the test and because of the answers she gave (based on her perception of the marriage), got back a score of 8 out of 10. Of course, she was feeling pretty good about her marriage. She was stunned, however, when her husband took the same test and the result, based on his answers, came back a woeful 2. This man is given to great introspection and navel-gazing, and he came to this conclusion. For his wife, sex was just one part of a marriage, and while that area was “less than perfect” (in her way of thinking, anyway), the awful state of their sex life colored his perception of the entire marriage. He explained to her that the pain of refusal spilled over into every aspect of the marriage and he “hated it all.”
Last year, I wrote one of my Hard To Hear articles for wives, Lady, It’s Not About You, in which I retooled a graphic that Chris (Forgiven Wife) created, that was of a his-and-hers report card (see below) that illustrated this dichotomy; this guy’s story falls in line everything I was saying in that post.
Now, I could write a post re-hashing my points from last year, as I wasn’t wrong. But there’s more to the story here. I chose to participate in that discussion, which took place on a marriage forum, and this guy’s story and the way he presented it sparked a thought in me, which I wrote about then. However, I didn’t really do anything with that info, and It is only recently that this question has come back to me, and I want to address it.
Wives’ Nothing Box
One of the funniest speakers who deals with marriage and relationships is Mark Gungor. Gungor is a Green Bay, WI, pastor who has a podcast/radio show, and who has a marriage seminar that he presents entitled “Laugh Your Way To A Better Marriage.” One of the best-known excerpts from his seminars is on YouTube and has been viewed over four million times. In this clip of The Tale of Two Brains, he tells about how men’s brains are compartmentalized while women’s brains are interconnected. He’s is very funny in his presentation, and if nothing else, you’ll enjoy the clip.
Now, lest you are tempted to say that he’s just being stereotypical, know that what he is presenting is the Waffles and Spaghetti imagery that is popular today. Instead of Gungor’s boxes and balls of wire, this popular teaching uses waffles and spaghetti as its metaphor. Men are waffles, with separate compartments, and women are spaghetti, with pasta strands all interwoven. So Gungor’s presentation isn’t all that kooky.
Now, all this is well and good, and is not really ground-shaking in its novelty. But what got me, from the original comment that I was referring to was the comment by the man in which he told of his wife’s astonishment. After all, to her, the rest of the marriage was great; “we just had this one struggle,” the area of sex. And that’s when it hit me:
Wives have a Nothing Box, too, and that’s where they put Sex!
Two years ago, reading this man’s story triggered a new thought and a new question for me. According to popular teaching, women aren’t supposed to compartmentalize; for them, everything is supposed to be connected, right? After all, Waffles and Spaghetti, Balls of Wire and Boxes, right? (Yes, I know that what is presented by these different teachers can sound like stereotyping, and, yes, I realize that everyone is different; but still there is an underlying truth to gender differentiation.)
Here is the question that I had, that I presented in that forum, but never followed up on:
Why is it that sex is the one thing that women can apparently separate from everything else and compartmentalize, and is the one thing men can’t compartmentalize?
Do you think that I’m wrong in saying that women compartmentalize sex? Then why the “It’s just sex” mantra that men are always being told? Or how about the “Sex is the icing on the cake” or “Sex is the dessert” type of statements? Sex, to men, is so vital that its absence colors their perception of the whole marriage, but, for so many wives, is so “meh” that it has its own shelf, where it can be stored and ignored.
Still think I’m wrong? Then hear what Wife said to me two years ago, when I read her this man’s comments, and asked her about this idea of wives compartmentalizing sex. Wife responded, “Women often see sex as ‘just a small part’ of marriage. Instead, wives look at all the other things they do for their husbands and say, ‘Isn’t it enough?’”
As I pointed out last year in the Lady, It’s Not About You post, the answer is “No, it isn’t enough!” That report card graphic that I retooled shows the impact of sexlessness on a marriage, as perceived by husbands and wives.
Why This One Compartment?
If conventional thinking is true, that the brains of women function in an interconnected manner, then why does this one compartment, this one separate square, exist? Why is it so easy to disconnect one’s whole self from this one component of nature?
As I’ve been thinking on this, and asking Wife about it, a couple of ideas seem to offer themselves as possible contributions.
Sex is dirty: It is an accepted truism that the bad teaching of the Church has resulted in a distorted view of sex. Many Christian wives have the perception that sex is dirty. I know that it is quite trendy to blame the Purity movement for this, but apparently the concept of “Sex is dirty, gross and disgusting, so save it for marriage” has been around for a lot longer than the Purity Culture. Wife agrees with the many who say that it is hard to overcome the idea that sex is taboo as soon as you say “I do.” Is it possible that one reason that wives are able to compartmentalize sex away from the rest of their lives is due to the retained idea, “Sex is dirty?”
Sex is God-given, but not that important: After all, God made appendixes and tonsils, too, but we can get along fine without them, right? So the same goes for sex. I think that behind this idea, and certainly reinforced by the “Sex Is Dirty” teaching, is the Christian version of Gnosticism. According to this ancient heresy, that which is physical is sinful while that which is spiritual is godly. This can help feed spiritual pride, as well. After all, it’s commonly accepted (rightly or wrongly) that women are more spiritual than men, and the fact that men think more about sex only confirms the fact that women are the superior sex because they can do without.
It is too much work to be aroused: Men are aroused SO easily; heck, many of them wake up aroused! Women, on the other hand, don’t desire sex because they have to be aroused first, and that takes up too much time. Many women find that they have to be intentional if they want to be into sex, and that just takes too much effort. I’m thinking that absent a conscious lack of desire to be aroused helps to create a “meh” approach toward sex, and leads to walling it off from their minds and their lives.(BTW, guys, if you are not willing to invest the time to help your wife become aroused, you don’t get to bitch about being in a sexless marriage. After all, It’s Not About You, either!)
Wifely Nothing Box: A Real Thing?
Well, maybe. From the kind of comments I’ve cited, it sure seems like it can be a real thing. But from other sources, maybe not. After all, I’ve read around enough to know that there are other contributing factors to sexual and marital dysfunction, such as past sins or past abuse or past hurts. But it seems that the ability to wall off one component of marriage does play against type, doesn’t it?
I’m looking forward to comments and other ideas and possibilities.