Another Nothing Box?


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!

Against Type

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.


reworking of a graphic by The Forgiven Wife.

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.






Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

15 responses to “Another Nothing Box?

  1. tjcox53

    When reading this my first thought was what Shaunti Feldhan wrote in her book For Men Only. Her research showed that while yes, wives do think about sex, the problem is that, they’re also thinking of a dozen different other things. For instance, last night, my wife and I were foolin’ around, and she obviously was distracted. When I asked what was going on, she said all she could think about was how tired I must be.
    My question about that explanation, of course, is just this. Does it have to be that way, or can you train yourself to shut out the distractions? I’m still looking for the answer to that one.
    Of course, there’s a lot more involved in a good sex life than just “doing the deed”. A wife can consent to having sex, but if she doesn’t really engage, then it feels kind of empty. And while, I agree, the subject should be broached, if a husband is unhappy, grinding on, and on about it isn’t going to make things any better, unless the husband would be content with pity sex. Better than none at all I guess, but nowhere near what a husband wants.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. For most women sex is icing, they can take it or leave it. For most men it is as crucial as water and you’re only allowed to go to one well to get it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. tjcox53

    Upon re-reading this another thought struck me, propmpted by the quote from your wife.
    “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?’”
    My wife and I have had this discussion, only stated differently. My wife’s statement was,” You don’t really seem to need me for anything but sex.”,or “All I’m good for is sex”. This was prompted because, we work different work schedules, and our time together is extremely limited. Therefore I decided to take on the bulk of the housework in addition to the shopping and managing the money, which I was already doing. The hope was that with her not having to do any of this, we would have more time for intimacy, and would lessen her distractions I mentioned in my first comment. It leads me to think, that women really do underrate the power they have to positively affect their marriages through something they have been taught is “a small part” of their marriage.
    In the secular world, women are taught to use sex as a means to manipulate men. Therefore those wives who came from that world into the faith, know that is wrong to use sex to manipulate their men, but don’t realize that the best lies are a twisting of the truth. Yes, it is wrong to use sex as a weapon against your husband, but not wrong to use as a weapon against the enemy of our souls. Sex is a powerful weapon, and can be used for great good, or great harm. And contrary to many teachers, secular and Christian, is NOT “a small part” of being a wife.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, TJ.

      I don’t know if you’ve done this, but you might go back and re-read that Lady It’s Not About You #6, and share it with you wife. The message of that post, of that quote by Allison Armstrong and that report card is that without sex, men don’t feel loved.

      It’s not that that is all she’s good for, but a matter of expressing love in a manner that communicates love and acceptance, and not rejection.

      You might also want to get a copy of Love and Respect, by Eggerichs. His explanation of men’s need, including sexual intimacy, is excellent. Maybe the penny will drop for your wife.


  4. tjcox53

    I appreciate the thought. That was essentially my side of the discussion.It’s one thing to know something, and another to act accordingly. Hence the earlier comment that while it’s important for the wife to know how the husband feel about the marriage, it’s really up to her to as to whether she will act upon it. In my case, her desire to change is less than her desire to remain the same. At least she doesn’t fight with me when I want to have sex, and enjoys it once a week, usually. S I’m not really deprived, just limited.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. tjcox53

    BTW we have read Love and Respect, and I follow his blog also.Shaunti Feldhan’s books also go into this, as well as Laura Doyle;s.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Phil

    Going back to the waffle and spaghetti theory, I don’t think that analogy is far from the truth even where sex inside the marriage is concerned. In my opinon sex to a woman is just one strand of spaghetti whereas to a man sex is the glue or should I say sugar that binds the whole waffle together. This would then explain why a married woman will place as much importance on other facets of a relationship (strands of pasta) as sex and also why she gets so upset when the man just goes on about sex all the time! For the man on the other hand, he just thinks that everything he does in a marriage will have a bearing on the sexual activity he is likely to achieve (will he get more or less sex as a direct result of his actions?) and when he regularly isn’t allowed sex then his marriage (waffle) may have a tendency of crumbling!

    As for the reasons why a wife will withold sex, these are many just like strands of spaghetti and may vary at any given time! Actually, it is my sincere belief that a womans fundamental reason for having recreational sex is to maintain a balance within a relationship not simply because she just enjoys it. If the woman needs to alter her status within the relationship then sex is one of the tools she can use to achieve this.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. IntimacySeeker

    I don’t think I compartmentalize sex. I think my inability to compartmentalize is precisely why it’s less of a priority for me than for my husband. As your wife mentioned and other commenters express, it’s significance fades due to competition. Not that other parts of life are actually more important, but there are so many other parts of life that are genuinely satisfying. The absence of sex does not minimize my ability to enjoy those parts of life. To play with the spaghetti analogy a bit, we could pull out a few strands of pasta and I’d still have a healthy serving of yummy goodness.

    My husband enjoys all the facets of our relationship, but can only do so fully with healthy sexual intimacy. Sex is the gateway through which he discovers intimacy with me. As Paul Byerly describes, expecting my husband to enjoy all the facets of our relationship without sex is like expecting him to hear his cell phone in a large stadium full of cheering fans. Perhaps it’s also like being served bare pasta when he was craving hearty meat sauce–tasteless, disappointing, disheartening, dehumanizing.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Phil

    I find it very interesting that no-one complained or even challenged me when I effectively said in my comment above that-

    1) Men are obsessed with sex and will do what they can to get it.
    2) Women use sex as a tool to manipulate others.

    Of course there will be exceptions but it appears to me that men are fools driven by their dicks and women are calculating and know just how to control us fools!

    Perhaps this truth is too close for comfort for most of us?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Phil,

      As to your first point, look for a post within the next month. Your comment got me thinking about the different “love language”, and I’m going to be writing an article on Love language deafness being part of sexlessness.

      The second point? I think that is a trope that is used to explain what happens in some marriages. I am not saying that there are not enough situations to justify that trope, but I don’t think it is, statistically, to call it a norm. Yes, I read many blogs and articles which writers, both men and women, condemn the idea of using sex as a bargaining chip or a bartering tool. I think the existence of these articles justify your observation, and the fact that readers didn’t challenge you shows, I think, that there is recognition of it as a problem. But that doesn’t mean it is necessarily a dominant dynamic in Christian marriage.

      I’m glad you responded; I’ve been wondering how things have been going with you. What’s the news on the counseling front? Email me if you like.



      • Phil

        Hi CSL,

        Whilst I readily admit that my view may be somewhat coloured by my long-term long-time sexless marriage I’m also aware of a certain dynamic that is present in every Christian marriage. To explain a little further, I was recently chatting with the wife of a recently married couple I know very well. They’re both in their 40/50’s but have only been married about 3-years. We were having an open and honest conversation about the differing sexuality between men and women and she said something very interesting. She openly admitted that the main reason she had sex was to please her man. Of course she enjoyed the experience but the enjoyment was almost secondary to the joy she had of giving herself to her husband. Now, this process of the wife giving herself to her husband is the same in almost every marriage in so much that if a man wants sex he has to rely on his wife giving herself to him (unless he wants to face the threat of being prosecuted for rape). Fundamentally she is in control (of course there are men who refuse their wives but I’m focusing on the majority here). If the woman doesn’t want sex with her husband for whatever the reason, and there can be many reasons I can assure you, she can still satisfy herself by masturbating (with or without sexual toys) often with more satisfying results for her than through intercourse whereas the man who is denied intercourse is left with the frustration of a far less satisfying experience. Just saying that’s all……

        As for my own situation, thanks for asking, the last meeting with our counsellor had to be cancelled so the 3-week test period has now turned into 7-weeks (our counsellor is very busy) which means that my enforced regime of not mentioning anything to do with intimacy has become almost the norm and whilst I have the odd craving I am now wondering if I actually want to chase my wife for something she clearly doesn’t want to give which neatly leads on to your next post you clever old so and so…….

        Liked by 1 person

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