Dropping another veil, here, folks. Here in the CSL household, resides a tribe of Anglophiles. We purely love British programs, etc. Our collection of Dickensian dramas is second to none. So you can imagine the joy with which Wife and I, as Downton Abbey fans, greeted the issuing of the show’s last season on DVD. Since we have Netflix, we are getting the DVDs and going through all the old seasons, to watch them as one whole story.
This week, in going back to the beginning, I was surprised by a scene that I remembered only after viewing it again. In the scene, Lord Grantham makes a comment about his oldest daughter, Lady Mary, who, just to spite her sister Edith, ignored the one man who cares for her in order to flirt with a man who showed interest in Edith. When her would-be suitor observes Mary’s conduct, he leaves, keenly feeling her slight. Mary only realizes what she has done after his departure and it is then that Lord Grantham comments about his daughter’s conduct:
“Mary can be such a child. She thinks that when she puts a toy down, it will still be there when she wants to play with it.”
“The Island of Abandoned Toys”?
I know my Rudolph! It wasn’t “Abandoned Toys,” it was “The Island of Misfit Toys,” I know! But despite the fact that some guys are told that they are misfits, what with being accused of sex addiction or perversion, for the most part, there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re not misfits, they’re simply abandoned. (And, yes, I also realize I’m mixing metaphors!)
This may sound like I’m addressing a mere stereotype, but there is some truth to the idea that prior to marriage, and even in the beginning of marriage, many women/wives ARE sexual with their boyfriends, fiances and new husbands. But all too often, something changes in the marriage, and this plaything, her “toy”, is set aside, and left feeling abandoned.
But wait, there is hope, isn’t there? After all, in that Downton Abbey episode, Mary realized what she had done, and went to look for Matthew (that’s his name, for future reference). But she found that, for her, for that evening, it was too late. He left, prompting the comment that leads this post.
Since I’m mixing memes, tropes, stereotypical roles, or what-have-you, let me play with yet another. For many wives, stereotypically, libido comes roaring back in their 40’s or 50’s, and they are now, finally, ready to play. For many wives, whether it be the onset of menopause and not having to worry about getting pregnant, or not having to worry about kids around, the stresses that dampened libido are gone, and now, with pressure released, libido returns. But all too often, the toy is damaged, badly damaged, and is no longer available, and she discovers Lord Grantham’s statement to be true: the toy won’t always “still be there.”
Yes, there is hope, as I said above. Thankfully, there are many stories and testimonies of marriages in which there has been a transformation. These testimonies tell how, after one or two, even three decades, marriages that have been characterized by gatekeeping and/or refusal have been changed and transformed. Several bloggers that I follow tell of the changes in their marriages. So, yes, all these testimonies tell of the experience of being able to return and find the toy that they had set down, that it was still there for them, that there is hope.
But nothing is guaranteed, is it? Yes, those wives did experience God’s grace in their marriages. I know of at least two in which the wives asked their husbands for forgiveness, confessing that their refusal was sin, and exhibited repentance. The two that I am thinking of, specifically, had the same experience, down to even the same words of forgiveness from their husbands: “There is nothing to forgive,” followed by restored intimacy and connection.
But when you read around and discover the stories of husbands who tell of years upon years of sexual frustration and denial, sometimes you see scripture, unfortunately, fulfilled:
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, …” (Prov. 13:12)
Chris Taylor has a page on Forgiven Wife that she has for husbands to express their sorrow and pain, entitled Your Husband’s Hurt. There is also an older FW post that triggered an outpouring of pain entitled Leaving A Sexless Marriage. That post engendered over 100 comments, from both husbands and wives. Reading through those comments is not a happy task, but it helps to open your eyes as to the the magnitude of pain that sexlessness causes, and just how corrosive it is to the heart.
Be Careful What You Wish For….
You know what kills me in all of this? The number of women who have written to say that they wish that their husbands would somehow lose their libido, that their desire for sex would disappear and would just leave them alone! Guess what? It happens! But it’s not pretty when it does.
This past week, I read the admissions of two different men who tell of no longer desiring their wives. One of them is still experiencing refusal, but he has stopped initiating, and is resorting to stimulation to obtain release. His statement was that he no longer desires to have sex with his wife. Okay, she’s got her wish. 😦
The other man tells of his wife (apparently) being convicted for her refusal, seeing that her 20+ years of denying her husband was wrong. She now wants to make her marriage what God intended it to be, but a new problem has arisen. He says that now, he can’t even get an erection thinking of sex with his wife, and that he has no desire for her sexually. Again, 😦
What kind of odds would you give me if I were say that I am not sanguine about the futures of these two marriages? Several years ago, I heard a marriage podcaster make the statement, “You’re not going to have sex with someone you’re not talking to,” telling husbands that communication with their wives was a key to establishing a healthy sex life. Here’s the thing, though; the inverse of that statement is also true.
Husbands are not going to talk to wives who aren’t having sex with them!
Most men need to have a sexual relationship with their wives to feel loved and to love. Without it, without this sexual connection, there is not emotional connection, and love dies. For some reason, though, sex becomes a luxury item that isn’t necessary, that can be jettisoned because, well, because. “I don’t need it. And if I don’t need it, neither do you.”
What is it Proverbs says? “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” (14:1) Brick by brick, “No” by “Not tonight,” “Maybe tomorrow” by “You’re an addict”, unknowingly, these wives are destroying their relationships with their husbands and bringing closer the day when they will say “Goodbye.”
Lost Toys, Lost Joys
As I said, above, thankfully there are many stories of marriages in which refusal is recognized and repented of, and marital restoration is achieved. I celebrate those stories and rejoice in those couples who have rediscovered God’s joy in marriage. Unfortunately, however, there are husbands for whom past refusal and rejection have been so damaging that, while forgiveness is possible (we are Christian, after all), restoration of the marriage isn’t.
Every couple is different, and every situation is unique. Different husbands will react differently to the pain and hurt that years of crushing rejection and refusal have created; some will be able to find the wherewithal to overcome the damage of refusal and be able to re-engage with a repentant wife seeking to restore their relationship. Unfortunately, others will find that they are too damaged to reconnect; they may forgive, but the pain may be just too great to continue in the marriage. I have read of husbands reacting with anger: “All these years and now you can change? What was stopping you before?”
I’ve made this statement before, and I reiterate. I’m not going to condemn these husbands for these types of responses. I’m not going to celebrate their responses, but because I don’t know the pain that they have suffered, “neither do I condemn you.”
I do ask this, however, guys. If you are in situations that have the potential to take you down such a path, stop now. Instead, start the process of re-engaging in your marriage by doing the work you need to do for yourself and your marriage. Okay, it may get ugly; I’ve mentioned the guy who said that the two hardest years of his marriage were the years AFTER he started to change his marriage. But his marriage did change.
If, God willing, any wives wander into this blog and make it this far, ask yourself if your husband could be someone I’m describing in this post. On her Facebook feed, Chris Taylor/Forgiven Wife, posted this message:
Is your husband considering leaving your sexless marriage?
End the sexlessness, not the marriage.