When I set about creating the CSL blog, I had help from a couple of experienced bloggers, who were giving me all kinds of advice about the ins and outs of using the WordPress hosting platform. These two ladies deserve much credit (or blame, depending on how you view this blog) for creating this space.
One of the bits of advice that they recommended was creating a Twitter account, as it would be a useful tool in communicating with readers and the world at large. Prior to this, I saw Twitter users as evidence of mankind’s devolution, but I have found it to be useful, and have even started to use it to keep up with the #christianmarriage blogging community.
Recently, a ‘tweet’ came across my feed from a Christian website entitled Affair Care that helps Christians who are dealing with the aftermath of infidelity in their marriages. As I read the linked article, it hit me that the information that they were presenting completely applies to those who are dealing with Refusal/Gatekeeping in their marriages. I realized that…..
Refused Husbands Get DARVO’ed!
Guys, go read the article How did my disloyal spouse become the victim?, and then return.
….. (hum, dedum, de tiddle um tum…. *whistle*) ……
Oh, good, you’re back.
I confess that I’m new to the topic of infidelity and adultery. Not that I didn’t know that it existed, but it wasn’t in my wheelhouse, not on my radar as a marriage blogger. As I read this article, and as I read around the site, I was struck by the different lingo that was used to discuss the topic, such as “Loyal Spouse” and “Disloyal Spouse”. And I learned a new term, DARVO.
When I read that article, I was struck by how all three of the tactics that are used by adulterous spouses that make up the term DARVO are used by refusing spouses when defending/denying sex in marriage.
- Denial? Yeah, how ‘bout “What do you mean we don’t have sex? We just had sex last week?” (This was reported by a husband whose calendar showed that it had been a couple of months.)
- Attack? “You’re a sex addict!” “All you ever think about is sex!”
- Reverse Victim Order? “All you want me for is sex!” “All the things I have to do (kids, work, laundry), and you want to make me do you too, Mr. Insatiable?”
Breaking Marital Covenant
In discussions about refusal on different Christian forums, this question always comes up: is sexual refusal on a par with adultery, and is it grounds for divorce? It should come as no surprise that, in those discussions, your Cuddly Curmudgeon comes down of the “pro” side of the question (and, of course, with his typical ‘warm fuzzies’ approach.)
Christians of every stripe agree that Jesus taught that when one spouse is unfaithful to the other, s/he has broken the marital covenant, that adultery means that the “loyal partner” has every right to declare the marriage over and seek divorce. In the eyes of all, no matter the theological flavoring, the adulterous spouse is deemed to have broken faith with his/her spouse.
While the consensus of opinion/interpretation about the status of physical abuse is not as universal, it is accepted by many Christians that abuse IS a violation of the marital vows and thus a biblical reason for divorce. Just this past week, Sheila Wray Gregoire tells this anecdote:
I spoke last Saturday at a one-day marriage conference with my husband and with speaker Gary Thomas. During the Q&A panel, we were asked if it is okay for an abused woman to divorce her husband, or if that is breaking a covenant.
I replied that if a woman is abused, the husband has already broken the covenant. She is not the one doing so by leaving. Gary agreed with me.
Returning To Biblical Understanding
Think about the implications of Gregoire’s statement and Thomas’s assent. There are Christians who will argue that the only, and I mean ABSOLUT-ESTLY ONLY, reason for obtaining a divorce is adultery. Yes, it seems that Gregoire and Thomas are flying in the face of that teaching and expanding the acceptable reasons for divorce from one to two.
But actually, their statement does more than that; it returns to the biblical teaching on marriage, and what constitutes violation of marriage. As the article says, “Divorce not the breaking of the covenant, the sin of abuse was.”
In my Divorce: Scarlet Letter? series, I wrote about how the Matt. 19 discourse was part of an ongoing national debate, and did not deal with the entirety of subject of divorce. Biblically and historically, marriage was a covenant/contract between two people who accepted responsibilities in the marriage. And, biblically, it was understood that failure to fulfill these responsibilities constituted violation of the contract, the “breaking of covenant,” and that the ‘sinned against’ spouse had the right to leave the marital relationship, as the contract between the two had been violated by the other.
The divorce was not the violation of the covenant, but the failure to accept and function within the confines of the covenant was.
Sexual Abandonment = Adultery?
And now we come to the third rail of divorce discussion: sexual abandonment. Gatekeeping. Refusal.
In today’s Church-ian world, the one in which we get to impose our beliefs onto the Word of God, separation and divorce due to sexual abandonment is deemed as wrong. So many teach that a husband doesn’t have the right to expect sex in marriage, and say that sex is like the icing on a cake, that the concept seems indefensible. After all, “marriage is holy in the sight of God!”, and “let no man put asunder!” So, “just learn to live without and be Christ-like!”
But the writers of the Bible knew and understood that marriage was the one, unique relationship that God created in which mankind’s sexual nature
could be expressed is be expressed; sex is the defining act of marriage, after all. As I noted in the second of my Covenant Or Contract series, for 3,000 years, the Jews have had the practice of drawing up a marriage contract, called a ketubah, that promised three things: food, clothing and conjugal rights.
According to Jewish teaching down through the centuries before Christ, one of the roles of a husband was to provide conjugal rights to his wife. Unlike our Church world, with its “take it or leave it” attitude toward sexuality, the Hebrews taught that sex was not only desired by men, but by women as well, and it was written into the Jewish marriage contract.
And intentional failure to be available to your wife or your husband, to accept your responsibility in the marriage toward one’s spouse was viewed as a violation of the marriage covenant, as a breaking of the contract that bound husband and wife together. (As an aside, I said that this was the understanding and teaching of Hebrews in the centuries before Christ. I would be more accurate if I said that this is still the understanding of the Jews today, as ketubahs are still a part of the Jewish marriage, including the promise to fulfill conjugal rights.)
A More Complete Biblical Understanding
We know that the Bible teaches that the covenant between a husband and wife can be broken. If it were not, then Jesus was in the wrong for even saying that adultery was acceptable grounds for divorce.
We would not tell a husband or wife who spouse cheated on them by having an affair that getting a divorce is breaking their marriage covenant. We know that the covenant was broken by the adultery.
Most would not tell an abused wife or husband (statistics say that 1 in 3 victims of domestic violence is male) that getting a divorce is breaking their marriage covenant. We know that the covenant was broken by the physical violence and abuse.
According to biblical teaching, we should not tell a sexually refused wife or husband that getting a divorce is breaking their marriage covenant. That was broken by the intentional abandonment of the responsibilities of a marriage partner.
Just as a wife may be able to forgive a philandering husband but still divorce him (all completely without censure), so, too, some husbands feel that they can’t continue in a marriage defined by abandonment of the marriage bed.