What is ‘Better’, Anyway?


As I said in my last post, I’m finding a goodly number of tweets from other marriage/sexuality bloggers showing up on my Twitter feed with links to their articles or archives. Recently, one link led me to an old post from Chris Taylor/The Forgiven Wife that I felt needed to be brought to the attention of refused husbands who read this blog.

For those of you not familiar with the Forgiven Wife blog, it is written by a wife who admits to being a gatekeeper and refuser in the past, but has been on a journey of marital reconciliation and restoration for some years now. Her blog is a ministry to wives who are wanting to make this same journey. She does write for women, and freely admits that her posts aren’t for husbands.

However, the old post that came across my Twitter feed is one that I think husbands should read and think about.

Past Appeals

Husbands who are long-time ‘Kept or Refused know the drill. Frustration builds, as it has been 2 or 3 weeks, or 2 or 3 months. You’ve tried to initiate, but there’s always been something or other to hinder the two of you (Hey, Seinfeld reruns are important, Dude!). Finally, your frustration boils over and you complain about the absence of sex in your marriage; maybe you get angry, maybe you plead, but whatever you do, you say that you aren’t happy and things need to change. You tell her of your misery and discomfort. And, if your wife is good-willed**, this is what you hear: “I promise I’ll do better.” Amirite?

I’ve read these words many, many times over, and more often than not (by a long shot), the husband usually finishes with one of two statements. Either the husband writes, “But nothing came of it,” or “Things improved for a couple of weeks (months?), but we slipped back into old habits.”

And this is where Chris’s post comes in. Please, go read it, and then come back. Be prepared to take notes.

Three Questions

Guys, guess what: all too often, when your wife says “I’ll try to do better,” she really means what she says, but doesn’t have a clue as to what ‘Better’ looks like.  For her, ‘Better’ is just some amorphous mist-thing, without form or substance. And guess what? The same goes for you! You can’t tell her what ‘Better’ looks like because you don’t what what it looks like, either! So here’s the deal: before you sit down to have The Talk™ with your wife, you are going to re-read Chris’s post and be prepared to present specifics for what ‘Better’ will look like in your marriage bed, if your wife expresses a desire to do “better.” 

Chris’s three questions are good for a wife who is serious about “doing better”. I believe that husbands would do well to go into The Talk™ having thought about these questions and to be able to articulate the why’s of their answers. Guys, you should be ready to share (in love, mind you) with your wife specific, actionable solutions that will make ‘Better’ seeable and achievable.

Question 1: Frequency
Notice that the first of her three questions deals with the 500 lb. gorilla in the room, the matter of frequency. If your wife IS good-willed and seriously means it when she says she wants to do better, then you need to be ready with suggestions. All too often, the nebulous “Two or three times a week would be good” puts in an appearance right about here, and while there is nothing wrong with 2-3x a week, the question needs to be asked “HOW are we going to make sure that this is put in place?” After all, ‘the devil is in the details, right?

One of the first things I am going to recommend is that you begin to plan for times of intimacy in your schedule. Yeah, it doesn’t sound ‘sexy’ to think “Oh, it’s Wednesday, 10:00 pm, gotta get busy.” Sorry, but that’s not the real problem. The real problem is that the marriage is hurting; the relationship is hurting with at least one of the two being miserable and frustrated. So a little feeling of routine can be endured while things get righted. I wrote a post about this last year, and I recommend that you go back and check out Refused? A New Tool To Help, Part 2.

I’m going to make a second suggestion. Go to bed together, to be together, alone. And I don’t mean at the fag-end of the day, either. All too often (again!), I read where one partner goes to bed and waits for the other who is doing Facebook, or the news, or Jimmy Fallon, etc. In fact, I’ve read testimony from former refusers about staying up in order to wait out the other.

When Wife and I turned ourselves around, back in Jan., ‘11, we went to bed together, and not to go to sleep. We would talk, make-out, listen to music, whatever. And we’ve done this for five years now. Were we intimate every night? Well, it depends on your definition, I guess. We talked every night. We kissed every night. We listened to music every night. We only “made love” two nights a week (per our agreed scheduling), but we connected every night.

Question 2: Sexual Activity
Chris is right, this isn’t a bucket list. And this isn’t the time to pull out your Wild-And-Wookie fantasies, either. This is about finding a sense of normalcy in your marriage bed, and establishing a baseline of positions, practices, and procedures that will be the new norm. Yes, there might be room, down the road, for that French Maid costume, but this question isn’t about that. It’s all about setting up a mutually satisfying marriage bed.

I see this as having mainly to do with the restrictions that a gatekeeping spouse has used to throttle down a sex life. The “Not In My Bedroom” List can have many prohibitions, but ‘Better’ will demand that Prohibition be repealed in your bedroom.

It is possible that the refuser may have valid concerns amid the overblown fears and irrational restrictions. If, after discussion, some of these concerns are valid, then work together to deal with them reasonably. If there is concern about children coming into the bedroom, then be sure to install locks on doors. If your wife is fearful of the thought that “the children might hear”, invest in a sound machine or a CD player and a collection of music for the bedroom, to cover any Tarzan yells. If there is resistance to the idea of making love with the lights on, then be willing to go with candles, or a smaller, dimmer lamp. In our bedroom, after I developed an allergy to Yankee candle scents, we brought in a glass vase with Christmas ornaments and lights, looking something like this.

our night light

Also, one set of restrictions I commonly see is limitations the wife sets on her pleasure. Believing that sex, if it be unavoidable must be endured because it is just for men, many wives restrict activity in the bedroom to a bare minimum: “Get on, get in, get out and get off!” With such restrictions as no kissing and no foreplay, a wife makes sex as unappealing as possible to her husband, and continues in whatever shame or teaching robs her husband of being able to serve her as lover. Since the issues that have led to this may be deeply personal, it is possible that marital counseling may be required. But if not dealt with, any progress that may occur from your talks will be of the proverbial ‘Better’ that has faded before in the mists.

Question 3: Progress
If you’re wandering in the desert, you might not have an idea of how to answer this one. But spend some time thinking about it. One of the reasons why “I promise I’ll do better” sounds so good to the refused ear is that it offers the siren song of hope. Just as a wife may be clueless as to what ‘doing better’ looks like, a husband can be just as clueless because he doesn’t know what a sex life is supposed to look like.

The answer to this question will be different for every marriage, because the causes for the gatekeeping/refusal will be different for each couple. If the problem is merely a lack of practice due to a ‘season of life’ issue, then it won’t be too hard to get back on track. If, however, the issues are more deep-rooted, there will need to be discussion on progress, whether it be increased frequency, initiation, reading or counseling. But on this one, realize that effort itself may be progress. The old cliche “Rome wasn’t built in a day” applies here; it took time for things to go bad, it will take time for things to be set aright. In your efforts to improve, be willing to extend grace.

To Be Continued….

Argh!!! Once again, my tendency to verbosity has run away with me and this post is way too long! I am going to end this here, at the end of Chris’s first action step about Asking Questions. Her next sections dealt with Planning, Communicating and Doing, and while it seems that I’m in for a series, I don’t think that that will happen.

But you never can tell…..


** oh, yeah, footnote. If what you receive in response to your “We need to talk” is snarling, then I’m going to take the liberty to say your wife is NOT good-willed. Now, I’m sure that I am going to get pushback on that, but “Perv!”, “All you think about is sex”, and “You’re the one with the problem” are not signs of good-will, but rather, are signs of distrust, disrespect, and/or deep-seated issues. Jes’ sayin’…..
(more on that another time)



Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

5 responses to “What is ‘Better’, Anyway?

  1. tjcox53

    The whole quantity or quality question was one that came up with my wife and I when we started to work on this. You’re right that honestly we as husbands don’t really know. Ideally both, but to pick where to start assumes only one or the other is possible. Assuming no serious issues, such as infidelity, given how I’ve read when are with regards to sex both should be possible, but when my wife asked me this, my answer was , “Pick one!”
    I will say, that my marriage is not the typical refused husband story. There have been serious sin issues on my part in the past, as well as a five year separation in the early part of our marriage.
    At this point, it really a lot more about our work schedules. We work different shifts (she generally comes to bed as I’m getting up) and she works weekends and has time off during the week, while I’m off on the weekends. I feel bad trying to initiate when she comes home, and she never seems to get around to it on her days off, so it’s usually once on the weekends for us. We tried the scheduling thing, and I left it up to her to pick the days, but that kind of fell apart. Add to that she is need of a hip replacement, and it’s just tough for both of us.
    In my reading of many of the marriage blogs by wives, I’m starting to think, a lot of the lack of desire in wives for husbands, is a symptom of lack of respect, and appreciation for what the husband does and is.. All the comments about only wanting sex, to me as a man, is very disrespectful. As if my desire for my wife, is perverse or sinful.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A friend of mine from long ago was talking about his wife’s push-back with respect to wanting more sex. She felt once a week was already a huge demand. My response was, if you’re counting, you don’t understand. His response… “EXACTLY!!!”

    And regarding quality… I’ll never understand how a person could see himself/herself as a loving spouse if they persist in giving the shabbiest and least in love-making. It makes about as much sense as making dinner for two taste lousy so that the /other/ spouse will be disappointed. If you’re both gonna eat it, wouldn’t you at least want it to taste good for your own sake?

    To a certain extent I understand a person not knowing what “better” means. On the other hand, if your spouse says, “I want more of you!” then wouldn’t that make a person feel good, and be the answer to the problem?

    Sometimes I think it’s a matter of selective memory and selective competence — or an emotional devotion to believe the worst about a man so they don’t have to be vulnerable (the opposite of Scripture’s description of love). Apparently, most people in our culture don’t think men are vulnerable to their wives at all. The more complexity they can heap on top of the problem, the less likely it is that they will ever have to deal with it directly.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A Jardine

    The author’s description of a refusal pattern was what happened in our marriage for a very long time. She was always busy, sick, tired, busy, sick, tired. We seemed to have sex every 5-7 days. Passable but not great at my current age but awful, dreadful when I was in my 20’s and 30’s and 40’s. Hate that. Then after being a refuser for decades for some reason last December she finally committed to Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. And for a while she actually was good for her commitment. She would even ask me if we were going to make love that night! And it kept up longer than the typical 2-3 weeks that she would do before. I have asked her several times why, for the first time in our marriage, she was willing to make a specific commitment regarding frequency of sex and then be accountable for it and she just shrugs it off. She asserts that she has just been “getting better.” This is completely false. I would be much happier if she would own the problem and finally explain what that was all about. But I can’t make her do that. I really think she would be better off doing so. I guess as long as she persists that is an improvement. However, if she can’t confront herself then the likelihood that the change will be permanent is less, probably a lot less.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: What Is Better, Anyway? pt. 2 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

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