The first part of her post dealt with questions she recommended that a recovering refuser think about asking her husband in order to be intentional in rebuilding their marriage. She told how after discussions or fights about intimacy, she would say to her husband, “I promise, I’ll do better,” but not know what ‘Better’ looked like. I suggested that when refused spouses are given that amorphous promise, they start thinking about what ‘Better’ would actually look like. So, in this episode I want to present a couple of thoughts on her further suggestions about planning and communicating with your wife after your discussion.
Plan . . .
Do not let yourself fall into the It’ll all work out trap. If you don’t plan for change, you won’t get any. Change, that is. I know that there is a saying that says “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Well, that’s a crock! The truth is “if you keep things the same, they’ll stay the same, Numby!”
So you need to plan for change in order to achieve ‘Better.’
How do you learn what’s in your Bible? You read the Bible.
How do you learn to operate your new car? You read the manual.
How do you learn to use your new device (iPhone, iPad)? You read the manual.
Anything that you choose to do today, you read up on, you study. For example, your career; did you fall into it or did you go through a course of study to learn how to function in your field? How do you keep up with changes that today’s fast-changing technology bring to your field, if not by reading? Even in our recreation, we devote time to study and learn. Whether it be chess, fantasy football, cycling, or what-have-you, we have our media for our hobbies, don’t we? The same goes for marriage and relationship, including the physical aspect of your marriage. Nothing comes “naturally”, so you have to make it your business to learn.
So, now that I’ve told you to read, the next question is “Okay, CSL, just what am I supposed to read?” Good question. Now, I could put you off for a year or two while I begin to build up a library of go-to books, but I’m going to let you in on a little professional secret: the Clip File. The clip file is a personal resource that librarians build for reference questions. We compile lists of resources, and sometimes, lists of lists of resources. One thing we learn in library classes is to steal heavily and frequently.
Now, I could ask others, do surveys of recommended books, but when someone has already done the work, I should re-invent the wheel? No way; I’ll just refer you to the right source and let you choose. And I’ve got a great source for you in my clip file. Lori Byerly, of Generous Wife, has compiled The Marriage Book Library, one of the best annotated, categorized lists of helpful books dealing with marriage and sexuality I’ve found, so go – read and learn.
Just to throw in my two cents, of the books on her list, I’m going to take her word that Kimmel’s Grace Filled Marriage is the one that is the top marriage Must-Read. (In fact, I already have taken her word, and ordered it this morning for my Kindle.) I’m not including the link to the book on Amazon, because I want my readers to go to her Library and go to Amazon from there. (If I’m not mistaken, by doing so, you help to support the Byerlys in their ministry, and I’m all in favor of that!)
Two others that merit immediate reading are Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman, and Passion Principles, by Shannon Etheridge. Ever since I began reading and studying marriage sites and blogs, and looking for resources, Chapman’s Five Love Languages has been a go-to resource, everywhere! If this book is so universally recommended then I say “Go get it.” I do know that you can take his Love Languages tests online and discover how you and your spouse best receive love. Shannon Etheridge is an excellent writer and one of my favorite podcasters. She co-hosts Sexy Marriage Radio with Corey Allan and is a very passionate advocate for Christian marriage.
My sidebar has three blogs that I am going to recommend that you dig deeply into. I read them often, and when they cross my Twitter feed with new posts, I am there!
For you, guy, Paul Byerly’s The Generous Husband. Yes, he can be tough, but in my Working series, I recommend plenty of self-examination. Consider his blog a guided tour into You, A Dude. Paul is biblical and sound, and while some say he is too hard on men, he’s never off.
For your wife, another Paul B. blog, The XY Code. One thing that you can be sure of in your marriage is that your wife is operating under bad information about men. Whether it be that your wife thinks sex is nothing, or that men just need to learn self-control, The XY Code is a tour of Men for wives who really don’t know anything about men at all, even though they married one.
Lastly, Chris Taylor’s Forgiven Wife is for the both of you. Chris has been a prolific writer, and has actually made the journey to ‘Better,’ and is writing to help other wives make the same journey. There are many obstacles on this road, and Chris will tell you that she has stumbled over everyone of them. The reason that I recommend that you read her stuff together is because she analyzes marital and emotional issues deeply and fluently. Things that your wife may not be able to articulate, Chris does. Together, if there is emotional and relational healing that needs to take place, I can’t think of a better guide than Chris.
And that leads me to the second step:
I’m thinking that this is going to be the biggest challenge of all. I can’t even begin to estimate the number of times I’ve read “Whenever I try to talk to my wife about our sex life, she
- Gets angry”
- Clams up”
- Accuses me of being addicted”
- Says I only want her for sex….”
Okay, I’m starting to ramble, but you get the point: you and your wife don’t talk about your sex life, and when you do bring it up, it turns into an ugly brouhaha.
But just as you aren’t going to learn anything about improving marital intimacy without reading, you aren’t going to learn how the reading is being received without talking about it. The two of you are going to have to learn to put aside ingrained reticence and find time to share about what you feel, like or dislike about aspects of sensuality and sexuality. If you and your wife, after an “I’ll do better” promise, just go back to what you’ve done in the past, …. After all, I have my abbreviation in the sidebar: IYADWYAD, YAGWYAG™.
The key is connection. According to Emerson Eggerichs’ Love & Respect (and only about a million other writers), wives want to connect emotionally with their husbands, and they do with with words. Guys, I know that the four most dreaded words in the English language are “We need to talk.” **
But guess what? You need to talk! If so many people are hitting you over the head with the fact that the two of you need to talk, maybe there’s a reason for it! So you’re going to talk (maybe not about her favorite subject…, see cynical footnote). And guess what, when you find that you put down your game controller and she puts down her iPhone and the two of you start talking, you will connect. After all, as a very wise woman once said to me, “You aren’t gonna want to have sex with someone you’re not talking to.”
So, yes, two-way communication is needed between the two of you, but in this discussion about your intimacy and sexuality, remember that it’s not your intimacy, it’s y’alls intimacy. Be very sure that you communicate reassurance to your wife about wanting the ‘Better’, not only for yourself, but for her as well. This sex, this intimacy, is about expressing your love to her, that you think she’s beautiful, that you want to express love for her, and you are concerned for her pleasure, as well. You will need to get around the idea that sex is just one-sided, that while you are miserable, you are also miserable for her, as well.
Chris’ Final Step and My Final Word
Chris encouraged wives to take the Nike Challenge: Do it! All well and good, but please go back one more time and read her article, and pay particularly close attention to her last bit, on her progress. Guys, remember what she said. This going off the rails didn’t happen immediately, and restoration of a sex life won’t happen immediately. Realize that there will be fits and starts as the two of you try to get back on track, that there will be hiccups along the way.
I’m going to go back to Lori Byerly’s go-to marriage book, The Grace-Filled Marriage. In it, Kimmel describes a couple “settling” in their relationship and says of them,
What they need in their marriage isn’t more love– they’ve loved each other through the ups and downs of three decades. Their love is strong and proven.
What they need is grace.
As you and your wife look to ‘Better’, know that fits and starts will be a part of the journey, and so extend grace.
** The cynic in me feels that I have just discovered the cure for “We Need To Talk”. I’m thinking that all you need to do is reply, “We sure do! We need to talk about our sex life”, and any talks will be tables. 😦