As a niche blogger addressing sexless marriages, most of my writing has been about bad situations that husbands (and denied wives) find themselves in. And as someone who suffers from that very male affliction, I-Can-Fix-This-itis, many of my posts not only address the problems, but give advice and solutions on how to work to address and change these situations. I’m the type of person that believes it doesn’t matter how much you want to talk about The Nail, removing the nail will solve the problem of headaches.
I do, however, understand that fixing is not the same as restoring, that curing is not the same thing as healing. They just aren’t the same.
An Ounce of Healing Is Better Than A Pound of Cure
I know, I know. That’s not how the proverb goes: precaution, not healing. Well, in marriages where sexlessness has been the rule for years and/or decades, that horse left the barn long ago. And, yes, I believe that the advice, solutions and action steps I’ve presented in the past (Sexless Marriage Page) are still your best bet for changing your situations. That said, you need to understand that there is a difference between curing your situation and healing you situation.
One of the most common methods I keep coming across are lists of things to do to improve relationship problems in marriage. Whether it is a list of things to do to get your man to open up and become an empathetic listener, or a list of steps to help your wife discover her inner tigress, they are usually addressing a situation, and not the people in the situation.
Don’t get me wrong; I think that these lists can be helpful. All too often, though, these magazine articles and self-help books, with their, oh so, perky “You can turn this around in three steps!” seem to come across as band-aid solutions to surgical problems. The problem isn’t that these lists have bad information; to the contrary, many of them present “best practices” advice and recommendations. The hitch in all these attempts at curing the situation may lie in the fact that the practice isn’t necessarily the problem.
Problems and Causes
The practice isn’t the problem? Quite possibly not. In our Colloquy last year, Chris Taylor, of Forgiven Wife, shared how there were motivations behind her actions, which was the avoidance of intimacy with her husband. The surface problem was that sexual intimacy was being steamrolled, but beneath this problem was the cause, damaged emotions and bad lessons.
In my previous post, I’m TAG-ged, But You’re Out!, I wrote about the three most common root causes for continued sexual gatekeeping and/or refusal: bad teaching about sex, history of sexual abuse, or guilt over past sex sin. There is one root cause that I didn’t mention in that post, and it needs to be brought in as a possible root cause/problem: you.
All too often, you and I can act like guys. While that is not a bad thing (after all, we are guys), it is possible that our differences in communication and relating have caused hurts and slights that we have not dealt with. If, in discussions with your wife, you learn that you have wounded your wife’s spirit in some way, don’t try to excuse it; instead, own it. If you did something that was hurtful in the past, don’t try to bulldoze over it with “Are you still brooding about that? Let it go!”
Um, no. Just no. Instead, admit it, make a real apology (don’t get me started on those psuedo-sorries; “if you got your knickers in a knot, sorry ‘bout dat”), ask forgiveness and seek to live before your wife in genuine integrity.
Guys, I’m going to ask you to go back and read both Chris’s initial guest post, and the discussion that we had that followed. In reading those nine posts (and many of the comments), you will find yourself hip-deep in uncomfortable territory for us guys: feelings. But guess what? Feelings and emotions are currency in husband-and-wife relationships. Just as physical intimacy is the currency by which husbands understand love, so too is emotional intimacy the currency by which wives understand love.
And if it turns out that root problems and root causes find their genesis in emotional injury, then there is no way that the surface problems and/or causes are going to be fixed; root problems and roots causes call for healing, not curing, as they are, in essence, spiritual hurt.
Situational Curing vs. Relational Healing
Guys, I don’t know your situations. It may be that you are dealing with gatekeeping rather than refusal. But whatever your deal is, a unilateral ukase is the problem. Your spouse’s ukase got you here, but a reciprocal ukase won’t get you out. Oh, you may say, “Things have got to change,” but that doesn’t mean that they will. After all, your say-so won’t necessarily make it so.
Instead, you just might have to deal with messy issues. After all, you can cure the situation, but you have to heal the relationship.
(Part 2 of this article can be read here.)