Sex and Resentment, part 2

resent

I’m not apologizing for my last post on Sex And Resentment, but even as I was hitting the button to publish it, I felt that it wasn’t ‘complete.’ I’m not saying that what I wrote was wrong, and it’s not that I didn’t attempt to “speak the truth in love”; I did some heavy editing in order to pull back on my normal curmudgeonly-ness. But as I rehash the topic in my mind, I find that I am still somewhat uneasy in my mind about it.

All-wise Curmudgeon that I am, after I’ve written about a topic, I usually feel that I am done with it. I confess an affinity with L’il Abner’s mother, Mammy Yokum, who was known for her pronouncement, “I has spoken!” After all, as the old saying goes, “CSL said it, I believe, that settles it”, right? **

But this topic won’t let me be.

Sex: A Source of Mutual Resentment

A couple of posts back, I mentioned that I had been introduced by another blogger to a different forum dealing with #SexlessMarriage. Unlike TMB (see sidebar), this forum isn’t operated by Christians, but is an open forum where people of all persuasions participate. And unlike TMB, its only focus is sexless marriages. Given the overwhelmingly secular pool it draws from, and its singular focus, you can imagine that it isn’t necessarily a happy place.

To be frank, resentment runs high.

And since my last post was about sex and resentment, you can guess why this topic weighs on me. I wrote of spouses sharing how they’ve come to resent sex because their partners wanted sex with them. Spouses, both husbands and wives, on that sexless marriage site also share their resentment–a reverse resentment at enforced celibacy by frigid spouses. (their words, not mine; as I said, it’s not a Christian site, and many of the participants are bitter.)

Recently, one of the Old Guard of that forum held forth, giving counsel to a new poster, a refused husband who came and vented about having to deal with years of celibacy. The poor sod had been told by his wife (after he was finally able to drag her to counseling), “I have to feel emotionally close before I can have sex.” That, of course, struck home for me because of the Colloquy that Chris Taylor (Forgiven Wife) and I had last year. In the Colloquy and on her site, Chris writes of a woman’s need for emotional closeness.

As I was saying, one of the regulars of the site responded to the guy receiving the emotional closeness blockade, and shared with him his “wisdom”:

[Her statement about needing emotional connection?] was, whether she meant to imply so or not, evidence that this marriage was terminal. If we were so distant from one another that she couldn’t bear to have sex, it was time to put it out of its misery.

“Put the marriage out of its misery.” And thus ended the worldly wisdom lesson for today. 😦

Doing What Comes Naturally

But is he wrong? Really? By his light, is he too far off-base? Given the natural progression of things, isn’t he right? After all, his perception is that the wife can no longer “bear to have sex” with her husband. Our own Luther says abandonment of the marriage bed is a valid reason for divorce, so why should I be discomfited by his ‘advice’?

Last year, one of commenters to my blog, IntimacySeeker, wrote three short paragraphs that chronicled the natural progression of sexual resentment due to refusal vs. physical trauma; looking back at it, I find that it lends itself to describing another natural downward spiral:

1. Husband wants sex because, well,… Hey it’s great, it’s fun. It’s how I connect.
2. Wife wants emotional connection because, well,… Hey, it’s loving, it’s bonding, and it’s how I connect.
3. End result? Each resents the other because of imposes sexual prerequisites.

And so, again by natural progression, we arrive at an impasse, all natural-like. Back to that Job’s Counselor who wrote “put the marriage out of its misery”–his words seem on the mark, right? And I don’t think it’s fair to simply say, “Well, that’s the world. What do you expect?” After all, the existence of so many marriage bloggers demonstrates the need for help in Christian marriages, as well.

Christian men and women are also subject to the same bitterness and despair that living in a sexless marriage creates. It’s not worldly, it’s natural. Recently, I read in the comments on another Christian blog where one guy told of being resigned to misery, and that he hated his marriage, his wife, his religion and his life. That’s pretty thorough.

My Natural Discomfort

It’s that one word, and all its baggage: Natural.  If a husband is refused intimacy in marriage by his wife, it is natural to resent her. If a wife finds that her efforts to connect emotionally with her husband are short-circuited, it is natural to resent him. And, yes, if a wife can no longer bear to have sex with her husband, it is natural to divorce.

The source of my discomfort is how easily we accept the natural, when there is nothing natural about making a marriage, a relationship, work. Last year, I wrote about Mr. Natural, the guy who is the first Go-To Tool of Christians in marriage.

mr natural2

We’re told, “it will all work itself out in the end.” But when it doesn’t we go the opposite direction, staying with Mr. Natural, and we spiral downward, because it’s natural.

But to my mind, there is nothing natural about marriage. I’m not talking about monogamy vs. having the morals of an alley-cat; I’m referring to what it takes to make a relationship work. Awesome moment of truth, folks:

Men and Women Are Different! (They should pay me for such deep insight, I’m telling ya!)

A man and a woman enter into marriage with all their past history and education and training, and begin to forge one new life, together. Just as there are a lot of stepped-on toes when a couple learns to dance together, there are a lot of missteps, stops and starts, and learned adjustments when creating a marriage. These all take grace; grace from each to the other, and certainly God’s grace throughout the lives of both. There is no way that a marriage can last without each being willing to modify their lives and expectations, and learning to live with the idiosyncrasies of their partner for doing life.

Marriage is never an easy fit; the meshing of two single lives into a marriage is going to take grace and good-will to keep the gears from clashing as they undertake to create their roles as husband and wife. And, although some don’t want to hear it, being a lover is part of that learning process.

Sexual Resentment: Relationship Red Flag!

Recently, a video (supposedly satire) has gone viral over on Facebook. I’ve seen the video, and it’s like a documentary of that spreadsheet story that tore through the internet a few years ago. Basically, it’s a video of a wife giving her husband excuses for her “Not tonight.” Shaunti Feldhaun, the Christian marriage researcher/writer, watched the video, and in a nice Christian manner, shredded the heck out of it. Her last three paragraphs go straight to the matter of this being resentful of sex:

… I’ve come to believe that if we women could just grasp the emotional importance for men of feeling desired – which is a bit like the emotional importance for a woman of her husband really wanting to listen and have close, intimate conversation with her – we would never look at sex the same way again.
Now, we may in fact be tired. We may not be able to respond that night. I’m not saying we should necessarily put aside our needs to meet his. That’s not the point. We have hard days and may find ourselves emotionally vulnerable too. We need our men to understand us, as well.
But if we care about this man to whom we are wed, what matters to him so deeply should matter to us.

To cap it off, as I was working on these two blog posts, Wife and I were discussing the subject, and she said this:

“Do you wait until you feel like it to go to work? Do you have to be in the mood to do your job or to do laundry? Why do you have to be ‘in the mood’ to have sex with your husband?”

I’m going to come back to a line from my last post, where I said that it’s not that you seem to be on the same team, but are actually playing for the other side. I know that it’s not this simple, but it kinda is: are you for your spouse or against him? If you resent doing the very thing that makes a spouse feel loved, that’s a major red flag.

Jes’ sayin’.

CSL

** In the interest of full disclosure of my delusions of grandeur, I should let you know that one of my favorite Mark Twain lines was “God and I know everything. God knows all that can be known. And I know the rest.”

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Sex and Resentment, part 2

  1. Jack

    If (big if!) anyone were tracking my comments on a few blog sites, you’d be aware that my wife and I are really wrestling with this exact issue. It’s almost like a suicide pact: I won’t/can’t give you what you want/need until you give me what I want/need. And the cycle just goes around and around…

    There’s a very good blog post on Psychology Today about the Anti-Magi Gift. It describes two partners each withholding what the other wants/needs most, and it’s a tragic, needless, perfectly understandable and completely natural cycle. All I can say, or at least the first thing that I’d say, is “God help me.”

    I accept and understand that these conflicts may not be resolved in real life, but I think we really need to try. We need to know that we gave everything we could and more before we quit. You good wife’s comment is so correct, but it is actually a sword with two edges. Yes, the refusing spouse needs to bear down and just do it. But equally, the refused spouse needs to bear down and pay attention to their partner, put the d@mned phone or computer down and listen, engage, open their hands and heart. It really goes both ways, and I know this because I am constantly catching myself steeping in a brew of resentment, anger and selfishness.

    The problem is that if it’s gone on for a long time, and in our case it has been a very long time, the habits or the heart and mind are so hard to change. And the change can take so long that it is a constant battle not to loose heart. Sometimes in my mind’s eye I see the two of us like 6 year olds, arms crossed with an angry pout and flashing eyes. “You go first.” “I will not! You first!”

    I want to add that I went to the other forum you mentioned and omigosh, what a bitter, venomous place. But here’s a thing:

    People need to accept responsibility for their lives and relationships. If it isn’t working, look inside and figure out what your contribution is – then fix it. If it doesn’t save your marriage, it will at least save you. (I am not using “save” in a theological way, just so we’re clear…) And if it really doesn’t work, accept your responsibility to make a choice and then embrace it. If the marriage is sterile, either stay and accept that you made that choice and stop howling, or go and accept that choice. Life doesn’t owe us anything. We are not victims, we are authors. What story will we choose to write?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Excellent info, Jack. I’m definitely going to find that Anti-Magi post. Your statement that working on improving yourself is a keeper, and I know that I will be lifting it for a future post: “If it doesn’t save your marriage, it will at least save you.”

      On that other sexless marriage site, there is a little discussion of conducting some introspection, but for the most part, anger and bitterness reign. I hope that, down the road, they will realize that “escaping” one sexless marriage doesn’t guarantee that they won’t botch another opportunity in marriage. After all, if you’re dragging your old self along with you, why expect anything to be different?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jack

        Attribution pause: I think the sentence you quoted originally came from Alisa Bowman, who wrote “Project: Happily Ever After” and used to have an excellent blog by the same name!

        The two things that really stood out for me at [above website] were the lack of self-examination and awareness and the related lack of any sense of personal responsibility.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Jack, (someday you must tell me all the hijack comments you receive.)

        Sorry about the edit, but like Shaunti Feldhaun, I don’t want to publicize them. And thanks for the attribution; I’ll make a note of it.

        Like

      • Jack

        No worries at all!!! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Phil

    Resentment and refusal of sex within a marriage must surely be on everyone’s red flag list but its what happens when that red flag is registered that intrigues me the most.

    I read of those on certain forums who state that they intend to divorce their wives/husbands for not putting out say twice a week or maybe three times a month and I think to myself “you fool, who will you blame when the same thing happens in your second, third or fourth marriage”. I then read of people at the other end of the spectrum who constantly moan about their sexless plight but are happy to wallow in their own self-pity without making a significant effort to rectify the situation and I think to myself “goodness gracious that could be me”.

    So how soon does action need to be taken when the red flag is raised? Speaking from experience, the sooner the better because the longer things are left the significantly harder and longer it will take to get to that point where you know the marriage will work or its gone past the point if no return, but WHAT action should be taken when that little ol’red flag appears, that’s the golden ticket question! Again in my experience the answer can only be – as much as you possibly can leaving no stone unturned until everything you can think of has been tried & tried again….

    ……and now I’m near the point of no return so wish me luck?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: Sex And Resentment | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  4. Roger

    I am struggling with a 34-year marriage, 100% sexless for the last 17 years. (Spouse has said there is absolutely no interest in anything sexual.) Significant sexless-for-me-but-not-spouse periods prior to that. (Spouse was willing once per month, about every 28 days, and would be satisfied manually by me, then promise to get me there “tomorrow.” Tomorrow would never happen.)

    Eight months ago I told spouse that I could no longer live this way. I started individual therapy while it took wild horses to get spouse to attend individual therapy. We are “kissing at bedtime,” like kissing your grandmother. I can now spoon with spouse and place my hands in approved, non-threatening areas. No reciprocal touching from spouse. Spouse gets bored while I try to cuddle and reads text messages and even election day news coverage. I have suggested couples therapy and therapy for touch-aversion to no avail. Spouse had a physical and supposedly both the MD and individual therapist said that the Fluoxetine (on it for 20 years) had nothing to do with lack of desire. I just had a physical with the same MD and when I asked about him reportedly saying that the SSRI had no effect on sexual desire, he replied that it is a huge desire killer and that he would never have said that the drug has no effect.

    After the holidays I plan to ask again about going with me to couples therapy and sex therapy. If there is no willingness to do more than quick-kiss and non-sexual spooning, I simply will state that I wish to end the marriage now. I see no point in confronting spouse about the desire-killing drugs–that speaks for itself. The spooning speaks for itself. I have been hoping that spouse would want to take steps to bring physical and sexual intimacy back in to our marriage. But I now realize that all the signs point to spouse’s desire for a celibate marriage. I have been slow to act, trying to give spouse time, but I have been fooling myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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