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.
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.
** 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.”