The Scales of Justice

One evening last month, I received several messages from a man who had found my blog. Unsigned (but with a valid email address), he proceeded to tell me what he saw in my posts:

  • I am a tool of Satan in hurting my husband.
  • In his failure to address the fact that we were unequally yoked, my husband “has given in to his own sense of damnation, deciding he doesn’t deserve any better.”
  • I view my compliance with my marriage vows as bestowing a blessing on my husband. I am a forgiven wife “for being kind to a pet that used to be a man.”
  • I am still married only because my husband surrendered and makes no choices. What I see as forgiveness is “nothing more than the mewling plea for mercy of a slave.”
  • I defrauded my husband of the purpose of marriage; I destroyed the marriage.
  • While I’m clear about the fact that I was wrong, I fail to admit that my husband (“the hapless man you cheated”) was right. I show no gratitude or respect. I show no contrition, and I broke my husband.
  • The only thing of value in my posts is “the caution that a self-centered woman remains so even when she starts acting otherwise.”
  •  I am the source of my husband’s eternal doom, I am forgiven by my husband only because every dog is happy at feeding time, and I haven’t groveled enough in apology to my husband.

He told me about a genre of fiction that focuses on revenge against cheating wives—women who intentionally defraud their husbands of sex, engage in affairs or casual sex with other men, and spend the money earned by their hard-working husbands. He told me, “More often, we men who read them fantasize about being strong enough to resist and reject the pleas for forgiveness of such wives.”

I briefly wondered why he’d included this information in his messages to me. After all, I didn’t cheat. I did, however, defraud my husband of what his marriage could and should have been for a long time. Still, isn’t it a little strong to compare that to blatant infidelity? To cheat is, among other things, to deprive of something expected. In marriage, sex is expected, so I couldn’t outright dismiss the comparison. The fact that his mind had made the connection between outright cheating and refusal stayed with me.

Reading this reader’s messages and a couple revenge stories I found online made my heart heavy. What happens that makes a man so bitter that he writes stories of such horrible revenge? What happens that makes a man see refusal as something comparable to infidelity? What is it about refusal that twists a knife in a man’s heart and lets hatred loose?

Which Is Better?

I recently invited husbands to participate in a survey about duty sex (sex in which the wife lies there waiting for it to be over rather than fully participating). (I’ve written about the results in several other posts, linked at the bottom of this one.)

One of the questions elicited evenly divided responses: Which is better—duty sex or no sex? I haven’t known what to make of the responses. Since I opened the survey, the ratio has been consistent. About half the men surveyed said they would prefer duty sex due to the need for a physical release and the occasional hope that they could persuade their wives to participate as they went along.

The fact that half the men said they would prefer no sex at all is what has me puzzled. It has forced me to recognize that for these men, sex clearly isn’t about just a physical release—and that’s what the other half of the respondents said, too, even though they preferred duty sex to no sex. Still, it is important to note that for half the men who did this survey, real, fully engaged sex is so fulfilling that a substitute for it is undesirable and unacceptable. When their wives don’t fully participate, these men feel deprived of what married sex should be.

They are deprived. They are cheated. It isn’t about the sexual release. They’re cheated of a deep emotional and transforming connection with their wives.

It is easy for women to underestimate what sex means to their husbands. Many of us may have a lower drive than our husbands. We may truly believe that our men think about sex too much. We have emotional connections in so many areas of our lives that we don’t see that for our husbands, the only emotional connection may be us. I think we get more non-sexual touch than men tend to as well. When we sexually refuse or restrict, we deprive our husbands–even if we don’t feel any deprivation at all.

Becoming Bitter

In an earlier post I wrote about what some of the men said in their survey comments, I wrote, “When we provide duty sex, we damage our husbands’ hearts.” I’d like to look at that same idea from a different perspective:

When we deprive our husbands of sex, we damage their hearts.

Sometimes, I think this damage happens right in front of my eyes. I see comments posted on various marriage blogs. I’ve looked at the #sexlessmarriage tweets on Twitter. I’ve seen the heartbreak conveyed in emails to me.

I see men who are full of despair. They say their wives’ sexual control (including gate-keeping and outright refusal) is the most difficult thing in their lives. They feel powerless, disrespected, unmanly. They plod through their days, feeling they’ve sacrificed so much of the joy they could have had. They have a roommate rather than a wife.

Some men work on themselves and try to be the best husbands they can, convinced that they have the power to change the sexual refusal. Other men may give up completely, resigned to a life without sex and all the deep emotional intimacy it brings. They come to terms with facing a shell of the life they should have. Some men make escape plans with the intention of leaving once the kids are out of the house, or their wives finish their degrees and become employable, or they pay down one more debt so they can afford a divorce. Or they stop caring for their health. They become careless with their lives, thinking that maybe they will escape the chains of the misery they’ve found in their marriages.

Or maybe they become very, very bitter. They fantasize about revenge.

A Sad Story

I think about the man who sent me the messages about how I broke my husband. I wonder what his story is. I’ve prayed for him several times to find peace, and to find God. I’ve prayed for him to see forgiveness and grace in his life.

What is it about refusal that twists a knife in a man’s heart and lets hatred loose?

When we deprive our husbands of sex, we damage their hearts.

At the end of one of his messages to me, this man with a damaged heart said, referring to my husband, “What a sad man, and sad story.”


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Other posts related to the survey:

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23 Thoughts on “A Damaged Heart

  1. janna94 on November 23, 2013 at 9:54 pm said:

    I do not mean this to be cliche… but that man needs Jesus… like we all do. Wouldn’t it be so easy for us to become so bitter and jaded in life from all the different hurts and wrongs done to us? Only by the grace of God can we find peace, joy and love in this life.

    Chris, do not forget that you are forgiven, you are righteous, you are covered by the blood of Jesus… and though others try to “curse” you, as Proverbs says, “an undeserved curse does not come to rest.”

    • As soon as I began reading the words, I felt a hedge of protection spring up around me. Because of this, I was able to see the state of this man’s heart rather than take his words into mine. My husband was with me when I read the messages, and he did and said good things that added another layer of protection. I hadn’t planned to write about the messages at all, but as I was looking at the survey results this afternoon, this man’s bitterness kept coming into my mind.

  2. FW, I commend you for using the bitterness of your reader for good. Great article!
    I would add to the statement, ‘ They have a roommate rather than a wife.’ And they have had the hope of the single man, that they’ll find intimate love one day, forever stolen from them by this roommate.

  3. ” They’re cheated of a deep emotional and transforming connection with their wives.” Do you really believe it’s a case of “cheating?” I do.

    • So do I. I deprived my husband of what I had promised in my marriage vows. Obviously, affairs and refusal bring some different factors into a marriage, but thinking about this comparison deepened my understanding of what happens to the heart of a refused spouse.

  4. I have so many thoughts on this,it’s difficult to know which to say. I can see how a man could come to be this way, indeed but for the grace of God I could be this man.With regards to the survey, and duty sex, I can only relate my own experience. First let me say my wife and I have been married for 38 years come January, with a 5 year separation in the early part of our marriage.There has never been outright refusal, but for most of the time it’s been clear that we were only intimate, because I wanted to. When I was younger, I used to think it was my fault due to our separation, and I needed to win her back.As the years went on, it became more apparent there was more to it. So I tried many different ways of stirring her desires up, including subliminal seduction recordings. These actually worked, but caused my wife to be resentful when she found out I had used them.I’m 57 now and it’s still an issue we struggle with. It’s actually the only thing in our marriage we ever really fight about.I can only say that genuine sexual desire speaks volumes about the respect you have for your husband. Conversely lack of desire speaks volumes about your lack of respect and appreciation.

    • I would be upset if I found out my husband had used subliminal seduction, and it would have confirmed in my mind that all he wanted was the physical release of sex. Still, it shows the depths of your feelings about the lack of intimacy in your marriage. Most of the fights throughout our marriage have been about sex. I am very happy to say I don’t remember the last time we had one of those.

      How is your wife’s relationship with God?

  5. Interesting perspectives, both yours and the man’s! This man makes a very good point – and I don’t think he is far off the mark with his comparison to infidelity. But how sad to be full of so much misery and bitterness.

    Yes hearts are damaged in sexless or less sex marriages but it is not only the man’s heart but also the woman’s heart that is damaged. One can not damage another without also damaging themselves. However, it is up to each to invoke the healing balms within themselves – of course with the help of Jesus Christ! Even if a woman changes her ways, seeks forgiveness and heals her own heart – the man still has to find his way in healing his own heart! It sounds like your husband has done that!

    But – and this is important – even if a man’s wife chooses not to heal her heart and continues in her destructive ways, a man with a damaged heart can still move forward with the healing process. Sometimes he has to leave the marriage to so do, but not always!

    Its a choice both the man and the woman make – to damage AND to heal! While we can damage others – we can not heal others!

    • Excellent points. It strikes me that when a man’s relationship with God, he is in a better place for coping with his own heart pain but also for helping his wife work through her own heart issues.

      We do well to remember that the process of healing isn’t going to be the same in both spouses. It took my husband a while to believe that the changes were real and permanent, and even then, he has to figure out what to do with the pain he’d been carrying around. My husband has been a blessing in this regard. Other than a few odd blips as old patterns of interpretation resurface from time to time, he holds no anger in his heart toward me. I think there are some husbands who hold on to resentment longer than my husband did; some men are never able to fully trust their wives sexually. And in that case, a wife can work on her relationship with God as a way of helping her husband work through his heart issues.

  6. Wow. Some harsh words there! It really illustrates how truly important sex is, especially to men. When I was a refuser I remember a fight where I was so confused because my husband was miserable while I thought we were so happy. But interesting (and true!) to compare it to cheating.

    • I never thought we were happy, but I really didn’t understand why sex mattered so much to my husband or why the lack of sex caused so much pain. While the words here were harsh, they were very instructive for me.

  7. Courageous post! Cuts right to the heart of the matter.

  8. I had a comment, and then the tablet died lol.
    we have a similar story. I still seem to struggle with reliving the pain and hurt and damage that I caused him. I know I am forgiven by him and Jesus. so why does it hurt so much still to think about the past?
    Then on the other hand, I am so grateful that he honoured his vows and stuck with me and loved me. I can’t imagine that I would ever be able to forgive myself had my hubby left me cause of what I was doing in our marriage.

    • My best writing is still floating around cyberspace, too!

      I don’t know why it hurts to think about the past, but it does. Someone recently told me that reading some of my earlier posts reminded her so clearly of what she went through in her own transformation that she couldn’t even finish the posts. Over the past year, I’ve moved beyond doing that most of the time–but there are still moments when I see the waste of years (and younger bodies) and wonder what might have been. But I have finally accepted the forgiveness that was offered by God and my husband. They forgave me long before I forgave myself. (But maybe that’s a potential blog post. Hmmm…..)

      My husband has pointed out that while he hurt deeply at the time, that made him even more appreciative of the version of me that he has now. He has absolutely no doubt that I love and desire him. He has also reminded me that getting caught up in what might have been and what I shouldn’t have done takes away from my ability to see how God uses those experiences to reach others today. I understand your struggle all too well, but I encourage you to use your heart to see how God is using your marriage’s past to minister to others. You caused your husband and yourself pain–but you have repented and turned way. You know better now, and you do better now.

      In one of my early posts, I wrote this about what my husband’s choice to stay showed me:

      I will never understand why he stayed with me, when I was trying so hard to push him away and not have to truly let him in. I certainly don’t deserve him. But what he put up with in me over the years has modeled Christ’s sacrifice for me in a personal and real way.

      His choice in the face of my sin has led me on my own Christian walk.

    • Just to clarify for the readers: I don’t feel I honoured my vows. I was stuck in a porn addiction during this whole part of our marriage (and prior to our marriage). We both reformed together and started living out our vows as we had intended at about the same time.

  9. I think the vast majority of men want something more than just the physical part of sex, but that does not change the deep physical need we feel. I suspect some of those said they would take duty sex over no sex would have answered differently on a differently day. Likewise for those who said they would take no sex over duty sex. There are two urges both fighting to be met, and duty sex feeds only one of them while making the other feel even worse. But when you say now to duty sex and get a horrible night’s sleep because you are so horny, then you think maybe you should have taken what was offered so at least the physical side of it would be less bad. It is a horrible, no win situation.

    I do understand how a man could get to the place of bitterness and even fantasising about retaliation. Being refused is emasculating, and duty sex is emasculating. Some men stop asking, because it is less emasculating than any of the other options. Most of what the fellow said by email likely flows from this situation. Many husbands ignore wrongs and say things they do not really mean just to get a bit of sex, and that makes them feel like emasculated slaves rather than men.

    In my case I knew the root of the problem was her abuse as a child, being raped in college, and other bad sexual encounters. I also saw she was working on it and that it was getting better (at what seemed a painfully slow rate). So I never lost hope – but I did get close. I stood on the edge of that abyss and wondered if I had the strength to react in a godly way if I ended up there.

    If a man saw no reason for his wife’s refusal, and/or saw no sign that it was getting better, I can see how horrible he would feel. I imagine he would conclude his wife must hate him, because she could not torture him more if she tried. He would feel wronged, attacked, and abused, and retaliation is a very human reaction to feeling like that.

    If wives who say no could understand what it does to their husband, if they honestly got it, I doubt they would ever say no again, even when they should.

    • Thanks so much for your insight. My husband said all these things to me about the emotional despair, the emasculation, and so on. But all I could see at the time was the ways I’d been hurt; his unwillingness (as I saw it) to recognize my point of view led to me feeling even more hurt, and I thought he was just saying those things to guilt me into giving him sex. It was such a vicious cycle that spiraled downward, on and on, down and down. Since I thought everything was his fault, I wasn’t even willing to look at myself and realize that I had things to work on–especially since he was the one who was unhappy with our sex life.

      The more I learn about how refusal affects men, the more I am baffled by my own selfishness and sin for all those years.

      • I can’t speak for your husband, but I certainly had my own selfishness going on when I was being told no. It was rare that I intentionally tried to guilt Lori into sex, but I see looking back I was doing that far more than I was willing to admit.

        If a man will try to see why his wife says no, and why she hurts, it can only help them as a couple. If either shows understanding and sympathy, the other is likely to soften.

        You keep after the women, I’ll keep after the men, and hopefully more and more will get it worked out!

  10. janna94 on November 24, 2013 at 6:46 pm said:

    “The more I learn about how refusal affects men,…”

    My eyes are open to the affects of refusal also, but this is something else I see… this is why it is soooo important that people find their identity in Christ! When a human is trying to find their worth and value in another person (which is idolatry), this is what brings them to such desperation, to such pain, to such bitterness. It doesn’t just have to be the refusal of sex, it could be a wife who feels her husband doesn’t show her love the way she wants, or a child who has parents who never once said, “I love you.” or “I’m proud of you.”

    I was an ultimate refuser, much more so than you yourself have shared, because I believe you’ve said the longest your husband went without sex was weeks, mine would go months without and sometimes even a year. Yet, my husband is no where close to the broken man that I see in this man’s email or that I see in other places. Why? Because he’s in Christ. Yes, my sin and rejection hurt him to the core, but he also realized, that it’s not me who gets to label him worthy or unworthy, lovable or unlovable, ONLY our Father in heaven can do that, and the Son’s death and resurrection says, “We are loved! And by His blood, we are worthy!” When an individual gets this… then they are a capable of truly loving those who sin against them…which just might be a refusing wife.

    My eyes are open more and more to the devastating affects “idolatry” has on us humans, and how we are so blinded by it… Lord have mercy.

  11. I didn’t mean to imply that I’m blameless in any of this situation with my wife. The fact is we were very far from God for most of this time, and have only been starting over in the last couple years.As for the sex thing I am trying to resign myself to the fact it may never change, and continue to try and lead her in her relationship with God as best I can.

  12. Also as I said my goal was to move it beyond dutiful sex, as she never actually refused to have sex, just hardly ever seemed interested.

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