Over the past few days, I’ve been blessed and honored by messages from people who have stopped by this blog. They have opened their hearts, sharing the pain of sexual refusal from both sides, affairs, libido challenges, and the fear of sliding into bad sexual habits. I’ve heard from husbands and wives, those who still cling to hope for their marriages and those who have pretty much given up.
In all these messages, several things have stood out:
The need for hope. We all have times when things seem dark. We know we are sad, or hurt, or worried. It’s clear that if things keep going the way they are, nothing will ever get better. We need just a glimmer of hope, something that lets us know that even though life is dark, change is actually possible. We know there is hope in Jesus, but in the dark of the night when we crave connection and want to be known intimately by another human, we wonder why that isn’t enough for the aching to go away.
The longing to be understood. Many women have said how relieved they are that they aren’t alone in their feelings and struggles. Acceptance that something needs to change does not infuse us with the knowledge of how to do so. When we know that we aren’t alone in a struggle, it can be easier to keep trying. It is powerful to read someone else’s story and have it resonate with us, striking a chord of connection and a chorus of “me, too.” Someone really gets it. Someone gets me. And if she can do it, maybe I can at least try.
The deep hurt from feelings of sexual or emotional rejection. When I read online postings from men about their wives’ refusing, I ache for them. My husband used to feel emasculated, unloved, and unworthy when I refused him, and I see these same things in other men’s words. Their wives are often just as miserable, with hearts that hurt just as deeply. In some cases (such as mine), this hurt was what precipitated the cycle of refusal. In other cases, the hurt is a result from a husband’s emotional withdrawal from a wife whose refusal causes him to feel unloved. When there is tension in the marriage bed, no one is happy. When I would cave and have sex with my husband, I would think, “Well, that should make him happy.” It didn’t. A physical release didn’t meet the emotional need that mutual sex addresses. When I would refuse him, he would think, “Well, at least she can be happy.” I wasn’t. I was tense, feeling guilty and wondering why my own husband didn’t love me more.
God made us to be in community with each other, yet so many of us struggle alone, not knowing who will understand us or whether hope is even possible. So we keep the struggle to ourselves instead of sharing the very real human journey of feeling broken and trying to do better and be better. And with sexual gatekeeping and refusing, the one person we should be able to rely on most in dealing with our problems (a spouse) is the person we are least likely to trust with our pain.
The internet has made it easy for us to share our struggles. It’s a lot easier to admit a sin or pain when we don’t have to look someone in the eyes. But sometimes, that is exactly what we need—a real human, sitting next to us, asking us probing questions when needed, holding us as we cry, handing us tissue as we try to pull ourselves together, and listening, understanding, giving us hope that there can be a change, that there can be a light, that we can reach that light, that we don’t have to struggle alone.