Today is the second of three posts from Janna Allen (a pseudonym) in which she opens her life to us to share how the journey has looked in her life. I am thrilled to be able to share Janna’s story with you.
Yesterday, Janna introduced us to both her journey away from refusal and to her marriage. In this post, she tells us about the dark years of gate-keeping and refusing in her marriage. In her final post, she shows us how much has changed—in her and in her marriage—in the past year.
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Though our parents were still married, we loved Jesus, and we loved each other, we were two young kids trying to figure things out on our own. There were no mentors in our lives, no one for us to confide in, and we really didn’t have any examples before us of what a Godly marriage really was.
STARTING OUT AS A GATE-KEEPER
Looking back at my marriage I realize that I started out as a gate-keeper. Here are some of the reasons I could think of with “why”:
- I just didn’t know better. I was never taught what the marriage bed should look like. I also did not have a picture of a healthy, balanced marriage.
- I had baggage from my childhood, and I had Daddy issues. [This post relates to this issue.]
- My natural personality is that I’m a “lion.” A “lion” is described with words like: likes authority, takes charge, determined, confident, competitive, bold, decision maker, strong willed, independent, controlling, persistent.
- I carried guilt from pre-marital sexual activity, although we were both technically virgins when we married. (I had many of the same thoughts and feelings expressed in this post.)
- I had all of those “self” sins: selfish, self-centered, self-righteous, etc.
- I felt justified in my actions. He wasn’t “earning” my respect by his own unrespectable and sinful behaviors. Some of the issues were his own childhood baggage, porn use, sexual addictive behavior, workaholic, neglect of the family, placing others and “work” at a higher priority over me and family, lies and deception, bad time management (constantly late), and he was extremely passive. He avoided confrontation, wanted peace at all cost, had a definite “fear of man,” and lived to please people.
Really to sum it all up, I like to say I looked through my “I-lens.” I was always focused on myself, and when I looked at the world, at my husband’s feelings, and everything going on around me, I was filtering all that information through my “I-lens.” What “I” felt was the compass which I measured all others’ feelings and words. If “I” didn’t find something necessary, it wasn’t necessary. If ‘I’ only needed sex once a week, once a month, once a year… that’s all that was needed. If “I” didn’t want to do something or try something new, then we didn’t do it. If “I” could automatically stop looking at something, he should be able to stop looking too. If “I” wasn’t feeling loved, then he wasn’t really loving me. If “I” was tired, if “I” was stressed, if “I” was angry, if “I” was not “in the mood”, then it was his job to readjust to what was going on with me.
GATE-KEEPER TURNED REFUSER
I can remember very clearly the incident that turned me into a “refuser.” It was somewhere in the third year of our marriage. I had gained some weight after getting married. I blamed it on the hormonal birth control I took the first year of our marriage, which Jay wanted me on, but I didn’t really want to take it. Therefore, it was convenient to also blame him for my weight gain.
One night, I had asked him if he still found me attractive, and he was silent. I interpreted that silence as a resounding “NO!” I vowed to him that he would never see me naked again. I went into the bathroom, got in the shower, and let the angry, hurt tears come. When I left that bathroom there was a fortress built around me that was impenetrable.
Here’s the kicker: Jay doesn’t even remember that incident! He has no recollection of it. How many husbands are out there in the dark and unaware of something they’ve done, while the wife is still carrying that hurt around and has made some negative changes in their marriage, whether it’s as monumental as my choice or something a little more subtle, because of an unintentional, misunderstood, or miscommunicated thought or action?
For the next eight years, the main reason for any sex was for the purpose of conceiving (we had four children), with the occasional “bonus for him” thrown in. Yes, he on a rare occasion saw a naked body, but true nakedness where one is vulnerable and the heart and soul are also exposed with the body, he never saw.
In those “dark years”:
- I would have been fine with never having sex again.
- According to my husband, the longest we had gone with no sex was a year, and after having it, it could be months in between having it again.
- I wished my husband would commit adultery so that I could “biblically” get out of the marriage.
- In response from feeling neglected at home because of his work (ministry), I would say, “The kids and I don’t need you.”
- He looked at me, on multiple occasions, and said, “I would still choose you and marry you again.” My response was SILENCE. Everything in my flesh would NOT have chosen him again—except I knew in my spirit that I had prayed about whom to marry and God made it clear to both of us, so I knew I would have married him again to be obedient to what God led us to do.
- If he would have given me an ultimatum to “straighten up” or he would leave, I would have responded with something like, “Don’t let the door hit ya, where the good Lord split ya.”
REFUSER BACK TO GATE-KEEPER
After my fourth child, I had some medical issues. I believed I was dying and I was ready to bargain with God. If He would let me live, I would have sex with my husband. (I know, pathetic.) Whether this was true or not, I also believed that God had big plans to use Jay for His Kingdom and if I, his wife, couldn’t get on board and support him, God would take me out of the picture. I do not believe God was taking part of that bargain, but I was no longer a refuser but a gate-keeper again.
Jay was beside me during these months of medical issues like he had never been beside me before. He became an anchor for me when my world was spinning out of control. He stood in the gap for me when anxiety and panic were consuming my mind. There was a huge crack in that fortress that had been constructed eight years earlier. My heart was turning back towards my husband.
Over the next seven years, there were some major changes in our lives; things were steadily getting better in our marriage, with some dips here and there. I was being refined and becoming who I am meant to be in Him; through Bible studies, different books, messages, and accountability, I was continuing to grow, to be convicted in different areas of my life, old hurts and wounds were being revealed and I was inviting Jesus in to heal those wounds only He could heal. During some of this time it was a low time in our marriage because I had withdrawn into myself as I was working through this deep stuff between God and me. Jay was only seeing a silent, irritable, and often times, angry wife.
Right about the same time, 2 ½ years ago, we both were ready to really work on our marriage. We worked through a book** that dug deep. It took us through all of the ugly we went through in our marriage, the baggage we carried in from our parents, and the sins we committed to each other. It led to repenting and forgiving. We were starting with a clean slate—17 ½ years into our marriage.
Then one year later…
God orchestrated in His perfect timing, for me to see just the right link, to just the right blog, to just the right posts so that the Spirit would convict me of the sin I had been doing for years but was unaware of.
**I Don’t Want a Divorce: A 90 Day Guide to Saving Your Marriage (affiliate link) by Dr. David Clarke
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Who is Janna? “We will be celebrating our 20th anniversary at the end of summer. I love being a mother and we are raising our kids to love Jesus and love others, and hopefully they now have a model of what a Godly marriage is like as they witness what a man and woman look like when they are in love! We have devoted our lives to sharing the transforming and redeeming love of Jesus Christ to the broken lives (which is everyone) around us.”
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net