Women who become sexual gatekeepers or refusers don’t all walk the same path to get to that place. We all have our reasons. Although they may sound like excuses to others, they are the result of real feelings and issues in our lives. I would venture to say none of us end up on the refusing path as a result of joy. Once we’re on that path, not only do we still have the issue that landed us there in the first place, we also have the challenge of figuring out how to step off that path. The longer we’re on the path, the harder it is to leave.
As I read the journeys of wives who are striving to do better, to be better, I see common threads emerge of things that helped them move from the path of gatekeeping to the path of joy in marriage. If you are trying to figure out how to take that first step, you may find some encouragement in what has worked for other women.
Heal your past wounds. Whether it’s really heavy baggage from your childhood or less heavy stuff from another time in your life, do what is needed to let it go. If it’s slowing you down or keeping you from moving at all, heal it. Speak with a pastor. Work with a counselor who specializes in your brand of baggage. Ask your family and friends to pray for you to heal. The healing process can hurt, but the only way to the other side of the pain is to go right through it.
Get healthy. If you are ill or in pain, work with your doctor to develop a treatment plan. If gynecological problems are causing you pain or discomfort, work with your doctor to learn about your options and determine what is best for you. Be intentional about asking how treatment options (including the option of doing nothing) will affect your sexual response and sex life. Attend to your mental health as well. So many women have shared that their sexual transformations happened after getting on the right anti-depressants. That was the case for me. Getting my brain chemistry balanced allowed me to respond to other issues and to our relationship in a normal fashion. While anti-depressants didn’t change my life, they did make it possible for me to change it.
Let go of control. Have you heard the expression, “Let go and let God?” Maybe it isn’t easy, but let life be messy sometimes. Your marriage involves two people, not just you. Your needs are no more and no less important than your husband’s. And yes, sex is a need, not just a want. You aren’t in charge of the marriage. Give God a chance to work on both of you.
Live in your real life. You are married to the husband you have, not to the prince in the Disney movies from your childhood. Your husband is a child of God. He is human, and he’s going to mess up sometimes. Extend some grace, as you would have him extend grace to you when you mess up. Accept that your husband is different from you. Stop trying to mold him into a male version of you. Allow yourself to see the good and unique things in your husband and your marriage. The reality of a strong marriage is far better than I could have imagined it would be, even though it doesn’t match what I’d thought it would be.
Open your heart. Allow yourself to really hear your husband’s heart. If your husband says, “Your lack of desire for me makes me feel like less of a man,” let yourself feel his hurt. Imagine how you would feel if he never desired you, listened to you, did the things that you need to feel loved and nurtured. If you don’t love your husband, then who will? Do you truly want him to feel unloved, unable to experience even physical affection from the one person in this world he is allowed to share that with? Can you be the one to take the first step, suck it up, and do what he asks without thinking about whether he deserves it? Can you just do it because he’s another human and you have compassion for him, even if you can’t bring yourself to do it because he’s your husband and it’s what you vowed to do?
Embrace your sexuality. God created you to be a sexual being. Sex is good. Your sexual parts are beautiful. Your desire for your husband is holy. Let good words about sex drown out messages that tell you “sex is bad,” “good girls don’t,” “a Christian woman would never,” and the like. Sex is good. Good Christian wives do. Marriage is better when you celebrate your sexual self with your husband. No matter what you think of your body (‘cuz, you know, we women often have body image issues), learn to rock it. Get your sexy on and enjoy using the body God gave you for being sexual.
I have in my heart now the wives who are still like I was—sexual gatekeepers and refusers. It is a Saturday night, and over the past several hours I’ve heard from husbands and wives on both sides of refusal. The heavy heartache they all experience shows all too clearly that this path is one of sadness, not one of joy. It’s hard to change direction once you’re on a path. It’s hard to leave the familiar, even when we know it isn’t good. The first step of a journey is the hardest. Please, take the first step.
Peace be with you.
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