Do you and your husband feel stifled in your marriage?

As a child, I watched All in the Family with my parents. Of all the things that Archie Bunker said and did, the thing that bothered me most was when he would say, “Stifle it, Edith.”

Every time I heard Archie tell Edith to stifle, I tensed up, thinking how mean that was that he wouldn’t let his wife talk.

Although I like to think I’m fairly organized in my verbal communication, the reality is that in my personal life, I tend to meander through a story—partly because it helps me process what happened and partly to invite the listener in to the experience with me.

I tell stories like Edith Bunker does. Read More →

This blog exists for the support of Christian wives who have restricted the sexual activity in their marriages and want to change that. I write to help these women seek fulfilling intimacy in their marriages–for their own sake as much as for the sake of their husbands.

Non-Christian women, unmarried women, and Christian wives married to men in unrepentant sin against them may find some useful information on this blog and in this post–but most of what I say is not going to apply in their situations. Moreover, some of what I say may be very difficult to read as people process my words through the filter of their own hurt.

While I understand that this post has triggered strong reactions, it was never intended as an invitation to a debate. This blog exists for support and encouragement, not for confrontation.

I have allowed far too many comments here that I would not approve on any other post. I appreciate the strong feelings, and I know that while some women have come away from this feeling angry or oppressed, others have come away with new compassion.

If this is your first time seeing this post, I urge you to read the clarifications in blue, most of which were added to help new readers understand the context of a blog they may not have visited before. This is not, after all, a stand-alone post. It is part of a body of work that sometimes asks readers to consider their husbands’ views and quite often encourages them to grow in their own sexuality.

Every time the post is picked up and shared by a new site, it brings a new wave of comments, both positive and negative. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, but I’ve seen far too many personal attacks on me and on those who have different views.

I want to make a flippant “my blog, my rules” reminder and be done with it, but that doesn’t sit well with me.

I believe that the lack of sexual intimacy hurts marriages. It is important that people have conversations about sex, consent, rights, and promises in marriage. Despite my frustrations with the comment section on this post (and on other blogs that have written about this post), I have seen such conversations happen.

I know that this post has helped spur conversations in real marriages. It has given husbands words to use in describing their emotional pain. It has given wives an understanding of why masturbation just doesn’t cut it for their husbands. Marriages have begun to heal, and for that I am grateful.

Frankly, though, managing the moderation on this post has made me weary. Waking up this morning to a comment that begins by calling me an idiot was the last straw.

Therefore, I have decided to close the comments.

If you need to share with me how this post has affected you, you are welcome to email me. If you want to engage in genuine dialogue, I will likely respond to your email. If all you want to do is attack me, I likely won’t.

~Chris
June 3, 2015

flourish


6_things

Due to the comments on this post, I have attempted to clarify a few things. I have done so in blue font in order to be transparent about what I have added to the post. If you have not been to this blog before, you may not be aware of what this blog is about. The mission statement is available on the left side of the home page. For the convenience of anyone reading on a mobile device, here it is:

The mission of The Forgiven Wife is to encourage Christian wives as they break away from sexual refusing and gate-keeping. After 20 years of being a sexual gatekeeper and refuser, I have learned to dance with desire and enjoy the full intimacy that comes with passionate and joyful sex with my husband.

Please be kind in your comments. We can all respect the depth of feeling surrounding some of the issues discussed here. However, comments which are accusatory and disrespectful will not be approved. It is mean to heap hurt onto an already hurting person.

(There has been a question about when the clarifications in blue were added. This was done on September 11, 2014, to address issues raised in the comments. This note in red is being added on November 18, 2014, in response to an erroneous assumption about when and why the clarification was added.)

My refusing and gate-keeping developed over a period of years—but at no point during that time did I truly understand it was wrong.

Read More →

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. Read More →

Today we have a guest post from Addison Ray, who describes herself as having been “a generous gatekeeper.” She shares her story to encourage women who struggle with guilt in enjoying sex and understanding God’s design for sex in marriage.

When our guest author experienced a sexual awakening, she discovered that every area of her marriage had changed, too. Read More →

gate

Years ago, before I had any sexual experience, I tried to read Song of Solomon for the first time. I didn’t understand most of it, but I remember thinking that it surely couldn’t mean what I thought it did. All my adolescent brain saw was romance and sex. Surely that wouldn’t be in the Bible, would it?

“You are like a private garden, my treasure, my bride! You are like a spring that no one else can drink from, a fountain of my own.” Song of Solomon 4:12

Ah, the romance of knowing I was a private treasure, that a man didn’t want to share me, that I was loved enough to be called a treasure! Sigh. This had to be true love—except that I was pretty sure it couldn’t actually be about love and sex because it was in the Bible.

I often imagined myself standing in a private garden, soft white dress gracefully blowing in the wind along with my perfect hair. The garden was surrounded by a white picket fence, filled with wildflowers and a canopy bed in the middle. The man of my dreams stood outside the garden, professing his love to me along with his promise to treasure me. I opened the gate and invited him into my private garden. We would kiss. And then he would carry me to the bed. I had no idea what came next.

Rapunzel could choose whether to let down her hair so her love could climb into the tower to be with her. The Princess Bride would tell the farm boy to fetch her water. The Beast tamed his inner monster in order to capture the heart of Beauty. The man would win the woman’s heart by performing tasks that demonstrated his character, his strength, his kindness, or whatever it was the woman wanted to see.

I carried this image of true love well into my marriage. I saw myself still standing in my private garden. Each time my husband approached me for sex, I would choose whether or not to invite him in to lie with me amidst the wildflowers. I would open the gate to let him in, or not. I was keeper of the gate, and I decided whether or not to let him in.

Even more, since it was my garden, I decided what flowers grew there. I wanted roses, lilacs, daisies, and tulips. I didn’t like lilies or marigolds or petunias. I wanted red and pink and purple, only small dashes of yellow, and no orange.

The bed was just where I liked it, too, right in the middle of the garden. If my husband wanted to move it to the side where we could enjoy the breeze that would gently lift my hair, I would point out that it needed to be perfectly centered in order to ensure that we were where no one would possibly know what we were doing. Not only was our actual gardening hidden, the fact that we even had a garden had to be kept secret as well.

It seemed that my husband was always knocking at the gate, always wanting to come in. I would roll my eyes, wondering why he thought he needed to visit the garden—again. He’d just been in the garden the week before, and I’d finally gotten the flowers to look perfectly positioned so they would hide the bed again. But no, he wanted to come trample the garden again. Who did he think he was? It wasn’t like he was the one who pulled the weeds. Couldn’t he go chop wood or something?

So I would give in, letting him into the garden, figuring that he didn’t deserve to be actually invited, since it was his idea to visit in the first place. And soon, simply being in the garden wasn’t enough. He wanted me to trade in my soft white perfect dress for a red one that was sheer in all the wrong places. What was wrong with the man? Couldn’t he see that in my perfect private garden, everything was already the way I wanted it? Why did he have to come in and mess things up? And really, why did he have to try to visit so often? It was my garden, after all, and I was the keeper of the gate.

“Oh, my love, don’t you know that this is my garden, too? Your hair is so beautiful, blowing gently in the wind. It is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead. I want to enjoy the myrrh and incense. Your breasts are like two fawns, like twin fawns of a gazelle that browse among the lilies.”

Did he forget that I didn’t like lilies? And why was he always wanting to comment on the fawns?

“How much more pleasing is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your perfume more than any spice!”

Why is it always about “love” with you? Can’t you go chop some cedar trees or a grove of nut trees or something?

“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride.”

Didn’t you hear me? I’m the keeper of the gate! I’m supposed to be locked. It’s my job to keep you from spending all your time in the garden!

“Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine. Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies.”

Rounded? Are you saying I look fat in my perfect soft white dress? And a mound of wheat? I better cut back on carbs.

“I will climb up into the palm tree and take hold of its branches.”

Do you see anyone else climbing into palm trees in their gardens? And who said we could have a palm tree in our garden anyway? That’s just inappropriate.

“But I like palm trees,” he said. “I don’t want to climb it every time. I just want to know it’s there.”

The keeper of the gate, I granted his admission at my will. He signed a waiver indicating that he understood the rules of the garden as well as the consequences for violating the rules.

Like many keepers of the gate, I controlled entrance to the garden. My husband needed to earn his admission. He could enter only in certain conditions, and he couldn’t change anything once he was allowed in. Like the other keepers, my attitude was one of irritation rather than love. Instead of celebrating the fact that my beloved wanted to be in the garden with me, I chastised him for wanting to be there at all.

Alas, I was so focused on the gate that I didn’t notice that the paint on my picket fence was peeling, getting weathered, falling down. I panicked. I told him he needed to repair the fence. While he half-heartedly worked on the fence (from the outside, of course) because he still sought to win me, I took a look at the garden. The colors were fading. The reds, pinks, and purples had become muted versions of themselves. In the twilight, they lost all color at all.

I knew then that I had kept the gate at the expense of the garden. My husband had stopped hammering and painting and just sat, forlorn, on the other side of the fence. I opened the gate and went to step out—but I didn’t know how. In keeping the gate, I had trapped myself in the garden and forgotten how to step outside.

My beloved held out his hand and smiled again. He looked at me. “You have captivated my heart,” he said. “You are so beautiful, my beloved, so perfect in every part.” And for once, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t make a comment about which part I was sure he meant. I was struck by the knowledge that I had his heart. Why hadn’t I realized that before?

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me! When he knocked on the gate, I always thought he was after the fawns, or the myrrh, or the delicious pomegranate halves.

Without thinking about what I was doing, I took a step. I was outside the garden for the first time in years. “Come, my beloved, let us go to the countryside, let us spend the night in the villages. It isn’t that I want to be in the garden. I just want to be with you.” We can do that?

I glanced around at the world outside the gate. I saw that the colors outside were vibrant and lovely, with pleasing fragrance. I saw reds and purples and pinks—and even the oranges didn’t look so bad. I thought I might have even seen lilies. I didn’t mind. I took a deep breath. Come, my love, let us go out into the fields and spend the night among the wildflowers. He smiled.

We spent time in the fields and villages and vineyards, but we always returned to the garden. When I walked through the gate—with him this time, not granting him entrance from the inside—the colors burst forth in glory. And I knew we were where we belonged.

I knew…this wasn’t my garden alone. It was our garden, together. And I . . . I was my husband’s garden.

Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits. “I am here in my garden, my treasure, my bride! I gather my myrrh with my spices and eat my honeycomb with my honey. I drink my wine with my milk.”

I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.

My beloved has gone down to his garden, to the beds of spices, to browse in the gardens and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies. Song of Solomon 6:2-3

It turns out I kind of like lilies after all.

Image courtesy of Rosemary Ratcliff at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

gatekeeping_refusing

When it comes to being sexually ungenerous, some people make a distinction between gate-keeping and refusing. I often seem to use the terms interchangeably, and I’ve been asked why I do so.

Although I think there are differences between gate-keeping and refusing, I describe my past wifely behavior as gatekeeping/refusing. I’ve done both. There were times of outright refusal (“you’ve got to be kidding me”) and times of gatekeeping (“not until the kids are gone/my stomach settles down/aren’t you done yet/no way am I doing that/keep your mouth up here, buddy/not with the light on/I agreed to Fridays and it’s only Wednesday”).

There would be long stretches of time when gate-keeping was more predominant, and a few shorter stretches that were mostly (but not completely) refusing. Mostly, my husband didn’t know what he was going to get. And just to really confuse things and keep the control in my hands, every now and then I’d choose to let go and enjoy the experience in unpredictable ways that made him yearn for more.

In my experience, the differences between gate-keeping and refusing are in degree more than in kind. Both kinds of behaviors involve one spouse controlling the marriage bed. Both stem from selfishness, with an inability to see from the other spouse’s point of view and/or unwillingness to step outside one’s own comfort zone and point of view. (That said, I do know that there are many different reasons and experiences that lead to this selfishness. Edited to add: To say that it is selfish is not necessarily negative. Sometimes selfishness is a matter of self-protection from discomfort or pain.) I know that in many marriages, the predominant response to sexual initiation is either gate-keeping or refusing. If I had to choose which one would define my lack of sexual generosity, I honestly don’t know which one would be more accurate.

For me, they were fruits of the same rotting tree of intimacy in my heart. This rottenness manifested itself sexually, sometimes by outright “no” and sometimes by being restrictive about what sexual acts would be allowed or when. My thoughts and feelings during both were exactly the same. When my husband tried to initiate a sexual encounter, I didn’t always know what the outcome would be any more than he did. I did, however, know what would be going through my mind and heart, and that was always the same regardless of the outcome.

Not only was my heart the same with both gate-keeping and refusing, the effect on my husband was pretty much the same. Both made him feel undesired, unloved and unlovable, and sexually restricted. One allowed him physical release, but it was usually at an emotional expense to him.

For us, gate-keeping and refusing were on the same continuum. They were both about me controlling our marriage bed.

I’d love to hear from you. Is there gate-keeping and/or refusing in your marriage? Does it matter to you whether there’s a true difference between the two?

Image adapted from morguefile.com