The Enemy is a crafty one. He tempted Eve, twisting the truth and telling her lies. He wants to separate us from God.
He goes right for the core, seeking out our weak areas and offering temptations which will drive us away from God.
The one-flesh nature of marriage offers too great an opportunity for him to pass up. As intertwined as a husband and wife are, they are still two individuals. When Satan finds a way to drive a wedge into a marriage, he rejoices.
Sexual refusal is an especially sneaky approach to hurt marriage.
At first, we might not even recognize it for what it is.
Mine began when my kids were little and I was genuinely exhausted and touched out. It wasn’t refusal then—it was just trying to be able to function. As my husband responded in the ways he did, though, I learned that being able to exert a little control in my very out-of-control life helped me be able to function. My husband, wanting to keep the peace and recognizing my genuine need for sleep and recuperation, didn’t push. He didn’t want to upset me, so he suppressed his own needs thinking that this was loving me sacrificially.
For some of us (including me), sexual refusal grows on top of premarital sexual sin. Sexual activity reminded me of feeling bad about myself. It reminded me of feeling used. I wanted better for myself in marriage, and instead of thinking that I could work on my feelings, I let them drive me away from sex with my husband.
For some women, sexual refusal begins during childhood. They experience childhood sexual abuse. Their sexuality and sexual responses are entangled with difficult memories, conflicted feelings, and a loss of agency in their own lives. In marriage, wanting to be sexual can be overwhelmingly difficult, and the ability to make decisions about their sexual lives can soothe over some of the holes in their hearts. A loving husband wants to avoid adding pain to her life, and he may be dealing with his own anger toward his wife’s abuser. So he pulls back.
Other women develop sexual refusal or gate-keeping as a result of bad teaching or no teaching about sex. Premarital messages of “good girls don’t” stood alone without the necessary message “good wives do.” Experiencing physical pleasure is viewed as less spiritual or not appropriate for Christians. Bad teaching can also include what they observed about how men viewed women in their families. A loving husband may be completely unprepared for how to respond to this.
Some sexual refusal begins in response to a husband’s sins. He has an affair. She finds him masturbating to porn. He is verbally abusive. Her heart shatters and she doesn’t know how to allow herself to feel vulnerable enough to have sex with him. Out of his own guilt and penance, he doesn’t push.
For many of us, sexual refusal is planted in several of these fields, such as an exhausted mom who doesn’t know how to respond to her husband’s porn use or a woman whose premarital sexual sin colors her adult acceptance of Christ to come to a conclusion that her sexuality is ungodly.
The seed of sexual refusal has been sown, but it might be months or years before we are able to see that it has become a pattern and a problem—and by then, it has taken root.
Something started in one spouse, the other spouse responded, and then the first spouse responded to that.
A whole tangle of bad patterns, hurt feelings, and confusion grows to reside smack dab in the middle of the marriage bed.
And the Enemy does a happy dance.
This is the first of three posts about the Enemy of Marriage.
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