Over a period of time when we were dealing with depression (mostly mine), a difficult relocation, arguments about finding the right church, the physical and emotional demands of raising children, etc., I had become a refusing/gatekeeping wife. We were having sex just once or twice most months, and it was something I tolerated and rarely participated in.
I realize now that the real issue was not in the bedroom but in the marriage. I am a very emotionally responsive person, and the refusal started at a time when I felt that my husband was less available to me emotionally. Even before that, however, I had resisted real emotional intimacy for our entire relationship. I had never completely dropped the barrier that protected my heart from hurt. Ten years into our marriage, we relocated for my husband’s job. Adjusting to our new home and my new version of life was much harder than I expected. I needed my husband emotionally more than I had at any other time. He was trying to navigate a new job and felt guilty about having relocated us and indirectly causing the problems we were having–so he wouldn’t let me talk about what I really needed to. It was too hard for him.
The refusal became full blown a few years later, when there were administrative changes at his job. He feared losing his job so resigned and took another job elsewhere. I had placed a lot of trust in him by moving, and leaving the job for which we’d move yanked that trust out from under me.
The problem was never my desire for sex; it was desire for my husband as a whole person that was the problem. I hated sex because I was so angry at him for betraying my trust and for abandoning me emotionally when I needed him so much. I avoided sex by staying up late, starting arguments (which occasionally led to sex, because it was the most emotionally connected I ever felt to him), and being as unresponsive as I could most of the time. Sometimes I fantasized about my husband being a different kind of man than he was. I wished he would have an affair. I wished he would have a heart attack and die. I was that angry. Truly, that is where I was–not every moment of every day, but enough that it is how I remember that time.
My poor husband didn’t know what to do. He tried so much, and nothing worked to change me. I dreaded bedtime because it was so full of discord. He kept begging me to change, and I just figured that since he was the one who had a problem, he was the one who needed to change. I prayed that he would come to his senses and leave me alone.My husband had begun to pray for acceptance of the marriage he had, and maybe that was the thing that began to soften my heart. He stopped pressuring me, and I was seeing sadness rather than anger. It was a lot easier to deal with anger, because then I could justify being angry back. But I had nothing to combat the sadness.
Several years ago, my husband’s career fell victim to a tanking economy, and he began life on the unemployment carousel. It was hard to see him, depressed, feeling less than a man because he couldn’t support his family.
My prayers began to change—I started to pray for me to find a no-cost way of helping him.The beginning of my journey was genuinely selfish. I was tired of living with a depressed man who didn’t even have any energy to do chores around the house. Thinking about adjusting my sexual behavior wasn’t about making permanent change, it was about making my own life more pleasant.
And then I began a journey that has saved my marriage.
Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net