Forgiveness is mine.
My sexual attitude and behavior hurt my husband for a long time. Although I deeply regret that, the guilt no longer weighs me down. The memories, however, are a different story.
A Husband’s Sorrow
My heart is heavy. Today I have been reminded of the deep pain and loneliness of refusal. In various blogs, posts on message forums, and email messages, I have read eloquent words that have given voice to the sorrow of a husband who suffers when his wife restricts their shared sex life.
Their voices evoke the voice of my husband, so many times over so many years. I am a compassionate person, but I am completely baffled as to why I was so blind and hard-hearted when it came to my own husband.
I spend a lot of time here talking about the pain that refused husbands feel, and for good reason. It was when I first began to hear the voices of refused husbands that I began to truly listen. Those voices were what began to soften my heart. I don’t think wives fully understand what sex truly is to a man. I know I don’t, although I am closer than I used to be.
My refusing and gate-keeping were the sinful acts of a sinful and selfish heart. I was wrong to do as I did. I know I hurt my husband. My husband has a sad story to tell, just as do the men whose stories I read today.
The Refusing Wife
Refusing wives have sad stories, too. My husband and I used to have horrible fights about sex. We spiraled around each other, each of us hurting and vulnerable. Fighting and raised voices create such anxiety in me, and having these arguments about a part of life where I felt vulnerable was just too much.
I haven’t forgotten the pain and loneliness of refusal that I experienced. I haven’t forgotten how it feels to be the wife who has too much to do and too little time. My shoulders can still feel the constant burden of knowing my husband thought I wasn’t good enough. I would hear the word “intimacy” and know that he wanted to talk about not getting enough sex. He would say he wanted to talk about our marriage, and it was about how I wasn’t fulfilling my sexual duty. I was never good enough. And the times when I would try to make an effort to be more available sexually, I would still hear, “I just wish you would do x more.” Even when I mustered up all the courage that I had, it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.
Those years were lonely for me, just as they were for my husband. I had no one to talk to about this. At work some of us would joke around about our husbands being horndogs—only no one ever talked about how to respond. No one ever said, “That’s how men are, and the best thing to do is grab on and enjoy the ride.” No one asked, “What are you going to do about it?” I was lonely, and I couldn’t talk to my best friend about it because he was the one causing my pain. I certainly couldn’t talk to my pastor because he was a man so would be biased in my husband’s favor. Plus, really, did I want to talk to my pastor about my sex life? Ew.
Finding online support was impossible. Now, to be honest, a wife who isn’t interested in more sex is unlikely to be looking only for support and encouragement in that area. I did occasionally look for information about how to get my husband to stop bugging me about sex. Still, I found nothing.
I believed, deep in my heart, that I was broken. I saw all my failures as a wife and mother. I knew intellectually that I was supposed to provide sex for my husband. So what was wrong with me that I couldn’t do it? Why was it so hard for me to just switch gears and turn from harried mama getting three kids through bathtime into sensuous seductress who shared all her charms with her husband? I didn’t have any charms, anyway. I was tired and frumpy and felt unbeautiful and all I could see was what I wasn’t doing enough of in every single area of my life.
Why couldn’t my husband love me, unconditionally, without any having to ruin it with sex?
Sometimes I thought that I was the only one in our marriage standing up for being righteous. He wanted to have sex, and I was trying to make sure we lived appropriate lives and did the things we were supposed to do. We went to church, we prayed before meals, we played with the kids, we took kids to soccer games and scouts. We were supposed to live a certain way, and it seemed that I was the only one trying to make sure we did that. He was always groping or pleading.
I hated nighttime because I knew what would happen. My husband would look at me, sigh, and say, “I suppose nothing’s going to happen tonight.” And I would say, “Well, I thought there might be, but the way you just asked didn’t exactly do anything for me.”
Why couldn’t my husband just hold me? Why were there all these expectations of me? When would I get to be comforted and held and loved? Why was I always the one to give, give, give? If I went to bed before my husband, I would feign sleep when he got to bed. If he went to bed first, I would find a project that I just had to get done. I got creative at avoiding sex.
Meanwhile, he got creative at asking for sex or wanting to have conversations about our sex life. He would speak in euphemisms in front of the kids where I couldn’t respond. He would twist my words so it sounded like I was contradicting myself. He would phrase things in a way that I was forced to say the word “no,” just so I would be made to feel like I was in the wrong.
Our Sad Stories
Reading the posts and messages from some eloquent men today has reminded me of what convicted me to begin this journey in the first place. Their pain takes me back to what I encountered on the day I began to change.
It has also reminded me of my own pain. I’m reading sad writing from sad men—and I find myself in tears, praying not for them but for the hearts of their wives who feel just as lonely and just as heart broken. Every time my husband felt sexually rejected, I felt emotionally rejected. His sexual expectations of me were fulfilled as much as my emotional expectations of him.
I remember how many nights I cried myself to sleep, knowing something was wrong and having no idea how to fix it. I know I caused my husband deep sorrow; my sorrow was just as deep.
It is easy now to see my selfishness and immaturity during those years. I clearly see how much I hurt my husband. I no longer think what I thought or feel what I felt.
Within my heart, I carry those memories of how it felt to be a refusing and gate-keeping wife.
I sinned. My husband sinned. We were two sinners lost and alone in a marriage to each other.
Today I have been reminded of the deep pain and loneliness of refusal–not just my husband’s but mine.
My husband is out very late with our son right now, waiting for a tow truck so my son’s two flat tires can be replaced tomorrow. I am in bed, alone, remembering how it felt to know that my husband was in the room right below me, sipping his whiskey and trying to settle himself enough to be able to climb into bed with the woman he loved who wouldn’t love him back. Two hearts, wanting the same thing, carrying their own sorrow, drifting alone in a marriage. I had no idea that the path to my own healing was to aid in my husband’s healing.
My prayers for the next few days are for wives who are seeking the hearts of their husbands as they work on their own healing as well.
How can I pray for you?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net