In my bad years, I had many excuses I would give my husband for why we couldn’t have sex that week/day/minute. I recognize now that they were excuses, but I had myself convinced that they were valid reasons.
The kids will hear us.
My sinuses are stuffed up and I can’t breathe.
You have a cold and I don’t want you to make me sick.
I had diarrhea yesterday and it’s just not a good idea to be anywhere near that area.
I still have my period (even though maybe there had been just one spot that morning).
I have so much to do tomorrow and need to be well rested.
I’m too tired.
I’m too angry.
I’m too hurt.
Of all of these, the last one was the actual root reason of all the excuses. It all boiled down to me feeling hurt about something–usually that I didn’t think my husband really cared about how I felt or that I mattered enough for him to share himself with me. I had never learned to communicate those feelings or what I needed in a good way. Then, by the time I started to figure out how to communicate, my husband had built up stock responses to use whenever I pulled out what he saw as “old business that I should be over by now.” When I tried to make myself emotionally vulnerable in a way that I needed in order to want to be close enough to him to have sex, his response of anger, annoyance, or dismissal just confirmed to me that being vulnerable with him was unsafe and not a good idea.
At the same time, the angry responses were the only times I felt he was emotionally real with me. There were many times he tried to have a Big Talk with me. I recognize now how vulnerable he was making himself when he shared with me the real effects of my refusal on his sense of himself as a man, his concerns about our marriage, his sheer frustration with my actions and words, and so on. There were times when I was glad to know he was hurting because I didn’t want to hurt alone. (My current self wants to go back and shake that woman. How could I have been glad to know any human was hurting, not to mention my husband? There is a small part of me that can still pull up that feeling inside me; it sickens and saddens me now.)
Ironically, those times when he was most vulnerable with me were the times that made me want to love him and make love with him. So we would have a good and mutual sexual experience–and the next day, he would have shut himself off from me again (to protect himself from my next rejection) and I would have my defenses and excuses ready (to protect myself from the next attempt at sex).
A few weeks ago, I mentioned to my husband how nice it’s been to feel emotionally connected to him lately without having an argument to get to that connection. He looked at me, stunned. “Is that why you used to pick fights when we were in bed, just so you could feel connected to me? Is that why I always had to go through a fight just to get lucky with my wife?” Um, yeah, I guess so. I hadn’t even realized what I’d said, but we both learned something about what we’d experienced all those years.”Why didn’t you ever tell me you needed me to talk about my feelings and stuff with you?” I hungered for connection, but I don’t remember if I ever even told him that I did..
All those years, I had needed his anger and frustration–not because I’d needed those emotions but because it was the only way I knew he was fully present with me. I craved that connection with him. Now that we’ve made this realization about how our truly mutual sexual experiences are built on full emotional vulnerability, we can both do better. He knows that opening himself to me is safe and that it will help me feel safe and loved. And when I find the old excuses seeping out sometimes, I know that I need to share with him my need to feel emotionally connected to him.
If you turn down your husband’s requests for sex–or for anything even remotely sexual, such as kissing in a certain way, undressing in front of him, or not flipping out when he grabs your breasts throughout the day–are you even aware of the reasons you give (out loud or in your head)? Which reasons are just excuses? And do you know what it is you truly hunger for?