Refinement and Focus

Grow deeper, not bigger.

In the spring of 2013 when I began The Forgiven Wife, I had a clear sense of the blog’s mission. It took me a while to find my blogging feet and figure out how this mission would look in practice, but the mission has stayed consistent.

For several months now, I have been praying about the ministry that happens here. I have sought the counsel of pastors, sister bloggers, and the women in my prayer group. I’ve read through emails I’ve received since the blog’s inception. I’ve spent a lot of time with God.

I have often thought of this as a place for women who are at any point along the journey of making changes in sexual intimacy, whether they were just getting started or they were further along than I am. We are all sister travelers and can encourage each other.

However, it has become clear to me that the ministry here is primarily for women who are very early in the journey—perhaps at the very beginning, taking those first tentative steps. These women might be timid, or resistant to the idea of change, or afraid of how far down the road they’ll have to go if they take that first step.

This isn’t a change to the mission, but it’s enough of a refinement and re-focusing that I’ve needed to re-evaluate the site’s content, shape, tone, and presentation.

Women who are further along in the journey will still find encouragement and support in the process here (and they can support others), but they can also find what they need elsewhere as they get comfortable reading blogs that assume a greater level of comfort with sex and sexuality. However, there aren’t as many places for women who are just beginning the journey toward healthy sexual intimacy.

This site needs to be a safe and comfortable place for these women—a place of welcome, kindness, and understanding. It needs to be a place that does not add anxiety or fear beyond what God’s truth requires.

So, I’m making a few changes. Some things I’m still in the process of figuring out, while others have already taken place. I think the changes will largely be invisible to most of you.

Sexual Refusal I am looking for other words to describe what I’ve often called refusal. When I say refusal, I am referring to a pattern of saying no to sex, with a no more frequent than a yes and a marriage that is largely deprived of sex. I think it’s a useful word and works well in many respects. However, it’s never sat completely comfortably with me, and it comes with baggage.

Sexual refusal is used to refer to a woman’s right to say no to sex. It is a teaching point with college students in developing skills for sexual refusal. When I say sexual refusal is wrong, meaning that it is wrong to say no so much that the marriage is deprived of sex, anyone who is familiar with the other use of the term might think I am saying that it is always wrong to say no. That is not what I am saying at all.

In an effort to be clear for those for whom sexual refusal means something so different from what I intend, I will be working my way through other words until I find the right fit. This means a bit of a tweak to my mission statement. I don’t intend to go back and change previous posts, but from here on, I hope to be using other words to refer to a pattern of sexual deprivation. (See? I’m trying out new words and phrases already.)

Kinder and Gentler At times, sharing God’s truth about sexual intimacy means that I am saying things that are hard for women to read. I will do my best to say these things as gently as I can, to make them less overwhelming, frightening, or irritating to women who are still trying to understand what this journey is. I haven’t shied from this truth in the past, and I won’t now—but I will be more intentional about remembering what it is like to try to absorb that truth into a heart and mind that is still full of untruth, hurt, and habits that need to be unlearned. Sometimes I’ve done this fairly well, but I know that other times I have hit a little hard.

God’s truth should never be softened. However, if it is delivered in a way that is rejected, it will be less likely to reach into a heart that has walls built around it. In my real life, a gentler approach in delivering difficult truths is most natural and where God has given me strength. It doesn’t need to be any different here.

Edge and Spice, Oh My! In order to make the entire site have a safer feel for it, a few of the edgier posts have been removed. I also have some posts that are a bit spicier than my general fare. These posts will stay. However, some of them may seem a bit overwhelming to women who are visiting for the first time and trying to get a sense of what this site offers to them. Therefore, while these spicier posts will remain, they will be converted into pages that will be found only by going to Resources in the menu and then navigating to Help for Your Journey and Spicy Extras. They will be accessible only through one “door” or through a direct link. I want to be sure that women who land on those pieces do so on purpose, because they are ready. Otherwise, browsing through the blog archives one post at a time might land a new reader somewhere she isn’t prepared for. The idea is to invite, not repel.

Men, Men, Men I will become more discriminating about how I approve comments by men. The ministry here is for women—not for men. I have often approved comments from men who have suffered sexual deprivation. I believe that their voices contribute much to a sexually reluctant wife’s understanding of what her husband has experienced. When men in pain respond to a post that hits close to home, their bone-deep anguish is palpable. It is difficult to let those comments stand without any attempt at support for them—yet providing that support and encouragement can distract from the intended ministry. I am not to minister to men here—so I won’t. Sorry, guys. If you have something to say that will help women starting their journeys understand and feel encouraged, share it. If you are posting in your own pain, then know that your comment likely won’t be approved.

For the most part, these are subtle changes that are more refinement than change. Some of it feels like a natural and easy step for me. Some of it, though, has been difficult for me. Some of the posts that were removed served an important purpose and represent other people’s hard work. It was so hard to get in touch with those writers to let them know that their guest posts didn’t fit with what I now know I need to do here.

I have also struggled  with what to do about comments from men. Understanding the emotional effects of a pattern of no sex on men was the single thing that changed me from a no-sayer to a woman who wanted to learn how to say yes. I know those comments here can serve a purpose. However, God has shown me very clearly that I am not to minister to men. I don’t like it, but  since making this decision, I have already been able to see God’s wisdom.

Focusing more means that some of the things I had looked forward to writing about simply don’t belong. Refinement isn’t always a comfortable thing. I had plans for expanding what happens here—but God has shown me that rather than add to what is happening, I need to look more closely at the core of the mission here

It is time to grow deeper rather than bigger.

Image courtesy of mapichai at

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10 Comments on “Refinement and Focus”

  1. Chris, I totally understand and agree with the refocus of your mission. Knowing that my comment likely will not be published, I just wanted to thank you for your time and energy in this blog, which has been a blessing to my wife and to me. Although my wife has never been engaged in “sexual refusal,” there is no question that she has made progress in terms of her openness to her own sexual enjoyment through your blog. Thank you for your time and God-inspired messaging.

  2. I love when God gives us such discernment. I’m excited about the refining of this site. 🙂 For me the “refuser” title was the breaking point. It is a harsh term, that I agree has different meanings in our sexual culture, but it was what I needed to hear. Deprivation is also accurate. Habitual No is also appropriate, as many of us had just developed the bad habit of having or creating an excuse to refuse. Withholding also has weight. I’m looking forward to the continued encouragement here! Thanks for listening to the Lord.

    1. I find that I still have a negative reaction to the word “refuser.” It always seemed to me that it was a label that focused on my husband’s suffering while ignoring my own heart hurt. Its harshness is part of what can be convicting, but I would rather coax women out of refusal/deprivation/withholding/restricting/controlling/rejection (wow, this is going to be hard!) by focusing on their own healing rather than by being harsh.

  3. I am excited about the new focus of your site. My guy and I lead the Couples Ministry of our church, and look for resources to give to couples in crisis, as well as those who are seeking to improve their marriages. In the kinder and gentler vein, I noticed you used the word reluctant in your post, have you considered that term in place of refusal? My stance is that often women aren’t consciously aware, it’s not viewed as an outright refusal by them, even though it very well may be. Looking forward to your continued insight!

    1. I’ve been considering lots of replacement terms. I’m not sure there’s a one-size-fits-all term that will work, though. For a sexually deprived husband, pattern of no is experienced as refusal no matter what the reason. For the woman, though, it’s a bit more complex. There are women who outright refuse as part of a power dynamic. There were times when that was part of my thinking. For so many of us, though, there are pieces of emotional self-protection, a misunderstanding of how men experience sexual intimacy, sex-negative teaching, and bad experiences before marriage that all work together. It isn’t refusal as much as it is an inability to engage in healthy sexuality. It may be that I end up using a variety of words.

  4. Amazingly, we deal with this same type of “refinement and focus” often in our own line of work. 🙂 When there’s so few of the kind of “resources” you/we provide, it’s important to keep the focus to exactly what God has called you to do…and then be okay when others move on because they “want/need” more.

    I am like Jeannette who the “harsh” term of refuser is probably what I needed. Some people don’t handle “coaxing” or “softer” approaches well. I wonder if there’s a difference here between “feelers” or more emotional people versus not so much? I don’t even know if the term “deprivation” would have really fazed me. But, all of that doesn’t really matter as long as you are doing as God leads you. The Holy Spirit is the convict’er, not people or their words.

    1. That’s exactly why I am not getting rid of the older posts that use the word. It’s still there to convict those who find it. Maybe it is a thinking vs. feeling thing, though. I’ll likely still use the word at times (sometimes intentionally and other times because I’ll forget that I’m trying to use other words), but I will be expanding my vocabulary a bit.

  5. Hi Chris,

    I follow your blog, here in the Netherlands. Very encouraging, I feel Gods heart in your approach, He knows our pain. We will grow in freedom if we are driven by His love, rather than our feeling of guilt .

    (Maybe it is also due to cultural differences that I prefer your approach to the traditional American right/wrong approach.)
    God bless you and your ministry!


    1. Thank you so much for your comments. Although I think that guilt can serve a purpose in motivating people to do something, it isn’t what I need to be doing here.

      I don’t care much for the right/wrong approach much, either.

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