This blog exists for the support of Christian wives who have restricted the sexual activity in their marriages and want to change that. I write to help these women seek fulfilling intimacy in their marriages–for their own sake as much as for the sake of their husbands.
Non-Christian women, unmarried women, and Christian wives married to men in unrepentant sin against them may find some useful information on this blog and in this post–but most of what I say is not going to apply in their situations. Moreover, some of what I say may be very difficult to read as people process my words through the filter of their own hurt.
While I understand that this post has triggered strong reactions, it was never intended as an invitation to a debate. This blog exists for support and encouragement, not for confrontation.
I have allowed far too many comments here that I would not approve on any other post. I appreciate the strong feelings, and I know that while some women have come away from this feeling angry or oppressed, others have come away with new compassion.
If this is your first time seeing this post, I urge you to read the clarifications in blue, most of which were added to help new readers understand the context of a blog they may not have visited before. This is not, after all, a stand-alone post. It is part of a body of work that sometimes asks readers to consider their husbands’ views and quite often encourages them to grow in their own sexuality.
Every time the post is picked up and shared by a new site, it brings a new wave of comments, both positive and negative. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, but I’ve seen far too many personal attacks on me and on those who have different views.
I want to make a flippant “my blog, my rules” reminder and be done with it, but that doesn’t sit well with me.
I believe that the lack of sexual intimacy hurts marriages. It is important that people have conversations about sex, consent, rights, and promises in marriage. Despite my frustrations with the comment section on this post (and on other blogs that have written about this post), I have seen such conversations happen.
I know that this post has helped spur conversations in real marriages. It has given husbands words to use in describing their emotional pain. It has given wives an understanding of why masturbation just doesn’t cut it for their husbands. Marriages have begun to heal, and for that I am grateful.
Frankly, though, managing the moderation on this post has made me weary. Waking up this morning to a comment that begins by calling me an idiot was the last straw.
Therefore, I have decided to close the comments.
If you need to share with me how this post has affected you, you are welcome to email me. If you want to engage in genuine dialogue, I will likely respond to your email. If all you want to do is attack me, I likely won’t.
June 3, 2015
Due to the comments on this post, I have attempted to clarify a few things. I have done so in blue font in order to be transparent about what I have added to the post. If you have not been to this blog before, you may not be aware of what this blog is about. The mission statement is available on the left side of the home page. For the convenience of anyone reading on a mobile device, here it is:
The mission of The Forgiven Wife is to encourage Christian wives as they break away from sexual refusing and gate-keeping. After 20 years of being a sexual gatekeeper and refuser, I have learned to dance with desire and enjoy the full intimacy that comes with passionate and joyful sex with my husband.
Please be kind in your comments. We can all respect the depth of feeling surrounding some of the issues discussed here. However, comments which are accusatory and disrespectful will not be approved. It is mean to heap hurt onto an already hurting person.
(There has been a question about when the clarifications in blue were added. This was done on September 11, 2014, to address issues raised in the comments. This note in red is being added on November 18, 2014, in response to an erroneous assumption about when and why the clarification was added.)
My refusing and gate-keeping developed over a period of years—but at no point during that time did I truly understand it was wrong.
My husband shared his hurt with me, and I thought he was trying to manipulate my emotions so he could get sex. Sometimes, I could see that he was hurting—but to me, the solution was in his control. I thought he should do the things that I asked to help me feel emotionally connected. I thought he should stop wanting sex so much. I had no clue I was wrong, and I didn’t truly believe my husband was hurting from my actions.
I’d like to share six things I’ve learned about how men experience sexual refusal. While these are generalizations (and in some marriages, it is the wife who is the recipient of sexual refusal), they do apply to quite a few men. Is your husband one of them?
Please note: As I originally stated in the paragraph above, these are generalizations. This post is about marriages in which both spouses are generally good-willed toward each other. I am writing about how husbands feel, not about what wives should do.
Know, too, that this post addresses marriages with a long-term pattern of a wife saying “no” to a generally good-willed husband. No husband should expect his wife to be available 24/7. Likewise, a husband should expect to be able to have sex. Husbands who go for weeks, months, years, even decades without sex or with only sex in which she is disengaged hurt. Do not read into this that a wife can never say “no” and that she has to do whatever her husband requests in bed.
There are generalizations here. These six items are the common threads I have seen in messages from refused husbands. The boldfaced language is quoted directly from these messages.
- Sexuality is inherent to a man’s sense of self. Therefore, he experiences a sexual rejection as a rejection of him. A man who has to accomplish tasks (whether those are household chores or giving his wife a foot rub in order to get her relaxed enough to even think about sex) in order to have sex is being told he isn’t good enough. (Let me try to clarify this: I am not talking about a foot rub that is part of foreplay. I am talking about a man whose wife won’t even entertain the possibility of sex until her husband goes through a checklist of tasks before she lets herself think about whether or not she will agree to sex. I would sometimes think that my husband had to earn the right for me to even consider whether or not to have sex with him. I was being selfish. Replace “footrub” with “a cup of tea.” and you’ll have a better idea what I was getting at. I occasionally would ask my husband to perform personal tasks for me, and until they were done, I wouldn’t even think about whether I might be interested in having sex.)
- Men are designed to want sex frequently, and they are designed to seek adventure. This mean that they are designed to want new and exciting versions of sex with their wives. This is not a result of animalistic urges, nor is it a reflection of the world we live in or any other sexual experience or images your husband may have encountered. God made your husband this way. It is not wrong. It is not perverted. Your husband’s sexuality is godly. Sexual desire in general is godly. That doesn’t mean that specific sexual desires are all godly.
- Men best receive love through sex. Sex is the one big thing that releases the bonding hormone oxytocin. (Read more in Why Sex? at Pearl’s OysterBed.) What does this mean?
- Without the activity that communicates loves to him, the words “I love you” are empty to him. You can tell him you love him every hour of every day—but if you aren’t being sexual with him, he won’t believe your words.
- NOTHING matches sex. You can love your husband in every other way possible. You can cook his meals, pack his lunch, mend his shirts, clean his house, and entertain his friends and colleagues. You can do everything else he wants or needs. Added all together, this still doesn’t match what sex can do. Sexual love trumps everything else combined.
- Depriving him of your sexual pleasure can be as damaging as depriving him of sex altogether. That doesn’t mean you should pursue orgasms for his sake alone. It does mean, however, that duty sex is a downer. It means that you can work at getting yourself to want sex more. You are missing out on intimacy as much as he is. And your marital relationship is missing out tremendously.
- Both the pattern and the specific instances of refusal and gate-keeping hurt your husband. It is a pattern if your husband expects you to say “no” most of the time. It is a pattern if your husband expects you to specify the conditions, activities, or positions in which sex can take place most of the time. The pattern invades the very fabric of his life. The most precious thing he has to offer you isn’t even desirable to you. The pattern of rejection is there, all the time. Each specific instance of rejection is a reminder of his lack of worth to you.
- Whether your pattern tends toward refusing (outright “no” or other ways of avoiding sex) or gate-keeping (restricting the time, location, and nature of sexual activity), it is likely the worst thing in your husband’s life. It is the worst thing in his life. Shortly after I began this blog, I received a message from a husband that said, “My wife won’t have sex with me. It is the worst thing in my life.” Just for a moment, think about that. Instead of assuming that all men are sex-crazed horndogs, think about that statement as a reflection of the role that sexual connection plays in a man’s life.
Sexual refusing and gate-keeping don’t develop in a vacuum. Childhood sexual abuse, premarital sexual sin, physical difficulty with sex, relationship problems, and a belief that sex is dirty or unspiritual can make healthy and joyful sexuality difficult. They can make us believe that our “no” and our “not that way” are justified. They can make us believe that we are in the right.
No matter how right or righteous we believe ourselves to be, that does not erase the reality of how our husbands experience refusal and gate-keeping.
A husband who is growly because he’s had a bad day at work, steps on Legos as he walks down the hallway, and has a difficult meeting the next day experiences will feel just as rejected by a refusal as a husband who has been a model husband. (In fact, the growly man will especially be in need of his wife’s love.)
As wives, our needs are real, too. We can decide to work on the things that interfere with our sexual desire, whether that means seeking pastoral or professional counseling, pursuing medical treatment, or studying what God’s Word says about sexuality in marriage.
We should work to understand what interferes with our desire to be sexual with our husbands. We should work to address those areas.
But know, dear sisters, that even when our difficulty in being sexual is understandable, it doesn’t lessen a refused husband’s hurt. The most understanding, loving husband will still hurt when he is deprived of the sexual/emotional connection God designed him to need in his marriage.
I encourage you to read the contributions in Understanding Your Husband’s Hurt. Men have opened their hearts and shared their heartache and pain with us. You will see echoes of the six things above woven throughout their words.
Open your heart to your husband. If you frequently say “no” or “not like that,” please seek the courage to ask your husband if he has experienced these six things in your marriage.
You can turn things around. I know women who have made a dramatic transformation overnight, and I know others who are making a slow crawl. Both ways are progress.
You can change how you approach sex and sexuality—and the first step is knowing that you have to do so.
Image courtesy of gubgib at FreeDigitalPhotos.net