The Next Day

Yesterday, my drive to work was filled with a deep and revealing exploration of some  roots of some of my gate-keeping and refusal. I hesitated to write about what I uncovered–largely because what I uncovered could too easily distract from the point. What I learned isn’t why I was writing that post.

This blog is about the process of learning, growing, and breaking away from sexual patterns that have not been good in marriage. I share my own experiences not because I think they are universal or because I think the specifics matter to anyone other than my husband and me. I share them because they illustrate the process of growth and because it is how I can show that a heart can truly be opened.

What matters here isn’t  what I uncovered in digging deeper. What does matter is that the process of digging revealed feelings that were connected to the refusal and gate-keeping in my marriage. Process matters. Doing the work matters. We dig, we uncover, and then we use what we’ve learned about ourselves to grow.

The knowledge I gained–about myself and about a process for understanding myself– has already helped me communicate with my husband differently about my needs. Since I wrote yesterday’s post, my husband and I have made love. In the immediate post-coital time (aka, afterglow), something happened in the same way that it has for most of our marriage. I had a fleeting thought that related to what I had learned, a feeling about how my husband viewed what we had just done.

It was a thought I’d had countless times before. I spent some time mulling it over in my mind, working to understand that thought by digging back, digging deeper, to see what that thought was really about.

So this morning, I was able to talk with my husband about it in a very different way than I had in the past. I was able to frame it by reminding him of how what I most value in making love with him is how it helps me feel connected to him and that we are part of each other. With this context, and an understanding in myself of how this afterglow pattern interfered with that connection, I was able to explain my request in a way that made new sense to both of us.

I didn’t just need us to do something differently; I needed us to do something differently because this is the way I will feel most connected to my husband. Understanding myself made it possible for me to help my husband understand why my request matters to our marriage.

When gate-keeping and refusing have been our standard sexual pattern, we have a lot of work to do in breaking out of that pattern and helping create a new one in our marriages. Work to understand yourself–and remember that growth is a process. When we learn something about ourselves and don’t use it, we’ve stunted our growth. Dig deep, learn, and the next day, use what you’ve learned to keep on growing.

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6 Comments on “The Next Day”

  1. I really admire your openness to sharing your struggles and experiences of overcoming issues that arise. When I first learnt that I had repressed memories of child sexual abuse I was devastated. It has affected me in many areas of ‘normal’ relationships and life in general. I feel bad because I feel like refuser, or at best a gatekeeper. I know both responses are wrong, but recurring memories make being a willing participant really challenging
    I am in counselling and know that unless God does a miracle, I have a long road ahead of me. When I think of healing I long for the day that I will make love with my husband and not feel guilty, shameful, inadequate, dirty, etc.

    Reading your story and watching it unfold gives me hope, in areas of my life where there has been no hope.

  2. Thank you, dear. It is partly because I don’t have the difficult feelings you describe that I think my memories are something other than child sexual abuse–or not nearly as much a violation of my self as many experience. Nonetheless, the memories of feeling unsafe and out of control were there–even if it was “just” inappropriate but completely non-sexual tickling. As I was tracing back to find these memories, I was overwhelmed by how much something from my childhood can be such an ingrained part of my patterns of living.

    It’s hard to dig down and find the memories; it’s even harder to reach in, pull them out, and take a good look at them. I found myself grieving the pieces of childhood I lost. And that’s okay. The road to healing is not an easy one, and it is one that only you can make happen. Every step further along the road takes back a piece of yourself that someone else stole.

    Let me say this: you deserve the joy that can be found in the marriage bed. You need that joy. You need the hope. You deserve to have your whole self.

  3. I wouldn’t consider myself to have been sexually abused, but perhaps “misused”?

    I spent the summer between my junior and senior years of high school with a group of friends (mostly guys, and a few girls). We all worked together. When we weren’t working we hung out together. Shortly after school started up again in the fall, I found out I would be moving away. After a Friday night football game, I was giving one of my guy friends a ride home. We talked about the impending move and then he asked me if we could have sex. I remember being totally shocked, stunned. Being a people-pleaser, I believe I muttered “sure”. I don’t think I even knew how to say “no”… I didn’t want him to not like me or be mad. So we had sex in the front seat of my car, in a parking lot, and then I moved. I still feel humiliated when I think of what happened that night. I was a “one-night-stand” – for someone I had zero “romantic” feelings for.

    I suspect the issues I have battled in the marriage bed are, at least in part, a result of that night…

    I have a hard time with my husband initiating. When he initiates, my knee-jerk response is “no”, followed by feelings of anger… even if I had been preparing all day to be with him. There’s something crippling for me about being put on the spot – being pursued sexually and feeling like I can’t say “no”. I love my husband and enjoy sex, but I always need to feel like I’m the one offering myself and not like I’m being taken from or being expected to give. Knowing that, I try to initiate as often as I can. I would love it though if there came a time when I didn’t respond negatively to his initiating…

    1. Oh, I do understand what you mean about being mentally prepared and then responding in anger. I found a few things to be especially helpful in addressing this. First, I learned to take long deep breaths before responding at all. It was the most important thing I did to become intentional vs. reactional. Second, I would say, “Please ask me again in five minutes.” That gave me time to shift gears. I would usually approach him after a couple minutes, which kind of felt like it was on my own terms. Using this approach for just a while allowed me to break the cycle of reaction. The other thing I did was ask my husband to use different words to approach me. “I’m horny” had become a phrase that triggered the worst reactions from me. Even now, I don’t respond well when I hear it. I gave him some other phrases and approaches that I asked him to use for a time. By then, he was starting to have sex with greater frequency, so it was easier for him to make a change, knowing that the outcome would be positive.

      1. My husband doesn’t usually initiate verbally. When he has he simply asks, “Any chance you’re interested in cuddling?” I have tried ‘collecting myself’ as I like to call it, before responding but hesitation is hard on him – and, my deep breaths usually end up sounding like deep breaths or a sigh (my not-so-subtle way of letting him know that I’m stressed by his request… not doing too great a job of ‘not reacting’ yet.)

        His initiating is most often physical. He’s great about giving non-sexual touch – foot rubs or back rubs – almost every day. (Yes, he really is a great husband!) Sometimes though, he will try to transition into a more sexual rub or touch. Some days I do okay with that, some days I feel like he’s sneaking in there and taking something that I wasn’t offering just yet… and then I start to feel stressed.

        He has asked me if there’s anything he can do that would help me feel better about him initiating. I wish I knew of something! Really I think I just need to stay in the right frame of mind, taking captive any negative thoughts that I’m having – those rotten lies that tell me sex is all he wants from me.

        Actually, I’m having a little revelation here…

        I’m thinking it may help if he would let me know that he thinks about the rest of me, not just my body and having sex with me. It may be easier for me to believe that he sees more to me than sex. He’s great about complimenting me on my appearance but I’m not sure he ever mentions anything else! hmmmmm… I guess I need to know that he notices and loves the rest of me too. He can help me fight the war on those lies by providing me with some ammunition!

        Thank you for your continual challenges to dig deeper inside and explore what’s going on in the back of my mind, and for letting me “think out loud” here.

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