Do you know how often you and your husband have sex? If you say “no” on more than an occasional basis, my guess is that even if you don’t know, he does.
During my refusing years, I would often think we’d had sex just the week before. When my husband would point out that it had been several weeks, I was surprised. Sex just wasn’t on my radar enough to pay attention to how recently it had taken place.
It seemed to me that my husband was constantly after sex. As deprived as he was, the need to connect with me continued, unmet, from one day to the next—so every day, there was something—an outright request, a hint, a comment. Every single day, I was dealing with his sexual needs. Of course, “dealing with” meant “looking for ways to turn him down without making him angry.”
We argued about sex frequently—at least one extended argument a week with several exchanges snide remarks sprinkled throughout the week.
My husband isn’t one to remember dates and times much, but one time, he rattled off the date of our last sexual encounter as well as the times he had approached me since then. The fact that my husband had clearly paid attention to and noted those dates shocked me.
I remember feeling like he was pulling the things he didn’t like about me out of a hat, examining them one by one, and giving me a big list of my failures as a wife. I was incredibly hurt—yet I was shocked to realize that more time had passed than I had realized. It was also one of the things that made me realize how important sex was to him
When I began to work on the changes in our sex life, I began to keep track of our encounters on a small paper calendar I kept in my nightstand. I did this to make sure that even if I didn’t remember how long it had been, I could quickly find out if I wanted to.
For about six months after my changes began, my husband and I continued to have our arguments about sex. Although he noticed he was having more sex, his expectations and responses were still grounded in the lessons my refusal had taught him over a period of years. There were a few times when he would begin with a “we never have sex” speech and I would pull out my calendar to show him that I was actually doing better.
A Sexually Unhappy Husband
A story has been popping up on the internet about a man who recently sent his wife a spreadsheet listing all the times he attempted sex with her, her responses, and her reasons for “no” over a six-week period. (Read the story at your own risk. The comments include salty language.) The circumstances in which he sent the spreadsheet made me cringe (he sent it to her work email while she was on route to a ten-day business trip, and he included a message that said he wouldn’t miss her), but the spreadsheet itself hit too close to home.
The lack of sex was an issue in our marriage every single day. If my husband wasn’t asking, he was making comments that I perceived as him trying to guilt me into doing something. (I now realize that those comments were a genuine expression of his hurt and confusion.) Meanwhile, I was doing everything I could to deflect his sexual interest so he wouldn’t ask in the first place.
I look at the list of the reasons this man’s wife gave him for saying “no”:
- Watching TV/movie
- Soreness from sex the day before
- Too much to eat or drink
- Feeling gross
I can relate to every single one of these reasons; they are things I remember saying frequently.
Now I recognize that these reasons were excuses. They held a seed of truth but were not the real reasons I was refusing to have sex with my husband.
Seeing them on a list from another marriage is hard for me. I am far enough removed from the experience of refusing that the list of reasons looks flimsy. Part of me wants to remind the wife that the TV shows can be watched later, she was sore only because she hadn’t been having enough sex, she could eat or drink less, she could sleep more, and she can shower.
At the same time, I remember how frustrating it was to be dealing with my husband’s sexual interest every single day and having to give some reason why not—when all I really knew was that I just didn’t feel like it. I also know that at the time, my desire to not have sex felt serious and deep—far from flimsy.
My early journey included a lot of learning to reframe my reasons. Instead of “I had too much to eat,” I learned “I had too much to eat, but in an hour I should be okay.” Instead of “I feel gross,” I learned “I feel gross so could I take a shower first?”
Do You Track Sex?
This story has elicited quite a few comments on various sites. Reading the comments is sobering. Both husband and wife are taking a lot of hits. I know if I’d run across this story when I was refusing, I would have come away from the comments pretty emotionally battered.
I know of quite a few husbands who track sexual activity. If you ask your husband whether he keeps track of your sexual encounters, what would he say? What would you see on your spreadsheet?
If you are walking a journey away from sexual refusing and gate-keeping, I encourage you to consider tracking your sexual activity—your husband’s requests, your responses to those requests, and your own efforts to initiate.
Tracking for yourself is a good way to pay attention to what you’re doing, and it may show you patterns that you can work on. If one or two reasons show up frequently, working on those areas is likely to have a big impact on improving your sex life.
At the very least, when your husband asks if you know how long it’s been since you’ve had sex, you’ll actually know the answer.
Read these posts for more on keeping track:
- Keeping Track of How Much, The Generous Wife
- Is it okay to track how often you have sex?, Sex Within Marriage
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net