Someone shared the link to your program. Since I often write about sexual refusal, I was curious about what you would say. Throughout the first two decades of my marriage, I slowly began to deprive my husband of sex—and what little sex he did get barely even qualified as duty sex. I listened to this podcast from the perspective of a woman who had been guilty of the same sin as the wife of the man whose letter you were talking about.
I agree with you that until peace is challenged, there is no motivation to change. However, I do think you could have gone a bit further in addressing a couple things.
First, a separation should never be the first response to a pattern of sexual deprivation in marriage. (I don’t think you said this, but I would have liked to hear more about approaches that could work earlier in a marriage. I agree that there usually is something else going on, and a first response should be to try to figure out what that is and address it before the refusal becomes a years-long pattern. The context of the refusal may be a relationship problem, but it also may be the refusing spouse’s response to premarital sin or childhood sexual abuse or perhaps the result of a negative understanding about the role of sex in marriage. Working to identity and address those root issues can help build intimacy and prevent the need for a separation. Of course, this is best done early on, before the refused spouse reaches a point of desperation. And even if it is a relationship problem, the sexually deprived spouse should never be made to feel it’s his (or her) fault. Thank you for advocating for spouses who suffer as my husband used to.
Second, Mark, what you say about the reaction of a refusing wife doesn’t match my experience at all. You say that the wife wouldn’t want her pastor, friends, or family to know what was happening. Not true! I thought my control of sex was justified. I viewed it as a response to my husband’s emotional disconnection from me, and I truly didn’t understand that it a) was wrong, or b) hurt my husband. In my mind, if he would have just been more emotionally attentive, it would have become easy for me to want to have sex with him. I thought that he was the one with the key to the problem, not me.
When my friends knew (I didn’t talk about it often, but I did on occasion with a few friends), I was validated by their responses. It made me feel better for them to know, not worse. They agreed that my husband should be better to me and they expressed understanding that I didn’t want to have sex with him. Sadly, when my husband went to the pastor, the only support he got was a sympathetic pat on the back and a referral card to send me to a counselor.
You also said that a wife would freak out if she came home and found that her husband had temporarily moved out. I would have loved it. I would know that I wouldn’t have to deal with my husband bugging me about sex for a while, and it would feel like a vacation from all that tension. Even more, him moving out would have cemented my view that I was the one being treated horribly. I would have seen the potential of eliciting more support for me than for him if things would have proceeded to a divorce.
I will say this: even when there is a big relationship problem that contributes to one spouse not wanting to have sex, the fact remains that withholding sex contributes problems to a marriage and does need to be addressed. I am glad you argued against complacency, because getting comfortable in a sexless marriage makes it far less of a marriage than it should be.
my engagement ring was $80 and we spent $200 for our officiant, $40 for my dress, and $20 for my husband’s shirt/vest/tie…and that’s it. happier than we knew was possible
Way to go Diane for leaving Mark flabbergasted!