Friday, October 31, 2008

On keeping the "withholding of sex" a dark secret vs. bringing it to light

I posted this on a marriage forum and decided to copy it here for discussion.

After what I put my dh through for so many years I think I can safely say that when a spouse withholds sex, it usually means that something is terribly, terribly wrong in their emotions. Either they are emotionally crippled from things in their past or they are just emotionally selfish in the marriage. (I was both.) Either way you look at it--- If they can't snap out of it when it's brought to their attention, then counseling is needed to turn their thinking around and it's up to the other spouse to push for it.

As for the sexually neglected spouses---
No sane person should have to live that way for years on end. If a spouse has a leg injury, diabetes, cancer, you name it... we'd be quick to force them to see a professional and we'd probably drag them to the doctor if needed. Why is it that whenever a spouse withholds sex, the neglected spouse begs, gets angry, looks elsewhere for sexual fulfillment or they simply throw their hands up and say "I give up" and resign themselves to live a life in a low-sex or a no-sex marriage?

After my awakening I told my dh, "Don't you ever let me get away with that again. God forbid, if I ever revert back to my habit/sin of withholding sex, you drag my ass if you have to but get me to a professional... and quickly." And I told him, "I don't care how angry I get or if I threaten you or whatever. Just do the right thing and get me help."

We shouldn't allow our spouses to sit home sick with physical or emotional illnesses and not see a professional just because they don't want to. There is nothing loving or healthy about that. So many sexually neglected spouses say, "... but I love my spouse. I don't want to force the issue because they'll be angry and things will get worse." How do you get worse than worse? If you love them, get them the help they need and quit leaving it up to them. They are in no emotional shape to decide if they need help.

Yes, if we stop being co-dependent with spouses who withhold sex, things could get uglier before they get better but what have you got to lose? If a sexually neglectful spouse would rather walk away from the marriage than receive help.... I would have to question the degree of their basic love for their spouse. If they really don't love, what's the point of keeping them from leaving? If they do love, then they should either act like it in the marriage bed or submit to getting help. Yes, pray for them. Of course, pray. But put feet to those prayers and be proactive in helping them to get well. Quit helping them to keep their sin of withholding sex, a dark secret. Sin won't leave unless it sees the Light.

Please post your opinions and state your reasons. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Who am I said...

I appreciate when you continue to give more and more glimpses into your thoughts and feelings when you were refusing.

I encourage you to keep sharing about those thoughts and feelings because I think as you do, you will answer even more and more questions about why people refuse sex with their spouse.

I think those insights into your self will help your readers who are either a refuser, or are consistently refused to have a better understanding and love for their spouse.

Gemma said...

Thanks, wai. As long as I have breath in my being and as long as I keep hearing from spouses who are either refusing or being refused, I think I will be talking about this topic.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes , even when your spouse is willing to seek help for is difficult to find answers...the answers can be and usually are a little different for everyone..the main thing is to want to find the answers...the willingness to try to change.

Gemma said...

Anon, it's never easy to find answers but if within a reasonable amount of time you can't do it on your own, then it's time to pull in a professional to help out. If one professional isn't helping, ditch them and find another.

It is the saddest thing for the refused spouse to have to endure months, years and even decades when the one withholding or refusing sex won't go for help. Instead, they keep saying, "I'm praying about it," or "I want to find answers" or "I'm willing to change," but then they do nothing. And deep down they know they can't do it without professional.

It's not important enough for the withholding spouse and it's no biggie to them that their spouse is being sexually neglected. Being proactive is the key.

Anonymous said...

I realize I have been a with-holding spouse on and off over my 12 year marriage. I think the longest I withheld was 2 months.

I feel slightly justified---I'm scared to say that "outloud" here----because my husband has looked at porn without my knowledge, IM'd without my knowledge, and signed up for an online dating "service", but says I've misunderstood his rationale. I have continually told him--when I found out about the porn/IMing that I do not htink that is healthy in any way and it makes me feel sexually inadequate. He still refused help/counsel/accountability.

We are currently still struggling---he is trying to tell me how he is completely over his porn issue (without receiving any help) and that I need to get over it. My struggle is that I don't trust him anymore.....and I feel like withholding, but the last 3 weeks I've been having sex with him at least every other night.

Dont' get me wrong---I enjoy the sex, but I don't feel fully "free" because I don't know that he has really dealt with his issue and he gets mad when I bring it up.

So...all that to ask you this----in the same way that the refusee is to seek out counseling help for the refusing spouse, am I to do the same? And if he refuses the help---what then?

As long as we're having sex--he's happy and without motivation to change.

Gemma said...


No need to feel scared to share all this. In short-- Yes!! You absolutely should get professional help even if your husband won't go at this time. You need to go to receive healing for yourself. Don't neglect yourself because he won't go for help.

I'm glad you felt free enough to post and I hope to be back here tomorrow (God willing, I was so sick today) when I'll have more time to try and post a more lengthy response to you.

Gemma said...

Anon, I would seriously doubt that your husband is over his porn issue. Most Christians who have a porn addiction can go years and years without falling to temptation and then--- BOOM--- they fall. Please go seek out professional counseling either with or without your husband.

Anonymous said...

thanks for responding to my comment above. I agree that the issue is not solved. What concerns me is that there is no motivation to change when I'm doing everything he wants/needs. I don't know, maybe I'm looking for an excuse to not be obligated to my responsibilities. I just find it extremely difficult to have sex--freely and passionately for a prolonged time when I feel emotionally empty. All the while he keeps complaining that I don't desire him enough.

I am seeking counsel for myself. He has stopped seeing his counselor. I refuse to nag him, but I do wish he saw his issue as a part of our bigger issues.

Your site is wondefully encouraging---thank you.

Gemma said...

" husband has looked at porn without my knowledge, IM'd without my knowledge, and signed up for an online dating "service", but says I've misunderstood his rationale."

I wanted to ask you--- Just how does he explain his rationale?

And you don't have to answer this on the blog but do you know which came first-- his porn, IMing, online dating service or your refusing? None of it is good or healthy and there is no excuse for our sin. When I refused, it was my sin. When my dh was looking at other women IRL, it was his sin even though I drove him to doing that. He still took responsibility for doing it. We each had to repent and turn from our wicked ways.

My very limited understanding of becoming porn-free is that usually it works best for the couple to abstain from sex for a mutually agreed upon time that a professional counselor would have recommend to them. It's sort of counter-productive to go from porn to marital sex without a "cleansing period", kwim? Have you posted about this in the porn forum on TMB? There are people there who can suggest a good plan of action whether your dh is on board or not. Porn has never come between my dh and me.

Lastly, is your dh even a professing Christian? I only ask because when my dh and I were cleaning up our marriage, we both realized that we each were practicing sexual sin which had to be stopped.

If anything I ask is too personal, please don't bother answering or you can feel free to email me about it.

Anonymous said...

Gemma, I would love to email..would you mind posting your addy?

Gemma said...

Anon, it should be showing at the top of my blog. The addy is:

Anonymous said...

As a former-recovering porn viewer and denier and one who was good at covering up I offer the following to consider:

1. Is he willing to install real accountability software on his computer? xxxchurch is a good one (and has a free version)
as it tells you whenever he turns it off to look at porn. It also helps to have permission to talk if some flags come up.

2. Ask him to read False Intimacy: Understanding the Struggle of Sexual Addiction
by Harry W. Schaumburg (or read it together) This book gets at root cause issues for porn viewing etc.

3. Own up to your own "stuff" and see a professional counselor/therapist and politely ask him if he would like to come. (open ended requests only : )

If he is not interested in actively engage that should tell you something about his level of "bone deep" commitment to you and to your marriage.

if you need to know any of the tricks I used to hide from real change and real repentance I can be reached at riskman1 at gmail dot com

midwestman said...

As always Gemma, a thought provoking post! I forwarded this on to a friend who's wife has 100% refused him for the last 5 years after he was caught in his porn habit. He confessed his sin, went for counseling, and has been a fantastic Christian for these past 5 years. However, his wife not only refuses to have sex with him but will not even undress in the same room. He has tried to get her to go to counseling and she went once or twice then refused. She refused to discuss the subject with him. I have counseled him that if this is her consistant attitude he needs to draw a line in the sand and say "either we fix this or we're done". Unfortunately, I must say, he has not presented himself to her as the Christian husband, head of the household, and chastised her appropriately for her sin or taken necessary steps to attempt to rectify the situation. He has been counselled to do so by other men but has not so unfortunately he will continue to live in this sexless marriage as a roommate.

I have a question for discussion that I'd like to throw out. How many men turn to porn because of their wives' refusal or lack of desire for their husbands which leaves them living in a sexual vacuum and wanting to be wated sexually? While I know it is the man's decision alone to sin and look at porn and I am not condoning this action in any way, how much of the fault falls on the woman for not satisfying him in the first place? I know in my own case, while my dw did not refuse sex totally, I have always been the one to ask, to beg, to try anything to get her interested, to have her DESIRE me, to have her show me that I was important in this way. Her attitude for the first 24 years was that "all I ever wanted was sex". Eventually I got to the point where I simply wanted "sex" when I wanted sex - not actual sex of course, but viewing porn was almost like sex because I could see womens bodies, see them doing sexual acts, and in my mind, I was there.

Now, if our sexual relationship had been different, freely given and received, would I have done that? I doubt it very much. If I was satisfied sexually, I would not have gone elsewhere to be satisfied. I realize that many women deal with husbands and porn through no fault of their own, so I am not trying by any means to hang men's porn problems all on women. But this certainly has to be a factor.

All of your comments please...


midwestman said...

One other comment I'll make. What about those spouses whose spouse is not a total refuser - you still have sex but its not given willingly or wantingly? That was/somewhat still is my situation and I feel that if I pursue the topic farher I'll lose what I have or my wife will revert to her statement of "no matter what I do you will never be satisfied, you will always want more". That's where I'm at.


Gemma said...

riskman1, thanks for posting that. Affairs and porn addiction are two areas that my dh and I have not had to deal with so my knowledge of how to resolve those issues are very limited to what I read and what others tell me.

Gemma said...


Going on what you shared I'd suspect that your friend's wife has not truly forgiven as is evident in her bitterness. I can understand her wounds over the porn but if she doesn't work through it and forgive, their marriage won't stand a chance and he'd be a fool to sit by for months and years while allowing her to continue this way. How can they heal the marriage with her unforgiveness, her bitterness between them? In the presence of the counselor, he needs to tell his wife to make a decision--- Either begin working with him for the good of the marriage or walk away so they can end the marriage.

GR didn't turn to porn, however, he DID turn to looking at other women IRL. I began refusing early in our marriage and when that happened, he began looking at other women.... longing to see in them what he desperately wanted to see in me. When this all came out in the open, I told him that I took partial blame... that I drove him to sinning with his eyes. Yes, he made the decision to do so but I helped to push him in that direction.

:::Now, if our sexual relationship had been different, freely given and received, would I have done that? I doubt it very much. If I was satisfied sexually, I would not have gone elsewhere to be satisfied. I realize that many women deal with husbands and porn through no fault of their own, so I am not trying by any means to hang men's porn problems all on women. But this certainly has to be a factor.

GR said the same thing, mwm. He told me that during all those years when he was looking at other women, he did so with much guilt and shame. I believe him knowing the kind of man he is. He told me that he never would have resorted to that if we had had a healthy sex life from the beginning of our marriage. And I, too, realize that some spouses will fall into/choose sexual sin even if their spouse has done no wrong. But in many if not most cases, I'd be almost willing to bet that most womanizing is a result of sexual lack and lack of communication in the marriage bed. And the same goes for wives who cheat.

:::One other comment I'll make. What about those spouses whose spouse is not a total refuser - you still have sex but its not given willingly or wantingly? That was/somewhat still is my situation and I feel that if I pursue the topic farher I'll lose what I have or my wife will revert to her statement of "no matter what I do you will never be satisfied, you will always want more". That's where I'm at.

It all goes back to 1 Cor. 7: 1-7

1 Now concerning the things of which you wrote to me:
It is good for a man not to touch a woman. 2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. 3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 But I say this as a concession, not as a commandment. 7 For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.

My take on this passage of scripture----

The wife's body belongs to the husband. I do not tell him that he cannot have sex with *his* (my) body. And it says- "Do not deprive one another except with (my insert: mutual) consent for a time". I interpret this as saying that as long as one of us wants/needs sex, then we WILL HAVE enthusiastic, enjoyable sex. Overall, in a healthy marriage where sex, good communication and faithfulness are plentiful, the marriage should thrive.

There are always those rare occasions, and they should be very rare, where sex must be postponed like during extreme sickness, etc. I have to leave my computer for a few hours for a doctor appointment. When I return I have a true story to share which is an example of what I'm talking about here. It is something that happened to GR and me last night while in bed.

midwestman said...

The following quote is from a thread on TMB today:

"I also mentioned in another thread how she will "declare" some days (or weeks) to be "take me whenever you want, wherever you want, finish when and where you want" times. These are just nice things we do as part of enjoying each other. "

Wow, all I can say is that man has an amazing wife to allow him such total sexual access. If only. It literally makes me tear up just to think how that would be...


Gemma said...

You know, I have never subscribed to Lori's "The Generous Wife" on TMB. No special reason, I just haven't gotten to it. But my understanding of it is that Lori encourages wives to be all that our husbands want us to be in the marriage and especially in the marriage bed.

Often, I see wives (or husbands) on TMB say, "My wife doesn't refuse. She just doesn't like sex as much as I do." And the husband has to talk his wife into having sex most or all the time. Somehow, that doesn't strike me as being "generous".

If my dh has to beg for sex, that's not being generous. If he has to put up with "pity sex", that's not being generous. If I regularly turn him down, that's not being generous.

Merriam-Webster defines the word as:

Main Entry: gen·er·ous
Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French genereus, from Latin generosus, from gener-, genus
Date: 1583

characterized by a noble or forbearing spirit : magnanimous , kindly b: liberal in giving : openhanded c: marked by abundance or ample proportions

If I am to be a generous wife in the marriage bed I should be liberally giving, openhanded, marked by abundance or ample proportions.

I didn't see the word "generous" in my concordance but when I looked up a couple of the synonyms I found several scriptures with many of them describing how God deals liberally or bountifully with us.

Prov. 11.25
Is. 32.5&8
James 1.5

Prov. 22.9
Ps. 13.6
Ps. 116.7
Ps. 142.7
2 Cor. 9.6

... to name a few. For years I never made that connection that God is generous with us, that Christ Jesus is our example, that we are to follow His example in being generous with others and that we are to especially follow His example in being generous with our spouse.

Not trying to get preachy with you guys... it's just that some of the comments here got me thinking about this.