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For this post today, I’m not referring to marriages that are in the throes of deep unresolved issues, unaddressed addictions and/or emotional or physical abuse.
I’m talking about average everyday marriages where sexual intimacy has been neglected, primarily by one spouse.
After all, sex is something you can experience only with your spouse. It is not a need or want you can fulfill with other people, at least not morally. For Christians, sex is often the one thing that stands out the most when we think of what differentiates marriage from all other relationships.
By its very design, sex is drenched in vulnerability. Profoundly intimate sexual encounters require not only a baring of our bodies, but a baring of our emotions, desires and insecurities. And especially when we are first learning each other sexually, we must expose our inexperience and fallibility.
When we agree to get married, we are agreeing to foster that kind of sexual vulnerability, upheld by an ongoing commitment to nurture love, respect and trust.
By the time most couples arrive at the altar or judge’s chambers to declare their commitment and covenant, they’ve spent countless moments getting to know each other. They’ve already taken risks simply by being willing to fall in love and to trust they have each other’s best interests at heart. They’ve possibly already together encountered heartaches and losses and challenges.
It’s not like we don’t know about risk when we take up camp in marriage.
One would think we would be seasoned to risk, at least a little bit. Add to this a bedrock of love, and it becomes counterintuitive that pursuing our spouse for sex should feel risky.
After all, where else would you go for sex? I mean, certainly it can’t be a shocker when spouses pursue each other sexually, right? It is intricate to marriage—that a husband and wife will hunger for each other sexually.
My inbox and comment log tell me differently. Sexual pursuit in marriage has become quite risky for many people. It has become a dangerous forbidden territory, only to be entered with a willingness to suffer.
The occasional brush off or shut down is one thing.
It’s the consistent ongoing rebuff time and time again that starts to chip away at sexual confidence (and all confidence, for that matter). For some people, pursuing their spouse sexually is quite risky, full of repercussions that may last well beyond the moment the bid is shot down.
Every marriage marked by ongoing sexual denial has its own circumstances or patterns that landed a husband and wife in that place. More often than not, it is one spouse reaching out for sex and the other refusing. They have taken up positions, so to speak, and the spouse desiring sex is always at the mercy of the spouse who holds the keys to sex.
This is a horrible dynamic in a marriage. It breeds distrust and contempt. It creates division (Satan’s favorite territory in a marriage, by the way). It fuels temptation and the pull to look elsewhere for sexual affection.
Stops thinking “maybe this time will be different.”
Stops searching for the romantic tricks or tactics or trinkets that will convince their spouse that it’s not just about the sex; it’s about being with the person they love.
The risk is just too much. The odds of more pain and rejection just too high. Everyone’s risk tolerance varies, of course, but for some people, the risk of sexual pursuit becomes too much.
Interestingly, the denying spouse may feel a wave of relief when their spouse’s sexual interest wanes and then dissipates altogether. Ironically, in many marriages, this is when the marriage has reached a relational dead zone. The peace in the household is a facade. The complete absence of sex and sexual pursuit should spark grave concern about the stability and staying power of the marriage.
My purpose for this post is two-fold. One, to simply acknowledge that if sexually pursuing your spouse has become risky for you, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that what should be one of the least risky expressions you make in your marriage has caused you the most trepidation.
Two, I want to say that if you have not shared with your spouse from this angle of why sexual pursuit has become risky for you, possibly now is the time to do that. Yes, I get that even that may feel too risky. Only you know in your marriage if it’s worth giving voice to this underlying disintegration of sexual intimacy.
My hope for your marriage is that you do believe it’s worth giving voice. And maybe…just maybe…your spouse will have a moment of humble courage to own what they’ve done. And to make efforts to heal the pain.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.