Thursday, February 6, 2014

Surviving a Sexless Marriage

Living in a sexless marriage is a gut-wrenching, painful experience.  Part of that pain comes from living with the embarrassment and shame that keep you quiet and cause you to feel so isolated and alone.  We have now reached one of the main reasons I wanted to start this blog (and also one of the reasons it must be anonymous).  I know the agony, the desperation and the desire for escape that you feel.  I know how hard it can be to break out of that cycle and I know how often it leads to mistakes, regrets and divorce.  I also understand how pointless it all is.  There is no reason to have a sexless marriage!  We just one day realize we are in one and we have no idea how to fix it.  Most often the "fix" is divorce.  Believe me, I understand the desire to get out.  I felt it, oh so powerfully!  I believe the ONLY reason I did not go down that road was that I had no idea how I would care for my children.  Only because of them did I not walk away.  I even had Christian people that were near and dear to me, that I was able to confide in tell me that they wished they could tell me to get out.  Even to them my situation looked so desperate, bleak and difficult to resolve.  But they could not tell me to leave my husband and there is a good reason for that.  It would not have been the right thing to do and I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. 

Telling you to stay with your partner and just live in a shell of a marriage is not what I'm saying though.  I am not condemning you to a life of misery and loneliness.  I would not tell you to stay if I did not truly believe that your issues can be resolved and resolving them is the right thing to do.  Whatever your situation is, it can be fixed.  You do not have to have a sexless marriage because you can get your intimacy back!  I'm not saying it won't be hard and that it won't take a lot of work but I do know that it is worth the extra work and difficulty.  I also want you to know that you don't have to do it alone!  God designed us for a fulfilling, intimate and sexual marriage.  He believes in your marriage, He wants it to work and He will walk along side you and lead you to a place of healing.  In fact, He might have begun that work already by leading you here.   These words might be ones He wants you to hear.

Of course, every relationship is different and there are as many different scenarios of how you have reached this particular point in your marriage but know that my marriage was about as desperate as it can get.  It seemed like our issues were about as insurmountable as possible but we were able to overcome. 

The first topic is withholding sex.  This can be either spouse.  This can sometimes be an attempt to control or hold power over your partner.  Most often this tactic is taken by the wife but it can be the other way around as well, it was in my marriage.  When you know your partner wants something and you have the ability to deny them that thing, yes, it is a position of power but it's also a dangerous game.  I will also point out that it is sinful.  God does not want to you have a rulership over your spouse.  He wants you to have a partnership that lifts each other up, supports one another and mirrors His relationship to the Church.  God loved his people so much He sacrificed his only son for us.  Does that sound like an ultimatum to you?  I will also point you to 1 Corinthians 7:4 " The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife."  This might seem harsh for me to say but you agreed to marry this person your relationship will be stronger if you are being intimate.  You are only hurting yourself in the long run if you are withholding sex from your partner.  

Don't get me wrong, I don't think that if the relationship was healthy in the first place that someone would feel the need to withhold sex.  I believe it is a byproduct of a broken marriage.  Withholding sex will not fix the problem though.  It will only lead to resentment, separation and quite possibly an affair.  Sex is a very integral part of a marriage relationship.  It brings you close, both physically and emotionally.  It also makes you feel good and consequently, feel better about each other.  It is quite possible though, that sex doesn't feel good for you.  There are quite a few women that have trouble reaching orgasm, that don't feel comfortable with the sex act in general or are dealing with some sexual trauma they have experienced.  If this is the case for you then you need healing.  Sex was created to feel enjoyable, to be a release and to create a deeper intimacy between a married couple.  If you feel you are unable to enjoy yourself then you need some help.  The first thing I would suggest in this case is that you get yourself a book called The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Gregoire.  This book is a great read for anyone who would like to improve upon their sex life but especially if you find you do not enjoy sex it would be an excellent resource for your healing and moving forward in your marriage.  In all likelihood you should speak with a councilor as well.  I would recommend finding a Christian one that understands the importance of your relationship to God.

For a long portion in my marriage I was denied sex.  I know there were quite a number of reasons for that but I want to share with you some of the effect that had on me and on my marriage.  Though I understand now more of why my husband was not intimate with me, when you desire your spouse that they hold back from you it can cause you to feel resentful of them.  It can seem like they are being selfish and spiteful.  When you attempt to initiate and are rejected it causes feelings of anger, disappointment, fear and loneliness.  I also (like so many other women) came into my marriage with self esteem issues.  These issues did predate my husband but that doesn't mean he didn't effect them too.  Being rejected by my husband enforced all those negative things I would say about myself.  I felt ugly, fat and downright repulsive.  I didn't feel I was worthy of my husband attention and I blamed my appearance for his lack of interest in sex.  Every time he was unable or unwilling to have sex with me was another knock to my self esteem.

I became very depressed, lonely, vulnerable and angry.  I wasn't just angry at my husband either.  I was angry at God.  I felt cheated by this relationship that I felt he had let me to and I started to regret even the good decisions I had made. 

You see, I had done what I was supposed to.  I had waited for marriage to have sex and I felt that "sacrifice" on my part should have been rewarded with a fulfilling sex life once I was married.  When things fell apart spent many tearful nights wishing that I had actually had sex with a former boyfriend.  I saw my future as very bleak and I actually wished that my husband would just leave me if he wasn't interested in me.  Now that things have turned around I am once again, glad that I did wait.  Having a different sexual relationship to compare with the one I had with my husband would have made staying in my marriage even more difficult. 

I wasn't sleeping well and I started to put on extra weight that I would then complain about to my husband.  One day he confronted me about this.  He told me he was sick of me complaining about my weight and not doing anything about it and that my complaining brought his attention to it so that was all he started to see.  This brought on a fit of tears, (of course) but my answer to him was something that I don't even know if I realized until it came out of my mouth.  I told him that part of me needed that weight.  That if I was slimmer and more attractive I didn't know what would happen if some other man were to hit on me.  I had become far to vulnerable.  I craved the attention of men but I was frightened by what would happen if another man did look my way. 

Thankfully, when things did get to this point we started to attend some counselling and I am grateful that my husband was willing to take that step with me.  He had many issues that he was dealing with as well and it really helped for us to be able to meet with someone to sort those things out both individually and as a couple. 

Once you get to the point where your marriage has become a sexless one there are only two ways it can go.  You will either resolve the issues behind your abstinence or you will split up.  The situation can't go on indefinitely.  I know that it is awkward to confront your partner about it but saving your marriage is worth a little awkwardness! 

If you are the one being denied sex you need to set aside a time to talk to your partner about why things are the way they are.  You need to tell them how it makes you feel and reassure them that you want to find a way to make things better and enjoyable for both of you.  Tell them you will do whatever they need to help them through what they are dealing with and make them as comfortable as possible.  Most of all, mean what you say!  When you tell them you will help them, do it.  When they bring up issues with you, do your best to fix them.  If they want you to go to counselling with them, go.  Your partner needs your support and you have committed to them so your job is to make them a priority, even if you feel you are the one being mistreated.  Even though you are hurting as well you need to focus on them.  If you attack them or try to turn things around so they are about you your partner will shut down and you'll get nowhere.  There is a reason why they aren't being intimate with you and if you need to work on fixing that issue with them.  It is very possible that your partner doesn't feel you are safe to talk to about this.  They could feel judged, pressured and mistreated by you.  You need to take a close look at your actions and your manner and  most likely do a lot of apologizing before your partner can feel like you are a safe place for them to fall. 

There is a possibility that your partner will think you are only trying to help so you can get what you want.  So it might be a long time still before they trust you enough to open up to you in an intimate manner.  I know that it feels like you have already been patient for so long but you will need to be extra patient at this time and take things slowly and in steps so that they build up their trust in you.

If you are the partner that is withholding sex then you need to take a good look at the reasons why you are doing so.  The reasons you started might not be the same reasons that you maintain to this day and you really need to sort out what is holding you back.  Once you know why you need to talk to your partner about it.  This will take a lot of trust since you are going to have to be very truthful and vulnerable with them.  If you are not honest and open about what is holding you back you are also denying your partner the opportunity to be loving and supporting of you.  Letting them in on your thoughts, feelings and fears is a different kind of intimacy that can hold a lot of fear in and of itself but your partner has signed on to be with you for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.  Don't deny them the opportunity to stand with you during the worse, poorer and sickness.  It's often during these times that leaning on each other will build and create a stronger and more powerful marriage.  If you are frightened that your issues are to much for them, then keep in mind that if they were to reject you (and I'm pretty sure they won't) because of something you struggle with, they are the ones that are sinning and in the wrong.  God requires your partner to support you.  If they don't hold up their end of the bargain they have Him to deal with. 

I can understand the desire to escape from the awkwardness, fear and uncertainty of confronting your spouse about these issues.  I know I was terrified.  However, doing nothing will certainly end badly and you really have nothing else to loose.  One thing that might ease some of this discomfort could be writing it all out in a letter for your spouse.  This is a method I have used quite successfully.  I find it helps me make sure I remember all the point I wanted to make, it allows me to think out of the kindest and most reassuring way to say what I feel needs saying and I eliminate the risk of saying something in the heat of the moment that I will regret.  I know I have a tendency to get tongue tied in person and you also run the risk of getting off on a tangent that never gets back to some of the points you want covered.  Writing a letter also allows my husband to think over, in a more calm environment, the concerns that I have and come back to me (after using his problem solving brain) with some more clear methods of moving forward.  If you and your spouse are not having sex then I would bet you are also not communicating well.  In that case a letter might be your best option for making yourself heard and breaking the ice.  I find it far less intimidating, for both parties.   

My prayer for you is that you are able to open up more with each other.  That you will begin to learn hot to lean on one another instead of searching outside your marriage and I pray that both of you will not give up!  As long as you are both willing to work at your relationship then there is nothing you can not overcome!  I mean it, NOTHING! 


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