Let us start with the very basics – sex is not just about a biological drive especially for husbands! Husbands see sex as an affirmation of their worth as human beings, a confirmation of the love of their wives, and the sexual act as proof that they are still loved and desireable. Any honest husband will not deny this. Guess what, the vast majority of the wives see it the same way. While we are vastly different in the nature and mechanics of our physical needs from our spouses – our emotional and spiritual needs are the same.
I want you to stop and think, remove the idea of one person being a victim and one person being an aggressor in this whole debate. Married couples are one flesh – so the couple is essentially one person hurting itself. Blame neither solves the problem, nor does it improve the odds for a successful resolution. Second, we need to understand that you cannot change another person’s behaviour by force or coercion of any kind and have any real or lasting positive effect. Third, we need to accept the truth that love is a choice we have promised to make every day as part of our sacramental matrimonial vows.
Most men and women who feel driven to this are longing as much for the emotional and spiritual side of the marital act as they are the physical release it brings. Unable to obtain what they really need – they often start with substitution by self-pleasuring. Husbands are especially prone to this because their emotions become volatile – not because they feel pent up sexual need, but in reality because the sting of the rejection by their spouse they feel. Do not think women are immune – in the long course of writing this blog and in my personal experience and observation I have seen more wives needs ignored, than I have husbands needs ignored. If your wife needs your undivided attention, your love, and your acceptance – you turn off the Super Bowl and give it to her. Let her know that she is important and desirable. Not in your words, but in your actions. If you are choosing a game, Facebook, or a television show over intimacy with your wife then what are you saying to her about your love or her importance?
Wives, the same applies to you. Imagine how you would feel if it took two hours of begging or badgering to get him to agree, now hold that thought. Whatever that would do to your self esteem it does the same to him because a man in a sacramental marriage is not expecting every woman in the world to love him – and yes, find him desirable. He is hanging a great deal of his self-image and self-esteem on your response to him. If you want a husband who is bold and confident then you need to build him up and not tear him down with rejection or criticisms. Too many times I hear things like “He just needs to deal with it”. I think it is time for women who think that way put on their big-girl panties and deal with their issues preventing them from committing to love their husbands every day without laying all the blame and responsibility on him. This commitment both parties must make every morning to love each other is imperative because Love is a Choice. It’s long past time for both men and women to discover the joy of lighting up another person’s face, or making their day with a kind word, romantic gesture, or enthusiastic intimate affirmation. This would be in contrast to doing what is necessary only to fill our own desires as the need builds, which focuses only on what we want and is not service to another – but rather is use of another.
Rejection is the next phase. This is where the husband or wife has now tried repeatedly, even if unclearly, to initiate intimacy and failed or been rebuffed. Each time the rebuff happens without a clearly stated and valid reason, a piece of your spouse’s self esteem is torn away. Even worse are situations where one spouse submits half-heartedly or less, which often leaves the other spouse feeling used and dirty. Husbands are as susceptible as wives to this feeling, and it cannot be fixed with any words afterwards. Further, it does lasting serious damage to the marital relationship. It leaves husbands feeling filthy like they just had sex unfaithfully with an unenthusiastic gum chewing prostitute, or worse have just raped their wives. Women end up feeling either raped or used and dirty. When sex is not a gift to your spouse given out of love, such results are inevitable. The self esteem of both parties is diminished, and the intimacy dies little more with each passing day. Until one day nothing remains of it.
When the rejection becomes more than they think they can handle – they will withdraw. At this point the spouse that has withdrawn will either lash out in anger, and/or turn to masterbation and pornography in a misguided belief that it is less harmful than adultery. It is adultery, Jesus was clear about that. When they withdraw they will cease to initiate intimacy because they cling to the idea that if they do not allow themselves to be rejected again that there is still some vestige of the intimacy they can later salvage. It is of of course a self-defense mechanism and not an attempt to hurt their spouse. It is a thorny problem to solve when dealing with husbands, as too many wives will watch the spiral and refuse to initiate intimacy boldly enough to convince the husband they truly want to unite with him and that they do not act out of a sense of pity or duty (as some husbands also do to their wives gravely damaging their self-esteem). No self-respecting husband wants just sex, nor does he want just sex under those circumstances. For that matter, no spouse would want the other to consider intimacy an unpleasant chore or duty. To reach such a point is to admit there is no love left between you and in sacramental marriage that is a terrible and devastating thing to be faced with.
Once both sides have rejected each other long enough, and torn down their spouses self esteem in the process, they leave each other vulnerable to outside temptations. While the spouse pulling the trigger is responsible for their actions, there was a great sin against them done by the spouse who helped to load and hold the gun that shot both of them in the head. Both of them are inevitably deeply or gravely wounded. The children are deeply wounded and will bear scars from that wound their whole lives. What is even sadder is that the marriage rarely recovers, even if the couple is later reconciled. If they are not, a divorce simply leaves both parties unhappy and in relative poverty dragging any children along on the downward emotional and financial spiral. I find that the end results are generally horrific for both parties and any children involved. Of course – if one spouse rejects and disparages the other being overweight, some facet of their appearance, or other superficial physical attribute; Then the need for that spouse to find validation, acceptance, and desirability comes much more quickly because their self esteem has been ripped apart much more quickly and directly. Regardless of their gender, infidelity follows almost invariably as the disparaged and rejected spouse seek to confirm their desirability with a member of the opposite sex, or to find the intimacy lacking at home with a person outside their marriage.
The solution is easier said than done. Always make a choice each morning when you first wake to love your spouse, body and soul, without reservation. Always speak well of your spouse, to them and to others. Build your spouse up, as they will rise to meet your expectations if praised honestly and spoken to kindly. Always be affectionate with your spouse. Always remember you cannot fix your spouse – but you can inspire them to greatness. Always accommodate your spouse when they initiate intimacy or explain why you cannot and set up a rain check so they do not think it is a rejection of their person – then keep the rain check with joy and enthusiasm to remove all doubt.
Give it some thought. It costs nothing to make time for intimacy, but you must make the time and the effort so that your spouse feels wanted and desired. Make a point of giving you spouse a gift when and where you can. Remember that not only will it create a much deeper bond between you, but it will also ease so many other facts of marital life and communication. You may even find a joy in each other long forgotten when sex stops being driven by biology, and begins to be driven by love – and no man willingly trades a woman who loves him for his hand and a wrinkled magazine or dim computer monitor, nor does any woman trade a husband who loves her for a harlequin romance novel and a massaging shower head.