Dr. Wall explains what the great tension in meaningful marital sexuality is, what happens when it doesn’t work and what happens when it does. This is part of a larger series of blogs on living as roommates vs. living as husband and wives. For the other blogs in this series click here.
It is more blessed to give than to receive.
If you’ve been following these blogs lately you might be getting a little confused. I’ve been doing a series of blogs contrasting married couples who live as roommates with those who live as husband and wife. When I got to the topic of sexuality as it plays out in these two dynamics, I started another mini-series within a series. So today marks the forth blog on sexuality in marriage in couples that live as roommates vs. husband and wife.
In the first blog on sexuality in this mini-series I poked fun at what happens when sexuality implodes. It isn’t pretty and leads to tons of hurt, resentment, anger, withdrawal and divorce. In the second I explained how both the husband and wife need to respect the boundary around their marriage in order for trust and love and sexual enhancement to grow. In the third we looked at how sexual desire is in flux over our lifetimes and that we need lots of patience and a servant’s heart in order to make sure we maintain our sexual connection “till death us do part.” Today we’re going to look at the tension that exists in marriage over sexuality.
So here goes:I explained in the previous blog that it’s NORMAL for one spouse to want sex more (Spouse A) and for one to want it less (Spouse B).I also pointed out that it is NORMAL for these roles to switch over the couple’s lifetime together.It’s NORMAL, but only if they have a servant’s heart.Your attitude toward your partner around sexuality will reveal the nature of your heart AND how you act on this will determine whether, over time, your heart gets bigger or smaller, you become a bigger jerk or a warmer lover.
What do I mean? Spouse A feels close to Spouse B when sexual with Spouse B. Spouse A both feels love when sexual with Spouse B and feels that when Spouse A is sexual with Spouse B that Spouse A is expressing love TO Spouse B. Keep in mind, going back to our last blog, that over their lifetime together Spouse A at times will be the husband and at times will be the wife.
For Spouse B, the dynamic is the opposite. Spouse B wants to feel close first to Spouse A and then sexuality becomes the expression of the fact that B and A are close. Sexuality becomes the celebration.
This is the great tension in marital sexuality: Spouse A wants to be sexual with Spouse B to feel close; Spouse B doesn’t want to be sexual with Spouse A unless Spouse B feels close to Spouse A! YIKES! Can you see the potential for misunderstanding and hurt here? Can you see that if you don’t have a servant’s heart that you will end up in a relationship desert? If either Spouse A or B are selfish, we end up with a mess. But if both have a servant’s heart, there will be a natural give and take and a flow of love. I think this is how God created us and that he expected sexual love to be this demonstration of giving between a husband and wife who are giving to the other. But, if EITHER partner is selfish this entire dynamic will erode away their love for each other.
Sexuality in marriage that works is a teeter-totter. In couples, who are living as roommates, these roles do NOT switch and sexuality implodes and the marriage is often over if they can’t figure this out. When they can’t figure out how the sexual teeter-totter works, they often get frustrated, and, sadly, and leave the playground altogether. Stupid, frickin’ teeter-totter never worked.
Let’s look at it NOT working, when they are living as roommates: Spouse A wants to be sexual with Spouse B, because when A is sexual with B, A feels close to B. But at this particular moment, B doesn’t feel close to A because B is tired or stressed or preoccupied with the kids or A and B haven’t spent much time together or they’ve bickered and B thinks I can’t be sexual with A because I just don’t feel close right now. B then rejects A’s advances. A feel hurt because why would B not want to feel close to me?
A thinks B looks at sex the same as A looks at sex.This isn’t the case, but A thinks that is the case and assumes that B is just making excuses to not be close to A.Over time A will be tempted to think that when B doesn’t want to be sexual with A, that the reason is because B doesn’t love A.So A feels rejected.When A feels rejected, it is very difficult for A to be nice to B.A pouts or gets mad or withdraws because it is hard to deal with rejection.
Meanwhile B looks at A pouting or stomping around or withdrawing and says to him or herself, why would I want to be sexual with you when you act like that?I don’t feel close to you.You are only wanting me for sex.You don’t love me.You are only thinking about yourself.
A is NOT just wanting to be sexual with B just for sex.On the contrary, A LIKES being close to B.Sexuality is a primary way that A feels love toward B.
But B thinks that A looks at sexuality just like B does and if A wants to be sexual with B when B doesn’t feel close to A, then that means that A is just into A’s self.What a jerk.Why would I want to be sexual with A when A acts like that?Forget it.A keeps trying and keeps trying and keeps trying and B rejects, rejects, rejects.Once in awhile B relents and is sexual with B, but to A it feels like B rarely wants to be sexual and the rejections get harder and harder to take.In some situations A quits trying altogether.Why try?I just get rejected.B now feels a huge sense of relief.The pressure is off!B might even think the relationship is improving because they’ve quit fighting about sex!!!!B might even think of initiating sex with A.But if B is too selfish, B won’t take the plunge to get A’s motor running.This seems fine to B because B doesn’t think about sex much anyway.B thinks B doesn’t really need sex that much (this, of course, is a delusion).
So while A has given up initiating sexual contact with B and B doesn’t understand the servant nature of marital sexuality, that it is a teeter-totter and B needs to step up to the plate and jumpstart their sexual life again, A begins to close A’s heart to B.A closes A’s heart to B because A is not having a servant spirit and is living as a roommate, that sexuality is something you get (I don’t “get any.”) and since A is not “getting any” A shuts down and withdraws in hurt and anger, which just makes B feel all the more distant from A, so no one is sexual with anyone.The teeter-totter sits abandoned in the playground.
Or B finally does see that A has withdrawn from B sexually, emotionally and every other way and finally tries to kick up the affection and sexuality factor, but now A says or implies by his or her indifference to B’s advances, that it is too late.You’ve never been interested in me before?Why would you be interested now?You are just being a hypocrite.B isn’t being a hypocrite, but A is too hurt to notice.B is trying to teeter-totter with A, but A has already left the playground.These couples don’t stay married long enough to discover the fluid nature of sexual desire and that it is normal for these roles to switch over time.They do NOT have big enough hearts to see that sexual desire changes over time.Sexuality reveals the selfish nature of both of their hearts.
It is only a matter of time before either A or B have an affair, one of them files for divorce or they live a life a life of two college roommates with nothing in common but the kids.The one most likely to file for divorce is A because B was fine with not being sexual with A because B basically rarely felt close enough to A for sex to mean anything to B (so B thinks).Either A or B could have an affair.If A has an affair, A will think A finally found someone that is interested in sex.This is a huge relief to A.If B has an affair, B thinks that, what do you know?I enjoy sex after all.I just need to be with the right person and that person isn’t A.
Sadly, if A and B divorce and marry someone else, the same teeter-totter dynamic will occur and when it is time for the teeter-totter to teeter-totter, neither will have a big enough heart to teeter-totter in the new marriage because they never learned to give and take around sexuality with a servants’ heart in their first marriage and their selfishness and self-absorption made their hearts smaller and smaller and then when they selfishly got divorced their hearts got even smaller so when they remarry their hearts have little patience, resilience or perseverance to endure and “I ain’t gonna take no crap. I did that in my first marriage” and their second marriage self destructs quicker than the first.
Now what if A and B have servants’ hearts? If A pursues sexuality with B and is turned down, A may experience a twinge of rejection. But A knows that B needs to feel close to A before B can be sexual with A because B has told A this and A has listened! So A says to B, “What do I need to do to help?” Or A just helps. A knows what needs to be done and does it without asking. A doesn’t act all put out and pout or get mad because B wasn’t ready to be sexual just then. A knows that over time B will be sexual with A. It’s just not right now. This is no big deal. B’s heart goes out to A because B knows that A wants to be sexual with B and that even though this is the case, A is not acting like a child and is very giving and sacrificial and B thinks “I’m very fortunate to have A for a spouse” and the context of love between B and A grows and B feels close to A so B can be sexual with A.
If B is wise, B will know that A feels really close to B when A is sexual with B and B likes the fact that A likes to feel close to B.B does not begrudge A for wanting to be sexual with B.B knows that if A and B are going to be close over time that the two of them need to be close to each other sexually.B knows that B needs to be close this way, just like A does.B just doesn’t think about it as much.This is not a big deal, because once in awhile B initiates sex to shake things up and to keep everyone interested.
Over time, A goes through whatever problems or health concerns and can’t initiate sexuality much and B notices this and rather than secretly rejoicing, B starts initiating sexuality more and eventually B becomes A and A becomes B and the roles reverse as the teeter-tooter flips the other way.
This will only work if BOTH A and B have servants hearts. If either party is selfish and demand their right or demand their way or withdraw into themselves, this whole sexual thing dries up. As both A and B give to the other, both their hearts grow bigger as does their love for each other. It’s actually fun to be on the teeter-totter. Over decades together sexuality switches up and down and that is just fine.
If you know that sexuality is connected to servanthood and that it ebbs and flows over time, when you sense the winds of sexuality changing in your relationship, you will take over your spouse’s role as the teeter-totter totters. As you give it will be given to you. It is better to give than to receive. So give already. Do your part. Keep the embers burning. Throw some more wood on the fire. Mix your metaphors. Do whatever you have to, but don’t let sexuality die or you will shrivel up inside and your relationship will, too. Reject your feelings of rejection. Kick them out of the playground. Get on the teeter-totter.
Frankly, we could use more tee-totterers.
To see all the articles in this series on living as roommates instead of husband and wife click here. The first article in this series briefly addresses sexuality:
Dr. Wall takes a sarcastic look at what it’s like to be married, living as roommates. Since this isn’t satisfying, people divorce in spades. Maybe they should have tried living as husbands and wives instead.
Dr. Wall continues his series on living as roommates vs. living as husband and wife (This is the seventh.) by exposing the hurt, misunderstanding, selfishness and cavalier attitudes roommates have about sexuality.
Dr. Wall discusses the importance of cuddling in marriage. Marriages without cuddling struggle with coldness and anger; those with regular, dependable cuddling are marked by closeness, connection and warmth.
Dr. Wall continues his series on living as roommates instead of husbands and wives by mocking the excuses people use to NOT be affectionate with their spouses.