Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to Handle Demands for Sex in Marriage

WARNING: This blog is going to be explicit!  Not pornographic, but direct and clear in the same way we talk to clients in our counseling and coaching office about healing and maximizing their sex life!

This question comes up often enough that I have to write about it.  "My husband insists that its his right to keep having sex, even though my heart isn't in it because he has been unkind and unwilling to apologize, take responsibility or to talk through and work on our problems.  What should I do?  What is right to do?"  Before answering her question, I want to share some principles that we've found effective.

Mark Gungor says it best, "Touch her heart, and she'll let you touch everything you want to!"  Perhaps overly simple for the complexities of the dance of sexual intimacy, but it captures the essence of her needs/his needs.

She needs to feel emotionally safe and close.  He wants physical closeness.

AND, one usually comes before the other.  He needs to hold her heart, before she willingly opens her body.  At least that's our overwhelming experience in our own bedroom, and the counseling and coaching office.  Not to say that the guy needs to be perfect, but at least trying.  And, we've sometimes urged the wife to "give him a break! Don't set the bar so high that he doesn't have anything to work for."  It's an ongoing process . . . an ongoing dance, and unfortunately sometimes a standoff.

What DOESN'T  work is a hierarchal demand for sex, because "it's my right.  It says so right here in Scripture, 'Don't deprive each other except by mutual consent . . . "   We simply don't see that work! (Except for  him for about 5 minutes!)  And when she is willing to be really honest, she says that it makes her feel like a prostitute, "That he only wants me for my body, not my mind or my heart, because he isn't engaging me in that way outside of the bedroom."  One husband sobbed in repentance when confronted his wife said it this way.  Others don't.

One wife got really creative.  She waited until her husband was really worn out, sound asleep, and probably unable to 'perform' due to fatigue.  "I stripped, woke him up and said, 'I demand my right to your body, right now!''  He got the point.  "She did to me what I'd been doing to her.  I got it.  I'm so sorry.  I don't want to be that guy."

If you are that guy, even occasionally, take heart, there's hope.  You can grow toward mutually willing, mutually satisfying love-making during your next conversation.   Die to yourself, go to the conversation to give loving listening, learn and practice the principles of sustainable hot monogamy.  Gungor's videos are a great resource for the principles, and our book provides practical steps to become a man who holds his wife's heart, and therefore very often gets to hold the rest of her!"

Now, before you protest, "That's too easy, you don't get my situation, her issues, etc."  We know.  It's complicated. and the solution may require more time and more answers.  But please try, and please consider these thoughts as some potentially important ingredients for Great love-making in your marriage.

Oh, the answer to the wife's question at the beginning of this blog, "It is essential that you tell your husband how you feel about having sex without an emotional bond.  And if it takes a period of abstinence to get it right, it's worth it.  You owe it to your marriage to be honest, and to not tolerate anything less than God's best."

BTW, the husband who had 'emotionally raped' (his words) his wife for years by demanding sex in the absence of emotional safety and closeness became a 'holding heart' who learned to tenderly and carefully hold all of the thoughts, feelings and desires in her heart.  I see them around once in awhile and they have big, satisfied grins on their faces.  I know why they're smiling, and they know that I know why!

Blessings, Jeff (and Jill).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Power of Prayer to Connect Couples

We were thinking the same thing at about the same time, "Its bad enough that we need to pray."

That's actually an old joke we learned from a church-planter.  While serving as part of a core group to help to plant a Church in the northern suburbs of Chicago in the late 80's we often faced problems and challenges.   Often, after talking about what to do for awhile, the pastor would quip, "Do you think its bad enough that we ought to pray?"  You get the joke, right?  It would be good to make prayer a first thing and not an afterthought.

I'll let you in on a little secret.  Jill and I work really hard to keep a relational connection in the midst of marriage ministry.  Emotional and physical closeness aren't a given.  We have to make time to connect, not just to communicate a huge volume of information about the couples we serve and events we get to do, but to just be husband and wife in an ever evolving relationship.  And there's nothing as good as prayer to connect (and to repair us).

After taping a promo for an upcoming event yesterday morning we were both spent.  Not a good thing to begin the day mentally exhausted, but not surprising, because public speaking (and taping) requires a great deal of energy and concentration.  It was 1045am, and we both faced a day of appointments that wouldn't end until 930pm. "What can we do to connect, and to refresh, as well as to get centered on the priorities of the day?"  Let's pray!

So we did, and it was really good.  No, it's not the first time we've prayed together, but its the first time in awhile that we intentionally invested in a comprehensive kind of praying; the kind where we go back and forth until everything is covered.  Not that we're legalistic about checking off everything that needs to be prayed about, but the kind where the more you pray the more you want to say, because it feels so good to get it off your chest, to give it to God, to share it with your partner, to bless them . . . and last but not least to connect with our Creator, Sustainer, Savior, Lord, Brother, Friend, Comforter, Wonderful Counselor and so much more!  (I wish I had words to describe Him!)

Jill began, I took a turn, and she ended by filling in some blanks.  We looked up and the world (and our day looked different).  We felt different too.  Cleansed, relieved, at peace . . . and close.  Of course! Close!  Why?

Prayer aloud as a couple fulfills one of the essential requirements for relational intimacy: Emotional Openness. To the extent that we confide intimate thoughts and feelings during prayer, we grow close to God (Him to Us), and to each other.  We bring forth deep concerns, joys, puzzles, desires and more to the ears and hands of Him who knows us, loves us and guides us.  And we become better known by our partner.

Did I mention that this is something we recommend?

Its stunning to discover how many couples have difficulty praying together.  But not surprising, given the potential potency of spiritual intimacy with God and each other that results.  Could there be Spiritual pressure against it? (that's a polite way of saying spiritual warfare).  Is there something about prayer that the enemy might want to frustrate it for couples?  This is a topic for an entirely different entry, so I'll get to my challenge (to myself and to you).

Where are you as a couple with prayer?  If its regular fare in your relationship, then we simply suggest you ask God to show you how He might like to grow it and protect it (i.e., make time for it).  Then, on the other end of the continuum, you might not have ever done it.  Don't worry, and don't be ashamed.  But there's no time like the present to get started.

Here are a couple of tips:

  • Sit somewhere comfortable and private
  • Decide who is going to begin
  • Prompt yourself to cover three areas:
    • Confess concerns
    • Give gratitude 
    • Ask for outcomes 
Is this working for you?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Entire books have been written about prayer, so I'm not trying to say an authoritative word, but rather to prompt a beginning (or continuation) of an invaluable opportunity to make your marriage more what you want it to be, and to discover together all that God has for you in some simple disciplines.  

We would love to hear your responses to this post, and comments/suggestions from your own experience praying as a couple.  

Prayerfully, Jeff and Jill