Being nice to your husband does not make you a doormat.
And, along the same lines, let me say something which really shouldn’t be controversial: Making love with your husband, when you don’t particularly want to initially, is not the same as rape.
I can’t believe that some people think it is, but I’ve had a ton of people react just that way to my post about “just say yes“. This is so abhorringly cruel to real rape victims I don’t even know where to start. To make love and decide to jump in, even when you’re tired, is not the same as being forced to have sex. Are people really that stupid? Any rape survivor can tell you that the two are not even close. And equating them is diminishing the very real terror and pain that rape victims experience.
Yet as I mentioned yesterday, I’ve had a ton of visitors from sites lately that have been mocking the Christian view of marriage, and that’s one of the primary lines of attack: I’m telling women it’s okay if their husbands rape them. Give. Me. A. Break. Now, I know where they’re coming from, since I’ve done a Masters in Sociology with an emphasis on Women’s Studies, too. I’ve read all that feminist literature that calls all sex rape, and while it totally messed up my sex life in the early part of my marriage, I’ve thankfully been able to leave it behind and realize how great sex in marriage is.
So let’s take a look at this more closely, and see what it actually means to say, “I’m only ever going to make love to my husband if I myself am completely and totally in the mood at that time“. If you’ve decided that your feelings matter more than being nice to your husband, then you are:
1. Opting for Parallel, Separate Lives instead of Intimate Lives
Here’s what you’re saying:
I don’t care if my husband wants sex. I don’t, so he will have to suffer.
In other words, your feelings trump his. Your needs trump his. He has no right to expect anything from you, and no hold on you. You are completely your own.
Is that really what you want? Because if you’re saying that he has no right to expect anything of you, then you also have no right to expect anything of him. What if he doesn’t particularly want to talk? What if he doesn’t want to help with the kids? What if he doesn’t want to combine incomes or share with the expenses?
It is not empowering to say, “we each have to do what is best for us” when you are in a relationship. The beauty about marriage is that you have each promised to care for each other. You have promised to love each other. You have promised to walk through life together, where you are totally joined.
You can’t do that if you are simultaneously saying, “what he wants doesn’t matter to me.” What you’re also saying, then, is that if there are problems in the marriage, it is his fault, because I don’t have to change or do anything he wants me to do, because if I were to do so I wouldn’t be being true to myself. So you want him to change, but you shouldn’t have to change. What kind of a marriage is that?
2. Misunderstanding our Different Sex Drives
When I say that we should make love as often as possible, even if we don’t particularly feel like it, I’m not saying that this means that women will always have awful sex. Quite the opposite.
I think many women misunderstand our own sex drives. They’re really quite different from a man’s. A man desires sex first, and feels the urgency for it, and then he’s ready to go. And once he’s ready, he really can’t be distracted from it.
A woman, on the other hand, rarely feels a “build up” or a need for sex. We don’t work the same way. And we are very easily distracted, because for us, our sex drives are primarily in our heads. When we put our minds to it, we can get turned on. When we’re not into it, we can’t.
So that means that if we decide to jump in, and if we put our minds to it, we can certainly get turned on, even if we weren’t initially. And, in fact, that’s what Rosemary Basson from the University of British Columbia found when she looked at female sexual response. We usually aren’t aroused until we start making love.
If you’re waiting to be aroused before you jump in with your husband, thinking that this is somehow “being true to yourself”, then, you’re really not understanding your body, and you’re denying yourself a lot of chances to have great sex–and denying your husband that, too.
3. Letting Feelings Rule Your Life
Sometimes I cook dinner when I don’t feel like it. I’d rather read blogs, but I do it anyway. When my girls were little, I read to them every single night before they went to bed, even if I was tired, because it was important to me. I didn’t always want to, but I did it. I rarely want to exercise, but I do it. I want to eat chocolate, but I don’t eat it all the time, because I know it’s not good for me.
That’s because I am not ruled by my feelings. Instead, I try to live my life based on what I know is best for me and for those around me in the long run, not what I feel like doing now. If I only ever did what I felt like doing, I would never get anything done, because I’m essentially a lazy person.
Why do we think that it is somehow morally superior to live our lives according to our feelings? All you’re doing is concentrating on being selfish, rather than doing what is right. Quite often following what we feel will lead us down the wrong path.
Besides, feelings often follow actions. When you choose to do something, to commit to something, to embrace something, your feelings follow. Feelings should not be the engine that moves the train; they should be the cars that come along after the decision is made.
Thinking to yourself, “I don’t feel like making love very often, so I shouldn’t have to” will not get you a better marriage. It will not make you happier. It will not make you a better person. It will simply make you a lonelier person. Who wants that?
4. Condemning Yourself to Stilted Personal Growth
But I do want to focus on one aspect of this whole argument where I think the feminists do have some merit. For many women, especially those who have been sexually abused in the past, to think that someone else has a claim on your body is very threatening. What do you mean I should make love just because he wants to? That’s like saying that my body isn’t mine, and that leaves me very vulnerable.
Yes, it does. And I truly understand that fear. I’ve felt it. And I absolutely do not think that people should jump in indiscriminantly and all the time when they’re feeling that kind of fear, because that can actually make someone more emotionally scarred. The pain needs to be dealt with. I also absolutely do not feel that women should do anything their husbands want, or should do anything that cheapens them, or should have to consent to sex a lot if it really hurts them. I am not saying that.
But here’s the issue: You may have genuine emotional scars when it comes to the idea that your husband’s need and desire for sex should have an impact on you. Yet those scars do not have to rule your life. Many of us have scars that hold us back in all kinds of areas of our lives. Maybe you’re so timid you’ve never been able to stand up to your mom. Maybe you’re so scared of people that you verge on agoraphobic, and huddle in your house. These are genuine fears. But do you want to get over them and live a big life, or do you want those fears to rule your life?
If you say that “I must have full control over my body, and my husband must never demand or want anything I can’t give or else I’ll feel intimidated”, then your marriage is going to be stuck. You won’t be able to achieve that real intimacy that would be so healing for both of you.
That doesn’t mean that healing scars is a simple process. But the beauty of marriage is that you have that commitment so that you can be free to invest some time in talking to a pastor or a counselor and praying through these issues. So share with your husband your desire to have a great sex life, and then get some healing. You don’t have to live a stilted life.
Being responsive to your husband’s desire for sex is not the same as letting him rape you. That’s just so ridiculous. And the people who equate the two have no clue what a truly intimate marriage is, where we both give to each other and love each other and care about each other. I hope that’s clear. And for the rest of us who do want intimate marriages, I’d just point you back to my original point: if you don’t have a good reason for saying no tonight, why not say yes? You’ll sleep better, your relationship will improve, and you’ll be happier. So jump in!
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