I received this question about a week ago from our anonymous Have A Question page:
Hello Jay, a friend put me on to your site awhile ago. I just signed up for daily posts this week. The second article I read was about the 11% of women who don’t fall into the ‘all my husband ever wants is sex’ category. I told my friend that this article had my name on it. While the conclusion is that you don’t yet have any solutions, it was a healing balm to know that I’m not completely alone.
And then I received this post, so here I am. I’m sending you my question with the full understanding that it may be overwhelming. I understand if you won’t have a solution. For now it’s wonderful to have a safe place to share it that doesn’t further burden my closest friends. Any suggestions or thoughts will be most welcome. I’m happy to further explain anything that’s clear to me but didn’t come across as such to you…
I was raised in an extremely dysfunctional home by a narcissistic bully (my mother) and an enabler (my father). At age 22, believing myself to be both undesirable as well as incapable of living on my own (when I finally decided to take my mother up on her oft repeated offer of, “If you don’t like it here, you can get out”, I married a man who clearly lacked sexual drive but also clearly loved me in other ways. He accepted me as I was.
Fast forward 25+ years to when I finally came to the realization, due to another man’s attentions, that I could be desirable. I blossomed at age 48. I wanted my husband to change, become more sexual, worked at it in various ways, including much individual and couples counseling, over the course of the past 8 years. No more than infinitesimal progress. I’ve finally accepted that this is who he is. He’s not holding out on me, he’s simply wired differently than most men. He does not seem to have the capacity to understand why I need to be desired vs having him do such basic things as kissing me, as a favor.
I love him for all he’s done and the good companion that he is. Do I break up my family because I want to be able to look for someone more suited to the person I’ve become? Do I continue to send the message to my youngest son, aged 22 but still living with us and unwilling to look for a relationship, that this is what marriage should look like? Does God want me to die to myself and put my spouse first to this extent? Or is this marriage a sham because of what’s missing?
Wow, firstly, thank you for all the context, it’s wonderful. Sometimes I get simple one line questions and it’s hard to answer, because I don’t know the situation at all. Now, at least I know one perspective on it. I always wish I could get the other spouse’s as well, but that hasn’t happened yet to date.
Secondly, I’m very glad that post was able to help you realize you aren’t alone.
Thirdly, I really wish in cases like this that I could talk to the husband, to make them realize that their indifference is damaging. That just because they don’t have the drive pushing them to pursue their wife doesn’t give them an excuse not to. Just as when a low-drive wife doesn’t have much of a sex drive, that’s not an excuse to opt-out of a sexual relationship. You should not be in marriage to get what you want out of it. You should be in it to give what you can to your spouse. It’s a commitment to love them, and sometimes that gets forgotten. That love is not an emotion, it’s a choice, and it’s an action. We are to actively love our spouse, every day, to give them what they need to feel loved, whether or not we get something in return.
Fourthly, and my main point is that it’s so easy for us to say “yeah, my spouse isn’t doing that!” and then feel like we should leave so we can find one who will….and that is really sort of hypocritical, isn’t it? I mean, we’re saying “my spouse should put me first” and then we contemplate leaving, instead of putting our spouse first in return. We think only about ourselves and what we’re getting out of the marriage. We do the exact same thing our spouse is doing! In Instead of following our God’s commandments to love our spouse, we follow our own trinity: me, myself and I.
So, “Do I break up my family because I want to be able to look for someone more suited to the person I’ve become?” becomes “Do I chose to break my vows with God and my spouse so I can serve myself instead?” And really, let’s say you do, let’s say you find a guy who makes you amazingly happy. Eventually you are going to still have massive problems in the marriage, because the entire premise of your relationship if flawed. You will have gotten in for the wrong reasons. You will have gotten married to serve yourself.
And many of us do this. I got married because of how my spouse made me feel, not because of how I chose to feel about her. It’s easy to “love” someone who makes you feel amazing. It’s hard to love someone when you are getting little out of the relationship. I think that’s a decision God makes about us every day.
So, no, I don’t think you should break up your family. I think you should model for your son how to love in difficult situations. Model for him a Christ-like love, and let Christ live through you.
I’d highly suggest reading the book Sacred Marriage. Gary Thomas does an amazing job explaining this view point in that book along with real-life examples and couples that have exhibited this choice to love in difficult situations. I think it might give you the strength and the tools to help accomplish this difficult task.
Now, it happens some times that spouses are convicted by this type of love. A love that is self-sacrificing instead of self-serving. But, it doesn’t always happen, I can’t guarantee it, and anyone who does is lying to you. What I can guarantee is that you can use this to improve your relationship with God, and that will in turn make it easier to love your spouse.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13
P.S. This is not advice to stay in an abusive relationship. That is not the same situation at all. If you are being emotionally, verbally or physically abused, please consider separating until you get some professional help to resolve the situation.Have a Question? Ask it here!
13 thoughts on “Should I leave to find happiness?”
Great advise Jay. You covered everything I was going to say. With one exception. And that is to point out that though her husband needs to seriously up his game. He is still basically the man she married. He’s always been this way. And even if she was to leave him for someone who makes her feel sexually desired, who’s to say that that relationship would not have bigger issues in some other area.
I thought that was my third point…
I agree with Jzy. I have always had a high sex dribve which my husband loved until signs of ED started to appear after 30 years of marriage. Shortlyafter he learned he had prostate cancer and it was serious. We agreed upon the best treatment to save his life. Our urologist who we later fired gave us the wrong information regarding side affects. Fast forward nine years. My husband had to be on and off Lupron which suppresses testosterone. It supresses testoterone the hormone that is responsible for a man’s sexual desire and climax. The other name for this is chemical castration. My sex strive if anything was stronger..kids gone, retired, no chance of pregnancy etc. My husband became totally non sexual. I thought I would lose my mind. Actially through a prostate cancer support group met a man that wanted to have an affair with me. He was wealthy, good looking and on the prowl. Definitely not a christian like my husband and I. He said his wife was totally frigid. Thankfully I was strong and kept my wedding vows. I was tempted..to get my selgfosh neefds met. Looking back I know that I wasmthinking of myself first and not my husband. No excuse. We got counseling and still seek it when we need it. My husband finally woke up when I brought up divorce. I was in a severe depression at the time. He is trying but cannot reach orgasm. On the their hand o am 65 and multi orgasmic. We have sex about twice I
A week. I always initiate because he says he NEVER even thinks about sex..he enjoys our times together but it saddens us both that he can’t orgasm. We are still working hard on this. My husband has stopped the Lupron. Hopefully he will get his pleasure back. Hope this is helpful.
Sorry…my spell che ck and auto compete are bonkers. Lots of typos in previous response.
I praise God that you were strong, Gracie, when you found yourself in an awkward siuation. The Lord is our help in every weakness. I so sympathize with you. Keep getting the counseling whenever you need it. It will help you to keep your vows to your husband. My wife and I have been married for over 28 years and have never once been able to consummate the relationship due to physiological problems. My wife accepted her problem and sees no need to be sexual at all with me. I have gone for counseling off and on through the years, but she sees no need to get help. She accepts her physical condition and lets it go at that. Talking about the problem only brings anxiety, frustration, hurt, sadness, and alienation. We are both Christians. I once brought up endoing the marriage, but have decided not to pursue this as it would mean breaking my marriage vows. My wife was stunned and angry that I would even consider such a step. A counselor once told me that I am married to a woman who hasshut herself down sexually. I love my wife for many other qualities and shared interests. Maybe one day, being sexual will be one of them. The business of intimacy is in God’s hands.
Hi, just wanted to recommend something for your husband to try. It’s a treatment for Post Finasteride Syndrome (similar to what your husband has) called the CDnuts protocol. Google it. My husband, who was in a similar situation, has made a lot of progress using this. The very best thing he can do to recover is take DHT (activated testosterone) pro-hormones and combine that with weight lifting. Good luck!
Everyone said my mother should leave my father. She followed her wedding vows and as a result all her 4 children are Christians and all her grandchildren. Many of her great and great grandchildren are Christians. Divorce could have ruined her testimony.
Mike, I think your mother’s story is probably an amazing one that brings great glory to what God has done in her life (you haven’t shared any of it beyond sticking with your father despite what sounds like serious issues, but it sounds like one I’d love to hear). But it does sound like that you think if she did divorce him, that she couldn’t have been a great witness for God. There are those who provide great witness to God for the good things they have done in their lives to honour God, but there are also those who provide great witness by being able to say “hey, look I really screwed up by not following God, but with God’s forgiveness and grace, I have turned my life around and now want to help others”.
One of the women that really touched my heart when I was going through a very painful divorce with my abusive, cheating first husband, was Ruth Graham. A woman who didn’t hide the fact that she was divorced. That she owned her mistakes. And that she made it clear that it doesn’t matter who is a fault for the divorce, that divorce is not the unforgivable sin. How many people have been driven out of churches because of judgment for having been divorced (even when they are not at all at fault)?
We need wonderful, faithful women like your mother to give their testimony, but everyone makes mistakes, we’ve all sinned and fallen short, it’s important for those who are hurting right now, whether it be from their own sins, or the sins of their spouse/exspouse, to know that even divorcees can become a great witness to God. No one can undo their past, but they can give their present and their future to God and become great witnesses to him.
Oh, I didn’t think that. Merely that it wouldn’t have been the same testimony. I agree, divorce doesn’t ruin your chance to share the gospel, but it does taint the image of a God that will stick with us no matter what. Marriage is a reflection of that commitment. That decision to stay, regardless of how difficult or unloving the partner is (as we act with God often). It’s the story of Hosea in daily life.
Now, of course, we all make mistakes, and I agree, it’s a great testimony to stand up and admit you made mistakes, but let’s not think that making mistakes and owning them is better than not making mistakes. That’s what the Jewish theologian Maimonides taught as a reason why Jesus is no better than humans (because He didn’t make mistakes and so couldn’t earn the blessings you get from admitting your faults and growing from them).
And I agree, the church has trouble with divorce. It’s difficult to balance a theology of “Divorce breaks our modeling of God’s love for us” with “Christ’s grace can cover any sin”. To be very firm prior to the offence, and accepting of the person and forgiving them after it. Honestly I don’t think many Christians know how to make that adjustment a lot of the time, and so, yes, it unfortunately sometimes hurts people…because people are people, and people do people things. Just as divorce is wrong…so is condemning someone after they have repented. The Bible tells us that guilt is supposed to draw us towards God. After we repent, if we still feel guilt, then that’s of the devil, and it’s purpose is to draw us away from God.
Sadly the church is often an instrument of God, or the devil, depending on the circumstance…and the individual.
Still others don’t repent their sins, and so they mistakenly blame the church for making them feel guilty, when all along is it God calling out for them to repent.
So, it’s a difficult topic, one that I’m afraid will likely never be solved this side of perfection. But, that’s not an excuse not to try to do better.
Jay, for being a sex-positive blogger, I was surprised that the main advice given was “suck it up, and pray”. The poor lady has endured and patiently waited for good sex for a long time, is she now trapped into a life of bland sex for the rest of her life?
We make the decision to break off the marriage to be solely hers. But that is only the formality of a legal definition, which is important, but this is a Christian blog, so what about the commitment to each other and God? What about his decision to not satisfy his wife or his responsibility to love his wife, like “Christ loved the Church and laid his [needs, wants, desires] down for it”? Shouldn’t he have some responsibility of leading his wife to question her commitments?
What was the definition of marriage in the Bible…specifically when Adam and Eve created the “first covenant marriage”? I would suggest marriage was was solely based on sex and informal commitments. We have no mention in the text of vows exchanged or legal documents signed. So, if sex was one of the driving factors of the first marriage, how can we not support ways for better sex? Now, realistically, we can’t all have mind-blowing sex, all the time…but can’t a woman expect a good orgasm at some point in her life shared with her husband??
1) I feel like you missed my third point.
2) I find it interesting that you use the word covenant, but then discuss it like it’s a contract. A covenant is a one-sided vow. We vow to love, regardless of how our spouse behaves or reacts. But, you seem to think that it should be dependent on the other’s reaction. This turns marriage into a self-seeking agreement, rather than a selfless covenant.
So, yes, I agree, the husband needs to deal with this sin in his life. But, I can’t talk to the husband. I can talk to the wife in this case, and unfortunately, neither she, nor I can force her husband to be convicted of his sin. The closest she could do it go to the church and publicly call him out for actively living out in sin and ask for the church to discipline him (Matthew 18:15-17). But, I have yet to meet a spouse, a pastor, or a church who is willing to enact that provision of Jesus’ conflict resolution plan in these cases.
So, let me ask you. What would you suggest? How do you “cure” gatekeeping/refusing? Because I hear a lot of criticism in your comment, but no solutions other than pointing at the husband and saying he should be better.
Jay, as you know, in some Christian circles Adam and Eve are put on pedestals of the perfect, ‘covenant’ marriage. But, as some believe, if Adam and Eve are the first and only humans alive at the time of their marriage, it is not hard to keep a covenant with the only other human on earth.
Things are more complicated now. There needs to be some reciprocity. Vows are exchanged on their wedding day; equal partnership. The bride commits to making him happy, but in turn he needs to make her happy. I understand the idealism of unconditional love (within marriage), but only God is known to be able to do that perfectly. We as humans need to have our love tanks filled at some point (within marriage).
So, Adam and Eve’s ‘covenant’ marriage was based on their sexual relationship. Paul instructs us to control our lusts by getting married. I would deduct that marriage and sex are pretty tied at the hip (pun intended). So, this poor lady, is crying out for better sex and the husband’s response is to give her a kiss and our response to her is to ‘think of the children’. 1) Those kisses better be in places she wants them and 2) it is only typical that we are telling the woman to think of her kids before breaking up the family (her 22 year old child??).
This is a tough situation if you believe that divorce is a greater sin than the sin of gatekeeping. But since the Bible is pretty clear about sex within marriage there are always choices from the personal to the confrontational. 1) Make sure the husband is not getting sexual fulfillment elsewhere; 2) Start focusing on her own masturbation skills or tools; 3) Invite him to watch or participate in her masturbation; 4) Gate-keep the husband in other areas of the marriage (no sex, no chores).
I am no expert. Jay, you are the expert. But I was just surprised that a woman is told that she just needs to endure without good sex. If a man was at his whit’s end, would we tell him to think of his 22 year old son?
Ideal world or not, covenant is a covenant. But, very well, forget Adam and Eve. Let’s look at Hosea instead. Let’s not water down what God wants for us by saying “well, we’re not perfect, so let’s not even try”.
As for the 22 year old son, studies show that children of divorce are worse off than those with intact families. Whether that divorce happens prior to their birth, while they’re in the family unit, or after they’ve grown and left the house. The age of the son is irrelevant to whether or not it will negatively impact him.
But I’m more concerned about how it will negatively impact her. Marriage is a mirror of God’s love for us. If we bail when it gets hard … it’s harder for us to trust God to stick with us when we don’t reciprocate perfectly. And it sends a mixed message to others. To claim to believe in Christian (covenant) marriages, but then to break one because you aren’t getting what you want.
So no, my response is not “think of your children”, it’s “think of your God”.
Is divorce a greater sin than gatekeeping? No, they’re the same sin: to choose self over God. It’s the only sin. But, one sin does not excuse another. I can’t say “well, they sinned against me, so I’m allowed to sin against them”. It doesn’t work that way. The debts don’t cancel each other out. You just end up with two debts against God. Two damaged relationships against God. David, after murdering Uriah and committing adultery said to God, “Against you, you only have I sinned”. (Psalm 51:4)
And again, my response was to the wife, not to the husband. My response to the husband would be completely different. But, as I said before, I cannot speak to him.
And I understand it’s not a satisfactory answer, but it is THE answer. It’s the same answer we have in the Bible in how to deal with sin: be good in the fact of evil. Turn the other cheek. Do good to those who do evil, love those who hate. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It’s not immediately satisfying. But it is good. And it’s what God calls us to do.
But, here’s the trick: if you do it, with the right spirit. If you put God first and follow Him, you will learn to be content in all situations. You can learn to be joyful in an unhappy marriage.
And so, yeah, I get that it might be a surprising answer. But, I don’t have a better one that the one the Bible gives us.
Also, keep in mind, she’s already done what I usually suggest: communicate about the problem and seek professional help.
As for your suggestions:
1) This man has had a low drive their entire 25 year relationship. I doubt it’s a new affair.
2) I think masturbation would add to the problems, not solve anything. This would be akin to committing adultery in my book.
3) He clearly has no interest in sex, so I doubt this will make a difference.
4) You propose sinning against him so that he will act better. This is the opposite of Christ-like behaviour. As I said before, this just compounds the sin, not cancel each other out. You will just add more of a wedge between them. Plus, this is a resentful, vengeful tactic, which the Bible also warns against.
So, I’m, going to stick with what I see in the Bible. I’m sorry if that surprises you.