In some marriages, the spouse with the lower sex drive simply decides their perspective is the most important and ends up being the gatekeeper of sex. That is, they decide when sex is, what sort of sex there is, and generally it’s given out fairly infrequently. They basically keep their spouse locked up in a sexual prison, let out on breaks based on how they feel themselves. And generally this is how most high-drive spouses feel about their low-drive spouse. However, I’m noticing more and more, particularly with low-drive wives, they don’t want to be the gatekeeper. In a sense, they aren’t the one holding the keys to sex, but rather, they’re a prisoner just like their husband.
I was thinking about this in the past week as I got an email from yet another reader that seemed to match this dynamic. So, I thought I’d share it with you.
There are certain markers that tend to set this sort of dynamic apart from the simple refuser/gatekeeper:
- They enjoy sex when they have it – not just orgasming, because orgasm doesn’t necessarily equal pleasure, but actually are engaged and having fun.
- They express that they “want to want to” have sex – Does that make sense? They don’t ever desire sex, but they wish they did.
- They feel regret over their current sex life – they may not verbally express it, but they’re as frustrated over their own gatekeeping as you are.
I think part of the problem when trying to learn how to deal with a gatekeeper/refuser is that not all gatekeepers are the same. This is a particular type, that, frankly, is probably the easiest to work with.
They want to improve. They understand it’s important. They don’t like how things are. They just don’t know how to change. They’re trapped, just like their high-drive spouse.
Treat the gatekeeper and your spouse separately
In a very real sense, your spouse is dealing with two warring personalities. One part of them wants to feel the connection, wants to have fun, wants to have sex. However, another part is adamantly against it, seeming to block any chances, find excuses to avoid sex, or create obstacles to finding time.
The high-drive spouse of course tends to feel that the behaviour is deliberate, that their spouse doesn’t really love or desire them. They feel that their spouse is simply uncaring about their needs and desires and being selfish. While I have no doubt that this is true in some cases, in many others, it’s not.
In these other cases, part of the spouse’s personality is blocking them from switching gears, getting aroused, and generally being interested in sex unless sex is happening. Basically, it’s responsive desire mixed with a layer of asexuality, or even sex-negativity. While their brain is “cold” in an aroused sense, something about their personality, history, beliefs, hormones, or whatever is telling them “You don’t want sex.”
But, when they get turned on, that part of the brain quiets down. In a dual-control model, it’s like the brakes get shut off temporarily, or at least radically dampened. Then, the underlying sex-positive personality seems to be able to come out and play.
And this makes it even more confusing to people who don’t know what’s going on. Because, suddenly their cold-fish attitude spouse is a great companion in bed. Then the next day, you’re back to a lack of interest in sex again.
So, what can we do about this?
How does this change initiation?
For the spouse that is initiating in these cases, I think it’s helpful to treat them almost like there is a guard in their brain that’s preventing them from doing what they want. You have to hold this belief that they really do want to have fun, be passionate and enjoy your company in bed. However, there is a separate force stopping them.
So, your initiation is working off the assumption that they really do want sex, but that on any given day, the guard may interrupt you from taking them out of the prison. On some days the guard is more attentive, like when your spouse has had a bad day, or the week before their period starts, or they haven’t had enough sleep, or they’re stressed about finances. All these sorts of things make that guard super attentive. It really doesn’t want this prisoner to get out.
Other days, like during ovulation week, or when they’ve just had a really good day, and a good night’s sleep, and the kid’s have behaved, or a project went well at work, the guard is a bit more relaxed, or even non-existent.
These days add to the confusion. These are when spouses email me and say they get sex “when the stars all align”. You have no idea how often that phrase, or something similar, comes up in emails I get. But, when you understand that it’s these days that the guard is sleepy, or even absent, then it makes more sense.
How does this change being receptive to initiation?
I know there are some low-drive spouses reading this, and if you are a high-drive spouse, who has a spouse like this, I hope you share this post with them and discuss it. So, if you are a lower-drive spouse in this sort of situation, what can we do for you?
Well, I think you actually have the worst side of the deal. Because while your spouse is missing you and feeling starved for attention, they are outside of the prison, free to act as they desire. Now, those desires may not get met, but at least they can express them.
But you are sort of trapped in a prison in your own mind, guarded by this part of your brain that is quite frustrating to you. You have similar needs (though maybe not as strong), but can’t express them, or even go along with them easily a lot of the time.
So, how do you handle initiation, knowing this guard is going to do it’s best to block you much of the time?
I think just knowing what is going on is the first step. A lot of spouses see a massive change in their sex life as soon as they learn about things like responsive desire, the dual-control model of arousal, and some other pieces. You can read more about them here.
Once you understand what’s happening, it makes it easier to find ways around it. Realize that getting past the guard is the first step. There are three basic ways I’ve found to deal with this guard instead of waiting for “the stars to align” and you go have a perfect day (how often does that happen), or being intoxicated enough to knock the guard out (not advisable).
Slowly slip by the guard
This is the “sex starts in the kitchen” approach that everyone loves to tell you to do. It’s the typical advice of “be attentive throughout the day”, “send texts to know you’re thinking about them”, “send them flowers”, etc..
Basically, manufacture the perfect day.
It can work, at least it works better than not doing anything. However, it still has a high failure rate, because, well, life happens. It’s pretty easy for this to get thrown off. It comes with high expectations over a long period where anything can happen.
Low-drive spouses tend to like this approach, because it doesn’t require much of you. You just get to sit there and be the recipient of love.
Unfortunately, this is basically just appeasing the guard, which feeds it. The next time you are nice, the guard might wake up and realize what’s going on. You’ll start to think they’re just being nice to get sex, and then resent you for it.
Ignore the guard
This option is far more effective, but requires more of a mental investment. It’s basically you realizing the guard doesn’t control you. You see the guard can’t physically throw you back in this prison, because it’s a prison of the mind. It just keeps telling you all the things that will make you want to go back in your cell.
It is possible to recognize the guard has no power, to ignore the things it’s saying, and just keep walking past it. It’s incredibly difficult though because it uses your voice, your thoughts, and it’s hard to separate how you feel from how it feels. Because, well, it’s a part of you.
It takes deciding that what you want is beyond how you feel in the moment. It requires realizing that the future gains will be worth the temporary feelings of mental discomfort. You need to reject the idea that you have to be “in the mood” to have sex and understand that sometimes sex brings you into the mood. Actually, in your case, that’s probably true 90% of the time or more.
Spouses with responsive desire may only feel spontaneously aroused a handful of times in their entire marriage. If you’re going to wait around for that, it may never happen. However, if you can learn to ignore the guard, you will have freedom as soon as you get started.
My wife has figured this one out. It’s not easy for her, and it’s still a struggle, and sometimes the guard still wins, but even on some of those difficult days, she’s been known to say “Let’s just start, and I’ll catch up.” And it usually works. Not always. Sometimes we get started and … it just doesn’t work out. But those are the rare events.
The high-drive spouses tend to like this one, because, well, they don’t have to put in as much effort as #1, but they get all the benefits at a lower risk. However, it takes more of a toll on the lower-drive spouse, at least at first.
Just jump past the guard
This one is a bit more fun and my favourite. This is a mix of the other two really, but in a compressed time, so it reduces the risk. It requires both spouses working together. Basically we’re looking to ramp up arousal so fast the guard is stunned and doesn’t have a chance to stop us.
You need to find something that boosts dopamine fast enough that the guard is ineffective. Because it’s a lot easier to ignore it if you’re already turned on.
Frankly, this is why so many non-Christians suggest porn and erotica, because it’s basically engineered to arouse you quickly. This is also why many Christians mistakenly believed 50 Shades of Grey was “good for your marriage”, because it was using something external to artificially ramp up your dopamine. Basically, these people are having emotional / mental affairs with a book, then going home to meet their physical needs.
Activities that might help you jump past the guard
So, how do we do this in a manner that actually builds your own marriage rather than just trying to get sex?
Frankly, that depends on the person. But I’ll give you some ideas that you can discuss.
I’ve talked about massage a bunch of times, but the fact remains, for many people, it’s an excellent way to ramp up arousal quickly. It’s about a half hour of investment rather than the all-day long approach. Of course, this isn’t an excuse not to be attentive during the day. I’m just saying don’t do it to try and get sex. A massage to get sex though … well, I think everyone knows what’s going to happen when you offer a “full body massage”.
Don’t know how to give a good massage? Check out Melt – Couples Massage Courses. That’s how I learned.
These are a great way to have some fun and ramp up arousal quickly. We have one we’ve made called the Spice Jar that’s a printable foreplay game. Basically, the choice of foreplay is randomly given to a deck of cards (that you pre-filter for your comfort levels). We also have a Truth or Dare game that I built a while ago, just for fun. It was more of a proof-of-concept and I intend to make more, but people love it!
As well, Keelie and Austin over at Love Hope Adventure have a ton of bedroom games that are more game-like in their shop. They’re giving my readers 40% off until Valentine’s Day (use coupon code UNCOVERINGINTIMACY). You can check out their wide assortment here.
Other ways are to get into some of the more “taboo” subjects of sex. Maybe you have some activities that you don’t do often, but that always seem to create an exciting night. Now, that’s going to be different for every couple. If you are fairly vanilla, then simply adding a blindfold might be enough to get you aroused quickly. For others, it might some bondage (real or pretend), or even some more taboo things.
Write your own erotica
Lastly, you could always write your own erotica for your spouse, or write it together, trading off paragraphs.
Now, some are going to ask why I didn’t include sex toys in this list. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for sex toys, however, the key here is to build mental arousal. Sex toys don’t help a lot with that. They build physical arousal and that sort of drags the mind with it. However, it’s not nearly as effective as getting the mind aroused first.
When it doesn’t work out
Now, all these tips and tricks still don’t guarantee that sex will work out, or that it will be amazing if it does. As I said, we still have times where it just doesn’t. The guard wins.
The key here is to not blame yourself, or your spouse. It’s not you vs. them, it’s the both of you vs. the guard. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.
Eventually, you’ll get better at evading the guard, or ignoring it, or tricking it, but for now, you did the best you could. Remember that the low-drive spouse is in a sort of mental prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Their history, be it their own activities, teachings from parents, church, school, friends, etc. have all built up this guard to be stronger than it should be.
This guard, after all, is a God-given system designed to stop us from having sex at inappropriate times, like in the middle of the grocery store. The problem is that the guard has been badly trained and is stopping us at times when it is perfectly appropriate.
And it’s okay to express regret or disappointment that it didn’t work out. What’s not okay is to express disappointment in your spouse. In cases like these, they are trying, just like you are. They just couldn’t get past the mental hurdles.
So, be caring, compassionate and understanding, and decide together to try and escape again tomorrow.
Want to boost your sex drive?
Wives, if you’re looking for a way to improve your sex drive, which will help you get past the guard, Sheila Gregoire has a great course designed to do just that. It tackles the issues at the heart of those who have low sex drives due to mental barriers. Plus, I learned that she is raising the price after Valentine’s Day, so while it’s not quite on sale, it’s a good time to buy. If you’re interested, you can check it out here.
40 thoughts on “Trapped gatekeepers – blame the guard, not the prisoner”
This is a fantastic article. Thank you so very much. I am in a marriage where we have fantastic sex. My wife is multi orgasmic and has 10 and more BIG O’s every time that we make love but finds it very difficult to respond to all my initiating. We make love about once in 3 to 6 weeks and then it is fantastic. But the long periods inbetween are killing me.
Thanks Lou. I hope some of the tips help! Any chance your wife will read it?
Found this site in a link on another forum.
A guy in his 50’s here. Over the last 5 or 6 years my drive has dropped to zero due to various things, but mostly low T. I’ve tried HRT but it caused more health issues so I had to stop. I really don’t find sex enjoyable at all and with the onset of ED it’s becoming almost impossible to even try. I’m done taking the meds that made me very sick. Not doing that ever again. HRT is extremely risky for both men and women.
I have found that articles like this are just cliche and are really starting to bother me a lot. The line “Just do it” does not work and eventually causes resentment. How can somebody I love force me to do things that I don’t want to and increasingly look at with disdain? When you don’t have the hormones driving the body the act of sex really makes no sense and brings no pleasure. When you don’t have the hormones, the act of sex is a very intrusive act even for a man and is not something you look forward too and becomes something you run from.
Another sting part of this is I have now had my eyes opened to just how bad modern TV and movies have become. Everything in America is about sex, seeking the ultimate pleasure, etc. The Sex scenes and language are extremely offensive and I’ve given up most of them. The last time I was at a movie was Star Wars, and that series is really the only movie I look forward to the next one coming out.
I don’t expect many to understand this. If you don’t live it no way you can comprehend.
Well, the issue is that this article was never intended for someone in your situation. You have an underlying issue (Low-T) that makes you not part of this subset. In fact, one of the criteria is that you “want to want to”, which you clearly don’t. Plus, you’re a male, so that makes this advice even worse for you, generally speaking.
However, there are natural methods of dealing with low-T that don’t involve HRT. I’d book an appointment with a naturopathic doctor to see what your options are if you are interested in fixing it.
He might have ed and can’t perform, but he does have hands and a mouth that he can be intimate with his wife.
The “I don’t feel like it because I don’t get anything out of it” is a poor excuse.
You literally could not do this with any other need in a marriage.
I feel sorry for his wife.
Look, there are two was to deal with things like this:
2) Fix the underlying issue
Willpower depletes over time. Yes, you can train it to be stronger, however, some people just can’t muster enough to do that to start with. Sounded like he couldn’t. But, if you can fix the underlying issues, that brings the bar lower and he might have enough willpower to actually start the process.
My husband’s issue was low T, from age and work stress. It took trial & error to find the best form to improve his drive, so I recommend not giving up until every avenue has been exhausted. I have female friends who were in the “want to want to” group and the same hunt for the perfect T solution applied to them as well. If bioidentical cream doesn’t work, try injections, try sub-dermal pellets, then something else until a solution is found. Your spouse is too important and your own life from a satisfying sex life is equally important—if it were any other health issue I think we would all keep trying to solve it. This is just as important!
Absolutely agree! If the poster (Joe) is saying HRT is causing more health problems, chances are his dose was wrong. There are also a slew of health problems that can develop because of low T. Lack of hormones are not a reason to quit trying to have a sex life. There is more than one way to fix low T levels. And I highly doubt there is someone out there that can’t be “fixed” with the proper time and effort along with a knowledgeable doctor.
The number of people that have adverse reactions to HRT (men and women) are much greater than the pharmaceutical industry wants us to know. Male sex potency is a massive business. Basically a printing press making money for them. Simply saying keep trying until you find the right drug is a typical response. Guess what, I’ve been hospitalized due to HRT. I’ve got permanent health issues now due to it. This from the initial very bad practice of a doctor who thought I just needed to keep increasing the dosages and trying different types. I got 2nd, 3rd and 4th oppinions from people who specialized in this and only work on reproductive issues. They all said HRT is a big area of study that we still don’t know a lot about and nobody knows the long term effects pumping testosterone into a body will do. One doctor even admitted to the enormous pressure from the drug manufacturers to prescribe. Thankfully he was honest and said they were not good for my body. Yes they help some, but the actual number is around 50% or less. He also said the data they are tracking is showing that while HRT may balance out the test result numbers for some, and help a man feel less tired, the number that get a libido jump is even lower.
I don’t have websites to link to, or anything other than the honest conversations I’ve had with my doctors and my experience, which is real.
I don’t buy any of that. If it was a doctor that didn’t know what they were doing and kept pumping you with more, that is on them, not the HRT being a bad thing. And exactly what drug manufacturers are pushing prescribing this? If you are using Bioidentical hormones there isn’t “big pharma” pushing those. Hormones are naturally occurring in your body, have you looked at the health risks of having low T or no T? There are plenty.
And the doctor that told you less than 50% of people improve on HRT? I highly doubt that. If those are his results, he’s not very good at what he does.
I don’t think it’s fair to your wife to just decide not to try to feel better and have a libido.
“This is the “sex starts in the kitchen” approach that everyone loves to tell you to do. It’s the typical advice of “be attentive throughout the day”, “send texts to know you’re thinking about them”, “send them flowers”, etc..”
Absolutely DO NOT try this method. If you’ve communicated your unhappiness with your sex life, sending flowers, cleaning the home, etc.will do nothing to help you get more sex.
A refuser will only have sex when they decide. Nothing you do will convince them in a given moment to have sex, and if you do, it will most like be you having sex with an uninvolved partner.
I have just found this site and so far so good, however this article gives too much leeway and excuses for a refusing spouse. Idc if there is a “guard”(barring not existing due to past sexual violence etc), there is no excuse for habitually turning down your spouse. By doing so, that spouse is breaking the marriage vows. It comes down to a simple choice, either do it or don’t. Either they decide that you are worth the effort and care enough about you that they will meet your needs as best they can.
Unless there are health issues, past sexual abuse, or one spouse being abusive, there is no reason for any marriage to go throughout this.
There is no magic bullet for this kind of dynamic, but I do believe the refused spouse can assist things to change. This is going to sound harsh and maybe mean, but it really is just tough love. What I did to help my wife pull out of this was simply be loving, but not be the perfect husband. I didn’t give 100% emotionally all the time, I didn’t go the extra mile around the house, I was romantic only on few occasions throughout the year. I in essence applied the effort she gave in the bedroom into other parts of our relationship.
Think about it, if you give them everything, they have 0 reason to change. If they are getting all their needs met, you will only resent them more.
Now before you call be a big jerk, think about this: how would your refusing spouse react if you only talked when YOU felt like it? What if you only planned nights out when you had nothing better to do or if you only spent time together at home when you were in the mood? What if you only.allowed them to talk to you about your problems when it was convenient for you?
I bet the reaction wouldn’t be too good. Now why should sex be different? It’s shouldn’t and you have to get it through to your refuser that them saying no is unacceptable and that you cannot be the spouse they need until they get a clue.
Now I’m not claiming this is an exact science, but I do believe for the majority of people going through this that this is the best approach. But one thing has to happen for this to have any impact: you have to let them know that you cannot be the spouse they need while they refuse to be the one you need.
I think you’ve missed the point of the post, which was that there are two types of refusers/gatekeepers.
As for what you’ve done in your marriage, I’m not surprised it worked. You’ve turned it into a contract, basically giving her the choice to meet your terms or get out. Then used attachment theory to make her fear a loss of connection and want to get it back. I hope one day she doesn’t decide it’s not worth meeting the terms anymore… I think you’ve set a bad precedent here.
Marriage is a contract. You both agree to love and honor each other. The line “if I feel like it” does not follow any of the vowes, yet that’s how refusing spouses treat them.
Nobody enters a marriage or relationship without expecting their needs to be met. We need to stop acting like we would just love this person no matter what they do or don’t do to us. That’s feel good nonsense and a lie to ones self.
People don’t fall in love with another who doesn’t give them anything in return. We fall in love because that other person makes us feel a certain way. There are different reasons why we may fall in love, but all those reasons come down to how we feel being around that person. We don’t just love another person because they exist. There’s only 2 beings that ae capable of such a thing and that is God and parents.
Would you have married your wife if you knew beforehand that she was going to not meet your needs? Would you do it knowing that you were going to be miserable and no matter what you said or did, she would tell you go pound sand?
No sane person enters a contract without receiving a benefite. No person willingly marries another person who does not give them joy(unless that person is desperate and takes the 1st thing that comes along).
I love my wife dearly, but if she were to one day leave because she decides it’s not worth it, the so be it. I don’t know if you’ve experienced the kind of hell that living with a refuser brings. It is one of the worst especially as a Christian because there are not clear answers as to if you can leave a person for rationing sex. The line you wrote about feeling more sorry for the gatekeeper leads me believe you never experienced this, or you didn’t for very long.
Many of nights I went to bed in a extrem anger because she would have rather watched a rerun on tv than be intimate with me. So many nights I went to bed praying for God to fix my marriage. When nothing changed, I prayed for God to end the marriage and give me an out. That’s how much anguish I lived in. If she does revert back to that person, I hope she would leave because I don’t ever want to live through that again. I would rather be alone than live with a person who refuses to love me or not care about my needs.
Let me be be very clear, I communicated my unhappiness to my wife 100s of times and nothing changed. She saw my tears and pain, but didn’t care enough to do anythi g about it. So I’m sorry I had no will to be the perfect husband. I had nothing left in me because there was a resentment. She needed to change and show me that my feeling and my needs were important. She finally did and our marriage couldn’t be better.
You have a fundamentally different view of marriage than I do. We’ll never see eye to eye on this until that changes.
You believe marriage is a contract, I believe it is two covenants.
You believe love is a feeling. I believe it is a choice.
You believe that I am in marriage in order to get, I believe I’m in it in order to give.
Now, I agree, I got into marriage for the wrong reasons. However, I’ve since learned. And yes, I know what living with a refuser is like. We have a sexless marriage for many years.
But your wife is not responsible for your resentment, you are. Saying it’s her fault is just not taking responsibility for your own choices. That’s the opposite of what the Bible teaches us about character.
Our relationship with our spouses should reflect God’s relationship with us. We constantly fail Him, hurt Him, don’t meet His desires, and yet, He loves us unconditionally. That is what I strive for.
I disagree your marriage couldn’t be better. It sounds like it’s currently founded on fear, coercion and performance, rather than unconditional love. I think you have no idea how good it can be.
I believe it’s a contract in the sense that there are promises made before and during the ceremony. You are making promises are you not? Are there not ways to dissolve the union if one partner breaks the promises? Call it a covenant or contract, at the end they are both the same.
There are different kinds of love. Romantic love doesn’t develop unless certain criteria are met. Yes we should love everyone, but there’s a difference between that love, and the kind that exists within a marriage. The love you have for kids is not the same kind that you have for your wife. You don’t love a stranger the same as you love your wife.
“In a marriage to get”….again I defy any person to tell me they would knowingly marry a person if they knew that person would give little back, or if that person would make them want to be dead due to their actions. No sane person would say “you know, I’m going to make a life long commitment to a person that’s going to make me unhappy just because I love them.” I’ll ask you again, would you marry a person in this circumstance? If the answer is “no” then you do have conditions on love, you have expectations for what that marriage will do for you. Everyone has a “get” when they are entering into a marriage. If you took a wife because you wanted her around, then you had a “get” and an expectation that your marriage would provide you with a fulfilled need.
God didn’t make Eve just so Adam had someone to love. He made Eve to meet a need that Adam had. Adam was lonely, so God provided her to meet that need of his. The Bible doesn’t say “And God saw that Adam needed a person to be with so he could give of himself freely and unconditionally.” God designed marriage so man and woman wouldn’t be alone. He created this institution so that we could have a need met. He didn’t make just so we could give.
The fact is, people marry to get and give. It is not evil to say you have expectations. Now I’m not advocating that every act you do is done with an expectation, far from it. If you’re with a person who gives you love and at least tries to meet your needs, you will do things without strings because they are doing the same for you. Marriage works best when both are not being selfish. It will not work when one is refusing to play ball but gets all the benefits. Yet that is exactly what you are advocating. I believe a husband and wife need to work as hard as they can to meet the needs of the other regardless if meeting that need is something they feel like(within reason of course and this goes for all needs, not just intimate). This is one reason why marriage isn’t easy.
“But your wife is not responsible for your resentment, you are. Saying it’s her fault is just not taking responsibility for your own choices. That’s the opposite of what the Bible teaches us about character.
Our relationship with our spouses should reflect God’s relationship with us. We constantly fail Him, hurt Him, don’t meet His desires, and yet, He loves us unconditionally. That is what I strive for.”
When a person refuses to meet your needs, when they break a promise to you that they made on your wedding day, that person is responsible for the resentment that is created by their actions. I didn’t force her to not want sex with me. Believe me, I tried lighting candles, I tired to be above it all and not mention it when I was upset, I tried doing more around the house, I kept myself in shape, I prayed for God to help me live with this, I even prayed to have him remove my drive! I tried almost all of the cliche advice you can think of. I spent enough time researching the “why’s” and “hows” of these types of marriages that I should have a doctorate haha.
Yet, not a thing changed except for me getting more and more upset. You see, many of use living in a marriage like this have tired all of the above. We were told by our spouses that “if you only do x, then everything will change” only to meet that goal and then have it moved. After a certain amount of time, you get jaded and you just don’t have it in you to give them them everything they are needing out of you. A normal person cannot help but feel resentment when the goalposts keep getting moved or when promises keep getting broken. This kind of issue in a marriage can be consuming if you are one that’s high drive, and it’s compounded if you’re married to a knockout that you adore mentally and physically. It’s hard to give back when this elephant is in the room. Now if you’re one that’s not high drive and isn’t that upset when denied, then it’s not going to be that big of an issue.
The thing is, I doubt you would say “you’re part of the problem” to a wife who has lived through years of mental abuse from a husband(refusers are engaging in abuse). I don’t believe you would tell that to the spouse of an alcoholic either. If a woman was married to a man who was too lazy to work more than part time, you wouldn’t tell her to just love him, be more frugal and pray that he one day gets a work ethic. No, the advice would be to light a fire under his butt and take care of his family as is his job as a man.
You would tell these people that after a certain point they are going to have to encourage their spouse to be better. At some point an ultimatum would be necessary. They can’t just live like nothing is wrong. It’s not wrong to tell your refuser this is unacceptable and it needs to change unless they want to be married to a person who resents them deep down.
Yes we do need to be like Christ and loving, but that doesn’t mean we are to be a doormat either. I will love the friend who never pays me back the money they promised to, but I won’t keep giving that person money if I know they are taking advantage of me. I won’t keep giving them money if they are habitually being dumb with their finances in other areas.
For one, that doesn’t help that person in the long run, and two, it won’t lead to ruining our friendship. You can see how this can apply to marriage as well. If you’re unhappy, your spouse isn’t getting the full benefit of marriage either.
While Christ does love us, that love even has limits depending on our choices. We can’t fully experience His love unless we live according to His word and hold up our end of the commitment we make. We will not receive blessings while living in sin. Heck, we’re not supposed to take communion while being entangled in a sin. Think about that, we are not to have that deep connection with Christ because we are engaging in a behavior we have said we would throw off when we accepted Him. Now please tell me again how we should sit on our hands and do nothing while our refusers throw our marriages out the window.
Christ expects us to not be of this world when we accept Him. To be with him, to experience His love to the fullest extent, we have to honor our promises and commitment to Him. When Christ went into the Temple, did he show love to the money changers or did He say change your ways? I’m pretty sure He took action and said this isn’t acceptable(Not I’m not advocating chasing your wife around with a whip).
What I’m trying to get at is, you are not bound to just give love and and accept being treated badly. Not even God acts like that. He loves us, but he’s not going to live with is if we don’t love Him back. Saying we need to be “unconditional” in our love is nothing but feel goodism and ignores reality. It’s a fallacy just as much as it is when some churches preach to not tell the homosexual they are living a life of sin, but to rather tell them it’s not your place to call out sin.
“It sounds like it’s currently founded on fear, coercion and performance, rather than unconditional love. I think you have no idea how good it can be.”
You’re free to think that all you want. However, there was no coercion nor is there fear involved. If you go back to my original comment, I said that those of us who are refused cannot fix their predicament. No amount if “niceness” housework or gifts will entice a refuser to turn it around. The only person who can do that is the refuser. They have to make the choice that they will not withhold intimacy. I merely said that we can assist this choice by incorporating some tough love. All I suggested is that you don’t go out of your way supplying their needs at every turn. Don’t make it so comfortable that they are fooled into thinking you’re not suffering that much. My wife is happier, I see it in her eyes. We fight far less than before and our communication is much better. I suppose just accepting life as it was and sitting on my hands would have been better for both of us.
I’ll freely admit I’m not perfect and I wish I could have done some things differently, but I didn’t deserve to walk through that fire.
Like I said, we have a fundamentally different view of marriage. I recognize yours. I used to have it. We also have a very different view of God.
But, it makes sense that if you don’t see God as unconditionally loving, then you can’t possibly be expected to have that as a goal in your marriage either.
wow are we a little on the judgemental side. As a new viewer of this site, I’m a bit taken back by the reaction to my differences of opinion and the arrogance in which they were submitted. You’ve made judgements on me and how my wife feels about me off a few paragraphs. Do you think that would be good practice for a minister who has someone come off the street and starts talking to them? Or would it be beneficial for the minister to ask questions to really get the full story?
Is this site to help minister or push product? For all you know I could be a new Christian. Instead of treating me like a heretic, maybe back up what you said with scripture instead of condemnation? Idk…..not my site but just a suggestion.
We have a difference of opinion. I singled out that one aspect of this article as a bad suggestion. I can assure you if you research this topic, visit other forums they will laugh at that even being a suggestion. I reacted like I did because I’ve seen so many people talk about how that advice didn’t work.
Now let me get this clear, I of course believe God loves us all. He will love us no matter what. So in that end, he will love us unconditionally. However, His acceptance of us is not unconditional. If you’re one of those who things you’re saved no matter what after you commit, then we do have a distinct difference in what we believe. All I’ve said is to experience His love in full we must be saved and live the best we can according to the book. We do not get the full benefits of a relationship with Christ if we do not throw of the old and live in the new. That is how I viewed a marriage.
I in no way suggested we do not love our spouse. There is a distinct difference in loving your wife and being a beta doormat.
BTW……still no answer on if you would marry someone if you knew they would make you miserable. I suppose a no answer kind of defeats the whole “I’m in a marriage to give” huh?
I’m okay with being judgmental. We are called to judge wisely.
It’s not that you have a difference of opinion, it’s that you show up, immediately just throw up “you are wrong”, and then start telling everyone who they should have contract-based marriages that is counter to everything this site is about.
God’s acceptance of us is not conditional. He doesn’t walk out on us, we walk out on Him. That is the very fundamental difference in our beliefs. It’s that fundamental difference that is guiding your view on marriage. God doesn’t kick us out because we don’t do good. He warns us that if we don’t follow Him, we will turn away. I don’t make ultimatums for my wife. However, if I see her doing behaviours that are damaging to our marriage, I point them out, because ultimately it will cause her to despise the marriage and leave it. I cannot express how fundamentally different these views are.
And so, yes, I will fight your opinion vehemently, because I think it runs contrary the Bible and God, and I cannot abide that. My guess is your views are inspired by the “red pill” movement, particularly since you threw out the term “beta”. It is a movement based on fear and coercion, not love and accountability. It’s ultimately selfish.
As for your question about marrying someone who made me miserable, I have no idea. I ignored it because it was hyperbole.
But since you demand an answer: I can’t go back and try it. However, I know that having that mentality destroyed our marriage, and it wasn’t until we stopped worrying about making ourselves happier that it actually improved. Just because you get into a marriage for the wrong reason doesn’t mean you have to stay in it for the wrong reason. In fact, I think most people leave because their marriage is based on what you are proposing: and give-and-take contract. Ultimately an imperfect person will let you down. You are using a fear of divorce to try and balance that imbalance. But a relationship based on fear cannot thrive.
And what you actually asked was if anyone would marry someone they’d know would make them miserable. Hosea did. If you want a Bible reference, I suggest reading the entire book.
AG77- you are right in saying JayDee here is judgemental! Very! It seems that to him we, who don’t agree just all lack wisdom. You should really read some of his views on some other things.
I think you have a very accurate view of God and the conditions he has set throughout the Bible on which he bases His blessings and actions toward us.
I quite agree with your view on marriage. You really should start a blog. I’d read it for what you say and not just for the comments!
You should check out the posts on masturbation if you’re looking for something to be angry about. People love to hate those 🙂
One more thing AG77- JayDee really likes to be sarcastic and try to get under someone’s skin that disagrees with him. It’s quite a God given gift of connecting with his new readers.
No, that’s the product of being depressed as a child, not God given at all. However, I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic, but rather pointing out other posts you may disagree with. I find it doubtful you will ever be considered a “reader” but you might as well see the most controversial posts before making a decision.
However, I apologize for making you both feel attacked. The doctrine of the manosphere that pushes contract-based marriage is a sore spot for me, and I tend to retaliate fairly strongly against it. My stance is firm, but it seems my tone need moderation.
I’ve thrown various forms of this question out there before but without much response and I would love to hear what people think. My question is both hypothetical and real and goes like this: Biblically speaking, if neither spouse wants sex and as a result no sex happens, is there sin? If neither spouse wants to get through the gate, technically to me it seems there really is no gate keeping. What are the biblical implications for marriages if both spouses are happy, loving and affectionate but are uninterested in sex?
Hi there JJ,
I answered this question in the regular update email to my newsletter this past week. You can read it here: https://ckarchive.com/b/gkunh5hnmzgv. It’s Question #4, in case you don’t want to read the whole thing.
Thanks Jay. Read it. I don’t really understand completely but I’ll take your word for it.
JayDee- If you don’t mind, I would love to know more about the difference you see between a “contract” based marriage and a “covenant” based marriage!? You seem to have wrestled with this subject allot, have you written about it before?
Contrary to western society’s belief, in my mind, a contract is no more breakable then a covenant. But the breakup of our marriages I believe is very much determined by how we treat it before the breakup! What I’m trying to figure out is, is a contract in Gods eyes really any different then a covenant? And how does one effect a marriage differently then the other?
You see, I went through a divorce, very much contrary to everything I believed and lived for. In hindsight now, I don’t regret it anymore, because I am very happily married again, not perfect, but happy. I treated my first marriage very much like you described to AG77, what a covenant marriage is like. Never being consequential, forgiving and begging to start over. 10 of the best years of my life (my 20s) spend in a sexless marriage. I forgave adultery multiple times. I took her back after being abandoned several times. She didn’t necessarily want a divorce because that meant she’d be on her own. She wanted everything she had to continue, my friendship, my emotional support, my financial support, as long as she had her freedom to pursue and enjoy other relationships and not be sexually involved with me. But eventually my Pastor told me to treat my marriage the way God treats us when we do not hold up our end of the covenant/contract. The big difference between God and us is that He can see the total heart of someone and we can’t. We only see their actions. But I see God being consequentlial throughout the bible. Yes, he is incredibly loving and patient and long suffering with us, but He is not without consequences. The “non-consequential” approach completely deteriorated my first marriage. I respect AG77 for the decisions he made in his marriage! Sometimes I’ve wished I would have had his approach from the start. Quite possibly that marriage would have survived and thrived. Who knows. But as I said, I have no regrets. I absolutely love and adore my wife now.
Btw, using the analogy of Hosea’s marriage to apply to someone’s question of whether they would marry a person that they knew would make them miserable is some of the worst biblical interpretation that someone like you could stoop down to, and you know it. That story has really nothing to do with marriage the way God intended it. If that was Gods model for marriage then Jesus totally contradicted Himself in Matth. 5+19. Any marriage counsellor, educator or pastor that uses that story to guilt and coerce a struggling husband to accept his wife not holding up her end of the deal, is doing nothing but taking a low blow below the belt out of desperation because they don’t know how else to defend their point.
It shows up in some form or another in a great many posts, but there isn’t one focused on that. However, here are some you can check out:
Why is it important for Christians to marry Christians?
Making your spouse earn sex can make you feel like a prostitue
Do you have a performance based marriage?
Are you giving to get?
Covert Contracts – expectations in marriage
The way I see it, contacts in western society are very breakable, so much so that they explicitly state the cost for breaking the contract. Breaking a covenant isn’t considered. God doesn’t list an “and if I don’t” clause.
In fact, in a covenant, divorce isn’t really an option. Divorce is literally saying “I am choosing not to honour my word.”
Now, the exception to that is when the other person has already chosen to not honour their word and break their covenant. In Jesus’s words:
Now, I take this to mean that God never intended for divorce. He intended for us to keep our covenant. It wasn’t until Moses that He had to deal with issues of people not being willing to stick it out through thick and thin. So, because some people cannot get over the hurt of adultery (I don’t mean that as an insult, I mean that as an understanding statement, some just can’t), they are permitted to divorce, because the other has broken their covenant. However, Jesus says it was not this way from the beginning. Jesus also says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), which I think means he hates the circumstances where one spouse hurts enough so strongly they can’t rectify the relationship. That happens, and it’s lamentable. However, it’s not the only option.
Now, you say my views on Hosea are a bad interpretation, but I see it as being the ideal result of a bad situation. God made a covenant to Israel, and Israel to God, and then Israel broke it, repeatedly. God was using Hosea’s relationship with his wife (a whore), as a metaphor for His relationship with Israel. Near the end, God tells Hosea just to leave his wife, because it’s hurting Hosea too much. Hosea asks what God will do with Israel, and God says He will wait still further. So, Hosea takes God’s example, despite having permission to divorce, and stays with His wife. In the end, she returns to him for good. It doesn’t always work out that way. The Israelites certainly didn’t.
I think we should all get married expecting that our spouse is going to cause us more pain that anyone else in the world likely will. When someone is close to you, they have the ability to hurt us very deeply. I know I’ve been hurt by my wife probably more than anyone else. And I think I’ve hurt her more than anyone else has as well. But, we choose to forgive each other. Why? Because we made a committment. A covenant to love, regardless of how they treat us. Through sickness and health, and all that.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences. You are allowed to speak your mind, have healthy boundaries. “If we can’t resolve this together, I’m going to talk to our pastor about it” is perfectly acceptable. This isn’t a “just try harder” stance. Just because you decide to hold your covenant doesn’t mean you abdicate keeping your spouse accountable or that you should put up with abuse. Let’s not jump from one side of the spectrum to the other while missing all the healthy stuff in the middle.
You say God has consequences for not holding our covenant. I see it differently. God lets us know that if we don’t, it will hurt us. But, that’s natural consequences, not God punishing us. God invites us to heaven, but if we wouldn’t be happy there (because we can’t accept God as Lord), then He graciously rescinds his invitation. This is not a hurt spouse kicking his wife out. This is a compassionate husband saying “If that’s what you really want, then I’ll let you go.” That is the only way I can read the Bible and not see glaring contradictions. I should point out though, that I don’t believe in the Catholic version of hell. You can read more about that here if you like. It’s a bit off-topic, but might clear up my viewpoint with regards to what happens if God rescinds His invitation. It’s not a punishment, but a mercy from my view. Frankly, I don’t think a God that burns people forever for not accepting him can be seen as anything but evil. That may help explain my views on divorce as they’re interconnected biblically.
Now, you mentioned Matthew 5:19, but I don’t know what that has to do with this discussion. I’m guessing you mean Matthew 19:9, however, like I said, given the previous verses, I don’t think that’s a contradiction with Hosea at all. In fact, I see it supporting my interpretation. The entire Bible tells us that God treats His church like a groom should treat a bride. Hosea shows us how God treats His bride. I’ll take that as my cue for how to treat my wife. I understand that it’s difficult, and not popular, and doesn’t always mean they will love you unconditionally back. But, then, that’s not the point. The point is to show how God loves us. Not to get love out of it from our wife. That’s nice, but not the focus.
And nowhere am I saying the wife doesn’t need to hold up her covenant. Of course she does. But, I don’t have your wife to talk to. I have you. Since you keep replying, I’m going to assume you’re trying to learn. As well, the post above was written with the assumption that both spouses would tackle this together. If you try this on your own, you will fail. If she sides with the guard, you’re never going to win long term. I have many many posts speaking out against refusing, gatekeeping and all that stuff. Nowhere am I letting it slide. But, that wasn’t the point of this post. This post was about a specific type of gatekeeper who was trying to be better and struggling. The guard is a metaphor for their own programming, habits and hangups. It was intended as a tip/trick to help break it into baby steps. That’s all.
Thank you for your thourough response. After reading it, it seems to me that we actually don’t have such differing views on marriage. Seems to me that certain words used by readers just trigger a not so friendly response sometimes.
-I agree that the term “contract” really has lost its meaning and value but in reallity it is today’s word for covenant.
-I’m a little confused by your view of Gods consequences. It’s true that allot of them are natural but allot of them are caused by God. I’m not talking about the ultimate consequence of hell. The bible is full of “if you do this, I will do that” and “if you don’t do this, then I won’t do that” given by God. Those are consequences and they’re not all natural!
-as to jumping to extremes of the spectrum, seems to me you are doing it more than anyone here. No one here in the comments, incl. AG77 and me ever talked about kicking ones spouse out for doing or not doing something. In fact, we talked of the opposite, encouraging and begging to change. You were the one that jumped to the extreme in your first response to AG77.
– my reference was to Matth. 5 and Matth. 19 not 5 verse 19.
-The whole story of Hosea is not a story about what marriage should look like and should never be used in the context of marriage counselling or teaching on marriage! That’s the bad interpretation. To use Hoseas example to guilt someone into not being consequential with ones spouse for continued cheating and adultery is just plain bad counselling. God used the prophet Hosea and the marriage he asked him to enter as an example to show how he had been dealing with Israel. As for how God treats his bride and the comparison to how we as men are supposed to treat our wife is about Christ’s Church in the New Testament. Those are two very different things.
Good debate gentlemen! You guys are not that far apart. Keep it honest, humble and respectful and we can all learn together. Jay I applaud you for allowing people to debate with you. I used to follow another Christian sex blogger and on a couple of occasions I challenged her, but she wouldn’t publish my best points. Needless to say I don’t value her blog much anymore.
Yeah, I’ve had my comments deleted from blogs before too. It’s frustrating when you’re trying to help or find help. It’s pretty rare I remove comments. They have had to do something fairly harmful to even have me consider it.
I’ve been thinking all week about Jay and AG77’s debate. I think both are right. I’ve been working on a theory to harmonize both points into one paradigm. This needs work but here it is.
LEVEL 1 Marriage
– Superior of all marriages
– Covenant marriage
– Both are giving people, earnestly trying to meet each other’s needs just because they want to
– Complete trust, there is little fear of either spouse leaving
LEVEL 2 Marriage
– Second best marriage type
– Contract marriage
– Both are trying to meet each other’s needs, but one or both do it out of obligation to the contract
– Some fear/expectation of a spouse leaving if contractual obligations not met
– Typical of secular marriages and live-in relationships
LEVEL 3 Marriage
– Third best marriage type
– One-way covenant marriage
– One spouse is giving, one is taking
– The taking spouse is not worried about the other leaving because the giving spouse is religious or committed
– Over time, the giving spouse builds resentment and anger
According to my theory, Jay and AG77 started with Level 3 marriages. Jay was able to get his to Level 1, congratulations. AG77 tried very hard with Jay’s Kind and Loving approach, but after exhausting that approach changed to the Tough Love approach and succeeded in getting his marriage to Level 2, and perhaps on his way to Level 1.
So my take-away is if you find yourself in Level 3, first try the Kind and Loving approach advocated by Jay. If after many years you’ve made no progress and your anger and resentment are growing, try the Tough Love approach advocated by AG77.
That’s exactly what I’ve been doing even though I wasn’t aware of it until now. The Kind and Loving approach did nothing other than make her more comfortable. In the past year I’ve read “Boundaries” by Cloud and Townsend, “The Married Man’s Sex Life Primer” by Athol Kay, and “No More Christian Nice Guy” by Paul Coughlin. Applying the principles of those books has taught me to stand up for myself and make it clear that she can and should meet my needs. By making it clear that I wonder if I can live the rest of my life this way, threatening to drag her back to the marriage counsellor, and with the last child leaving the nest soon, I think she’s getting it and we are progressing to Level 2 and I hope Level 1 someday.
And as a foot note, I think the quality of sex should be better at each level. To be honest, I’ve always been a bit jealous of unmarried secular men who live with their girlfriends, I figure the ladies know that without the bonds of marriage they have to be good lovers to keep their men. Crass I know, just sharing that.
I disagree with the ordering. I’d say I started at your 2nd type and then to the 3rd type, then 1st. One person doing the right thing is far better than no one. I’d also argue that sex isn’t the best gauge. You can improve your marriage and lesson the amount of sex. It happens in a variety of situations. Eventually it will improve, but often there’s a pulling back for a bit.
I’ve read two of the books you mentioned. MMSL is based in fear and has a limit to how far it can go. You cannot have a intimate relationship in his model, because there’s no room for vulnerability.
Boundaries is a good book. I’ll have to check out No More Christian Nice Guy.
However, like I said, going from Type 3 to Type 2 is not a step forward. It’s a step backwards, even though you might be getting more and better sex in the short term.
Jay, what do you mean by “One person doing the right thing is far better than no one”? Better in terms of overall more pleasing to God? Overall net happiness of the couple? Long-term stability? I’d agree with you, a Giving person paired up with a Taking person is overall better as long as the Giving person is happy to give. But eventually the Giving person will burn out and develop anger and resentment, then the relationship is worse. That’s where I’m at today, and from my perspective the grass at Level 2 is greener than the grass here at Level 3.
This is going to sound harsh, but the giving person burning out is a heart issue. In those cases, the giving person is giving to get, rather than giving out of love. They burn out because they aren’t getting in return.
Giving just so that you can love requires a large character change. There’s gratitude, selflessness, self control, patience, and a bunch of other things one needs to learn. Incidentally, things the Bible say are fruits of the spirit. So yes, it’s more pleasing to God, but things that please God work in our favor as well, because those are the characteristics of a believer who is letting God work in their lives.
As well, that example of your life can often inspire others to want more as well. It’s not a guarantee, and the motivation shouldn’t be to get what you want out of it. But part of the motivation can be wanting better for your spouse, knowing a healthier marriage would bring them more peace and joy as well.
So, yeah, I get level 2 looks better, but it’s because your looking at the temporal personal gains only.
Imagine two of your children playing together in the next room, and you are listening in. The older child is selfish and bossy. The younger one is eager to please, compliant and giving. The older one is dominating play time, getting everything she wants and walking all over the younger one. Wouldn’t your heart break? I would feel badly for the younger one, but especially the older one, behaving so badly and not growing toward the young person I want her to be.
Then suddenly the younger one says “I’m not going to play with you if you can’t be nice to me”. Wouldn’t you be happy for her? I’d be especially overjoyed if the older one said “Oh, okay, I will be nice”, and she did.
This is how I believe God feels about us and our relationships, and why I still believe that “level 2” as I described it is better than “level 3”.
Maybe our disagreement is simply what is the appropriate threshold to pull this lever. You only get a few precious uses of this, too much and it will backfire. A woman being battered by her husband – yes, pull the lever. A husband that has to eat burnt toast sometimes – no.
I like the 60/40 rule: I want to do 60% of the giving, receiving 40%. A 50/50 trade would be most fair, but I can live with 40% and I want to be the more giving person. Ideally both partners would strive to be 60/40, thereby each partner getting their needs met while simultaneously trying to out-give each other. That I think would be indicative of a Level 1 marriage.
A relationship between two capable adults has to work for both people, not just one, if it is to be deep and sustainable.
The problem is, those are children who aren’t in a commited relationship. The metaphor we are given would be imagine God keeps living us unconditionally, yet we keep disappointing him, being prideful, selfish, hurtful, etc.. So then God says “Well, if you are going to be mean to me, I’m going to withdraw anythung you get from me. Food, shelter, rain, even life itself.”
Would you aplaud that God as being loving or merciful? Or would you say He’s breaking His commitment to being unconditionally loving.
We commit to love, not to exchange love. Our marriages are to be an example of God’s love for us, however imperfectly.
Ideally, both spouses show unconditional love, but when one doesn’t, we have an opportunity to both show them a better way and to learn just how much God loves us, despite our behavior.
Your analogy of God-human relationship is misapplied in this case because we’re talking adult-adult relationships. The rules and expectations are different and you risk losing insight when you blur the distinctions. Of course a God-human relationship is 95-5, just as a parent-child relationship is, and that’s expected. But between two capable adults, the expectation is different, more even.
I googled “unconditional love” and found this excellent article, ex: “Unconditional love is not one-way. If you love your partner unconditionally … but your partner doesn’t love you the same way, it isn’t unconditional love—it’s damaging self-sacrifice. ” https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/five-ways-screw-up-unconditional-love-fiff/
I’m not sure how it can be misapplied, since it’s the analogy God gave us. Isn’t that basically what Hosea is all about?
As for the article you referenced, I agree with the points, except the last one. By definition, if it has to be two way, then that’s a condition and is no longer unconditional. But, then I’d not expect a secular author to teach the concept of unconditional love in the way the Bible portrays it.
One thing that I haven’t seen mentioned is the effect of narcissism. I don’t know about the damage done by narcissistic fathers but my wife was/is the product of an extremely narcissistic mother. My wife was the ‘golden child’ in her family dynamic and she is unable to confront her mother even now, long after her death. She does absolutely nothing to add to our marriage. I do 90+ % of the work around the house. All of the bromides about lazy, inept husbands are reversed in my marriage. At first I stayed out of shame and guilt, then later to not abandon our child and now I’m financially trapped. As the partner with a higher sex drive, all the ‘gatekeeping’ led to tremendous anger, resentment and bitterness almost overwhelming me. I asked God to lift these feelings from me as I know they are satan’s tools and he did. After learning about narcissistic mothers and their affects on daughters it became clear what had happened. I was able to forgive but have moved on. It is not only healthy but important to protect oneself from ’emotional vampires’ and so I no longer try to meet her constant neediness. Instead I focus on my hobbies, my service to others and a really fun part-time job in retirement. During a recent and very serious extended medical situation I did all I could to take care of her, as is my duty, but it was not out of love. Having been drained of all loving resources long ago I don’t feel guilty.
Thanks for sharing. I haven’t mentioned it because that’s a bit outside of my area of expertise and more into the area of therapy.