What a whirlwind week I had. I spoke in York, PA for two days and then had the chance to go back to my old church in Allentown. It was wonderful seeing friends there and having a dinner gathering with my former small group. Monday I met with some additional friends and then flew home last night. I do so appreciate your prayers. This season is especially crazy busy and I definitely need that prayer support.
Next week I am doing a webinar on “Are People Misusing The Bible to Keep you Trapped in a Destructive Relationship?” I would love for you to share this link with all your friends on social media who you think might benefit from this webinar. I will be offering it twice, once during the day and once in the evening. Click here to register.
Today’s Question: I married a sexually dysfunctional woman. For the first 18+ years of our marriage, she was unable to engage in standard marital relations. We endured it a few times to have our children.
It was so difficult for her, I would not even ask her to do it. I had no clue prior to marriage what I was in for. I expected a functional partner. I was not a bull-in-a-china-shop lover either. I showed her gentle affection but she could show me little.
As time went on, she felt guilty and began to reject my affection because she could not reciprocate. After so many years of this, I reached a point of giving up and sank into a deeply settled indifference towards her.
It was a sinful response which I needed to repent of after many years, and I have, after going through your audiobook & 64 questions.
Do I have a right to know why things were so hard for her? I feel like half my married life was stolen and I have no idea why. She does not want to talk about it. It also impacted our children as our relationship was so sour.
Answer: I’m sorry for your pain as well as your wife’s pain. I think we all enter marriage having dreams and expectations of what it will be like. Rarely does it turn out the way we pictured. However from what you describe, from day one your wife was unable to have a normal sex life and for your entire marriage she has been unwilling to get help or talk with you about it what is wrong.
Your reaction to this was to become indifferent towards her. You now realize that was not how God wanted you to handle your hurt and you’ve repented. But now you are asking if you have the right to know why she has withheld herself from you? I choose that word “withheld” because even if her sexual dysfunction was something that surprised both of you on your wedding day, from what you say she has continued to withhold herself emotionally, mentally, and physically from you.
Part of the promises we make in our marriage vows is that we won’t withhold ourselves from our spouse. Not only sexually, but in other ways as well. We promise to share our heart, our feelings, our dreams, our ideas, our problems, and our finances. Marriage is an opportunity for someone to know us like no other person knows us. Click To Tweet
In your question, you don’t share what you have done to talk to her about this problem. And somehow you were able to talk enough about it so that when you wanted children, you made it happen even though it wasn’t pleasurable for either one of you.
You also indicate that you knew she felt guilty for not reciprocating your affections. I’m not sure she told you that or that is the story you told yourself when she didn’t respond to you. In either case, you withdrew and became indifferent.
I’m glad you’ve recognized that isn’t the answer here. And, your wife has acted indifferent to you too.
To answer your question, I believe you do have a right to know what’s going on with her as her husband. I believe truth always clarify things. If you understood more about what was going on inside her mind and body, perhaps you could have been more caring and empathic towards her own suffering. But by keeping you in the dark she has not only locked you out of her body, she has locked you out of everything. Does she want to be married to you? Have you asked her?
I have two ideas about this. The first one is that she locked you out because she is locked out of herself. She doesn't know why she can’t function sexually and is too afraid to seek answers for herself or get help for why. The second idea is that she does know why. Perhaps she has a history of sexual abuse or other sexual trauma, but she is unwilling to open that box of pain in order to get the help she needs or even let you in to share it with her.
Whatever it is, I believe you have a right to know, but I don’t think you have a right to force her to tell you. That is her choice. However, have you shared with her how painful her indifference is towards you? Her unwillingness to get help? Her unwillingness to even tell you what’s going on or why she acts this way?
If she continues to choose to stay closed off from you, you may need to do some soul searching as to what your next step will be as a godly man and husband.
Do you stay stuck in nowhere land? Married to someone who doesn’t really want to have a relationship of any kind, although enjoys some of the benefits of being married to you?
Do you put some boundaries in place saying, “I won’t continue to live like this. I don’t want to pretend that we’re functioning as a couple even though we’re not? It’s hurtful to me and to our kids. I’m open to talking, I’m open to counseling, I’m open to change, but I’m not okay with staying this way for another 20 years.” And then see how she responds.
If she refuses to answer or engage, then you have some tough choices ahead of you, none of which are easy.
For example, you could choose to live peaceably as roommates. You could choose to separate, hoping that will cause her to reconsider whether or not she wants to work on the marriage. You could choose to be bitter and angry, stuck in your own dashed dreams and hurt feelings. You could invite a third party to talk with her such as your pastor.
Friends, when your spouse has withheld or withdrawn himself or herself from you entirely without knowing the cause, what have you done to stay strong and also have good boundaries?