Counterrefusal. The Case For.

One of the numerous problems in a dysfunctional marriage is the uncertainty of it all, particularly in the area of intimate expression.

Even if you are being refused "all the time" there still exists a level of hope, that 'maybe if I wear the blue see thru panties instead of the black something might happen'.

Even worse is the situation where there is intermittent unpredictable sex. Where the blue see thru panties worked that time but this time they didn't.

It all works to keep you off balance, some hope glimmering, and never having any level of certainty going on. Your sex life is entirely in the hands of your refusing spouse. You are very much a bit player in the scenario. Disenfranchised and chasing shadows. Spending an inordinate amount of time trying to predict what's going on, and chasing ephemeral "whys" over the horizon.

Whether this is a deliberate ploy by the refusing spouse or whether it is just ignorance or stupidity or ill health or any other one of the imaginative "whys" seen on these pages that drives the behaviour doesn't greatly matter. The behaviour is there, it is present, it is a fact. Foisted upon you by the refusing spouses unilateral decision. It is all too easy to adopt a victim mentality.

A change in thinking can make a big difference.

Hows about you decide to take ownership back ?

To make the choice YOURS that there will be no intimate expression in your dysfunctional marriage ? To cease and desist from fruitless "why" chasing and agonizing over the blue see thru panties guesswork scenario. To work within the factual situation you are in. To OWN the choice that there is to be no sexual expression in your dysfunctional marriage. To give yourself some certainty in an uncertain situation. To forego the mental gymnastics you have been performing to accomodate your intimacy averse spouse.
To acknowledge the fact that as far as intimate expression goes in your life, your intimacy averse spouse has made themselves irrelevant.

To utilise this freed up time and energy into more productive areas that are of interest to you. To live YOUR life pursuing things that enhance your life. Friends. Hobbies. Life enhancing people. Things that value add to your life. To put YOUR interests at the top of the list. To live YOUR life. To be the authentic YOU.

Think about it, as a principle. The concept of YOU making the mindset change from "victim" of the situation to "owner" of it. It is very empowering. And, from that position of empowerment, you WILL shift the dynamic.

It may be that "where" the dynamic shifts TO ends up bringing the whole relationship crashing down on your head as the truth(s) of your dysfunctional marriage are flushed out. This is usually the eventual outcome unfortunately. It hastens the result that was otherwise going to take years to play out.

This is NOT an action that is going to solve the dysfunctional marriage. It is a method of managing your part in it as it plays out to its' truthful conclusion. Whatever that conclusion may be.

Worth considering.

Tread your own path.

bazzar bazzar
56-60, M
20 Responses Jul 6, 2012

See my story "I refused". At no time in my marriage did I feel more empowered.

"Your sex life is entirely in the hands of your refusing spouse." - disagree... I may be overreading but that sounds like handing away my power... I have many alternatives... all of them with different consequence but I can choose which one I take... my spouse does not have that power over me... at some point I choose to leave and start over... not yet as there is hope... but I know if I pretend to myself that someone has that power over me there is no hope...

There are always many options that we can choose - each with different consequences. Power comes from being able to weigh up the differnet options and choose the one you want. A person gives power away when they restrict what they will allow themselves to choose because of something else, e.g. historic wounding, taboos etc. You can still stay and have power because you are choosing to stay.

also another thought I'd distinguish between personal power and credible threat... using credible threat reduces personal power... so if the leaving is used as credible threat the threatener looses power... if the leaving is a responsive available choice then personal power is kept...

The thrust of the original post was counter-refusal being a methodology of re-claiming ones own sexual identity, and thus a step on the road to self empowerment. Nothing to do with retribution, nothing about using it as a threat, nor about it being a method of claiming power over the other spouse. In fact, it has very very little to do with the other spouse at all.

hmmm... ok my take on the phrase counter-refusal is that it implies there is a refuser and a refusee - inherintly two people and a dynamic between them... for me the attempt of claiming power over the other spouse is inherently again a reciprocol role - "power" taker and "power" loosing - it all becomes a battle of control / power... but that sort or power is not the same as personal power (which I'm hoping is a similar idea to your self empowerment)... I agree the road to wholeness requires working on one's own stuff... one doesn't gain self empowerment by engaging in combat with another only by living to one's own values and needs... so we may be on similar pages but I'm not sure...

In this context, counter-refusal is the antithesis of engaging in a power play. In fact in this context it is a method of NOT engaging in such a power grabbing dynamic. I rather think we are on the same page.

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Baz -- I like your suggestion, and I have practiced it for nearly 2 years now. As I read through the posts here, I see so many stories that are familiar, with which I can identify. Married for 24 years, my wife has been what you all commonly refer to as a "refuser" (a term I'd not heard until I came to EP) 22 years ago. At first, it was just a few denials -- "communication" problems, "adjustment" issues -- you know, things common in a young marriage? We went to Couples counseling -- it will get ALL better..... Right.<br />
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It didn't. It's been almost 24 years of marriage -- 22 years of refusal, half a dozen counselors ( some for both of us as a couple, some for just her because I insisted she go). 13 years ago, she left our bedroom. Intimacy stopped being a matter of once every 3 or 4 weeks, and became once every 6 to 8 weeks.... Then once every 7 to 9 months....two years ago, I attempted to initiate for the last time. When she said, "no, but maybe later, or tomorrow," I KNEW it was a lie, and something in me just switched off. It was the last time. Two months later, when she got around to asking me if I wanted to "play around," I became the "counter-refuser." <br />
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Why would I do that to myself? Why would I engage in intimacy, and then hope for it, ask for it a dozen, two dozen, thirty times over the next six, eight, ten months only to be turned down every time, and have to wait for you to decided to be the initiator, the one in charge, the <br />
"Control freak"? No -- no. The "Good Book" calls that "defrauding" your spouse. I know neglect, or emotional abuse when I see it, when I experience it. I won't submit to it.<br />
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So, here I am. She has been in counseling again for over a year. It isn't helping our marriage at all. The counselor has met with us as a couple a half dozen times, and with me alone several times, and she told my wife in my presence that I seemed to more serious about making the marriage work and solving the problems. I "do the work," and she -- does nothing.... Except go back to the Counselor and vent. <br />
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It's a terrible circumstance to find oneself in. I can empathize with almost everyone else here -- and I know most of you can with me. I've just reached the place that I would rather refuse any intimacy with her altogether that to subject myself to the stale crumbs she occasionally tossed to the floor at me, like I was a starving dog. And even though my need and desire have not disappeared, neither has my dignity nor integrity.<br />
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I won't be treated that way. No husband or wife ever should be.

love what you wrote Baz...but that kind of mind ****...for someone like me I am not sure how empowering it would be. Not saying it wouldn't work though...your posts are always very insightful.<br />
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I am at the point now of refusing not in relation to having the power or taking control but because I cannot stomach the thought of him touching me. Not always, but those feelings creep in now and then.

This is a tough one. What was once a trickle becomes a dry well if I refuse to go through the effort of making an advance.<br />
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Here's the awesome thing. My wife likes to talk about having a little fun a little later in the day. I get my hopes up, but 9 times out of 10 it never happens. And this "promise" of a little time to ourselves only comes around once every three months or so. Awesome odds. But as this thread discusses, I hear those words and she might as well be talking about when the kids need picking up from the swimming pool. I nod my head and it passes right through me.

hmm, interesting. I have done something similar. <br />
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if I end up getting sex with him I still take it. but I no longer beg for sex. If I lay next to him and seduction works i accept it, but I won't beg. and I have started doing things that I like that matter to me. <br />
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wearing nice things that make me feel pretty, getting face products, taking care of my body makes me feel better. a sexy bra, etc.

I'm not a counter-refuser. If asked I always deliver, and it's generally quite good, but 6 months between asks. I become a non-initiater because of the mess that I was becoming, waiting night after night at bed time for the merest indication that my advances might be appreciated, only to get no indication. A blunt request would generally result in a brief, boring, unimaginitive tumble that was about as satisfying as changing your socks. A more subtle approach would result in a blunt question from her, "would you like a quicky?"... more sock changing... :(<br />
People might say that at least I was having sex. True, but as an analogy it would be like getting fed a baloney sandwich when a good steak is required, to say nothing of a more exotic repast...<br />
As seems fairly common, everything else with this marriage is quite good to very good. The problem seems to be that she just isn't very sexual. Damn catholic upbringing! I guess what I am saying is that there are more subtle ways of being a refuser than just saying "no". Just make it as boring as **** so you don't get asked.<br />
Sorry guys... nothing profound here.. just having a rant..

I withdrew affection and went to another bed almost a year ago. Technically I've never counter refused because I've never been asked! But I'm glad I did. I can't see ever asking for sex from him again.

I was in a dysfunctional marriage. The sex dwindled to once a year for a couple years and then ended in 2004. It was a control issue for my ex. At first I focused on working out. She disapproved of that (I did it late at night so it didn't interfere with the things she'd say it'd interfere with if I did it at any other time). She disapproved of a lot... after several years of no sex at all, I found someone in a similar situation. Not a good solution, I know. But the sex was so incredibly good, that it refocused us on not spending the rest of our lives sexless. We agreed to break off what we had, and go and fix or end our marriages. My marriage was hopeless, many years of dysfunction really can't be undone, and so I am now free, and I have lost track of my former partner in crime and pleasure. I hope she succeeded.

That was an incredible post. I've all those thoughts- which you manage to capture so eloquently. This place has been a bit of a "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" experience for me. I think if it were not for finding this site, I probably would have lost even more of my sanity than I already did, I certainly would not have made friends with some really wonderful people that I now consider good friends, but I might also not have done some of the things I have done in the last few months that are a huge departure from my norm. <br />
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Anyway, thanks!

Thoughtful stuff Baz. I think I could apply the same tactics to my husband (you know this situation) who chooses when and where he goes away abroad or when he comes back from working away all week. He knows that I am stuck here and that the default position is that I will look after my teenage sons, dogs, mind house, pay bills, work, as that is what I always do. He has the control, he makes the decisions when to come and go, I am powerless. Time for a shift of tactic. He is away now but 'might' get back in time to join us for a few days' holiday late in the summer that I organised with sis and boys as he could not tell me what his plans were. I'll tell him that I have made the plans and that he can't come with us now. And that after that I am going away myself for a while and he can look after house, sons, etc and fit it round his working schedule. He always uses the threat of going away as a means of controlling me and it is time to take back control....

yea, just get a person you trust to come in and look after the house, kids,even if he isnt there...... that will show him !!........ then take off, go where u want to .. the kids are teen agers so they dont need that much looking after!

with my present refuser (its my second time around uggg) we hav no kids, i go back east to vist family or take a road trip out of town to get away, by my self...

For me it wasn't counter refusal as much as simply not wanting to be sexual with him anymore once the relationship was so damaged. <br />
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It was my body deciding for me that the relationship was unhealthy and needed to end.

I recently did this, decided that there will be no more sexual intimacy. All he could say was "ok". I feel disappointed, sad, frustrated, and regretful that I didn't see the red flags on this earlier. But at the same time I feel in control and more stable. No expectations, no let downs. Is this still counter refusal though, when there are no advances in the first place? I'm not actually refusing anything.

Call it whatever you feel like. As long as you have taken ownership of it, what you call it does not matter. It is YOUR call, and actually has nothing to do with him any longer. It is not a "revenge" tactic, nor is there any expectation of it "forcing" a change. It is solely about self empowerment.

How about mutually assured refusal where both parties take equal ownership? "Why can't I be exactly as sorry as you, Dimitry?"

"Gentlemen Gentlemen !! No fighting in the war room"

Agreed, Baz... and self preservation!

1 More Response

I have mixed feelings about this, mainly because I have seen this story several times: <br />
-husband is refuser<br />
-wife addresses issue with husband<br />
-husband says 'you are the one who never wants sex!!!'<br />
Makes me wonder if the 'refuser' husband got tired of being rejected, and became a professional refuser. <br />
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Also, counter refusing signals that you are planning on leaving or having an affair. <br />
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On the other hand - it is creating a boundary, which seems to be the problem for many of us - we are not good at setting boundaries.

We began mutually assured refusal in 2005 without any indication anyone was leaving. PS: I mistyped "living" in place of "leaving" then corrected it.

I think the term "self empowerment" covers what you are describing Baz. And self empowerment is NOT about counter-refusing as a power play - that is, intended to provoke action on the part of the other. It is about taking the choice that, in order to continue to live in this situation in a way that is tenable, the decision to have no sex is now one made by you, rather than ulilaterally imposed on you by your partner.<br />
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I believe you are advocating counter refusal as self empowerment, not as another "engagement " in the war you will never win!<br />
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Self empowerment allows you to do the things you describe, such as pursuing the things that enhance your life. I like this quote:<br />
"Choosing to live your life by your own choice is the greatest freedom you will ever have."

Quite so. In fact this equates with no longer engaging in the 'power play' game, and instead, engaging with life enhancing pursuits and people.

Someone recently told me, "You have to be careful you don't get caught on somebody else's chessboard." That felt so true to me. And the example of the panties, YES. It's all a big smokescreen, whether conscious or not. What a mindf*ck.

I think you can still be empowered, own the situation, let go of victimhood, and be your authentic self (all the great differentiating things mentioned) without becoming a counter-refuser. It's a mindset, and it doesn't have to be attached to who is initiating sex, or accepting it, or refusing it. It can be an effective stop-gap tactic to get your head straight, but long-term it doesn't serve you. A counter-refusal is still the other person controlling you.

A counter-refusal is refusing to let her have any further control over my emotions. There is nothing worse than having her come on to me after refusing so often.... then cut me off again the next day for months on end again.. I am no longer attracted to her what-so-ever. She just occupies a room in the house.. I even took a job that requires me to be away from the home 25 days a month. it makes my life much easier to face.

Agree with you secretidentity.

i agree also

Well, as long you are staying with a refuser, s/he will control you to some extent. The discussion here is how, and how much.

Exactly, ulae!

2 More Responses

I did this - okay so you are 100% in control of the sex (LOL or lack thereof) and the money since he's the only one working. I'll be 100% of my incomes (when they start coming in) and my life and ohhh I forgot to mention leaving, yes I'll be 100% in control of leaving.

It worked for me. Mine isn't a success story yet by a long shot, but until I took these steps, I think it was about 8 years ago, I was going stark raving mad, and it restored some sense of sanity and balance. What drove me there, the last straw, was concern for my livelihood. I got to the point that the lack of sex and general dysfunction at home was affecting my performance at work. I couldn't get a restful night's sleep to save my life. I stopped initiating sex altogether, refusing it when offered most of the time(pretty rare, so that was easy) and moved out of the bedroom for over a year. Things were still bad, but at least somewhat manageable, and I slept a heck of a lot better alone, with a clear head. No more obsessing about whether or when my wife might take pity on me and give me one more mercy f@ck.

Doing what you have written here is exactly what brought me back from the proverbial edge and made me feel empowered.It is the very thing that enabled me to make my decision to leave and start executing a plan. And now, even if he offered, I no longer want it.