Perspective, As We Continue To Improve.

Dear ILIASMers, I read your stories and I feel so much sympathy. It is just shattering, to experience sexual refusal in marriage... especially when our spouse is still very much beloved and missed.

My own marriage continues to experience improvement and renewal, and I'm very grateful. But I see how my story had (and has) NO guaranteed outcome. The promises we make, when we marry, are more like *intentions*. I know it's less romantic to view the wedding day as a public setting of intentions, instead of a public proclamation of eternal vows set in stone, that we'd rather die than break. Less romantic, but more accurate.

How naive we are, when we first marry.

One thing I've learned over time: when a spouse becomes a Refuser, they take control of the existence of the sexual relationship. And the ONLY one who can choose to end the refusal, is the Refuser spouse. Yes, the Refused has the ability to influence that choice, in how they conduct themselves in marriage, and whether they remain open to sex if offered again. But the Refused cannot create a sexual relationship when the Refuser doesn't choose to change.

So basically, if the Refuser is actually unhappy with the present state of things, and is open to seeking help and working to heal the sexual bond, then the marriage can be saved. But if the Refuser is okay with sexlessness, or denying their responsibility for it, and refusing to talk about it or seek solutions... then the sexual relationship cannot exist.

Please, all you newcomers, save yourself years of misery. If you get truly honest with yourself, you KNOW whether your Refuser spouse is trying to make things better. If they're not, there is NOTHING you can do to make them try. NOTHING that you do-- losing weight, becoming more attractive, doing housework, getting a job, being extra nice, etc., etc.-- NOTHING will make them try. You can't control them. And they have chosen Refusal for the very purpose of demonstrating that they can't be controlled.

I know this sounds like a cliche, because people say it all the time... but it's really true: the only person you can control is yourself. You can't control whether your spouse is sexual. You can't convince them of what they should do. The only thing you can do, is be honest about your feelings and desires, and invite them to work with you to change the marriage. And if they choose Refusal, then you can choose what YOU do with YOUR life. Stay or go, have an affair, whatever is right for you. But don't blame someone else, and don't be fooled into carrying guilt.

Sexual refusal has taken the "romantic rose-colored glasses" from my view of my husband. I had always intended to view him in the most flattering, kindest, most romantic light. I wanted to be in a honeymoon phase for our whole life. Sometimes I still have to handle my feelings of disappointment that it couldn't last that way.

But I have become a better, more mature person as I've realized that my choices are my own. I have achieved a feeling of separateness in my marriage-- not from resentment, but from autonomy. Two separate people, living as our full selves, and loving each other because we are different. I now know that I am capable of divorce, if that's what I need. I also know that I am responsible for my own happiness, and there's nothing wrong with being true to myself.

Finally, I'd like to recommend Byron Katie's process of "inquiry" as an interesting tool for examining our thoughts and taking responsibility for our actions. The basic explanation of her process, also called "The Work," can be found here:

It's not everyone's cup of tea. And I do NOT encourage anyone to treat her like a guru or spiritual leader. I've just found that this very rational process has been a helpful tool for me... a way of realizing my truth, without guilt or resentment controlling me.

See, we cannot control our spouse, and they cannot control us. And in the space of that separation between their life and ours, lives a Love that is mysterious and free.
LovelyAlone LovelyAlone
36-40, F
3 Responses Aug 21, 2012

Thank you for sharing this. It is a sobering message. I see bits of myself in it and am scared about my future. I know what you are saying is true but am trying to cope undercover (lots of negative self talk, guilt, blaming myself, trying to be more 'positive' about the situation.) I feel my chest actually 'ache' to be close with my spouse but I know that nothing will change.

Thanks for your post. These words of wisdom are making me take another look at my own relationship, In which I as the husband am the Refuser. I realize this is less common and honestly don't know exactly how it got to this point, but you've motivated me to try and do some soul searching and figure out what I can do about it.

WantsMorePassion, my husband started refusing because of his inability to handle conflict. Instead of being honest all along, about his true desires, he agreed to my face but privately built up resentment. He said things were ok when they were not ok. He did things that he didn't really want to do, but acted like he really wanted to do them. He smiled and said everything was fine, and was the most loving husband ever. But he privately judged me, privately resented all those things he didn't want. All for the sake of avoiding honesty in the moment. Years of saying "yes" but feeling "no" ... added up to shutting off his sexual desire. And it is unfair. When you privately judge but don't argue honestly for what you want, it's like holding a trial but shutting her out of the court. She never gets a fair chance to argue back. For this type of situation, I recommend seeing a therapist. For us, what works is for him to see a therapist alone. This way, he can sort out his thoughts without me around to hear.

That is pretty close to our situation as well. One addition, the times I do open up and say "no" when I feel "no" my wife typically deflects a potential fight by smiling and doing everything possible to avoid confrontation. I do think talking to a counselor, preferably alone would also be beneficial for me. Holding in feelings is not healthy for me or my marriage.

I can see that you still have lots of love for your wife, and that you want things to change. If you can seek counseling and discover your own truth, then I believe you can heal your marriage if you both want it. But just look for the *truth* and don't rule anything out without examining it first. I wish you growth and positive steps!

Hey thanks! How true this is. It no doubt makes a person see it as it is!