Some ILIASMers have spouses who professes to want a regular and satisfying sex life. When asked why they are refusing, they indignantly insist it has nothing to do with their desires, but is the fault of circumstance. Often they go so far as to insist they REALLY want the same sexual intimacy their partners are seeking.
For Refused spouses, this is confusing. Naturally, if you love someone, you want to believe them. You especially want to believe them when they say what you want to hear! But confusion arises because, despite saying this is what they want, there is little or no evidence to back up these claims. In fact, more often than not, there is extensive evidence to the contrary.
Looking at these situations from the outside in, it is very clear that the Refuser is not telling the truth. But when you are IN the situation, it can be much harder to accurately evaluate what is going on. This is due to the variations of motive in individual Refusers.
Identifying your own Refuser can help you to see what you need to do to deal with this situation.
Refuser One: says s/he wants sexual intimacy but cannot follow through with the behaviour. This type of Refuser has an (a) and a (b) category!
(a) This Refuser actually wants to believe s/he wants sexual intimacy. S/he wants to believe this because s/he knows it is “normal” to do so, and therefore wants to conform to “normal” standards. But her/his behaviour actually contradicts this. This type of Refuser is VERY difficult to deal with because they do not understand their own reality. They cannot accept their own truth of not wanting sex. So ALL instances of sexual refusal will be externalised onto another issue. This often takes the form of blaming the Refused for causing the lack of sex . . . !
(b) This Refuser knows very well that s/he does NOT want sexual intimacy, but says they do because it keeps their spouse from straying. It is dangling a carrot in front of the horse (who is you!) with NO intention of ever letting you have the carrot. IMO, this is a particularly cruel form of refusing.
Refuser Two: says quite clearly that s/he does not want or need sex – and follows through with consistent behaviour. This Refuser is the one who tells you that you are “sex mad” and cannot understand why you do not realise that “all you need is love” – without any of that messy, time consuming sex!!
Refuser Three: I call this person the Clayton’s Refuser – because s/he is not a genuine Refuser in the ILIASM sense.
This is a spouse who is jaded with marriage and / or their marriage partner. This is the spouse who likes sex and wants an intimate connection but is being driven away from that level of intimacy by problems in the marriage. These problems are often due at least in part to the spouse. It IS hard to maintain a warm, sexual and intimate connection with a person who disrespects you, disregards your feelings, treats you unfairly or does not maintain personal hygiene!
Refuser 1a is the most difficult to deal with. This person is in denial. S/he tells herself/himself that they are “just like you” in really wanting a good intimate sexual connection – and cannot accept that their behaviour (ie. Refusing) clearly demonstrates the fallacy of this supposed belief. This person will always have a problem that prevents that sexual intimacy occurring – and yet will never accept that these roadblocks are their own problems.
Sometimes these roadblocks seem (and maybe are!) quite genuine. But the acid test occurs when there is NEVER a time for sexual intimacy because there is ALWAYS another roadblock. . . . Often the roadblocks are about you – the Refused. YOU are not romantic enough, you don’t take on your share of the child care, you are not a good housekeeper. You are too fat, too thin, too old, too ugly, too beautiful, too . . . . You don’t “understand” him/her. The implication is that, once you “fix” yourself, sex will be back on the menu. DO NOT BE FOOLED! This is NOT going to happen.
There is a strong temptation to “fix” yourself (or the environment) with the hope that THIS time you will achieve success. But that simply plays into the falsehood that this situation has its roots in an external problem. And it does NOT. It is a deep seated part of your Refuser. And as your Refuser cannot see that, let alone admit it, there will NEVER be a resolution to this problem.
Refuser 1a will never understand that s/he IS the problem. In his/her mind, the problem is always external. So if (when) you leave, s/he will always blame you for breaking up their happy marriage. S/he will never take responsibility for their role in the break-up. And nothing you do can change that. So recognise that, if you have a 1a Refuser, you WILL be the “bad guy”.
Expect resistance at every stage of your break up. Negotiations in every area will be tinged with negativity because this person truly does NOT “get it”. S/he still sees himself/herself as the “innocent victim” in this marriage break up!
1b Refusers are aware that they do not want sexual intimacy but say they do because they want to keep you tied to the marriage. They are often highly successful at this for many years!! If you can clearly see that your Refuser is only paying lip service to the concept, with absolutely NO intention of following through, you know exactly where you stand. As long as you allow yourself to buy into the “dangling carrot” scenario, s/he will keep you tied to the marriage.
In this situation, you may have some success by standing up for yourself and calling the person to account. S/he may not budge easily – after all, this tactic has worked REALLY well for them in the past! But you may get them to admit that there is no chance of a sexually intimate future with them.
These situations are sometimes the ones with the better outcomes. Once the “bull ****” positions have been revealed for what they are, then both sides can find relief in not living a lie. To achieve this, it is most important to avoid blaming, angry outbursts and accusations. You are seeking a resolution to the problem and negative behaviour on your part will only serve to further entrench the attitudes you are already seeing.
Honesty, compassion and respect on your part may (eventually!) elicit the same from your Refuser. The operative word here is “may” . . . But you DO need to realise that reaching this level of honesty will in no way alter the sexual dynamic of the relationship. It will still be necessary to leave the marriage if your needs dictate you have sexual intimacy in your life. But you may be able to negotiate your separation civilly and also work out such arrangements as co-parenting with a degree of cooperation that is usually missing from Refusers 1a and 2.Refuser Two is the truly selfish and narcissistic Refuser. This person has no interest in your needs. S/he openly states that s/he does not want or need sexual intimacy, and therefore it will NOT happen in your relationship. This person sees no reason to give your needs or wants any priority at all. If your needs and wants conflict in any way with hers /his, then you WILL be the loser.
In many ways these are the easier Refusers to deal with. There is no “bull ****” on their part – they are honest about their needs coming first.
But YOU need to recognise that there is nothing at all that you can do to change this position. Hoping that something miraculous will occur to turn your Refuser around one hundred and eighty degrees is to lie to yourself.
These situations are best resolved by recognising that there is only one “cure” – and that is, leaving the marriage. This Refuser is unable to empathise with the needs of his/her spouse. Your needs cannot ever compete with the Refuser’s needs. Trying to convince them otherwise is an exercise in futility.
Negotiating your separation and child access will probably be very difficult. As your spouse puts his/her needs ahead of everyone else’s s/he will not easily cooperate with anything that is not seen to be in his/her best interests. This often extends to the children too – even though they profess to want to put the children first. In reality, this means putting the children first provided it does NOT conflict in any way with what they want for themselves!
Refuser Three can easily be confused with Refuser 1a. It takes considerable self awareness and willingness to look carefully at yourself and your own behaviour to see if your Refuser actually has some valid complaints about you. Conversely, many spouses think their Refusers are type Three when in fact they are type 1a!
Two ways to determine the differences:
With a Refuser 3, your relationship was often pretty good for a long time – several years or even decades. (Refuser 1a types tend to emerge in the first two to three years of marriage or knowing each other.)
A Refuser 3 often becomes a Refuser because there has been a steady decline in the relationship for reasons other than sex – anything from financial crisis and personal illness, to affairs or lack of personal hygiene. This Refuser is finding it hard to trust his/her spouse and is withdrawing from the intimate sex life they once enjoyed. (A 1a Refuser usually embarks on his/her refusing simply because they don’t really want sex. The “reasons” they give are often vague, insubstantial or not rooted in real life reality. Such as “If you love me you will know what I want.”)
With a Refuser 3, it is essential to nail down exactly what is wrong; which behaviours need changing and what will constitute a satisfactory outcome in these areas. If you are the cause of this break down in your marriage, you have a chance with a Refuser Three to rebuild your relationship. You need to take your role seriously and not try to just “band aid” the marriage by giving your lip service to change without following through.
Be aware however, that sometimes your best efforts may not result in success. Fear and lack of trust may be too great in your Refuser Three for you to successfully overcome these feelings.
Sometimes a Refuser Three results from circumstances outside your control , such as serious illness; profound grief; drastic changes in family circumstances. These can be the WORST situations to deal with because you cannot personally change them. And you can understand the reasons for the change in your spouse. This means you have sympathy and empathy for them. But tragically, it does nothing to resolve the issue of your sexless marriage.
Then you are faced with the dilemma of deciding if you can live with this situation or not. This condition has my profound sympathy because I believe it to be the most challenging one in the Sexless Marriage arena.
Are there other types of Refuser? Quite possibly! ILIASMers are encouraged to add further “types” they have identified.