DISCLAIMER: There are a number of caveats related to this post. I hope that they won’t keep you from seeing the truth expressed. Not everyone’s experience is the same, so this may not apply to you or your marriage but it may apply to someone else’s marriage. Avoid the bunny trials because they don’t lead to the destination.
Last week I wrote That’s Not My Preference that basically suggested that we shouldn’t expect from our spouse that which they do not yet have the capacity to give. In this post we’re taking a look at the situation where a spouse chooses not to give what their spouse needs/wants/desires. In other words, it is within their capability to give but for their own reasons they choose not to give it.
Dr. David Schnarch says that our choices say more about us than they do our spouse. In other words, a spouse that makes the choice not to give their spouse their spouse’s needs/wants/desires when they are capable of doing so says more about the person not giving than it does about the requesting spouse or the spouse’s request. Yeah, that’s a confusing sentence. What it boils down to is this, if you aren’t meeting your spouse’s needs/wants/desires that says more about you than it does about them or their wants/needs/desires.
Now there are lots of other caveats to this situation but let’s assume we’re talking about reasonable, morally acceptable wants/needs/desires and two emotionally healthy individuals. Let’s not get too hung up on the exceptions that include things like sexual abuse, etc. Also, somethings come down to preferences. I don’t like lima (butter) beans and my wife doesn’t like any type of melon. Those are preferences.
What I’m talking about has more to do with choosing not to fulfill a spouse’s want/need/desire because it is too intimate. It reveals too much of their true self. Some people just aren’t ready for the level of intimacy some activities require. For example, last week I wrote about love that includes sexual desire and love without sexual desire. If a person has been hurt by showing sexual desire before then they could choose not to reveal that portion of themselves out of fear. It could be that they grew up in a home where sexual desire, even in marriage, wasn’t viewed in a positive light. There are many emotional and/or psychological reasons that a person may have issues with certain intimate activity (that’s not code for ‘sex’ though it includes intimate sexual activity as well).
Also, there is a difference between cannot, will not, and not yet ready. As we spoke of last week about love and sexual desire there are those that do not have that within their sphere of experience. As hard as it is for the many of us who experience sexual desire as hand-in-hand with the love we have for our spouse there are those that don’t. They do love their spouse but the do not have that same type of sexual desire for their spouse and they don’t see the two as going hand in hand together. Now that doesn’t mean that they cannot try to learn just as their spouse can try and learn to separate sexual touch with non-sexual touch. Some will try and not be able to get over the hump. Sexual desire isn’t just a matter of will.
Which brings us to will not. Too often these types tend toward stubborn, immature, selfish, jerks. A mature spouse works to overcome their issues for the good of their spouse and their marriage. We marry for “better or for worse” and “in sickness and in health” but the assumption expressed there is that each spouse will strive for “better” and “healthy.” A spouse that chooses not to try isn’t making a very good choice and they, their marriage and their spouse suffer because of their choice(s).
Finally we have a spouse that isn’t ready. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell the difference between “cannot” and “not yet ready.” Either way though trying and growing is in order.
Now if one spouse IS ready for more intimacy and one is not their is going to be conflict and this conflict shouldn’t be avoided. It should be used to grow up. In these types of situations I personally believe it is up to the more mature spouse to push for growth within the marriage. That doesn’t mean nagging or going on and on about it. It means expressing your desires and not hiding disappointment when you are disappointed. You should not punish your spouse nor should you enable them. There are natural consequences to the choices that we make and when we make a choice for less intimacy there is a price that is paid. Less intimacy is not as good for a marriage as more intimacy.
So, let’s get back to the bottom line. What do the choices you make concerning your marriage say about you? This post isn’t about our spouses. It’s about us.
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