Sex (Part IV): Four Options
Today’s blog is the fourth in a series of posts written by former Radical Mentee Benj Miller, and his wife of 15 years Erica. Benj is a brand consultant in Atlanta, where he and Erica live with their four awesome kids.
We’re sharing Benj and Erica’s posts on Christian married sex because it’s one of the things that most often trips up young couples. Men and women have different levels of sex drive, and God uses these differences to grow our character and our faith. Our Happy Wife Pledge post brought more comments than any other, so we know sex and marriage are big deals for those in our tribe. Without further ado, here’s Benj . . .
During the dry spell where life was happening and we were not spending intimate time together, one night we were able to work in a quickie. You know the quickie, right? No time for foreplay. She’s just allowing me to have sex with her.
Afterward, I was struck with anger. I was hurt. I didn’t really understand why I was hurt. I had received what I “needed.” As I thought about it longer, I realized that what I needed wasn’t sex, it was emotional connection through sharing the act of sex.
I tried for the next week to shake off my anger. I knew it was my issue, not my wife’s. I didn’t want to put this on her, but it was affecting my ability to treat her well. I’d put up emotional walls to protect myself.
Finally, in a meeting with my older, wiser (and well-sexed) coach, I laid it all out there, “we need to talk about my sex life today!” After a few minutes of me telling stories and spilling emotions, he jotting down four words: refusing, allowing, participating, and intiating.
Clarity dripped out as he explained the four buckets:
- Refusing: Husband, “Can we?” Wife, “No.”
- Allowing: Husband, “Can we?” Wife, “Sure, here you go (lays silently).”
- Participating: Husband, “Can we?” Wife, “Let’s do this!”
- Initiating: Wife, “Want to . . . ?” Husband, “Am I dreaming!?”
Husbands . . . you know. It’s like this:
OPTION 1: REFUSING
Refusing is the ultimate rejection for a man. When we initiate sex, it exposes us to a fully vulnerable place where we most deeply desire to be received. It is our desire to be close with and connected to our spouse. When we are denied, it is a painful rejection of our manhood. It just plain sucks!
It sucks because the act of sex is more than physical to us (even though some of us don’t want to admit it). We can’t explain why or how, but it’s true. We all wish we could explain to our spouse the true level on which we experience it, but most of us lack the words or even understanding to properly communicate these feelings.
We men are created this way. We want to be wanted and desired. I recently heard a TED Talk where I learned that rejection is the only emotion that registers in the body as physical pain. Not just emotional, relational or intellectual, but the body actually responds as if there is physical pain. This triggers our fight or flight mechanisms and increases stress.
While we feel refusal as rejection, it isn’t always. Sometimes it’s just necessary due to circumstances. If you are able to have a healthy conversation about how this goes down, consider asking your wife:
“Please handle with care. Show compassion, understanding, and set a time in the very near future where you can make it happen – then own making it happen. The thought of rejection two times in a row is scary and will lead to bitterness and reluctance to continue to approach you.”
OPTION 2: ALLOWING
Allowing is what my coach referred to as “pin-cushion sex.” Allowing is simply when the sex happens, but my wife isn’t very involved. For me, most of the time it is more mental than physical. My wife’s mind is simply somewhere else and I know it. Apparently, my junk isn’t as mind-fixing to her as her breasts are to me.
This is a pretty broad category. I used to think this was a “quickie,” but it’s not true. A “quickie” could be allowing, but it could also be participating (with not too much effort ?).
Here’s the main thing – a quickie can be a very important stopgap measure. It can satiate a physical desire for some amount of time until you can get to one of the next steps, but it is not a well-rounded diet.
The mistake here is that our wives think, “we’ve had sex.” Yes, we have . . . kind of. I had sex, you got sexed. It was not really a “we” thing. We satiated the physical need but just gave some fumes to the emotional need. None of us can run on fumes for too long. Your wife will never understand this unless you get courageous enough to let her into your heart and explain it.
OPTION 3: PARTICIPATING
I believe this should be the goal for the majority of the relationship. Participating is where both parties are actively present, interested, and involved. This is deeply important. There is a connection that happens here that is satisfying on every level: physical, emotional, even spiritual. Participating happens when sex becomes a we experience and not a me experience.
OPTION 4: INITIATING
Initiating would be where the wife requests and leads the physical activity. Too often marital conversations get stuck here. We men want the wives to initiate because we are so broken over the repeated rejections. As a result, we retreat and beg or wait for the wife to initiate. While her initiating is extremely flattering, it isn’t what we genuinely crave.
If a marriage contained a regular amount of “participating” with the occasional “allowing” and healthy “refusing,” then the desire for the wife to be the initiator would fade to the background. It wouldn’t be an emotional need but rather a flattering nice-to-have.
In my next post, I’ll show you the key to unlock this entire puzzle. Don’t miss it.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to be intentional with this struggle. Hope is not a strategy and we can’t will things to get better. We have to actively, purposefully refuse, allow, participate and initiate. Help us as men to communicate clearly and effectively with our spouses and pray that the way we love her would always glorify you. Amen.
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Men have “junk” and women have breasts? Words mean something. Junk implies trash, something to throw away, having no value. Maybe we should collectively change how we speak about the parts of us that we hold near and dear to us. Think about it. The woman we love is supposed to be endeared to our “junk”? Oh, yeah, appealing!
Benj says “Good call. We actually use it to both genders in our family. It is something we use light-heartedly. Words do matter, in our house that one is mutually understood. I don’t think being endeared to “junk” is in anyway the goal… but yes, don’t mean to belittle them.”
These are really good and I want to share them with my wife. I accidentally deleted part 1. Can you please resend? Thanks.
Here’s a link Gary . . .
This is great stuff, realizing the realities never been discussed because of our cultural thinking.
I enjoyed not only reading these from Part I and now following through. I am a Service Provider to Sex Offenders in our National Prison and thought that this information is more meaningful to individual experiences and wonder whether I could use some of this in my training programs for Prison Inmates in the country. It is also considerable good stuff for Fathers Fellowship Groups. Excellent Writing.
Wish I had had this concept/vocabulary 20 years ago. Great stuff. Must read for every couple in my opinion. Make sure to read the follow up post from Benj’s wife Erica (think it’s #7 in the series) where she goes through the same formula with the five love languages.