Today’s post is another written by Benj Miller, a former Radical Mentee. Benj is a brand and culture consultant that founded an agency in Atlanta called eyespeak, which was recently acquired by Syrup Marketing. Erica and Benj have been married for 15 years and are the proud parents of 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 such different levels of sex drive. God often uses these differences to grow our character and our faith. Our “Happy Wife Pledge” post brought far more comments than any other . . . ever. So we know sex and marriage are big deals for the men 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.
Afterwards, 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 the emotional connection through the sharing of 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 starting jotting down four words:
Clarity dripped out as he used those four buckets. It became so obvious when spelled:
- 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:
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 and connected with 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.”
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 stop-gap 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.
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.
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 that will unlock this entire puzzle. You won’t want to miss it.
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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