This isn’t an easy series. I don’t like talking about sex because, in my experience, sex was never okay. If you arrived with your knickers all a-twist, this post will set them twirling. You might want to skip on over to here.
Interesting thing happened once I came out as an unloved wife. Other women started talking, looking over their shoulder from time to time as if the spirit of their own private beast might be listening, then slipping quietly back inside the likeness of an Ozzie and Harriet life. Some spoke openly if only for a moment, usually of times long past, then back they went to make goo-goo eyes at the new husband, more than happy to leave the dead burying their own.
Who can blame them?
Listening as I was with ears still bleeding, I kept hearing the same theme—sex as a power play. Specifically, sex used as a tool to gain power over the victim. And oh! what an effective tool it is—
Many Branches, Same Roots
In some cases, the husband refused to have sex with his wife claiming she’d let herself go, gained weight or otherwise made herself repulsive to his delicate sensibilities. Two women told almost identical stories of husbands who kept them on the hamster wheel for years. One man told his wife how many pounds she had to lose, then once she hit her target weight, told her it didn’t matter because he didn’t really like a woman with large breasts. Another treated her body as radioactive, refusing to touch her as she aged and taking up with a girl just out of her teens the minute she left.
Other stories mirrored my own experience of a demanding man always wanting more. The stories all went something like this (with a few kinks here and there just to keep things off-balance):
Man complains about quantity (not having sex often enough), wife ups frequency, man complains about quality of experience.
Wife reads a few books, works at bringing spice to bed, husband gripes about her lack of enthusiasm.
Wife takes a few acting classes, fools husband into thinking he is sexy beast, husband complains about her appearance.
Wife joins Weight Watchers, goes to gym, gets new haircut, collapses from exhaustion from running all over the place, husband complains about frequency.
Wife quits trying. I mean really, if he’s going to be unhappy anyway.
Husband blames her forever.
Another version involved men who maintain a simmering grudge over the wife’s former relationships—maybe she wasn’t a virgin before they married or, in one ironic case, an outwardly pious man angry because his wife allowed *him* to take liberties before their wedding. That one just slays me. The wife in question was not laughing however.
A variation on this is The Affair. Husband mistreats wife, wife has a fling, husband pursues wife like crazy wanting to reconcile and graciously takes her back, then proceeds to verbally/emotionally beat the crud out of her forever and ever. In these cases, the husbands said they couldn’t trust their wives and constantly demanded the offending wife prove their fidelity. She made a mistake, they both know it. Only nothing she does will ever be enough to heal his aching soul.
One man I know calls his wife, “that slut”—not to her face mind you. He saves this lovely phrase for his male pals. I’m actually related to that slut and a more faithful woman could not be found under God’s heaven. He’s referring to the well known fact that before she accepted Christ, she lived with a man in a common law marriage. I have yet to understand why someone hasn’t punched this creep right in the chops for talking about his wife this way.
Rock and a Hard Place
In every case, I’m going to say one thing. I don’t think any of these men want the problem fixed. I don’t think they desire healing and restoration. In their twisted world, it’s in their best interest to keep the pain fresh and their wives hurting at all times for a very simple reason. Ammunition—a way to claim the moral high ground, justifying their abusive ways. This never-ending merry-go-round provides both power and control over the wife. Shame, guilt, blame—all powerful tools to keep the balance of power firmly under the husband’s control.
In my case, I believe my husband did not want to be faithful. Monogamy wasn’t his thing. Having a frigid wife gave him justification for extra-marital affairs and an ongoing affair between his right hand and a computer screen . Sex with me became just one more form of masturbation, one he was more than willing to indulge and another way to vent his anger. Making love would’ve required effort. Keeping me constantly off-guard and hurting gave him a tool to control because I could not deny his unhappiness. Nor could I ever fix things. Only he could say when and if he was finally happy with me in the bedroom and that was never going to happen.
Please note that I’m not trying to negate the sins and mistakes of the victim. I am, however, trying to point out the parallel between the abuser’s treatment of his wife’s weaknesses and/or failings and the very real condemnation the devil himself unleashes against repentant sinners to keep them defeated through ongoing, paralyzing guilt. The husband in these cases becomes the accuser of the brethren. In Christ, there is forgiveness, hope and restoration. A husband that refuses to attend counseling, refuses to accept his wife’s efforts to change, refuses to admit that his own actions may play a role has no desire for a happy ending. There’s a big, big difference between a man who’s working through issues in a marriage and one using those issues as leverage in an ongoing war.
While editing Part One, I realized that somewhere along the line, I dropped the phrase, The Beast, and called that oaf of a man ‘my husband.’ My counselor would have a field day with that little slip, wouldn’t he? I did not edit those references out because I think it shows something important. In this area, I’m not free of the pain of being so despised by a man I gave myself to over and over for decades. I still see myself as that woman crouching in the dark, trying to keep her husband from seeing the naked body he loathed.
Part 3 to come if I don’t change my mind and write about something more pleasant like root canals or weasel wrestling. Also note that in the few stories I found online with male victims, this pattern of sex-as-weapon seemed to hold true. The stories related here are firsthand accounts. If interested check out here and here.