There are several common misconceptions that may make you feel obligated — and pressured — to be sexual. Laura Doyle, author of The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion, and Peace With a Man, dispels seven of these sexual myths.
1. Myth: If I don’t have sex with him, he’ll look for it someplace else.
Fact: If your husband is one of the good guys, you have nothing to worry about. In other words, if he’s not a sex addict who is sleeping with other women, you will not drive a healthy man to seek sex elsewhere by taking a temporary sexual healing break.
If your husband has a history of infidelity it will be harder to believe that he will remain faithful while you’re not temporarily available. But, if he has the capacity to be faithful, he can certainly go without sex on occasion. He cannot, however, live without respect and admiration. Ongoing control and criticism are far more dangerous threats to monogamy than the absence of sex.
If you can’t be sexual with him right now, your husband does deserve the promise of sex in the future. Let’s say you decide to work with a therapist to heal some old wounds, and during that time the pain is so intense that you decide to tell your husband you won’t be sexually available for three months or so. If you talk openly with him about not being available and that the situation is temporary, it’s very unlikely that he’ll look for sex someplace else during a short-lived break.
It’s true that men have been known to cheat on their wives out of anger and loneliness. However, it’s usually a last resort for regaining the masculinity and intimacy that are lost when he’s lived with ongoing criticism and control. Another motivation for a man to cheat on his wife is the feeling that he may never get his sexual needs met in his marriage. While neither of these situations would make his cheating your fault (he is always responsible for honoring his wedding vows), it only makes sense to avoid emasculating him or withholding sex indefinitely.
When you acknowledge that a healthy sex life is important to you, and that you plan to return to one as soon as possible, you are fostering intimacy and trust in your marriage. That’s very different from just ignoring his frustration and making no commitments to improve in the future.
Your husband may very well need more sex than you are able to offer him if you’re unavailable for a while. Fortunately, men know exactly how to satisfy themselves when we’re not available. Your husband probably went many months or years without sex plenty of times before he met you. A hiatus with you is not going to drive him into some other woman’s bed. Remind yourself of this when you feel afraid.
Some women feel threatened when their husbands masturbate, but men tend to view masturbating as a bodily function, rather than a cataclysmic sexual experience. According to the old joke, 98 percent of all men masturbate and the other 2 percent lie. Your husband is probably like most men. He may even use pornography when he masturbates. But what he’s reading or watching is strictly between him and God, and it’s none of your business. A centerfold is not the same as a flesh-and-bones woman, so don’t make it more than it is.
You may find these views on the topics of masturbation and pornography distasteful, but keep in mind that you can’t control your husband’s masturbating or pornography viewing. Trying to stop him is a form of controlling — which wastes your time and interferes with your intimacy. Remember that part of the reason he’s attracted to you is because he’s attracted to the female form. That’s the way he’s made.
2. Myth: “If I have sex with him, I’ll have to work hard to prevent him from seeing how fat/freckled/wrinkled/sweaty I am.”
Fact: We’re accustomed to thinking that we’re unattractive if we haven’t showered, done our hair, put on makeup and perfume, or put on a pretty outfit with matching earrings. We women are especially hard on ourselves when it comes to the way we look. But no matter what your state, you have a womanly shape and scent and a feminine spirit that is attractive to your man, which is why he’s making goo-goo eyes. Seize that opportunity to connect.
Try not to flinch if your husband fondles your stomach, looks at your thighs, or runs his fingers through your dirty hair. Don’t stand between him and what he finds pleasurable. Don’t worry about how you smell or what bodily fluids you’ve excreted. If he doesn’t care, why should you? Being overly self-conscious is a barrier to intimacy. When you accept yourself as you are, you will even start to feel attractive at times that you never thought you would.
If you refuse him because you insist that you are not attractive, you’re acting on the belief that this man has bad taste, when clearly he has excellent taste as evidenced by the fact that he married you. You are also criticizing what he thinks, which is disrespectful and ungracious.
Passing up an opportunity to have a physically intimate moment with your husband because you feel inadequate is unpleasant for everybody. You’re denying him the chance to give you pleasure and yourself the chance to receive it and feel beautiful in his arms all because you feel insecure about your body. Why not use the opportunity to feel great? Tell yourself, “I turn him on! He must think I am sexy and gorgeous.” Even if he’s not telling you so in words, notice what his actions are saying.
3. Myth: “If I don’t have sex with him now, he won’t approach me again.”
Fact: While it’s true that repeated rejections can be discouraging, it’s not likely to make your husband stop trying. Just as people keep tugging at the lever of a slot machine, so your husband is also optimistic about hitting the jackpot. This is especially true if you have told your husband up front that you might not be available and that it’s not about him, because then he won’t take your rejection personally. Another reason he won’t stop trying is that part of his physical makeup drives him to mate with you. His instincts tell him to plant his seed.
If your husband is not approaching you, a much more significant problem may be rejection outside the bedroom. Keep working on respecting and deferring to him. And, of course, practice making yourself available.
4. Myth: “If I don’t have sex with him when he wants to, he won’t love me.”
Fact: His love for you doesn’t depend on sex. You are lovable whether you are performing sexually or not, and to believe otherwise reflects a painful lack of self-worth. Don’t discount the unique qualities that made your husband fall in love with you in the first place. Your husband loves you for lots of reasons—the way you mother his children, make a home, laugh at his jokes, know the names of all the constellations, admire his muscles, or wear your hair when you’re going to the beach. Remind yourself that you have intrinsic value as a person, not just as a sex partner. Your husband did not marry you just for the sex. For that, he could have made arrangements that required much less effort on his part.
A reasonable man will not insist on having sex when you’re unavailable. He may complain loudly, but he won’t stop loving you because you’re abstaining for a little while. Keep in mind that he wants you to be happy, and if that means entertaining himself for the moment, so be it.
5. Myth: “If I have sex with him and it’s only so-so, he’ll complain that it’s not as good as it used to be.”
Fact: You might end up having terrific sex when you least expect it. Remember that the point of lovemaking is to connect physically and to distinguish your marriage from every other relationship.
Not all sex is fabulous, so don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard.
6. Myth: “If I don’t have sex with him, he’ll be angry and I will feel guilty.”
Fact: This may be true.
But there’s a simple antidote for not keeping your sexual agreement. Apologize. Acknowledge that you have deprived him sexually, and tell him you are doing everything you can to get to the root of the problem and heal it so you’ll be available for him.
You can’t afford to feel guilty or be harsh with yourself.
It’s appropriate that you feel remorse, and that you try to speed the process of renewing intimacy by making an effort to be available to your husband. However, guilt only robs you of the energy you’ll need to address the issues that stand between you and a pleasurable sex life.
7. Myth: “If I start to have sex with him, I’ll have to satisfy him to the point of orgasm.”
Fact: Women with sexual abuse in their past especially tend to feel this way, and understandably so. If you’ve survived a rape, date rape, or molestation, you probably identify with this belief, and you have internalized the idea that “no” is not an option.
Some wives had an overly simplistic, black-and-white view of sex that made us feel we were either going to do it and go all the way, or we weren’t going to engage at all. Once we acquiesced to a kiss, or got undressed or passed some other symbolic starting point, there was no turning back.
If your husband is one of the good guys, then he is not one of the creeps who forced you. Remind yourself that he never will be. If you ask a good guy (i.e., your husband) to stop in the middle of lovemaking, he may protest, but he won’t rape you. I asked the women in the circle to do this as a onetime experiment, and I recommend it for you too, to demonstrate that you are in charge of your body. Once we had the proof, we knew that we could always choose. That made it easier to say yes more often, and have the physical intimacy we craved. The truth is, you always have a choice, and knowing that will make you feel freer to engage in lovemaking.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Doyle is the author of the controversial bestsellers The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion, and Peace With a Man (Copyright © 1999, 2001 by Laura Doyle), The Surrendered Single: A Practical Guide to Attracting and Marrying the Man Who’s Right for You, and Things Will Get as Good as You Can Stand. A popular speaker on relationship issues, she teaches workshops based on her books. She lives in Costa Mesa, California, with her husband.
MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR
- 3 Steps to Gaining Intimacy in Your Marriage by Surrendering Control of Your Finances
- A Quiz: How Intimate Is Your Marriage?
- Read the Introduction to The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide To Finding Intimacy, Passion and Peace
- See the book’s Table of Contents
- Browse more books by Laura Doyle