My wife found a new marriage blog the other day – The Forgiven Wife. The author is a former sexual refuser who says she spent “20 years of being a sexual gatekeeper”.
When I see or read about someone doing something wrong in his or her marriage, my first thought is “Where am I doing that?” Once I deal with myself, my next thought is “Where are other husbands and wives doing that?”
What about gatekeeping beyond sex? A gatekeeper controls access to something. Gatekeeping can be good, such as protecting our children from things they’re not yet ready to experience, but it can also be bad. When gatekeeping is used to control, limit, manipulate, punish, or harm others, it is wrong.
Being a gatekeeper is about power, and it requires having control over the thing to which you grant and deny access. If you could keep your wife from doing something, then you have the potential to be a gatekeeper in that area. You can even be an unintentional gatekeeper.
A few of the ways I see husbands being gatekeepers:
- Time with you – to talk, to do things together, for non-sexual intimacy.
- Your emotions and your thought life.
- Finances – not letting her know about the money situation.
- Finances – not letting her buy things she needs (like the tools she needs to do household tasks, clothing for the kids, and so on).
- Finances – limiting what “wants” she can buy, while spending far more on what your wants.
- Your schedule – not letting her know your schedule, making it difficult for her to plan things.
- Her time – tying her down by not helping with kids or sharing in household chores.
- Socially – refusing to go out, or cancelling at the last minute.
- Sex – yes, men do it, and it is just a wrong when men do it as when women do it.
By the way, for many women sex is one of the few places they have the needed control to be a gatekeeper. While I have no doubt many women are sexual gatekeepers out of selfishness or injury, I suspect exercising the one area where they have power may be a factor for many women. I also think gatekeeping begets gatekeeping, and it can become a vicious cycle. Either spouse can choose to break the cycle – why not you?