What ‘s Not on the Table?

February 27, 2014

in 2014 Marriage Upgrade, Seeing Clearly, Series

I suggested you and your wife make lists of what you want in your marriage. One more question before you share your lists and work towards a single list you can both live with.

REJECTED! © Naypong | freedigitalphotos.net

What is not on the table? 

What are you unwilling to give up or negotiate? This is not about selfishness; there should be some non-negotiable things in marriage. For example, no one should be expected to live in a sexless marriage, and no one should be expected to live with abuse. 

Other non-negotiable issues are more about what we need to be sane and healthy. If one of you is a rabid neat-nick, a home that looks like a disaster area is not acceptable. If one of you grew up being yelled at, a non-yelling home is a reasonable mental and emotional health requirement. 

Not having non-negotiable issues is a bad sign. Having too many non-negotiable issues puts the marriage at risk. If you and your wife fall on opposite sides on a non-negotiable issue, your marriage is in crisis, and you need help ASAP.

Take some time to think and pray about this. What have you treated as non-negotiable? Which of those are valid, and which are rooted in selfishness? Which are beyond your ability to accept? Which can you give on some? Are there some you can let go? 

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19 comments
IntimacySeeker
IntimacySeeker

A non-negotiable for me is no third party in our sexual intimacy. This includes imagined or fantasized third parties. After reading “Keeper of the Visual Rolodex: Why it’s so natural for him to look and so hard to forget what he’s seen” (For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn), I wonder whether my husband is picturing having sex with another woman when he is with me.


How can I trust that he wants me (not just sex) when the research shows that “even happily married men struggle with being pulled toward live and recollected images of other women”? 


I celebrate that God created my husband with physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs for sexual intimacy. And I am doing my best to understand and meet those needs. But how can we have true intimacy with all these images in his mind?


I was created with a need to be the only one my husband desires sexually. And he is wired in a way that makes it impossible for him to meet this need. It seems there is a double standard: he has sexual desire for many women but needs me to desire only him.


I’ve been trying to ignore this issue and focus on positive aspects of our relationship, but I need find resolution and release from feelings of inadequacy and failure. I would appreciate hearing some encouragement from others, especially husbands.


1980BC
1980BC

Kicking off the comments on a terrible note:  My eyes aren't fully focused for the day and I read that as "Why not on the table?"  And saw the graphic that said "Rejected" and I thought "Yep, that looks about right in my marriage."  Then I remembered that's not what we're talking about this week.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@IntimacySeeker  Perhaps the issue here is desire versus arousal. 

If a man briefly sees a naked woman, even one who is not attractive, it has an arousing effect on him. Not a full on "gotta have sex now" thing, probably not even an erection,  but it does have an effect. This is beyond our ability to control, it is how God made us. Those of us who only desire our wives do not like it, but it is still there.

Thing is, that arousal is not desire. It is a reflex, not a choice. Desire is a choice - at least for those who make it a choice. Those who only desire their wife are going learn to avoid seeing things that arouse them, and will look away when they cannot avoid it. These same men are not thinking about another women when they have sex with their wife because it is only  their wife they desire.

I know people who do not like coffee who say it smells good. They do not desire it, but the aroma arouses them inn some way.

1980BC
1980BC

@IntimacySeeker Paul may reply to this even as I type this out, but I'll take a crack at your quandary using info I'm pretty sure I've seen him post in the past.  Yes, it's impossible to separate his visual nature from his physical, emotional, relational and spiritual needs.  But if you're accepting of that nature and nurturing those visual needs in addition to all the other needs I have no doubt you're intentional about meeting, you own his visual recall.  When a man is happily married, and his wife is feeding his visual appetite, everything he's seen in the past fades to the background and becomes blurry at best.  There's been actual studies that have shown such men don't even perceive the physical features or degree of attractiveness of other women they see when they feel well connected to their own wives.  Maybe what he's seen never really goes away, but it's certainly not a discernible presence in his mind.  I hope Paul has the details on that study to correct anything I misremembered about it.  

Images stick with us longer, and we do associate feelings with visuals, but old images don't stay in the active thoughts box in our brains, and new visuals "block the view" of old images pretty easily. I don't know what he's put in front of his eyes in the past, but if he's keeping his eyes on you these days, you really can believe him when he tells you you're the only one he thinks of and imagines.  It's true in my experience and I'm sure you'll get responses for other men here that will tell you the same.

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@1980BC  I have suggested that on Twitter a few times. Always gets some interesting comments!

Nathan N.
Nathan N.

That's a good way of contrasting arousal (kin to attraction) and desire.Arousal is like a dieter's attraction to cheesecake, attention getting but unwelcome because of its threat to longterm happiness.

IntimacySeeker
IntimacySeeker

@1980BC @IntimacySeeker I meant to thank you initially yesterday for your response. Very empowering and helpful to me in this time of uncertainty in my life. I am feeding my husband's visual appetite and he is keeping his eyes on me these days. Comforting to know all this has lasting benefits!

IntimacySeeker
IntimacySeeker

@1980BC @IntimacySeeker Thank you for this very helpful response. Upon reading the book I mentioned in my original post, I understood that my husband was struggling with images of other women 24/7. The author could have done a much better job explaining this. Thanks again!

TheGenerousHusband
TheGenerousHusband moderator

@1980BC @IntimacySeeker  I have seen studies which show a good connection changes how men react to sexual images. Can't put my hands on it at the moment.

Images do stay with us, and not just men and not just sexual images. If you came across a body, that would stick with you - particularly if it was gruesome. The fact it stuck with you would not mean you wanted it to, and when it came to mind you would likely push it away as quickly as possible.

IntimacySeeker
IntimacySeeker

@TheGenerousHusband @IntimacySeeker@Nathan N@1980BC I would like to share that the initial comment from 1980BC was the most encouraging and helpful thus far. Something about the others was bothering me and I think it has to do with objectification. I trust you were attempting to explain your experience in terms a woman could understand, but I am not a cup of coffee, nor a piece of cheesecake, nor a car. I am a child of God for whom Christ died and rose, as is every woman you see. I am not angry, since I believe your intentions were honorable, but thought it might help you to know why your comments felt degrading.

IntimacySeeker
IntimacySeeker

@TheGenerousHusband @IntimacySeeker@Nathan N@1980BC As I struggled with this yesterday, I realized that my deep fear in this is to be inadequate. I would rather be unloved or alone than inadequate. Certainly not the healthiest posture for me as my husband and I journey toward deeper intimacy and stronger connection. I tend to be more concerned about being the best, or the one and only, rather than loving him and being vulnerable. Anyway, thank you for listening and for the candid responses. I appreciate your time and thoughtfulness.

IntimacySeeker
IntimacySeeker

@Nathan N @IntimacySeeker@TheGenerousHusband@1980BC  Bottom line: no matter what I do, how often I do it, or how well I do it, I will never be enough. Other women will always turn my husband's head. Seems futile to put so much time, effort and energy into something at which I can never succeed. Sometimes I think being single is the only way to escape this pain.

Nathan N.
Nathan N.

@IntimacySeeker @Nathan N @TheGenerousHusband @1980BC  That is true, but the ideal is often far from reality. Cheesecake is wonderful because it is out of the ordinary and that makes it special. It might also be attractive because it is because it is full of sugar and fat...I digress. 


It would fantastic to have gourmet sex on a regular basis and it certainly happens at times, but it is gourmet because life is not like that most of the time. Some spouses crave sex because they are not getting it at a quality or quality that they need. Regardless, cheesecake can still seem awfully appealing even when I am too full to eat it, and poorly dressed women catch my attention even when my wife has loved me well.


I get your point though. There is the old saying that a man is less likely to steal a junker car off the curb when he has a nice car sitting in the driveway.

IntimacySeeker
IntimacySeeker

@Nathan N @TheGenerousHusband @1980BC Based on what you have each written, I would alter Nathan's cheesecake analogy. Someone dieting has not had cheesecake in awhile and therefore it's appeal would be great. However, if a man has had cheesecake served regularly, homemade by his wife, in his favorite flavors (which she has made a point to discover and rediscover), served on fine china, accompanied by fresh high quality coffee, enjoyed with his favorite jazz music in the background...his attraction to other cheesecake would be diminished considerably.

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