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Interviews with LDS Relationship and Sexuality Counselor Dr. Finlayson-Fife
Here in the 18th installment of the “Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist” series Jennifer answers three more questions submitted from listeners. The first question is about a husband that is sexually entitled and not responsive to his wife’s wishes, the second question is about the use of vibrators, and the third question comes from a person navigating a mixed orientation marriage.
If you have a question for the good doctor you can comment below OR send an email to email@example.com
Music: Sugar Blues (Pubic Domain), and Flight of the Ginker by Doug Martin.
To the woman in the first question, I would say RUN FOR YOUR LIFE. (And I can’t believe no one else reacted this way!) Your husband is a manipulative rapist, for heaven’s sake! You are not your husband’s sex slave just because he once wooed (tricked?) you into marrying him. You don’t owe him sex. But you deserve safety in your marriage, which you clearly don’t have. You also don’t owe him loyalty in the form of silence. You get the help you need regardless of how it affects him. He chose to harm you, and he doesn’t get to choose the consequences of those actions; you do. Do not shield him from the consequences of his actions or you will enable his (sinful and illegal) behavior.
Often men are labeled the more sexual beings, but as a woman with a strong sex drive and desire for physical intimacy, how can I strengthen my relationship and marriage while not feeling like I have to give up on my own physical desires? My husband and I haven’t really had a good physical relationship in all the time we’ve been married. We seemed to have intense chemistry before we were married during the dating/engagement phase, but after the wedding I seemed to be the only one who wanted or sought out physical intimacy and it has come to the point that we will only have sex maybe 2-3 times a year. If he doesn’t desire physical intimacy, is that something I should just learn to accept in him?
You might find this TED talk interesting. I did.
This ted talk is almost excatly how I feel. The story about John is my story. I even go so far as to ask her to cuddle and I get I have to work tomorrow or I’m tired.
I like to hold her but I never get held or touched. Sure we have sex but it’s more of a task on a to do sheet.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t always this way. Almost 4 years ago I had a stroke at 32. Everything was good but after four months in the hospital she wanted physical intimacy several times a week. At the time I slept on the ground floor so it seemed to me she had o do more work. Coming down stairs holding me or other stuff. I really wasn’t all that physical at the time, because I couldn’t be. Though after alomst 6 months of this I moved into our bead upstairs but it’s odd over the last few years I feel like she is pulling away from me. It’s odd she’s on the other side of the bed but she feels miles away.
I feel alone pretty much most of the time. I’ve brought this up (nicely) but all I get is I’m some how wrong for think or feeling this way and I need respect her feelings and that she just isn’t that physical. I feel in my head that I have over 10 years of memories that prove other wise. All I get for that if I mention it is a huge guilt trip that she thought she had no choice if she wanted to keep me happy. I’ve always tried to tell her that there is a big difference between can’t and won’t. At that I get an eye roll.
How can a marriage of 14 years survive a sudden disability? When I work and supported the family financially there didn’t seem to be problems like this. Now that she works (granted 4 10’s) it’s a big problem? How can I help her see me as desirable? How can I help her I feel that one day she’ll explode because it seems like she is just pushing down her true feelings to spare me from hurting.
Question for Jennifer:
I have been married to my husband for over a decade. We have many children and we both want to make our marriage work. However, we have never really found compatibility sexually. I have consistently been the lower desire spouse and he has been the higher desire spouse with a history of pornography (since before we were married) and even mild sexual communication with other women over the internet. I have come to realize recently how my attitude around intimacy (mostly apathetic) has caused a lot of damage to our marriage and I have been working on those issues within myself. The tough spot we’re in now is that my husband says he is not aroused, turned on, or satisfied by any intimate relations with me. I know a lot of this has to do with the rejection, judgment, and complaining that I did over the years, but as we’ve talked, it seems like he is saying that I’ve never really turned him on. I think when we got married, the mystery of what intimacy would be like was arousing to him, but in reality, he has not really ever felt satisfied with our intimate life. He blames this on me, telling me that I need to become the type of person that will satisfy him. I have tried so many different things, but in the end, I feel like he is asking me to become someone that I’m not. I do enjoy sex with him and I am trying to repair the relationship that has been damaged by my poor choices over a decade, but I am unsure of what else I can do to satisfy him sexually. I don’t feel like I can authentically become a different person (the type of person he describes is a woman that has such a high desire to satisfy her husband that she will go to any length to find out what will satisfy him and then eagerly do it because she is a nymphomaniac). Like I said, we both want to make this work but I am feeling stuck and frustrated. Any advice would help.
Anonymous my heart wants to wake you up. I was blind and looking back can see it was the form of denial that I chose. Statements like “my attitude around intimacy has caused a lot of damage” and “I am trying to repair the relationship that has been damaged by my poor choices” cause me to pause as I do believe confronting myself was critical to figuring out what was wrong in my marriage but smoke and mirrors that may be happening in your husbands accusations are just that. False accusations need to be addressed honestly. Taking on his falseness or accepting the blame to keep peace is not helping. I did that. Why would it be poor judgement to not engage with a man who claims he wants you to be someone else? I recall a therapist I came to respect asked me why I was trying to save a marriage not worth having. You do understand the type of “person” your husband describes is not real? She or better yet “this object” can only best be found in misogynistic pornographic fantasy. Wake up and remember your goodness? The sexuality that can be found in Jennifer’s theories has nothing to do with what your husband has been offering.
Anne/Annonymous: don’t give up, don’t give up. Your marriage is worth it. Men are so fixable. You aren’t a doormat: you are the eye of the storm.
Listening to Dr. Finlayson-Fife and going to therapy will all help. I wish you so much love and support. I hope you can find a friend nearby who can also support you.
And your situation sounds eerily exactly like my sister’s, except her husband had maybe taken it a little further if you want to say that. If she was here on this post, she would recommend a book titled “The Surrendered Wife”, which, despite its title, is a very empowering book. (The title should be renamed “How to Regain Peace and Establish Intimacy with your Man). (And those commenters here who haven’t read it, don’t diss it without reading it). It has taken a few years of change, but following its lead has transformed her marriage significantly.
I never read comments or make comments, but I felt compelled after reading yours.
And as an adult child of a messy, affair ridden divorce, and after talking to my parents now decades afterwards, I say, it’s worth it to make it work. Do all you can. I’m not saying this because I wish my parents were together (although I do), but because they both wish they had made it work. And even though they are in happy marriages now, they’ve realized they just traded one set of problems for another, so it’s better to elevate your current relationship than start over in another. (Plus, they were soulmates, and co-parents, and a family unit, so those wounds of separation will never heal). In any case, despite the seriousness of the cause of divorce in their case, they still both regret that they let it come to that.
I’m going to get dissed for even saying all this about not giving up, but I won’t be looking back here at replies, so don’t waste your breath ladies.
Honestly it sounds like your husband has gotten unrealistic expectations of sex and intimacy from pornography and may have issues with addiction to it. He needs to get professional help for this.
Thank you for your comments. I have read The Surrendered Wife (and other blogs/books along those lines), which has really helped me to see my part in the problems and work on fixing them.
After doing some research on the effects of porn on relationships and intimacy, I really do believe that pornography is the problem. I told my husband that I think it’s unfair and unrealistic to expect to have a satisfying intimate relationship AND look at porn. We’ll see what happens.
If my comments felt harsh I apologize. If anyone thought I was suggesting divorce as the best option, that is incorrect. I am pro marriage, the good fight is worth the effort but what I learned over a 6 year period which included 3 separations, it is important to be working with the truth. I felt like it took removing several layers of confusion before I was able to even start to see what was real and as I confronted myself I could also see where I was part of that problem. Not in that my sexuality wasn’t enough but that I avoided conflict and chose to be blind when things felt hard or scary. I wanted to save my Temple marriage at all cost even when the marriage wasn’t necessarily worth saving. Rebuilding a different marriage became my goal but that takes both partners wanting to change. I knew I needed to change. My prayer is as you wake up to what is real and true your husband will join you in the journey.
The first question in this podcast has been difficult for me. I have listened to it a few times and as I read the 3 above comments I am sad as I think of the torture I experienced around “misunderstandings” in my first marriage of 32 years. Misunderstandings ended up being a long history of lies. I recall my first visit to a therapist and when told my husband was being manipulative, I had to go home and google what that meant. I hear the same sincerity in a couple of these questions. I would suggest a few of these questioners may want to consider trusting their questions? Something I learned was that often the answer was in my question. Like my best self (my gut sense) knew enough to invite the question. I have heard Jennifer say she does not “equate pornography with infidelity” (or something like that) and I want to say “I agree, it is worse!”. I am a convert to the Church and prior to baptism there were 2 things stumbling my decision. History of the Priesthood and masturbation. I wasn’t sure I could join an organization that suggested it was wrong for men to masturbate. This was 1980 so the leaders I asked were a bit surprised a young 18 year old would concern herself with this matter but I was. I share this to let you know I am not your typical Saint and I worry about the social implication and biological consequences of porn not to mention the emotional havoc it can play in a man’s heart. I have witnessed men grow numb to their goodness not to mention their wives and children. It seems to feed a type of self betrayal and/or self deception that I might consider worse then a one time extramarital affair? Blame, accusations, a level of immaturity and high levels of deception seem to be rampant among those who justify watching sex over learning how to love another. Exploring sexuality through on-line porn seems like suggesting it is okay to drive while intoxicated. Harsh comparrison I know but some drivers make it home safe while others do not. My experience is that the on-line porn available today should have large warnings. It is my belief that it is not ‘our father’s porn’ and should be treated differently. I love Jennifer’s insights and feel grateful she is willing to share her wisdom and deep rooted goodness with all of us. I do think the porn epidemic is real and deserves our best selves to show up when evaluating the pros and cons.
Thank you for your feedback about my question. You were right on in your interpretation of it. I have wondered about and doubted the validity of my feelings for many years about this. I do have kids and that has been a huge factor in all of this too. Wondering what will do more harm: leaving, trying to put my foot down about working things out (which may possibly lead to divorce as well), or just keeping up the act that everything is fine. They do see me being a doormat though and you opened my eyes to the harm of that. I don’t want them living the miserable life of the doormat OR the dictator. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. This is the first time I have been able to receive feedback about all of this as I have kept it all secret for so many years. I honestly just started to wonder if I was being crazy. You have given me the courage to go and seek help from a therapist on my own as I can see that I need help to navigate my situation or else we will be stuck like this (or worse) forever. I can’t thank you enough. I no longer feel so alone.
Anne, I’m glad you found the response helpful and that you feel less alone. You are right that standing up for yourself may lead to divorce, as your husband will likely remain unwilling to deal with his use and abuse of you. Yes, getting a good therapist will be important for your forward movement in your life. What I imagine will be most challenging is becoming and staying clear that you deserve better treatment, particularly when your husband will try to intimidate you into the belief that you don’t. As I’m sure you can anticipate, your clarity and self-respect will be perceived as a threat to his power in the relationship and over you, and it may make you feel like you are doing something wrong, rather than the reality that you are doing something right, for yourself, your children, and even your husband by no longer submitting to his entitlement and abuse. Hope this helps. JFF
I’ve been married 13-14 years and I definitely have the higher sex drive. So much so it makes my wife’s sex drive almost look non existent. My wife never seemed to have much one (once we married before we married it was different. Though, we stayed true to the commandments, we just pushed it a bit. Together)The differences weren’t a big deal since I usually did most of the work anyway. I always tried to get her into it but it never really worked. I can count on one hand when she truly wanted me (sexually) and initiated other than just checking off her chore list. Lately (I had a stroke and am physically disabled, and I’m 36) she’s been sort of less likely to want to be together. She tired from her work. I try take care of housework. We even introduced a magic wand because I was no longer to take of her needs like I used too. It just seems lately she has been checking off a chore list even more like being intimate is a chore she really doesn’t want to do but has too. She even goes so far sometimes to get up real quick off the couch and head upstairs and call down, as I’m slowly making my way up, that if I want sex (uasibg kid friendly phrases) I better come up quick. Than she gets ready for bed and by the time I make it up there she’s just looks at me and I’m too tired and you took to long maybe another day but it’s never another day. I even went so far as to,as kindly as I could, bring this up and suggest therapy but she just gets angry and say we don’t have problems maybe I need to talk to my dr and find a pill that reduces my desire. Like I’m dirty for wanting her more. I’ve had issues with porn in the past but she’s known and even helped me see the Bishop to repent ( and that was 5 years ago or more). She’ll even sometimes ask sarcastically if she were to let me marry someone more active sexually as well, would I be happier married to both of them. Then she causally mentions how I could “satisfy” my needs with her and she would just be there working and taking care of her kids. Then I get upset because I really love and never want to brake my temple vows and take them extremely serious. We end up leaveing the conversation till morning and I usually end up apologizing and she blames the stroke and that the stroke made me meaner and sex wasn’t an issue before. Only, before I usually did most everything concerning sex. Now that she has to put in more effort it seems like too much work for her.
I DO NOT want to make her out to be mean. It’s only in the sex department. Other than that marriage has been awesome. She has gone further than I wanted to her at times (like after my stroke helping me go to the bathroom, showering, or pushing my wheelchair). Thankfully I don’t need that level of care anymore. We are best friends and love spending time with one another, but as for sex we are on different pages. What could we do to be on the same page? How would you address sudden disability and switching “roles” as it were, though we usually did and do everything fairly according to house work?
Checkout continentmormon.blogspot.com it is aimed primarily at men who have a stronger desire than their wife. It does not contemplate extremes.
I was married for over 25 years,had children and ended up having numerous same sex encounters with men, being excommunicated and eventually re-baptized, ended up divorced and am currently in the process of applying to get my blessings back. I want to have a traditional temple marriage and family very much and to be a worthy member of the church. I don’t want to be alone the rest of my life. I don’t know if I am even capable of having that, let alone who would even be interested in that with me. I could not hide something like that from a woman, that would totally be unfair, but I really fight depression and hatred towards myself and severe loneliness and want a family so bad, but I don’t think that I can ever find that in my life and live the covenants I have made. I HATE IT!
I am appalled by Dr. Finlayson-Fife’s outrageous lack of response to the first questioner’s clearly described situation of ongoing marital rape. To even remotely encourage this woman to remain in such a situation reinforces the disgusting notion that rape, within the bounds of marriage, is, while unpleasant, somehow justifiable. This response is not just likely to subject the questioner to recurrences of such horror and violence, but will diminish the recognition of the brutality and degradation of such an act with your listeners as well.
And to the questioner: please know that you are not alone. Here are some resources that can help you make sense of your situation and put a plan together moving forward: https://www.rainn.org/articles/intimate-partner-sexual-violence and http://www.womenslaw.org/laws_state_type.php?id=13226&state_code=PG&open_id=all. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
I agree that naming her husband’s behavior as marital rape is important, particularly given the questioner’s difficulty seeing the abuse she is receiving and the psychological power differential that is alive in the marriage. (This particularly important in a religious culture where women are taught to defer to men. So I agree with you.) To be clear though I am not encouraging her to remain in this relationship, I am encouraging her to see the entitlement and psychological manipulation of her husband. I am also encouraging her to see the suppression of her own feelings / response to his disgusting behavior and to trust herself more than she does. Unless she wakes up to her buy in, she like many women, will continue to accept the status quo of manipulation and abuse. As I’m sure you know, many women are well aware that what their husbands are doing would be called rape (or battery) but stay in the relationship day after day anyway given the psychological buy in. As the questioner said above, hearing the response is the first time she felt the courage to go get help for herself. And I agree that naming it as rape would help her and others.
My husband of 20+ years taught me early on in our marriage that my sexual desire is my responsibility and should not depend on what he does or doesn’t do. He also taught me that same concept regarding happiness in general, which I am grateful for. I grew to depend more on my head than my heart over the years as I worked to nurture my sexual desire despite his rudeness or disrespect or my exhaustion. However, I think we missed something really important. I don’t think we have a good emotional connection. I am now tired of using my mental toughness to initiate sex. I want to have passion and love be the motivating factors, but it’s not there very much. He expects me to initiate 100% of the time. He says I rejected him too much in the first 10 years of our marriage and he is not willing to put himself out there anymore. But he expects me to. He says I hold all the control over when we have sex because I can reject, and sometimes I do. He desires sex every day; I desire it about once a week. We compromise at about 2-3/week over the course of our marriage. I can’t remember many times that we went over 1-2 weeks except with pregnancies. If it gets to be more than about 4 days, it gets stressful and we fix it. Do you think I have the right to reject sex because I feel disrespected by him? Would that be helpful to our marriage and to our sexual encounters as they would be more sincere and passionate? The problem is that he is very defensive about his rudeness and again believes that I am responsible for my desire and can just choose it. I actually am starting to wonder if he is a narcissist and truly cannot understand how he impacts me. Trying to talk to him about how his words affect me goes nowhere except to cause more contention. I wish he could be kinder to me, but I don’t know if he can. I feel it would definitely go a long way towards my desire. Lately as I have asserted myself and confronted him on how he talks to me, he responds with things like, “You always think you’re right about everything” and “I have to be perfect before we can have sex.” I have tried to be gentle and kind about it, but straightforward. I know it can’t be easy for him to recognize how badly he’s talking to me when I’ve allowed it for 25 years. He is very critical and into the details of everything in our lives, which can sometimes be a good thing, but often it is a source of conflict as I don’t do everything perfectly and he zooms in on that. He thinks I am very critical, but the thing I criticize is that he is criticizing and picking at me. I feel like he twists things, and it is hard to see the reality. Any advice? Things like “I love you”, hugs, kisses other than sex, asking about my day and enjoying a conversation are rare. “I’m sorry” disappeared after about 10 years of him not saying it and when I did, getting the response, “I’ll believe it when I see it” or “Sure you are.” I just want him to take some of the responsibility for making our sex life better instead of putting all of it on me. I want each of us to own up to our part of the problems and to contribute to the solutions. Part of me wants to continue having sex on a regular basis, even though it would be me initiating. We need to keep close somehow and sex helps. Part of me wants to be true to myself, expect him to step up and try to meet my emotional needs, and not have sex unless I’m feeling loving and passionate. Last night, we argued about this and then I initiated sex. He said I was two-faced. I had to agree. I was definitely sending mixed messages. I fear that if I wait until he is kinder, it may be a really long time because it is just in his nature to be the way he is. That change will be very hard and long. How do I help him understand how his words are affecting me sexually? Please help.
I found myself in a similar marriage and at times felt so confused. The steps I took toward growth and asking for connection ended our marriage. I would suggest you get a therapist who specializes in sexuality. There is a debate about sex addiction and I haven’t decided what side of the fence I am on. Approaching unkindness with kindness is all I knew to do but if your husband is determined to avoid connection then I suggest you see that for what it is. It took me awhile to see where my husband was hiding. I would expect your husband has reason he doesn’t want you to “know him”? His accusations aren’t necessarily real. You know your heart and what your true intention is, right? Confront yourself and be sure your best self shows up as Dr. Jennifer encourages. Get outside help and stop thinking that your husband is the one who knows best? Trust yourself more and listen to what you know but may be afraid to see? Good luck. You are not alone. You are showing strength and great courage reaching out on this podcast.
My question for Dr fife is a fairly simple one. I would just like to know about boundaries. I am newly married. Naturally he is interested in touching me in my private places. I have always kept them safe guarded and don’t always feel comfortable with him touching me there (unless we are having sex, in which case I don’t mind.) For the most part he is respectful.I have him ask permission to touch my private places (is this overboard?)I let him very often. And But he tends to push boundaries when I say no. Especially when he is tired. What is your definition of healthy boundaries, and what are some examples of how it can be enforced in a way where he doesn’t feel rejected. I don’t want to feel violated, but I also don’t want him to feel rejected. I also want him to respect my boundaries.
This is a great question.
Ooo, good question. I’m not Dr. Fife, but I’ve been married 20 years, and we definitely went through a long while learning what was comfortable for each of us both during sex and general snuggling or cuddling or even casual touch.
I can honestly say that my husband still checks in with me and I do with him when we cuddle. “Is this OK?” covers a host of things from a stiff neck or uncomfortable position to being irritated or uncomfortable with a specific private part being touched at that time. I admit he doesn’t ask before rolling over half-asleep and cupping my chest, but we’ve negotiated this enough over the years that it’s OK if I move his hand somewhere less distracting, or roll over and hug him and then ask him to let me sleep, or enjoy that my husband still loves cuddling up to his warm sweetheart.
My point is that we talked about how we felt all along the line, and he knows what kind of touch I enjoy and what kind I’m likely to be uncomfortable with (and the reverse – for example, he is ENORMOUSLY shy about public affection beyond hand holding or an arm around the shoulder, and he is uncomfortable kissing longer than a second in front of the kids, although I’d enjoy a little more, but I choose to respect his comfort) and we keep checking in with each other and respect the other’s answer. It took years to get here, but it’s absolutely worth the process.
I didn’t have this book until recently (after it was recommended in a previous episode, actually), but I highly recommend some of the exercises in And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura M. Brotherson. Having your husband always pushing for intimate touch and you either granting or denying the request isn’t the dynamic you want long-term, and this book may be helpful for both of you to re-frame that dynamic into something more comfortable, mature, and ensuring. Dr. Fife has also addressed similar topics of mindset and “good girl” and how to apart to the sudden change in what is OK morally before and after marriage according to LDS teachings and culture in previous podcasts. The book goes deeper.
Best of luck to you, “a curious lover”. Don’t expect it to all be negotiated in a few weeks – it takes time and two people invested in each other and their relationship and it will change over the years – but it’s wonderful having loving, respectful, and comfortable intimacy in my marriage.
My husband lead a double life for 9 years. One was filled with porn and online affairs and finally a physical affair. The other was a perfect priesthood holder and faithful loving husband. I only knew about the second until the woman he had the physical affair wit confessed and the bis hop con fronted him. After this he finally confessed everything to me and also confessed to being suicidal most of his life. Since his confession he has never gone back to any of his sexual sins and the Very thought of them fill him with disgust. Now, two years later, I still struggle greatly with our sex life. He needs sex to feel loved. He hates that about himself but it is a fact. He feels rejected and blames/hates himself for his past actions if we go too long without sex. He even gets suicidal still at times. I know he is completely clean and honest now. (God has told me this by the spirit because I couldn’t know it on my own- not after all the lies I believed.)
My problem is this: I do love him and want to make him feel loved. However, almost every time we have sex I struggle not to remember all the things he confessed. When this happens, I either have to 1-break down crying which causes my husband to hate himself for hurting me. 2-Completely checked out emotionally which causes me not to orgasm which in turn causes him to feel bad, distanced from me, and often leads to depression. 3-Embrace the memories/pain and pretend to be the woman/women he cheated with or the porn he looked at, which usually ends up with me thinking foul language in my head, but really gets me turned on and I really enjoy the sex and orgasm. However it leaves me feeling unclean, alone, and sad. He seems to feel really loved and really enjoy the sex at these times, however I know that if he knew what I was thinking he would immediately stop and feel responsible and hate himself for it.
He feels such shame about everything he did and struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide, even though he knows he’s been forgiven and is overjoyed to finally be clean, that I don’t feel like I want to talk to anyone we know how about things.
I hate talking to him about it because he always heads towards depression and even suicide, blaming himself, even though he tries not to. I have talked about seeing a counselor and he has said it’s okay if I do. But I can tell, and he has admitted, that the idea bothers him. I think the idea of me “complaining about him” to someone else really damages to self worth. I don’t even know if I trust therapist. I wholeheartedly disagree with some of the things that Dr. Fife has said on these podcasts and even think that some things are very damning spiritually, though many of the things she says are very helpful. My bishop and stake president have proven to be less than trustworthy and the opposite of helpful. I don’t know how to overcome my struggles and I feel very trapped and alone. What can I do that will not either cause my husband to become suicidal, or me to sink deeper into my struggles?
Trapped, my mind and heart flooded while I read your comment. I am so sorry. I experienced similar blind siding disclosures. Mine came more like peeling an onion with layers of truth uncovering more secrets over time. Good for your husband for leaning into those difficult conversations and getting the whole truth on the table so you both could start healing. I would suggest you seek some professional counsel as it seems like his shame, his depression & his threats of suicide have a manipulative tone? Shame can be a real struggle and many secret keepers experience depression that they need to work through but to also suggest suicide says (to me) he would want to seek help? And I want to add if he is claiming ‘things you think or do’ cause him shame, depression or thoughts of suicide, this would be manipulative instead of confronting his need to change. The second thought I have is in a question. How do you feel about your own sexuality? I avoid R rated movies, have never masturbated, flirting or lusting outside marriage never made sense to me BUT I do feel my sexuality is good. I think Porn portrays sex as wrong and dirty but I reject that idea. Are you able to see your sexuality separate from your husband’s? I am sorry about the haunting thoughts you have regarding your husband’s porn use and/or his affair but that doesn’t have anything to do with your sexuality. I don’t buy in to the idea my sexuality is equivalent to the sex found in adult entertainment. My ability to be erotic is good and decent and it is real. Jennifer is doing good work here. She is reminding women and men about this God given gift that we can openly and honestly share with each other. I love how Jennifer refers to the fact men and women can bless their partners with their sexuality. The lines get blurred, I get that, but I learned a husband’s shame around his sexuality is his, and not his wife’s. Your husband’s shame is his. His depression is his. If he is suicidal then get help. That is your decision to make, not his.
I have a question for Dr. Fife, the answer to 2 of the questions (one in this podcast and one in previous podcast) seem to be somewhat contradicting. Previously when a man asked what he could do to be more attracted to his wife, you did not give him any suggestions you just said he must not be choosing her despite the fact that he said he was choosing her he just had a lack of physical response. Your answer seems to imply that if he was choosing her he would have a physical response. Then when you answered the question in this podcast about the homosexual husband you said that you can’t anyone, that there are limits to who you can choose or what you find attractive. These seem contradictory. Either you can love a person and be turned on by them and enjoy sexual intimacy despite a lack of physical response, and learn to obtain that physical response with them, or you can’t. If you can, it seems like there should be some suggestions as to how to do that, that could apply to either case.
So I have 2 questions, but let’s first assume that there is no more lying or manipulating or hidden sin in the marriage. There is just a mutual desire for everything to be right and good in the marriage and a willingness on the part of both parties to work at it and give whatever is necessary. Question 1- how do you overcome a lack of physical response when you deeply love your spouse and want to bless them with your sexuality and want them to bless you with theirs? Question 2- how do you overcome the trauma/doubt of self-worth/mistrust/etc. associated with shocking disclosures such as a spouse’s homosexuality, porn problem, infidelity problem, etc.? How do you heal from that and find the ability to bless each other sexually and emotionally? How do you escape the ghosts of the past that may be haunting you?
I’m currently unhappy in my second marriage. My first husband was a long-time friend who decided that our friendship would make a great marriage. I truly loved him. (His parents were not friends.) That ended when he publicly came out as gay. He became an enraged individual looking for public support. It became unsafe for me to live in the same town, so with legal permission, I took our young children and left. Fast forward five years, and I had earned a degree and started my profession successfully. I dated some, but probably not enough. I thought I had healed from my traumatic first marriage and was confident I had made a good choice in my second marriage. In a nutshell, I was needy. I equated being wanted physically with being loved. My first husband was unkind about my body and blamed me for a lack of interest rather than being honest about his sexuality. I started out wanting to be the best wife for my second husband. I believe initiating sex, greeting him with a hug at the door, and sending messages letting him know I wanted him are all things healthy men would appreciate. After his children moved in with us, (6 mos into the marriage) he started rejecting and ignoring me, sometimes angrily. I learned he is suffering from a porn addiction, and perfectionism along with accompanying guilt & shame. I’ve learned I trust too easily. I’ve wanted to leave so many times, but our children have been through enough. I contribute to my situation by going into peace-keeping mode because of this. He finally started a 12 step program, his progress is slow, and he seems to expect me to pretend I’m not hurting as he goes through his process. I’ve eaten myself into an unhealthy weight, and feel like a bad wife because unless I’m horny, I don’t want sex. It doesn’t bring us closer together. I’m wondering about my health. I’m not sure I want to stay or leave. I’ve taught several hundred children in our area, and don’t feel safe going to recovery meetings. I see former students and their families on hikes in the woods miles from our home! I’m aware that folks often go out of area for these meetings. For me, it’s a crap-shoot. I want privacy for my healing process. Not because I’m ashamed of anything I’ve done–I’m a professional in need of safe space for tender feelings. I’ve thought about over eaters anonymous too…
We’ve been to counseling multiple times. Only recently has he started having integrity with who he really is choosing to be. He doesn’t like it and wants to change. He’s emotionally very immature. I feel stuck. I’m depressed. I don’t trust men anymore, and have noticed I don’t really trust God either. I’m having to exercise hope & faith religiously. I’m not comfortable with my current bishop either, which is a new experience for me. Is there an option for me that I’m unaware of? I’ve started therapy on my own, but I’m still in the process of discerning if we’ll work well together. I’m not sure he respects my religion. Any advice will be appreciated. I’m fighting the urge to disappear…
Thank you so so much for answering my question (technically 2 but it was last part of the discussion) in this podcast #18. I had tried to be patient and was listening to your podcasts in order hoping that someone else had already asked my question but decided it was better to ask and find the answer elsewhere than to not ask at all. By the way, #14 was my favorite podcast thus far including this one. In the meantime each podcast taught me something new about myself and my marriage and how I could relate differently within these new frames. I learned that by changing myself I was changing the dynamic in our relationship. Then I was able to attend your recent Art of Desire workshop in Orange County and it profoundly has helped me and by association, my husband.
One of the things I admire so much about how you answer these podcast questions is how much guess work there is no matter how much information is provided in the question. You do so well to address through the questions that you would pose in response for the inquirer to ponder and to address the possible scenarios that could exist within the frame of the question. Everything you said in response to my question was spot on and while our situation is very difficult and I have come to a lot of peace facing our choices and acknowledging the power I have to choose. Thank you so much for answering my questions.
There have been several questions in here relating to the dealing with the trauma of betrayal. I just want to add that I had to do a lot of work overcoming my own trauma, first because I was molested at a young age, then when my dad left my mom after being discovered having a long term affair and then when my hus and finally confessed to me about his same-sex attraction and addiction to porn and gay sex.
I was fortunate that my molester wanted to repent and confessed when I was still young and I had therapy. I got to see the difference from someone who was humble and wanted to do the right thing and willing to confess and my dad who was caught and had no intention of confessing or changing his ways. My husband confessed and faced church discipline and has been going to recovery meetings and getting help from therapists.
I learned that I had work to do as well. I also attend 12 step recovery meetings in person and online. I love the 12 steps because they helped me to face my trauma, my fears, my resentments and turn to God and let Him heal me. I also had help from a qualified (I had to look hard to find the right one) therapist. Because of this work I can have a relationship with my dad with boundaries. I can also have a relationship with my husband and yes we can enjoy sex with each other and we are rebuilding intimacy with boundaries together.
Dr Finlayson-Fife has been instrumental at this stage of my recovery work. I was led to these podcasts and to her class and they have helped us both address what we needed to move forward together.