Over the next two weeks we continue the stinkin’ thinkin’ (in church and society) series with a look at what we’re being told about our sexual “duty” to a husband with a sex addiction. Jane Howcroft looked at this issue from a biblical perspective a couple of weeks ago. Today, I’d like to look at it as well from the perspective of what we know about porn/sex addiction.
What We’re Told
In the blog post that launched this series, “transformed wife” wrote:
A wife should absolutely make it one of her highest priorities to keep her husband 100% sexually satisfied at all times…. Failing to do your duty, will make your husband’s life much more difficult.
This statement shows not only an appalling lack of understanding about intimacy, but also about sex addiction. No wife can sexually satisfy a porn or sex addict. By the time it hits the addiction level, his craving for sex is insatiable. Arousal and orgasm have become his false refuge... how he regulates his moods while at the same time avoiding the hard work and risks inherent in intimacy.
By the time our husband is addicted (or even if he’s like my pre-recovery husband a once/month user), it’s not a craving for marital sex he’s having, it’s a craving for the high one gets through novelty, through perversion, through danger — i.e., sex which is the opposite of marital intimacy.
Many wives of sex addicts have shared testimonies of how they tried to give their husband this type of high, i.e. how they tried to compete with porn, only to realize that real women, no matter how “hot,” will always lose over images. Shelley Martinkus talks about this in her excellent workbook, Rescued, Deearn talks about this in one of our blog posts from last year entitled His Addiction: My Fault?. What Shelley, Deearn and many others have learned the hard way is that they were only deepening the neural pathways of their husband’s addiction by becoming (in the word’s of Jason Martinkus), his “personal prostitute.” They were actually increasing the likelihood that their husband would, before long, go looking elsewhere for his next neurochemical hit.
What a wife who loves God, and who isn’t trying to compete with porn, offers is intimacy… which, sadly, is abhorrent to those in active porn or sex addiction. It’s what they will fight tooth and nail to avoid because it would require them to be known and vulnerable. It brings them face-to-face with their shame, and thus, must be avoided.
A Slap in the Face
Of course to many of us, the idea of "failing to do our duty" with a man we can barely get to touch us feels like a complete slap in the face. I hear from women regularly whose husbands haven't approached them for sex in years... or decades. Some of these women tried time and again to be the initiator... but after years of lies, withdrawing, anger and excuses, they simply gave up. Some of these same men will masturbate to porn multiple times per day most days of the week. Many have porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED).
Said one survey respondent:
About five years into our marriage (15 years ago), I initiated sex with him and he yelled at me "I feel pressure from you about sex!" These were my thoughts at that time: "I am not being a submitting wife. I need to stop initiating." As a result, we have not had sex since.
How dare anyone accuse such women of not having done their "duty"... of suggesting they are responsible for their husband's sexual sin. Most women in this situation have had their own "tooth and nail" fight — to live a pure life in the context of a celibate, loveless marriage. These women should be supported and honored, not insulted and blamed.
Other women have "done their duty" alright. Every 72 hours come what may... periods, post-partum pain, sickness. After decades of sex being all about him and his "needs" (see more on this myth in Beyond Betrayal), she discovers the porn, masturbation, fantasies, etc. and finds out it's been there all along.
How come? She was always available! The answer: there just isn't enough sex in the world to fill a God-sized hole.
Next week, I'll discuss the lie—that came up in the same blog post that said to "remember grace" — that if he's entered recovery THEN we definitely have to be having sex with him.
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair...