Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the kind of guy who gets into bed with my wife thinking, “Hey baby, say no to me all night long!” Let me explain. If you’re uncomfortable reading about topics like these, take a deep breath…and keep on reading 🙂
If you visit this blog from time to time this is a definite departure in some ways from what I like writing about. I’ve not come anywhere near this topic really in the almost 800 posts I’ve done since starting to blog several years ago. But – I think as I move along here there will be some connection points with some of my frequent themes here. So why pursue this topic and this way?
In the last year I’ve been exposed to teaching about sex in marriage in multiple contexts, both personally and through what different people I’ve encountered through the course of ministry have been exposed to. I’ve heard young couples trying to sort out this area in light of various schools of advice. And I think some of the advice being given today in some circles is not very good and at times can be quite damaging when covered up with a veneer of spirituality.
The particular teaching that seems to popping up lately, and maybe it’s a conservative evangelical subculture thing, teaches that if you say no to your spouse when they are initiating sex then you are likely in sin because you are not doing your marital duty to the other. It was almost a year ago where I heard this for the first time and it’s continued to pop up periodically. Those who advocate this position always have “Biblical” arguments for it, but I couldn’t be in more opposition to such a philosophy of how sexual intimacy should be cultivated and sustained in marriage. This school of teaching provides the inspiration for these posts. But I only hope to introduce some perspectives that might cause folks to second guess buying into a “don’t ever say no” philosophy of marital sex, especially since people don’t speak out in these areas very often. I’m not going to “teach” on sex by the way, I’m just going to highlight reasons in which I believe I and my marriage are strengthened by the “No’s.”
I love that my wife can and does say no to me sometimes when I’m pursuing a little marital action. Here’s the first of five reasons I’ll share as to why:
Reason #1: Resilience Breeds Greatness
Do you remember those Michael Jordan Nike commercials where they listed the stats of how many missed game winning shots Jordan taken en route to being known as the greatest clutch shooter of all time?
The message was that greatness was born through failure. More specifically – the subtle message was that greatness is cultivated by the determination and resolve forged in failure to succeed the next time.
Name your sport – there’s an equivalent metaphor. Baseball jumps out to me too that you can strike out 3 times in a game and in your fourth at bat you can hit a home run and be the hero of the game. The accomplishment becomes greater because of the effort and struggle put in.
So what’s the deal with sports metaphors? Moments of victory are what they are because they are contrasted with moments of defeat. In marriage, there shouldn’t be a winner and loser in these dynamics. But from the personal standpoint of the initiator, there is always risk. To take away the risk that there might be a “no” is to take away a lot of the joy of being met with acceptance and enthusiasm. The freedom to say “No” is critical for a trusting and intimate relationship. If for anything, it makes the Yes’s meaningful!
So I love it when my wife says no to me (never in the moment!), but I do love that those moments give me clues of what types of things might need to be in place for us to be in the right place at the right time for the magic to happen. Returning to the sports metaphor – the “No’s” help me improve my game! Without them, I’d never have to work for it. And neither of us really wants that if we’re honest.
So – just remember, behind every great victory are frequent learning moments and missed opportunities that make the victory all the sweeter. In leadership language we call it fierce resolve or dynamic determination. Embrace the “No’s”, especially if you’re a man and come back with greater resolve to create a success the next time. Don’t be afraid that a few of your shots clank off the rim or even airball 🙂 If you keep working on it in the context of a healthy relationship it’s only a matter of time before you have one of these moments….
There are more compelling reasons why my wife’s “No’s” minister to me as her husband and I think vice versa as well, but at the least we can acknowledge that there can be some advantages to not coming out a winner every time you initiate. But to be clear – I’m not advocating married couples have less sex. As a general rule, married couples usually need to make the magic happen a little more often especially when they have small kids. But the problem there usually is not the “No”, but the lack of initiation by one or both spouse’s in the first place. But the solution to getting married couples to have more sex is not to advise them that they shouldn’t say no to any initiation by their spouse. There’s a lot of other things going on too.
More coming in the next few days if you care to continue to follow my thoughts or engage in discussion…
* As I write about this topic, I’m well aware that sexual intimacy is a significant struggle in many marriages and the trust and communication issues may so significant that any advice above here would not be sufficient. But I would also say that the “just say yes to your spouse” approach is also inadequate for such dynamics. Couples who cannot cultivate sexual intimacy or where it is generating significant anxiety and conflict would be wise to go get some help to explore what’s going on. The relationship is bigger than the sexual component, but sexual intimacy issues can threaten marriages if they aren’t dealt with.
**I have failed utterly in my attempt to not include reference to the Nike slogan “Just Do It” because I had to include it here somewhere 🙂 (I hear Beavis and Butthead snickering in the back of my mind). It could definitely apply to a spouse who is trying to initiate and win over the other, but it does not apply as a philosophy of how each sexual initiation should be received.