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Volume 13, Issue 1: Similitudes

A Letter

Douglas Wilson

This letter is entirely fictional, but it is a fictional composite with various aspects of the tangle taken from multiple counseling situations. No one situation is ever this simple, but I have made it this way to illustrate some of the principles involved. And yes, of course, another fictional composite letter could be written by a hapless wife, and it would be twice as long. Another time perhaps.

Dearest S_____,

This business trip and the quarrel we had just before I left have given me the opportunity to write to you. Instead of trying to talk with you on the phone about our problems in bed, I thought that maybe if I put my thoughts on paper we might be able to talk when I get back without getting derailed like we usually do. And I need to begin by seeking your forgiveness for my responsibility in starting our quarrel. So please forgive me.
In bringing this up, I am not trying to blame you. I have accepted full responsibility for the way things are between us. But a large part of my failure in our sexual life together has been letting things go which really need to be addressed. In the past, I have tried to deal with these things with a poor attitude, or, far more frequently, because of my poor attitude have decided not to do or say anything.
I know that for everything I mention, you will be able to say, "But if only you would . . ." and I want to begin by accepting this. I really am not trying to accuse, but simply want to name those areas where my repentance in these other areas would help bring about a change. I also need to say that my concerns are very narrow and defined. You know I think you do wonderful work with the house and with the kids, and you have been a great blessing to me in countless other ways.
But despite all this, our sexual life together is lousy. I am afraid that if we do not deal with this now, or get help soon, a day is coming when we are going to dump some pretty serious problems on some poor counselor's desk.
You know that I do not have a problem with pornography. What you don't know is how much of a problem I have with not having a problem with it. On an average day, I have to say no to some opportunity or other five to ten times, and this is getting a lot more difficult. But whenever I have tried to share any of these temptations with you, in order to get your help (honestly), your consistent response has been to take offense at the mere fact of any temptation. I have stopped trying to talk to you about it, and this creates another set of temptations in addition to the first. You have nothing but scorn for such women, and the men who are allured by them, and can easily defend your attitude with Scripture verses. But I don't really believe you are offended by the immorality (which is offensive to me too), but rather because of the appearance of sensuality. And this is what tempts me; it stumbles me when you look down on these women at the (one) place where it seems they are ahead of you.
I understand why a Christian wife should be offended when her husband lusts after other women instead of desiring her. What I don't understand is how a woman can clearly begrudge sex with her husband and then be so offended whenever he is tempted elsewhere. I am happy to eat at your restaurant, and only there. I want to stay away from all the others. But you feed me scraps out the back door, like I was a stray dog or something, and then are hurt when I even look at another place. I know I shouldn't look elsewhere, and I know it is offensive to God when I give any place to this temptation. But it is even more offensive to God when I don't look at you sexually - and when I try to look at you that way, I run into what strikes me as consistent resistance.
You are offended one way when I look at you, and offended another way when I look elsewhere. This leads me to think that you want something other than a husband.
I know you don't see your responses to me as "resistant." But when it comes to our sexual relations, it is not good enough for you to "tolerate" me whenever "I want it." I understand that I should take the initiative, but there is a difference between taking the sexual initiative and sexually intruding. By the time we get to bed, I have heard you say a number of times (preemptively) how tired you are, what a long day it has been, and so on. If I decide to try to get past these barriers, I then have to get past your disparaging comments about my poor timing, lack of sensitivity, or surplus of testosterone. More than once I have thought that you must see our relationship as some complicated form of marital date rape.
The mere fact of physical sex is not a marriage "perk" for the husband. If a warm sexual relationship is not pursued by both the wife and the husband, if the wife is lukewarm and unresponsive to her husband, then my understanding is that she is resistant to a biblical marriage relationship.
I do not want to be a perfectionist, and I am not expecting constant sexual paradise. But I do think it is right for us to commit to work on this, to read something together, or simply to begin talking about it.
I do love you, and want very much to be completely faithful to you. I'll see you Tuesday, and I hope we can talk without quarreling.

Your loving husband, B______

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