Marriage Matters

Are we controlling intimacy and why?
By Peter Perrem

​I suspect most of us would agree that being controlling in a relationship or in a marriage is not something we would want. Yet there are two areas in particular where it arises quite often, even if we might not want to admit it.

The first is in the area of the sexual relationship. It is the area where, when it does arise, it is usually the wife who does the controlling. This could be harmless and legitimate when the couple are practicing natural family planning and where the wife is usually the one to let the husband know if she is in the fertile part of her cycle.

That’s not ideal because if the husband is involved in keeping the charts of her cycle they would both know. This avoids the husband having to ask and risk being be seen by his wife as interested only in having intercourse and not in her as a person. This is a likely interpretation if their relationship is not doing well.

Control of the sexual area is more damaging to the relationship when intimate communication is poor or absent and a wife feels used or taken for granted generally. While this could apply to household chores or responsibility for the children, it can also apply to the sexual area.

If a wife is effectively or actually saying no to sexual intercourse, and not because she is unwell or it’s the ‘wrong’ time of the month, it is more than likely there is some unresolved hurt or misunderstanding that is not being spoken about.

What often adds to this difficulty is that the husband may be effectively controlling the area of verbal communication by not being willing to talk to his wife or make space to really listen to her. Women tend to resolve their emotions by verbalizing them and need verbal reassurance that they are valued and loved.

Men on the other hand tend not to need to talk, especially about their feelings or find it difficult to do so. To add to all of this difficulty husbands often will feel vulnerable in the sexual area so if a wife is showing a lack of interest or even giving out the signal of ‘no’ to sexual intimacy he will be afraid to ask ‘what’s wrong?’ in case she says he is inadequate or undesirable sexually.

Most couples find it difficult at the best of times to talk about the sexual side of their marriage. The question remains of how do you break the impasse?

It is back to restoring trust through vulnerable communication and dealing with any unresolved hurts or misunderstandings. This is hard to do this verbally face to face. Try both writing a letter to each other on how you are feeling, not blaming or criticising, but sharing honestly in a loving way.

Then find the time and space to read and talk about what you have shared. It worked every time for my wife and I. Think of it as a love letter that’s long overdue and that you have been away for a long time.