Fixing the Refused Spouse…

Sorry, I was kidding about the headline. I am not really going to write about how to fix the refused spouse. This is because in the vast majority of cases, when a spouse, either a wife or a husband, expresses the concern that his/her sexual needs are not being met, he/she is immediately told what he/she could do differently.

This is really quite puzzling, and becomes more so when you compare it to other basic human needs. Let me explain further.

Abraham Maslow was one of the pioneers of psychology. The main thing he is known for is his hierarchy of needs. His list of needs is typically presented in the form of a pyramid, much like the well-known food pyramid. The needs are listed below, with the most basic needs listed first:
1. Biological and Physiological needs
2. Safety needs
3. Love and belongingness needs
4. Esteem needs
5. Self-Actualization needs

His theory, which I very much agree with, is that a person cannot try to meet his/her more complex needs until the more basic needs are met. This really makes sense because a person who does not have enough food to eat will not really care about his/her self-esteem or self-actualization because he or she is focused on survival.

This is really illustrated when a person has been hiking in the desert. If anyone has lived in a place where it rained 6-8 inches a year, he/she can really understand this. When a person has been outside in July when the temperature is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, he/she can really understand thirst. So after being outside for any length of time, all that person can think of is getting some water, and will take the first opportunity. That person will then start drinking as fast as he/she can to satisfy that thirst.

Another illustration would be a one-week trip to Paris. That might sound wonderful to someone who works in a white-collar job, but how would it sound to a single mother who supports herself and two children on a minimum-wage job? She might enjoy the trip, but who would keep her children? She might enjoy the time off, but would her job still be there when she got back? A few days in a hotel might be nice, but she still has to worry about paying rent and bills as soon upon her return. Frankly, she would probably rather just have the cash to use for her survival.

Now, imagine that you see a person who is starving. This person has the thin arms, thin legs, and swollen belly of malnutrition. Imagine seeing the person sitting in the dirt, holding his hand out, begging for any scrap of food or money. As you watch this person, you are moved with compassion, and feel you have to help. So you approach this person and say, “If you would get up off your lazy ass and work, you would not be starving!” Then you walk away with righteous indignation. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Well, guess what Maslow includes in the most basic needs? That is correct! Sex!! So what does that mean? Well, it means that until a person’s sexual needs are met, that person is not going to be able to focus on the more complex needs.

However, sex is the one need that very few people think is essential. So even though the sex drive is one of the strongest instinctual needs that all humans have, it is the least valued. Instead, a person, male or female, who expresses that his/her sexual needs are unmet and that he/she is in pain because of this void in his/her life is completely devalued. Not only is that person’s pain ignored, but that person is viewed as a pathetic loser. And if that person is married, he/she is viewed as a complete moron. My guess is that the people who feel this way about a refused spouse have never been sexually refused for any length of time.

So what is that person told if he/she asks for help with this essential need? He/she is told that he/she has done something wrong, that he/she should try harder, be nicer, and try to be more attractive. What is even worse is that the person who is telling this sexually starved person these things is the spouse. Yes, the person who promised to have and hold the sexually starved person for a lifetime is holding exactly what the starving person desperately needs right in front of him/her. It just like a three year old child who will hold a piece of bacon just out of a puppy’s reach, and when the puppy jumps to get the bacon, the child pulls it away. Now what would we say if we saw a child doing this to a puppy? We would scold the child, and tell him/her to stop teasing the poor dog.

But a spouse who will constantly withhold sex from a sexually starving person is never told this. Instead, the starving person is told that he/she should be nicer, be sexier, do wonderful things for the refusing cheater in hopes that eventually, the refuser will someday think about maybe having sex with the starving person at some point. So the refusing spouse is essentially told that it is fine to continue making the refused spouse jump for the bacon.

So why is this essential marriage issue NEVER discussed in any church? I have no idea, but maybe on judgment day, God will ask some pastors/preachers/ministers/ priests.

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