Move Him Up the Priority List

July 5, 2013

in the generous life

This is a tweet from The Marriage Bed from a few days ago:

If saying yes to sex communicates “I want you” what does saying no to sex communicate?

7-5-13There was a great response from a gal that I want to share with you.

As a wife who has been sexually refused in the past, saying no to sex habitually communicates a whole lot of negative things. “I don’t want you,” “I don’t find you attractive or desirable,” “I don’t value your needs,” and “I don’t love you” are just a few examples. In the cases of being tired from work, it says you value work more than nurturing your relationship with your spouse. In the cases of children driving you crazy or having an actual headache, it says that you’re just looking for an excuse to physically distance yourself from your spouse or that you don’t value your spouse enough to make sex with them a priority … Saying “later” once in a while is understandable. Sex isn’t always going to be possible. Saying a flat out “no” is rarely a good idea, and by saying “no” often you are saying more than you realize.

The point that I picked up from this is that you need to value time with your husband (this includes sex) and move him farther up the priority list. Those people and things that are important to you, get taken care of. Those people and things that are not important to you get pushed off in time, if you deal with them all.

If you routinely (or even frequently) say no to sex, then something is amiss in your marriage relationship. Take the time to figure out why your husband is so far down on your priority list and keep at it until you see healthy change.

Tell your husband that you value him and then routinely show him that this is so.

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Robyn Gibson July 5, 2013 at 4:58 am

This was great and so true – sex is great litmus test for checking your heart.

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Chris July 5, 2013 at 8:02 am

“If you routinely (or even frequently) say no to sex, then something is amiss in your marriage relationship. Take the time to figure out why your husband is so far down on your priority list…”

I think that’s a very immature and irresponsible conclusion to make. Yes it IS true that if a wife “routinely (or even frequently) says no to sex, then something is amiss in her marriage relationship.” But it is not appropriate to conclude that means “her husband is far down on her priority list”.

There are many women out there whose husband and marriage relationship IS their top priority – and they’d love nothing more than to have a vibrant, happy sex life – but they are struggling with hormonal problems, or depression, or past abuse issues, or low self-esteem or body image issues, or any number of other issues. There’s a lot more to sex than what this post makes it out to be – something that can be checked off the list like washing the dishes or doing laundry. Our ability to put ourselves in a vulnerable place and be intimate runs deep – all of who we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is wrapped up in our sexuality! I’m sure many wives, if not most, are struggling just as much with their own refusal as their husband are.

A wise and mature husband will never assume his wife’s refusal means he’s not a priority. On the contrary, he will give his wife the benefit of the doubt and assume love. (After all, why wouldn’t any woman desire a happy and healthy sex life with the man she married?!) A wise man will discern that yes, something is amiss, his wife is struggling somehow. But rather than turn inward, in maturity and humility he will praise God and thank Him for creating the amazing gift of sex (as an act of worship and the barometer of health!), repent of any selfishness and worldly beliefs he has tied into the situation, ask God for wisdom and insight and healing and restoration, and then work at helping his wife get better so she is free from the chains that bind her – that she can safely be vulnerable and intimate with him.

“Sex was created by God to be a gorgeous, beautiful, relational, worshipful, intimate thing – a place where two human beings in the context of marriage – are naked and vulnerable, but are resting in God and resting in the love of one another… out of that narrow context, sex is a dangerous, addictive, seductive thing. Fleeing sexual immorality means “I don’t cut corners.” ~ Paul Tripp

There is so much wrong with this post… it grieves my heart. It just is not Biblical thinking. It reflects the worldly beliefs of our culture, that our identity is found in our sex life – that our sex life determines if we are wanted, or attractive, or desirable, or valued, or loved. It’s exactly these worldly beliefs that *devalue* sex and feed pornography.

“If you ask sex to deliver horizontally to you, what you’ll only ever get vertically [from God], you’re going to be addicted. You’ll go back again, and again, and again, because the buzz of sex is very exciting, but the buzz of sex is very short. And so you’ll want it again, and you’ll want it again, and you’ll want it again, and before long you’ll find yourself hopelessly addicted. Sex has an addictive quality because it cannot satisfy your heart. It cannot give peace, and it cannot give hope.” ~ Paul Tripp

“Sex is an act of worship. In that moment, you’re either worshiping God, and wanting Him to be pleased by your sexual life, or you’re worship your own selfish desires and pleasures. Sex is always about what is mastering your heart.” ~ Paul Tripp

– – – – –
Incidentally, Paul Tripp has a series of short videos based on his new book, “Sex and Money: Pleasures That Leave You Empty and Grace That Satisfies”. I cannot recommend them highly enough. Here’s the link: http://www.paultripp.com/video#!/swx/pp/media_archives/170524/channel/2705/series/6490
book

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Jimbl January 8, 2016 at 2:30 am

I’m following you but you seem to put too much emphasis on ,”a wise man”. I’m in this situation. I know my wife loves me but I’m not on her priority list, never near the top. She’s always tired around me but if her friends sho up u expectantly she has energy like you wouldn’t believe. We both work, I take care of our vehicles, boat, camper, yard, house, motorcycles, I feed our children, cook and clean. I listen to her but still I’m not a priority u less there is something she really wants. I’m exhausted and frankly tired of being 3rd or 4th on her list. I’ve voiced my concerns and she blows me off. I feel as though I have no options left and I can not keep going on like this. If not for the kids I’d be gone.

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Lori - The Generous Wife January 9, 2016 at 10:22 am

Jim, I’m deeply sorry for your current situation. May I encourage you to get help? Even if your wife won’t go with you, a good counselor can be an encouragement and help you sort out what you want and what you can do.

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Liz July 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

“In the cases of… having an actual headache, it says that you’re just looking for an excuse to physically distance yourself from your spouse.”

I’m sorry, WHAT?!? Is that a TYPO? I’d like that gal to have the courage to say that to the face of someone who suffers from chronic migraines. Because I’m sure that the misery, the blinding pain, the vomiting, that’s all just PUT ON to keep one’s spouse at a distance.

I usually love your blog, and I agree with the point you make; husbands absolutely should come first, but I wouldn’t have used that girl’s comment to illustrate it. Yowch!

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Lori - The Generous Wife July 5, 2013 at 11:01 am

@Liz,
What you are talking about is not the usual headache. You are talking about a physical condition that seriously limits your ability to function. It’s like having the flu or being in an accident. It would be understandable if you declined sex.

But, honestly, I think the principle still applies. If you have a chronic condition (whatever that is) and frequently or routinely say no on your good days, then you are showing your husband that he and your relationship are not important by comparison.

It’s really is about what we do and don’t do.

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Liz July 6, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Lori, I do agree with the point you make in the general post, but I still hold that that woman expressed herself very poorly, at least in that one sentence. I’m assuming now that she meant “a headache,” as in, not really a headache. I honestly had to re-read that part several times to make sure I hadn’t misinterpreted it, but the word ‘actual’ tends to imply a real problem, which was why I was so annoyed that she said that having an actual headache was just looking for an excuse.

Perhaps it’s just the writing tutor coming out in me. :)

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Lori - The Generous Wife July 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

@Chris

“There are many women out there whose husband and marriage relationship IS their top priority – and they’d love nothing more than to have a vibrant, happy sex life – but they are struggling with hormonal problems, or depression, or past abuse issues, or low self-esteem or body image issues, or any number of other issues.”

I am well aware of the various reasons that people back off from sex. They range from trivial to unbelievably difficult.

I have struggled with many of the things you list and basically have come to the conclusion that a problem is a problem and they all need to be faced and overcome. Some of us just have more to overcome. (Please understand that I am not trivializing pain. I was abused as a child, I’ve been raped, I’ve had self-image issues, etc.)

Yes, it is great when our husbands understand our struggles, but IMO it is still about priorities. If my husband and marriage relationship (and my own well being and my relationship with God) are important enough, I will do something about it. Face it, learn something, get counseling, get prayer, etc.

My sex life is not perfect, but it continues to get better because I face and deal with my problems. Either the intimacy of my marriage is important to me or it is not.

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Chris July 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm

The main point I was trying to make is why encourage someone who is being refused sexually to turn inward and believe the lies of the enemy (fed to us by a sex-obsessed culture!) vs. encouraging them to assume love? Why minimize the struggles so many women face in their marriage bed down to being *just* a priorities issue – as if it were that easy? And mostly, that sex is not just a “task.”

I would imagine with some of the serious issues you have faced, you went through seasons where you wanted to be able to be sexually free with your husband and just couldn’t get over that hurdle. If only you could have flipped that priorities switch…

I do agree with you though, that if a woman’s husband and marriage relationship are important enough, she’ll do something about the struggles she faces. If it were only as simple as rearranging the calendar!

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Lori - The Generous Wife July 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm

Mostly, Chris, I just disagree with you. I think spouses need to understand that sex is important. Your spouse needs and wants sex and that doesn’t necessarily mean they are sex obsessed. Sex is important to the marriage relationship and I think it is largely about priorities.

Actually as I look back on those difficult times in my life I do see a fight between priorities. Which was more important to me, stopping the pain (which was generally about refusing) or doing what was right for our marriage? It’s all about the choices we make. I had to make a day by day choice to make my marriage and sexuality more important.

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Chris July 6, 2013 at 7:37 am

After sleeping on it and talking all of this through with my husband, I can see that what I reacted to is presumption and accusation. I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt and believe it’s possible that a refusing spouse just hasn’t figured out HOW to jump the hurdles they face. I think judgment and/or condemnation – only hearing what you’re doing wrong – brings discouragement and frustration. Strengthening comes through positive words of encouragement (and practical advice on how to make those changes!)

So for those who now stand with their tails between their legs, how about some words of encouragement? Since you did make the decision to make your marriage and sex life a priority, and you have been able to overcome much, it would be helpful if you shared HOW you did that.

What kind of conversations went on in your mind?
What specific strategies did you use to jump the hurdles you faced?
What did your husband do that was helpful?
In a very practical sense, how can a spouse who is not yet sexually free, find freedom?

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Rebekah July 6, 2013 at 7:39 am

I agree with Lori. I also want to add that there is a huge difference between a wise huaband knowing his wife’s prioritizing of sex is not about her love and wha he actually feels. Actions speak way louder than words, and our relationships should not be ruleduced to vague religious ideals or words. I thought I had lots of good reasons for my refusal, maybe did, I even tried to convince my husband that he sgould know girls just didn’t work like guys and I wasn’t saying I didnt love him, which he graciously tried to accept. I know now, after God changed my heart that this was selfishness and lies. I would never treat my dog or kids to love without actions to back them up, why do that to my husband
Funny thing is, the more I gave,the more he understands and is generous about the times I need a break!

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Rebekah July 6, 2013 at 9:15 am

PS. I have an example in reverse. My husband recently had about a month and a half of working days and evenings and weekends at the same time, leaving him no time to do the ever growing list of things I needed help with at home. I knew it was sort term, I knew he loved meand valued me, but I felt unimportant and unloved. My mind knew the truth but my emotions made believing truth a constant battle. If my husband worked like that all the time it would have damaged us greatly. It took several weeks of my husband prioitizing our family and household needs for the battle to believe truth to subside. While feelings should not determine truth, or response, or action, they do make a huge differnece to intimacy in marriage. What kind of battles do our husband hearts face when our actions and words do not match?

Paul H. Byerly July 5, 2013 at 11:30 am

I rarely intrude here, but I thought a male perspective might be of use here. This is not just my thoughts, but what I hear over and over from husbands.

The issue is not that life is difficult and everyone and everything suffers because of that. We all understand that, and all but the most immature are compassionate about it. The problem is when one area is allowed to collapse while other areas are taken care of. If a wife manages to accomplish everything other than sex most of the time, the fact that sexual lacks are blamed on being too busy, or whatever, does not hold up. This goes back to the priories issue. We make time and energy for what we think is important. When we fail to make time and energy for what is important to our spouse, we are saying that our spouse is not important.

Of course it is all relative to the total time and energy someone has, and some things like a job or basic childcare can not be cut. The frustration comes when hobbies and volunteering are not cut, but sex is.

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Chris July 5, 2013 at 1:28 pm

“If a wife manages to accomplish everything other than sex most of the time, the fact that sexual lacks are blamed on being too busy, or whatever, does not hold up.”

– – – – –
Exactly, Paul. Routine or frequent sexual refusal is not about being too busy (for most women, most of the time…) It’s not a lack-of-time issue. After all, it really doesn’t need to take that long ;)

Having sex is not equivalent to having a hobby or volunteering or keeping the house clean. And, I certainly don’t feel sex is something to “accomplish”. It’s not just another thing that you spend your time “doing”, it’s not just a “task” that gets completed. Sex requires more than just a physical investment. There’s also a huge emotional investment. Sex requires vulnerability. And, I think that’s where most women struggle. All of who we are physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually is wrapped up in our sexuality.

I don’t believe it’s going help build many strong marriages by reducing sex down to a task, or by minimizing a wife’s struggles in the marriage bed down to just a priorities issue. And I don’t think it’s profitable to encourage frustrated husbands to believe they just aren’t a top priority.

I bet there are many couples out there who lie in bed at night, tossing and turning, with nothing but time on their hands, who don’t connect sexually… both with hurting hearts.

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Paul H. Byerly July 5, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Chris, I am not telling men a lack of sex means they are not a priority – I have men telling me this is how a lack of sex makes them feel!

My point in the tweet at the top of the post was to let women know what a lack of sex communicates. No man needs to be told to feel that way, it is the inevitable feeling they get.

Granted it can be far more difficult than just changing priorities, but as Lori said the starting place is to make getting things fixed a priority.

Is what the husband is or is not doing a part of the issue? Often it is, and I point that out regularly to the men I write to. I also know that in our world most women are sexually injured before they even meet the man they marry, and I know most husbands suffer for that, and some are wrongly blamed for it (I wrote on this a week ago http://bit.ly/14hcNQm).

I am deeply grateful that my wife choose to deal with her past injuries. I have some idea what that cost her, but I will never really understand. On the other hand I see how much both she and I, and our marriage, has grown because of her brave choices.

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Chris July 5, 2013 at 8:26 pm

You are a blessed man, Paul – you really do have an extraordinary wife!

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J (Hot, Holy & Humorous) July 5, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Great post! This really is how a spouse rejected over and over feels, and it’s important to make sexual intimacy a priority in their marriage. That doesn’t meant that sex can happen every single time one spouse wants it, but spouses should avoid saying “no” and simply say “not now” if they can’t engage at that time. Then make it a priority to get have that rain-check experience.

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Chris S July 6, 2013 at 6:45 am

This is such a difficult area. I’m the hubby, and we just had our 34th anniversary. In our own marriage, there has been plenty of problems, but you all have written of at least 2 we’ve had a lot of…
a) Pushed sex, and the deeper problems which make intimacy difficult, pushed down the priority list in favor of work, family, house, lots of other stuff — by both of us. Looking back, we realize that we both did this a lot, and often did it cuz the prospect of dealing with both/either sex or the problems was scary and daunting — simply put, we often dodged the tough stuff by using more mundane stuff as the excuse, a way to deflect + avoid the really hard+scary stuff.
And also-
b) Both of us laying awake at night, hearts+bodies aching to connect, but unable to do so.

Speaking just of our own marriage, not trying to generalize for others now-
As we look back on these hard times, they now look to us like a “chicken and egg” problem. Those times when we could manage to “take the leap” and make love together (often VERY scary for both of us but oh-so-needed by both), the very act of making love itself was a significant step forwards for us (courage, faith in each other, and motivation) to invest more time, effort, + risk into tackling the underlying+emotional problems. And equally, those times when we could get even a little start on the emotional issues- just a finger in a little crack in the “wall” of problems- that little start was very often enough that we were able to find our way to making love with each other. At some point, we started to recognize that BOTH of these angles on the problems worked like “chicken & egg SOLUTIONS” to help us make headway on our “chicken & egg PROBLEMS.” Ta-da!!! After years of difficulty and little progress, in relatively short order, the miracle of His grace and love, almost busting out and filling our lives with His love and gifts.

But it DID take enormous effort, courage, and prayer to do either one of these things. We never got there til we both put “fixing us” higher up our individual (and joint) priority AND PRAYER lists than we had it. Looking back, we can see that we both used lots of other stuff in life as a “shield” or “excuse” to dodge these hard and scary things. That was bad for us.

I, and we together, are SO grateful to the living loving God for His plan for marriage and for us, for each other, and for the courage to invest in each other. And we are also very grateful for the ministries we’ve found that have helped- Paul and Lori certainly- and we are grateful for the frank, heartfelt comments and debate like this. This is such hard stuff- it certainly was (and sometimes still is) for us, but the reward that God yearns for each of us to find in our marriages is SOOO worth it.

I pray that God will continue to bless this work- all the views; and will bless readers with the courage and understanding of each other and of His plan for marriage, so that they can daily get closer to each other, to Him, and His plan.

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Robert July 6, 2013 at 7:10 am

Another man here trotting on land I don’t typically venture into…

I came here from Paul’s email to the guys this morning. I have to say I love how Paul brought Lori’s message to the ladies full circle and put the same message in guy terms when speaking to us. Ladies, if Lori touched a nerve with you in this post I assure you, Paul did the same to us. :)

If there is one thing I want to add to this comment chain it’s this… a “not now” *does* help put a man ease for a time when he wants you. But use those with care as being put off like this begins to come across as a “no” pretty quickly. And using a “later” also works, but it will almost always make us expectant. A “later” to many men means “later tonight” or, at worst, tomorrow morning. If you can’t come through on that, or have problems with your man expecting sex from you, don’t tell him “later”. The only thing worse for us than an outright refusal is a delayed refusal via a possibility that never comes to fruition.

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Steven July 6, 2013 at 11:14 am

I know that I feel somewhere below the kids, the house, the neighbors, the church, the garden, the houseplants, and Spider Solitaire on her priority list…and I’m getting to the point of feeling like there’s something wrong or selfish about me by wanting to be a little higher. I *think* I’m doing all I can, but maybe not…

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Lori - The Generous Wife July 6, 2013 at 11:45 am

Thanks, all, for sharing over this very painful topic. My prayers are for all of us as we learn to love better.

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rick April 24, 2016 at 8:28 pm

At my age lack of sex drive is not as important as spending time paying attention to each other. I often look forward to sitting down with my wife to watch a movie only to be disappointed because shes on the phone or feels the need to get soething else done instead. This occurs despite planning our down time together. This does hurt and after having it happen for seven years since out marrage its really eroding my self esteem. How can I get through to her that date night is our time and put priority above daily interruptions or tasks that can be deferred?

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