The myth of having more sex— that if a wife was more sexually active with her husband, it would offset his sexual acting out — is a painful, false belief woven into the fabric of our culture. It permeates the thinking of almost everyone I see at my office. A surprisingly high number of counselors and pastors believe this myth too! Yet is is incredibly damaging to the man who struggles sexually. It is equally as damaging to the wife who believes it.
This myth perpetuates both the deficient emotional intimacy issues that underlie acting out as well as the neural chemistry of acting out. Increasing frequency of sexual intercourse with one’s wife usually services only to create an expanded context for acting out. Now, in addition to a computer, a hotel room, an office, or a strip club being the place where sexual misconduct occurs, it also takes place in the marriage bed. The husband’s view of his wife changes from seeing her a a beautiful child of God and deal treasured companion to viewing her as another object available for vaginal masturbation. Does that sound harsh? it should because it is harsh.
Now, in addition to a computer, a hotel room, an office, or a strip club being the place where sexual misconduct occurs, it also takes place in the marriage bed…
This is what happens, though, when we use our wife for sexual gratification devoid of any aspect of deep, loving emotional intimacy. Moreover, when a wife agrees to do sex differently, meaning more “exciting” or “exotic” by trying different positions, clothing, conversation, or implements, she simply becomes an equivalent of the husband’s debilitating porn, a personal prostitute—and neither husband nor wife consciously perceives this. To an addict, this request to his wife is nothing more than vicariously clicking his computer mouse. His wife becomes an object to be manipulated for his desire, not to connect with her soul, not to honor God, not to show love, not to create a bond unlike any other on the planet. Instead, simply to get off.
Transforming one’s wife into a object for gratification is cruel, demeaning, and frankly, a slap in God’s face. Objectification takes the gift of a wife who has been generously joined to a husband for mutual benefit and development and crassly converts her into a ting to gratify his selfish desires.
Engaging in heightened sexual arousal and experimenting in the bedroom can be perfectly fine and, in fact, create a new level and type of intimacy for a couple whose sexual trust has not been broken. But if you’re trying to restore trust in you relationship in the aftermath of sexual betrayal, you cannot risk reinforcing your old additive thought patterns. The neural networks associated with those thought patterns are connected to the kind of compartmentalization that allows someone to live a duplicitous life.
A Wife’s Dilemma
For wives who buy into this myth, the resulting problems can be as bad as those of their husband. Sometimes wives believe that if they were more sexually active with their husband, it would offset his sexual acting out. As with all myths, there is a sliver of truth here, but the reality is that a wife’s sexier behavior may curb his acting out outside the bedroom, but it won’t change what happens in his heart and mind inside the bedroom. His character and attitude as it pertains to his sexuality will remain unchanged.
A wife who acts on a belief that more or different sex will prevent further sexual indiscretions will only prolong her husband’s core problem. She will delay his healing and, unfortunately, hurt herself too. This occurs in these ways.
First, the wife can become a personal prostitute in exchange for personal security. The currency she is paid is the semblance of security that her heart won’t be violated again. Wives often report feeling backed into a corner on this one, because they feel forced to choose between two bad options. On the one hand, they might not feel the emotional or spiritual intimacy necessary for authentic sexual engagement, yet they still feel compelled to oblige sexually. They end of allowing their bodies to be used for their husband’s gratification. It’s worth noting that many wives report that they struggle with thoughts about when, how, and with whom their husband has done the same thing. They ask, “Did he touch her this way?” “Did he say these things to another women?” “Did he look for pictures of women doing these acts?” Their minds become a mental prison cell, and the torturer is their husband. On the other hand, should the wife choose not to engage sexually, the risk is that her husband will act out again, thus violating her heart and send of security.
The second problem with a wife who buys into the “more sex will help” myth is that if she’s asked to behave in ways she isn’t comfortable with in the bedroom, this can translate into a loss of her sense of self. In other others, she has to become or do something other than who she really is. This is not the picture of a marriage where each partner is seeking to honor the uniqueness of a God-created individual.
It pains me to hear men say they are disappointed with their wife’s willingness to be exciting in the bedroom. Too often they are communicating a secret, almost subconscious reality. Their idea of what should go on in the bedroom is tainted by what they’ve seen in porn! If you want your wife to behave, move, sound, and look like the scripted, artificial, manufactured, airbrushed images you’ve seen on-screen, you will be perpetually disappointed. Ad she will always feel like she is playing second fiddle to your unrealistic fantasies, resulting in a wound of inadequacy.
The third problem for a wife regarding the “more sex” myth is that she may have to manufacture pursuit, which feels very patronizing. Many women end up losing themselves, or at least a sense of themselves, when they begin to act out sexual desire for their husband.
Manufacturing pursuit means a wife must somehow contrive a situation or circumstance that results in sex, thus mitigating her husband’s acting out. She may do things or be someone other than who she authentically is in order to satisfy her husband sexually.
This is what that looked like at our house. My wife, Shelley, confronted me about an affair. I manipulated her and lied about the information she had. A few days later I told her that I had “almost” cheated and that it was her fault. The truth was that I was having an affair and was looking for any reason to justify and rationalize my behavior other than accept full responsibility. As such, I targeted Shelley with my excuses and manipulated her into owning them. I said she she wasn’t sexy enough, especially in the bedroom. She donned this burden and set out to rectify her alleged problem in an attempt to please me.
She began shopping at stores she otherwise would never have shopped at. She began wearing lingerie, which was out of the ordinary for her. She began dressing in ways that were more revealing and immodest. She tried to become someone she wasn’t, someone she never wanted to be. But she was willing to “spice it up” to save our marriage and mitigate the risk of my acting out and destroying her heart again.
Do you see what a disgusting, disrespectful way this is to treat another person? Would you or I like to be treated this way?
If you want to effectively restore your wife’s trust in you, it’s important that you not get derailed by this myth associated with trust-building and relational restoration. Understanding this myth will help manage your expectations about the process. It’s really not true that more or more exciting sex will keep a man from wandering and curb his sexual acing out, In fact, in most cases, it makes things worse.
Adapted from Worthy of Her Trust by Stephen Arterburn and Jason B. Martinkus Copyright © 2014 by Stephen Arterburn and Jason B. Martinkus. Published by WaterBrook Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.