Welcome Aboard, John

Dalrock encouraged a reader of his, John, to check out my post Tacomaster Desires Steadfast Love for some advice and perspective. John writes:

Dalrock pointed me to your blog (the “Tacomaster Desires…” post in particular). I’ve enjoyed your reading your advice. I believe you commented on a thread at Dalrock’s where my post elicited many replies. I’m another sex-deprived (as in zero sex for months) husband. I’ve also struggled with porn, but haven’t viewed it (or done any activities associated with viewing it) for over 2 months. I’ve told my wife about this. She was mildly impressed, but it hasn’t changed our zero sex/intimacy relationship at all. She keeps saying it will “take time” for her to build back her trust due to my porn use and other past wrongs. (Most of those wrongs are sins of which I’ll readily admit, but a few are more debatable.)

I have a question that’s on a more tactical level. She’s been letting our youngest (almost 3) sleep with us since she left her crib. We’ve let others sleep with us here or there (when they wake up in the middle of the night, special occasions, etc.), but nothing like this. I think my wife’s allowing this “co-sleeping” (to use the hip, modern term) to make intimacy all but impossible for us.

I’ve been thinking about telling her it needs to stop. Something along the lines of “This is our marriage bed (Heb. 13:4). It’s a place for the two of us to sleep and make love. I don’t mind our kids occasionally coming in when they wake up with a nightmare or something, but not on a regular basis. If you disagree, you can sleep with the youngest in her (twin) bed. I’ll sleep here.”

At this point, I’m sure she’d choose to sleep with the youngest elsewhere. But it would be a way for me to put my foot down and set a boundary. I think I’ll have to do things to force the issue unless my wife suddenly builds her trust. And the longer I’m staying away from porn, the more confident I’m getting.

Your sense on co-sleeping is absolutely right. Your child…

By the way: YOUR child. Possession is important. She can refer to it as “our child” if she wants. You are the farmer who plowed the field. The fruit does not belong to the ground. Insomuch as the law transgresses this basic fact it is an evil…hence, the law is quite evil.

…should definitely not be in the sanctuary of the marital bed. There are times when we should make exceptions in times of need, such as thunderstorms, illness, etc., but, generally, the child should be in her own bed. You suggested saying this:

“This is our marriage bed (Heb. 13:4). It’s a place for the two of us to sleep and make love. I don’t mind our kids occasionally coming in when they wake up with a nightmare or something, but not on a regular basis. If you disagree, you can sleep with the youngest in her (twin) bed. I’ll sleep here.”

but I strongly suggest you leave off the qualifiers, and the alternatives. In your case, I further suggest you leave off that scripture, too. If she takes the Bible seriously, it sounds like a softball for a response of, “Well, you’ve already defiled it!” It would be evil for her to do this, but she is already in rebellion, and even willing to use your child to be so.

Show. Don’t tell.

“This is our marriage bed. It’s a place for the two of us to sleep and make love. The children do not belong in here.

Simple, direct, and declarative. Women respond to the declarative. It may not be a good response at first (or ever, depending how sinful she is willing to be), but it is unavoidable; like a steak before a dog. She’ll have to do something with it.

Why no qualifiers or alternatives when you know she’s going be thinking about it?

Because we’re men, we want to do things like try to head-off at the pass a woman’s reasoning and logical arguments. This is stupid of us because she’s not interested in a logical argument for OR against co-sleeping, the holiness of the marriage bed, or almost anything else.

An example: When a woman starts using coupons it’s to save money, but it’s almost never to save money for retirement, or for the general welfare of the family, or even to satisfy the monthly budget. She might do it:

to feel like she got something for nothing
to please her husband (two thumbs up!)
because she has to do so to get everything needed
because she feels superior to those dupes who pay full price
because she wants an excuse to buy something else.

But once she experiences the benefit of successfully living on a budget she will be the biggest proponent of the budget, coupons, super-saver bonuses…the whole shootin’ match. She’ll tell her friends that they ought to do like her, and clip coupons. If a friend argues back: they won’t be friends much longer. Soon after the discussion the wife will notice things about her friend, “I don’t know; she’s just not that good of a person. We don’t really talk anymore.”  It doesn’t matter whether it logical, reasonable, or even true.

As I wrote in “TM Desires…”, fervent Muslim women are the most fervent of Muslims. Women get sold out for the cause. Your goal is to get that going in your favor; to get your wife sold out for you. Logic won’t do that. In fact, if you confront her heartfelt feelings with logic she’s going to take it as a sign of stupidity and weakness. What idiot brings a mind to a heart fight?

The real fight is going to come to you when you actually follow through on banning your daughter from the bed and expect her to obey…now…tonight…not some time in the future like she’s probably used to. If she brings the child in, remind her what you said. Is she still brings her in, take the child out. If you see that you are going to have to physically take the child out: make no moves until you do what you are going to do. Do not telegraph your intents, and don’t struggle. Take the child into her room, and either put her to sleep, or leave. It’s a tough call because now she’s used to sleeping with someone, I’m sure. Do what you think is GOOD; not what you think is easiest, or will resolve the situation fastest, or leave the least hurt feelings. Do what you think is GOOD! If your wife goes to retrieve your daughter, say something along the lines of, “You can stay out until you’re ready to come to me alone. My daughter does not belong in here.”

Exceptions can be made, but I wouldn’t bring that up. I say this for your edification. A sick child, a bad storm, or night terrors are a different matter. If she brings those things up: DO NOT FALL FOR IT! Do not argue about exceptions. Exceptions will be handled as need arises–that’s why they’re called exceptions. Co-sleeping as a bonding strategy is not an exception.

Considering everything that’s going on, it seems possible that she’s forming a vampiric bond with your child. She’s figuratively harvesting love from your daughter instead of getting it from you. Since it is a girl, this has a good chance to backfire monstrously when the smothered child is older, or for your wife to become resentful of your daughter when she fails to fulfill your wife’s needs.

Otherwise, everything I said to TM and to WheelMonkey applies here, too; as far as I can tell. I can’t stress enough to pray to God earnestly in private. Commenter Bill F referred to my advice as creating a crisis point. He may well be right, but my perspective is that it is crisis points that drive men to ask for help. You have arrived at the crisis already.

That being said: This is serious business. A wife might decide to detonate the marriage, as a response to this crisis. God bless you all, and your families. 

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25 thoughts on “Welcome Aboard, John

  1. Cane, what should he do if she won’t obey? What if the wife immediately goes and gets the child? That is an entirely possible, though dreadful, reaction on her part.

  2. Anticipating a stalemate, SSM? I’m feeling my oats, so I’ll jump in. The short answer is that he can’t blink.

    Social, religious, and even family ties won’t necessarily help. He must assume that he will be alone, and will need to take control through his own strength. The truth helps. Run it in a constant mental loop:
    * Short of full-blown rebelion, a healthy man’s will can overcome her, even if it takes a lot of patience. Despite any feminine bluster, women are designed this way.
    * His child needs a father, and it’s his job. Facts are facts.
    * Physical strength is a tricky route in our culture, but it can be applied safely, with non-aggresive resistance. Keep eye contact and hold your ground.
    * Keep talking to her. Purge fear and doubt with truth. (Washing with the Word.)
    * If there is real faith, Biblical teaching is pretty clear. Eph. 5:21-25, 1 Pet 3:1, etc.

    Calm strength is always an asset. Own it.

    In a previous thread, I mirrored much of Cane’s advice: https://canecaldo.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/do-not-monkey-around-with-despair/#comment-1352

    Looking for more specifics?

  3. @John

    I hope it was helpful to you, whatever you decide.

    @SSM

    It sure is, and it wouldn’t surprise me. You must have missed it in the post. I wrote:

    If you see that you are going to have to physically take the child out: make no moves until you do what you are going to do. Do not telegraph your intents, and don’t struggle. Take the child into her room, and either put her to sleep, or leave. It’s a tough call because now she’s used to sleeping with someone, I’m sure. Do what you think is GOOD; not what you think is easiest, or will resolve the situation fastest, or leave the least hurt feelings. Do what you think is GOOD! If your wife goes to retrieve your daughter, say something along the lines of, “You can stay out until you’re ready to come to me alone. My daughter does not belong in here.”

    That’s what I anticipate. John does indeed have a lot to think about. He has to be committed or else he’ll get crushed between his feelings and her. She may do something evil regardless, but it’s much better to have clean hands and heart about the thing.

    @Gabriella

    No, this is not tit for tat, and correction has to fit the crime. What are you going to take away: her blanket?

    @Alan

    Yes, you gave some good advice. I started responding to John in a comment. Then it got too long, so I turned it into a post. In the interim, you put up your comment.

    I hope the echo effect lends some weight and soothes some fears.

  4. No…not the blanket. I mean something he provides that makes her life more pleasant. It isn’t so much a tit-for-tat as it is flexing his authority, and his ability and willingness to make her life much less comfortable.

    During a rather extreme fight a few years ago my husband left the house for the night and took my laptop with him. It was ridiculously punitive, but effective.

  5. we put a toddler mattress in the corner of our bedroom for awhile so she wouldn’t crawl in with us. When she came to me in the middle of the night, I sent her there and she still felt safe.

    [CC: I’ve heard of this. Sounds like a bad proposition to me. Clear lines are needed because it’s not a problem of the kid getting into bed with them too much; it’s the wife bringing the kid into bed and purposefully frustrating conjugal rights.]

  6. We actually did the same thing as Sis recommends. Of course, our situation was different, We weren’t in the midst of a stalemate concerning marital intimacy. Neither of us was bringing our daughter to bed as a matter of routine, as if she belonged there.

    Gabby, I understand what you’re saying, but in my experience this is different (and yes, I’ve experienced this with my husband taking away the tool of my rebellion). Sex is one of those areas where you can’t really take anything away, because the only thing he can take -his presence, for instance- plays right into her hands. Especially when she knows he is going to come right back.

  7. John,

    I strongly recommend Athol Kay’s blog “married man sex life” and his accompanying book, or reading the forums. There are some other structural problems in your marriage, and Athol has unconventional but effective ways of analysing and problem solving.

    [CC: I’m not a fan of Athol Kay’s paradigm, but I’ll take an atheist ER doc over bleeding to death. Just take everything before the
    Lord in prayer, and reading AK cannot mess you up any worse than reading me.]

  8. So in one of my rare moments of general if not specific disagreement I’ll jump in. In many cultures it is normal for the child to sleep for extended periods with the parents. This, along with the normal hormonal effect of breast feeding, does act as a cultural aid for pregnancy spacing. So in the general case I would argue that a child sleeping fairly regularly with the parents isn’t the end of the world.

    That said, three is a bit extreme and especially, _from the description_ is being used as a crutch. A crutch is different from Grandma’s Feather Bed.

  9. @GKC: Not much of a disagreement, really — just a reminder about generalization.

    As head over his household, a husband needs to balance all family’s needs and make the best call. The welfare of the family (and each individual member) is paramount. In this case, it sounds like Dad and Mom need a little more one-on-one time.

  10. I appreciate everyone’s input.

    I’m planning to take Cane’s advice, but I’m going to wait for a couple of weeks. I have a personal goal for abstaining from porn (though I’ll keep abstaining after the goal is met, of course). While it’s just an arbitrary length of time, it’s been a major goal for me. I’ve planned to push the sex/intimacy issue harder once my goal is met.

    It will also give me time to pray (something I haven’t done enough) and think through things a bit. I’m think my wife will just take my daughter to the smaller bed and sleep. However, she could put up some resistance–especially since it won’t be a one night issue.

  11. @ GKC:

    I actually wrote a post at TC in favor of co-sleeping. I think there’s some benefit to it, and all of our children slept with us for a while when they were very young. It certainly makes those first six months of near constant nursing much easier.

    But…and this is a big BUT, we were also both committed to having an active sex life which meant we were creative and spontaneous in order to achieve that goal. Too many married couples are not. If a couple wants to have sex, they will find a way to do it. We all know that this is true.

    All that to say that the child sleeping in the bed is only an issue when 1) the husband isn’t okay with it or 2) it’s used as an excuse to deflect your mate;s sexual advances. I fear too many wives use their children as pawns this way.

  12. Mr. Caldo, of course you are correct that these men are already in a crisis situation. But their wives are comfortable in their rebellion and complacent in their sin. They would be very happy to keep the status quo and continue to live in their houses of deceit built on foundations of sand. Your advice to Tacomaster and John is the water of truth that washes away the false footings and serves to illuminate their sin taking away their comfort level. Since women operate from a default place of feelings only by making these women feel uncomfortable with their positions can we ever hope to shake them from their doldrums. That is why I said that your advice would create a crisis point…for them.

  13. Max,

    I have Athol’s book and have read a little over half of it. I have a bad habit of reading part of a book then moving to something else, but I plan to finish MMSL soon.

    As a Christian, my overall impression of AK is similar to yours. I stopped reading his book when I decided my focus would be dealing with my porn issue. Athol thinks a small amount of porn is OK in moderation, but for me it was a primary issue. I found it difficult to go into a strong frame/alpha mode/whatever you want to call it while battling an addiction and guilty conscience. Interestingly, this even holds true for non-Christians from what I’ve read on forums and sites dedicated to stopping men from porn/fapping.

  14. @John

    I (obviously) think you’re doing the right thing–including what you have added on to what I’ve said. There is an critical element of subjecting yourself to the Lord before He will give cause to your servants to submit to you. You can’t lead effectively if you’re in the spiritual brig, and remove the plank from your own eye before worrying about the speck in your (wife’s).

    Understand: This isn’t about a man becoming holy enough for his wife, but recognizing that we are called to be holy for the Lord. Otherwise: We’re all toast. What I am recommending is recognition that you’re surrounded on all sides by villians; that you’re Ahaz with Assyria (the world, and it’s porn generals) on one side, and on another the other by the alliance of Syria and Ephraim/Israel (feminized Christianity and your wife). We should not make the same mistake Ahaz did of half-ass listening to God, and while actually trying to shore up worthless material defenses against materially insurmountable foes. God will deliver, and a remnant will be restored.

    Be careful,” as you are paying attention that you do not sin with porn.

    “be quiet,” You don’t have to explain everything to your wife; including your sin. (Show. Don’t tell.)

    “do not fear,” If you are at God’s side, nothing can defeat you. Not even divorce.

    “and do not let your heart be faint” Your wife is not your judge, and her judgment is flawed. She is surrounded by female porn nearly 24-7 (a post on this later) and is corrupted. Pity her, but do not subject your thoughts to her feelings.

    @BillF

    Thanks for the kind words. If I am washing anything, it is Water flowing through me, not of me. Please don’t take that as holier-than-thou speech. It is recognition that all good things come from God. Personally, I feel stupid for missing it all the years before. “My people perish for lack of understanding.” It was all right there in scripture.

    A word on Athol Kay: He has some of those same false footings. He makes all sorts of contortions in logic and in his relationship with his wife to achieve his goals. He has made sex an idol, and is not only an atheist, but an apostate.

  15. @Elsbeth,

    I agree. It also makes nursing _much_ easier which makes everyone happier. If my wife gets up in the night I wake up and am usually awake while she is up and out of bed (some sort of guard reflex I feel compelled to track noise in the house…which has led to some good laughs) vs. “flop it out” and mom goes back to sleep, baby is asleep, and shortly after I’m asleep.

    If it is being used as a shield though, somethings wrong. The kids aren’t super aware of anything for a good long time anyway and are sound sleepers.

  16. Excellent advice, Cane.

    One thing I would suggest is to get a sense of how drawn your wife is by the siren song of divorce empowerment. This is something our culture is drenched in, and as I pointed out recently this is even true for “Christian” movies on marriage like Fireproof. This is important not just to understand your direct risk of divorce, but because the larger rebellion is generally connected. One thing my wife frequently points out is how quickly women she talks to change their tune on how bad their husbands are once she subtly walks them through the reality of divorce. If they see divorce as an “out” and a ticket to a better man, then they have every incentive not only to rebel against their husband but to denigrate him in their own minds. Wives know all they have to do is say those magic words, “I’m…. Not….. Haaaaaapy!” and she is free to find a better man, so very often they set out to convince themselves that they are unhappy. This is generally true even if divorce isn’t overt in the woman’s mind or speech.

    What my wife usually does is ask these women about the women they personally know who divorced. Then she asks them about the men they ended up with. This causes the unhappy wife to remember all of the women she and her girlfriends make fun of for being stuck with a loser. Don’t be afraid of this exercise, and if you fear it walk through it yourself first; reality is on your side here, and the reality is single mother divorcées are in a far worse SMV/MMV position than they were when they found husband #1. As a result they either get pumped and dumped or end up with laughably low status men. The ones who look good on paper end up being of the terminally nice (and therefore creepy) beta variety. Once the women consider the truth of what my wife has pointed out, they all of a sudden remember what a great husband they have. While this might sound superficial, the happiness is real. It allows them to tamp down the whispers and better appreciate what they have. Even to the extent that the change is only superficial, superficial is good because as I pointed out in a recent post studies show that merely staying committed to staying married tends heal unhappy marriages.

    With this in mind, I would assess where your wife is in the spectrum of divorce fantasy. She doesn’t have to be near divorce to be infected with the problematic thinking. If you think you can manage the kind of conversation my wife has with these women yourself (working it into normal conversation), then that might be a good idea. Interestingly this message is especially potent coming from the woman’s son, and one young man counseled by my wife in this reported back that his divorce empowered mother was furious and slammed the door on him. But the next day she baked his father a cake and knocked off the nonsense. I’m not suggesting you enlist a son (if you have one), but pointing out that so long as she will listen the message can be powerful even if she seems to reject it. She will stew on it later, and so long as you have framed it to consider only real women she actually knows, it will very likely be effective. It also doesn’t have to be framed as “aimed” at her. It can be general conversation on the foolishness of women you both know (gossip). On Yahoo Answers I usually point to the newspaper articles on the real story behind EPL and How Stella Got Her Groove Back. The contrast between fact and fiction is really profound, and the pictures tell the whole story. Depending on the setting, you might print off one or both and lead with them. What are all of those foolish women who believe this nonsense thinking? Also, while most women deny the SMP realities which come with age, they intuitively understand that quality men are unlikely to commit to a single mother. No need to work against the hamster in this case.

  17. Thanks GKC. I wasn’t actually advising he enlist his son but pointing out how effective this message is coming from a son. My own guess is that the aspiring divorcée understands that her son is the man she would ultimately turn to with complaints about how badly men are treating her. Once she discards her husband her son(s) are her next best source of protection and support if her secret multimillionaire hunky handyman somehow doesn’t show up. If they already “told her so”, it makes a future appeal for support much more humbling. Also, a son can be even more brutal in his delivery of this specific truth than a husband.

    But your point is well taken. If the son is old enough and if he is privy to the mother’s divorce fantasy, he could be enlisted in a righteous way.

  18. @Dalrock, GKC, et al

    A son can punctuate these topics brutally. My discussions and confrontations with my mother were effective in the sense that she cannot talk to me about about family without crying and asking whether I still love her. If I had known at the time how my parents separation went down she would probably be on medication; not to mention several men from my father’s church in the hospital. My father, God bless him, was too ashamed to call the oversized and merciless armyofone–yours truly–that God gave to him for just such occasions.

    Do they let you blog from prison?

    Point being: I have no advice on the particular topic of sons as emissaries about divorce. I bestow mercy mostly by keeping my mouth shut, lest I say what I think instead of what I should.

    These situations are where a church would come in very handy, if it was serious. A woman like Dalrock’s wife would be JUST the person to talk to TM, John, and WheelMonkey’s wives. Better than sons, I think. Sons are heavy artillery.

    Oh, to have more serious people in church…where are they? Please: don’t tell me the RCC, or the SBC. The leaven is not kneaded evenly through the loaf.

  19. @GKC and Elspeth

    Just to be clear: the topic is not whether co-sleeping is good or bad. The topic is how does John recapture his rightful place as head of his household? Whether co-sleeping is good or bad is, as far as I’m concerned, bad because John has not signed off on it. You can tell from the way he writes about it: it’s her deal. This cannot fly even if co-sleeping has some marginal or even decent benefits. Since his authority was usurped, the first thing he has to do is bring about repentance from his wife. That means going back–to before co-sleeping. Only then can he bless it, and make it a good. It was a good thing for the Israelites to build altars and make sacrifice for the Lord. Yet, when Saul did it to curry favor, it was counted as sin against him.

    Once they get that on track I don’t care if they do the wild monkey dance hanging from the ceiling as the kids snore beneath them. (Just be sure to follow OSHA guidelines. This is the era of safe sex.)

  20. @CC: “How does John recapture his rightful place as head of his household?”

    Cane, bite your lip, while I twist your words for a moment. John has no cause to recapture, reclaim, or earn his place as head of household. Marrying and having children occasioned his role. Period. This is a key principle because of the frequent cries that a man just isn’t good enough to be saved, to lead his wife, to shepherd his children, etc., etc. We hear the common refrain, “He isn’t perfect! What if he makes a mistake?” There will be a stong headwind as he pursues God’s design. His wife’s resistance and his own guilt will try to discourage, discredit and divert him from the right path. Tools of the enemy.

    Now, in accord with your intended meaning, he is wise to repent of sin, pursue sound moral discipline, and re-establish mastery of his family. Repentence will open the door for blessing and form a solid foundation for the family. Moral discipline will strengthen his mind and spirit. A mature and consistent walk will draw his wife and children after him.

    For a Christian, the relationship is non-negotiable, and yet, John’s conviction will please the Lord, gird his own mind, and compel his family to follow his lead. This is another good example of how God’s sovereignty is coupled with man’s responsibility. They both go hand-in-hand, without intruding upon each other. Faith and works cannot be divided.

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