My Bridle and Surrender Story — Success Story #9 — StrengtheningMarriage.com
(Sexual Success Stories…from “HIS” Perspective)
(Note: It is with great appreciation and humble awe that we are able to share these stories from those that have offered to share their journey in hopes of it helping others. Thank you so much “Matt and Gina” … names and identifying characteristics have been changed.)
A Bitter Pill
When Laura first shared with my wife and me (Sep 2015) the concept of surrender as really the only possible way that Gina could ever truly choose for herself to claim her own sexuality, it was a bitter pill to swallow. We had already gone without sex for over a year at this point.
Fortunately, the concept of surrender wasn’t new to me. I had been studying various “Laws of Thought” for the previous year or so at the time. One of the concepts I had been exposed to was the concept of surrendering my attachment to certain outcomes as a means to letting God work out the details of any dreams I co-create with Him.
If I could just “doubt not, but believe,” I understood that what I wanted was actually on its way to me (even despite appearances to the contrary); and I knew that I truly had a better chance of obtaining the objects of my pursuit – or something even better.
I understood that my surrendering didn’t actually mean giving up any hope of ever having a fulfilling sexual relationship with Gina, but that it meant surrendering to the fact that it wasn’t going to be a part of our life for an indefinite period of time, in order to give Gina the space she needed to heal some sexual and emotional wounds, reconcile her anger, and to hopefully choose to claim her sexuality for herself in a way that would bless both of our lives in the way God had intended for us.
Principle vs. Practice
Unfortunately, understanding the concept is just the start. Understanding the concept allowed me to not resist the next steps that would prove to be much, much more difficult … and those steps were to put this principle into practice with something that hits so very close to some very strong fears and insecurities within me.
Well apparently, I didn’t do so well with the implementation of surrender initially, because while writing this story, I discovered a couple of entries in my gratitude journal that I had written nearly a year later (July 2016) that read:
- I’m Grateful for… the realization that I haven’t truly surrendered on a deep emotional level to the possibility of never having a fulfilling sexually intimate relationship with Gina in this life.
- I’m Grateful for… a shift in my willingness to surrender my immediate desires for “what should be” regarding my marital relationship, in favor of truly being ok with “what is” thus allowing Gina the agency required, in order to truly choose for herself to discover the blessings of “what could be” if she were to conquer her fears, limiting beliefs, and faulty paradigms related to sexual intimacy.”
Unconditional Love and Surrender
With this realization in mind, within a couple of months (Sep 2016) I took it up a notch and created a Word Document on my phone entitled, “Unconditional Love and Surrender.” I read it and pondered over its meaning every morning as part of my Gratitude Devotional to shift my awareness and my energy. Here’s what it said:
- I overcome feelings of being deprived, replacing them with more noble thoughts and actions in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.
- My purpose in this marital relationship with Gina is to help her grow in eternal ways that God uses my help with as her marriage partner.
- I allow Gina complete emotional, spiritual, and physical freedom from anything she does not choose for herself.
- I love her unconditionally with all of my heart even in less than ideal circumstances … in fact, ESPECIALLY in less than ideal circumstances.
- Gina sees the Lord’s image in my countenance. She desires the right things for the right reasons.
- Christ’s plan involves agency for all of God’s children regardless of the consequences.
- I let go, and truly serve Gina in this capacity, so she doesn’t feel obligated to anything … even things that are right and good like a sexually intimate marriage.
- I maintain hope that with the right conditions Gina will overcome her blocks, fears, and limiting beliefs…
- I am doing all I can do including having surrendered to the possibility of this being one of my crosses to bear in mortality in order to be perfected in Christ.
- If it is a cross to bear, I bear it well… with the real intent of being just what Gina needed in this life to help her also be perfected in Christ.
The Law of No Expectations
In January 2017, Gina and I were talking through some challenges that we were experiencing, and I told her that I’d rather receive ANY level of heart-felt genuine “something” than an empty guilt-induced or duty-induced “something.” And by “something” here, I meant anything: sitting next to me, spending time with me, holding my hand, a kiss, a hug, a back rub, sex … anything.
I told her I wanted us to live by the “Law of No Expectations” in all of our expressions of love going forward. Every physical or sexual interaction we have should be motivated by sincere and genuine feelings of love that we want to express to the other… or it should not be offered (or taken) at all. I thought we might even need to plan for new rules of conduct every single evening based on her feelings at the moment. New night, new rules.
Rejected and Alone – (Journal Entry – Feb 2017)
Gina and I had a very candid, successful talk last night that may prove to be a turning point in our healing journey. At one point yesterday, Gina and I were in the kitchen together, and I felt to express my attraction and love for her.
The energy in the room tangibly dropped and I instantly knew that she had not received my words in the way I had meant them. I thought, “how sad that I can’t even express my love for her without it causing a misunderstanding and hurt feelings between us.” I felt rejected and alone. Not because we aren’t having a sexually intimate marriage. That’s just a symptom of much deeper issues.
I felt rejected and alone due to my awareness that her fears, limiting beliefs, and triggers have been and are in the way of us being able to truly communicate deeply and honestly enough on important matters, so as to stifle any hope of emotional and spiritual intimacy between us at this time.
This all weighed heavily on my heart. By the end of the day, mixed with other stressors and concerns, my distress was noticed by Gina, and she asked me what was wrong. I described my feelings as accurately, but as delicately as I could to avoid setting off any of her triggers, if it were possible.
Our Next Steps
After a few minutes of describing my feelings to Gina, I perceived that no triggers had been set off, and that she seemed to be receiving my message well. I felt safe enough to share with her what I believed to be our next steps in our healing together.
I explained that I felt that she needs to be vulnerable and trusting enough to share her true concerns and feelings with me on significant topics (like money, sex, etc.), without filtering what she tells me out of fear of hurting my feelings, or what I might think of her. She needs to be okay with who she is … with all of her human weaknesses and shortcomings in such a way as to not feel guilty for her humanness. “God looks upon weakness very differently than rebelliousness.”
I brought up the fact that we’re both much more emotionally mature than we’ve ever been due to what we’ve learned in our counseling with Laura, reading her books, and trying our best to apply what we’ve been learning. I told her that we need to practice discussing difficult topics without being difficult … we need to be able to disagree with each other without being disagreeable, so that we can both be truly heard and understood by each another.
She reflected on her life and acknowledged that she has spent her whole life just slipping through unnoticed, so as to not upset anyone. Keeping to herself, so as to not “rock the boat.”
Creating a Safe Space for True Feelings
I suggested that we could agree to create a “safe space” in our communications with each other where we can speak our unfiltered feelings and concerns (delicately of course), so that she can begin to feel that she has a voice.
Gina felt safe enough during that conversation to give it a try right then and there. She began to unload some of her thoughts and feelings. She said she is “tired and mad” about our sex problems. She can’t imagine ever wanting to have sex. She can’t even say the words “sexual” and “intimacy” together because of how her experience has been so negative.
She went on to list several other things that she is tired and mad about. Her emotions flowed out right along with her words, and then she went into the bathroom and just sobbed uncontrollably for a few minutes.
When she came out of the bathroom she began talking about how blessed we’ve been over the years despite it all. And although she was clearly feeling better after sharing her thoughts and feelings in our “safe place,” I learned later that the catalyst for her shift towards focusing on the positive aspects of our life was that of guilt for having focused so much on the negative just a few moments earlier.
I suggested that maybe we could maintain a “safe place” that we can go to every day together going forward. I hope and pray that we can.
Before leaving this “safe place” that we had created, I also shared my belief with Gina that we need to focus on being “real” with each other; and developing trust, friendship, transparency, and vulnerability in our relationship “outside of the bedroom.”
I explained that I am truly ok with sex being out of the picture right now … and even indefinitely, because we haven’t earned the right to go there yet. We haven’t developed a trusting true relationship yet.
I described to her that I have surrendered to the possibility that we may never develop the capacity for true sexual intimacy between us in this life. If we build our relationship on correct principles feelings of intimacy will naturally follow; and when those feelings are present we will express them to each other only in the ways that Gina can be genuine with.
I further explained that my belief and hope is that as we do well with all of this, building our relationship upon the foundation of correct principles, she will someday naturally desire to express her feelings of intimacy with me sexually. But if not, we will have a fulfilling relationship because whatever expressions of intimacy we are able to share with each other will have been genuinely expressed.
The following are some things to ponder over that I am grateful for:
- I am grateful for the progress Gina and I have made in being able to have last night’s conversation and for it to go as well as it did.
- I am grateful for the renewed hope I have for Gina and me to truly understand and accept each other unconditionally—quirks, weaknesses and all.
- I am grateful for the many “gifts of crisis” that Gina and I have been entrusted with over the years that are turning for our ultimate good (individually and as a couple).
The 80/20 Relationship Dynamic – (Journal Entry – Apr 2017)
I had a one-on-one counseling session today … just me and Laura. During this session she taught me the “80/20 rule” in relationships.
During this session I learned one person tends to be the 80%-er in the relationship. They are the “Self” oriented people… Getting things done, solving problems, working towards their dreams … even if it might put other people out or hurt other’s feelings.
The other person is the 20%-er that tends to be more “Other” oriented … Doing things for others (even if it puts themselves out or hurts their own feelings or progress).
I am an 80%-er so if something is bothering me, I speak up for myself as clearly as possible until I feel understood. Whenever I get a glimmer of hope from Gina, my default is to move into fix-it mode to help the situation continue progressing in the right direction and perhaps even faster.
Gina is the 20%-er. It’s so painful for her to make other people feel bad or hurt their feelings. Everything Gina does is motivated by helping others feel good, keeping the peace, etc. by default.
If I, as an 80%-er, get too excited about her progress and start suggesting all sorts of great ideas–trying to be helpful in taking our relationship to even deeper levels of intimacy and closeness … I will have inadvertently caused her to lose her true freedom to choose for herself.
She’ll do the “fix-it” strategies not because she’s with me in fixing the problem, but because she wants to please me and therefore tries doing the fix-it strategy even if the strategies are against her will. (She’ll agree to my ideas and suggestions FOR ME – not for her).
Getting Her Agency Back
On the other side of the equation, if I am feeling helpless or frustrated because I can’t get in and work with Gina to help … this is a form of pressure I’m putting on her to do something.
Therefore, to prevent sabotaging Gina’s progress, I must just look at any glimmer of hope I may be feeling, and say, “That’s nice,” and walk away … letting her take from it what she will.
I can change the entire dynamic of the 80/20 conflict by stepping down some from my 80%-er-ness to a 50%-er. This allows Gina to step up, by creating a void or a vacuum for her to potentially fill by her own choice. This is how she gets her agency back. That vacuum is breathing room … for her to choose for HERself, not for others.
By causing 80%-ers & 20%-ers to be naturally attracted to each other, (which could easily be viewed as some sort of cruel joke), the Lord mellows out the 80%-ers (as we begin to realize that we are keeping our 20%-er spouses stuck by trying to fix them), and invites the 20%-ers to step up and do good things for themselves – for the right reasons – using their own agency. This is accomplished not in spite of, but only because of the conflict that occurs within the relationships of these couples. So, rather than being a cruel joke … it turns out that it’s actually more of a “gift of crisis.”
Bridle and surrender is how the 80%-er man gets from the 80% down to the 50%! If done successfully, this allows the 20%-er woman the ability to move up to the 50%; thus both meeting on more equalized ground.
Reflections – (Journal Entry – May 7, 2017)
- I’m seeing an opportunity to use this time of celibacy in our marriage as an opportunity for me to fine tune my capacity to love Gina unconditionally. Why didn’t I see this before?
- Today I resolve to truly surrender by no longer touching Gina’s breasts or genitals without her expressed invitation to do so.
- Today I resolve to allow Gina to be the first from now on, to initiate any kind of display of affection, so that I can have better insight into her genuine interest level moment by moment…
- I resolve to give her a new freedom from my displays of affection to stop the potential of causing a trigger or anger within her.
I wanted so badly to invite a conversation between Gina and I, so that I could learn where she was at mentally and emotionally with our relationship. But I don’t want to be contributing to her roller coaster of emotions that may or may not trigger her. I just wanted to tell her my ideas and see what her feelings were about them.
But I subdued my desire to talk to her about these things because it might be construed as pressure, sadness, me trying to check up on her, or some other negative twist.
I feel so alone not being able to share my feelings with her and knowing that she doesn’t want to share her feelings with me.
I try hard to realize that it’s because of the predicament she is in, rather than being due to her not trusting me with her feelings; but when days and weeks go by without discussing anything of substance about our relationship I periodically succumb to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and betrayal. Today was one of those days…
Succumbing to Sadness
Today I was spiraling downward emotionally because of Gina’s apparent lack of interest in me. She’s distracted with other things, and she keeps her communications with me very superficial. Our situation is compounded further because Gina doesn’t like me being aware of anything she is working on, so not only do we not talk about anything of substance, but it also appears to me that she is doing nothing at all to confront her demons…
This afternoon I laid on our bed and Gina came over and cuddled with me. We talked about non-relationship topics long enough that I thought it might be safe to invite her to share any “core emotions” she was feeling. She deflected that invitation by saying she’d already been telling me what’s on her mind about finances and our daughter’s wedding preparations.
A few minutes later Gina asked me how I was doing, and added that she was afraid to ask because of what I might say. I started sharing a couple of my above thoughts (on a very superficial level) to test the waters, but soon felt the shift in energy telling me that I should keep them to myself.
So, I kept it superficial until I could finish my thought and then we just laid there in silence for several minutes before Gina got up and did some other things. I decided that the best thing I could do to express my feelings would be to journal about them … so there you have it.
Trying Again – (Journal Entry – May 12, 2017)
The past few weeks while re-reading Laura’s book, “And They Were Not Ashamed,” I’ve felt a growing awareness that many (if not all) of our relationship problems are founded squarely on a lack of understanding of correct principles and of each other throughout our marriage.
I also feel that Gina and I have progressed to a point in our relationship communication abilities to where we could possibly communicate more openly together, even if just on foundational, non-sexual relationship topics. It seems we might come to a greater awareness of each other’s thoughts and feelings and to create deeper levels of emotional intimacy and more of a spirit of understanding of our respective differences and humanness.
The last couple of nights I’ve attempted to communicate this to Gina, but although there was a positive energy between us both nights as I shared my thoughts with her, she has remained silent on responding with her thoughts and feelings concerning the matter. Because of Gina’s non-response, I asked her both nights to consider sharing her feelings on this subject with me whenever she felt able.
This morning Gina asked how I was doing, so I expressed my concern that she hadn’t shared her feelings with me yet from the last two nights, and that I wasn’t sure if she was still trying to think of how to respond, or if she was avoiding responding altogether.
She asked me what the question was, so I reminded her of what my invitation was to her the past two nights to communicate more openly on foundational, non-sexual topics and summarized again where I was coming from.
Gina’s response was that my invitation to her to communicate more openly together (even just on non-sexual relationship topics), feels to her as if I am coming from a place of, “you’re not doing anything … you’re not healing fast enough.”
Gina said she feels that I’m just being really careful with my wording so as to not reveal that those are my true feelings. I took the opportunity to clearly communicate to her that her view of me seems to be based on triggers within her, and that I’m truly not coming from that place. Her response to that was “that may be true,” but she still can’t get beyond that perception right now and needs to continue working things out on her own.
Because Gina is caught up in that type of energy (mistrust of men and me, etc.), she’s not able to communicate more openly with me even just on foundational non-sexual relationship topics, so she must continue on her own for now … and so I surrender again.
Surrendering Again – Season of Celibacy
To help me with surrender, the following are a few things I can ponder over that I am grateful for:
- I am grateful that Gina took the time this morning to really listen to what my invitation to her was the past two nights that she hadn’t responded to. I felt heard by her this time, and she carefully described to me the space she is still coming from, and that she needs to continue working things out on her own.
- I am grateful for the freedom that being heard and thoughtfully responded to by Gina has given me. I have been able to move away from the space of wondering: (1) if she was thinking about how to respond to my invitation, or (2) if she was avoiding responding to the invitation for some reason, or (3) if she hadn’t been listening attentively enough the last two nights to realize that I had even invited her to respond.
- I am grateful for the growth Gina and I have had in our relationship over this past year that is reflected in the fact that we were able to have this morning’s conversation as described above.
- I am grateful for the resolve I’m feeling once again, to focus on improving where I am weak. I resolve to develop true selfless service and love towards Gina during this season of celibacy, having no direct involvement with Gina in her sexual healing journey. This is an ideal environment for me to fine tune my ability to truly share my love for her in the unique ways that she feels loved … and to do so with zero expectations or even hopes of my needs being met in return.
- I am grateful to know that God knows both of our hearts, and has a plan for Gina and I that is much better than anything either of us can truly comprehend at this moment in eternity.
What She’s Going Through – (Journal Entry – May 14, 2017)
Gina shared her feelings with me again last night and this morning. It was nice.
Gina listened to me share my feelings this morning.
Gina and I had a good talk after church today. We discussed at a deeper level what we were both experiencing. Gina clearly communicated to me that what she is dealing with that I can’t help her with right now is that she is processing feelings of anger that she has suppressed “because good wives don’t feel this way towards their husbands.”
Her anger is a result of her having sex against her will our whole marriage. She is trying to discover why she is still feeling these feelings. She is also trying to manage feelings of guilt for feeling this way about me and also for not being what she’s “supposed to be” as a wife.
Wow. I didn’t realize.
Sharing More Openly – (Journal Entry – May 15, 2017)
Last night before going to sleep, Gina and I hugged and kissed like we normally do as we are lying in bed together at the end of the day. But last night Gina was more present. She hugged me closer and kissed me much longer than usual … and she seemed emotionally present in both the hugs and the kissing.
There was a noticeable positive difference in her demeanor. And she commented to me that talking about stuff really did help her to feel better.
During our conversation last night, I pointed out to Gina that the type of conversation we had yesterday after church is the type of involvement that I have wanted to have with her for so long. It’s what I meant when I said I’d like it if we could communicate at deeper levels of transparency.
I asked her what she thought about sharing more of her feelings of anger with me like we had done yesterday … suggesting that since I was the object of her anger, perhaps venting her anger in a “safe space” that we could create together might be even more helpful than doing some of the other things she was doing like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) tapping.
Gina’s response to that suggestion was that she didn’t see the point and that it would just cause me to feel hurt, and that I’d want to talk about why things are different now, and to talk more about why those feelings were based on misunderstandings, etc.
Gina said that the fact that those feelings were based on misunderstandings doesn’t help her to magically feel better about anything. She wanted to just continue doing what Laura suggests, since she is the sex therapist.
I pointed out that rather than a “magic” transformation, I believed that it would give us the starting point to becoming real and transparent about why things happened the way they did for all of those years; and for us to begin the work of rebuilding our relationship together, but this time founded upon and honoring the correct principles that foster oneness and intimacy within marital relationships.
Having said that, I honored her decision to continue with her own journey and left it at that.
Things Are Slowly Getting Better
This morning I drove Gina to work and as we were talking, she noted how she could see that sharing her feelings with me had really helped me to feel better. She said she thought she had already shared those feelings with me in the past, but then she realized she probably hadn’t ever been as open as she was yesterday because she had feared my response to her expressions of anger towards me.
At an appropriate time in the conversation I commented that she seemed much lighter as well. She agreed, and then observed further that my not being devastated by what she shared with me (about her anger towards me), and my overall favorable response to the whole situation, seemed to have helped her process things as well.
The following are a few things for me to ponder over that I am grateful for:
- I am grateful for the closeness that has been restored between Gina and I from talking more openly.
- I am grateful for Gina’s awareness of how therapeutic sharing her raw feelings with me can be to her, to me, and to our marriage relationship.
- I am grateful for the progress Gina and I have made not just in spite of, but because of the opposition we’ve experienced together.
Reflections on My Reflections
As you can see throughout the above journal entries, over time I had mentally (and somewhat emotionally) surrendered to the indefinite celibacy thing. However, I hadn’t surrendered to letting Gina work things out in her own way … in her own time … without me getting in and trying to “help” with my suggestions and insights that I was learning as I moved along in my own journey.
I’m still working on that, and it’s tough because often I don’t realize I have shared suggestions and insights until after the fact.
Am I Coveting My Own Wife?
I want to add something else that I have recently experienced/realized (Feb 2018):
In some of my darker hours when I experience feelings of loneliness, and find that I’m feeling sorry for myself and for all of the years that have gone by without a fulfilling intimate relationship … In this state of negative selfish energy, I have also noticed that I sometimes desire more from Gina than she is able to willingly give.
Reflecting upon these types of feelings, the following question entered my mind one day last week … “Am I coveting my own wife?” Exodus 20:17 says, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.”
Perhaps men in circumstances such as mine need to add a personal addendum to this scripture verse as a reminder: “Thou shalt not covet thine own wife.”
Lastly, I’d like to share some of the tidbits I have picked up along the way to help me get surrender better:
- Our struggles are not for nothing … they are very carefully designed, and custom made for me.
- Imagine after we die, and we are hanging out in heaven sitting in a garden saying, “man, remember those days when…” That was so hard! I can’t believe how hard that was! Imagine this setting and saying to each other I had no idea it was going to be so hard, but knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
- If you knew that the life you are looking for was going to eventually be realized even better than anything you had ever dreamed … what would you do today? How would you approach today? Close your eyes and imagine doing today’s tasks with an understanding that it’s on its way.
- The stress dissolves, because it’s going to take as long as it’s going to take. You’ve surrendered to letting it take its course in the time that the Lord sees fit for the good of both of us.
- It allows you to live in peace now … and because you are living in peace now, things go better. You feel better, opportunities come easier. God knows what you want, and He knows when you want it; He gets it. Let Him work the details according to His master plan knowing what you both really need.
- Visualize it. Feel grateful for it. Do all you can, and then go about your life trusting that God is working out the details and you don’t need to.
- Trust that He won’t let you screw it up too bad as long as you are trusting Him and holding that faith.
- Zooming way out helps to regain perspective … just like the tough times we’ve already gone through and grown from and are now feeling grateful for. And we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
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