Has anyone ever heard of the concept of “competitive exclusion”?
It is a concept often discussed in the agricultural arena as well medical fields. It is the idea that a good or “desired” thing, be it a cover crop or desired bacteria, outcompetes the undesirable and excludes the “undesired” from the field. The good outcompetes the bad. Simple concept and it works in many areas.
It works in the marriage bed as well. And it goes both ways. I have experienced it in the context of the normally understood HDr/LDr relationship. It plays out this way:
HDr is thinking about sex, looks to the LDr to access the situation, the LDr seems to be consistently engaged in some other activity which is competing for their attention. The LDr does not recognize this dynamic as such. In their mind there is no competition – because they are not thinking about sex at all, so there is nothing to compete against for them. But for the HDr, they know if they approach for sex, they are going to have to compete with whatever the LDr is doing at the moment. And they know for the most part, they will lose, they will be outcompeted and excluded.
That is the basis of the competitive exclusion concept in nature – the undesirable has to be less aggressive and less adept at flourishing under the pressure of the desirable. Otherwise the desirable is the one that gets choked out.
My point is this – I want to trust in the base love I assume LDr spouses have for their mate. They are not doing this on purpose (though some may and that is a different problem.) They just don’t recognize what they are doing. They assume they are “always approachable” but the truth is they are giving defacto rejections by the little ways they react when approached while engaged in a competing activity – and there is ALWAYS a competing activity.
Example from my life: DW is laying in bed, wide awake, playing a game on the tablet. I approach and she takes the big sigh, or rolls her eyes, or just doesn’t respond for a few minutes. She has just exhibited what is the more important and desirable thing for her at that moment. And it was not me. That equals Rejection.
This goes both ways of course. If she comes in from work with some story or issue and as she begins to talk, I just don’t respond and keep doing what I’m doing without acknowledgement – I just rejected her. I just excluded her. I just showed her what was the most important thing to me at the moment. She lost.
I know there has to be grace in the balance. But there also should be active effort on BOTH sides to understand and not reject the other. I have heard it said many, many times that outcome indifference should rule the day. I don’t totally disagree with the concept, but I also think what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
The idea of outcome indifference can apply to the CE idea in that to achieve CE of good over bad, you have to sow enough good to take hold. One winter rye seed will not overtake a field of crab grass. Sow enough seed! But your spouse has to endeavor to stop sowing crab grass seed!
Just some thoughts I had last night as I lay there watching the crab grass grow….
I completely agree, i really do think somehow couples need to be educated going in that sex is to be expected and to be expected frequently. How that works out with the individual couple should be approached with love and grace. I think especially women who tend to be the LD need to be taught that solely relying on FEELINGS is not the way the marriage bed should be approached. Similarly the husbands should be taught about responsive desire which would go a long way toward helping the wife understand herself and for especially a young husband to realize that she is different from him and that she is not going to think about or feel the same way about sex that he does.
I do think that i thought that way (although i’ve always loved sex, i tended toward gatekeeping) until i was educated, i truly did not know any better. Now i approach sex as a yes unless i’m truly not feeling good and my husband is fine with that, his desire is to see me have pleasure in TMB.
I had to train myself to drop whatever I was doing, if at all possible, and look my wife in the face when she came in with a story to tell or a problem to discuss. If I couldn’t drop it immediately, I must at least immediately let her know that and ask to please be given a few minutes to return my attention. In my estimation, the same will work for sex. At the core, that is a simple acknowledgement of the others worth to you – THAT is what is at stake.
I don’t intend for this thread or question to be a gripe session, so please try not to read it as such. I would rather present it as observations of someone trying to help himself, help others and trying to bring awareness that comes from experience. Empathy is integral to any solution. To paraphrase my current favorite thinker: “A solution is simply the dissolving of a once insoluble thing into a new mixture that is useful.”
I hear, and have said, that communication is key and we should endeavor to communicate. BUT, the fact is we can not NOT communicate. Everything we do communicates something. This is a harder thing to grasp for some. Self awareness is not everyone’s strong point. Even harder is the truth that you don’t really get to decide what that indirect, non-verbal or thoughtless communication means to the other. Certainly so if you don’t get or take the chance to clarify or apologize. And we ALL do it.
I experienced this last night, and reacted, but did so with the best I could at the time. Probably not the best choice. But it caused no negativity so I guess it will have to do. It serves as an example of the subtleties of communication.
It was one of those nights where sex seemed to be on the table as a default activity. So I approached it as such. I did so gently, intending to make it a special event for both. I’m laying across the bed on my stomach, unclothed, with my head on her pelvis. She’s in a gown and panties. We are gently caressing each other in non-genital areas. So I move my head down her torso, and start to move my caresses closer to her genitals. Up to this point, she had one leg flat, the other bent upward at the knee. Not granting easy access, but not blocking it either. This is not happening fast, I did not dive in like a terrier after a rat. Slow and deliberate, because I know my wife. Then just about the time I get close to the mons, she crosses her legs tight. I don’t immediately react, but make a few attempts to gently pry her apart, seeing if she would “let me in”, but she didn’t. To me, that was clear communication. For her, I’m fairly sure it was at least somewhat subconscious. Perhaps. I didn’t ask. I considered asking, but I also know my wife. Such a question would have been received as an attack. Basically, this was over for me. She would say she didn’t reject me. But I felt rejected. I was rejected. But I didn’t get angry. I just resigned myself to the fact. I lay there a few more moments, but you could feel the air leave the room. It was not just me. I could feel her touch change. After a few moments I changed my position, looked up at her and smiled. It was then she made a comment about her stomach making noises and commented about the Mexican dinner we had. I can’t remember my comment but it wasn’t much. I just moved up to hug her and we had an extended embrace and a couple little kisses. Then I rolled off and dressed for sleep. Nothing more was said.
I share all of that just to maybe help others realize that figuring out these little things we do can be difficult. Sure, I could have chosen to ignore the block. She would have probably allowed it without a lot of pushback. But it was ruined from being what it could have, should have been. For me at least. Truth is, it probably was never going to be that for her anyway. I suppose the realization of that was a big part of killing it for me. I feel like I did the best thing I could at the time. I considered addressing it then, but that would have been fruitless and taken as me criticizing her. Nothing good ever comes from that. I do think such things should be discussed, I just don’t know the best way most of the time. There is never a “good time” to talk about sexual disappointments, especially when the other is highly sensitive to anything that might be construed as criticism. And everything is construed as criticism…. I suppose all that is left is “accentuate the positives” when possible and keep my mouth shut about all the rest.
I know there are precious few LDr individuals reading here. That’s a shame. I am guessing these subtle communications are a staple in many marriages. I’m also sure in the most desperate ones, the communication might be quite overt and pointed. I can be thankful that we don’t deal in such absolutes normally. But I can say, for myself, the subtle rejections can be very hurtful as well. Sometimes even more so, for they can reveal what is otherwise hidden, or tried to be hidden.
my efforts last night helped me not take that one so deeply personal. But it was disappointing and hurt a little nonetheless. My wife didn’t intend that, I know. My quandary is how do I make her aware without hurting her. Maybe I can’t.
Is this the same thing of this concept?
LrD is tired and is looking forward to an evening of relaxing with no expectations from others, including sex, looks to the HrD to access the situation, the HrD seems to be consistently making those looks, sneaking in touches, and hinting of going to bed early or going to the room, or even making some suggestive comments, engaged in some focus of trying to work the situation to get what they want without truly seeing what’s going on with the other. The HrD does not recognize this dynamic as such. In their mind there is no competition – because they are only thinking about sex and wanting to be with the LrD, so there is nothing to compete against for them, because aren’t they the bomb, and shouldn’t sex be the biggest relaxant and stress reliever for all? 😉 )But for the LrD, they know if they approach to give some simple affection, a hug, a kiss, an invitation to sit beside them just to be, they are going to have to compete with whatever the HrD is thinking about for later, at that moment. And they know for the most part, they will lose because those expectations radiate off them, it will cause hurt when they have to say no, or it will cause a fight or a negative reaction immediately or for days to come, they will be outcompeted.
To further the agricultural aspect of this analogy – sometimes if you are wanting to reap a good harvest, the undesirable weeds just have too strong a hold on the field and the good can not overcome them. It’s time to take drastic action. Turn the field, kill the weeds, give the desired crop a chance to compete. One of the things that outcompetes the good in our minds is assumptions built upon past experience. We saw this occur in both of us simultaneously yesterda.y. Luckily calm heads prevailed, we discussed it rather openly and I think we both learned something. We came to a mutual agreement that we BOTH must work on the failure of assumptions. There is almost always deeper meaning and purpose under the surface. Yet we get used to reacting to the surface.
I asked my DW a very simple, seemingly innocuous question yesterday morning as she was putting on makeup. I was honestly trying to avoid a failure. Yet she detected a hint of negativity in the very ending word and a slight downswing in emphasis that she perceived as defeatist tone. I really didn’t realize it was there, but I don’t doubt it. She in turned snapped back a retort that was on the harsh side. I responded with “I was just asking a simple question, but we need to stop and talk because something is about to happen here that I don’t think either of us wants.” So we did.
The question: “You got something going on this morning?” The retort: “NO! I just don’t like going around without makeup! I don’t have any plans!” Assign the emphasis as needed to bring about what could have been a fight. We were both guilty of making some false assumptions, prematurely. Both guilty of assigning a negative outcome before it proper.
We were able to discuss some truths about us. I am so accustomed to waiting on her to “give me the sign” and anytime I see her “in process” it usually means I’m about to be outcompeted. So I was trying to decide if I should make an approach or not, because I did not want to be rejected. I wanted to have success making a “bold approach”. LOL #what a moron! But I was honest in this. The last thing I wanted to do was go in like a bull in a china shop, get the assumed rejection and start a spiral into hell. Been there, done that. She heard that all, solely in the way I ended the word “morning.” None of my fears are fabricated, as we both agreed they are built upon precedence. But they are undesirable and need weeded out.
She actually said that had I ended the question with an upswing in tone, she likely would have reacted differently. I admitted I had difficulty believing that, based on precedence, but I would give her the benefit. I was trying not to sound defeated but I will admit I may not have heard my own tone. She had to admit the same.
For her part, she explained how she heard my non verbal communication and immediately thought she was about to be assigned a refusal when she hasn’t given one, and it pissed her off. She was at least one question premature, making the assumption I was going to approach sex at all. I had been in there discussing something totally in left field for 10 minutes before I asked the question that started it all. Yes, I was thinking about sex earlier that morning, and wanted it, and came in toting some baggage, but I was sincerely trying to handle it adeptly and seeking at least a pleasant non-approach if necessary. I never got past my opening interrogatory. I should have had a different one altogether that did not carry with it the assumption things would likely not go as I desired. (I know what you’re gonna say SC…)
A little country story interlude for illustration: You want to know how to make a dog mean? Feed him biscuits on a fork. Then every time he grabs a biscuit, you job him with the fork! (That means poke, stick – for the city folk) Yesterday I got jobbed with the fork and never even reached for the biscuit. I just looked like I was about to bark about being jobbed in the past and she jobbed me again with it… Stop poking me the dammed fork and I’ll stop barking about it! Get it?
We had a good talk. We ended it with me telling her there is not much that I desire more than all of this being easier for us. I wanted us to be together in this effort and not fighting against each other all the time. There should be no winner and loser, just us together working toward the same goal. No competitions. It seems we both want that much at least. We both have work to do. It would be easier in the moment if the kids weren’t suddenly back in the house. That’s a hindrance she has to work on getting over. I’m about to put it to test. “Gird up thy loins…”
I have taken some time to think about your posts. I’m LD and a former gaterkeeper. I can see my former self in much of your wife’s responses. I see your pain and feelings of helplessness and I’m sorry you are going through this. I would like to share from my perspective, knowing your wife is her own unique person, and not all of this is going to be similar to her.
Sex is just complicated for LD women. We come in feeling a lot of expectations of sex being awesome, sex being easy, sex being pleasurable and are often VERY disappointed. I didn’t learn about responsive drive until 10 years into our marriage, so before that I just felt like I was the problem, I was broken. Sex wasn’t fun for me, it brought up all kinds of bad feelings for me, I felt like a failure, it made my husband very unhappy with me because I did not meet his expectations, and I avoided it as much as possible. Now hear me, I had an orgasm 75% of the time. But it wasn’t pleasurable. I was having sex to pacify my husband, I was separating off and fantasizing to try and push the physical stimulation I was receiving over into an orgasm so that my husband wouldn’t be upset with me (bringing more feelings of shame).
I had childhood sexual abuse that had been repressed and didn’t start coming back into memory until 7 years into our marriage. I also had bad sexual experiences as a young woman. But even without that, the stuff that went down in our own marriage bed would had made sex hard to enjoy. We were young when we got married and Christian sex books said the only ok way for the woman to have an orgasm was PIV…and PIV didn’t feel like much to me. Broken, failure
DH was roaring and ready to go and sex was so easy for him, so easy to orgasm from PIV (the “right” way), so easy to get turned on and have it feel good. Again I’m broken, I’m a failure and now I’m actually bitter
DH would ask, are you horny….well that answer was always no. I’m responsive drive. Neither of us understood this, so he was disappointed, felt rejected, and I felt again broken. What was wrong with me?
DH would treat my body like he wanted his treated, go for the “hot spots” quickly. When he went for my “hot spots” quickly, it hurt, it did not feel pleasurable. I was also battling extreme feelings of shame about being a sexual person, and that prevented me from seeing the pursuit of pleasure as ok. It took 18 years for me (and counseling) to battle the tape that it was dirty for me to want to feel pleasure. I’m still battling it. I’ve learned I need about 80% indirect touching, lots of sensual touch, very little “hot spots” touching. If I feel rushed, my body shuts down and being touched feels icky.
So….all these bad inputs, truly made sex seem like the last thing I wanted to do. I know as the refused or those denied you would say, this is a Biblical command, you need to do it. Well, I can certainly just lay there. But that isn’t what my husband wanted and it likely isn’t what any of you want. My husband wants me to want to be with him, to revel in sex. How do you do that when you hate sex?!?!?
I can give my husband a backrub and be pleased with making him happy. What if the expectation was that I had to have an orgasm from giving him a backrub? I know that sounds ridiculous, but you must realize for many LD women, this is what sex is like. You want me to get physical pleasure from something that isn’t pleasurable and have an orgasm?!?! And, all of society, says you are a failure if you cannot have an orgasm from giving that backrub, if you don’t LOVE giving that backrub. And now your husband is unhappy because you aren’t LOVING giving backrubs, not orgasming from giving a backrub. I know there are places this falls apart, but if sex isn’t pleasurable because of a myriad of different reasons; sexual abuse, poor expectations, not understanding your body, husband understandably doesn’t know how to please your body, huge feelings of failure, huge feelings of shame and being dirty, etc…. sex now becomes SO overwhelming, you give up. You just give up. You have prayed, cried, read books, and keep hitting a wall. You know your husband is so unhappy, but you are so lost on how to fix this.
I’m not excusing just writing sex off for the whole marriage. I’m trying to paint a picture of the hopelessness a LD wife can feel and how she can get to the place of just giving up EVEN THOUGH she truly loves her husband.
You and your wife have a long road to go here. I’m sorry, I truly am. It is very painful on both sides. Please don’t doubt that your wife loves you. It just isn’t the same for LD, you can love someone deeply and not want to have sex. She is frustrated because she sees all the “good” ways of connecting getting hijacked by sex (which is likely a very negative thing for her).
My road of healing has been counseling for the past 5 years (I do have sexual abuse, sexual assault, physical abuse, etc… in my past), and lots of reading of sex positive female Christian blogs. Christian Nymphos was one of the first for me. It made me SO angry, but also began to open me up to a different idea of sex.
I am praying for you and your wife
Really interesting analogy @LBD! I often find myself competing with social media, text conversations with her friends, and even our children. Not sure how to break through, as my wife is highly sensitive to criticism and so my subtle approaches concerning these competing items aren’t always successful.
This terminology is new to me, and so I am having a little bit of difficulty fully wrapping my mind around it. Hopefully this won’t be too confusing, but could this concept be taken to the level of one’s own thinking process? Going with your example of HD/LD, could the HD’s own negative thinking, reading into actions that may be completely innocent, need to “outcompeted” with “good” thinking? Could the battle truly be being lost on the home-front, rather than with the other person?
@SeekingChange – LOL – how did I know you would go that direction…. 🙂
What you describe is the adage of “approach expecting success.” And that is valid to some degree, so it does go both ways. But it is hard to not read some communications. EVERYTHING we do communicates something. As I said, grace should be in the balance, but one person expecting the other to NEVER interpret something as it seems to be given is an awfully tall order to fill. I’ll fight the wild animals off to get a drink if I am really thirsty, a few times. One can only endure so much rejection/resistance. Sure – it would be perfect if one never reacted negatively to such things, gave perfect grace always. But it seems a little selfish of the opposite partner to have such an expectation does it not?
I will agree with you on this – both spouses should be working hard to sow acceptance and choke out rejection, sow positivity to choke out negativity.
This analogy covers FAR more than just sex. Does your family compete with your hobbies? Your job? Does your spouse compete for your time and attention with binge watching Netflix? Soap operas? Internet forums? IF so, what is that communicating to them?
The only way to change it is to be intentional with your actions and be aware of your reactions. But you first have to realize they all do mean something to the other person and you don’t get to decide what that is – they do.
@SeekingChange – she has presented a view from the other side of the street. And I suspect it is fairly accurate for most LDr/avoider types. It illustrates the point that neither side probably fully understands the other oftentimes. It is the endeavor to understand that is highly important. We would all rather play by our own rules. It is why the willingness to play by a third, in this case interested, party’s rules is so important. I would hope that third party is the benevolent God and His biblical word.
For my part, I have to figure out how to better love my wife, and give myself for her more completely, more perfectly.