The Root of Passivity

I’ve had a post in my “work in progress folder” that deals with passivity.  There’s been something that has niggled at my brain for a while now in regards to passivity and men – and I think I finally put the pieces together.  I’m not confident enough to say it’s something that will stand all forms of clinical trial or scientific testing, but I know it’s true in our lives as well as the lives of other men I know.

But first, some history.

My husband has always been passive – to varying degrees.  I never fully understood it, but as two first-borns who aren’t always insisting on “MY way,” I didn’t complain.  There were definitely times when it wore on me – he wouldn’t make a decision, and as nature abhors a vacuum, I had to.  And within the last 5 years, it’s definitely been more and more of a sore spot for me.  Maybe it was that I was fed up with his porn addiction and this was one more piece of straw for the camel’s back.  Maybe it was that I was getting burned out and my feminine heart was dying … one decision at a time.  Whatever it was, it was killing me, slowly.  After my awakening last spring, I realized that his passivity was most apparent in our bedroom – initiating sex was *always* left up to me.  Despite our sexual problems and issues, never once in our (then 13 year-) marriage did I *ever* turn him down or refuse him, and yet initiating sex was more than he could do.  aRgH!

Combine that with me realizing that my husband has it good (damned good, if you must know) and that asking for a bit of reciprocity wasn’t out of the realm of reasonableness.  And so we began to talk.  And talk.  And talk.  And nothing changed.  He said he was afraid of rejection.  Ok… I can understand that.  But WHEN had I *ever* rejected him?  Why this unfair expectation out of me?  urg.  So I try a different tactic to get my point across – in reading Captivating and understanding more and more of who I am (a feminine soul) and that it’s really okay to BE who I am, I realize that all of this decision-making and stepping up to fill the void that my husband was leaving with his passivity really WAS killing little bits of my heart.  It was also making me resentful.  And while resentment in my heart isn’t something that my husband is accountable for, it is something that he’s responsible for.  This time, he begins to understand and to try.

We have steps forward and we have steps back.  Sometimes it feels like for every one step forward, we’re taking 1.5 steps backward.  But we’re making progress, even if it’s incremental.  I come to the conclusion (aided by John Eldredge) that passivity is incompatible with masculinity, and thanks to a group of men that my husband went on retreat with and has begun to hang around and build relationships with, the truism begins to penetrate his head and heart.

Then the information about the CSA becomes a front-and-center reality.  We didn’t start taking incremental steps backward, we started taking LEAPS backward.  As if the facing of this abomination completely stripped him of any ability to be forceful, to initiate, or to make a decision.

At that point it hit me.  Like a ton of bricks falling from the sky – the CSA is the root of my husband’s passivity.  While that sounds quite specific, it was actually a quite broad realization, because there are so many awful aspects to CSA.  It’s not like the recipe reads, “Add one boy, one pervert, stir in some sexual abuse and misconduct, and simmer for 40 years to yield enough passivity to incapacitate.”

This realization/hunch/conclusion was confirmed in our second Theophostic session this past week.  As my husband came to the realization that as a small child he told his parents about the abuse and they didn’t believe him, I heard God confirm in my heart:  this is the root of his passivity.  He tried to help himself and make himself safe, but he was not rescued, made safe, or protected by his parents.  And so he began the work of hiding – from himself, from God, and from any decision that had the potential to hurt him – including intiating sex with his wife, some 40 years later.

Which brings me full-circle to my conclusion.  The passive men in my life are the ones that have had some form of sexual abuse done to their persons.  It doesn’t seem to matter the age or ability they had at the time, but the actual abuse and the inability to prevent it or keep themselves safe from it seems to steal an ability to be forceful, initiate, or make decisions at a later time in life – much of what masculinity encompasses.  That’s not to say that all male sexual abuse survivors are effeminate – some are anything but effeminate.  But that’s not to say that passivity equals effeminate behaviour in CSA survivors; passivity looks different, based on the characteristics and personality of the survivor.  I believe that if you look deeply enough in to life of a passive male, you will find sexual abuse of some form that stripped that boy/adolescent/young man of his birthright – to be a strong, masculine, force-of-nature to be reckoned with.  It breaks my heart, but at least in our situation, the knowledge is power and gives us a footing for our next step together.

His and his,

This entry was posted on 161919H May 2009 and is filed under Path to Healing, sexual abuse, SSA, Theophostic Prayer. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

  • Sensuous Wife

    It seems to me that your husband does indeed have it damned good. I say that not to gripe at him but to brag on you. I’m proud to know you, Cori. -Shula

  • Hiswildcherry

    Oh my gosh, Cori, I have been the aggressor in my marriage from the get go. I went to my husband-to-be to introduce myself, I would intiate conversations, I would make friends with strangers and try to introduce him.
    I have friends, he has no real male friends but a few controllers.
    I have faced the issue of his passivity time and again and have dealt with being the woMAN in our marriage in that I have raised the kids as a quasi- single mom.
    I refused to have passive sons so have been sure to train them to be assertive and if necessary aggressive…I am proud to say that they are awesome young men and take no guff from anyone. They stand side by side and are a true ‘tour-de-force’ to be reckoned with, if threatened.
    My man was raised Catholic and I have wondered for years if there was some form of abuse in his past but it has buried itself deeply.
    We have discussed it in depth but to no avail.
    Now that we are in our mid and late forties, his passivity is turning into reclusive behaviour and outright aggression towards the world as a whole.
    I thank God that my darling worships the ground I walk on and we have a newly awakened outrageous sex life since last summer. I am truly his only friend…a huge responsibility but I consider it an honor.
    Counselling is not an option so I keep taking this before God.
    I know God is right in this with me and my 7 children are the most wonderful support for their mom so I have a personalized support group 😉
    It is so good to read all over your site as it gives me hope that there may be a miracle in my man’s life oneday and I will be vigilant and ready for that gift.
    Please keep writing. I am reading and learning how to deal with my lot in new and fresh ways. I appreciate your insight and raw experience. Thanks.