I felt like a caged animal, trapped by my feelings and cornered by my husband’s words.

My feelings were my shackles. As a child, my sensitive nature was not welcomed. My parents encouraged common sense over emotion, and I never learned how to process the feelings that were interwoven into the fabric of my life.

As I grew into the grown-up version of my life, I enjoyed the freedom to experience and unleash my feelings. After so many years of being ashamed of my feelings, I responded with the other extreme and let my feelings dominate.

When I felt hurt or neglected by my husband’s actions or words, I didn’t know what to do with those feelings. I didn’t know how to communicate them to my husband without sounding accusatory. He wasn’t especially good at hearing my heart without perceiving it as disappointment in him, either.

These feelings added onto all the other feelings I already had about myself and sexuality. Because I didn’t know how to address them, the feelings festered inside me to become concentrated into a vial of bitterness in my heart.

Trapped by My Feelings

When our marriage became fraught with tension, I knew in my head that something was wrong with our relationship. Sometimes, I could actually think reasonably about our sex life: I know I’m sexual. After we get started, if I let myself relax and participate I often enjoy it. It isn’t a crime to do something nice for my husband. There is no reason we should be having sex more often.

My reading about sex confirmed that it was a normal part of a healthy marriage. I read Song of Solomon and 1 Corinthians 7. I read blogs, books, and articles. I paid attention to how the other women at church hinted at the intimate part of their marriages.

I got it—in my head.

Yet when my husband approached me with sexual attention in any way that did not acknowledge whatever my emotional state was at the time, my feelings stormed through and erased any semblance of reason or intent.

Each time this happened, it added to my belief that my husband didn’t really want me, that he valued me only for sex, and that sex was to be avoided.

Because my feelings were such an integral part of me and had not been valued in my childhood, my instinct was to protect them at all costs.

My feelings interfered with my good intentions. Every. Single. Time.

I was trapped.

Admitting I am wrong is a constant uphill battle for me. My inclination is to do anything I can to spin the truth in order to avoid being an agent of my own actions and mistakes. It takes great effort each time—and that is now, having admitted to myself that this is something I must work on. It was much worse before I admitted this to myself.

When Big Guy and I would have one of our conversations about our sex life, if I could get him angry, I could focus on his anger and use that to place wrong-doing on his shoulders, thereby deflecting it from my own.

Sometimes, though, he spoke calmly from his heart, with honest grief. There was no anger for me to use as a defensive shield. I couldn’t turn it back around on him, so the words broke through to my heart, where they challenged the feelings that were already there.

So there I would be, trapped by my feelings with no way to spin myself out of a corner.

Fight Response

A cornered animal will go on the attack. The fight-flight-freeze response (also known as fight-or-flight ) is a “physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.”

When my husband confronted me with the truth in a way that I heard him, I experienced it as an attack on me and my feelings.

I sometimes responded with flight (leaving the room or the house or preemptively sabotaging things I thought he might see as sexual opportunities) and freeze (he would ask me a question, and my mind would go blank, unable to even understand his words).

Mostly, though, when my husband calmly spoke truth to me, I became awful and launched into verbal rage. I attacked him with words. I would demean him for being unable to control his sex drive. I would accuse him of being a bad husband. I would insult his sexual abilities.

As if refusing to have sex with my husband weren’t bad enough, my response was even worse.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.  James 1:19-20

When I felt trapped, I was quick to peak and quick to anger. Although I often felt self-righteous in my defense of myself, my reactions never produced righteousness.

At the moment of feeling trapped and cornered, attack was the only way I could see out. I wasn’t as interested in producing righteousness as I was in protecting myself. If you’d asked me what I was protecting myself from, I’m not sure I could have told you.

I realize now that I was trying to protect myself from having to face the truth.

To Pray and to Breathe

The decision to work on sexual intimacy in our marriage was one that emerged from both my feelings and my thoughts. It was an intentional effort based on my feelings of empathy for my husband.

I knew the need to make an effort, and I felt the need as well.

Despite my feelings finally being on board, transforming from a cornered animal to a generously loving wife was tough.

I made it, one prayer at a time, one deep breath at a time.

Even now, four years after my journey began, I still have occasional moments when I can physically feel those sensations of being trapped and wanting to lash out. But they are just moments—and I have learned out to reach out to my husband for help at those times rather than lashing out at him in anger.

I opened my Bible to Ephesians this morning and read this:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Ephesians 4:31

Even though my husband was not in unrepentant sin against me, our conversations about our lack of sexual intimacy would fill me with bitterness, rage, and anger. I resorted to verbal brawling and false statements about my husband. (Fortunately, I never made those statements to others.) And malice? Yeah, that was there, too.

For years, I carried all those things within me. How did I manage to function at all with those toxic feelings inside me?

Each prayer and each deep breath dispelled a bit of the bitterness in my heart. I couldn’t gain control over my feelings by myself, so I asked God for help. At times, the mental effort was physically exhausting—yet I persisted.

My prayers invited God to help me do what I couldn’t on my own. The deep breaths helped my body counteract the fight-flight-freeze response.

Prayer by prayer, breath by breath, bitterness, rage, anger, brawling, slander, and malice began to fade away from my heart.

As these feelings left, I had new space for kindness and compassion toward my husband, and I began the process of forgiveness of others and accepting God’s forgiveness of my on sins.

The cornered animal had become free in Christ.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

Image courtesy of sakhorn38 at

Print Friendly

6 Thoughts on “Cornered

  1. Stephanie on September 16, 2014 at 8:14 pm said:

    I’m getting there…. Slowly, very slowly… Baby steps. Small enough steps that I’ve been working on this for months and I’m just now commenting for the first time. I just felt/still kinda feel like if I say out loud (or in print) that things are getting better, Satan will attack with a fury. I’m just now getting to the point that I trust God will keep me on track.
    All that to ask this question – When does it stop? Will there ever be a day that I finally don’t have to consciously think and try and put my anxiety aside in order to feel comfortable with my husband sexually? At this point, it’s a constant struggle. I have put the rude looks away, shoved the mean comments deep down… And honestly don’t struggle like I did with those things…. But the actual nitty gritty. I fight the urge to say “not tonight” or “I don’t feel like it” every single time! It’s getting old and it’s hard and I want to know if it’ll ever stop or if I should just accept it?!

    • I’m so glad you posted your first comment here. Thank you!

      Yes, it stops. You aren’t struggling with things in the way you used to, so you know things can change–even though it might happen slowly.

      For about six months, I had to work hard most of the time to rise above anxiety, rude looks and comments, the urge to say no, etc. For most of the first year, I still had to be intentional about fighting my urges. But then one day I realized that I wasn’t thinking in the same way as much as I used to. Even now, I still feel those urges–but it’s very rare.

      My advice is to accept that this is part of the experience during this season–but know that you won’t be in this season forever.

      Read this post at The Generous Wife for some encouragement. You’re already seeing some progress in controlling your responses, and now you’ve even posted a comment here. I suspect you’re closer to the “tipping point” than you might realize.

      Keep on hanging in there!

  2. landschooner on September 17, 2014 at 5:22 pm said:

    Not arguing here at all. : )

    You said “Yet when my husband approached me with sexual attention in any way that did not acknowledge whatever my emotional state was at the time, my feelings stormed through and erased any semblance of reason or intent.”

    What would acknowledging your emotional state look like? I dont know what that means in the context given. He is seeking sexual attention. What didnt he do that you wanted?

    This is not a challenge at all. I can “guess” what you mean, but I’m not actually sure. Is it just stating something like “babe, I know youre having a rough week but I’d sure like to make love to you……”

    (Sorry for being dense)


    • It’s a fair question, and you have it right. An acknowledgement could just be words that showed that he paid attention to what I was experiencing and feeling at the time.

      I don’t jump from one thing to another easily. I do better with transitions. So a “wanna get lucky?” without any indication that he was aware I was worn out from dealing with the kids’ bedtime wouldn’t go over so well. I did better with, “I know you’re tired and don’t have a lot to give right now. I really need to connect with you. How can I help you relax?”

      His approach was often to focus on his needs and on the physical. “I’m horny” without “I see that you’re stressed from your appointment today” wasn’t helpful. Neither was, “We can celebrate your accomplishment at work by you giving me [insert name of sexual act].”

  3. Heavy Heart on September 17, 2014 at 7:47 pm said:

    “couldn’t gain control over my feelings by myself, so I asked God for help. At times, the mental effort was physically exhausting—yet I persisted.” You said that exactly how it is. It’s a daily battle with my mind. I saw that you commented that it will get better over time. That was encouraging because I’ve seen other areas of struggles have been hard before have become less.

Leave a Reply!

Post Navigation