I remember his eyes.

We were in college. We met in the basement of a church over a table soccer game. He was wearing a red coat with our school mascot on it. I was wearing pink sweatpants and a long-sleeved t-shirt from West Point. He was there to meet with my friend who’d brought me along for moral support since she was nervous around guys.

She introduced us. Our eyes met. His eyes were a beautiful light blue, the color of blue zircon, my birthstone. They drilled into me, even as they looked me up and down. Even in my pink sweats and West Point t-shirt, this young Air Force veteran saw something in me that he liked. I looked into his eyes and into my future.

His Loving Eyes

I remember his eyes before our wedding. They had a mildly manic look in them as he went around trying to make everything perfect. He was nervous. During our wedding, his eyes were warm and full of affection. We arrived at our hotel, and we used some of our wedding cash for dinner at a fancy restaurant. His eyes looked only at me. On our wedding night, his eyes that had seen me before saw me for the first time as his wife. His eyes glowed.

When I found out I was pregnant with our first child, he was out of town for two weeks. I told him on the phone. When he came home and for the first time laid eyes on the woman who he knew carried his child, his eyes were full of pride and joy. A few years later, I came home from an ultrasound with the next pregnancy to tell him I was carrying two babies. I remember the panic in his eyes then. And less than a month later when I was placed on bedrest for preterm labor, we had to send our young son to live with his grandparents three hours away because I couldn’t care for him. My husband’s eyes poured out the anguish of a man faced with the reality that there is absolutely nothing he can do to protect his wife and children. I remember those eyes, too.

He kept his loving eyes on me during the early years of our marriage. They laughed often, as I invited his laughter and love. Eyes that see love, with love, are a treasure.

Other Eyes

Sometimes we bury our treasures when we don’t want or can’t use them. We leave them behind so deep and so long that we need a map to find them again. As my heart changed, I stopped seeing his loving eyes. So I saw other eyes instead.

I remember those other eyes—the ones I saw through my own lenses of hurt and disconnection.

I remember his eyes during our arguments. We fought about so much—how to raise the children, money, sex, housework, my attitude, his attitude, and even about how much we fought and how we fought. His fighting eyes shone like daggers at me. If looks could kill, I felt these eyes could have done so. They were not cold eyes; they were filled with the passion that pulled at him and had no outlet.

These eyes were easy to dislike. They were nothing like the eyes I had once loved. Eyes are the windows to the soul, and the arguing eyes had the curtains completely closed. I hated seeing those hard eyes aimed in my direction.

I remember these hard eyes from this time in our marriage.

I remember other eyes from this time, too. As he recognized that we had no intimacy, he would try to talk with me about sex. Sometimes he spoke in anger and frustration. I remember seeing his frustrated eyes and thinking, “If he’s the one who’s unhappy with our sex life, then why does he think I’m the one who should have to change?” The memory of his frustrated eyes reminds me that my eyes were probably just as bad during these conversations. I’m pretty sure they showed dislike, disrespect, distrust, irritation, and every bit of my hurt and rage I could fit into them.

He felt unloved, like less than a man, like he didn’t even matter to me. He pleaded with me. “Just tell me what I have to do and I’ll do it.” “Why do I have to beg just to get lucky with my own wife?” “Can’t you see how unhappy I am?”

There were times when this man with the blue eyes would bare his heart to me and make himself vulnerable. He asked me questions that were risky. He wanted to hear responses of love from me but knew he was risking hearing responses that lacked any love and affection at all. He was right.

I hardened my heart against his words.

“Do you even care about me? Do you care about our marriage? Does my sexual satisfaction matter at all to you? Do I matter?”

My husband was sitting in his chair, sipping whiskey, the first time he asked me that. I said, quite sincerely, “No, I don’t think so.” Then I looked at him and saw his eyes.

I’d hardened my heart against his words, but his eyes haunt me still. These eyes . . . I will always remember these eyes.

I never want to see those eyes again. Ever.

Later, when I began to finally make some of the changes he’d been begging for, it was the memory of these eyes that carried me through the early months when my husband was not yet ready to believe the change was real. He responded with the habits of self-protection that had been ingrained in him by years of my refusing and gate-keeping. I frequently struggled to find the courage to respond with good intention and love to his sullen acceptance of what I was offering.

These haunted and haunting eyes were the only thing that kept me going.

Loving His Eyes

Just as the memory of his sad eyes kept me going, it was seeing the changes in his eyes that helped me know I was on the right track. A few months after I’d begun to be a more active participant in sex and had even stopped saying “no,” I was ready to think about my next step of growth: getting more comfortable with my husband seeing me naked. One night, I not only took my bra off in his presence, I intentionally turned around so he could really look.

The eyes I saw then will stay in my heart forever. These eyes were full of joy. They were the eyes of a man who is beginning to believe he does not take a risk in letting his wife see his desire for her.

These eyes . . . these are the eyes I love. They are the eyes that love me. These are the eyes that were there all along, even when I refused to see them. I gave them so few opportunities to glow.

These are the eyes that shine at the sight of me reaching toward him in bed. These are the eyes of a man who knows he is loved and desired. These are the eyes I see in my mind when I think of my husband.

We make love with eyes wide open so I can see his loving, glowing, laughing, desiring eyes every time I look at him.

In my heart, behind the loving eyes I love, I can still see the eyes of this man whose wife had just handed his heart back to him, deflated and untreasured. I can still see the sad light blue eyes of my husband as he thought about what it meant to be married to a woman who had just said she didn’t think she loved him.

I remember his eyes. And I always will.

9 Thoughts on “His Eyes

  1. userdand on November 29, 2013 at 9:06 pm said:

    “I said, quite sincerely, “No, I don’t think so.”Then I looked at him and saw his eyes.” When I read those word, my only words spoken out loud were “Oh, God.” I instantly felt his pain and despair and tears welled in my eyes. The empathy was so strong. I have never heard that, but I know that feeling of being discounted, disregarded and disrespected. To forgive after that kind of pain speaks to how special he can be. You truly are a forgiven wife. It’s been tough to live with that hasn’t it. I remember 50 years ago being mad at my mother and telling her if she wasn’t my mother, I wouldn’t choose her for a friend. So much for the fifth commandment. God should have struck be dead right then, but His grace abounds. Still alive after all these years. How I must have hurt her, even though she knew it was coming from childish frustration with her teasing me about girls. I share with your memory of creating pain.in the life of someone who loves us more dearly than life itself.

    • It is a difficult memory to carry. It makes the joy of seeing the shining eyes all the deeper. My husband’s sincere and loving forgiveness has modeled Christ’s love and grace for me more than anything else in my life. He didn’t give up on me. That wasn’t the last time he asked me those questions. He no longer needs to ask.

  2. userdand on November 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm said:

    Part II
    “…getting more comfortable with my husband seeing me naked. One night, I not only took my bra off in his presence, I intentionally turned around so he could really look.

    The eyes I saw then will stay in my heart forever. These eyes were full of joy. They were the eyes of a man who is beginning to believe he does not take a risk in letting his wife see his desire for her.”

    Joy indeed. Not lust, or want, or arousal, or leering, or entitlement or “finally, it’s about time.” Just joy. A joy he also felt for you. A joy he hoped you were sharing with him at that moment. That’s some good stuff, Chris.

    There are little things my wife is beginning to do. Many are things she used to be able to do and then stopped. That is the sad part. The joyful part is she is trying to be comfortable in her own skin once again; in her own skin in my presence, with my eyes upon her.

    For me, I am never quite sure how to respond. Like your husband was, I don’t want to her to feel I am focusing unduly on that offering from her. I am afraid if I acknowledge it too strongly, or perhaps even at all, I will make her feel self-conscious or that if she cannot repeat it, I will be disappointed and disheartened. I want to let her know I am aware of her efforts, but not make her feel like I need to see constant change every time out with consistent repeatability. I don’t want her to feel as if she has to “perform” for me. I want her to be comfortable with and willing tap into her sexuality, that superpower of which you have spoken.

    I know this isn’t easy for her, but I also know how much I need her to keep trying. Like I said earlier, the thing that makes this so sad is none of these behaviors or feelings are new to her. And yes, I do understand that the real question to be asked here is what has happened to change things from what they were for 10 or better years to what they have been over the last 15+ years?

    How can I let her know in a way comfortable to her, that I am aware of her efforts? “What you did the other night” may be correctly spoken, but inappropriate for her sensitivity;or, am I not giving her enough credit and need to recognize the change as well as her strength and courage for being a willing participant and wanting to please me. I’ll bet just answered my own question, huh?

    As I have said before, thank you for you continuing honesty and willingness to risk being vulnerable to all who read your words. This must be very healing for you husband too.

  3. Pingback: Journey into the Looking Glass, Part 3: The Cake, the Journey, and the Land of Joy | The Forgiven Wife

  4. Wow, I got teary eyed on this one. I have been in your husband’s shoes.

  5. Heilima on March 2, 2015 at 6:48 am said:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for Sharing your wisdom and experience here. I’m following your blog now and then and for the last three years trying to develop myself as a sexual partner. Our marriage is not very happy, so far. I m seeing a counselor and I get different advice on how to take position in this situation. Could you please read my situation and let me know if you think it wise to follow this road of giving more of myself sexually?

    We are married 6 years now. Hb was my first sex partner. I didn’t get a lot of time to develop myself sexually, everything went pretty fast. I was pretty reserved, intercourse painful, 2 pregnancys in the first 3 years, husband felt rejected, etc… After 3 years i started taking sex more serious, Reading, trying new things, more engaged.

    Hb started being more honest over the years. Admitted he never really felt attracted to me (physically) like he could react on other women. States something must be wrong with me as a woman to make him feel this way. Thinks he made a mistake marrying me, but has to live with this now. Doesnt want counselors Or therapy tofether, says it is up to God to make a change.

    Discussing these issues only shows how we both see and experience thinks different. The more my hb Will make statements like above, the more I withdraw. He sees it hurts mee, it hurts him too.

    There is no intimacy, like kisses, hugs, sweet words, hb doesnt want to fake. We still have sex, hb is very caring and tender, it is my only way to feel close to him now. hb experienced it as physically release, but he doesnt feel emotionally connected, so he feels bad after all.

    Should I continue giving myself to him, let go of reserves, keep initiating? Hoping the emotional connection Will follow one day?

    Thanks for thinking with me!

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