How do you respond when men give voice to their hurt about the sexual intimacy in their marriages?

When we gaze at a lake on a sunny day or at a lazy slow river, it’s easy to forget the overwhelming power that exists in water.

During the Great Flood of 1993, we lived in the St. Louis area. We often went out exploring the area on weekends. We watched for weeks as the water rose, creeping higher and deeper into communities along the Mississippi River.

The flood waters slowly soaked the ground completely, to the point that it could absorb no more. People who lived in flood zones carried special belongings to upper floors in their homes to keep them dry. They filled sandbags and arranged them in an attempt to keep the water away.

The water continued to rise, flooding homes and businesses as the river banks could no longer hold the volume of water.

On a Sunday morning well into the summer, I watched with horror and fascination as a levee wall was breached. The water rushed with a magnificent force, flooding fields in a matter of minutes. The force of the water was so strong that it lifted a house off its foundation and carried it away, along with farm buildings and so much more.

It wasn’t one particular gallon of water that broke through. It was the thousands and thousands and thousands of gallons all together.

The volume of water was what gave the water such force.


Time and time again, Big Guy had spoken about the pain he experienced in our sex life—yet the words just wouldn’t sink in.

I rejected the words as soon as I heard them, shoring up my own walls of pain to keep his pain away from me.

At some point around 2009 or 2010, my heart began to soften toward my husband. Healing waters began to wash around the edges of my own hurt, and I began to hear some of his words.

Slowly, they began to seep in. I began to catch small glimpses of his hurt.

Eventually, his words and hurt could no longer just soak in and be ignored. I began to feel threatened. I tried to shore up my walls. I withdrew from him even more to keep myself safe and dry from the tears his words might trigger in me.

Slowly, I began to read about sexual intimacy in Christian marriages. I looked at blogs and forums. I began to see my husband’s words in the comments from other men. Husband after husband expressed the same pain—emotional pain, not physical frustration—that my husband had been expressing for years.

The words made me feel uncomfortable, and I dismissed them. I was confident that my own hurt was bigger and harder and more important than my husband’s. But the same words, written by so many men, would no longer be contained. I was inundated by their pain.

And on a late summer Sunday morning, I sat and read page after page after page of these comments, all in one sitting. My walls were breached.

It wasn’t one phrase or one story of hurt that broke through.

It was the volume of hurt, one voice after another after another, that gave the words such force that they crashed right through my own pain, lifted me off my foundation, and knocked me to my knees in prayer and conviction.


The flooding of my heart with the pain of so many husbands—especially my husband’s—was painful for me. Yet . . . it was at that moment that my own healing began.

Because the volume of husbandly hurt was such a powerful experience for me, knocking me off my foundation and forcing me to rebuild, I created a page on my blog where other wives can experience that same force—Your Husband’s Hurt.

Your Husband’s Hurt has recently been getting some comments from women who seem to feel as uncomfortable as I did and from men who have been flooded and overwhelmed by their own pain.

I want the men’s voices to speak for themselves on that page, without challenge. I don’t want to dilute the power of the volume of hurt on that page. Hurting wives have many places on my blog to share their pain and frustration. On that page, I want just the men’s voices so we can all experience that power.

While I don’t want that page to be a place where the pain is discussed and shared, I do think it is helpful for women to be able to express their discomfort with what they have read. I think it is helpful to those same women for men to be able to respond—so I invite you to do so on this post.

When you read the men’s words shared on Your Husband’s Hurt or in other places where men have shared their pain about the lack of sexual intimacy, what do you think?

Are you overwhelmed by what you see? Are you uncomfortable? Do their words have an impact, or are you struggling too much with your own hurt right now? Can you acknowledge your husband’s hurt, or does it feel too threatening to do that?

If you found yourself having a reaction as you read that page, you may comment on that here. (I will be moving some comments from that page onto this post.)

Image courtesy of winnond at

14 Thoughts on “Inundated by His Hurt

  1. Nicole Wimmer on August 27, 2014 at 1:10 am said:

    Thank you for posting this. It reminds me to make sure that my husband is wanted, needed, loved, and that he’s sexually important to me. Thank you for posts like this, that remind wives what is at stake!

  2. Alistair on December 31, 2014 at 4:09 am said:

    Heart breakingly sad 🙁 Why do they stay? You only have one life why spend it being miserable?

    • I can only speak for me, but I stay because I still love her, because Christ pursued me even through my sin, because God didn’t say “it’s okay to leave the marriage if the going gets really difficult”, and because I have read about Christ changing hearts and doing miracles in others that were going through this.

  3. Wow, heartbreaking is right ): I had no idea. As husbands and wives we need to make each other understand what’s going on inside ourselves. We need to have the courage to be honest with each other and say these things. This is a devastating situation. ):

  4. Allie on March 27, 2016 at 3:53 am said:

    I am sorry. I don’t buy it. Women were made to respond to the sexual advances of our husbands WHEN WE FEEL SAFE, AND LOVED. I am not saying in a rare case a woman just refuses just because she can. I am saying that most of the time it is because she is either being abused in some way or not loved properly. I don’t know of one woman who would refuse sex if she felt respected and deeply cared for and loved. Period.

    • I absolutely agree that the vast majority of wives who refuse do so because of their own emotional hurt. Sometimes that comes from something within the relationship, and sometimes it grows out of baggage we brought into the marriage. Mostly, I suppose it’s a combination.

      That in no way negates the fact that husbands, too, feel pain. In most of these marriages, both spouses are hurting. I would add, too, that a husband may be doing everything he can to show respect, care, and love for his wife–but he cannot control whether she feels it. (The reverse is also true.)

      I would like to suggest that you read my recent series on emotional walls: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. The series is about feeling emotionally safe. The walls we often built to keep ourselves feeling safe can come to imprison us.

      The pain these men have shared is deep and real. It is the most difficult and hurtful thing in their lives. They have a right to these feelings, even when their wives, too, hurt.

    • Allie,

      When you read those stories above, did you really see any husbands who are dangerous, unsafe, unloving, or demanding? I’m not trying to be a smart alec, I’m just asking if you could look at them again and consider, “what if they are telling the truth?” Would you see a different person in each story?

      When there are two people at odds, the conflict can be caused three different ways: One person caused it; the other person caused it; they both caused it. The reconciliation only happens one way: both people want it and make it happen. Be careful about punctuating a situation with a “period”.

      The cause is very important to understand, but the importance is all about how reconciliation can be worked out. The stories above are so painful for the men largely because there is no willingness to reconcile on the part of the wife. Forgiveness, good will, trust, love… the husband thinks that those things will bring his wife to a desire to reconcile. If she won’t, or just goes through the motions, he knows he has been discarded and has no way back. Can you imagine the shoe on the other foot?

      When a husband is neglected or restricted emotionally/sexually it isn’t like just not getting his favorite dessert. He feels it like being in the desert, dehydrated while he can see a full canteen of cool water in his wife’s hands. He is being actively burned by the sun, and is in danger… he just wants to know why he is so worthless in her eyes that she doesn’t even believe he is hurting. He may even wonder if she doesn’t really /want/ him to hurt. She seems to see it as doing nothing to him, expecting there will be no adverse effects to him. In the meantime, he is being seriously hurt, and his ignored requests add to the injury.

      It isn’t as if wives don’t sin as much as husbands. All people can be vindictive or callous in equal measure regardless of being male or female. All people can make their love conditioned on performance that can’t be measured or verified. How would any person know how safe another person feels? We have to allow each other to try, fail, and recover from failure.

      A husband definitely wants sex and marriage to be safe for himself, too. Wives are not unique in wanting safety. The men in those stories definitely do not feel safe. However, I don’t think marriage or sex is ever really completely a safe place to be because of how vulnerable you have to be by definition. If it were completely safe, it wouldn’t teach or grow intimacy (which is the goal, after all). The safety in intimacy is knowing that in failing, there won’t be rejection; instead there will be a willful commitment to forgive (or admit fault, or both) and pursue passion until you both die.

      You may still be convinced that these men are mostly just not making their wives feel safe, or loving them properly. I have to say… these men are all hurting, and almost all of them are still desiring and pursuing their wives in spite of the pain and danger. I think that is admirable, proper love and commitment. I think it is courage, despite feeling very unsafe. Would you possibly consider changing your basic opinion of these men?

    • D. Husband on April 4, 2016 at 7:24 am said:

      Allie- I and my wife frequently talk about the “chicken and egg” aspect of intimacy – which comes first: romance and intimacy or sexual connection.

      My wife commonly refuses sex even though I may have spent all day doing chores around the house to make her life easier, shown her attention, affection and love, physically and verbally. All (truly now, after 22 yrs of marriage) without expectation of anything in return. When I later go for, perhaps, a kiss or suggest sex or even an embrace, I frequently get in return a cold wall. “No.” Or “How about next weekend?” Or a turned cheek that I can give a peck to.

      What does that message teach me? That her love for me is conditional. What does that message show me? That despite what I do, she doesn’t care that my needs are met and I may just have to work harder.

      I once posed this thought to her: what if she needed me to embrace her, speak tenderly to her or tell her “I love you?” Would I respond, “No” or “How about next week?” What’s the difference with sex — which is THE primary means by which we husbands feel loved, cherished and respected?

      I submit that intimacy and love, sexual or not, are not dependent (or to be dependent) upon whether the one showing it is getting what s/he needs first. Obviously there are exceptions when a marriage involves abuse, addictions or adultery (and possibly other scenarios as well). But I can never fathom telling me wife, “Honey, let me give you a hug next Weds, okay?” or “I don’t want to kiss you right now- how about this weekend?”

      I think the thought pattern of “I need to feel the love before I can/will show you love through sex or intimacy,” is harmful. It is to me–someone who actually tries to show affection and attention and receives little in return.

      Note: I don’t intend this post to pronounce judgment on what you’ve said, but felt compelled to respond with my experiences on this subject– because this is a common thought pattern in marriage.

  5. IntimacySeeker on April 8, 2016 at 3:08 pm said:

    What do I think when I hear men describe their pain? I think someone should have talked to us about this during premarital counseling. I think we should have had regular counseling as part of a healthy marriage plan (not as a response to crisis). I had been married more than 30 years before I understood this about my husband. And all the while, he thought I was deliberately trying to hurt him. That’s a lot of damage that could have been minimized via professional guidance.

    • I wish I had understood how sex is the pathway for emotional connection for so many men. It’s hard to recover from a few decades of negative and hurtful patterns of interaction, isn’t it?

  6. Michael on April 28, 2016 at 11:12 am said:

    We talk instead of listen, we assume instead of inquire and we judge where there should be compassion. Above all of this lies the belief that if our partners really loved us “they would just know/get it” (as in mind reading!). When any of these things happen, then resentment will be the outcome eventually. We can all forgive a loved one’s ignorance that hurts us the first hundred times. However, after a time we all ask ourselves why? Why do they do that when they know it hurts us? Sadly by the time people get to the stage of talking about it, walls have already been established and lines of defence enacted. Talking is pretty hard at that point and open and honest discussion (without ‘point scoring’) becomes difficult. Couple this with the emotional baggage that we all bring into our marriages and it doesn’t make the way forward very easy.

    When marriages hit this point there is really only one solution to the deadlock unless professional help is sought. As Chris did in her marriage, one person has to put aside their pain, their hurt, their resentment and work on the marriage. It’s a risky business as the other partner may just take full advantage and offer nothing in return. Obviously they may respond to the positives and the safety it provides which results in their own changes, but there is no guarantee!

    I love the way Chris has written about all of this in a very personal and meaningful way. Chris took a big chance with her emotional safety and yet the reward for both of them has been (and continues to be) huge.
    Sadly this isn’t always the case for some people. People have to be ready to take ownership of what they do, think, feel at a very core level. Not everyone is in a place to do that. I wonder if ‘Big Guy’ had been able to be everything you felt you needed Chris, would you have run out of resentment or not? I ask that only as a musing, I certainly don’t intend any accusation there.

    I have just realised that was about my stuff creeping in as that particular approach hasn’t worked very well for me, sorry.

    As you have stated in many, many places on your lovely blog Chris. The devastation that a lack of both sexual and the resulting emotional intimacy has on a relationship is destructive. It is destructive to the bonds of the relationship but also the core of the human being. It can shred a person’s self-worth, belief in good in the world and destroy their dreams and aspirations. The real sick irony of this is that we only allow it to happen to us because we love the other. So we stay, in pain and continue what I call the ‘hope, despair cycle’. In the cycle we hit our lowest levels of despair and yet we keep a little hope, we need that hope to continue to believe. We may then see a glimmer of connection with our partners and we hold on never wanting to let go. We may even have sex and feel that bond that we have yearned for and so we want more and more like a starving person. However, it is all soon taken away and so we sink slowly back down in the despair that we know so well, but a little deeper each time. We are always alert, always looking for the next glimmer of hope and so it continues. I cannot state if it is worse for a man than a woman that experiences this, I only have my own pain as a marker. I do however fully agree with everything you have written about my needs as a husband without ever knowing me.

    God bless you Chris.


    • I wonder if ‘Big Guy’ had been able to be everything you felt you needed Chris, would you have run out of resentment or not?

      I’ve thought about that myself. I think it would have happened, although it would have taken a while. Part of what triggered my initial efforts to work on sex was my husband’s depression, which manifested in part through a lack of interest in anything, including sex. For several months, he had stopped all sexual innuendos and had slowed way down on his initiation. With that constant sexual tension (and what I perceived to be sexual pressure), I was able to catch my breath and start to see my husband as another person and not as my enemy. His unintentional changes in behavior created some breathing room for me to get a new perspective. It took a while (months? a year? I don’t recall), but the bulk of my resentment had faded away and made it possible for me to see more clearly.

      It took two years of my persistent and consistent effort before my husband seemed to relax. It was another two years before I saw any effort on his part to change. If he had been the one to make some long-term changes intentionally, I think it could have taken me several years before I came to trust him enough to make an effort of my own.

      I think resentment is a secondary emotion that obscures something more primal. It’s when you dig down into and work through that deeper emotion that the resentment can begin to fade away. i suspect that much of the time, we are trying to meet a spouse’s needs but don’t know what the true needs are.

  7. Christine Walker on October 3, 2016 at 8:27 pm said:

    I know this was posted months ago, but I just had to comment although no one will probably see this. These men’s stories absolutely broke my heart. As a woman I cannot imagine doing that to my husband, but I know some women do and their husbands suffer. Chris, you are an inspiration to many women and I pray that women who reject their husbands will come to see the truth like you have. To all the men who suffer this horrid fate, please know my thoughts are with you and I am praying for your heart to be healed and your relationship with your wife to be restored. Please stay strong. If God can move mountains, God can move hearts and it is never too late for repentance. He can work miracles.

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