Changing your approach to sexual intimacy can be hard work. Really hard work. The kind that leaves you feeling completely wrung out and worn down.
Many of us find that our marriages are transformed in amazing ways. We can feel like we are enjoying hard-earned rewards with husbands who are thankful for what we’ve done.
But what if your marriage doesn’t seem any better? What if your husband doesn’t seem thankful? What if he doesn’t even seem to notice that you’re doing anything differently? What if he seems even worse now that he doesn’t have to be nice to get sex? What if he is refusing you now?
You’ve done all this work on yourself, and even though you did it knowing in your head that nothing might change, your heart still aches to experience it.
It can be heart-breaking. Even though you may be a better wife, you’re just as unhappy as you were before you put in all that time and effort.
You may wonder why you even bothered. Perhaps you find yourself thinking that if this is as good as it’s going to get, you might as well go back to the way you were before. You might think that you don’t deserve any better so you resign yourself to the way things are.
Know that I am praying for you as I write this. If I were sitting next to you, I would cry with you and administer tissue and chocolate as needed.
What Can You Do?
Although you can’t make your husband change, there are some things you can do that might help ease some of your pain.
Remember that your husband’s healing is a process. Even if your time of sexual refusing and gate-keeping lasted only a few years, it was likely very painful for your husband.
- It takes time. If your efforts to change were rather recent, your husband might not believe yet that your change is real. He might be protecting himself from further hurt. I have been working on sexual intimacy for over four years now, and it has been only recently that my husband has shown signs that he fully trusts that things are different now. It take some men more time than others.
- Old habits die hard. Even after your husband completely trusts that things are different, he might continue to fall into patterns that developed in response to your years of controlling your sex life. He may not even be aware of what he is doing.
- Habits can change us. If your husband experienced sexual refusal for a long time, he might have learned to suppress his own desire to the point that he doesn’t allow himself to be aware of it. This might require some intention and effort on his part to address.
- Healing isn’t pretty. Some men experience anger and bitterness. My husband is a guy who lives in the present and doesn’t dwell on the past. He isn’t a grudge holder. Still, there was a period of time when our marriage seemed worse rather than better. As he began to believe that I’d really made some changes, he began to express some of the anger and frustration he’d kept pent up for years. Plus, he was angry that I hadn’t made these efforts earlier, when he’d first begun expressing frustration with our sex life. If your husband’s heart was damaged, he might need more time.
Communicate. Have you talked with your husband about the current state of your marriage? While good communication doesn’t guarantee change, you at least can know that you have done your job of making your husband aware of the situation.
- Make sure he knows you have changed. Have you ever told him, with words, that the sexual changes you’ve made were intentional and that you don’t plan to change back? Some husbands believe that it’s just a fluke and they don’t want to say or do anything to upset the balance out of fear things will go back the way they were.
- Have you apologized and asked his forgiveness for having hurt him in the past? Some men have said that this is an important part of their healing and their own ability to move forward.
- Have you let your husband know that you hurt with the way things are? I felt so horrible about how I’d treated my husband that this was something I really struggled with. I didn’t feel I had the right to be upset or to ask for him to work on anything.
- Is your husband a guy who wants to fix problems if you bring them to his attention? Mine is. I have found that if I phrase things as “honey, I have a problem and need some help,” he is able to hear me differently.
Address your husband’s health. If your husband’s response to your sexual changes has been practically non-existent, there might be something going on with him. I expected my husband to respond with the sexual glee of a man in his early 30’s, since that was the man I’d begun rejecting all those years ago. The reality, though, was that I was married to a man in his upper 40’s—one with high blood pressure and a host of other issues. Things don’t work the same way as they used to. The conditions below may be treated, so encourage your husband to see his doctor if you think he may be experiencing these problems.
- If your husband is experiencing ED (erectile dysfunction), he may be experiencing sadness, anger, or frustration. ED can be confusing and upsetting to some men—and he may push you away in order to avoid sex and, therefore, avoid experiencing the ED.
- Low testosterone can affect your husband’s mood in many ways. His mood might change, and he may experience a lower libido or less energy than he used to.
- Both ED and low T can lead to depression. So can a sexless marriage. If your husband experienced sexual refusal for a long time, he may be experiencing depression that stems from that.
Maintain healthy boundaries. Being a sexually generous wife does not mean that you have to drop what you’re doing and take care of your husband’s sexual needs 24/7. It also doesn’t mean that you have no right to have your needs met. Take a look at Boundaries by Cloud and Townsend or Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch (affiliate links). These books both do a good job of looking at how to care for yourself while meeting a spouse’s needs in a reasonable way. (Note: Passionate Marriage is not a Christian book; however, many Christians I know have spoken highly of it.)
Grieve. You have a right to feel disappointed that your marriage isn’t better. It is okay to feel sad to your bones that your husband isn’t more thankful, loving, understanding, or kind. Allow yourself to move through the grieving process in order to get to a point where you are able to accept the way he is without becoming bitter or withholding your sexual affection.
Pray. In both joy and sorrow, seek God.
- Pray for your husband. Pray for his healing. Pray for his heart. Pray for his Christian walk. It may be that the sexual difficulties were interfering with your husband’s faith. Now that those troubles are over, God may be hard at work on your husband even though you can’t see it happening.
- Pray for your marriage. Ask God to strengthen your marriage despite your struggle. Ask him to help you and your husband be good spouses to each other.
- Pray for yourself. Allow this experience to draw you even closer to God. What does God have to show you in this struggle? What do you experience that helps you see God’s love for you? Let yourself accept God’s comfort in this journey.
If you are a wife who has worked on sexual intimacy and finds herself in a marriage that doesn’t feel any happier than it did before, please feel free to add a comment and ask for prayers. I will pray for you, and there are some readers who will hold you in their prayers as well.
Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net