The mission of this blog is to support women, so that is who I think of as my readers. I sit and write and imagine that on the other side of this screen are women who are trying to make some changes in their sexual relationships with their husbands. I speak with a woman’s heart, and I try to speak in words that women can hear.
I’m not sure what to do with the fact that about half the email and comments I get are from husbands who want to know what they can do to get their wives make the changes I’ve started to make in my own marriage. I’ve asked my husband if there was anything he had changed—in his attitude, his prayer life, anything—that had preceded our increase in sexual frequency. He could think of nothing other than the fact that he had begun to resign himself to a sexless marriage for the rest of his life.
Today I received an email from a husband asking me what advice I would give to his wife. I’m not sure his wife is at a point where she is ready for this advice, but I’ve been thinking about what I would say—all of it grounded in some of the hard lessons I’ve learned since I began this journey
The first step of any journey is the hardest. Although I’d been married for almost twenty years and I’d had no problems with sex as a newlywed, when I began to make an effort to change, I honestly had no idea how to do some of the things that were needed: let my husband hug me, get undressed in front of him, touch his penis, give oral sex, initiate sexual activity. Every time I was intentional about doing each of these things as I began this journey, I had to think through, step by step, what to do. I had to take lots of deep breaths. I had to constantly remind myself that sex was important in marriage. I had to retrain my brain.
Be patient with yourself. You may be surprised at just how hard some of this is. You may be terrified. Some of the steps you take may take you days, weeks, or months to accomplish. Celebrate each small step, even while you try to make big strides.
Learning how much you’ve hurt someone is awful. As I got started reading blogs and online forums, my husband’s anguish began to take shape for me. I remember sitting on the living room couch one morning. I was reading posts from refused husbands and wives about how unloved they felt by the one person who they thought would love them the most. I read one comment from a woman who described something so vividly that I could imagine I was her, just for a second. And as I imagined this, I felt like my gut had been punched in. I sobbed—the kinds of sobs that shake a body and rattle a soul and leave you with nothing left to tackle the rest of the day. I prayed a prayer of such anguish. It took me days to really even process the realization of how I’d abandoned my husband. It’s one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had.
Really owning this will not be easy. If you have someone in your real life to talk with about this, do it. I didn’t. Part of my sexual refusal was tied up in anger at my husband and at God, and I had pulled myself away from a faith community. I doubt that I would have shared the specifics about my sin with another person, but it would have been so encouraging to be able to say to someone, “I’ve really messed up how I’ve treated my husband, and I need some prayers for courage and persistence.” Someone with a shoulder to cry on, a cup of coffee, and a commitment to check in with my progress would have made the burden of change more bearable.
Marriage is not just about my covenant with my husband; it is also about my covenant with God. My call to be a good wife is not about what my husband deserves or about what I owe him; it is about my own journey to be who God has called me to be. My husband is on his own journey with God, too, and I cannot expect perfection from him any more than he can expect it from me.
My best advice in working on your marriage is to work on your relationship with God. How is your own faith walk? As I rekindled my relationship with God, I found it easier to tackle the hard stuff. I had more courage. I found more comfort. I had a greater sense of rightness and purpose.
There’s no guaranteed formula for changing intimacy in a marriage, but if you start with these things, you’ll be ready to do the work that is needed:
- Expect it to be harder than you think.
- Own your own sins.
- Spend time with God.
If you have made some of this same journey, what advice would you offer to wives just getting started? Leave a reply to share your own lessons and advice.