When a wife stops sexual gate-keeping and refusing, she takes a big step on a journey toward a healed marriage. She may have her own healing to do as she works through feelings of hurt, unlearns bad habits, and learns how to walk in God’s truth for marriage.

A wife isn’t the only person in her marriage. As she works on her marriage, she will do better when she thinks about what her husband is experiencing, too.

Her husband is walking his journey as his heart heals and he learns to trust again. With his consent, I’d like to share with you one piece of my husband’s journey.

The Lessons He Learned

Sexual gate-keeping and refusing send messages to our husbands. Along with “no,” “not now,” and “not like that,” they hear more subtle messages: “Your desires are wrong.” “You aren’t worthy of sexual love.” “Actions speak louder than words, so clearly I don’t really love you.” “You must earn sex.” “You cannot trust me with your sexuality or your core self.”

For so many years, I held my husband’s sins and mistakes against him as well as his healthy and godly sexual desire for me. (Paul has written about healthy and godly sexual desire at The Generous Husband.) I had standards of perfection and ways I wanted things done Every time my husband didn’t meet these expectations (and honestly, who possibly could?), I felt let down. When he didn’t express his love in a way that I would best receive it, I was hurt.

My intention was never to punish him by withholding sex—but that is exactly how it felt to him. I was so busy feeling that my husband had let me down that I couldn’t bring myself to be sexually open to him at the very time he most needed to know he was loved.

As my husband absorbed all the lessons my refusal was teaching him, he learned that when he messed up, sex would be withheld. In order to have a chance at feeling loved by his own wife, then, he learned not to share his innermost fears, self-doubt, or even the normal “oops” moments that happen throughout the day. He needed to present his best self to me, because he had learned that his authentic self wasn’t good enough.

Like many men, my husband receives love most fully through sex—so when his mistakes and sins led to no sex, what he learned was that he was unloved and unlovable.

A Guarded Heart

I recently learned that my husband didn’t tell me about an incident that occurred several weeks ago. It was a small thing and not sinful at all. When I learned about it from someone else, my first reaction was to feel hurt. (My first thought was to think of how it affected me. It highlights yet another area where I need to grow.) Why didn’t he tell me? I’m his wife! How could he not trust me, especially since it was such a small thing?

As I thought about how to talk to my husband about this, I asked God, “What did I ever do to him that made him not trust me?” God reminded me of the kind of wife I was for so many years, and I knew the answer to my own question.

He had learned his lessons well. He was responding within a template I had pounded into his heart long ago that told him I won’t love him if he makes mistakes.

Even as I thought about how I’m so different now, I have to admit that if he had told me about this incident when it took place, my response might have been more “I told you so” and less “I respect you for sharing this with me.”

If I were Big Guy, I might not have said anything to me, either. He says he didn’t tell me because he was embarrassed. He has been working hard to grow in his leadership in our marriage, and he was afraid that my knowledge about what happened might affect my view of his leadership.

My love and respect for him are not contingent on whether or not he makes mistakes—but at a gut level, he wasn’t ready to trust me not to change what I think of him. A small part of him doesn’t yet feel completely safe with me.

I clearly have more work to do on rebuilding my trustworthiness. Still, the fact that we have been able to talk about this and that he could tell me what he was thinking shows me that he is making progress on his journey of healing.


A husband’s recovery from sexual refusal and gate-keeping can take time. I have watched my husband move through stages of disbelief, tentative enjoyment of regular sexual activity, and relaxation in the fact that he no longer has to wonder if he was going to be able to have sex. He has trusted me with his sexuality enough to request some activities that we had never done and that I had shot down years earlier.

For so many men, sex is about their hearts as much as it is about another part. The wonderful chemical connections concocted through orgasm pull us deeply into their hearts. It seems as though our sexual connections with them become part of how our husbands see who they are.

A healthy and vibrant sexual relationship with his wife feeds a man’s heart. A husband who experiences celibacy or a restricted sex life because of his wife’s refusal or gate-keeping, however, has a heart that is starved. He learns to protect his heart in many ways. The constant rejection, the lack of the one way they best feel our love, the restrictions, the drama, the eye rolling, the duty sex . . . all of it hurts. Their trust in us is damaged.

My husband’s heart has more healing to do. He has un-learned most of the lessons my refusal and gate-keeping taught him about sex.

Sex, however, isn’t just about sex. The scars we leave are more than sex-deep. They’re heart-deep.

It is easy for me to wallow in my own feelings of hurt. When I step outside my own feelings, though, I can see my husband’s heart more clearly. Some of the wounds I inflicted are still in the process of healing. These wounds show me where I need to do some work on myself. My husband’s journey directs me on my own, even as we move forward together as our marriage grows.

Have you thought about how your husband’s heart has withstood the hurt you have inflicted on it? Can your husband trust you? Does he feel safe with you? What do you need to do to help this happen?

Image courtesy of digitalart /

16 Thoughts on “Rebuilding His Trust

  1. ViggoDK on June 23, 2014 at 2:17 am said:

    [FW:] “He has been working hard to grow in his leadership in our marriage, and he was afraid that my knowledge about what happened might affect my view of his leadership.”

    Do I trace a change of position compared to a year ago? I am referring to this post:

    • It isn’t a change of position as much as a confirmation that my efforts have borne fruit. Here’s what I said in that post:

      I have always been very disrespectful toward my husband, and that is the real thing I want to change. I want to create a space in which my husband can grow as a man and know that I value and respect him as a man. I want to be more comfortable in letting things go that don’t truly matter to me and save my own assertiveness and leadership for when I think it matters. I tend to be very controlling, and I want to get more comfortable with not having to be in charge of everything.

      I have worked hard on rising above my feelings and letting go of control. I have especially let go of trying to control my husband. I continue to encourage him, and I certainly let him know my opinions about things–but I have stopped trying to control. This has had the hoped-for effect of creating a space in which he can grow. He has been working hard to understand what leadership means to him as a husband. Leadership is an innate part of his personality–yet I intentionally squashed that part of him for a long time. The fact that he is thinking about this, and about how this part of him can shape who he is as a husband, is a sign that my efforts with myself have been successful.

      Honestly, I don’t know what “style” our marriage looks like. We are both in the process of growing individually, so our marriage is as well. A headship/submission marriage is less frightening to me than it once was because I have developed more trust in my husband as I have watched him strive for servant leadership. It’s still too early to know if that’s where we’re headed, though. I do know that we are both content in our marriage right now, and that in itself is quite lovely.

  2. Wow is all I can say at moment Chris. For me this is finest moment. I have not cried this hard in a very long time. This was healing for me. Thank you!

    I loved this statement the most, though it is not what got me crying:
    “For so many men, sex is about their hearts as much as it is about another part. The wonderful chemical connections concocted through orgasm pull us deeply into their hearts. It seems as though our sexual connections with them become part of how our husbands see who they are.”

  3. “A healthy and vibrant sexual relationship with his wife feeds a man’s heart. A husband who experiences celibacy or a restricted sex life because of his wife’s refusal or gate-keeping, however, has a heart that is starved. He learns to protect his heart in many ways. The constant rejection, the lack of the one way they best feel our love, the restrictions, the drama, the eye rolling, the duty sex . . . all of it hurts.”
    Yep, it does.
    Wow, just…. wow .

  4. Nunia bizness on June 28, 2014 at 10:53 am said:

    I’ve stated almost word per word some of this, to my wife many times throughout the years.
    Unfortunately, not everyone wants to work at it; some expect the fruits of labor to simply fall into the lap.
    I agree with ELOVESC , that is the statement that hits home the most for me.
    It’s been 27 years and I have never felt more distant and more alone.
    No one prepares you for this kind of loneliness.
    For instance – lying in bed at night, you can’t sleep, you’re simply listening to your spouse breath; sometimes hours pass by; You think to yourself, “Here I am again? How did I arrive to this point and scene? What unforgivable things have I done to deserve this solitary confinement for so many years with no end in sight?”

    My wife once said to me with sarcasm and disbelief, “What have I ever done to cause you not to trust ME!”
    Immediately, I’m flooded with years of betrayal. How does one describe years and years of constantly being let down within one sentence?!
    The only thing that is somewhat similar is an absentee parent.
    You were never there for me. You’ve taught me that I cannot trust you. I cannot count on you. You do not have MY best interests at heart. You’ve killed our friendship when I really wanted and needed a friend the most.

  5. Mary Bradley on July 2, 2014 at 8:55 pm said:

    In the perfect world, a wife enjoys sex as much as her husband. Since we live in a imperfect world this will happen. It is not just the wives fault. It is the husband. She is not feeling loved from him. If a wife is so disrespectful to her husband, hurts him that much, can he really desire to be intimate? I have to say no. Maybe then a husband is disrespecting his wife.

    Also, could it be she is refusing due to a physical problem? Could her husband not understand?

    Could he have a few times done something to make her not trust him?

    Many, many reasons for this and to just tell the wife to stop refusing in wrong. There is something at the root of this, just like what they are arguing is not really the problem.

    • I have written a lot about the reasons behind sexual refusal. One of my big reasons was what I saw as my husband’s emotional refusal toward me. I believe that in many marriages, one person’s efforts to change himself or herself can lead toward a changed marriage.

      It is not a simple matter to stop refusing. It took a whole lot of work on my part and resulted in me really grappling with some things about myself. It was hard. Part of my growth process was forgiving my husband for the hurts he had caused. Until I could forgive, I still blamed him for my actions and words.

      Ideally, both spouses are going to work on themselves and be generous toward each other. However, I have come to believe that we each should do what God calls us to do as husband or wife regardless of a spouse’s behavior. My husband should not have to earn sex by meeting my emotional needs, and I should not have to earn emotional connection by meeting his sexual needs.

      Read around here for a bit. (If I can figure out how to grab the link with my phone, I’ll link you to a section that might be a good place to start.) You will see that I spent a lot of years stuck by all the reasons I struggled to trust my husband. I was as miserable and as lonely as he was.

      With this particular post, though, it doesn’t even matter why the refusal had happened. No matter why a wife refuses (perhaps with the exceptions of physical problems, domestic violence, or childhood sexual abuse), a man is still going to feel hurt. This post addresses his process of healing after the refusal has ended. For wives who have decided to stop refusing, it is important to remember that our husbands need time to recover from the pain we caused.

    • Mary, I want to give you a few links to take a look at. If you go to the New to this blog? section at the top of this page, click on the You Are Not Alone and Understanding the Roots of Refusal section. The posts listed there might come across a bit more gently than this one.

      I would like to invite you to read The Sorrow of a Refusing Wife. This post addresses the experience of the wife who turns her husband down for sex.

      A problem in the relationship is rarely the fault of just one person–but one person’s efforts just might be enough to start the road to recovery for that relationship.

      • Mary Bradley on July 3, 2014 at 6:43 pm said:

        I can understand a husband not trusting if his wife seriously withheld sex to punish him or maybe hurt for no real reason.

        But like you said, it can be for valid reasons. And, if those are resolved, it will take time for her to trust him with his response.

        I believe the hurt, lack of love and trusting go both ways. There are times it is clearly because of the wife. Then it is the husband, either things he is doing or say; or his reaction to a valid reason for her.

        I believe husbands and wives have expectations that lead to this problem. But with prayer, reading the God it can become the perfect union.

  6. LLovesA on July 2, 2014 at 9:19 pm said:

    Thanks for this post. Apparently “this guy reader” has a LOT of issues along these lines. My wife and I have had an active sex life all our marriage, but… for at least 20 years it was all “duty” for her; in the dark, literally in the dark. Nothing to look at, nothing to visually enjoy, and little experimentation. If there’s nothing to look at one is tempted to invent images to fill in the gaps, and you can read into that as much as you like. Her hiding herself as she undressed plus the incredible rejection during her “periods”. Obviously a no-sex time for her, but also no other physical-ish stuff; no real kissing, and definitely “nothing” for me. Sex is addicting (like cocaine), and quitting cold-turkey is more than mental, it’s physical. And stated or not rejection is rejection – how can it not be about who/what I am? At the 20-ish year point the Holy Spirit was working on me and I had a “moment” and made an enormous confessions about sin, etc I’d held pent up and never told her. That began a huge healing and a massive change in our relationship, but… on her side she told me about some of the ways I’d made her feel in the past (“rag doll” came up) and today the images of what I have done haunt me. Granted things are better, and she’s a “massive” initiator now if you get what I mean, and sex is obviously better for her, but I’m in tears over the post above. I read blogs like this so I can try and be a better man, but I don’t sense or see the same “search” on her side. It’s a trust thing, and I can feel it. She hasn’t trusted me, I haven’t trusted her – and that has caused some reactionary behavior in me that is not helping things at all – solitary confinement indeed. I have to close these kinds of sites when she “checks up” on what I’m doing on the computer. Why does she make me feel ashamed for trying to be better? And I still was responsible for her going “rag doll” on me… I guess I’ve not heard an “I forgive you” to my “I’m soooooooo sorry.”

    • “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” are important things to say and hear. I’m curious, though–if a marriage blog were left open on your computer, how would she respond?

      It can take a while (even several years) after healing has begun before trust is rebuilt. I have been working on this for more than 3 1/2 years, and my husband’s trust in me is not yet complete. Sometimes, it also takes this time for the other spouse to decide to work on growing as well.

  7. Pingback: Milestones | The Forgiven Wife

  8. I’m so used to blogs about regaining trust being focused on the husband rebuilding after his porn or affair that I was surprised to see it was about the wife rebuilding after waging an extended period of sexual dearth or worse, grudging sex on her husband! It’s true-a husband could feel feel unworthy of love, or that sex is a reward for performance. Thanks for the article!

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