"I was stuck reliving one hurt over and over again until I figured out how to let it go. "

When we’d been married about ten years, we had a season in life in which I needed an extra dose of Big Guy’s emotional support and he didn’t provide it. (I wrote about some of it here.)

My attempts to talk with him about it resulted in his verbal dismissal of my feelings—so I stopped.

I stopped trying to talk with him about it. I stopped sharing anything with him that would involve my heart. I stopped being vulnerable with him—and that included really participating in sex.

My season of “no” had begun.

Several years later, in one of our more open conversations about our sex life, he asked me if I knew what had happened to make me so resistant to sex. I felt like I was taking a big risk, but I told him. Then I asked him to help me deal with my feelings.

He didn’t apologize for having hurt me. He didn’t even acknowledge my feelings in any way. His response was to tell me it was in the past, it was my problem to deal with, and I should just get over it.

My mind was flooded with words I wanted to say but couldn’t: Talking to you is how I was trying to get over it, but you just dismissed me. I’m reaching out and asking you to love me enough to help me, and you don’t. Why would I want to work on anything just so you could have more sex when you don’t even love me? Every time you dismiss my feelings, it piles on to the memories that I’m already struggling with. There’s a giant snowball rolling down the hill, picking up more snow and getting bigger and bigger. I’m begging you to help me stop it, but you’re abandoning me at the bottom of the hill to deal with it all alone. Why don’t you love me enough to help me?

My heart was horribly bruised. Trust was hard for me anyway, and my husband had just shown me that he could not be trusted with my heart.

Heart-broken, the very thought of sex with my husband made me feel unloved and abandoned.

I felt like that for quite a few years.

 ~ ~ ~

Choosing to let this go was an important decision I made in working toward a healed marriage.

Eventually, Big Guy did hear me and apologize. I understand now that his responses grew out of his own feelings about having put me in the situation in the first place. At the time, though, it felt awful.

I was trying to move forward but got stuck in a loop that sent me back to the original pain and compounded it. I was stuck in an endless Groundhog Day, only instead of reliving one day until I got it right, I was stuck reliving one hurt over and over again until I figured out how to let it go.

I’ve heard many men say about their wives, “I don’t get it. Why is she still upset about something that happened so long ago? I’m not like that anymore. Why can’t she just let it go?”

Every time I hear that, I recall the bruising my own heart experienced when my husband told me the same thing.

The memory no longer causes me pain—but I haven’t forgotten the pain that I felt time and again when I thought about it.

~ ~ ~

Do you struggle to let something go from earlier in your marriage? Do you find yourself stuck in a loop that goes back to a hurt from long ago?

I think this happens with a lot of us. Sometimes, it is a hurt that grew from a conversation or event that a husband doesn’t even remember.

You can stay stuck until you figure out how to move forward past that hurt. How can you do this?

  • Reach out to God. Let Him carry you through your healing. Ask Him to help you let go of the hold this memory has on you in your marriage.
  • Give yourself permission to have your feelings in order to let them go. Sometimes we feel guilt about feeling how we do. We might be thinking about how we think we’re supposed to feel, and our guilt or shame about feeling a different way becomes part of the burden we need to let go.
  • Try to understand your husband’s point of view. Why did he do or say what he did? Did he speak out of his own hurt or insecurity? Did he do something that was a sinful response to something you did? Your husband is just as human as you, and maybe the fact is that he was a jerk or he messed up big time. Is he still that same person anymore, or has he grown since then?
  • Use God’s truth to counter your feelings. When I thought about feeling abandoned, not even worth my husband’s attention in dealing with feelings caused by his actions, I reminded myself that God will always be with me, even if my husband isn’t. As I thought about the deep emotions elicited by the difficult memory, I tried to think about them as lies from the enemy. I learned to silence them by speaking God’s truth. (It’s a process that I describe in this post.)
  • Ask your husband for support. This won’t work in every marriage. However, if you are able to find a calm time when you can explain that you are struggling to let go of a hurt, you can ask your husband to pray for you.
  • Write a letter that you won’t send. I wrote my husband a letter that explained everything I’d been feeling and why I hadn’t let it go. The process of writing was therapeutic. Naming my feelings, describing what my experience was like, and saying what I wished he would do was critical in breaking the cycle of looping back to the hurt. It was the first time I really got it all out there. I took the letter to our compost pile and prayed that my hurt would get transformed into something that could nurture our marriage, just like my kitchen scraps would get transformed into something that would nurture the garden in the future. You could also burn what you’ve written or delete everything from the screen.
  • Focus on the present reality. I have a friend who was deeply hurt by discovering her husband’s porn stash years ago. Even after he had been through counseling and had worked hard to get past his porn addiction, she still viewed him as a porn addict who’d hurt her. He had repented and had changed, but she still treated him as the man he had stopped being over a decade earlier. Pay attention to ways your husband has grown and focus on who is he now rather than who he used to be. Likewise, you are not the same woman as you were when you experienced that hurt.
  • Seek professional or pastoral counseling. Sometimes we just need someone else to walk alongside us. Counseling can help us develop a new perspective on our feelings and give us new strategies for dealing with those feelings as they arise.

Being stuck in a never-ending loop of hurt isn’t good for you or for your marriage. Instead of reliving that hurt time and time again, isn’t it time to break the cycle and work toward healing?

Image courtesy of Danilo Rizzuti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

6 Thoughts on “Stuck in a Loop

  1. Hi Chris,
    I usually don’t read here, because I (the wife) am the one who is often rejected. And it’s too painful for me to read about all the lovely wives who are desired by their husbands and can’t seem to see that as a blessing. Oh how I looooong for him to find me desirable. Anyhow, that’s not my point. Something led me here today, and I’m glad. This post really hit home for me. I am stuck, we are talking stuck in concrete stuck. My husband did have some issues that caused him to reject me. I guess he is trying to change, but the hurt has run so deep that I am stuck with the idea that he finds me repulsive and that any other woman on earth would be more desirable to him. What man doesn’t want to have sex with his willing wife? It has caused many painful stuck like glue scars.
    He keeps being all sweet, and trying to change, but honestly the fact that he has to try is just as painful. Lovemaking should be love, not effort. So I am at the point where although he seems repentant and constantly claims he loves me and thinks I’m beautiful, it’s just become too hard. My season of “no” is beginning. I know this isn’t the best way to go, but I am so tired, beat down, and completely dejected.
    I hope wives (and husbands) realize the lasting pain their rejection can cause. I hope they will realize that it’s like having your heart ripped out and stomped into the muddy ground while the person you gave your heart to proves how incredibly worthless you are.
    Back to the post though, it’s a good one. I’d like to reread it a few times and see if I can start to let go.

    • B, it is so hard for sexually rejected wives. On top of the pain, you’re bucking a stereotype and have to see so many other women rejecting what you yearn for. I am sorry.

      Change is a process. It can take time, and sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back. As hard as it is to believe, my guess is that your husband’s issues have more to do with him than with you. The fact that he has to try is because he has been stuck in his own hurt from the past and he’s trying to get unstuck. As much as you can, accept your husband’s effort as a sign of his love for you. Each sexual encounter becomes an opportunity for healing–for both of you.

      Spent lots of time in prayer for your own heart to heal, even as your husband continues his own efforts.

      I will pray for you.

  2. Heavy heart on December 30, 2014 at 2:47 pm said:

    I still haven’t gotten used to sex over 12 years now. I want to and I’ve been praying for help and trusting when the moment comes God will give me the grace to get through it. There was times in the past I would count how many times I would need to have sex to keep him healthy. I’ve changed a lot of things with God’s help comparing growth from this past year. The question I have Chris is why does it take so long to get it right? Not that we achieve here on earth, but to a place were you’re at. Satisfied with sex. I would like to work on other areas but my husband almost can be my idol. What he needs, wants, expects, desires, and the list goes on. I know I’m his helper and I feel the burden of change more right now.
    Thanks for posting these they’ve been helpful. I’m on month 5 or 6 (can’t remember) after asking God and my husband for forgiveness and turning it over to be a doer!

    • I don’t know why it can take so long. Although I can pinpoint the moment when my change began, I suspect it had begun years earlier as I heard and read things that, over time, softened my heart to prepare me for that moment. It takes time to break old habits and build new ones, and the same goes for ways of thinking. So much of the growth is internal.

      Have you told your husband that you would like to work on other areas in addition to sex? It might help to reassure him that working on something else doesn’t mean you’re stopping what you’re doing with sexual intimacy. You can work on more than one area at a time, after all. 🙂

      Why do you think you are feeling the burden of change right now? About six months into my journey, it became a little harder for me because that’s when my husband began to believe that the change was real. He began to finally feel safe in expressing some things to me, and he unleashed years of pent-up frustration at me. Although a lot of our sexual tension had dissipated, things were not easy.

      Keep at it, be patient with yourself, and know that you are doing the right thing.

      Bless you!

      • Heavy Heart on January 1, 2015 at 6:34 am said:

        I’m more sad about the slow progress in myself. I want to please God by giving myself to my husband, but I have to battle a lot of thoughts before it comes down to it. I pray ” God please give me the desire to be with my
        Husband”, ” I’m trusting God you will give me the Grace to do the things I don’t feel like doing”, “God you made everything good, and I have faith in that”, ” God you gave me this husband because you love me and take care of me through him”
        You are right about old habits, and changing them one moment at a time, and that’s the slow progress I’m taking now.
        He has old habits to, and when I’ve become more obedient in this area I’ve noticed more problems in him. I thought it was all me, but its been a revealing experience.
        I can’t help but focus on all his problems and shortcomings, and its getting my thoughts right with God about my husband. I was so focused on avoiding sex that now I’ve come at head on and this can of worms is now open. Does this make sense?

        • Yeah, it makes sense. We think progress should be clear steps, leading one direction and a logical fashion. The reality, though, is that growth is often messy. Stay focused on God and what you should be doing, and know that God can work on your husband without your help. 🙂 I found that as my husband began to feel safer in our marriage, he was more willing to see the areas where he needed to grow.

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