My husband and I have made amazing strides in approaching the intimacy in our marriage. I have worked very hard and intentionally and have seen significant growth—but I am still on a journey like many other women. My path is rocky in places. There are times I walk around a bend and find something unexpected or confusing. Sometimes I wander in circles and end up back where I was before. Every step of the way is an opportunity for more growth.

The Resentful Heart

About six weeks ago, after Valentine’s Day didn’t go the way I had wanted it to, I had a few days of feeling resentful. I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got out my phone and was reading on various sites what other men had done for their wives for Valentine’s Day. I found myself feeling bad that Big Guy wouldn’t think to do such romantic things for me.

Then I found myself thinking that he would do those things, with no consideration as to whether I would actually enjoy them. Then I realized that I was crying in the middle of the night over a stupid holiday. My husband woke up and asked me why I was crying and I told him it was because Valentine’s Day wasn’t very good–all because I’d had expectations that I hadn’t even communicated to him and because I was comparing him to other husbands.

The resentment stayed with me so much that the next time my husband made a sexual advance, I thought about saying “no.” (I didn’t do it, but I thought about it—and I had to fight hard to get myself to engage sexually.)

For the most part, I have learned to control my feelings (rather than them controlling me), and my husband has become a good partner in this when needed. We communicate more thoughtfully and respectfully now, and our intimacy has been deepening in all ways. But I let myself be so thrown by my momentary desire to say “no” that I didn’t bother to identify or work on my own issues.

In fact, I managed to completely forget that I’d been feeling resentful—until last week.

I am wearing something sexy and flowing that highlights body parts I like and hides the rest. He twirls me around to admire me. He slowly reaches out and . . .

. . . I wake up. One morning last week, before my eyelids were even open, my mind was filled with images of things my husband will likely never do—romantic gestures, things that I desire him to do to help me feel cherished, words it won’t occur to him to say.

Without a doubt, I know my husband loves me. Deep romance is there. My husband loves me more than he loves anyone else. He loves me far more than I deserve. I am special to him.

So why was I letting myself be all worked up over the surface stuff? Why was I wiping tears away before I even got out of bed?

Selfish eyes

With a resentful heart, I began to think of all the things I have done to grow in intimacy with my husband, taking credit for everything. I fixed our sex life. I made plans to prepare for some of our sexual encounters: I knitted a boa, I looked up and practiced burlesque moves, I bought throat-numbing spray and chocolate syrup to help me with oral sex, and I did a bunch of other things that I’m not going to share here. I thought about how often we approach sex in the way he wants rather than how I want.

Lying there in bed, I couldn’t think of a single thing he’d contributed. (I allowed myself to ignore the smell of the coffee my husband was brewing for me.) I took full credit, in my resentful heart, for every single thing that makes our marriage work. Any negative stuff was heaped on my husband’s shoulders. I couldn’t seem to find any unselfish way to see things.

My resentful heart started to ache. The thought, “I suppose he’s going to want sex tonight” popped into my head, along with a sigh on my part.

I don’t like feeling this way—yet I know this was how I felt for so many years. My past, major events in our lives, and this frequent feeling of resentment constructed the bricks and stones I had used to build the walls around my heart.

My work is not done

It’s easy for me to be smug some days and think I have this whole marriage thing figured out. I look at where we were and where we are, and I know that we are miles away from where we used to be. I read about other people’s marriages, and I sometimes pat myself on the back for how far we’ve come. I hear about marriage troubles and allow myself to think, “Well, at least that won’t happen to us.” I get emails from readers saying they hope they get to where I am in my marriage, and I delude myself into thinking my work is done and that I’ve somehow arrived at The Place Where Marriage Is Perfect.

My husband and I—both of us—are working hard on the spiritual component of our relationship. We are working on serving each other, even when we don’t feel much like it. We are both learning and working.

But I know, all too well, that we are still a work in progress—that I am still a work in progress.

Surface stuff?

That afternoon, after I awoke to my own tears, I spent some time with God trying to hear His wisdom and cleanse my heart of the resentment it had dragged around all day—and for several weeks.

God, why is this stuff bugging me right now? And what does it mean that this surface stuff is what’s getting to me?

When my kids were little, sometimes I would see them learn a new skill—one that was a milestone and potential game changer. They would learn the skill, be all excited about it, and then . . . revert back to an earlier stage of development for a few days. When my daughter learned to use the toilet, she paraded her accomplishment for two days—and then spent a week insisting on using her diaper. She sensed the immensity of the change she was experiencing. One of my sons learned to walk—and then went back to crawling for a few days. It was almost as if their minds needed to catch up with what their bodies had learned to do.

Over the past months, my husband and I have grown so much in intimacy. Sometimes I’ve sensed that we’re on the verge of a whole new version of us. We have reached a new place in our marriage, and my mind just hasn’t gotten caught up to the reality of it yet. I think I might even be a little afraid of this new level of intimacy in our marriage.

This stuff is bugging me now because I haven’t dealt with it yet. Maybe God wants me to take care of all this stuff in order for me to be prepared for what He has next for me. And maybe God was telling me I was getting too smug.

I thought about the specific images that I awoke to. I thought about the things that had bothered me after Valentine’s Day. Every single gesture, move, and phrase on my mind was something that would fill an emotional need (read, insecurity) I have—my need to feel special, to be noticed, to be beautiful.

God pointed out to me that I was unfairly placing the burden for meeting these needs on my husband. I was resenting my husband for not being everything to me.

God spoke to my heart. You are special. I see you. You are beautiful. Come to me. The words drifted in during my prayer. I knew that I needed to change my expectations that my husband will fill all these needs. These insecurities and emotional needs are things I should be taking to God, not to my husband. I asked God to pull me closer to Him and to help me not hold my husband to expectations that he can’t possibly meet.

I had awakened unhappy with my husband, thinking he had some work to do. God showed me how wrong I was.

The areas where I was unhappy with my husband do not point to things he needs to work on. Rather, my resentment points to areas where I need to do some work.

My own selfishness and fear were responsible for my resentment, not my husband. My resentment showed me where I need to work on my Christian walk.

On the surface, I was upset about things my husband may or may not ever do. I was upset about images in my mind as I awoke. The emotional responses I have to things said and unsaid, done and undone, show me absolutely nothing about Big Guy. My emotional responses show me the areas where I need to cling to God.

The surface stuff wasn’t just surface stuff at all. It was a guide to the deep stuff I still need to tackle—and an important reminder that I continue on a journey.

It bugs me that I still struggle sometimes. I need to remember, though, that each struggle is an opportunity for growth in my relationship with God. Each struggle may look like one thing on the surface, but that’s just like the tip of the iceberg. Deep beneath the surface, there is so much more. The deep stuff is about my yearning for God.

What are the struggles in your own heart as you consider your marriage? What is the deep stuff these struggles point you to? Do you expect your husband to meet the needs that you should take to God?


20 Thoughts on “The Deep Stuff

  1. Lori Byerly on April 1, 2014 at 5:26 pm said:

    It’s so important to know our sweeties for who they are. They really do love us … just in their own way. I know when I expect Paul to be someone he’s not and love/romance me in a way that is foreign to him, I’m setting myself up for disappointment. And, like you, I figured out the hurt was really more about me than him.

    • It’s such an important lesson (that I thought I had learned already). Not only am I setting myself up for disappointment when I expect my husband to be who he’s not, I miss out on all the wonderful ways that he does show his love for me.

  2. trixie1466 on April 1, 2014 at 5:27 pm said:

    I just love how honest you are in sharing all this with us. Thanks for the reminder that my resentment is my problem and says very little to nothing about my husband!

    I see your humble heart here and it’s lovely!

  3. “For the most part, I have learned to control my feelings…”

    Always the place to start, but as you are learning God wants to take us further.

    Praying for you on this painful but exciting journey!

    • Every time I obey God, I am blessed beyond my imagination. (This blog, in fact, is an act of obedience.) Mostly, it is painful when I ignore things to the point where God has to get my attention.

  4. I’m wondering if you’ve had the opportunity to share specific desires with your husband? Have you been able to share with him how those romantic acts would make you feel, and what they mean to you?

    I ask out of my own experience — once I understood exactly what my husband was asking of me sexually, and how fulfilling those specific sexual desires that he had would make him feel, I became much more willing. We had to talk feelings, not just desires.

    And on the flip side, once I became very specific with my husband about exactly what he could do that would feel romantic to me and the sweet affect it would have on my heart, he was more than willing. He just lacked the creativity to think up romantic ideas on his own. I had to spell it out for him.

    • I have shared some of these things with my husband. His response is often that he can’t do certain things or doesn’t think in a certain way. However, I usually notice that he does make an attempt at trying to do them. Frequently, I think the problem is that he doesn’t understand what I mean and he hesitates to ask questions. I taught him over a period of years that I couldn’t be trusted with his feelings, and asking questions (especially about something he knows I have feelings about) is still shaky ground. This is an area where we are working on our communication. I need to work on sharing my desires for romance in ways that don’t imply that what he is doing is wrong. Just tonight, for instance, he ordered a pizza with my favorite set of toppings. The fact that he remembered touches me, and I love that he was thinking of me when he placed our pizza order.

      • Yes, very sweet that he ordered your favorite!

        One Christmas, years ago, my husband asked me to provide him with my “wish list”. He explained that was his desire to be able to bless me with gifts that he knew I would like rather than try to guess what I would like. Even though it felt a little goofy at first, I made the list. I put a range of items on there… anything from kitchen utensils (might not seem romantic to some, but I love to cook!), to specific pieces of costume jewelry, to specific books, to tickets for a musical, to chocolate. Several times a year, I update the running list. It gives him lots of things to choose from if he ever wants to bless me with a “surprise” gift. Per his request, I also put together a list of dates that I would like to go on with him… shows I’d like to see, new restaurants I’d like to try, towns I’d like to explore, etc. Again, a running list, that I update several times a year. It’s a little work for me, but it helps him not to get hung up by fear of failure. And you know, over the years he’s come to know my “taste” enough, that although he still asks me to provide him with my lists, sometimes he takes a risk and does something on his own. 🙂

        What if you made a “Romantic Wish List”?? And maybe you could ask your husband to make one too, of things that you can do for him that he would enjoy??

  5. We see in people what we train ourselves to see.

    Every word of theirs and every action could be seen as a blessing or insult, depending on how you situate yourself and your perspective.

    Nearly everything we do in life requires practice, from learning to tie our own shoes to becoming a professional at work. Relationships are not an exception to this.

    Learning to see the best in others’ actions requires practice and discipline.

    We cannot allow our perceptions of others to be guided by rogue emotions any more than you would allow rogue emotions to control your decisions in the workplace.

    Modern American “romance culture” has given many people the idea that there are areas in our life where emotions may be given free reign to drive us and our mood in whatever direction they will.

    For the unbeliever, this is an option. For the Christian, we are required to “take every thought captive”. And never forget that Eve did not get the idea to eat the fruit on her own – an idea from the serpent was what started the whole thing.

    None of us are immune from having something in ourselves that must be mastered: wrath, lust, envy, self-pity, etc. The key is recognizing when your “button” is being pressed and rejecting the though instead of inviting it in for tea and gossip.

  6. Thank you for risking in being so vulnerable. Your words resonate and are an encouragement.
    It is amazing how big a case we can construct in our minds against our spouse., so that there is no way they can measure up to our expectations. It is just as easy to leave these unchecked and not challenge our thinking so it continues to cloud our perception. I am thankful that God is gentle in helping us work these times out, in order to reflect the grace we have received, to our spouse.
    Really appreciate your sharing.

  7. I can certainly identify with your feelings regarding your husband not fulfilling your ‘list’ if you will, of things that would make him a perfect romantic hero. I think I am married to that man myself. And being a sucker for abuse, I guess I fall into that funk again and again thinking that he doesn’t love me if he can’t do the things that I need to make me feel special, after all, I try and meet his needs. I end up swinging from the extreme that I am not worth of these gifts, then to I must be just a fool for desiring such treatment in the first place, and then believing that my husband is just a big stoop!
    And I agree that we should always trun to God to help us see what is important, to remind us what we have to be thankful for (b/c somewhere in this world, someone else always has it much worse then I) and to ask God to give me the tools to overcome my disappointment and resentment. But here is the thing. My needs, wish list or deeps desires do not disappear just as my husbands needs and desires do not disappear, no matter how long you have made amazing changes, no matter who the gatekeeper was in the marriage (yeah, that would be me in mine).
    But iI am still looking the the balm tto soothe this problem that has festered in my marriage. I try and approach it from every possible angle with many different answers, to no avail and all in vain and thus begins the cycle again of I don’t deserve it to he doesn’t love me to wondering if I am just an idiot and sucker for abuse.

    • If what you’re experiencing is truly abuse (either physical or emotional), then know that you have every right and need for safety. Put yourself in a safe place first, and then get help for your marriage.

      What I find is that my deepest emotional desires are filled by God when I ask them to be. That doesn’t remove my desire for certain kinds of romantic gestures from my husband. It does mean, however, that I handle the lack differently. I’ve also noticed something else. When I express a desire to my husband and the need component is out of the picture (because the need is met by God), I am able to present the desire to my husband quite differently–and sometimes he is more amenable to it.

      There was something sexual that I asked my husband to consider a few months ago. At that time, I could see that part of that desire was from an emotional need. I presented it more as “I need this,” and since his initial response was negative, he immediately felt that he was failing me somehow. As I began to take that emotional need to God, I was able to present it quite differently. A few weeks ago, I expressed the same desire, and I was able to say that I thought it sounded erotic and explained why the timing and act would be “hot” to me. Because my need was no longer there, my husband was able to hear it just as a desire and not a “do this or else you’re failing your wife” kind of thing. And he worked up the nerve to try it And while he didn’t love it, he will do it again. (And I was right. It was totally hot!)

      We are worthy of the gifts whether or not our husbands are able to give them. When it is a desire rather than a need, though, it is easier to see a husband’s heart.

      • Apologies first. I did not mean to imply that I am abused. The only person who ‘abuses’ me is myself (mentally) as I go through the same routine time and time again about being deserving/not deserving, am crazy for having a particular need/not crazy for having needs, etc. Sometimes the degree of my self-loathing can do the most damage. Get the picture? No, I am not abused but I do struggle with disappointment at not having my needs/expectations met by my husband. This has been a contention for some time, each if us taking turns at feeling let down by the other.
        And complaining about it only makes me appear selfish and self-centered. I blessed beyond measure, in all things. It makes my whining seem like small potatoes here. But I do still feel loads of disappointment when my husband has not/will not/cannot meet my desires and expectations. And sometimes that disappointment is very difficult to deal with.

  8. Thank you so much for clarifying about abuse. Once we repent of the sin of refusal, we need to let go of the burden. This includes putting away the idea that we are undeserving. It can be hard to do, though. When I pray sincerely for God to help me with my disappointment, He does. Sometimes, though, my prayer is not as it should be–or I don’t see what God sends to help me deal with the disappointment.

  9. IntimacySeeker on April 2, 2014 at 2:25 pm said:

    I relate especially to your comment about feeling you are the one who has done all the work. Sometimes I feel I am running a race trying to make up for all the opportunities for intimacy we missed over the years. I wonder if our current state, which could be described as “absence of sexual frustration for my husband”, is as good as it will ever get. Julie at speaks of “soul drenching connection” and I can’t begin to imagine how that feels. There have been little jewels in conversation with my husband, and these I treasure dearly.
    It does help to look at a year’s progress and see how God has blessed us along our journey. I am coming up on a year myself–perhaps an inventory is in order.

    • I wasn’t able to truly see change until about a year into my journey. I love Julie’s expression, and it is something that we do experience now at times. It took a while to get there, and it was completely worthwhile.

  10. I recently found your blog and am going through posts.This post really spoke to me. My husband and I have a long story, but where we are now is confusing me. I have not been a very respectful wife in the 8 years we’ve been married and I’ve rejected him sexually at times. I didn’t think it was that much, but in his mind it was. He has had an affair but thats been 6 years. I’ve only recently seen my sin of disrespect as sin. My husband struggles with feelings of worthlessness, that he can’t be forgiven, shame, etc. Starting in Jan, these feelings escalated and he became depressed and pushed me away like he never has before. He told me didn’t want to have sex with me anymore and he hardly has any physical contact with me with the exception that he will cuddle me while we sleep. Since Jan, the only intimacy we’ve had is in the middle of the night, he would start initiating with me. I wanted to turn him down bc of how emotionally cut off he was, but I knew that wouldn’t help and I was greatly desiring feeling close to him in that way. We’ve had oral sex maybe 6 times and sex 2 times since Jan. 1st when he told me he no longer wanted to be with me. Maybe the quantity isn’t terrible, but I feel so weird that he will only do it when I’m half asleep and he wakes me up in the middle of the night. There’s not much a connection and then he doesn’t really have any physical contact of any kind any other time. I feel kind of used. I don’t know what to think about it all. Should I just be okay with the fact that he is initiating?

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