one_person

My initial impetus for pursuing a change in how I approached sexual intimacy was selfish: my husband was depressed, and sex was the only thing I could think of that had a chance of making him easier to live with.

Once I realized that my control over our sex life had been hurting him, my goal was no longer to change him. My goal was to be a better wife sexually.

Why Change?

Women who decide they need to make similar changes do so for different reasons: they are convicted that they have been sinning, a barrier has disappeared and they wonder why they’ve been making such a fuss about sex all this time, they are worn down by the unhappiness in their marriage or the fighting about sex, or they’ve had a wake-up call with a husband’s words or actions.

Sometimes, though, women make changes in order to change their husbands. Although this was my starting point, once I actually began making changes, this was behind me.

In two months, it will have been four years since I began to make my changes—four years in which I have learned to say “yes” rather than “no,” come to want sex for my own sake and not just as a form of generosity to my husband, faced my own sins and sorrows, knocked down the walls I’ve had up against my husband, and submitted to God (finally).

Had I been waiting for feedback or a similar change from my husband to determine whether I was on the right track, I would have stopped my efforts after about a month.

It is tempting to make our own efforts contingent on another person’s response. After all, a response can give us positive feedback and fill us with warm fuzzies that encourage us to keep going. A spouse’s efforts can help us feel like what we’re doing is worth the effort.

The problem with this is that if we don’t get this positive feedback, it is easy to justify discontinuing our efforts. “It’s not working” leads us to “I already tried and it didn’t make a difference, so I’m obviously not the problem.”

Changing yourself with expectations for someone else’s behavior is a recipe for disappointment.

Change yourself because it is the right thing to do, because you want to be the wife God calls you to be and the wife your husband needs, because you want your marriage to be better—but don’t change because you want your husband to change, too.

Change because you want yourself to do and be better.

When One Person Changes

I changed myself, and that led to a different version of my marriage:

  • The biggest problem between us was no longer an issue. My husband no longer had to wonder when he would have sex again, so he was able to let go of his anxiety and frustration about that.
  • My husband’s baseline of tension was much lower. Whereas in the past, it would take very little to upset him, he became less likely to get upset. Not only was he no longer anxious about sex, he was experiencing the physical and mental benefits of regular sexual activity.
  • My stress was lower. I no longer dreaded the tension of wondering if my husband would ask for sex and how I would respond.
  • Having more sex was good for me physically and mentally.
  • The emotional intimacy between my husband and me began to grow as we spent more time with each other.

Changing yourself can change your marriage.

These changes were enough to make our marriage substantially and noticeably different. Our kids noticed. Our relatives noticed. Our friends noticed.

Just one person has the power to make a marriage better.

But Wait . . . There’s More!

I was thrilled with the effects of my change on my marriage. Even if I hadn’t continued growing after we began to experience these benefits, we would both be content. I changed in order to be and do better, and I was reaping the harvest of my effort. It was enough.

For nearly three years after I began my journey, my husband changed only to the extent that he no longer faced the same situations..

A year ago, however, I began The Respect Dare. In an early post about it, I explained my reasoning:

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 didn’t expect my husband to change as a result of my efforts. I didn’t expect that he would grow—but I wanted to make sure that if he wasn’t growing, it wasn’t because I was in the way. So I worked hard on the Respect Dare, saw my relationship with Christ transformed through the process, and began to pray for my husband’s own Christian walk—for his sake rather than for my own.

I stayed out of my husband’s way . . . and he began to work on himself.

Over the past six months, he has worked hard to be a better husband. He has shared more of his heart with me in this time than he has during most of our marriage.

Just this weekend, I saw him making an effort to do things for me because he knew I wanted them done.  He has made an effort to be affectionate in both sexual and non-sexual ways. He has paid attention to things I’ve expressed. He has been working to be different, just as I have done.

Just one person has the power to revitalize a marriage—and somewhere in the process, it just may begin to nurture a place for the other spouse to grow.

Image courtesy of digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I encourage you to visit the Love and Respect blog for a post that encourages you in this area.

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22 Thoughts on “The Power of One

  1. trixie1466 on July 6, 2014 at 11:17 pm said:

    Bravo!!! That’s a great testimony for what the biblical command “wives respect your husbands” can do when it’s implemented by a wife with a teachable heart. You rock!

    • Me? A teachable heart? Hmm. I can learn, but I still struggle against being taught.:)

      • Sandi on July 7, 2014 at 9:31 am said:

        I think you are more teachable than you realize. I believe a teachable heart is not just accepting what we’re told, but practicing discernment in what we allow to penetrate our hearts. You, my friend, have been growing a teachable heart for years. Thanks for taking us with you on your journey. 🙂

  2. This is absolutely brilliant. In Relationship Rescue, Dr Phil says pretty much the same thing. Just by changing you, you change the dynamic in your relationship and how you relate to your partner, which in turn creates the capacity for your partner to start to relate to you differently. I think we totally underestimate how important it is to look after ourselves in this respect, and to allow our partners to look after themselves. I cannot ever change my husband. And he cannot ever change me. I can, however, change me – and how I see things and what I want to achieve in life (by God’s grace). And that will have a knock-on effect. Thank you for a really good read and a great blog.

  3. This is absolutely brilliant. In Relationship Rescue, Dr Phil says pretty much the same thing. Just by changing you, you change the dynamic in your relationship and how you relate to your partner, which in turn creates the capacity for your partner to start to relate to you differently. I think we totally underestimate how important it is to look after ourselves in this respect, and to allow our partners to look after themselves. I cannot ever change my husband. And he cannot ever change me. I can, however, change me – and how I see things and what I want to achieve in life (by God’s grace). And that will have a knock-on effect. Thank you for a really good read and a great blog.

    • My efforts definitely altered the dynamic in our relationship. By not having expectations of my husband making his own changes, it is easier for me to simply be delighted by his efforts. If I had expected him to change, I would probably be sitting here complaining that he isn’t making the right changes, or that I’d rather have him work on a different area first. Instead, I enjoy watching his growth and can pray for him without concern that I’m asking for something for myself.

  4. IntimacySeeker on July 7, 2014 at 8:09 am said:

    I’m thinking about doing the Respect Dare and wonder if I should wait until our daughter and grandson (currently staying with us) return to their home next fall. I understand from your posts (thank you!) that this process will require significant intention, focus and energy. Presently I’m not only busy enjoying the toddler in our home but also remembering/reliving my days as a young mother, so I’m taxed emotionally as well. Your thoughts?

    • No matter when you do RD, it won’t be an easy thing. I did it while working a full-time job. I usually tackled the Dare at the end of my work day. I journaled every day. And yes, it required intention, focus, and energy.

      But you know what? You don’t have to do it every day. Why don’t you do a dare each week instead of each day? Set yourself a time each week when you’ll read the dare, and another time during the week when you’ll journal about how it’s going.

      Get started now rather than wait. When your daughter and grandson leave, you can either continue at the slower pace or decide to pick it up at that point.

      Keep me posted!

  5. This is something that we all need to read, not just regarding sex but regarding respect for our spouses and our own spiritual growth.

    • Yes, this goes far beyond sex. I am fascinated by the fact that my journey really did begin as just a sexual one–but when I got to a stopping point on that journey, I saw a spiritual landscape ahead of me that needed to be explored. That is where my true growth has happened, and that is what has encouraged my husband to begin looking at himself.

  6. belovedalways on July 7, 2014 at 3:56 pm said:

    “It is tempting to make our own efforts contingent on another person’s response. ”

    For me, I think the biggest change I made/am making other than the obvious one of choosing to always say yes, was the decision to consistently take the high road and assume the best when we have conflict instead of taking any other road where I could pick up an offense of some sort. I guess this is a form of respect shown to my DH.

    I’ve found that we’ve both been happier mostly because the avoided conflict ended up being unintentional. Before, I would have assumed DH meant what he said, as he said it, been hurt, pulled away, & laid bricks in the proverbial wall.

    Now, I refuse to make bricks! And I’ve found that I don’t need them. As I’ve chosen to assume the best, I’ve found that every single time I had an opportunity to take offense at something, it turns out that we had a miscommunication. Sometimes it takes a couple of days to get the communication understood, but it seems to work out that we just said/heard words differently. Taking my possible negative response out of the equation has improved our communication and life dramatically. I like that I can believe that DH probably means the best even if that’s not what I think I’m hearing. smile

    • Assuming the best of our spouses is an important way of showing our own good will, isn’t it? The more I walk this journey, the more I’m able to see how wonderful my husband is.

    • IntimacySeeker on July 9, 2014 at 8:37 am said:

      Thanks for this reminder. I have the most trouble with this when I am short on sleep, which is the case the last several days. Gotta love those fireworks!

  7. david on July 7, 2014 at 8:34 pm said:

    Excellent message!

  8. Rusty on July 10, 2014 at 2:15 pm said:

    Another great post! But what is left for a man to do when he has tried absolutely everything imaginable to stir his wife’s desire but no change ever occurs? I am talking 25 years of zero desire and zero reciprocation. Pure torture!
    I wonder if I were to have my testicles removed if the pain and emptiness and desire would be more tolerable. I realize that sounds radical, but if you suffered for 365 days for 25 years it seems like a small price to pay and something I wish I had done years ago.

    • Rusty, my heart breaks to read this comment. A man’s need for emotional connection with his wife resides in his heart, not in his testicles.

      There isn’t a single thing I can suggest to get your wife to change. All I can say is to work on your own relationship with Christ and to pray for your wife’s Christian walk.

      I am sorry. You are both in my prayers.

  9. Rusty – I’ve had several men seriously inquire about this, or drugs to do the same thing. The short answer is yes it would end your sex drive, but you will not find anyone who will do either legally. Beyond that, I doubt it would end the suffering of not feeling wanted.
    Some folks choose to stay stuck in their past/sin/fear/whatever. I totally sucks.
    At one point in my marriage I thought there was a chance I would end up where you are, and I thought about what I would do. I decided I would not leave her. I would take care of my need for release in the shower and do all I could to have the best sexless marriage possible. That was me, I am NOT saying it is what everyone should do.
    FWIW, you have my prayers.

  10. Wow!!! What an amazing post, thank you so much for your honesty and godly counsel. I had been a single mom of 2 adolescent boys for some time and then remarried again. I have been married for 15 years now and yet we still struggle in our marriage big-time. I must admit that I have a problem with respecting my husband. I am very independent and strong- willed which makes for many heated arguments. I am going to bookmark this post and pray that it will keep me accountable to God and His plan for me as a wife. I know He wants the best for us and yet I allow my flesh to get in the way so often. You really spoke to my heart because I am so like you too and I so want to change. I want a vibrant, healthy, beautiful marriage that will be a light to others, but I especially want to be pleasing to my God and in turn, pleasing to my husband.
    Sorry this is so long, but I appreciate you for sharing your marriage with others. For not sugar-coating it, but for telling the truth and giving me hope in my marriage as well.
    May God richly bless you,
    Liz

    • Thank you for sharing that this post spoke to you. My strong-willed nature is part of what attracted my husband to me. I am having to learn new ways of using that will for my husband (and marriage) rather than against him. Bless you.

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