When my children were small, my mother once said, “It’s when they’re most unlovable that they most need love.” This phrase was in my mind throughout my children’s childhood, adolescence, and even now as they prepare to launch their adult lives. When they were most challenging, difficult, and frustrating, I always reminded myself that those things grew out of their own challenges and frustrations; I always made an effort to be sure that they went away from our interaction knowing that I loved them (even when they went away with words of correction or consequences).
Does a spouse deserve any less?
For years, when my husband would do anything that I perceived as unlovable—yelling about something, not doing a household task, even saying something I thought he should know was upsetting to me—I would respond by pulling my love further away. When he was most unlovable, he most needed love; instead, I used his behavior as justification for my refusing. Shame on me.
Yesterday, I was tempted and did something I had promised my husband and myself I would not do. I was miserable and disappointed in myself. When he came home from work, I confessed and was in tears. He forgave me and told me to stop beating myself up. Although I know he loves me, I experienced a need to be physically intimate with him—not a physical need for sex, but an emotional need. I needed to have him inside me in the most intimate way possible to help my heart remember and believe that I am worthy, I am loved, and I am lovable.
It struck me just how wrong I was all those years. I really had thought that sex was just physical for my husband, that all he wanted was an orgasm (and he certainly could have taken care of that by himself, I always thought). Yesterday I realized how much of his need had been emotional. When I deprived him of sex, I deprived him of feeling worthy, loved, and lovable.
My husband certainly deserved as much compassion and understanding as our children did. It was at the times I felt most justified in denying him that I was most wrong in doing so.
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