While I take a little break for Christmas, I am sharing some posts from my archives.
In this post, I write about the most significant, painful, and raw experience of my entire journey to improve our sexual intimacy. I invite you to witness the moment when God changed my heart. Every time I reread this post, my body remembers the sobs that drove me to the floor—and, ultimately, back to God. I link to this post more than any other post.
This wasn’t an easy post for me to write. I almost didn’t get through it—but I’d had several readers ask me about how I came to the realization that I’d been hurting my husband. This post captures that realization—and the beginning of my journey of healing.
At some point, between the refusing and gate-keeping on one end and the journey toward full intimacy on the other, there is a moment.
I’d like to invite you in to my moment—the moment I first knew what I had done to my husband in denying him sex.
The Time Before
It was a Sunday morning—September 5, 2010. I sat on the couch in our living room. I was angry at God for the troubles in our marriage and couldn’t bring myself to walk into church, so my husband had gone without me. It was just a battle we fought each week.
I was worn out. I was tired of all of our fighting about sex. (I think we’d had one the night before, since we usually did on Saturday nights.) I was worried because he wasn’t asking as often and he had said he was trying to resign himself to a sexless marriage. I was scared because his depression was making him withdraw from me and from our family. I didn’t want to think about these things, since they upset me too much. I tried to distract myself by checking out news sites online—and I saw an article about Christians and sex. I clicked on it—and my life turned upside down.
I knew that I was denying my husband sex. I also knew that it was a bone of contention in our marriage, and that if I “put out” more, we would have less tension in our marriage. However, because I also knew that I, too, was hurting, it never occurred to me that denying him sex was wrong. I had no idea that I was truly hurting him. That is something I didn’t know until my moment.
My husband had tried to tell me. He had opened his heart and was vulnerable—and I would reject it. I wouldn’t hear what he was saying. So he sent me links to articles and blog posts, all written by women. He figured that since they had been written by women, I wouldn’t be able to dismiss them as just another man trying to convince women that they should be providing more sex.
I read the links, but I didn’t like them. They were showing me a picture of the kind of wife I didn’t want to be, that I didn’t know how to be. When my husband asked me if I’d read them, I lied. I was afraid that if I said I did and acknowledged even one bit of truth in what I read, he would jump on me and say, “See? I told you it was you!” And then I would have to be the one to change who I was while he got to lie back and enjoy it.
Not only was I refusing my husband sexual and emotional intimacy, I was also refusing to seriously address the situation. A few months earlier, I’d wondered about really trying to figure out what was going on, but then I had the thought, What if it turns out it really is me who is the problem? What if I’m wrong? I don’t think I can bear to be wrong, and even if we fix sex, what about my feelings? It was easier to not face what I suspected would be hard.
As I read the links my husband sent me, some ideas started to sink in despite my best efforts to keep them out. I was beginning to recognize that I wasn’t a very good wife. It occurred to me that my husband deserved better. Since I didn’t know what to do, or how, I did nothing and hoped things would get better on their own (in other words, with no effort on my part)—but I understand now that God was using those women’s words to soften my heart for what came next.
So there I sat, on that September Sunday morning—worn out, worried, and frustrated, with a heart that had begun to soften toward my husband. I clicked on the article and then looked at some of the links in the sidebars. I began to click and read. I ended up at The Marriage Bed, reading through articles and discussion forums. I read marriage blogs—and this time, I read the comments. I was exposed to the hearts of countless men whose wives denied them sex. I hadn’t believed my husband’s words—but somehow the words of all these men got through to me.
It was awful.
My husband’s anguish began to take shape in front of me. So many men wrote about how unloved they felt by the one person who they thought would love them the most. As I finally allowed myself to imagine how that would feel, I felt like my gut had been punched in. It was a moment of very hard truth.
I sobbed—soul-rattling sobs. It took me some time (over a year) to fully acknowledge that my refusal had been sin, but at that moment, on that morning, I knew something I had not known before. I knew that I had made my husband feel rejected, unloved, and unworthy. I had done that to my own husband out of my own selfishness.
It took days for me really process my realization of what I’d done to my husband.
But, oh, that moment . . . it was the moment I was broken.
It was the moment I began my journey of healing.
As hard and soul-wrenching as my moment was, once that moment was over, I knew that healing had begun.
The Moment After
I have been praying today for wives who are close to that moment. I am praying for some whose hearts are still in the process of being softened. I have heard from some women who hate sex or who are so hurt that they cannot see how to knock down even one brick in the wall around their hearts. The thought of facing this moment frightens or angers them. It is hard to let go and face it. I remember my moment, and I also remember the moments leading up to it. The hurt in my own heart and my confusion about intimacy in our marriage left permanent impressions in me.
I am praying, too, for wives who have recently lived through that moment themselves—wives who have been confronted by husbands, who saw the prospect of a lonely future, or who finally got tired of the way things were. These wives have been through the moment and are figuring out their first or second steps on their journey.
We may not all get to that moment in the same way. My moment was hard for me—but it was such a relief when it was over.
And in that next moment—the one that follows after the moment of hard truth—you can find hope, faith, and love. There is hope for doing better. There is faith that your marriage can heal. And there is love for your husband.
It is the moment that comes after that moment—the next moment—when your journey begins.
Have you faced such a moment? Has your journey begun?
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