Be Strong and Courageous


Be encouraged. A strong marriage is worth every moment, every effort, and every prayer you give.

It’s been nearly five years since I began the journey to work on sexual intimacy in my marriage.

This journey has been a lot of hard work—and has resulted in far more blessings than I could have imagined.

At the beginning, I felt fairly alone. I knew God was with me, but I had no idea how to take the first steps. In the first months, I failed more than I succeeded, and I had absolutely no road map for where I was going.

Time and time again, I’ve been struck by how many other women have told me that they, too, have felt alone.


Although different experiences and beliefs contribute to our avoiding and resisting sexual intimacy in our marriages, the effects are fairly similar: our husbands hurt and sometimes withdraw, we hurt as our husbands’ behavior reinforces what we already believe, and our marriages suffer from disunity and disconnection.

We don’t all begin the journey of healing for the same reasons, either. I resisted the need to work on sex but made the decision to change when I was overwhelmed by an understanding of how I’d hurt my husband’s heart, even though I didn’t view my actions as sin. Some women are convicted of their sin in a single moment when the scales fall away from their eyes. Others make the decision as a last-ditch effort to save their marriages after their husbands inform them of their intent to leave a marriage that is quite painful for them.

We don’t all come to this journey in the same way—but once we are here, we all need to figure out how to take those first steps and how to keep going.

It can be overwhelming.

Sitting in the fresh realization that I needed to try to repair what I had broken in our marriage, I had no idea where to start. I didn’t even know all of what needed to be done differently. I had no idea what a healed marriage might look like, and I certainly didn’t know how to get one.

I felt like I’d been sent on a nightmare scavenger hunt, with no list of what items I needed to find or a team to help me. I wasn’t even sure there was really a prize at the end.

My resistance to sex was all-encompassing and had invaded every area of my marriage.

I’d begun changing in the bathroom so my husband wouldn’t see me and get ideas. I avoided being in the same room when we were both home because I might move in a way that would make him think about sex. I didn’t even want to have a conversation with him for fear that I might accidentally indicate that I was in a good mood and have him think I was hinting at sex. I went to bed at different times than my husband. I looked for excuses to have to be away from him.

I had developed a habit of avoiding my husband in every way. How was I supposed to change that habit and work on sex, too?

How could I change things I was barely even aware I was doing? How could I figure out what I needed to change? How could I do all this while grieving the loss of the life and marriage I knew, sacrificing my rights, and believing that my husband would lose all incentive to learn to love me? Despite the fact that I now know that I gained far more than I gave up, at the time all I saw was loss for myself.


Several women have written to me recently to express similar concerns about working on their own marriages.

They, too, are overwhelmed. They are experiencing sadness, shame, conviction, confusion, and a fear of failure.

If you are at the very beginning of your journey—perhaps not even sure you are willing to make the journey yet—I want you to feel encouraged.

You CAN do this—and you don’t have to do it alone!

Take advantage of the resources available to you. Here are some of my favorites, all of which can help you with those earliest steps on your journey:


I recently read David’s instructions to Solomon regarding the building of the temple:

Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.
~1 Chronicles 28:20

Think of these words in relation to your own efforts on your marriage:

Be strong and courageous, and act . . .

Do not fear nor be dismayed . . .

The Lord God, my God, is with you . . .

He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work . . . is finished.

You matter to God. Your marriage matters to God. A strong marriage gives us a picture of how Christ loves the church. It provides stability in the face of the inevitable storms of life.

A strong marriage is worth every moment, every effort, and every prayer you give.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of taking this journey, . . .

Be strong and courageous in healing your marriages, and act.

Do not fear or be dismayed, for God is with you every step of the way.

He will not forsake you. He will stay with you on this journey all the way.

You are not alone.

Be encouraged. A strong marriage is worth every moment, every effort, and every prayer you give.

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15 Comments on “Be Strong and Courageous”

  1. Wow. What you have written is like my story.
    My husband wants out of the marraige. Some days he wants a divorce, some days he doesn’t want a divorce but won’t connect with me again, and other days he treats me like I am in the way.
    I live in limbo because I want to heal our marriage. I need all the courage and strength I can muster just to get through the day.

    I want a strong marriage. How long does one hold on to a marriage of one?

    1. What do you understand about why your husband wants out of your marriage? If he is dealing with relational hurt (from your sins against him in the past, for instance), there are some things you can do to help rebuild his trust in you. If he is dealing with his own issues that have nothing to do with you, you can pray and find other ways to support his healing. He ultimately needs to make a decision–but work hard to understand his reason and work on what is yours to work on (without taking responsibility for things that are his to work on).

      1. Chris
        My husband feels that I emotionally left the marriage years ago. He feels like I am an untrustworthy person. He thinks I had an affair, which I did not. I froze when we had any sort of conflicts. He has a whole list of reasons why he wants to end the marriage. He will not entertain rebuilding trust. I also believe that he has his own issues going on.
        So any sort of reconciliation is not on the table.. Yet he wants a physical relationship with me ” because he is human”. I have set a boundary…no is too painful for me to have any sort of sexual relationship if there is no commitment on his part to work in healing. He calls me frigid. This is so painful.

        What would you suggest I do to earn trust?? He blames everything on me.

        1. Whether or not he is will to entertain rebuilding trust, you can work to be trustworthy. He blames everything on you. If you have frozen up, proven that you can’t be trusted with his sexuality, and withheld your own sexuality, my guess is that he’s been hurt–perhaps beyond what he is even willing to admit to himself.

          Reconciliation is possible if one of you is willing to take the first step in being vulnerable. You’ve set a boundary that sex is too painful if he doesn’t commit to healing. It sounds like he’s set a boundary that working on healing is too painful until you demonstrated that you can be trusted with his sexuality (which is a core part of their very being for many men).

          I’d like to encourage you to read The Power of One. Although you may not see the same results (or it may take longer to get there, since it sounds like you’re husband is hurting a whole lot), it demonstrates some of the things that can happen as a result of just one person making an effort.

          You are both withholding the very thing the other person needs. If he thinks you emotionally left the marriage long ago, then showing him your emotional investment could have a big impact.

          Is your marriage worth enough to you that you are willing to go first, even if there is no guarantee that your husband will change?

        2. I just read THe Power of One. I understand exactly. My angnst is if he wants out yet still wants to be physical ( we don’t have much intercourse, it is other things. My h.doesn’t feel this is sex, he feels that only intercourse is sex) then wouldn’t I be a friend with benefits ? I feel used. One women called it “Objectification”
          Before our marriage fell apart he would tell me that his world felt safe when we were sexual.

          So…do I risk my own vulnerability and meet His sexual needs and hope he can trust me again or stand firm in my boundary . I am afraid and confused. Am I willing to go first…..yes.

        3. I’m going to suggest another post to you: Do Your Feelings Control Your Marriage? You feel objectified and used. I know that feeling–but that doesn’t mean your feeling reflects the truth.

          People mean different things when they say “boundaries,” and I’m not sure what you mean. A boundary that is used to control someone else in some way is not truly a boundary. (Read cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries book.)

          You said

          I have set a boundary…no is too painful for me to have any sort of sexual relationship if there is no commitment on his part to work in healing.

          That sounds like something that is intended to change your husband’s behavior.

          You’ve both drawn lines and want the other one to go first. So yes, the question is whether you either risk your own vulnerability and meet your husband’s sexual needs or stay inside the lines you’ve drawn.

          Staying in the lines keeps the marriage in a bad place. You aren’t happy. Your husband is clearly unhappy and is even thinking of leaving. You have two choices–either risk your vulnerability, or don’t. Which one do you think has a better chance in resulting in a better marriage?

          The fact that your husband told you that his world felt safe when you were sexual together shows how deep an impact sex can have for him–positively and negatively. You know that genuine sexual intimacy is something your husband needs. What if you were to make a full and genuine effort for one year?

          I have been very honest in this blog that changing my approach to sex was hard–especially for the first several months. But you can come here for encouragment. There are other women who have walked this same journey, and you don’t have to face it alone.

          As hard as it was, it was the best thing I’ve ever done–for my marriage, for my husband, and for myself. It was worth every ounce of courage, every tear, and every difficult deep breath I took. I truly was.

  2. Boy you give me lots to think about. So does the article you suggested I read, which was great. I definitely allow my feelings to dictate how I think the truth is. I also allow what my husband says to be the truth. I am learning to remind myself just because he says something doesn’t mean that it is true..maybe he doesn’t see me as an object.

    I will honest, the boundaries I set can be seen in two ways. They are a way to protect me from grabbing onto the crumbs that my husband tosses out. And other days I hope that my standing firm with boundaries will cause my husband to soften his heart.

    I will pray on risking being vulnerable with him. He is very stubborn and admits that he has a hard time letting go of things. Maybe by allowing him in will help him soften his heart.

    I am learning that change begins with me. Regardless if my marriage lasts or not, I still have to believe what God says I am and conduct my life through the word of God and through the Holy Spirits guidance.

    Thank you Chris. Your wisdom is so comforting.

    1. I’m glad you have some things to think about. You’re the one who has to live out whatever you decide. I know it is hard.

      My motivation came from an awareness that flooded me in what seemed like a brief moment but was probably a little longer. What made the difference was reading the voices of spouses who were sexually deprived. Because that made such a difference for me, I’m going to point you to one of my resource pages: Understanding Your Husband’s Hurt.

      Scroll down past the list of posts and read the section labeled “Our Husbands’ Voices.” Your own feelings of hurt are valid. I want to encourage you to think about the fact that your husband’s hurt is valid, too. Open your heart to what the men have shared in that section. They have opened their hearts in order to help wives understand what happens to a man’s heart when he is deprived of the fullness of sexual intimacy. Sexual deprivation hurts a man deep in the core of who he is.

      For me, what made the difference was that I now knew what severe pain I was causing someone–and I knew that a) I had the power to remove some of the pain, and b) I was the only person who had that power.

      Read what the men have to say and know that none of it negates your pain in any way–but maybe it will help you find a way through the wall and into your courage.

      1. I have given your comments and your own personal story lots of thought. I decided to take down my boundary of no sex unless my husband is willing to work on our relationship. I will risk and be vulnerable. That was two nights ago..and of course we were intimate. Since then he has been somewhat cold and non physical. I am feeling rejected. Very rejected. I made a comment to him this evening that I feel just when he doesn’t respond to my texts. I asked him if he reads the texts I seen him. He got defensive an made a comment about putting him on the stand again. He gets very defensive when I confront him. I read today that very often in stressful marriages, one will do more than their share to heal the marriag. This is what I am doing. Today I feel weary.

        1. Spend a great deal of time in prayer, asking God to carry you when you struggle. I experienced that kind of difficulty for several months after I began my journey. I found that thinking about my husband as someone who’d built his own walls because of the way he’d been hurt helped me keep going. I did the majority of the work in the beginning–but as time went on and some healing began, things got easier for me and my husband was able to step up to the plate.

          I’m sorry you’re feeling so vulnerable and rejected right now. Do your best to continue moving forward, and know that what you’re doing will make a real difference, even if you don’t see it for a while yet.

          I will keep you in my prayers.

        2. I experience rejection daily. I don’t know how mu h longer I can do this. I was very clear on Sunday to my husband that I a willing to meet his physical need for sex. I expressed my need for physical affection ie a hug, kiss, touch. He has avoided me. This morning I hugged and kissed his cheek for helping me with a flat tire. He looks away, pats my back like I am a pet. I can’t do this much longer. He is punishing me. I think he takes joy knowing what he is doing.

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