When I began to intentionally change some of my sexual interactions with my husband, there was part of me that expected him to jump up and cheer, do whatever I asked, and basically worship the ground I walked on. After all, I was finally trying to give him what he’d been asking me for for years. Shouldn’t he be rejoicing or something?
Instead, what I got was, well, the same guy I’d had for years. He didn’t change any of his behavior. How was that possible? Didn’t he know what was happening? (I suspect that he was just afraid to do anything differently at all because he’d finally happened upon something that was working for us, even though he didn’t know what it was.) Because his behavior wasn’t changing in ways that I could see, I assumed there was nothing at all changing within him—and I figured that everything he was doing was for the same reasons I’d thought before I started making changes.
One of my issues before changing was that any time my husband did anything out of the ordinary around the house, I assumed he was trying to get sex. So in order to head this off at the pass, I would sometimes complain about how he’d done the chore or about something he should’ve done instead. This way, I was preventing him from developing any sexual expectations of me. You know—the best defense is a good offence, right?
After I began to make changes and become more sexually generous, I found that it still took me time to relearn how to perceive my husband’s actions. At the time, I wasn’t even aware that I was still assuming that he unloaded the dishwasher only to get sex. Without even thinking, my response was just as it always had been—to pick a fight in some way.
I remember thinking many times, “I am finally working so hard at our relationship. Why doesn’t he see? Why are we still fighting all the time?” I was experiencing an internal conflict between the intentional efforts I was making and the habits that had become rooted in me over a period of years. My response to this conflict was to look for occasions when I could justify resorting to my more familiar behavior that led to no sex.
At some point, it occurred to me that the generosity I was aiming for in our sexual intimacy needed to extend to other areas of our relationship as well. I could just try extending him some grace during this time when he was learning to live with my sexual changes. I had learned to pause, breathe, and think when he initiated sexual contact, so I decided I could learn to pause, breathe, and think when he did something else that elicited a negative reaction within me.
As I forced myself to reboot my reactions and assumptions, I began to see my husband through new eyes. I could see that when he unloaded the dishwasher, he was doing it because he loved me and was trying to help out with our home and family. It filled me with love and I ended up wanting to provide the sex I used to assume he was after in the first place.
I read emails from women who tell me how frustrated they are that their husbands are still doing some of the things that distressed them before they stopped refusing. Sisters, I’ve been there. I get it. But try extending some grace to give him space to adjust to having this new and improved version of you.
And perhaps you’ll discover that it hasn’t been his behavior that was the problem after all. Maybe it was your assumptions and reactions all along. Extend some grace. See him with new eyes. Open your eyes and your heart and maybe you’ll discover you’re living with a different man than you thought you were all this time.