Feeling Unsettled

Our marriage has felt “off” this week. We had a wonderful weekend as a family, with a high school graduation and a wonderful dinner together on Saturday. On Sunday, my husband and I enjoyed some afternoon nookie and then went to a movie together. On Sunday night, we got into a huge argument–one of those arguments that was so distressing that I felt like I couldn’t be married to him another minute. I didn’t sleep well that night or the next night, either. Even last night, we were still uneasy with each other. We were home alone for several hours, and neither of us made the effort to connect with the other one.

I’m feeling unsettled, and it brings back many of the feelings I had during some difficult years. I don’t like the physical sensations that accompany many of these emotions. I have no clue how I coped with this for so many years. Feeling this way reminds me of why my heart hurts so much for refusing and gate-keeping wives. I know refused husbands hurt. I know marriages weaken. But I think about how it felt to be me, feeling so alone in a marriage, and I ache when I know another woman feels this way.

I am often asked if there was anything my husband could’ve done to prevent my refusing and gate-keeping or to head it off earlier. This is hard for me to answer, for a couple reasons:

1. As soon as I say there was something–anything–my husband could have done, it puts the onus of my behavior on his shoulders. As much as I believed at the time that it was all on him, I know now that it wasn’t. Neither one of us was at our best in our relationships with God. Neither one of us was being selfless. We both had needs that were not being met. We are both responsible for the state of our marriage–but the lack of sex was on my shoulders, not his.

2. I honestly don’t know what could have been done, even now. My husband asked me this countless times: What can I do? What should I not do? Just tell me. I’ll do anything. I couldn’t even allow myself to think of this, because I was afraid that my answer would be used to create an expectation of sex. You said that you needed me to do x, y, and z. I’ve done those things, and you still don’t want to have sex.

At no point did I actually allow myself to really think through why I didn’t want to have sex. I could remember being obsessed with sex when I was younger. I frequently felt arousal, even during our dark years–only to have that arousal squashed by a word or gesture or look from my husband. 

Looking back, it’s hard to know what I wanted or needed. I don’t remember why it began. It isn’t like I woke up one morning and made an actual decision that I would begin to deny or restrict our sexual activity. Refusal and gate-keeping grew, one little piece at a time, over years.

I’ve spent some time this week trying to write through some of my key memories of our relationship–feelings I had when I refused him, the memories that came to mind then. I have several pages of notes and scribbles about the things he did that related to me feeling emotionally disconnected from him. While I don’t intend to share that here, I will say that this activity has brought many of those feelings to the surface. I remember, in a physical way in my gut and heart, how I felt sad, unloved, unknown, and alone much of the time.

Now that I am out of the fog of that existence, I can see that my husband had these same feelings. We were both miserable. We both needed to make changes.

But someone needed to take the first step. Because I started the journey of change for selfish reasons (so I wouldn’t have to live with a sad and depressed husband), I have no illusion that I was being the bigger person or taking the higher road or doing anything noble. But the fact remains that a first step was still taken. And that made it easier to take the second step, and the third, . . .

Many steps later, I’m sitting here on a break at work, thinking about what it will be like to be home alone with my husband this evening while our kids are working and with friends. When I felt unsettled in this way in our bad years, I would have come up with a project that justified us being in separate rooms or a friend that needed me or something to maintain our separateness while I was feeling so fragile. Many of the times I felt this way, I would wonder, “Is this the beginning of the end?”

But now, tonight, it is different. Now, I know that the solution to this unsettled feeling isn’t to stay separate and try to recover within myself. I know that what will settle me is a physical reconnection with my husband. I know that this is not the beginning of the end but just a blip.  I know my husband, and I am known. I am sad that we argued, but I am not unloved; I am certainly not alone in this marriage.

I wish I could visit the earlier version of me and reassure that wife that things could be okay, that she wasn’t alone, that God had given her a man with arms to hold her, that she needed to accept and embrace the gift of the husband God gave her for her sake as well as for his, that feeling unsettled would not always feel like the end of a marriage, that true and full intimacy was worth the effort and the vulnerability, that even in rough weeks like now, their marriage would be good.

I never thought I would be able to say that our marriage is good. It is good. Praise God.

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11 Comments on “Feeling Unsettled”

  1. Praise God, indeed! What a wonderful change in your thinking and your heart! Thanks for sharing and letting people see that your growth is a process. Just like our christian walk, it doesn’t mean it will always be easy or perfect, but we are forgiven and we are never alone.

  2. Thank you for sharing these thoughts! That your husband was sex starved was indeed hurtful, but that you “felt sad, unloved, unknown, and alone much of the time” was probably equally hurtful. And, obviously, one of you needed to take the first step. I think any decent husband would be more than happy to take the first step if he just knew what to do. No decent man wants his wife to be unhappy! That’s why it’s so obvious to ask you what to do, but on the other hand, we know the answer even before asking 🙂 It is just not that simple even though we can dream about …

    1. My husband and I were both incapable of fully seeing the other one’s sadness. He has never liked it when I’m unhappy; he just couldn’t see it for a lot of years.

  3. What a powerful post! You have touched on the heart of the matter, I think it’s one of your best. There are so many things that you said that I find fascinating. Your statement, “I frequently felt arousal, even during our dark years–only to have that arousal squashed by a word or gesture or look from my husband.”, is incredibly insightful. Do you think you could expand on this thought? I would be very interested to know more about what you were thinking.

    Thank you for sharing your most intimate thoughts.

    1. Hmm, I’ll have to think about that one, trying to remember what I was thinking at those times. In split-second responses, it can be hard to capture actual thoughts.

  4. Yes, I second with Bluemoon, that paragraph talks to me like no other. After years of going thru the same emotional (neglect, distancing, disconnection …I can’t even find the right word) many women like me we just shut down. I am so happy that you have been able to reverse those gears and make such a positive change in your marriage. I can’t even imagine how to make the first step without having that “squashed” feeling.

    1. Skye, I talk about taking that first step in some of my posts in the Getting Started category. I struggled with taking those first steps, too. For me, making a decision to change was the most important part, but actually acting on that decision wasn’t easy. But it was so, so worth it.

  5. “I frequently felt arousal, even during our dark years–only to have that arousal squashed by a word or gesture or look from my husband.”

    Unfortunately, I can relate to this thought. For me, the big arousal-squasher has been times when I have felt as if I lost the freedom to say “no”. As a first-born, recovering perfectionist, I have a tendency to crumble under expectation. My husband tells me he never has expectations but just hoping – and that there’s a big difference between expectation and hoping. For me, it has *felt* the same. Knowing that he’s hoping, creates pressure for me to follow through. And of course the longer it has been since we were last together, the more I know he’s hoping – which further increases pressure.

    So many times we have been out on a date having a great time, or just spending the day together enjoying each other’s company, and he will do something or say something or look at me a certain way that will make me *feel* as if he is thinking of me as an object – that all he’s thinking about is sex. I’m then feeling “pressure to perform.”

    I absolutely know that the problem is ME – my thought processes. None of my ‘hang-ups’ are physical. I very much enjoy the act when I’m a willing participant. And, my husband is very much a gentlemen! He would never “make” me have sex. The loss of freedom comes from knowing that it’s my ‘reasonable duty’ as his wife to meet his sexual needs. And that I’m the only one who can meet those needs. He is most definitely higher drive than I am, so in my eyes that’s a big job to fulfill.

    My struggles can also come as a result of a simmering low self-esteem, which leads to thinking that sex is ALL he wants from me. Being way too touchy, a misunderstood comment or look can lead me to believe that he’s just spending time with me to appease me – that he’s paying his dues to get what he really wants.

    The key for me to overcome has been to corral my thoughts and choose to remember that sex is something that I too enjoy, and that it’s something that he also gives to me – not just an obligation that I have to him.

    1. I’m a first-born recovering perfectionist with low self-esteem, too. If something looks hard, I would rather not even try because it might be hard or someone might see me not be perfect.

    2. Thank you for answering my question…I really appreciate your response. I know you are just speaking for yourself, but I see that you are not alone. I must say, it’s hard to believe that our wives feel this way. As a husband, it’s almost impossible to comprehend. It’s a whole different paradigm I will take it on faith that you feel this way.

      Now, if I only knew what to do about it…

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