A refusing and gate-keeping wife faces challenges when she changes her approach to intimacy. She has to change her behavior, her words, her body language, her attitude, her heart. The changes that really matter require transformation of self.
Some women seem to handle this well. Not me. It has been a struggle for me every single step of the way—even now, when so much of our marriage is so much better and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life. So many times, I’ve felt like I was squashing my self and sacrificing my own wants and needs for the sake of my husband and my marriage. A good wife would do this without complaining, I would think. But he’s asking me to be someone other than who I am—someone who enjoys sex, can block out the possibility that the kids might hear or need me, feels confident and sexy despite being in a body that looks like this.
He wanted me to be . . . not me. I wanted so desperately to feel loved, accepted, and seen; knowing that my husband wanted me to be something I was not felt like a rejection of my true self.
He would tell me what he wanted—more intimacy with his wife, not feeling like he was “getting lucky” if he actually got to have sex, to know that we could have sex at least once a week, to feel like he was important to me than the kids were.
How do you give voice to the deep desires of your heart and soul? How do you say, “I want this” without taking the risk of not getting it and not having that desire be valued as important? I realize now how much courage and vulnerability my husband showed in telling me what he wanted—but at the time, all I could see was that he wanted who and what I wasn’t.
My heart would scream out, “But what about what I want?” Sometimes I would give voice to these words, and my husband would say, “Then tell me what you want. I’ll do anything.”
I always knew what my deep desires were. I knew them when I was refusing and gate-keeping. I knew them as I was struggling to start making changes. I knew them when things finally started to be better. Even when I knew my heart had changed, I knew what I wanted. I knew them a year ago. I knew them this morning.
“What do you want?” he would say.
What do I want?
I want . . .
I want to know that even though it’s logical to assume I won’t be hurt, you want to protect me from the possibility.
I want to know that you can’t believe the awesome blessing that you actually got me.
I want to know that you’re grateful for the work I did on myself so you could have the marriage you wanted. You used to say you would do anything for that. Would you still?
I want to know that you pay attention to my body—how it responds, how it changes, what it wants—and not to an idea of how women are supposed to be.
I want you to make love to all of me—not just to the obvious parts, but to all the parts in between. To my mind. To my heart.
I want to know that you are transformed when you are with me.
I want to know not just that you love and feel loved, I want to know what meaning that has in your life.
I want to know that my happiness is more important than yours, at least some of the time.
I want to be on a pedestal sometimes.
I want you to ask me what I want more often, and not just when you’re upset about not getting what you want.
I want to know that what you have to put up with from me is worth it.
I want to know that even though I shouldn’t want all these things, you love me enough to try.
I want to know that you’re my rock.
I want you to make me know that everything will be okay.
I want to know that being one flesh with me is the way you feel most whole.
I want to know that I am not a commercial but the best program ever.
I want to matter.
I want to know that you want to protect my heart and that I can trust you with it.
I want to know that making changes is more becoming who I am than becoming who I am not.
I want to know that I am part of you.
I want to know that you thank God for me, and why.
I want to know that I am worth the sacrifices you have to make.
I want to know I am seen, known, and loved anyway.
And out loud I would say, “I don’t know.”
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Over the past 3 ½ years, I have slowly allowed myself to speak some of these desires to my husband. It isn’t easy, even now. Some of these are desires that reveal my selfish nature. Some of these are things I no longer want—or that I have now. Some are things that my mind knows that I have even though my heart doesn’t always feel it. Some are things that my heart still cries out for.
I am sharing them here because my marriage is still a work-in-progress, and so am I. When I say I can walk with you a while on this journey, it’s because I’m still walking it myself.
Sometimes, what we truly want is hard to put into words and acknowledge to ourselves, much less to our husbands.
When your husband asks you, “What do you want?” do you know the answer? Does the answer get spoken, or does it sit in your heart, unheard by the one person who most needs to hear it?
All these things I want are a reflection of my whole true self, even the parts I don’t like. I want my husband to accept all of me—yet as long as I withhold these desires out of fear or embarrassment, I am denying him the opportunity to do just that.
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As I look at the list of all that I wanted from my husband, though, it is clear that many of my desires are things that can be met by God alone. My heart cried out to my husband for not meeting my needs, when I should have been crying out to God instead. For so many years, I held it against my husband that he wasn’t doing things that I never should have expected of him in the first place. Until I grew in the Lord, my husband was fighting an uphill battle for my heart.
I still struggle with the long list of all that I want. There are desires I still want my husband to fulfill that I should be taking to God. I am still walking this journey of learning and repenting, and I know I still fall short of where I should be.
Over the past 3 ½ years, I have grown so much, transforming myself more and more into the woman God wants me to be. From the outside, it is easy to describe this transformation as a result of the changes in my sexual behaviors and attitudes. In a way, that is true.
What is even more true, though, is that inside, the transformation of my heart has come from learning to immerse myself more and more in my relationship with the Lord.
When your husband asks, “What do you want?” do you know the answer? And are you wanting your husband to fulfill the needs of your heart that you should be taking to God instead?
Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4