I’m Changing, but My Husband Doesn’t Seem to Notice


If you are working hard to make sexual changes and your husband isn’t responding, what can you do?

When a wife begins her journey to change her sexual attitude and actions in marriage, she may have some unspoken expectations running around in her head. I know I did:

  • Big Guy will be so happy about what I’m doing.
  • He will be grateful to me. How could he not be after all the years we’ve fought about sex?
  •  He’ll treat me like a queen. After all, he’s said to me that he would do anything to just have a good sexual relationship with me.

My reality was this:

  •  He didn’t even seem to notice what I was doing.
  • Not only did he not seem grateful, he seemed even angrier about the things I wasn’t doing yet.
  • I am still waiting for my tiara.

Of course Big Guy has loved the sexual changes in our marriage, and he has loved how these changes have led to improvement in other areas of our marriage as well. He craved intimacy with me for years. Now he has it. Our marriage is the best it’s ever been.

But I didn’t see any of this for at least a year after I began to make any changes.

Our First Year

For about six months after I started my improvement efforts, my husband kept thinking that each instance was a fluke. He thought he had finally done whatever the elusive right sequence of things was that would lead to me saying “yes.” He didn’t want to ask about it in case I hadn’t noticed what I was doing, out of fear that I might stop.

The second six months were very difficult. My husband resisted my efforts to make things better. He was finally able to believe that some real change was happening, but a lot of the anger and frustration he’d suppressed began to bubble to the surface. He kept wondering why I couldn’t have made those changes years before. Sometimes he seemed to not care at all. He also wasn’t sure the change would last. I would say it was a full year before he truly believed that things were improving and that our marriage would be different.

For this whole first year, I had to keep pushing without any feedback from my husband to let me know if I was doing things right or better.

Just as my journey was one of recovering from hurt, unlearning bad habits, and training my mind and body into new ones, so was my husband’s.

In response to my refusing and gate-keeping, my husband built up his own walls and patterns of behavior. He couldn’t fully trust me. This doesn’t change overnight. It took time for him.

What is going on with him?

Over the last couple months, I’ve heard from several wives who have begun to make some real changes in their approach to intimacy in their marriage and are frustrated by their husbands’ sexual disinterest in them, worsening moods, throwing themselves into work, an unwillingness to open up, or rejection of their efforts to initiate sex. They worry that they waited too long to change. They wonder if it will make a difference.

Put yourself in your husband’s shoes and think about what he is going through.

What does a husband experience?

  •  The wife who spent a lot of years depriving him of intimacy is acting differently than she has in years, if ever. Is this real? Is it permanent? As much as he didn’t like the way it was before, it was predictable and familiar. Now he has no idea what to expect–or how long it will last. So he wraps himself up in his job or a hobby because he knows what to expect there.
  • If you’ve experienced other cycles in your marriage when there’s been an upswing in sexual activity (due to such things as hormone changes or attempts to conceive) and then you’ve resumed your refusing or gate-keeping, he has no way of knowing that this time will be different. He may be going through the “here we go again” roller coaster he thinks his marriage is on.
  • Your husband may simply be afraid that if he believes this is real, he will be deeply hurt because it won’t last. Maybe he rejects you as a way of protecting himself.
  • He has to relearn how to recognize normal, healthy sexual desire for his wife. If you have been controlling your marriage bed, he has taught himself to suppress much of his own desire. He has learned not to notice when you are naked since it won’t lead anywhere. He has learned not to trust his own assessment of whether something is a good indicator of sex or not.
  • He needs to relearn to trust you. When you rejected him sexually time after time, you rejected the deepest part of himself. It will take him time to open back up.
  • If your husband has coped with his physiological need for sexual release by masturbating and/or watching porn, he may be dealing with feelings of shame and remorse about that in addition to adjusting to the new version of you.
  • He’s worn out. He may not have mental energy to know how to respond to the new you.

Once he begins to believe that you really are making some changes, he may experience additional challenges as well.

  • He starts to allow himself to feel some of the negative feelings about your sexual control and rejection of him, feelings that he’s suppressed for a long time. My husband became grouchier. He expressed more discontent about our sex life than he had in a long time. Yes, he expressed more discontent after our sex life began to improve.
  • Some husbands struggle with forgiveness. How do you begin to forgive someone who’s hurt you for years, after all? Do you pretend that the past never happened and just jump for joy about the way things are now? That was my expectation of Big Guy, but it’s something I know I wouldn’t have been able to do myself.
  • The struggle to forgive may be accompanied by the thought that we deserve to suffer a bit for what we put them through. I am grateful that my husband is not one to hold a grudge, but this is certainly a normal feeling that some husbands have had to deal with.

I developed expectations for my husband’s response with absolutely no thought about what he would be experiencing. Sex touches men’s emotions in ways that we women don’t always understand. My changes sent my husband off into his own emotional landscape to navigate.

(For more insight into a husband’s experience, see this post at Sex Within Marriage.)

So what can I do?

If you are working hard to make some changes and your husband isn’t responding, what can you do?

  • Persevere. Don’t give up.
  • My changed sexual behavior was a continual act of repentance. Whether my husband had responded or not, I knew I had hurt him deeply. Doing better was my way of demonstrating my sincere regret and my effort to be a better wife. I did this because it was what my heart needed to do. Be a better wife because it is what God calls you to do, not because your husband shows that he deserves your continuing effort.
  • Pray for your husband and his healing process. Pray for the intimacy in your marriage.
  • Be as consistent as you can in your efforts to help him learn to trust you.
  • Extend him some grace as he tries to adjust to the changes he begins to see. If it seems that he is grouchy, continues to throw himself into work, or complains about sexual things you are not yet doing, try to remember his point of view. Try not to take it personally.
  • Talk to your husband. Tell him what you are doing. Acknowledge that you understand it will take him a while to believe and trust that the change is real. Assure him that you are committed to making a change. Apologize for having hurt him. Ask him what he needs from you in order to heal.
  • Pray for your own efforts. It is hard to keep going when you begin, but God will help you.
  • Give your husband time to see that this is not just a fly-by-night effort on your part.
  •  Understand that some anger and frustration may simply be part of what he has to go through to get to a place of being able to embrace the new you.

Healing can happen

After about a year, I could tell that my husband was beginning to trust me. Our conversations about sex had become about how much we enjoyed spending time with each other. He began to share sexual desires with me that he had barely admitted to himself. Our marriage had healed from the worst of the damage I had done.

It didn’t happen overnight, . . .

. . . but our marriage did heal.

I’m still holding out for my tiara, though.

Guys, I would love to hear from you in the comments about your own process of healing once your wife began to make positive sexual changes.

If you are working hard to make sexual changes and your husband isn’t responding, what can you do?

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43 Comments on “I’m Changing, but My Husband Doesn’t Seem to Notice”

  1. It’s a bit sad, isn’t it. I’ve had a few emails from wives in this position. They’ve finally turned around and decided to make sex a priority, instead of a hated duty, but their husbands don’t trust them anymore in this part of their marriage. They all come around eventually, but we husbands are human too, and when we’re hurt, we’re going to say and do some stupid things (like turning down the very thing we’ve been asking for for years). As Chris said, be patient with them. They’ll come around if you persevere continue unwavering. But be very careful with any rejection of sex. I mean, if he asks you to have sex in a pew during church service, I’m not saying do it, but don’t flat out say “No”. Say something like “There isn’t enough room in this pew to do what I want to do to you. I’ll show you later at home.” That way, it’s not a rejection, it’s a rain check…but you better cash it in later, or you may damage the relationship further.
    So, during those first months especially (maybe years, depending on how long the refusal/gatekeeping has been), try to say ‘yes’ to him every time that is possible. Those that aren’t, raise the offer and reschedule and follow through. Of course, this works well even after the emotional wounds have healed as well. We husbands are a fragile lot, we don’t like hearing ‘no’, it’s an advanced skill to learn to take rejection well.
    Thanks for the link Chris!

  2. Thank you for this post. It speaks clearly to me at this point in my journey, especially your comment about how long it took before your husband could share sexual desires he had barely admitted to himself. My husband has seen me go through some painful, exhausting counseling work these past several months and may likely be terrified of rocking the boat. Keep up the good work!

  3. My DW has stopped saying no, anytime I initiate she will join with me. The attitude of the joining is lacking of any enthusiasm. I have tried to be more affectionate during the day, closing text messages with ‘love you’ , meeting her at the door when she arrives home from work for kiss and hug. Asking how her day went and then listen before I talk about my day. Doing kitchen clean up after dinner. Seldom do we join at night, usually in morning. We usually do not arrive to bed at the same time. She will stay at computer with games or I watching tv. Same bedtime needs to be set. Please other suggestions on how to be able to gently let her know the attitude I am seeing needs to be more loving .

    1. What led your wife to stop saying no? For me, the very first thing I worked on was active participation, even while I was still saying no from time to time. Other women begin by working on yes, and enthusiasm comes later. How long have you noticed this change? Have you asked your wife about what’s going on?

      I think having the same bedtime is such a good idea. We do this now. Even aside from sexual availability, it is a good opportunity for building intimacy in other ways through talking, simply relaxing with each,other, and so on.

    2. In my experience, for several months after I stopped refusing, I knew my husband had a need for physical release and that sex had an emotional component for him (news to me after 30+ years of marriage). However, I still did not understand that he didn’t just want/need SEX, he wants/needs ME. Not sure if this will help or if your wife feels the same way, but perhaps you might ask her and reassure her. My husband has always demonstrated his affection with actions (typical I think) but I needed to know, and hear it from him directly, that he wasn’t imagining another woman when he was with me.

    1. There were some stretches where I had to decide to keep going every single day. Giving up would have been easier sometimes–but my husband and I are both so glad I persisted.

  4. Change does take time. But, our change was a result of his doing, not mine. Yes, I was the “refuser”, but not by choice so to speak. Now the “mind demons” play games and it’s exhausting to say the least.
    Atleast when I was on the couch…. my mind wasn’t racing 100 mph!
    Simple prayers for us would be appreciated!

  5. Chris, this was such a great post, it has given me so much hope for our situation! I was wondering about initiation – I have been working on initiating more like all the blogs recommend but I always get the reflexive “No”/hand gets pushed away, etc.Are there some men for whom the initiating makes it worse – like it brings the hurt to the fore and they remember all the times their overtures were rejected? I’ve sort of backed off – I used to insist on us having a “date” every weekend, but now I wait for him to initiate or suggest it … but then weeks will go by. I don’t want us to fall back into our old sexless ways but I don’t want to make things worse by pressuring him.

    1. Have you asked your husband what is going on? If weeks are going by, it is worth considering whether there is another factor (such as low testosterone or pornography consumption) that is interfering with his ability to engage in sex.

  6. As a husband who has been pushed away for nearly all our marriage, I feel compelled to share this. If you hear “no” over and over you really do start to shut down, you really do stop initiating and you never believe proclamations of “It will get better”. First, for you wives who have seen the light and are now pursuing your husbands, Praise the Lord. Good for you.

    In 25 years of marriage, my wife will not do this – she has shut her sexuality off. Never dresses to provoke me, no sexy nightwear, not comfortable in her own skin, no seduction and increasingly nothing that feels feminine to me. About all I’ll get is her old pj’s and an “I guess we need to have sex” comment. That tells me she has shut herself off sexually. She makes excuses, promises “it will get better” or “I’ll try harder” and then nothing happens. And when nothing “magically” happens (because she makes no effort), she then quits again figuring she can’t win for losing. And then will get angry at me. We used to be once a month and now are now almost once every two months. Honestly, I don’t ever remember a time in our marriage when it was 1-2x a week with any real consistency except maybe in the first 6 months of our marriage.

    I tend to remember the last time and can count the weeks and that makes her mad. it makes her mad that I keep score. So, I just shut down. I resent others who get to have sex. I literally look at other couples and it ticks me off that they have sex, that she appears sensual to some degree and obviously is drawn her husband as a man. I resent that my wife has never truly wanted me. She asks other women if they think I’m attractive (makes me wonder what she thinks). She takes it for granted that I’ll never stray, I try never to look at porn and I refrain best I can from self-release. So she’s safe as a clam – because I’m a Christian and won’t cheat on her (like her Dad did), she really doesn’t have to make an effort.

    I feel like she’s never fully given herself to me. She holds back. She pours her heart out to me but it is always about our kids, her struggles, her friends and I listen and listen and listen but her true self, her inner self, her sexuality, her soul…she buries. She deals with anger issues, control issues, health issues and now menopause issues. There are always issues. Always excuses. And yes, I can tell you that if God ever woke her up and she turned around like this blog author has done, I’d REALLY be fearful of diving back in and freely accepting it because I would doubt if it was a real turn or just another one-time, one-session turn that would in reality prove to be another 6-7 weeks of waiting for the next time and her once again quitting.

    I cannot tell you how much this has hurt me. It’s true that sex for men is about their self-confidence and assurance. As a man, I must draw upon God first and foremost above anything else but then I turn to my work and my projects to find self-confidence because I’m not getting it from her – and even in these things, I find her second guessing me. She sucks self-confidence from me to get her reassurance because she is so lacking in confidence and simply has nothing to give back. I find myself walking around my house thinking “there is nothing for me in this marriage” and that she is a taker and not a giver and that in reality, she appears to be quite self-absorbed and that’s dangerous.

    I should not be feeling this way but I am telling all you lady readers out there, this is REAL. It is deep and it matters. NEVER believe that a good strong sex life isn’t important in your marriage. It is CRUCIAL. It is God’s design and He knows what He is doing and the enemy has destroyed marriage through man’s obsession over it (and porn) and through woman’s control/deny/gate keeping. Fall on your knees and repent. Turn from your selfish ways and beg for the LORD’s restoration of your sex life and marriage (and I pray this for my own sinful self too)

    sorry…….needed to vent……

    1. I know how you feel. Your vent may not cover all my non sex life, but I read it and thought, there goes a brother. Right down to begin married for over 25 years. I replied to a post a few weeks ago, that my wife had responded to prayer that ‘forgiven wife’ had carried out.
      After that, very little has changed. My wife knows I want her, I tell her enough, but there always seems to be something in the way.
      I cannot remember the last time we had sex on my terms. For years it seems it has been to what and when she is interested.
      Not words of wisdom, but I know how you feel, and it stinks!
      English Dave

  7. wannagiveup,

    I could have written your comment, with only slight changes. No matter what I’ve proposed to address the problem, there’s an excuse, why it won’t help.The last time we spoke about it, she told me that the last time she thought I might initiate, her fist thought was, “Oh no!”
    Given that reaction, I have in fact given up. If sex is that repulsive to her, I will not pursue it with her.I know our marriage will suffer because of this, bur I don’t see a viable alternative.

    1. when we actually do have sex it is good. I always make sure she finishes (it takes oral which I love doing for/to her) and she always is saying “this feels so good”. The next day, we are noticeably closer and happier and she will say, “I know sex is good for us. It does bond us.” And then…………nothing. I have never understood why she can enjoy something, know it is good for her emotionally, physically and spiritually and know it is good for me and know it is good for our marriage and then ……….. nothing.

      1. My husband could’ve written parts of the comment, too, at various times during our marriage. Although this blog isn’t typically a place for men to vent (see this post), I think your comments are helpful with this post. They give women a glimpse into the pain that their refusal and gate-keeping can cause. I used to not understand why my husband would take it so personally when I didn’t feel like having sex. I really didn’t see it as having anything to do with him. And when I began to work on changing our sex life, it took me a while to fully realize what it was my husband was recovering from.

        I hope women who see your comments can learn from what you’ve both shared.

        1. I read your “vent” post. I totally understand and I really affirm your desire to make this site a safe place for wives. My desire to share this was a bit of a vent but it was really also meant to encourage those wives that are trying to turn the corner to keep on pushing into this. God will honor your desire to improve your marriage and your sex life – I firmly believe that. I pray that God will honor my desire for my wife and that she will be the glorious woman she is and that God intended for her to be. Whether that materializes in my bed is really unimportant but you gave me a venue to at least show that this does indeed hurt. Above all else, communicate. I need to keep communicating with her and not quit and she needs to open up her heart and not protect and wall off. Communicate & Pray !!

        2. Thank you for understanding–and for showing us just how important it is to tend to the intimacy in our marriages. Your wife is on my prayer list now, to be able to hear your heart and open hers.

  8. I appreciate the encouragement to keep moving forward. This week I am struggling and feel I’m taking a couple of steps backward. Having learned about a man’s sex drive and visual nature, I realize that no matter how much effort I put into my appearance, how often we have sex, or how fulfilling that sex is, other women will always turn my husband’s head. I can never be enough. Takes the wind out of my sails and I fear this will always be a source of sadness for me. Just can’t seem to shake it. I long to be THE ONE he wants and sometimes manage to believe it for a short time. I often think that if I had known marriage was this difficult and this painful, I would have stayed single. This is the brutal reality I’m feeling this week. Thanks for the safe place to share.

    1. A man can choose to bounce his eyes away from other women. Even if he does not, his wife’s body is the one with which he associates extreme pleasure and intimacy. No other woman can hold a candle to a man’s wife, because no other woman’s body is associated with his sex life. Husbands want to see their wives’ bodies.

      I am nothing to look at, really, and would turn no other man’s head–but my husband knows that everything he sees on my bountiful body, as it were, is his. He knows that he is the only one who sees it, touches it, and experiences it. Mine is the body he plays with. Mine is the body that plays with his body. When I look at my body, I see stretch marks, rolls where I don’t want them, dry skin, and the effects of gravity. My husband looks at my body and sees this. Another woman may have perkier breasts than I do–but they are absolutely nothing to the ones he gets to touch–mine. Mine are the best breasts in the world to him.

      I know that is hard to believe, but my dear, you are enough. You are his wife. You are the most beautiful woman in the world to him. And you know what? The more he is able to enjoy your body and see it, the more beautiful you will become. You are beautiful.

      1. Chris, I love this comment — so sweet!

        My husband tells me that a husband sees other women in black & white, but sees his own wife in color. All other women, pale in comparison. 🙂

      2. As a man, and husband of 25 years, I wanted to affirm your statements. The woman that could make me hotter and more excited than my wife, does not exist. Every inch of her awe inspiring, breathtaking body, is unmatched in the history of the world!
        There is no tangible way to prove that I mean that, but the only person who I need to believe it without a single moment of hesitation, is her. And she does.

        I would also take exception to the statement made by intimacy seeker that “other women will always turn (her) my husband’s head.” I respectfully disagree. That is a stereotype that women have been conditioned to concede as “Just the way men are wired and they can’t help it,” and there are many disrespectful, insulting husband’s that reinforce their beliefs. But the husband has the ability, and the responsibility, to control his behavior. Whether he has enough respect for himself, and his bride, and the God who designed what a marriage should look like, to exercise that control, is another matter altogether.

        There is no gift more precious that a man can give his wife, than the peace of knowing that she is the only woman in the world that his eyes see, that takes his breath, and holds his heart.
        Any husband who shows such a lack of respect for his bride, by undressing other women with his eyes, need not wonder why his wife doesn’t enthusiastically mine the depths of martial intimacy. The answer is looking back at him in the mirror.

        On the other hand, a husband who does show by his actions that he adores his wife’s body, and only has eyes for her, can be deeply wounded by her refusal to believe him. It feels like he’s opening his heart and professing the truth of his adoration, only to be called a liar. Over a long enough period of time, the damage caused by that refusal to take him at his word, begins to build resentments which carry over into every aspect of the marriage.

        If only we all took it as a given that every word spoken, and every action taken by our spouse, was born from a place of love, how much different would our marriages look?

        1. I’ve been reading Through a Man’s Eyes: Helping Women Understand the Visual Nature of Men (affiliate link) and have found it to be really helpful in understanding how many men are wired. The book talks about the initial urge to turn and look at biological–not a sign of weakness and not a decision on the man’s part. According to the authors’ research, it isn’t conditioning. It truly is wiring. However, it also makes the important point that the instant a man becomes aware of this urge, it is his responsibility to control it and to replace it with thoughts of his wife. In other words, having an urge and acting on it (even acting to take a look) are different things.

          My husband has always said he doesn’t look at other women–but I’ve seen his eyes on other women. I’ve learned to make a distinction between seeing and looking. After all, if a woman is dressed in certain ways, even I see her! I do believe my husband that he makes a genuine effort to not look.

          It is a wonderful aspect of God’s creation that a man can find his wife to be so very beautiful and appealing. I appreciate that my husband gives me his eyes and his words so I can know this.

  9. Very helpful and encouraging–thank you! Different perspective than I had received otherwise. You are a gem! 🙂

  10. I’m not looking for a tiara, but my husband has taking up drawing in earnest and is pretty good. Remember the scene in “As Good As It Gets” when Helen Hunt is running a bath and Jack Nicholson’s neighbor (can’t think of that actor’s name) begins to draw her? That’s my tiara. 🙂 I haven’t been asked to pose yet, but I can think of nothing more sensuous.

  11. From the husband’s perspective…

    My wedding night was uneventful. So was my honeymoon, until the last night that is. In the shower. By myself.

    For 10 years I begged and pleaded with her. She was happy that I wanted her, and that was enough.

    I haven’t even approached the subject in 5 years. She still has the obligatory sex with me once every month or two, but to be honest, it’s a chore for me to perform. I do it simply to avoid a fight, but it’s not something I want to do anymore. With her anyway.

    She’s put on 40 pounds since we were married. I don’t find her attractive in the least bit.

    Now, before anyone starts their accusing glaring at my post, know this. Prior to her I was with two other women whose weight fluctuated up and down, one by 30 lbs, one by 50 lbs. I NEVER ONCE was less attracted or less turned on by them at their heaviest vs them at their skinniest. The reason is, we had a healthy sex life and an established bond. Something I do not have with my wife. When I see her body, it’s not something I’ve grown to take pleasure in, especially now.

    Divorce is imminent. Once my youngest graduated high school I’m gone.

    Cheating is a possibility. I haven’t yet, and not for lack of opportunity.

    There is a point of no return in refusing. You had better act before it’s crossed.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear of the pain in your marriage. My guess is that your wife’s weight has absolutely nothing to do with her attractiveness to you. If she were still at her wedding weight but your marriage had the sex life you describe, she would not be any more attractive to you than she is. It is a distraction from the real issue.

      If she were to make a drastic change immediately, is there any chance your marriage could turn around? Or have you made a firm decision? It sounds like you have already begun to disengage. Does your wife realize how dire the situation is?

      My prayer for you and your wife is for a transformed marriage without the pain and burden of divorce or infidelity.

  12. So sorry to hear of this pain and disappointment in your marriage. From a wife’s perspective, I too would urge other wives to change their behavior. The feelings will follow.
    My initial inquiry wasn’t as much about a body image issue as about my fear of abandonment issues. Chris’ response gave me such a sense of peace because finally I understand the connection piece. You underscored it in your comments about earlier relationships. Thank you!

  13. I heard a woman call into a talk show once. She had the same realization many of you did.

    Problem was, her husband had died a couple years earlier.

    She warned the women listening not to follow her example. The grief and sobbing in her voice were a powerful testament to a lost opportunity to repent.

    She confessed to her pride, thinking things like “why does he need so much sex” and other similar thoughts. She thought her husband was just being an immature child. She confessed to always being too busy or distracted. But – she told how he always treated her well, and all the way to the end, was a good husband and father.

    I was torn: On one hand, I wish something could have been done to comfort her. On the other hand, I felt that a lifetime of pride and selfishness had found the bitter harvest that it had sown.

    Caution is called for:
    If you make changes simply to see a change in your husband, then why should he not see that it is just another attempt to control him, the only difference being now you are controlling with positive instead of negative behavior?

    Using refusal as a weapon (yes – weapon)against a man for the majority of his life cannot be undone in a week or two. And for how strongly and pridefully some of you rejected your husbands, perhaps you deserve several helpings of wrathful words?

    If you are truly repentant, you will endure anything he says to you as a just recompense for decades of destroying his humanity. Destruction??? Yes. Most of your husbands are probably too embarrassed to let you see this truly vulnerable side of themselves. They will maintain a stiff upper lip and forgive. But you may have some irreversible damage on your hands.

    The sign of a truly repentant person is that they are so grateful for an opportunity to correct their sin that they give no thought to “measuring” the other person’s gratitude for the changed behavior. If your apology comes attached to some sort of expectation, then it is not an apology, it is a transaction.

    Sorry for the strongly worded reply, but it is not healthy to make an act of repentance be all about what is in it for you.

    1. @ Jack,

      I’m guessing that your comment was directed at her audience rather than the author of this blog? The author of this blog has humbly confessed and repented of her sin to God and her husband. She’s been gracious enough to share it with other women to help improve our marriages as well. As she readily admits her changes started out from selfish motive, a careful reading of this blog reflects a repentant heart. Not someone looking for what’s in it for them.


    2. Your reply is strongly worded, and while I disagree with parts of what you say, I think it shows quite well how a husband experiences sexual refusal. It is a dagger into the heart of who he is as a man. However, while refusal certainly feels like a weapon to the husband who is wounded by it, wives don’t necessarily know that their refusal comes across that way. Refusal is often tangled up in a woman’s own damaged heart and is a defensive weapon, if it is a weapon at all.

      My own changes began for entirely selfish reasons: to change my husband so he would be easier to live with. The moment I realized the depths to which I’d hurt him, I was broken and was truly repentant. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been moments where the old sinful and hurtful parts of me bubbled up, but my heart was where it needed to be. I am incredibly grateful that my husband lives in the moment and lets go of the past. Learning how to live repentantly took me time.

      A truly repentant person should be given love and comfort, not wrathful words. Vengeance is the Lord’s, and once a wife has repented of her refusal, wrathful words serve little purpose other than vengeance.

      I want to encourage repentant wives not to think they must endure anything as recompense for hurting their husbands. One of the struggles I faced in learning to live out the repentance in my heart was learning that I was a partner in the marriage bed, with the right to my own desires to be met by my husband. By responding to my husband’s desires and not expressing my own, I was keeping myself from unleashing my full sexuality. During some difficult times when he turned me down for sex, it was far too easy to get into the “it’s what I deserve” state of mind. I was giving my husband a pass on not stepping up to his own responsibilities to me in the bedroom. Ultimately, this would not have been healing for him or me. The fact that I was willing to endure a great deal as a penance doesn’t mean that I should have had to.

      As much as a husband’s heart may want to see his refusing wife suffer for the hurt she has heaped upon him, I will not believe that it is good for his heart to do so. When we get mired in our own desire for revenge, it perpetuates hurt.

  14. Yes, it was directed at a general audience, not her at all.
    You must understand, however, that after having his feelings stifled and ignored for many years, a husband is going to be – justifiably – of the opinion that his wife was deliberately ignoring his pain.
    It is clear that many of these husbands tried to make their pain clear to their wives. So the only “out” these wives have is that they were ignorant of how much hurt they were causing. But they resisted hearing about it.
    So, to the husband’s mind, she was hurting him full well knowing it.
    I am not really trying to make the case that wives should suffer. I am trying to make the case that they should not expect to correct this sin without some serious confronting of what they have done.
    Ever seen a dad run off on his kids and then suddenly try to get back in their life 15 years later? The kids are – justifiably – resentful. The sudden re-emergence of their absentee father re-opens a thousand wounds, where they remember all the events of their life where the other kids had a father present, and theirs was God-knows-where.
    As mothers, I would ask you if you would expect these kids to jump up and down in excitement after 15 years of neglect? Or would you expect them to issue a stern rebuke to their father and let him know just how much his absence wounded them?
    I doubt most mothers would let such a wayward father off the hook without giving him a sizable lecture as well.
    The way out of this is to repent (as stated on this blog) in utter brokenness about the damage caused. And utter brokenness does not take inventory of the responses of the wronged person.

    1. My husband tried to tell me about his pain many times. I resisted really hearing, because I was experiencing hurt of my own that wasn’t being acknowledged. Once I repented, I don’t know how I would have handled my husband confronting me at that point. Once I knew I’d been sinning, there was no longer a reason to confront me.

      I respect the experience of a refused husband. I just don’t think confrontation is right once the wife has repented. (I do, however, think the desire is understandable.) Repentance includes a recognition of the sin and pain caused, so a lecture is not needed.

      Sometimes, wives begin to make changes as they work toward a place of repentance, and at that point, although a lecture may be warranted, I think it would also be counter-productive.

      What I hear from wives is less about taking inventory of a husband’s responses and more about trying to understand why their marriages aren’t improving. After years of hearing how much better everything would be if she were a more willing and engaged sexual partner, it is confusing to experience the opposite.

  15. I’m not suggesting that the stern rebuke is necessarily correct. I’m explaining why it may occur. You’re taking a very beaten-down soul and suddenly exposing it to extreme changes.

    The sudden change in her interest is going to bring back a flood of memories of rejections, and very well could elicit a “why did you make me suffer so long” response. I think women need to prepared for this.

    I would point to the approach the prodigal son used when returning in repentance: “I have sinned against you, etc.”

    He was not looking for restoration, he was looking to repent, even in a servant’s capacity. That is the model for repentance. His father did restore him, but it was an act of grace.

    1. Ah, okay. It is an understandable response. I wasn’t prepared for anything but a positive reaction from my husband, and I was confused that I didn’t get one. My pushing through was part of my repentance. I have written several posts reminding women that their husbands need some grace and understanding as they are shocked by the changes. Your “beaten-down soul” phrase is perfect.

  16. My husband has been very kind and gracious before my “180” and since. I do struggle with wishing I could turn back the clock, but as others have mentioned, my refusal was not a conscious effort to hurt my husband. He may have thought he was communicating his desire for me, but I certainly wasn’t hearing it. Once I awakened to the hurt I was causing him, I confessed my sin to him and assured him I would never again refuse him. That didn’t mean I suddenly began enjoying sex like God intends. I have been facing the deep hurts that caused my emotions and actions, and we have both been traveling a healing road for almost a year now, with new discoveries and delights along the way: I begin to feel disconnected if more than 3 days go by without sex. Yesterday I told my husband, “I used to long for solitude. Now I long for you.”

  17. Found this site through link from TMB, where ForgivenWife graciously responded to my recent post. In my years of being refused by my wife (who is still attractive to me, in our 60’s), I have felt almost everything shared here by other refused husbands, and likely would react as they have if DW changed her behavior. We have now gone almost 20 years without sex because it’s too painful for me to ask and get rejected, and she (as a victim of teenage SA) lives behind self-protective walls and won’t come out due to fear of intimacy. After trying EVERYTHING, I am pretty much committed to “dying to self” in this matter. The only thing that could change us now would be God’s major intervention in her attitude and behavior. I don’t know what that would look like, but I’m sure it would shock me and take a while for me to grasp and accept. I don’t know by what means ForgivenWife was “hit over the head” by God… but that may be the one thing I have left to pray for in our situation. Other than that, I’m looking forward to Heaven, where I know these pains will not exist.

    1. God’s intervention in my attitude and behavior looked like this: //forgivenwife.com/2014/03/05/a-moment-of-hard-truth/.

      I have added your wife to my prayer list. By not addressing the sex abuse, she is depriving herself of so much more than she can imagine–and you have been trapped by her fear as well.

      I am so sorry you are experiencing this pain. Am I correct in understanding that you haven’t asked for sex in twenty years?

  18. Closer to 19-1/2… but it seems like a million. Since that last request (which I recall all too well) we have periodically discussed the topic, but the vibes she gives off, the specific words she uses, and all her actions point to “NO”. She will not even undress in the dark in the same room with me. As I’ve told her, she is a strong person but has used that strength to protect herself from the one person who ought to be, and is trying hard to be, the safest person in the world for her to be around. Other aspects of life are OK, and still worth living for, but it hurts to have this gaping hole in the foundation of our marriage and our souls.

    Thank you for your prayers and understanding. It helps.

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