The bible tells us to forgive–but sometimes it isn’t so easy to do.
My sexual reluctance turned into full-fledged resistance around the time my husband was transferred to the state where we now live. I was in our previous location with three young kids finishing up the school year, trying to sell our house, looking for a job in our new area, and packing to move.
It was hard for me. I had the burden of dealing with the day-to-day stuff, knowing that I would have absolutely no help. I tried to include my husband through phone calls, but I was essentially a single mother for four months. (My hat’s off to those of you who are in military families. I really don’t know how you manage.)
It was a difficult burden, I had very little support in terms of practical assistance or emotional encouragement, and I felt incredibly alone.
Meanwhile, my husband didn’t seem to notice—or care—what the experience was like for me. When we were together, he was focused on reconnecting in the way that mattered to him (sex), but he had no interest in reconnecting in the ways that mattered to me.
This reinforced the negative views I already had about sex and how my husband viewed me: my only value to him was sex.
When the kids and I moved, my husband was happy for us to be together and acted like everything was just fine. Having felt so lonely and unappreciated, I wanted him to acknowledge how hard this had been for me. I wanted to be appreciated and thanked.
None of that happened, and a feeling of resentment took hold in my heart. I was waiting for something that my husband didn’t even know I expected.
It is easy for me to understand now that Big Guy had been yearning for life to feel normal again. In his view, I was just doing what needed to be done. He felt so disconnected from me that it became even harder for him to see what I needed from him.
At the time, though, I didn’t see any of that. All I could see was my own hurt.
Some of my sexual resistance was my way of punishing him for not appreciating me or for even acknowledging that I’d had a rough time.
I waited for that acknowledgement for years, resisting sex and punishing him the whole time.
I brought it up frequently, each time hoping that my husband would give me what I needed. Each time he didn’t, my resentment grew and my walls became thicker. Every time, I felt irrelevant and unappreciated all over again.
My own heart transformation required me to forgive my husband and let it go. I didn’t even recognize this until well over a year into my changes. I’d worked so hard on sexual attitude and behavior. So much in our marriage had improved, but I could see that I was still withholding my heart from my husband.
Forgiveness for me was a process.
I allowed myself to grieve. I acknowledged that my hurt was real. Even if I was overly sensitive and self-centered, my experience of feeling emotionally neglected was truly painful for me.
I developed empathy for my husband. This took a long time, and I made myself try to think about his point of view even while I was still feeling my own hurt. I thought about how awful I would have felt to be separated from the day-to-day life of my family. I thought about how lonely he must have been. I was with our kids and all our friends and got lots of hugs. He was with . . . no one. Other than handshakes, he had no physical contact at all. As I began to think about what he experienced and realized that he, too, had suffered, my own resentment began to lose its hold on me.
I made a decision to really work at letting go of my resentment. I decided that whenever thoughts of that time would enter my mind, I would remind myself that my husband, too, had been hurting. I reminded myself that he had missed me deeply, and that eased some of my hurt. When I began to pay attention to my thoughts, I became aware of how pervasive they were. Even nine years later, I still thought of that time in our lives—every single day. More than once, too. My resentment was taking up far more real estate in my mind than I had realized. Every time resentment would flood my heart and mind, I pushed it out with the empathy I was developing for Big Guy. (It was pretty much the same process I used to learn God’s truth about sex, described in this post.)
I prayed to be able to forgive my husband. I didn’t know how to change my feelings—but I knew God could do it. As I worked to replace my resentment with empathy and awareness of that resentment, I invited God to help me.
When we talk about that time in our lives now (which we rarely do, because I no longer am trying to give him multiple opportunities to prove his love for me tests by bringing it up all the time), I feel no resentment at all. None. I do feel sadness for the woman I was who let her resentment eat away at her heart and her marriage for so long.
I have truly forgiven him.
You know what? Big Guy still hasn’t given me what I was waiting for all that time. He has apologized for not doing a better job of listening to me, but he hasn’t thanked me for what I did during that difficult summer. And I don’t even care anymore.
In forgiving him, I have allowed myself to accept all the things he has given me out of his love for me—and the fact that he couldn’t see through his own hurt to mine all those years ago is just another leg in our shared journey of life.
When I stopped resenting him and learned to forgive, I was able to experience joy in our marriage again.
Are you holding on to any resentment of your husband? What do you need to do in order to let that go?
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