No Guaranteed Formula

The mission of this blog is to support women, so that is who I think of as my readers. I sit and write and imagine that on the other side of this screen are women who are trying to make some changes in their sexual relationships with their husbands. I speak with a woman’s heart, and I try to speak in words that women can hear.

I’m not sure what to do with the fact that about half the email and comments I get are from husbands who want to know what they can do to get their wives make the changes I’ve started to make in my own marriage. I’ve asked my husband if there was anything he had changed—in his attitude, his prayer life, anything—that had preceded our increase in sexual frequency. He could think of nothing other than the fact that he had begun to resign himself to a sexless marriage for the rest of his life.

Today I received an email from a husband asking me what advice I would give to his wife. I’m not sure his wife is at a point where she is ready for this advice, but I’ve been thinking about what I would say—all of it grounded in some of the hard lessons I’ve learned since I began this journey

The first step of any journey is the hardest. Although I’d been married for almost twenty years and I’d had no problems with sex as a newlywed, when I began to make an effort to change, I honestly had no idea how to do some of the things that were needed: let my husband hug me, get undressed in front of him, touch his penis, give oral sex, initiate sexual activity. Every time I was intentional about doing each of these things as I began this journey, I had to think through, step by step, what to do. I had to take lots of deep breaths. I had to constantly remind myself that sex was important in marriage. I had to retrain my brain.

Be patient with yourself. You may be surprised at just how hard some of this is. You may be terrified. Some of the steps you take may take you days, weeks, or months to accomplish. Celebrate each small step, even while you try to make big strides.

Learning how much you’ve hurt someone is awful. As I got started reading blogs and online forums, my husband’s anguish began to take shape for me. I remember sitting on the living room couch one morning. I was reading posts from refused husbands and wives about how unloved they felt by the one person who they thought would love them the most. I read one comment from a woman who described something so vividly that I could imagine I was her, just for a second. And as I imagined this, I felt like my gut had been punched in. I sobbed—the kinds of sobs that shake a body and rattle a soul and leave you with nothing left to tackle the rest of the day. I prayed a prayer of such anguish. It took me days to really even process the realization of how I’d abandoned my husband. It’s one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had.

Really owning this will not be easy. If you have someone in your real life to talk with about this, do it. I didn’t. Part of my sexual refusal was tied up in anger at my husband and at God, and I had pulled myself away from a faith community. I doubt that I would have shared the specifics about my sin with another person, but it would have been so encouraging to be able to say to someone, “I’ve really messed up how I’ve treated my husband, and I need some prayers for courage and persistence.” Someone with a shoulder to cry on, a cup of coffee, and a commitment to check in with my progress would have made the burden of change more bearable.

Marriage is not just about my covenant with my husband; it is also about my covenant with God. My call to be a good wife is not about what my husband deserves or about what I owe him; it is about my own journey to be who God has called me to be. My husband is on his own journey with God, too, and I cannot expect perfection from him any more than he can expect it from me.

My best advice in working on your marriage is to work on your relationship with God. How is your own faith walk? As I rekindled my relationship with God, I found it easier to tackle the hard stuff. I had more courage. I found more comfort. I had a greater sense of rightness and purpose.

There’s no guaranteed formula for changing intimacy in a marriage, but if you start with these things, you’ll be ready to do the work that is needed:

  • Expect it to be harder than you think.
  • Own your own sins.
  • Spend time with God.

If you have made some of this same journey, what advice would you offer to wives just getting started? Leave a reply to share your own lessons and advice.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

12 Comments on “No Guaranteed Formula”

  1. How disappointing. As I read your blog, I thought surely, there was a secret formula; there must be something that magically caused your transformation. I searched your blog for the order form for the magic “Pixie Dust” that your husband must have sprinkled on your morning breakfast cereal, but alas, no guaranteed formula. Oh well, I guess I will have to try the hard way. I guess I will have to change the way I behave; I will have to be the change I want to see.
    As I read your blog, something you wrote reminded me of St. Paul’s letter about love:
    “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
    I know I am no saint, but this is a hard formula to follow. Maybe I can lay claim to two or three items on St. Paul’s list. I will need to pray very hard for a few more items, but I doubt I could achieve too many more. I am far too imperfect.
    I sure hope you are not holding out on us and saving all the “Pixie Dust” for yourself. Naahh…you wouldn’t do that, right?

    1. I agree that the “Love chapter” is hard and actually even impossible to do. Jesus never asks us to do. He asks us to receive from His done work in our life. I am speaking from someone who went to extreme measures to do in my 9 1/2 years of marriage. All it got me was a divorce I didn’t want. I am learning since the seperation that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. I so wanted what you want, the magic secret dust that would make my wife change. I even prayed for her to change and I went about doing everything that I could to help her change. The problem was that I never changed, I simply didn’t come to Christ and realize that He held everything that I needed for satisfaction in life. I thought I needed regular sex with my wife, which by the way is how God sent marriage up to be. The problem is that He set it up to be that way out of a realtionship that is first rooted deep in Him. I tried to find the satisfaction in sex in my marriage without taking the crucial first step of finding my satisfaction wholly in the Lord first. You cannot change your wife but you can come humbly before the Lord and ask Him to teach you how to love her just like Christ loved the church. I just wonder if we has Christian men did that how long our wives would continue to be “refusers”. I am not negating what your wife is doing in refusing, but I am just looking at it from the perspective of someone who has lost his marriage and realizes that I still have everything in Christ. Also from the perspective that you cannot change someone else, you can only come humbly before the Lord and allow Him to change you. If God is for us who can be against us!!! I will be praying for you because I know how hard it is in the moment, but I also know that God is with you in that moment.

      1. Thank you for sharing your perspective. I am so sorry that your marriage ended in divorce. I can only imagine how painful that must have been for you.

        I have hope. I have been praying more and I have been trying to change. I love my wife and I know she loves me. Our relationship is improving and I enjoy the blessing of a good marriage.

  2. Thank you, this is an amazing post. I love the vulnerability – without self bashing – you bring to the table. I sense the ‘forgiven’ part of your blog title in your writing’s tone. Speaking from a guy’s perspective, knowing a lot of guys in a hopeless feeling situation, God will use these words to encourage.

  3. Change in the sexual relationship I have with my husband began to happen when I started to pay attention to the thoughts I was allowing to run through the ‘back’ of my mind – very quiet, subtle thoughts. I had always considered myself to be a “positive” person – at least in most situations. But, my attitude about our marriage wasn’t great. I often felt frustrated and overwhelmed by my husband’s always-present desire for sex.

    One day I was reading a book to my youngest child called “What to Do When You Grumble Too Much”. The gist of the book is that “our happiness depends on how we *think* about what happens to us and not on what is actually going on.” I was convicted to start paying attention to the subtle thoughts I was having about my marriage and my husband… especially when I had been offended or he was indicating a desire for sex. When I stopped to really listen, I heard negative, complaining thoughts – whether in response to something my husband had said or done that he shouldn’t have, or something he hadn’t said or done that he should have, and also negative thoughts about sex in general. Those thoughts were encouraging me to feel frustrated and overwhelmed with my husband, and hold him at a distance. My thoughts also affected the way I felt about myself, which in turn affected my willingness to be intimate.

    God’s Word churned in me:
    2 Corinthians 10:5 “bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”

    Philippians 4:8 “think about whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.”

    1 Corinthians 13:5,8 “love thinks no evil” and “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.”

    Around that same time, my husband and I attended a “Love and Respect” conference (Emerson & Sarah Eggerichs) through our church.

    Ephesians 5:33 “Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

    Again conviction for me about my thoughts. Respect for my husband is shown by giving him the benefit of the doubt, seeing him as a “good-willed” husband (essentially thinking positive thoughts about him.) The example of how a 4-star general would speak to his men after they had screwed up, after they had failed a mission, spoke volumes to me. The general would build up his men, not tear them down. He would speak to the character of who they desired to be, not to their performance. He would put courage into them to “be that man.”

    I determined not to allow subtle thoughts like “he doesn’t really care about me”, or “he’s selfish”, or “sex is all he wants from me” (amongst many others) to run through the back of my mind any longer. I consciously stopped paying attention to what was ‘wrong’ in our relationship and rather focused on all that was good and right. When there were issues that needed to be addressed, I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt and speak to the man he desires to be.

    Life is too short! I decided I want to spend the rest of my life happily married and actually enjoy all the days I have with my husband, and that includes enjoying sex. I’ve made it my mission to make him feel as if he is one lucky man, happy to be married to me. I now know that my resistance to sex was product of the thoughts I was entertaining. I no longer consider sex something that I “have to” do for him, but something fun we can do together and both enjoy.

    My suggestion, try this exercise to see where your thoughts are. Next time your spouse offends you (especially in regards to sex), get out a notebook and pen and answer the following questions:

    1) What am I believing to be true about him/her in this situation?
    2) What am I believing to be true about myself in this situation?
    3) What am I believing to be true about God in this situation?

    (You can also journal on your computer – the point is you need to visibly record the words so you can go back and read them).

    – – – – –

    The truth is, most husbands ARE good-willed men (who sometimes unintentionally say or do thoughtless or hurtful things…), but who deeply love their wives and want to be intimate with her to feel connection. But when you’re wearing negative ‘marriage glasses’, you can misinterpret everything he says or does negatively.

    1. Thanks for your comments. My wife recently has been saying how she feels i manipulate and control her. She doesnt believe my intentions are good. I am fallen but i truly love my wife and am trying to grow in love. The ONLY issue i bring to my wife is poor sex life. I dont complain about house work, etc. I am willing to do that myself. Your post helped me see i am truly pursuing good intentions , she had thoughts of control , abuse and manipulation in my head.

  4. I enjoy your posts. I would love some advice on my marriage. Its not even been 2 years and its a fight every time I want sex. I’ve talked to him about it, mostly the conversation ends with him saying I need to see a doctor. My self esteem is ruined even though I workout 4xs a week to look good for him. I feel so beat down and exhausted I just want to give up!

  5. Boy this article really hit uncomfortably close to home. The feeling of abandonment and put at the bottom of my wife’s priorities list has been going on for years and nothing I have said, no matter how kindly, has moved her to acknowledge my point of view. Is this what marriage is supposed to be like?

    1. No, this is most definitely not what marriage is supposed to be like. Marriage should be a sanctuary of love, welcome, and acceptance. You should not be at the bottom of the list.

Leave a Reply!