Has your husband responded negatively to your efforts to work on sex?

For a full year after I began working on sex, the effort was hard and largely thankless. For six months, my husband didn’t really believe that my change was real. He thought it was a fluke. He was grateful for the change, but he didn’t even acknowledge what was happening.

For the second six months, he was a little angry and tested me. He had an attitude of, “If you were able to do this all along, why didn’t you do it earlier? Why did I have to suffer for so long?”

Because I had developed a heart of compassion for him and felt bad for how much I’d hurt him, I was willing to cling to God and persist throughout that year.

After a year, his anger dissipated and began to be replaced by contentment.

It took another year of my effort before I began to see any change from my husband.

For me, it was a two-year journey from my moment of hard truth to the moment I realized that our marriage had actually turned around. It wasn’t great, but it was definitely more good than bad.

I apologized to my husband and asked for his forgiveness. He granted me that forgiveness—and just as I continued to walk in repentance, he has walked in genuine and full forgiveness.

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From the bottom of my heart, I want to be able to encourage you to persist, with the knowledge that you will be rewarded for your efforts.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Sometimes a wife’s resistance to sexual intimacy is bigger than mine was. I said no most of the time, and even when I grudgingly gave in it was usually me just lying there waiting for him to finish—but my husband had sex at least once most months, and every now and then I would get into it. Other marriages sometimes go months or even years with no sex at all. This is probably a far more difficult heart wound for a husband to heal.

Some husbands also have different personalities. Big Guy doesn’t hold onto hurts in the way that some men do. Some men let hurt turn into anger and then hold onto it until it becomes bitterness.

The sad truth is that there is no guarantee that your effort will bear fruit.

If the sexual situation was difficult enough or lasted a long time, it might take far more than a small handful of years to recover. A man who’s deeply hurt might find it impossible to sexually trust his wife, even with ample evidence of her changed heart and actions. Some men might see that their wives have made a complete turn-around but not believe it is real, or they might mistrust her motives. Sadly, there are also guys who want their wives to suffer some, too.

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For the last few days, I’ve had on my heart the wives of men who don’t respond positively to change. I’ve been praying for women married to husbands

  • who don’t respond well to their wives’ efforts to change.
  • who say, “I’ve seen progress, but it isn’t enough.”
  • who’ve begged their wives to trust, to be more open and share their sexual secrets, only to respond to her tentative and hesitant intimacy with judgment or distance.
  • who see her willingness to change and then set a deadline for her to finish healing, to become a sexual tigress who wants sex as much as he does, or to stop having feelings he thinks are invalid.
  • who have become belligerent about their sexual expectations and rights.
  • who won’t let go of the past.
  • who say it’s too late, or that they no longer love their wives or find them attractive.

We make changes to improve our approach to sex for a variety of reasons: because we know that something is missing from our marriages, because we acknowledge our husband’s pain and want to do better, because we are convicted that attending to sexual intimacy is what God wants us to do, or to save our marriages.

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We change because we believe it is the right thing to do—and because we believe it will make a difference.

But what if it doesn’t make a difference? When our changes are rejected as not enough, or as too little/too late, what are we supposed to do then?

Friends, if you are in this situation, know that I have been imagining what I might say to you if we were sitting together at your kitchen table, or at mine. I would cry with you for a while, because I know the courage, effort, and humility that has gone into making those changes—even if all you’ve done is take the first tentative steps.

Here’s what I think I then might ask:

Friend, do you think your husband is basically a good man? Does he have grace and patience in other areas of his life? Is he generally a loving man? Is it possible that his lack of response/negative response to your sexual efforts is partly a result of having been hurt deeply by the lack of sexual intimacy in your marriage?

If this is the case, then I am hopeful for you that your efforts will make a difference eventually. Be patient and persistent. It may take a couple years before your husband truly believes that your changes are for real. Then he will begin the hard work of healing from his hurt and learning to trust you again. Look for opportunities to be generous and to invite him into your heart—even though I know it is hard to do when there isn’t much response for several years.

If your husband does not have much grace and patience in the rest of his life, or if he carries much of his own baggage in addition to the weight of little sexual intimacy in his life, you probably face a more challenging uphill path. Restoration might take far longer. It might require professional intervention from a counselor or pastor. Even then, it might not be enough.

When you have been persistent in your changes for several years yet your husband still responds in negative or difficult ways, you still have choices.

  • Seek counseling support. If your husband won’t see a marriage counselor with you, then get counseling for yourself. Depending on your husband’s issues, encourage him to seek counseling for himself as well.
  • Talk with your pastor. Be honest about your own role in the situation, but also be clear that you have walked in repentance for several years.
  • Consider a restorative separation, in which you and your husband live apart for a short time for the purpose of seeking individual healing before you resume work on your marriage.

Whether or not you think your husband’s response will turn around, continue wholeheartedly pursuing your own growth and change—for your own sake, not just for the sake of your marriage. Dig into the issues that once made you resistant to sex. Seek healing of your own heart. Walk more closely with God every day.

Pray for your husband’s healing, even as you continue to work on yourself. A healed heart will be better able to respond to your genuine effort than a bruised or damaged one. Your husband is one of God’s children, just as you are. Pray for his Christian walk, regardless of how he approaches your own changes.

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God can restore any marriage—but that doesn’t mean that He always will.

Fortunately, God does always care about you.

Seek comfort in Him. Hold onto His truth about your identity as His beloved daughter, as a woman, and as a wife.

Your worth and identity come from your Father above, not from your husband or his response to you.

Other posts about our husbands’ responses to our efforts:

What if your husband doesn't have a good response to your changes?

Image credit | Christianpics.co

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