He wanted me to change everything. I easily became anxious. I put things off. I was a know-it-all (even when it came to what he was thinking). I was controlling. He frequently complained about these things—yet the biggest complaint of all was about the lack of sexual intimacy in our marriage.
It never made sense. My husband was the one who was unhappy with our sex life, yet he expected me to be the one to change.
Occasionally I would think about what might be involved in making changes. Because I saw my sexual resistance as a response to my husband’s ways, it was clear to me that change would consist of huge sacrifices on my part and a betrayal of my own self. It was too much. Why couldn’t he accept me as I was?
Change meant that I would . . .
- Put his desires over my needs.
- Do something that made me feel cheap and used.
- Tolerate an activity I rarely enjoyed.
- Give up my rights to happiness and to my own body.
- Lose my identity.
I’d have to do all those things, but the only benefit would be to him.
What was in it for me?
I thought that if he had sex, I would at least get a less grumpy husband for a day or two. Too bad it didn’t work out that way. My theory is that his grumpiness resulted from feeling unloved by having to beg for sex and knowing that it would likely be a full week before he had even a chance at sex again. My reward for sex was a husband that was even grumpier.
On top of that, sex was a sleep medicine to him. Unless sex happened very late at night, I would usually have to get back out of bed to deal with kids or household chores while he got to sleep. If sex happened late at night, I would still lie there awake for several hours, distraught at how used I felt and how broken our marriage seemed. I would cry myself to sleep.
The only possible benefit I could see was that our kids would grow up in a less contentious household. That was pretty much canceled out by my concern about them seeing a mom who was a doormat.
I resisted. I dug my heels in and refused to budge.
I’d grown away from God. I was angry at him for the fact that I was unhappy in my marriage. I could barely drag myself into church.
I was so filled with anger and hurt that I believed that God wouldn’t want to hear what I had to say to him. There were moments when I admitted that my real fear was that God wouldn’t want me at all. When I did go to church, I sat in the pew like a sullen child, very aware that God was there but refusing to acknowledge his presence.
God’s response to my anger was to keep working on my heart.
I had begun to see my husband as a hurting man who felt unloved. Although I didn’t think I was wrong to refuse to have sex, I began to have moments of compassion. My husband was getting depressed. That unsettled me, and it occurred to me that sex might be the one trick I had up my sleeve that might make a difference.
I was starting to see how lonely I was in our marriage, and I began to wonder what would happen to us. The kids were in high school, and I knew that soon it would be just the two of us. Would we make it? (See The Pit of Refusal and Crawling Out of the Pit.)
God opened my eyes and my heart, and I began to see my husband and myself with new compassion.
The moment my heart was transformed was painful, but that heart change was enough to motivate me to change my ways.
So I made changes. I saw what I was doing as a sacrifice. I had the knowledge that I was finally doing the right thing as a wife, and that was no small thing.
For years, the idea of making changes in sexual intimacy had evoked the question, What’s in it for me?
Answers to this question began to emerge.
- My relationship with God was restored.
- For the first time in my life, my heart and soul had a sense of rightness and balance.
- The worst of the tension in our marriage began to evaporate. Long before I got comfortable with the new approach to sexual intimacy, my marriage stopped adding stress to my life.
- Big Guy and I began to laugh together again. As we renewed our sense of companionship, I began to like him again and see him as my partner.
I hadn’t realized how far I’d grown away from God until I found myself growing back toward him. As I began to place a higher priority on sexual intimacy in our marriage, I experienced contentment and joy that came from recognizing that my actions were aligned with God’s word.
These benefits appeared very early in the journey. In the nearly five years since then, I have seen even more benefits.
- My relationship with God has gone well beyond restoration. It was transformed into something that is all-encompassing in the way a wonderful hug is. This relationship is part of the fabric of my life.
- Big Guy has become the husband I always wanted him to be. His love for me and commitment to our marriage is evident every single day. The constant infusion of his wife’s love into his life has given him courage to share his heart with me. His heart has been a totally unexpected gift.
- I have discovered that sex is an opportunity for spiritual connection.
- Instead of feeling cheap and used after sex, I feel loved and protected.
- I understand what it is to feel truly united with my husband rather than experience constant division and conflict.
- After fearing the loss of my identity, I was shocked to realize that instead of losing myself, I have found myself within my marriage and my renewed relationship with God.
I resisted change for so many years. Once I stopped fighting, my life got so much better.
What’s in it for me?
I continue to discover new answers.
Big Guy recently said that the increase in love and affection in our marriage has paralleled a decrease in my habits that used to frustrate him.
The funny thing is this: although I changed a lot, I did not change my personality at all.
I still have those habits and characteristics that use to upset him so much. I still get overly anxious. I procrastinate. I think I know everything (including what he is thinking). I want to control everything.
Having the love and affection he needs has made my husband better able to put his wife’s irritating quirks into perspective. That is a benefit I didn’t expect.
As I took one small step at a time, God transformed me from the inside out. I am still the same person I always was—yet I am completely new at the same time.
I’m not different from who I was. I’m more of who I was always meant to be—more than I ever knew I could be.
What’s in it for me? More than I ever could have imagined.