When You’ve Changed and Your Husband Has Stayed the Same


How can you find peace when you’ve made so many changes and your husband has barely budged?

When we work on the sexual intimacy in our marriages, it should be because we believe it is the right thing to do—not for the express purpose of getting our husbands to change. (Disclaimer: I say this as a woman whose initial attention to our sexual intimacy was to get my husband to change.)


It can be far easier to see our husbands’ faults than it is to see our own. You may have a mental list of things you would love for your husband to change. I certainly did!

For years, our fights about sex frequently involved one or both of us announcing that we wouldn’t consider making changes in ourselves until the other made the changes that we wanted.

I would say, “If you only paid more attention to me/listened to me/helped around the house more/etc., I would find it easier to want sex.”

In response, I heard a variation of, “You figure out your issue with sex, and then I’ll see about . . . [fill in the blank with whatever I had been complaining about that time].”

Big Guy and I were each better at seeing the speck in each other’s eye than we were the log in our own.

This same logjam shows up in a lot of marriages.

When something breaks the logjam and we finally start to work on the log in our own eyes, it can make a substantial difference in the marriage.

A wife may take full responsibility for her sexual resistance and refusal. She can realize that her heart had been hardened against her husband. She may recognize how much her approach to sex had hurt her man.

Even when she comes face-to-face with the logs in her own eyes, it’s common for a wife to hope that her husband will work on the speck in his, too. It’s the least he could do, right?


I hear from women who have worked hard to make drastic changes in their lives only to see their husbands continue with the same old habits. Or the husbands have responded to their wives’ changes with changes of their own—only to slide back into their old habits after a while. Or women have worked for a while, only to be surprised by how angry they are about the fact that they’ve made so much change while their husbands have done nothing except be the happy recipient of their efforts.

It would be so nice if there were a guarantee that one spouse’s growth would automatically trigger the other’s growth. But that just isn’t the way things always work.

If we go into our own growth expecting a particular response from our husbands, we are going to be disappointed.

If we go into our own growth expecting a particular response from our husbands, we are going to be disappointed. Click To Tweet


About 2 ½ years after I began to work on sexual intimacy, I saw my husband begin to make some changes in his approach to our marriage. He has a good heart and is well-intentioned, and when I mention something, he gives a genuine effort to work on it. He wants my good will, and he wants to be a good husband.

Some things have become a natural part of the way he approaches our marriage and me now. Other things I want may never change.

If your husband doesn’t make any changes, what can you do?

There is no formula to get your husband to make his own changes. You can’t make him call home when he’s going to be late for work, give you what you need sexually or emotionally, wash the dishes, take care of the kids for a day, or start a bubble bath for you.

How can you seek peace when your husband is content to continue living with the speck in his own eye? Click To Tweet

However, you can try a few things to seek some peace when your husband is content to continue living with the speck in his own eye. I’d like to share some of the things that have helped me.

Remember why you’re really doing this. Go back to your initial reason for working on sexual intimacy. For me, it was because I realized that my sexual rejection was causing my husband emotional pain. For the first year of my efforts, when I was seeing no response from my husband, this was the thing I kept going back to. Even now, when we hit a tough stretch, the memory of that realization keeps me on the path.

Pray for your man. I don’t mean to pray selfishly for him to change. Instead, pray for your husband’s walk with God and for him to experience God’s presence every day. Pray for him to experience healing of any heart wounds. Pray for your husband’s spiritual growth and trust that God will work in your husband’s heart in accordance with his own plan for your man and your marriage.

Expect nothing. It’s fine to hope for change—but it is unfair to create expectations for someone else based on our behavior. Your husband may never make the changes you desire. That realization may come with some grief on your part, but if you are making sexual changes just to get your husband to make his own changes, your heart is in the wrong place.

Give him time to heal. If you have been sexually rejecting your husband for ten years, he isn’t going to be all better within a month. You have hurt him, and it is going to take him time to believe that your changes are real and to begin to rebuild trust in you.

Accept your husband as he is . . . In my experience, one of the deepest needs of the human heart is to be seen and accepted as we are. We are sinners, and we all hurt others from time to time. Let your husband know that you see him and accept him, flaws and all. As wives, we are in a unique position to encourage our husbands to see their sins and to grow, and I believe we should do that (more about that in a moment)—but a wife’s acceptance of her husband as a man can be a powerful thing in his life. Communicate that your love and respect for him are not contingent on his own changes.

 . . . and confront him in love. Having worked on yourself puts you in a better place from which to speak to your husband about the areas where he can grow. When my husband was sexually famished, he was unable to hear me say that I needed to feel emotionally connected to him. Now, he feels loved and valued enough that he is more willing and able to hear me when I address concerns about his words and actions. Quite frankly, it is easier for me to say those things, too, when I am not having to worry that a conversation about my needs will turn into an argument about sex.

Continue to work on yourself, and don’t let your progress be contingent on his. Continue your efforts because they are the right thing to do and because they make you better. If you do the right thing only when your husband does, you’re right back in the log-vs.-speck problem.

React with your new self. Working on sexual intimacy can bring with it a great deal of spiritual growth. We understand ourselves better, we develop compassion and new perspectives (both for our husbands and for ourselves), and we allow ourselves to experience both brokenness and healing. If your husband never changes, or if he reverts to old behavior after the newness of your changes has worn off, remember you are no longer the woman you used to be—and your responses to your husband’s old behavior can reflect the maturation and growth you’ve achieved.


What about you? How have you responded when your husband has not made any changes in response to yours? How have you found peace—or not?

How can you find peace when you’ve made so many changes and your husband has barely budged?

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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11 Comments on “When You’ve Changed and Your Husband Has Stayed the Same”

  1. When I made changes, I really had no expectations of my husband changing. What I have noticed is phases. I was like you mentioned where I really noticed my husband’s faults or “speck’, I used them to justify my own behavior. Then I was convicted of my sin and changed. In the first couple of years, I really shouldered full responsibility on what I was like and why our marriage had gotten where it was. Then, it was like I hit a ceiling of what I could do and changes I could make, without him doing some growing and changing on his own. When I hit that ceiling, we hit a really rough patch… and I have really realized, that though I definitely had a part in the downward spiral of our marriage, I was not the sole one responsible. As I see it, the truth is, I can do my part, but our marriage is limited in intimacy growth by the other half’s lack of forward (and even backwards) movement.

    I know there’s lessons and even growth in this, and that keeps despair at bay.

  2. While your blog is dedicated to sexuality, this concept goes well beyond a single aspect of a relationship, and it applies as much to men as it does women. It is important that whatever we do, it is with a with pure motive. Whether it be an act of service, forgiveness, or even a confession, it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

    It is important not to place conditions on doing the right thing, It is a virtual guarantee that you will be disappointed at one point or another, and it is equally certain that you will also disappoint your spouse.

    This is an ongoing struggle in my marriage, and in my heart. I sometimes find myself doing the right thing more out of spite. I know it will be noted, and even appreciated, but at the same time I am doubtful that it will be returned in kind. I have to be constantly on guard of my motive, because it is a very short step from there to resentment.

  3. As a husband with a wonderful wife who struggles with any interest in sex and sexual intimacy, I can tell you that when we are in a good sexual pattern it is like we are in perfect rhythm and I feel focused, energetic, and ready to take on the world, but when we are disconnected, which unfortunately is quite often, I feel distracted, frustrated, impatient, inefficient, and, typically, depressed. I cannot speak for all husbands, but I can tell you that for most with whom I have spoken about the issue, a man with a wife who shows her own interest in their sex life is viewed as a man who has won life’s lottery, and usually carries himself at home and at his work as if he should be wearing a cape. He is the guy who enjoys being at home, getting projects done, and being with and protecting the person who cherishes and needs him.

    I guess that what I am saying is, while a wife’s change of attitude may not cause the husband to change, it likely will at least bring out the best of him in his current form. There is the old adage that a man marries a woman thinking that she will never change, and she does, while a woman marries a man thinking that he will change, and he doesn’t. The truth is that faith in God through Christ is the pathway to changing our hearts.

    1. It’s a funny thing. Not to diminish the guy’s responsibility, but it seems like so much of this rests on the wife’s shoulders. She has to see a need for change or to look at sex in marriage through a different lens or none of it really works.

      For example, I’ve been working on a plan over the last three years to make changes in our intimate relationship and it’s barely moved the needle. The other day it hit me that while yes, I am happier. I am doing more. I am living with more purpose, nothing has really changed in our intimacy. Why? Because I’m meeting all my wife’s needs — and more. So, from her perspective everything is beyond great. Where’s the issue?

      If there’s an increase in intimacy, men are hard-wired to react with whatever is needed to encourage it and keep it going. Women aren’t programmed the same way, and I believe that’s how God designed us. I’ve just hit a wall and don’t know what else to do. I’ve made my wife very, very happy — but none of that has resulted in any improved intimacy. Maybe I went in with the wrong expectations. I don’t know. I feel like a guy who’s been working on a room remodel thinking my wife would respond in a certain way; she likes all the work that’s been done. But she’s just as happy residing in other rooms of the house. So, what now? Move in a nice chair and a reading lamp?

      I’ve fallen into the trap of “hey honey, lookey what I did, now let’s have rapturous sex.” And I fear that isn’t going to happen. As Chris stated, I think I’ve gone into this with the wrong heart. There’s been some wonderful personal growth, but it feels a little short as the real goal hasn’t been met.

      Pardon my rambling — had to work it through. Thoughts are more than welcome.

      1. I’ve been working on a plan over the last three years to make changes in our intimate relationship and it’s barely moved the needle.

        How do you define intimacy? If by intimacy you mean sex, then that might be the problem. She may be giving you more of intimacy as she defines it. But . . . if she has experienced hurt in your relationship, she might still be in the process of healing. (Don’t assume that she has not experienced hurt. Ask her.)

        I think I’ve gone into this with the wrong heart. There’s been some wonderful personal growth, but it feels a little short as the real goal hasn’t been met.

        It is impossible to measure success when your goal is something that requires action on someone else’s part. I think it is worth searching your heart for your real desired outcome for your effort–and then consider whether you should define your goal differently.

        If there’s an increase in intimacy, men are hard-wired to react with whatever is needed to encourage it and keep it going.

        This is not always true, even though it often happens (at least for a while).

  4. Doug I think I understand where you are coming from… In 2010 my wife accused me of being a sex addict (as I wanted it 2-3 times a week). After research I was convicted by God that I needed to change as I was a sex addict and sex was controlling me (mostly porn), however I also had in my mind that if I did change then my wife would have to change. 3 yrs later (thats a process in itself) I was happy to say I was no longer an addict and then I expected my wife to change… it didnt happen. So I waited another year… and still nothing. She was happy as I was no longer asking for sex all the time, helping around the house, spending time with her and doing activities she wanted to do. But that didnt help me.

    ‘Confront in love’ is a nice way of putting it Chris and I did that with my wife. I sat down with her and explained that this was the journey I had been through and the changes she had noticed (ie I wasnt asking so we went a month with no sex and she was wondering if I still loved her) was because I had changed. But now the responsibility was on her for the marriage to continue to grow and marriage without regular frequent sex was not a suitable option to me. I just left it with her. We didnt have sex for a week… then she just started having sex.

    I would love to end it here and say all is great but the last 2 yrs has been a rocky path of continued growth and after writing all this I realise that the issues this week are also part of this growth, or lack of, and I need to step up and sort out my next set of problems once again.

    Someone once told me… Work as though it all depends on you… and Pray as though it all depends on God!

  5. Deb, beautifully put. You reminded me that this is a process. I’ve been growing impatient with the movement on the other end of the yoke. I’m seeing how my expectations have been on the wrong thing, and I’ve forgotten the most important part: living the way God would want me to live, with love and patience and faith that all things will work out for the better. Might not be in this life, and I need to be okay with that happening.

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