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?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net