If sex has been a source of tension in your marriage, it’s likely to take a while to restore your sexual relationship to a place of health.
Not only are you in the process of learning and changing, your husband is, too.
Several readers have emailed me recently about their husbands’ struggles in adjusting to the new normal of their sex life. They have noted that their husbands haven’t seemed to notice or even appreciate the effort their wives are making; sometimes, their husbands are acting even worse than before their wives began their efforts to change.
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In my own journey, and in being invited into the experiences of other wives, I have learned some things that may help you persevere as your husband goes through the process of healing.
Perhaps they can encourage you.
His healing will take time. His healing involves his emotions as well as an understanding that he is not going to be sexually rejected. Old habits, responses, and feelings will take time for him to unlearn, and new ones will take a while to become automatic. He may not really be able to do this until much of your own growth and healing have taken place. I was so frustrated by this. Once I was on board with our sex life, I wanted to get started with the new version of our marriage right away! But I couldn’t. It was a process, not a switch–for Big Guy as well as for me.
Trust especially takes time. Even after your husband has come to believe that the change in you is real, he needs to relearn to trust you. For many husbands, the constant sexual rejection affects them deeply. They often feel betrayed in that we didn’t follow through with our wedding vows to have and to hold them. In my marriage, this was a trust that affected all aspects of our marriage, not just our sexual intimacy. Whether you meant to hurt your husband or not, his suffering from sexual deprivation was real. It’s just going to take him a while. You can’t hurt someone for a period of years and then expect him to bounce back overnight. Big Guy didn’t believe my changes were real until I’d been at it for at least six months. And then the next six months were filled with his anger and hurt. All those feelings he’d suppressed for so long were released once he began to feel safe in doing so. Even though I didn’t like having those negative feelings expressed (especially since I was already working on things so his anger seemed pointless to me), they were a sign that he was working toward healing sexually.
Your husband may go through a time when he is less loving and affectionate than he had been. Maybe this is a result of his anger. Maybe he is testing your love for him: Will she still love me sexually if I am not there for her emotionally? If this is the case, he may not even be aware of it. This is not okay on his part—but don’t let it throw you if it happens. Or, perhaps there is part of him that is thinking that he’d worked so hard with no improvement that now it is his turn to sit back and make no effort while you do all the work. Or, maybe he is finding the changes disconcerting (even though they are good changes) and that is throwing him off balance.
He may become a wild and crazy guy. A man who has been sexually deprived may want to go a little nuts. He may want sex way more than you (or even he) thought he would. He may ask for some sexual things that surprise you and that are outside your comfort zone. After deprivation, he wants it all—and, if he suspects this change won’t last, he may feel an urge to try to do everything while your window of opportunity is still open since he doubts it will be open long. Be patient. Accommodate this as much as you can. My husband always used to say he wanted a certain frequency of sexual activity. After he started to believe the change was real, that was what he pushed for because it’s what he thought he wanted. As he began to trust me and believe the change, though, this slowed down. Once he was fully sated and didn’t feel stressed about when he would get to connect with me again, he settled into a desired frequency that was somewhat less than either of us had expected.
Don’t let your progress depend on your husband’s responses to your efforts. If your husband is responding in unloving ways, mention it to him. Even if you can understand why he is acting in unloving ways, that doesn’t mean you just have to take it without communicating your hurt to him. If he is pushing you too far past your comfort zone, let him know that, too. You are still in the process of learning to be more comfortable sexually, and it doesn’t hurt to remind him that you, too, need patience and a little bit of grace. It is important to motivate yourself to keep going even if your husband is man-gone-wild, grouchy, sullen, blaming you for problems in your marriage—or if he doesn’t even seem to notice at all. You should work on improving sexual intimacy because it draws you closer to what God wants in your marriage—not just to make your husband happy. Your job is to work on your own healing and growth.
Guilt is not your friend. I struggled with guilt for a long time. My response was basically to become a sexual doormat. Once I realized how much hurt I’d caused, I wanted to do everything I could to make it up to Big Guy. When my husband was grouchy about anything sexual, I rushed to soothe and reassure him, thinking it was the least I could do after hurting him so much. When he asked for something I didn’t really want to do, I tried hard to do it because I thought that I owed him. This was not emotionally healthy for either of us. It perpetuated the idea that sex was mostly for him, it replaced my bad habit of saying no with the bad habit of trying to appease him, and it delayed his having to deal with his feelings (which is a necessary part of his healing).
His healing is not your job. It is his. You should support and encourage his healing, but do not bear the burden of his progress on your shoulders. He, not you, is responsible for his feelings. This was really hard for me to learn. In my mind, since I’d caused the problems, I should be able to take them away—but it just doesn’t work that way. A man’s healing is part of his own journey of faith. You are by his side, but he has to walk his own journey.
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Healing the sexual intimacy in a marriage is a process that takes time. With you both of you in the midst of healing and growing, you’re bound to hit some hiccups. Sometimes one of you will hit a rough spot with old feelings and responses bubbling to the surface, and that can elicit old responses and feelings in the other spouse. It can feel very discouraging to experience that.
When it happens, work to figure out what happened, apologize for any wrong you ‘ve done, and ask for an opportunity for the two of you to reconnect with each other.
Each time you successfully conquer a hiccup, it becomes a memory to draw on in the future to help you remember that you really can do this and that things truly are becoming better in your marriage.
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To restore your sexual relationship to a place of health, keep working on yourself, give yourselves both a little grace, and pray for your husband’s healing as well as for your own.
Your husband’s healing is his job—but your prayers, persistence, understanding, and compassion can provide the support he needs.
Want to learn more about what your husband needs? This page will help.
Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net