A Wife’s Heart: Colloquy #3


This is the third post in a series in which Chris Taylor, of Forgiven Wife, and I dialogue about ideas and issues brought up in her post, A Wife’s Heart(Here are the links to part 1, part 2, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7 and part 8.) Chris and I have chosen colors to help with reading clarity in trying to incorporate our comments into her original text; my comments are in blue and Chris’s in purple.

At the end of our last discussion, I said something that gave Chris this vibe. We shall see. Mwahahahaha!

Healing a Hurting Heart

I didn’t know how to open up sexually when I felt like my husband didn’t love me. My heart needed to be healed before I could even hear what he was expressing about his desire for the intimacy that came only through sex.

As I’ve read CSL’s series, I’ve thought how reasonable it all sounds: the talk, the shot across the bow, the end of normal life, withdrawing romance, withdrawing affection, sleeping in separate bedrooms, removing the wedding ring, etc.

Those are all logical suggestions. When the problem is that your wife needs to change her thinking or is generally just too overwhelmed by life, they may work very well.

Here’s the thing: a hurting heart will not be healed by logic.

Not a single one of these suggestions would have touched my heartache. In fact, some of them might well have compounded the hurt I was already feeling.

Chris,  as I promised, it didn’t take me long to kick over the traces.  It’s been over a month since you wrote A Wife’s Heart and since I read it. Just as that video, The Nail, truly bothered you, this last paragraph has me going like a dog trying to eat peanut butter (a funny sight, btw.)

“Not a single one of these suggestions would have touched my heartache.” Above, you link to my various posts on Addressing The Sexless Marriage, including the one with Job29Man’s Shot Across The Bow. In our discussions, you have said that Job’s Shot wouldn’t have reached you. But when I go back to what he wrote, I find this as a major part of his appeal to his wife:

“This is not the marriage we both committed to. If you have rebuke for me. I am all ears. I want to be the best husband for you that I can be. You can lay it on me and I will not resist, but will redouble my efforts. I will withhold NOTHING from you. I will give up ANYTHING that you feel is needed. You just say the word. But if you will permit me now to state my own complaint to you in the same spirit… I am a sexually miserable man.” ~ Job29Man, Shot Across The Bow

I don’t believe I’m telling tales outside of class when I mention that you aren’t entirely enchanted with the Shot Across The Bow. But since you wrote “not a single suggestion” could have touched you, I am wondering how this level of vulnerability could fail to reach the person you were.

How could it fail to reach me? I don’t know—but it did fail. My heart resisted anything that would require me to change.

Logic would suggest that only a selfish witch could not respond to such vulnerability from her husband—and in this case, perhaps logic is valid.

The quick and easy answer is to say that I was a selfish witch and be done with it. (And just in case anyone is wondering, “witch” is not my first choice of words.)

But I don’t do quick and easy much, do I, CSL?

My husband didn’t quite use Job29Man’s approach, but the only time he ever approached being vulnerable was when we were talking about our sex life. And often, that vulnerability would lead to a nice time together in bed that night because I finally had a temporary emotional connection with my husband.

1 – “didn’t quite use Job’s approach” *buzz* Flag on the play? That’s an awful lot of writing not talking about MY question…..

Wait, what was the question again?🙂

It is difficult to write about any of these things without being disrespectful to my husband. He was miserable in our marriage, and he had begun to develop some health problems that affected his mood and his ability to think clearly. He was not at his best—and yes, I fully acknowledge that much of this was solidly on my shoulders. 

I love the guy. When I began writing about the changes in our marriage, I promised God that I wouldn’t obscure truth to make myself look good—only to protect my husband and family. I have stuck to that promise and will continue to do so. Saying too much shows my husband as someone other than the man I know him to be. I’ll see if I can say a little more, but if I’m vague, it is because he is my husband.

I understand completely.

My husband said he would do anything to fix our problem—but sometimes those words were said in such anger that the tone contradicted the words. 

Sometimes he would say he would do anything and then he would tell me I needed counseling. I finally asked him if he would go with me, thinking that our problem was bigger than either one of us. He said he would go—but only to help figure out what I needed to fix.

He refused to admit that he needed to make changes—just as I refused to admit it about myself.

Oh, the benefit of 20-20 hindsight!! 🙂

But anything beyond that required trust and my own vulnerability. My husband would sometimes tell me he would do whatever I needed in order to have a better relationship.

This sounds promising……. (sorry about the pun)

So the next day, or a few days later, I would test him to see if this was true. I would bring up an unresolved issue between us, desperately wanting him to ask me what I needed from him in order to heal—because I did want to heal. I hated carrying around that heart pain.

He failed the test. Every. Single. Time. He would tell me that the issue was from a long time ago and I just needed to get over it. Or he would say that there was nothing he could do and I needed to deal with it myself. Or he would try to placate me. Or dismiss me.

1 – This is putting me onto the need for a follow-up to my Shot post, which I’m going to start working on today.
2 – I know we can’t retroactively referee every fight, but I’m wondering why you didn’t take a stand on HIS promise? (cue “Standing on the Promises”)
After all, he had promised he “would do whatever was needed”, right? So an appeal to integrity and telling him that “get over it” is not keeping his word to you didn’t work? 

Why do you assume I didn’t take a stand? I tried to—but considering that my feet were on pretty shaky ground since I wasn’t standing on my promises, either, that didn’t go far. But I did mention it to him several times. He didn’t react well.

Mea culpa, mea culpa. But then, again, I’ve always been an advocate of the well-timed hissy fit.

I don’t seem to have perfected the art of the hissy fit. My attempts tend to result in crying, screaming, and a lot of snot. If only I could channel my inner Julia Sugarbaker . . . 

Every time, my belief that I couldn’t trust my husband with my real emotions or my true self was reinforced—and that served to reinforce the walls I had around my heart.

(Oh, my Lord! So many new posts!)
I’m going to forego Freudian unpacking of “my belief” and “trust” and ask this: Was there an element of your response that perceived an opportunity to conduct a test of your husband, a “let’s see how the rat will perform in the maze today”? (“rat” not in the pejorative sense, btw.)

I know I am a veritable psychological study. I’ve thought about the “rat in the maze” question many times. You know how much I dislike any implication that a refusing wife has a malicious intent. I react negatively to that. When I have that negative reaction, though, I recognize that it is because there is a disturbance in the force, er, in my heart. So when I see something that implies maliciousness, I always spend time in prayer and introspection about it.

I’ve done a lot of deep reflection and have faced a great many difficult truths about myself over the past several years. You know I have been transparent in my writing and have not covered up the dark places in my heart.

The answer to your question is no. At least I think it is. I would not be surprised to someday remember having this kind of thought—but I don’t think this was the case.

Still, since I do find myself bristling even to read that question from you, I know that I need to continue to dig down and figure out why it really bothers me. I do have some ideas, and they have nothing to do with performing lab tests on my husband and everything to do with my own emotional baggage.

It was never a situation of setting up hoops for him to jump for. I acknowledge that sometimes there were hoops for him to jump through, but I never thought of myself as having set them up. I thought they were hoops set up by society or by the bible in an obstacle course called “How to Be a Husband.” 

All too often, I think, we have the ability to separate ourselves into parts and become an observer as well as a participant. This allows us to distance ourselves from the import of the action, from our responsibility to be involved in the action. Physically, we may go through the motions, but mentally, we’re standing aside, clipboard and stopwatch in hand, taking notes.

This describes how I had sex for quite a few years.

The only time he shared his true feelings with me was when it was about sex. That told me that sex was the only thing he cared about. When I tried to see if he could care about me and my heart, too, he showed me that he didn’t.

His vulnerability and words played as false. His words said he wanted true intimacy in every way with me—but in refusing to meet me at my point of emotional need, he told me that the only kind of intimacy that actually mattered to him was sex. My full self was something he tolerated at best just to get at what was between my legs.

Today, you realize that Hubs could have written the paragraph like this: “Her words said she wanted true intimacy with me, but her refusing me at my point of physical need told me the only intimacy that mattered to her was friendship. My full self was something she tolerated just to have comfortable companionship”?

Of course I realize that—now. In fact, it was the moment I realized his point of view that I made the decision to change. 

After a few times of this, his words of vulnerability ceased to make an impact on me. His emotional rejection of me was an attack on my ability to hope for more in our marriage.

With apologies to Arlen and Mercer, “Round and round we go, down and down we go, In a spin….”😦

Our marriage was in a downward spiral, with one person’s hurt feeding the other’s. Round and round, down and down, . . . 

I am so thankful for the Sexually Refused forum at The Marriage Bed.

As am I. It is what finally opened my eyes.

I want to circle back to the selfish witch part for a few minutes. Unfortunately, I was a self-centered woman. I couldn’t see beyond my own protective walls. On a theoretical level, I understood that a marriage required sacrifice, thinking about the other person, giving, and so on—but in my actual day-to-day life, I didn’t know how to do this. It occasionally occurred to me that I was seeing an opportunity to be giving, but my own hurt (my grudge?) would hold me back. 

Setting my hurt aside would feel like I was betraying myself and saying that my own emotions didn’t matter. My husband didn’t value my feelings, so I had to be the one to do it.

During the last year before I began to make changes in our marriage, I got a little heartless. During that time, I wanted to hurt my husband because I was so desperate to continue protecting myself, and the best defense was a good offense. (I wrote about it in this post.)

You ask me how this level of vulnerability in Job29Man’s words could fail to reach the person I was. Here’s how:

1 – Actions that don’t match the words cancel the words.
2 – Selfishness interferes with the ability to truly see a spouse’s heart.

1 – I’m writing that Shot Across the Bow follow-up as we speak.
2 – True. But you haven’t convinced me that the Shot approach is wrong.🙂

I wasn’t trying to convince you that it was wrong. I was trying to convince that it wouldn’t have worked on me because the words would have come at me in the context of a marriage and from a husband that didn’t align with those words. 

Alright, “inform me.” 🙂

If I had a different husband or a different marriage, perhaps they would have worked. And perhaps our marriage wouldn’t have gotten to the point that it did.

In a marriage where there is consistency and trust and two generally good-willed people, I do think this approach can work. 

In a marriage where the husband has contributed to his wife’s heartache, however, trust has been eroded. That is exactly why I think it is important for a husband to find out if he contributed to any of that hurt.

If he did, and if he works to support her in her healing, that in itself might strengthen the intimacy between the two of them in a way that changes what is needed in order to address the sexlessness.

I thought this was going to be a hard one.

You think you’re getting off that easy? 

I wouldn’t say that any of this has been easy. Simple? Yes. I have the blessing curse blessing curse ability of introspection. I can pull together many different pieces in my memory and connect them to my emotional journey. I remember far more than I sometimes wish I did. So it’s simple to figure out what to say in response to your questions.

Easy, though? Not by a long shot. Revisiting difficult parts of my emotional journey is never easy. Would it surprise you to know that the process of writing these responses has involved the shedding of many tears for me?

Two questions:

1 – “He failed the test. Every. Single. Time.”
Knowing your propensity for self-examination, this one should get you going: what part of you ‘knew’ he was fail? knew that Hubs wasn’t up to the task? went “I knew it, just as I expected”?

The first few times, I expected that he would do as he’d said because he is a man of integrity. However, his own hurt and a lack of experience with any woman’s emotional storms interfered with his ability to do what I asked and understand how important it was. After that, I expected that he would fail because his previous actions showed me that I should expect that. But each time, I hoped he would pass with flying colors. I desperately wanted my husband to love me. I wanted so much for him to show me that my love was truly worth anything to him. I wanted to know that I was worth loving, even when it wasn’t easy to do so. I wanted to know that he cherished me. I wanted so very much for him to pass the test.

Part of the downward spiral, though, was that each time it was harder to step outside my walls enough to hope.

The part of me that knew he would fail was the part that had been hurt by his failure in the past. The part of me that was hopeful was behind that wall, cheering him on.

This is going to be a staple of what I tell husbands on this blog. Thank you.

You’re welcome. 

2 – Going back to the paragraph that you wrote and I paraphrased for Hubs’s point of view – I’m taking that we’re agreeing that both had valid needs and didn’t know how to break the logjam of conflict, right? (Be careful….🙂 )

We both had valid needs. We both knew how to break the logjam of conflict: the other person had to change! Neither of us was willing to admit that the first step to breaking a logjam was to start with the log in our own eyes.

Ooh, nice one! I’m thinking that dynamite might be too drastic?🙂

If dynamite is what it takes, . . . 

That’s it for my little (*snort*) detour, folks. In our next post, Chris and I will start looking at the section her A Wife’ Heart that deals with her recommendation for creating an atmosphere in which a damaged heart can heal.

Huh? We aren’t done with this yet? Just what did I sign up for, anyway? 🙂

What part of “Mwahahahaha” don’t you understand? 🙂


Filed under Marriage & Sexuality, Marriage and Sexuality

22 responses to “A Wife’s Heart: Colloquy #3

  1. IntimacySeeker

    While reading this I remembered a conversation with my husband nearly two years ago. I said, “I want to love you like I’ve never been hurt, but the only way I know to be/feel safe is to distance myself from you.” He replied, “please don’t do that!” It seemed love and safety were mutually exclusive. I am not in that place today, yet when I look back, I hurt for the woman I was then. So Chris, I understand the tears as you participate in these conversations. Thank you for continuing to share so openly.


  2. Chris wrote : “In a marriage where the husband has contributed to his wife’s heartache, however, trust has been eroded. That is exactly why I think it is important for a husband to find out if he contributed to any of that hurt.

    If he did, and if he works to support her in her healing, that in itself might strengthen the intimacy between the two of them in a way that changes what is needed in order to address the sexlessness.”

    I can say that this is what is starting to work for my wife and myself .
    My attempt at the “SATB” failed miserably in part because I let my emotions enter into it and because I did not realize how much I had contributed to her hurt. The fight that ensued from the “SATB” finally revealed that level of hurt.


  3. Pingback: “The Shot Across The Bow” Reloaded | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  4. SomeoneElsesBigGuy

    I have been thinking about this for some time now. I have been particularly touched by Chris’ words as I think they are particulalry appropriate for my marriage. And recent events have forced more thinking…

    Recently my wife pulled out her to go-to weapons: “If you loved me you would…” and “You don’t love/accept me as I am..”. These have always been half truths to me, and I could never figure out why. But I think I have something now and its related to Chris’ words here and why I would be reticent to use the shot across the bow.

    You see, the problem with both of those weapons is that ther are based on an if/then premise: if one thing is true it MUSR imply another truth. And here we have the problem. The spouse using this statement has a clear idea of what the resulting TRUTH looks like….if you loved me you would respect my sexuality as it is, you don’t accept me because you do X. The problem is that truth can be distorted by the spouse’s experiences. My dear wife has had emotional trauma and emotional abuse…her TRUTH has been polluted by that experience.

    Now I know that CSL will say that the SATB introduces truth, and maybe it does, maybe that is enough to pull a slightly distorted understanding into reality. But if the TRUTH is part of the massive walls built to protect the emotional core of a person, then I think can be too much to expect because you are asking a spouse to rewrite their entire world view, not just a single perspective. I would suspect that in my case my DW would retreat into her walls and it would be a long long time before she peaked out again. Asking her to rewrite her TRUTH at that point would be too much, and I agree with Chris on this one.

    In my case, I KNOW that there is emotional baggage that distorts her truth, so it would not be loving or productive to take a SATB. I know she knows I am unsatisfied sexually….so I work on small things to shift that truth. Maybe someday when she is closer to being able to see and accept the true things, I can say it.

    If a SATB reveals sometuing you dont know, maybe it is productive, in my case i think the only thing it would introduce is fear and unsafe feelings.


    • SEBG, that’s quite a comment you wrote, but I started to react to it almost immediately. It seems to me that you are in such a fog that you fail to see what your wife’s statements really are. You address them as faulty premises, when in fact, that are out and out manipulation.

      That “If you loved me you would ……” That’s so old and so juvenile as to be used in high school. “If you loved me, Sue, you’d go all the way.” Come to think of it, I remember our little four and five year old kids trying to manipulate us: “If you loved me, you’d give me a cookie.”

      And that “You don’t love/accept me as I am..”? Well, duh! God doesn’t even do that. He loves us where we are, but doesn’t accept us as we are. When someone gets saved, they can’t say to God, “Why don’t you accept me as I am?” Someone gets saved, we expect them to turn from sin, right? So, no. If your wife thinks that you should accept her sinning against you, then no, you DON’T accept her as she is.

      As to your idea that her strong wall built to keep you out includes Truth, I’m going to have to, again, say No. It may be based on the FACT of her past abuse, but fact isn’t truth, but merely what is. After all, abortion is fact, but it’s not the truth of God. Any wall built to keep you out isn’t based on any particle of God’s truth.

      I’m going to cite something Chris wrote in the 2nd Colloquy that applies to your situation. Chris said, “A husband should learn to support his wife in her healing–but not in her complacency.” What I am reading in your latest comment is that your wife expects you to support her in her complacency. If that is the case, then she’s correct in saying that you don’t accept her as she is. And you are right not to do so.


      • SomeoneElsesBigGuy

        [CSL here. I’m new to having conversations by comment, and I find them a bit daunting, so I’m going to try replying IN the comment. I will use brackets and italics to indicate my voice.]

        Ah, warm and cuddly as ever🙂

        So a couple of things in response to you:

        “As to your idea that her strong wall built to keep you out includes Truth…”
        Unfortunately, that is not what I meant to convey, my apologies for being less than clear. If I am going to use the word truth, I suppose I should make sure I am consistent. It might be clearer for me to say that past experiences have created a fog that prevents a spouse for seeing Truth, not that they have their own relativistic truth. It is what is perceived by them as truth, when in reality it is distortion. So no, I didn’t mean to convey that the walls include truth.

        [CSL: Thank you for clarifying that. Your previous comment, saying her wall included Truth concerned me. I would repeat often, “Her Truth ain’t nohow true!”]

        And speaking of fog, I am not sure I am in one….although it is helpful at times to have someone bring it up to see how clearly we are seeing things. I KNOW that the statements “If you love me…” etc are manipulation. I KNOW that DW is trying desperately to control the emotional situation and keep me out with those kinds of manipulative statements. I KNOW these things….if the fact that I struggle with how to work with them puts me in a fog, then so be it, but I see clearly now what is happening so I am not convinced I am in the fog you think I am
        (maybe just a different one). The problem I struggle with is figuring out what to do with that knowledge, how to HELP and not HURT.

        [CSL: Why is ‘hurting’ not ‘helping’? Imagine a surgeon deciding not to operate because he would have to cut someone open? Or chemotherapy doctors deciding to forego chemo, because it makes a patient sick? Diabetes is an illness that can cause deadening of nerves, in our extremities. I’m told that diabetes sufferers need to examine their feet often, for sign of injury and infection, but the neuropathy they experience can mean that they can’t feel pain. Pain is an indicator that something is wrong and needs to be taken care of before something worse happens, say, like amputation. I’m not an advocate for revenge or cruelty, but I know that, sometimes, people need to experience the consequences of their choices, and that shielding them from them can just prolong the misery.]

        And yes, I think she would like me to support her in her complacency, it would be easier for her. We have had conversations where she was figuring that NOT dealing with her emotional issues would be easier than dealing with them. She had huge dietary issues prior to recognizing her emotional trauma and those are now gone. She said not eating dairy would be easier than dealing with these things. My response was that not eating dairy would be a hole in her happiness and pleasure that would last a lifetime, but this journey would lead to something better….her choice on whether to live with less or go through pain and get more.

        In moments of pain she will lash out with manipulative statements. But I have stood my ground, gently and quietly for the most part, but I refuse to give up certain things. I don’t fight or argue or “Stand up for my rights”, but I don’t give in. She doesn’t like to be pushed at those times, so when things get heated I stop and rest for a bit, but I don’t step back.

        [CSL: Personally, I’m in favor of something along the lines of, “When you decide to stop acting like a Kindergartner, let me know, so we can finish our conversation.” And then going to the gym. But hey, that’s just me. That said, I applaud you for standing your ground.
        Oh, the “Stand up for your rights” line? More like standing up for a good marriage would be my thought.

        Through recent experiences, I think the only permanent solutions will come through God. So I will try my best to let go and let Him do his work. I will try to stay in tune enough to help where I can and not enable poor behavior.


  5. Object of Contempt


    I agree with your perception of those “if you loved me, you would…” statements. It leaves me with a question, however. Especially in these manipulative situations, it is necessary to bring the truth to the forefront. If the unloved husband states that she is unloving, he needs to be able to contrast what should be from what is. How does a husband do this?

    “If you loved me, you would not insist on supporting your Dad and discrediting your husband as a rule.” “If you loved me, you would be motivated to overcome our problems and be close instead of remaining cold and distant.” “If you loved me, you would be candid and open instead of telling only half-truths.” Those are things that I have said. I had no manipulative intent, just a desire to show her that her contempt was not as well hidden as she thinks.

    None of those statements broke throuh to her. She has never had anyone tell her that her behavior is cruel, and there are a lot of men who will stand up for her. She feels unassailable. Still, without saying those things, the truth remains entirely hidden, and the core problem never even gets named. I now recognize that nearly 100% of the arguments are designed to deflect responsibility and attention away from herself and the real problem. Without naming the problem, and saying how I know it, what is left?


    • OOC,I’ve been sitting on this comment, thinking about it, and that third paragraph tells me a lot. You say that none of your comments have “broken through to her”, and that she “feels unassailable.” Then you need to find some dynamite. Go back and read my post, “All You Think About Is Sex!”, especially the last part, about blowing up logjams. And then spend some time thinking about what dynamite you can bring.

      Something you said in this comment is troubling me, though. You said, “there are a lot of men who will stand up for her”. What do you mean by that? Is there a dynamic at play, here, that you haven’t mentioned yet?


      • Object of Contempt

        [Comment edited to show just the last paragraph ~ CSL]

        You made a recommendation a couple weeks ago that maybe I should leave her…. I have no resources, and she has a very dishonest relative who is a lawyer, and who personally hates me. All the kids… I can’t abandon them that way. The abuse has been so covert, and no one believes me. … I don’t know… Pursuing a divorce would almost be like intentionally putting my head in a blender. At least my headache would be gone, and so would the last shreds of my dignity.

        CSL replies: First, OOC, I cut all but this last paragraph, as I don’t believe that the comment section of a blog is a place for dealing with heavy-duty counseling problems. I am more than willing to talk with you via email, but not disjointedly, in comments scattered over different posts.

        Second, in my few years of reading and discussion of marital/sexual problems, I’ve learned one thing: as long as the tolerable remains tolerable, it will be tolerated. It is only when the tolerable becomes intolerable that you won’t stand it anymore, and are willing to do something about it. OOC, as bad as you describe in, what with bad wife, bad life, bad church, etc., if you can stand it, you will.


  6. Job

    It’s good to see discussion about my “Shot Across The Bow” idea. Calling SATB kinda caught me off guard though. I’m thinking “Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass? Wha?”

    In my case the SATB worked for a few reasons.

    1. We both have basic good will, and no guile.
    2. We already had decades of standing by each other without fail, and a lot of trust comes of that.
    3. When I invited her to criticize me or rebuke me I really meant it.
    4. She knew I was absolutely serious and truthful in what I said.

    I don’t think SATB is a good ‘negotiating technique’ that will work in a vacuum or a marriage without a solid foundation. It is an extension of the integrity of both spouses, certainly no better than the man or woman who makes the “shot.”

    Blessing to all of you!



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