“A Wife’s Heart”: Colloquy #4


This is the fourth in a series of posts 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 3 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.

In this, the fourth chapter of our discussion, Chris and I start discussing her recommendations for helping a wife in the process of healing her heart. In her article, Chris presented eight “action steps” for husbands who want to work on their marriages. In today’s colloquy, we discuss the first four. (Chris had them highlighted with bold text.)

One approach I’ve written about (see this post) is to create an atmosphere in which she feels loved and safe enough to understand herself and begin to trust him with her heart—and with her body.

Help her grow in her walk with God. Encourage her to seek the Great Healer. Do Bible studies with her if she is interested. Pray with her and for her.

Chris, when I first read this, I had one of your ‘reactions’ against it. Further examination shows me that this has a built-in caveat, “if she is interested.”

One thing that I know you and I both have seen often is the resistance to spiritual leading. We’ve read the stories of husbands whose wives have refused to read or do studies with their husbands. We’ve seen where resistance and refusal isn’t just sexual, it’s spiritual. Thoughts?

The spiritual resistance is why I say “if she is interested.” I was resistant both spiritually and sexually. (I understand now that my real issue was the relationship I had with God, not with my husband.)

How a husband approaches his wife with the offer of a Bible study might make a difference. If he says, “Wife, we are going to read this book about God’s design for sex,” she may well think, Yeah, right. This is just you trying to manipulate me into more sex. Do you really think I’m going to fall for that? In fact, if it is a study about marriage in general, she may still think it is an attempt to guilt her into more sex.

However, he could offer to do a Bible study with her about an issue that matters to both of them or a book of the Bible that isn’t known to contain one of the big marriage verses. This could help them grow more intimate spiritually. They may both learn about the other’s heart.

You know, if the wife is as hurt as you’re presenting, I’m thinking that ANY suggestion coming from the Hubs that they do  Bible study is going to be seen as criticism and manipulation. Example:

HIM: “Why don’t we do a Bible study on Love Languages?”
HER: “Are you saying that I’m not a loving wife?”

In this area, maybe the adage, “Don’t poke a sleeping bear” applies.

An offer might go over better than a suggestion. An offer presents an option that benefits the recipient. A suggestion implies a need and places pressure.

There are ways to frame said offer as a reflection of care and understanding:

“You say you’ve been feeling stressed lately. Would it help you if I sat down with you once a week so we could do a study of the Psalms?”
“If you would like me to do a bible study with you, let me know. 

The important thing is this: Help her grow in her walk with God.  

The offer of a bible study can be one way to do this, but it may not be the best thing in all situations. It certainly isn’t the only way to nurture her Christian growth.

When my children were little and I was working full-time during the first sleep-deprived year after my twins were born, my husband connected me with a women’s covenant group through our church. We met every Monday night at another woman’s very clean, quiet, and chaos-free house while my husband stayed home and took care of our children. Providing a time for me to be away from the responsibility of having to nurture anyone else was a huge ministry to me in itself, even aside from the wonderful spiritual growth I underwent as part of that women’s group.

My husband gave me a gift, and there were no expectations. He looked at my life and saw the spiritual desperation there—and he found a way to address it.

A wise husband will encourage his wife’s spiritual growth, and that won’t look the same in every marriage.

I like that. Offer, rather than suggest. That leaves the ball in her court, with no pressure. This brings to the forefront the issue of “eggshells”, doesn’t it? Subject for another conversation, I guess.

 Demonstrate care for her feelings. When she shares something difficult for you to hear, it likely has been difficult for her to say. Honor her courage and trust. If you have done something to hurt her, listen to her. And repent. And ask for forgiveness—for what you did in the first place and for not having heard her before. My husband is a good man and never meant to hurt me—but his acknowledgement of that hurt was what I craved more than anything else.

First, “Difficult for you to hear” – as a storyteller, I’m blessed/cursed/blessed cursed with the ability able to imagine so many different scenarios, so, could you clarify this, please? I’m assuming “You’re a perv, you’re a lousy husband!” don’t come under courage and trust?

Since I was writing about when the wife is dealing with hurt that her husband has caused or contributed to, I was thinking about hearing difficult things such as the following:

• “When you invite your family over without talking with me first, I feel like you don’t care about me.”
• “You often tell that story about the time we were at the soccer game and I laughed so hard that I peed. I was so embarrassed and hated my body for that. Every time you tell that, I think about how much I hate my body—and you think it’s funny.”

• “You pressured me to have sex before we were married. Instead of acknowledging that this was wrong and that you hurt me, you tell me to get over it because it was a long time ago.”

The first time the guys hears it, IF IT’S TRUE, yes, he does need to confess sin. 

Two if’s, however. You see the first one, “If it’s true.” We both know that guilt-shifting is common. The reason I offer this caveat is because, many times the wife is dealing with her own guilt in not having had the moral strength to say “No”, and by putting all the blame on him, assuages these guilt feelings.

The second “if” is predicated on this being the first time the boy hears this. IF, however, it is the fifth, tenth or 91st time after he asked forgiveness, then it’s not a “hard thing to hear”, it’s a grudge.

Yes, guilt-shifting happens sometimes. It’s hard for me to address this one. As I reflect on the entirety of my relationship with my husband, two things stand out as things he did that hurt me. One happened before we married, and one happened ten years into our marriage. He has apologized for one of the two things, and he has asked for forgiveness for neither of them.

I have forgiven him, although I know some hurt remains in my heart. Forgiveness has removed the power that hurt had over me, but I know it would still mean a lot to me if my husband were to ask for my forgiveness. I am no longer holding a grudge, nor do I bring those things up to my husband.

I don’t know if it’s an apology I really wanted as much as I wanted him to acknowledge that I had been hurt. It mattered less to me that he own his actions than it did that he see what my heart had experienced.

If a wife is holding a grudge, I see it as a sign that there is still hurt she is processing—although after his genuine repentance and apology, she should do what is needed to let that go.

“You asked me to agree to sex once a week, and I did—and then you started pressuring me for twice a week. I can’t trust you, and I wonder if I will ever really be enough for you.”

If the “agreement” was last week, yeah, the guy needs to back off and give it time to work out. But if this “hard to hear” statement is a decade or two later, the guy does have standing to discuss added frequency. Depending on the time element, this comes across as either valid or the dodge of a gatekeeper. I don’t think she gets to act as if these agreements are carved on tablets of stone.

I think it is best if a man is truthful about his desires. My husband would ask for a frequency he thought he could live with rather than what he thought his desired frequency would actually be. It was an attempt at a compromise. I would have been better off knowing what he really wanted so I wouldn’t feel betrayed every time he strayed from the agreement.

At the same time, I understand that a husband who hears “no” far more often than “yes” doesn’t really know what his desired frequency actually is.

[Chris continues, from above] I do want to point out something really important here: a husband is not responsible for his wife’s feelings, nor should her feelings drive the relationship. Caring for her feelings means that he acknowledge that those are her feelings, express genuine regret for any of his sinful actions that have contributed to those feelings, and go forth and do that sin no more.

Far too often, a wife’s feelings drive the entire relationship. We’ve all heard the expressions “happy wife, happy life” and “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” I understand that men want peace in their homes—but temporary peace sometimes leads to long-term pain and strife.

So when I say to care for a wife’s feelings, I am not saying that he should turn the other cheek and become a doormat for his wife.

CSL, maybe you can put that into guy speak for me.

I take it you mean in terms other than “Get over it.”

Hmm….   Guys. neither you or your wife have been dipped in alabaster, so neither of you are saints. You will make have made mistakes and so has she. As a fellow guy, I know that we have a hard time admitting our mistakes (sins?); after all, deep down we still want to think that we can be our wives’ heroes. But you’ve got to be able to acknowledge your imperfections and slips. 

Chris speaks of trust, so let me make this plain. Look at our politicians, particularly the lying dogs we have now. Do you trust any of them? I know I don’t. Okay, now apply that to you and your house. Have you violated trust, and are you willing to work to try to get it back?

That said, you are going to have to understand that marriage is more than just food, bills and sex. Men have to transition into Husbands, and one thing Husbands have to have is a good BS Meter. Chris said it: just because your wife has “feelings” doesn’t mean that you become supine. You have feelings too, and she needs to take them in account, as well. It’s not all about her. And you need to be able to stand up for yourself.

Oh, and watch this space. I’m working on a couple of posts about this very topic. 

Politicians aside, I think we all understand the importance of trust. Sometimes the best way to love a wife is to say something that will be hard for her to hear. Saying it with love and staying calm while she reacts can make a positive difference in the long run.

[This is still under the Demonstrate Care For Her Feelings segment]

Second  (excuse me, Chris, while I speak to some of our readers) – Yes, guys, learn to apologize! You aren’t perfect! Like I said above, you aren’t a saint, yet, so you need to learn to apologize. I’m a guy and I know how hard it is to appear less than perfect to my wife. But if you are going to have a marriage that lasts 40-50+ years, you’ve got to learn how to mesh, as a couple. Apologizing for a wrong isn’t weakness in front of her, it’s awareness of her.

When my husband apologizes, it not only shows me his awareness of me, it shows me a piece of his heart. It helps build intimacy. It is a good thing.

Guys, this is why being able to apologize is a good thing!

That said, Chris (I’m back), I believe that wives need to be willing to jettison the account books, right? After all, if the Hubs is a Christian and God has told him, “I will remember your sins no more”, doesn’t there come a time, somewhere down the road, when the wife should do the same? (After all, even our flawed legal system has a statue of limitations concept.)

Yes, and I tell wives that on my blog. Sadly, it is hard to do that when there is hurt to plow through. I have learned to forgive my husband—but when I am hurting because of something he’s done, it is incredibly hard. If a husband does little more than announce, “Wife, you should forgive me,” he isn’t likely to get too far, is he?

Maybe not, but maybe he should. Again, are we talking about musty account ledgers with accumulated dust of decades covering them?

I’m talking about a man telling his wife she should forgive him when he has given neither words nor actions of repentance.

Demonstrate a willingness to do hard work for your marriage and for her. A[s] clear as it may be that your wife is the one with the problem, show her that you will work to grow as well. Show her that she is worth your effort.

Even I believe that it is almost NEVER the case that it is just one person with the problem, but it’s nice of you to phrase it like that. 🙂

It’s nearly impossible to identify one spouse as the only problem. Even if a wife comes into the marriage carrying the belief that men are perverts and that it is her job to control his sex drive, his response may worsen the situation. Over time, it is clear that both spouses have contributed to the problems in the marriage, even it is clear that just one of them started it. (Slight tangent: I think of how many husbands and wives will be standing before God’s throne to be told, “Children, I gave you to each other. Yet you squandered my great gift to you. What do you have to say for yourselves?” And the husband and wife, as so many children do, will point to each other, and say, “But s/he started it!”)

I SO wanted to break into that paragraph, but let it stand intact. To my mind, your example was not well-chosen. You and I both know of a couple of cases in which wives, in essence, came into the marriage with sexual aversion, and nothing could be done. No response would have made it better, and both ended in divorce.

I agree that in those cases, a different response may not have made it better—but I do think a different response might have kept it from getting worse or would have helped the husband see that the marriage was not a real marriage much earlier.

In an effort to be loving an understanding, many men tolerate sexlessness for such a long time that by the time they realize that it isn’t getting better, the marriage has deeply ingrained patterns of interaction that make change even more difficult than it would have been earlier in the marriage.

It doesn’t hurt anyone to grow more, does it? Even if a husband is completely blameless, working on himself can make him stronger and better able to help his wife in her journey.

God-directed, spirit-led growth, yes. Needed growth, yes. Hoops disguised as growth? Not so much.

I’m assuming that this isn’t an open-ended proposition, correct? That your statement about “helping with her healing, not her complacency” still applies?

Absolutely. That always applies.

Share your heart and feelings with her, and not just about sex. Yes, this means to talk about your feelings sometimes. It doesn’t have to be deep serious stuff, either. When she asks about your day, share a joy or frustration—and be sure to include how you felt. Saying “I was frustrated” or “I felt encouraged” invites your wife into your world. (If this sounds overwhelming, you may find this list helpful.)

Again, Chris, pardon me while I talk to the readers:

Okay. I’ve covered my ears. La la la la la la la la la . . .

Guys, talk to the girl! Let me quote myself, from the fourth post in my Why and How of My Now series:

Don’t get me wrong, the sexual intimacy, the re-kindling of our sex life, was great, but the best that that happened was that we talked. Sex was only happening 2x a week. But we were going to bed together seven nights a week, putting on music, lighting a candle, and enjoying being with each other.

We talked about how we had come to believe the things that we did, that had created such skewed views of our life together. There were apologies, there were heaving petting sessions (now there’s an old term!), there were totally silly fits of laughter and giggling. And I shared what I had read or heard from the blogs, the Marriage Bed forum, and the podcasts that I was still accessing. And we talked politics, church, family; basically every night, we solved the problems of the world.

Wife and I first met on the phone; we talked for an hour before we even met in person. Our dates were nothing but talking. Guess what? She still likes to hear me talk to her (remind me to tell you about aural sex, some time.)

Okay, Chris. I’m back. Yeah. Spot on!


Uh, Chris, I’m back! HELLO!

I was using my manners and letting you have the last word because it’s your blog. 🙂

Manners? What are those? 🙂

There you have it, folks, Another colloquy is in the can, and again, no bloggers were hurt in the production of this post. In our next discussion, Chris and I will be dialoging about the second set of four recommendations she suggests for helping a wife in the process of healing her heart. Maybe.  🙂



Filed under Marriage & Sexuality, Marriage and Sexuality

21 responses to ““A Wife’s Heart”: Colloquy #4

  1. In my first comment on this series, I mentioned (perhaps in error) CSA victims entering into marriage with an sexual aversion mindset. I understand that in some cases they don’t know how they will react within marriage, but it does seem to me going into marriage everyone’s cards should be on the table, as best they are able. Meaning if a woman is CSA victim, the man she’s marrying ought to know that and the potential problems that might go along with it. Of course, I might be completely off base here in that those marriages with sexual aversion, might not have been cases of CSA.
    I do understand something about CSA, as I know of cases of to people who are dear to me, and have seen the results of having suppressed it and entering into marriage having never discussed it with their partner. Just so you know, I’m not completely unaware of how this affects the person- male or female.


    • I agree with you, 100%. However, that’s in a perfect world and all too often we don’t live in a perfect world. That said, Chris’s comment about the husband helping the wife in healing but not her complacency definitely comes into play. Yes, there may be abuse in the past, but for the marriage to heal and grow requires work to overcome the past. The past is not to be an excuse to pass the abuse on to another.


    • As a victim of CSA and having been married for 20 years, I would love to think that we could go back and talk to DH about how this might impact our marriage, to be totally open about it from the onset.
      However, reality is that it didn’t happen because I had repressed so much that I didn’t remember the full extent of the drawn out CSA until 17 years into the marriage.
      However, it wasn’t until after we were married, that I felt comfortable enough to even speak up and say no. I couldn’t tell him that I didn’t enjoy sex before we were married and I couldn’t say that I felt pressured into sex and that I feared that he would leave me if I said no to his advances. I couldn’t tell him that every time we had sex, that I felt dirty and ashamed. I couldn’t tell him that I had a relative who was pressuring me to accept some ‘hands-on instruction’ from him, so that I would be informed when that time came… and I thought that agreeing to pre-marital sex might ease that pressure. (It would have been hard enough if the pressure was the whole extent of my CSA experience. However, it wasn’t and it is still VERY hard to talk to DH about.)
      All I knew was that once I was married, I felt safe enough to say no… and that saying it, at first, brought relief from everything I wanted to say before.
      So, being open and honest about CSA isn’t always possible and in our case, it’s had, and continues to have, a HUGE impact on all areas of our marriage.


      • Tracey, it is a great tribute to your husband that marriage to him helped you feel safe enough to say no. This is a safety that had been denied you earlier in life. Perhaps it is also a safety that you can draw on now as you figure out how to move forward. You felt safe enough to say no. Perhaps you can also feel safe enough to say yes.

        The fact that you are able to recognize this now and put it into words is huge, in my opinion. You say you’ve been married 20 years and that it wasn’t until three years ago that you were able to recognize the ways that CSA shaped your marriage.

        It makes good sense to say that people should be completely open with someone they’re considering marrying. However, it isn’t a simple thing to do. How can you be honest with a future spouse when you aren’t even honest with yourself about what happened? How do you know to share what you can’t even remember.

        Tracey, I am glad you shared this here. I pray for healing in your marriage and in your heart.


    • I agree that both spouses should put all their cards on the table prior to marriage. Unfortunately, the “as best they are able” bit does get in the way. In situations of repressed memories, denial, or simply wishful thinking that love will conquer all, it may not occur to someone that the abuse is relevant at all. If there has been premarital sex with the future spouse, then that might be seen as a further indication that the abuse hasn’t made a difference worth mentioning at all.

      One woman whose writing has helped me understand CSA better is Mary DeMuth. Her testimony lays out hope while staying grounded in the very real challenges faced by CSA survivors.


      • Ted

        I completely understand where you ladies are coming from. I’m not a stranger to CSA at all, not to me, but to ones I care very deeply about. In case you’re wondering I’m purposely being vague as to who, because it is a sensitive issue. I also understand going in how it might not have seemed relevant, thus why I said as best you’re able. My wife just this morning something she had completely forgotten about until something I said triggered a reaction in her.After hearing it though, it helped me understand why she does some of the things she does.
        I really appreciate ya’ll being willing to talk about it. I know how incredibly hard that is. The process of laying all the cards on the table, I view as just that- a process. I didn’t mean to imply that it’s a once and done thing, ESPECIALLY in the case of CSA.


  2. Agreed. Most of us entered into marriage being less than honest with one another as to our past, or expectations. I do know, that while we do struggle still with sexual frequency and desire on her part, having a sit-down, in which we both put all our cards on the table has helped in tremendously in improving our marriage. The point is, it’s never too late to come clean.


  3. I want to second something Chris touched on. Husbands, I implore you to learn your wife’s apology language: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/apology/ I suspect Chris may feel as I do, that “I am sorry” does not mean anything to me because most often it sounds more like, “I am sorry you feel that way.” I personally need to hear the words, “I was wrong,” or “What I did was wrong.” Followed by, “I should not have done that and I will do my best to not hurt you in this way again. Will you forgive me for hurting you?”

    Your wife’s apology language may be different than mine, so please find out what it is and learn to use it, even if it is extremely hard for you to do. Confession of sin honors God. Please honor God and your wife in this way! You will not regret it.


    • There is a quote that is ascribed to one of the Bob Joneses (I don’t know if it’s I, II or III) that says, “I don’t care how high a man jumps when he gets saved; I want to know how straight he walks after he comes down.” In other words, does he live in repentance, or was it all just show?
      I’ve heard of Love Languages; now Apology Languages?
      I know of a woman who said something truly vile to her husband, but didn’t apologize for it. However, her behavior changed overnight toward her husband. Others were telling him that he needed to draw a line in the sand, demand an apology, and prepare to do mortal combat on that hill.
      My counsel was, based on her actions, maybe she was living out her repentance, and so give her time and observe her life. That’s what he did, and over the course of the next three months, he reported that she was a completely changed person.
      She never apologized. I asked the man, early on, if she was someone who did apologize to either him or others, and he noted that she never did. Apparently, there was something in her that made making an apology nearly impossible. But she was able to live her repentance to her husband.
      Which, it seems to me, to be as desirable, if not more so, than words.


      • Agreed. Living out that repentance is much more important than a confession.

        That said, the confession has power. For example, it recently came to my attention that I was dealing with some residual guilt from the sexual things my husband and I did before marriage. While we were technical virgins when we got married, this guilt was negatively impacting our sex life… 9 years into our marriage. I was not able to let go of that guilt until I admitted… my guilt!–until I admitted to God and to myself that what we did was wrong and damaging to our marriage (even if I didn’t feel hurt by it at the time). That confession and asking God for forgiveness has been life-giving to me.

        I then asked my husband for forgiveness (since I often was the instigator, though he happily complied), but he clearly doesn’t carry any guilt over our actions like I did. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I would have greatly benefitted if he acknowledged that our behavior was sinful. For some reason, an admission of wrong (or acknowledgment of hurt) means more to me than both “I am sorry” and “Please forgive me.” It is what set me free from my guilt.


  4. IntimacySeeker

    Thank you, Tracey: “All I knew was that once I was married, I felt safe enough to say no…” I think this was true for me as well, although it took several years of marriage until I reached this point. Feeling safe saying “no” was the beginning of learning to feel safe saying “yes.”

    I think that even for women without CSA or other issues in their past, the consistent, relentless messages we receive put us in a place where healthy, sexual intimacy is nearly impossible without significant work:
    Sex is bad
    If you have sex, you are bad (opposite true for guys)
    If you like sex, you are really, really bad (again, opposite true for guys)
    Guys only like you if you have sex, but they won’t respect you
    Guys only respect you if you refuse sex, but they won’t love you
    Guys want to respect the women they marry (respect = no sex)


  5. Job

    I have never found much comfort in hearing “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.” To my thinking it’s a very good “start,” but it is only a beginning. It goes at least as far as accepting that you have made an “error” but falls short of admitting to sin. However “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” Now that seems more like full acceptance that “I have sinned against you.”

    Likewise silence followed by repentance in actions only is a “good start.” But it can also seem like “Well I made an error in judgment (after all we are all human, not perfect) and I’ll make a course correction now.” There’s no acknowledgement that “I have deeply wounded you. How you must hurt!” There’s no taking of ownership there.

    I think when we sin against someone we should apologize, confess, ask forgiveness and repent with our actions and try to “make it right” or give some kind of peace offering or compensation if called for. This kind of apology leaves absolutely no room for confusion, no room to question intentions or remorse.


    Liked by 1 person

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