When Your Wife Holds Back Her Love

To an anonymous commenter (found here),

I completely understand your frustration in your relationship and the pain it can cause. I don’t know anything that can be more discouraging than feeling unloved by a spouse, whether you are a wife or a husband. I don’t believe that anyone can have more influence over an individual, other than God Himself, than a spouse.

I will warn you that I will be a little on the frank side in this post.

One of the keys to intimacy in marriage is to feel complete respect from your spouse, which is the foundation to trust. Both respect and trust are the foundations of love. If a spouse, especially a wife, does not feel that she can trust her husband, it is a big turn off for her. For example, if a husband is using pornography, and his wife is aware of it or even suspicious of it, she will really struggle with her trust in him, and it won’t be likely that she will feel at ease with any kind of intimacy.

Can you see how that would be a natural response? If a wife does not feel that her husband is reliable, she will not want to make herself vulnerable in her emotional commitment to him—in the extreme, having another baby—if she does not feel within herself that her husband will fully be there for her. Even if she is beyond the time of childbearing, she will still feel this way.

In counseling many couples over a number of years, I found that a wife who is suspicious of her husband’s commitment is not very responsive intimately, but that a wife who feels truly loved and that the commitment of her husband is sure, is often quite responsive.

I hope you know I have great compassion for your situation, but I also know that each of us has far, far more power over the negative situations in our lives than we realize. No matter what anyone does or does not do, you are completely responsible for what you do or don’t do. This is a fundamental truth. This also means that you have more power to improve your situation than anyone else.

If your wife does not feel trusting of you and resists intimacy, here is my advice, the result of years of thought, prayer, counseling, teaching and writing about this subject.

Number 1, do everything in your power to reassure your wife that she is the most important person or thing in your life, that there is nothing you wouldn’t do to win her love again and again. You see, courtship is for life. If you want to keep your wife, you have to woo her and pursue her every day of your life. If she senses that she is second place in your life, or third or any other place but first, she will withdraw herself from you. She will be hurt. You have to be able to look her in the eye and tell her with all your heart that you love her, every day, and really mean it. This is part of every woman’s love language. If that is missing, she will not feel warm, affectionate, or willing to give of herself intimately.

Number 2, you have to love her the way she wants to be loved. I am not talking about being her slave or caving in to her every whim, but I am talking about inquiring of her needs and then going about meeting those needs. If you do this with full commitment and an undivided heart, you will be irresistible to her. She will pay you back a hundred times. She won’t be able to help herself. It can’t be play acting on your part, though. She is a woman and she can tell the difference (though at times she can be deceived about a man’s sincerity, usually because she wants to believe in him more than he is worthy to be believed).

Number 3, you must offer genuine apologies for your poor choices, past or present. If you are unwilling to admit to or work on your mistakes, actively and energetically, she will have a hard time trusting you. If she can’t trust you, she will not want to be intimate with you. If you learn to accept yourself and look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself and your wife how you could improve for the better, and you really mean it, she will begin to trust you immediately. She won’t get all the way there in a day, but she will begin to trust you.

It is all about a woman’s inner detection system. That is what she relies on the most. She has a knack for discerning people’s real feelings. Her discernment will not always be 100 percent accurate, but it will be most of the time and she will rely on those feelings to guide her. If she feels any uneasiness about your faithfulness to her, even if that unfaithfulness is to a virtual image, she can’t fully give herself to you. This gift of being able to discern feelings is a divine gift. We men had better understand it.

So, in conclusion, I agree that a wife’s reluctance to be intimate is very discouraging and can open the door to temptation. That is a sad and frustrating place to be. But no one has more power to change those feelings than her husband. If he will give her the attention and love she deserves, be unrelenting in showing his commitment, be willing to apologize and repent whenever needed, and love his wife the way she wants and needs to be loved, she will respond positively to him. If she has a physical illness or has been abused in the past, it will take more patience—great patience—but these are true principles and true principles always work, though we must pursue them patiently.

You cannot change your life for the better unless you take complete responsibility for it. I know this from personal experience and from witnessing it first hand in many people’s lives.

Please understand me. I am not saying it is not painful when a wife is unwilling or reluctant to show you her love through intimacy, but what I am saying is that you have the power to change things for the better if you will faithfully love your wife the way God intended for her to be loved.

She has work to do too, of course. But don’t wait for her to change before you take the first step. Step forward. Be assertive to do the right thing. Lay aside your doubts. Act. Love her with all you’ve got and she can’t help but respond in a positive way.

You have to win her back every day. You have to change. You have to try and keep trying. In my experience, nothing else works.

God bless you in your efforts. He will help you. I promise you that.

The Gratitude of a Child

Two weeks after I was released as bishop, the Primary president asked if I would visit the children for a few minutes in combined exercises. There they presented me with this beautiful pillow, which goes well with my quilt. The front was embroidered with the words from the first verse of “If the Savior Stood Beside Me,” a favorite of mine. Of course I love it.

The children also gave me a collection of darling thank you notes. I would like to share a few excerpts from those notes with you. I think you will get a kick out of them. I tried to preserve the spelling and the capitalization so you could get a feel for them.

“Tank you”

“Thank you, Bishop Fitzgerald. You’ve done everything you could possibly think of:)! You are amazing, kind, fun, funny, and awesome! I will miss you being our bishop so much!!!”

“Thank you Bishop! Dear Bishop Fitzgerald, Thank you for everything! Thank you for being my bishop! Thank you!”

“Thank you. Bishop Fitzgerald, thank you for serving our church and thank you for coming to my bathtisum. I am sad you are not going to be are bishop any more, but I am wondering how old you are?”

“Bishop Fitzgerald, Thank you for being a great bishop and a great friend. Thank you for all that you have done for the 12 Ward.”

“Thank you for being an awesome Bishop. I am sad that you won’t be are Bishop anymore. I am very thankful for all that you have done for me and my family. Thank you.”

“Ninja I love you.”

Brave Integrity Super Happy On top Pleasant. Bishop, You RULE! I hope that you enjoyed being the Bishop. Thank you for everything you do for us. We all love you. u! 

“Thank you for being our bishop. I am so grateful for all the service you have done. You are the best bishop anyone could ever have. You rock!”

“Bishop Fitzgerald Thank You. Thank you! for everything. God is are sunshine.”

“Thank you. You are the best bishop anyone can have. I am so sad that you wont be our bishop any more. I wish you could stay and still be our bishop. Please stay. I hope our new bishop is just like you.”

“dear bishop, Thank you for your wounderfule servise. Thank you for the great talks, thank you for the great songs. Thank you for being our bishop. Thank you for cleaning our church.”

“I u.”

“Thank you. Grampo, you era the best. Thank you for serving the USA!”

“Thannkk yyouu! I am so sad that I am repeting letters. You rock! You are sooooo helpful to this ward. You Are Kool! I can’t even spell Kool because you are soo Kool. Thanks for being you! You are generally a nice person. Keep it up!! Happy B-day. I hope you have a great birthday. With lots of love.”

Dear Bishop Fitzgerald, Thank you for all that you have done for us. I love you as a bishop and don’t want you to go!

“Dear Bishop fitzgerald, I would like to thank you for cleaning the chrch, it looks reley nice. Thank you.”

“Happi thank you”

These notes put a big smile on my face and helped make my transition back to “civilian life” much easier.

When you know you are truly appreciated, what else do you really need? Not much!

The Test of Forgiveness

One of the great tests in this life is our willingness to forgive those who we believe have offended us or hurt us.

Many of us have been deeply hurt by the actions of others. Most of us have suffered wrongs of some sort.

Exclusion. Sleights. Gossip. False accusation. Thoughtlessness. Public humiliation. Vicious rumors. Emotional abuse. Sometimes even physical harm or abuse. Sometimes death. Sometimes we even carry a grudge against our Heavenly Father for the things He has allowed us to endure in this crazy, often painful world.

This story, highlighted by President Gordon B. Hinckley in a conference talk a few years ago, illustrates the power of forgiveness, both in the life of one who offended and one who was deeply offend. He quotes from a Deseret News article these words:

“How would you feel toward a teenager who decided to toss a 20-pound frozen turkey from a speeding car headlong into the windshield of the car you were driving? How would you feel after enduring six hours of surgery using metal plates and other hardware to piece your face together, and after learning you still face years of therapy before returning to normal—and that you ought to feel lucky you didn’t die or suffer permanent brain damage?

“And how would you feel after learning that your assailant and his buddies had the turkey in the first place because they had stolen a credit card and gone on a senseless shopping spree, just for kicks? …

“This is the kind of hideous crime that propels politicians to office on promises of getting tough on crime. It’s the kind of thing that prompts legislators to climb all over each other in a struggle to be the first to introduce a bill that would add enhanced penalties for the use of frozen fowl in the commission of a crime.

“The New York Times quoted the district attorney as saying this is the sort of crime for which victims feel no punishment is harsh enough. ‘Death doesn’t even satisfy them,’ he said.

“Which is what makes what really happened so unusual. The victim, Victoria Ruvolo, a 44-year-old former manager of a collections agency, was more interested in salvaging the life of her 19-year-old assailant, Ryan Cushing, than in exacting any sort of revenge. She pestered prosecutors for information about him, his life, how he was raised, etc. Then she insisted on offering him a plea deal. Cushing could serve six months in the county jail and be on probation for 5 years if he pleaded guilty to second-degree assault.

“Had he been convicted of first-degree assault—the charge most fitting for the crime—he could have served 25 years in prison, finally thrown back into society as a middle-aged man with no skills or prospects.

“But this is only half the story. The rest of it, what happened the day this all played out in court, is the truly remarkable part.

“According to an account in the New York Post, Cushing carefully and tentatively made his way to where Ruvolo sat in the courtroom and tearfully whispered an apology. ‘I’m so sorry for what I did to you.’

“Ruvolo then stood, and the victim and her assailant embraced, weeping. She stroked his head and patted his back as he sobbed, and witnesses, including a Times reporter, heard her say, ‘It’s OK. I just want you to make your life the best it can be.’ According to accounts, hardened prosecutors, and even reporters, were choking back tears” (“Forgiveness Has Power to Change Future,” Deseret Morning News, Aug. 21, 2005, p. AA3).

I hope, no matter what the circumstance is, I can have the strength to forgive others when necessary and to forgive myself regularly.

I hope I have a heart like Victoria Ruvolo’s, who was more interested in salvaging the life of another than in exacting revenge. Ryan Cushing was not exonerated. He still had to pay a price for his thoughtless selfishness, but he also received the gift of forgiveness.

May we all be so blessed.

Thought of You and the World Spins Madly On

My wife and 16-year-old daughter were watching this video last night. Near the end, my daughter says, “I hate this part.”

“Why do you watch it, then?” I asked.

“Because we’re girls,” she said.

“Because we want to be sad over and over and over again,” my wife said.

I think I understand. Maybe not completely, but I think I understand. A little.

The video is a collaboration between Ryan Woodward, a professor of animation at BYU, and an instructor in the BYU dance department, Kori Wakamatsu.

Ryan Woodward has done storyboards for Hollywood blockbusters such as Iron Man 2 and Spider Man 3.

He says of the video: “Just thinking about that dynamic of relationships stirred my mind about doing an animation with dance. I knew I could not animate a beautiful, contemporary dance because I’m not a dance choreographer, and that’s where Kori came in.” You can read the whole story here.

Sometimes sadness is a beautiful thing. Sometimes, when it speaks of longing for something wonderful, it teaches us the hidden value of a thing that we may have taken for granted or lost or never had.

I hope you like feeling a little sad.

Ways to Keep Conference Alive

I am still enjoying last October’s conference addresses. I found this article in November 2010 Ensign last night, “Members Keep Conference Alive in Everyday Life.” In this article, members share ways they use conference talks in their everyday activities.

I share a few excerpts with you here:

Listen to the addresses while you exercise, drive, do chores, or get ready for the day.

—James, Ontario, Canada

Have family members take turns choosing talks to listen to during breakfast.

—Ashlee, Washington, USA

Alternate between reading scriptures in the morning and reading a general conference address in the evening.

—Diane, Washington, USA

Read an address to your children each night as a bedtime story.

—Heather, Utah, USA

These are just a few of the ideas in the article. To read the rest of them, look at the last page of your conference Ensign (November 2010) or click on the link above.

Sing We Now at Parting

I really enjoyed this arrangement of “Sing We Now at Parting” sung at the end of our last general conference. I have listened to it a number of times. For some reason, it reminds me of my youth, when I first joined the Church.

Do you remember back 30 years ago when priesthood and Sunday School were held in the mornings and then we would come back for sacrament meeting in the evening? I am sure some of you do. I do.

I was the only member in my family. I was a senior in high school. I would sit alone in our little country chapel. The cold winter nights were warmed by the hymns of Zion, tunes that I had never sung before but that seemed like old friends. I was welcomed by the hands and hugs of the people of my wonderful little ward. The chapel was not full of people, but it was full of the Spirit. It was a sweet time in my life, still precious to me many years later.

This is what this song reminds me of. I hope you enjoy it, too. (I’m not sure if this video is from the same conference session, but it is the same arrangement.)

Farewell 2010, Hello 2011

I’ve been listening to the October 2010 conference sessions on my iPod over the last few months. I often listen when I am at the gym, or while I am working outside. Yesterday, I listened to these words from the concluding talk given by President Thomas S. Monson:

We live in a troubled world, a world of many challenges. We are here on this earth to deal with our individual challenges to the best of our ability, to learn from them, and to overcome them. Endure to the end we must, for our goal is eternal life in the presence of our Father in Heaven. He loves us and wants nothing more than for us to succeed in this goal. He will help us and bless us as we call upon Him in our prayers, as we study His words, and as we obey His commandments. Therein is found safety; therein is found peace…

May heaven’s blessings be with you. May your homes be filled with love and courtesy and with the Spirit of the Lord. May you constantly nourish your testimonies of the gospel, that they will be a protection to you against the buffetings of Satan.

The year 2010 was a challenging one for us. We faced trials I thought we would never have to face in this life. They were humbling trials. But as President Monson said, we are here to learn from our trials. Here are a few things I learned:

  • No matter how difficult your trials are or may appear, there will always be someone in your circle who is having a more difficult time than you and another who is having an easier time than you. 
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. You are incomparable.
  • If your trials are too difficult to comprehend or deal with, go to bed early. Things will make more sense in the morning.
  • Don’t only ask yourself, “What am I learning from this?” but “What would my life be like if I did not learn from this?”
  • Looking at the trials that others have, aren’t you glad you have yours and not theirs?
  • Wait. Don’t act rashly. Be patient.
  • Never give up. Just keep trying.
  • Never stop praying.
  • Never cast off hope. 

Trials are inevitable. I have learned a lot from them this past year. I am grateful for them. They have blessed my life immeasurably. I believe they enabled me to serve others better. My life would not be complete without them.