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.