How a Marriage Changes

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(Note: I’m going to officially announce the winners of my “Girl Talk” contest tomorrow, hopefully. I just haven’t heard back from one of the churches yet! So stay tuned).

A while back, I posed the question: what should a man do if his wife is totally uninterested in sex? That post has over 100 comments with people going back and forth on the right strategy.

But one comment, by Timbreldancer, really spoke to me, because I think it epitomized what often happens in relationships, and how change occurs. It’s long, but it’s insightful, so I’m going to post most of it here (I edited it down a bit):


Those of you who are struggling with this problem: I have been that wife. My husband and I have been married for over 25 years and I can see myself and my husband in so much of what you have described. In my case, some of it was physical issues, including a pre-diabetic condition that improved a great deal with medication, plus trying to be much more careful about my diet. I can really tell the times that I choose the wrong foods…I spend the rest of the day exhausted. Some of my problems were also a result of past sexual abuse.

Most of all, however, my problem was that I had a loving, caring husband who was willing and able to bend over backward to show me how much he loved me, but in return, I was selfish, thoughtless, and too focused on myself to really even notice how much pain he was experiencing.

I’m not saying I was selfish in general. I have been a caring mother to our children, a caring friend to my friends, a caring Christian to unbelievers, and a caring family member to the rest of the family. I was not even completely selfish toward my husband. He many times did not notice the many sacrifices I made to serve him in some way I thought he would appreciate. However, because I got my sense of self worth from serving and doing, all of that “doing” and “serving” others left me almost zero energy for giving and serving my husband sexually. When he would try to bring it up, gently and lovingly, I would get angry and resentful, because I felt he was one more person “sucking me dry” by asking for yet another thing that I just didn’t have the energy to give.

The times that I set aside my own desire and “let” him pursue sex, I did eventually relax enough to enjoy it, but I would never actually want to have sex on my own, or if I did, I was too lazy to pursue it, because going to sleep was easier than actually making an attempt to start things.

I think George is doing an awesome job of being caring and thoughtful, and having him become uncaring and unthoughtful (or demanding) is not likely to have the kind of effect he would hope for. It may, however, wake his wife up, but possibly at the expense of his marriage. My husband chose the route of becoming uncaring and unthoughtful, and it did eventually wake me up, but it also greatly endangered our marriage and also caused some serious problems with our children. If I hadn’t been extremely committed to staying married and if I hadn’t had numerous friends who were willing to pray for us, I’m fairly certain we would be divorced now.

What made the biggest difference for us, in the long run, was that I began to realize that my husband wasn’t the big, selfish “jerk” I thought he was, just because he wanted to have sex on a regular basis. I give 100% credit to God for the change that saved our marriage. On a practical level, though, it came down to the fact that I didn’t really believe my husband loved me like he said he did. Despite all of his selfless service to me, I always felt he was doing it either because (a) he wanted to anyway or (b) he was trying to manipulate me into doing something he wanted (like have sex, for example). Because of that, I either didn’t recognize the basis of his caring acts, or I assumed they had a completely selfish basis and I resented him. Resentment turned to bitterness turned to hatred turned to almost divorcing him.

So what can you do? You can’t fix your wife. You can pray for her. You probably can’t serve your way into making her stop being selfish and lazy when it comes to sex. What you can do, though, is ask her to set aside a half hour of time to talk with you about “the future of your marriage.” I highly recommend you do this in a coffee shop or park or someplace where your children will not be around, and where cell phones can be turned off. Make it clear to her that this is very important to your marriage. It is extremely important that you speak gently, without an accusing or angry tone, but that you also make it clear that you won’t be “wasting her time” by talking about unimportant things.

Once you have your wife alone, start by confirming your relationship. You can say something like this: “Honey, you are so important to me and I want us to have a really great marriage.”

Then, being careful not to make any accusations or any attempt to imply blame toward her, acknowledge your own failure. (NOTE: YOU ARE NOT FAILING! You are doing the right things, but she’s not seeing it, so in that sense, you are failing to connect with her in a way she can see.) You can say something like this: “I feel like I’m not doing a good job of showing you just how much I love you.”

Reconfirm the relationship:
“I really want us to have a great marriage…”

State the problem:
“…but I feel like there is always room for improvement.”

ASK HER for the solution to the problem: “I’d like to know if you can think of anything I can do to improve our marriage?”

If she’s like me, she probably won’t know what to say at this point. She may know exactly what she wants, but she may not be willing to say it, because she’s been hurt or disappointed in that particular area too many times in the past to be willing to risk it. Or, she may really have no idea what she wants.

From there, I would recommend an apology: “Honey, I know there have been times that I have not been able to communicate my love to you, and I’m sorry for that. Please forgive me for the times I’ve made you feel unloved.”

Here is the important part: ASK HER what you can do to demonstrate your love for her. “I want to know if there is anything I can do to show you I love you?”

Chances are, she may not have an answer for you, or she may try to push you off by saying you are doing just fine and she knows you love her. Don’t let that stop you. Ask her to think about it: “Would you be willing to give this some thought? Would you be willing to take some time and maybe write a list for me?”

Remind her that this is really important for the future of your marriage: “This is really important to me. I want us to have a great marriage, so I really want to know what kinds of things help you to feel loved.”

If you’re brave, you can also ask her to tell you what she thinks you are doing wrong. In fact, if she is not offering suggestions for improvement at this point, you probably should ask her if she can also think about giving you a couple of ideas about what you are doing wrong.

And a few last thoughts: First, don’t give her a list unless she specifically asks for one, and if she does, make sure your list is very positive and mostly includes things she already does for you, that you’d like her to do more of. Now is NOT the time to ask for more sex. Secondly, don’t assume the list she gives you will be accurate. She may not really know what she wants. What it will do for you, however, is give you some idea of what she *thinks* she wants, and also it should give you some idea of how she perceives love. For example, if “bring me flowers” is on the list, then she may be more of a romantic than you realized. If “take out the garbage” is on the list, then she may be resenting you for not doing something she thinks is your job, for example. ” The Five Love Languages book (by Gary Chapman, I think) may help you identify if you are just not speaking her love language, based on her response.

If you try doing the things on her list and you aren’t getting any additional warmth from her, then I’d recommend you go back and ask again if there is something you are doing that is making her feel unloved. Often, the thing that is making her feel unloved will also give you a clue to what would make her feel loved.

I’m NOT saying that you aren’t trying hard enough or that you’re not being nice enough.
I just know that when my husband started asking me these kinds of questions, it really made me stop and think about what I really did want out of the relationship. And when he was vulnerable enough to ask me what he was doing that made me feel unloved, I not only had to think about that (and actually tell him what was bothering me), but it also made me feel like he really did truly care about me, for real. That was when the iceberg began to melt, for me. And since he had also become something of a hard rock, too, because of his own hurt feelings, when I began to ask him these kinds of questions, he also began to melt. Our marriage is much much better than it was, and these types of questions helped to open up lines of communication that had never been there before, or were so firmly closed that even we didn’t notice they were missing.

(Sheila again here):

I strongly agree with the idea that this commenter put forward, about having an honest talk where you ask what you can do to help your spouse feel more loved. I know this sounds backwards; you, after all, are the one who doesn’t feel loved. But the truth is that neither of you is connecting, and by showing her (or him) that you realize this, then your spouse will probably start to feel more positively towards the relationship, too.

The key thing to me, that this woman brought up, is that quite often we don’t know what we want. We sense that something is wrong in a marriage, but we can’t identify what that “something” is. We’ll think it’s one thing, and we’ll tell our husbands that’s the problem (“you never help clean up around the house”). Perhaps he starts cleaning up in response, but that doesn’t actually help you feel better, because that wasn’t the root problem.

The root problem, in my opinion, is usually a feeling of disconnectedness and a sense that you’re missing your purpose. When the marriage isn’t going well, it doesn’t matter how well you’re doing at being a mom, or keeping the house up, or working. You’re going to feel disconnected, because the intimacy isn’t there. Similarly, when we don’t feel intimacy with God, we’re going to feel like something is wrong.

What we need is to feel close to God and close to our husbands. An intimate marriage is really part of both, but often we don’t understand that.

So what should the spouse who is hurting do?

Recognize that this is the real problem, even if your spouse doesn’t see it, and do what you can to work on building intimacy and love and acceptance, as this woman suggested. And then do as much as you can to pull closer to God with your husband or wife. As you pull closer to Him, and learn to love your spouse, often the rest will come. But don’t expect her or him to understand that or see it, because often we don’t.

Have you ever tried something like this? What do you think?


  1. First I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to the woman who wrote the response to the original question. How thoughtful to respond with such intimate exposure in order to help others. This is one of the many things I love about the family of God! Thank you too Sheila for your willingness to share yourself and your thoughts so freely.

    Just to add an extra tip, allow me a moment of your time.

    It’s taken some time, but my husband and I have learned the very fine art of having a wonderful sex life. We both had to let go of expectations and misunderstandings along the way. One of the things I had to learn and accept about my husband is his absolute desire to please and satisfy me. I now understand that he doesn’t just want sex, he wants sex specifically with me! And the same goes for me! This helped me understand the difference between just having sex and the beauty of love making.

    I have also learned to enjoy the “getting in the mood” part. Whenever my husband is in the mood, but I am not, I simply enjoy the pleasure of him doing his best to get me in the mood. He has become very patient and lets me know he enjoys taking the time touching and kissing me as we both wait for my body to respond. Just the other night, we had this situation. I was tired and ready for sleep, but he had other ideas. I had two choices. I could ask him to wait until the following day (we both had the day off) when I’d be more prepared, or I could enjoy the sweetness of his touch and appreciate his desire for me. I opted for the second choice which made both of us feel incredibly loved. As a result the next day was an especially good time too!
    Here’s the clincher…. I told my husband about my thoughts that night and we talked about it. It was a wonderful talk about how important our sex life is to each of us and we made a point to spend the time discussing it further.

    Men, take your time and enjoy the time it takes for your wife’s body to respond. Ladies, let them take the time and enjoy the time it takes for your body to respond. I’m very sure this is why God made us so different. This is connection time at it’s best! Talk about it and enjoy it!!

    God bless you and your sex life!!

  2. I was like Toni for a long time, in that I didn’t understand that my husband wanted to make love to me – I thought he just wanted sex because he’s a guy, because that’s the message we get everywhere. That made me resentful. I still desired him – I have always desired only him – but I eventually started to feel disconnected when we had sex. I didn’t know why until I started reading your blog, Sheila. The lack of emotional and spiritual intimacy, and the fact that because we lacked emotional and spiritual intimacy I had bought into the world’s message that sex is purely a physical thing. The sad thing is that he was also feeling disconnected because of our lack of intimacy (even though he was the one perpetuating it by ignoring me and refusing to talk to me or spend time with me), so he thought that I wanted sex just for sex, that I didn’t care if it was with him or not.

    We still haven’t had sex, even though we’ve been building spiritual and emotional intimacy and are closer than we have been in a long time. He keeps saying that we will, but he keeps canceling. So we’ll see.
    Jen recently posted…an evening at the park, plus thoughts on living with severe mental illnessMy Profile

  3. Well said. I have struggled with this lately, as a wife. My husband was doing everything in the world to provide for us and make me happy, great with the kids and jumping in when I asked for help around the house, etc.

    I’m a stay-at-home mom, with four kids (12-4yrs) whom I homeschool with a very demanding and aggressive curriculum. I consider it my full-time job, and so does my husband, so sharing the house/farm work in the evenings is just a matter of course. We have a good marriage, attend a solid church, and love each other.

    My sex hang ups come when I start feeling like he is tippy toeing around me and constantly looking to me to make a decision on things. I can be pretty aggressive, I have high standards for the kids and house and school…and we have talked through all that and set those standards together.

    But all the little “beta” actions wear me out and leave me feeling like I never get to lean on him, that he isn’t there for me if I have a bad day or fall apart. By “beta” I mean things like going back and forth 15 times as we text about whether he wants to do a certain activity with the kids the next day, bc he doesn’t want to just come out and say, “I don’t want to do that.” Or hearing me vent about a relative or one of the kids’ behavior and not stopping me when I let my mouth run too far, because he doesn’t want to upset me more. Argh!

    I know a cranky wife can be intimidating, guys, but most girls really appreciate the strength and confidence you show when you are not fazed by her emotions.

    She knows she rides a roller coaster,and even if she can’t express it, having a husband who will insist on having a talk when one is needed and who will keep that convo on topic with an aggressive concern for the marriage will encourage and bless her and very likely turn things around after a time!

    I think I finally communicated this to my honey yesterday. I explained that feeling in charge when he was around, feeling like EVERYONE in this house looked to me to call the shots, watching him hesitate and come off as soooo sweet and passive, was a HUGE turn off for me. He said he dreaded the fight that would come if he just put his foot down sometimes, and I asked him to just TRY it! He laughed, and I think he was encouraged to be more assertive about how he wanted things to go.

    I’m not talking about being the chauvinist and arrogant dictator with a barefoot and pg wife. Ha! I’m talking about wanting my husband to say, “I am going to rip your clothes off when I get home. Put the kids in front of a long movie.” and then doing it, despite my groaning, and convincing me I really did want him to. :))) I’m talking about him asking what my schedule was for the day, and then telling me that I was going to take child X with me on those errands while he took W, Y, and Z with him, and he would bring home dinner so don’t cook. Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhh! To be able to lean on him, to see him take an aggressive interest in how the house works and what is going on, to feel like he desires me so much he will not take no for an answer and kisses me out of my stress…

    …it’s the stuff our fantasies are made of, guys! Maybe not every woman, but every married girl I know gets starry eyed as they tell stories of their husband leading in such an in-tune and family-focused way, esp if it involves romance and sex.

    The wife has to make sure her husband sees that starry-eyed look, too! But guys, lead whether she bats her eyes at you at first or not! Watch the chick flicks with her and figure out what the leading guy does in her favorite movies–that is what is romantic to her. Too much beta-helpfulness can backfire, bc you are presenting as a wimp weaker than she is, and who wants a leading man like that? She wants to feel like your leading lady, not your mother.

    So to make this epistle concise, I COMPLETELY agree with timbrelancer and Sheila above. DO something, and don’t back down. Fight for your marriage like a man. :)

    • Amazing comment! Thank you. I’m tempted to use this one as a separate post next week! I just may do that…

    • I don’t know. I have some issues with the way you present yourself in this comment. I understand your desire that your husband lead more, because I desire that too (though unlike some Christians I see submission as equal and from both partners, as the Bible states it). But it sounds like you’re looking to your husband to make you a better person. Perhaps you need to be more careful to correct those things about yourself–yourself, and to look up to your husband and praise and complement him, to make him feel the best he can. If we beat our husbands down by our “aggressiveness” (I know I have), it might not be likely they want to or will step up and into the action. Just sayin’–that never worked for me, but my own heart change and beginning to praise and compliment my husband sure has.
      LisaZ recently posted…Little Things in SpringMy Profile

      • Exactly, Lisa. In order for our guys to step into the role of the leader, we have to relinquish that role first. And in order for them to have the confidence to lead, we have to show that we have confidence in them.
        Jen recently posted…an evening at the park, plus thoughts on living with severe mental illnessMy Profile

      • I don’t see that she’s saying at all that she wants him to make her a better person. She just wants him to be at least as strong as she is. If she has a suggestion or an opinion, that’s great, she should offer it, and it sounds like she does. But what she wants is for him to have an opinion too, and to state it clearly. If she says “I think it would be great if you took X to the park tomorrow for some daddy-daughter(son) time. What do you think?”, and his initial thought is “No, I planned to do Z tomorrow instead,” but instead of saying that, he hems and haws and tries to convince her that it isn’t a good idea without ever coming out and saying that it isn’t a good idea … well, that isn’t strong. That isn’t masculine. It’s too passive, not confident enough, downright fearful (dare I say “cowardly”?). Women want their men to be as strong as or stronger than themselves. If his behavior shows fear of her reactions, he is acting as if he is weaker than she is. That isn’t attractive.

        Now, if her reactions are such that he has cause to fear them, then that’s a separate issue on which she needs to work. But even if that’s the case, he gives off signs of weakness when he shows fear or hesitancy because of her, and if he really does refuse to make decisions, then she ends up being forced to make them, to act more like the leader whether she wants to or not. He can act like a leader even if she isn’t being a good follower. She can’t follow if he refuses to lead. It sounds to me like he isn’t leading. That may be because she hasn’t been a good follower, but it may not be. It’s two separate issues.
        Deborah don’t recently posted…Our New Year "Stay-cation"My Profile

    • This is me completely! Thank you so much for sharing it, Kat!

    • Another thing I take issue with is where you said for a husband to watch his wife’s favorite “chick flick” to try to emulate the main male character, because that’s what she finds romantic. We should never base our idea of romance off of a “romantic” movie or book. They’re not realistic, and it’s unfair to expect our real men to be a fictional character that a woman most likely wrote into existence.
      Jen recently posted…an evening at the park, plus thoughts on living with severe mental illnessMy Profile

  4. The woman’s comment was a wonderful suggestion I feel. I think too many times in marriage things get rough and we throw in the towel. Our prides get hurt and we don’t want to continue being humbled and actually DO what is necessary to fix the problem. We have a need to always get the last word in. I think we need to pray about the situation, first and foremost, and then do what we need to to serve our spouse and with the Lord’s guidance, fix our marriage!

    Nicole at Working Kansas Homemaker
    Nicole @ Working Kansas Homemaker recently posted…Workin’ It Mondays Link Up ~ 5My Profile

  5. This is my husband and I. Just a few weeks ago my husband announced that he thought maybe I wanted him to leave because he didn’t think I loved or wanted him anymore. I was at work…as was he. I had him come get me, telling my boss the situation, but telling everyone else I was “sick” .

    I heard some things that hurt, but the honesty was so freeing. I can’t fix what I don’t know is wrong…nor can he. We had a wonderful day together of talking, loving and planning where to go from there. The one thing we knew for sure was that we didn’t want to quit and that we DID love each other. We made some committments to ourselves, each other and to God. I began to realize I was being selfish and demanding as well as expecting God to “fix” him, but not thinking there was anything about me that needed fixing. I was being judgemental and unfair toward him.

    We are making each other a priority. We have put God back in the center of our marriage. Tim wanted to start the Love/Dare so we watched the movie and jumped in. We found that there are a number of the dares that we already do and have for years, but it is good to be reminded. I have learned to relax and enjoy his humor, love and care and to know that when he helps it doesn’t mean he thinks I’m not doing my job but that he just wants to help…nothing more.

    I am rediscovering the man I fell in love with and married over 30 years ago and am so looking forward to making more discoveries and growing old with him. I never would have dreamed that I could fall in love with him all over again.


  6. LisaZ,
    I really do work on my piece of that puzzle, too! I agree that one spouse can’t pin all the changes on the other, and the wife can’t wish her husband would lead more often and then argue and have a better idea every time he tries. :0/ I’m with you.

    I work very hard to watch for those times when he steps in front so I can support him and follow. And I could write a whole comment just fussing at us obnoxious wives who refuse to LET their husbands lead.

    My comment was written out of my frustration over the fact that a lot of guys will soak their wives in service and affection and miss the other half of their role, which is to lead and guide. I guess I was hoping to help any guys out there like mine, who are so perfect and wonderful in every other way, but just haven’t cultivated that masculine confidence that inspires a wife to WANT to follow.


  7. This is a mans perspective to the leadership role that has been commented on. Your husbands are wired up by GOD to jump on a grenade in a fox hole if needed, a noise is heard while your in bed he goes and checks it out to make sure all is ok. But remember as head of the family he is commanded to be chief servant as JESUS showed in all his actions. Washing apostles feet,the CROSS, but in a servants role always. In Mark 8.34 JESUS tells his disciples “If anyone wishes to come after Me,let him deny himself,and take up his cross, and follow Me. Mark 9.35 If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all. JESUS lead humbly and is the model for us all. The picture is that humbleness is a sign of strength not weakness. The ways your describing a leader is the way of the WORLD, and were not to be conformed to the world but TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our minds. The man that serves,is following the BIBLE not the WORLD, maybe some minds need to be transformed to actual biblical strength not as depicted on a movie or tv screen. Blessings to all.

    • I’m not entirely sure what aspect you’re commenting on, because from the post it sounds like that’s exactly what we’re saying: he serves. But I just want to point out that while Jesus served, He was not a wimp. The only time that He did not open His mouth and let others push Him around was when He was going to the cross–something necessary for our redemption. Other than that, He told off the Pharisees, His disciples, and even His mother; He made a whip out of cords and threw out the money changers. We are called to serve in order to point people to Him. When we pick up our cross, that’s because we’re putting God’s will first, not our own desires. But it’s not that we’re letting people walk all over us.We are not called to be wimps. I’m not saying that’s what you were advocating, I just wanted to make sure that it was pointed out.

      • Good point about Jesus rebuking the Pharisees. I also notice Jesus rebuked the churches in Revelation when they weren’t being loyal to him. I wonder if husbands could learn a thing or two from that if a wife is out of line.

        The woman in this article suggested addressing the sex issue with kid gloves. The thing is, a wife is supposed to provide sex for her husband (vice versa) to keep him from being tempted by Satan. The Bible doesn’t say she is supposed to do this only if she is in the mood, only if her husband is holy, only if she feels loved, etc. Even women married to unbelievers should satisfy their husbands sexually. Unbelievers back then may have looked at real-life porn or whatever other perversion was present in the society. But wives are supposed to satisfy their husbands.

        I don’t think a husband should just silently put up with his wife not having sex with him. He may need to rebuke her. I suppose it depends on the woman. I think the soft approach works for a lot of women. It’s foolish, IMO, for a man to admit to faults he doesn’t see about himself for the sake of buttering up his wife. Everything he says should be sincere.

    • Heather and Fred says:

      I just want to Thank You for your display of Wisdom and Insight!!! I needed to hear this! My Husband, Fred, and I have been struggling through some heavy things…God is in Control though!…I Thank You for this Reminder! Fred is the epitome of a “Servant’s Heart, in action” when he is in God’s Word! He “Gets It” and it is so amazing! Apart from God, not so good,,,
      “Remaining” in God’s Word is the only way, indeed!!! Thank You for reminding me…He DOES get up and check out bumps in the night, He cooks for us, Joyfully! He works hard to provide for us…And we HELP! :) He brings me flowers and professes his love like no other I have ever known, except for My Jesus, of course! He has hurt me…God helped me re-establish those boundaries…and I see the fruits of Fred’s return to God and His Word…hurts are being healed and hearts are being softened because Fred went “Back to God and Chose to Serve Humbly, Sweetly and Lovingly!” Praise God! Girls? Let us always remember to “Remember” the strengths our Men do show to us and to always appreciate those!!! Read Captivating and Wild at Heart by John & Staci Eldridge for understanding how God has Wired Girls and how He has Wired Boys!!! Fascinating and what a time I had with God as I read both! Can’t wait to read their new one on Marriage! Thanks again my Brother, In Christ! You are obviously “Wild at Heart!!!” :)

  8. And I think that by confiding in my husband that I loved his leadership and wanted more of it, that I couldn’t follow if he didn’t lead, that I was thrilled to the fingertips “those times” recently when he took charge of a chaotic situation…by telling him these things, I am not tearing him down or ordering him to lead (LOL!!!) but explaining what I love about him and asking for more of it. Just “loving him” and “getting out of the way” wasn’t working. I had to be more direct.

    He really thought that he was doing what would help me the most by deferring and asking for my opinion on every little thing, and when I brought it up, I did not approach it as “you’re a wimp, and if you want sex, you need to be macho” but as “I love it when you do things like this and that, bc it makes me feel safe and lets me step off the leadership block that I live on all day…I will commit to not push back against your decisions if you will let me follow more often…”

    We just had this talk over the weekend, and already I can feel a difference. It was probably emasculating for him to tippy toe so much, you know? It’s only been a few days but he has initiated (really good) sex three times and just seemed to speak with more confidence and authority with the kids. All the sweet things he does haven’t changed (still brings me coffee in the mornings! Xxxoooo) but he just seems stronger and way more sexy.

    Not the solution for everyone, I know, but for what it’s worth, it has been a great few days.

  9. Jen,
    My comment about the chick flicks was not an encouragement for women to demand their husbands act like a Hollywood stud. I was speaking to the husband who can’t understand why his wife doesn’t feel sexually turned on by him. He can look for clues by noticing what kind of leading man seems romantic to her. This is no different than knowing that your husband really likes your legs or boobs and playing those up for him in the bedroom.

    We are not to take our cues from Hollywood, I completely agree. But I think that a couple who consists solely on spiritual platitudes like submission and servant leadership, etc. without putting some practical, earthy, human legs on it all, will miss out on a lot of depth in their relationship. I just meant to encourage the guys to get inside their wives’ heads a little more, and not just feel like they are “punching their ticket and being a servant leader and this relationship still sucks.” Don’t give up!!

    • I agree, Kat, and for a real life example: Before my husband and I were married, he and his roommate both watched the TV series Smallville a lot. In casual conversation, it came up that my husband preferred the female character Lana, whereas his roommate preferred Chloe. These two characters were as different as night and day: Lana is stereotypically beautiful and feminine, with long straight hair and a very sweet, gentle, submissive personality, whereas Chloe is the more modern incarnation of the feminine ideal–short, sassy hair; a spunky personality; fearless … you get the picture. After seeing how my husband’s roommate preferred Chloe, I could see more easily why he wasn’t so much a fan of me (I was just as happy he wasn’t interested in me romantically, but I did want to be friends, for my husband’s sake!). I didn’t change anything for him, but as the years have passed, my personality has changed some. Now, I’m still submissive and more like Lana with my husband, but with others, I often come across more like Chloe. And I’ve seen a change in my relationship with my husband’s friend now–still nothing romantic (thankfully!), but I can see that he respects and likes me more now. If I’d already been married at that point and discovered that my husband preferred the character with which I didn’t identify at all, it would have been a wake-up call to me to have a frank discussion with him to evaluate whether or not I was being the wife he needed!
      Deborah recently posted…Our New Year "Stay-cation"My Profile

      • I don’t think of Chloe as being unsubmissive. Neither one of them were married to Clarke, so it doesn’t matter. We didn’t see the interact with their fathers during the show. Lana seemed kind of flakey and moody, getting angry at Clark all the time when he, without her knowledge, had gone to great lengths to save her life. She kept changing her mind about what she wanted, too. Chloe was very capable, and Lana was the damsel in distress, but I as far as submissiveness or other matters go, I can’t see how Lana had anything on Chloe in terms of personality or character. Chloe was capable and a faithful friend as I recall.

  10. My comment was in regards to the comments of a strong leader was a turn on that took command or control of situations. In regards to jumping on a grenade or checking out a noise outside that may be a burglar, a wimp does not do those things strong leaders that take control and courageous men do that. I guess what i am trying to point out is that GOD gives us a spouse, men’s measure of beauty should be there spouse, not a type, or preference of hair,eye color or body style but a spouse. With her unique personality,character traits and physicality. Our spouses are not to be compared to anyone else but, admired for their own uniqueness and strengths. The comments made seem to be dissatisfaction in the way the husband is leading or guiding, when it could possibly be that the submitting or following could be the problem, if it’s being compared to the way someone else does it or as depicted in a role on a movie. We submit and serve as to the LORD,and that depicts a picture of the GOSPEL that CHRIST wants unbeleivers to see and bring them to himself. The comments seem to focus on the spouse’s performance or lack of leadership in the other spouse’s opinion or view of masculine confidence seen on a movie or novel. It may very well be the speck and the log if being measured by anything or compared to anyone other than the spouse the LORD gave you.

  11. SavedSinner,
    Our acceptance and love of our spouse’s traits and quirks is, to me, a completely different discussion than asking our spouse to increase or decrease certain behaviors to improve our relationship.

    Would you say that a husband should never sit a bossy wife down and ask her to back off and be more respectful? Or dress in something besides sweatpants for bed? Or give up her late night tv show so they can go to bed together? These aren’t quirks or traits, but behaviors and choices that the wife would need to take seriously in her effort to show love to her husband. Maybe he notices that the chicks in the movies do these things and that clicks with him that this is what he’s been yearning for that he couldn’t put his finger on…just because he saw it in a film doesn’t mean his wife can blow him off because he’s asking his wife to be Meg Ryan or something.

    In my mind, asking my husband to take charge more often and to express his likes and dislikes more often is like him asking me to stop finishing his sentences for him. :) it isn’t rejecting who he is, bc yes, I picked a very smart and kind and non-aggressive kind of guy, and he didn’t pick a fashion girl who cant have an intellectual conversation and bats her eyes at everything her hubby says. I love who he is, but we all need to grow and learn to balance our strengths. Because we love each other, we help each other see a weak spot here and there.

    Am I making any sense? I really don’t mean to come off as a shrew who is trying to turn her husband into someone else. :0/

    • Can I try to rephrase, because I think I know what Kat is trying to say, and I think I know what Saved Sinner is trying to say, too, and perhaps we’re only disagreeing because of language and metaphors and not the real issues.

      Here’s the crux of it, to me: servanthood means that you surrender your dreams and desires for God’s, and God asks us to serve our spouse. But serving entails bringing people closer to God, which is what Jesus’ life did. So serving does not mean becoming a non-person, or not having any opinions, or not doing anything. Serving can also involve leading. And many wives want their husbands to lead, and to act like men–men who serve.

      Part of what attracts us to men is the idea that they are confident, and they are purposeful, both of which Jesus was. Serving does not mean that we lose confidence or lose purpose. Serving actually means that we have more of both. We don’t order people around, and we don’t lord it over them, but we do have a sense of who we are, why we are here, where we are going, and how we can get there.

      And what wives want is a husband who is engaged in this process with her, not simply someone who says “yes, dear” all the time. A “yes, dear” man is more like The Invisible Man, and it can be a little infuriating, especially to some personality types. We want someone who will help us serve God together. We want someone who is going to fight for the marriage, because the marriage is important in God’s eyes, too. We want someone who has thought and prayed about the family, and about the kids, and has an opinion, not someone who will simply do “whatever you think is best, dear”.

      I think that’s the difference we’re having. Kat is saying she wants her husband to be engaged in the family, and to express some thoughts and opinions–none of which is antithetical to the Bible (I really do believe that we too often see Jesus as a wimp, and think that therefore men should love their wives as wimps). You can do that in a loving, humble way, but you still DO IT. That’s what leadership is, and if your wife doesn’t find you sexy, often it’s because you’ve ceased being a man to her, because you aren’t acting like a leader.

      Now, that doesn’t mean that we as wives should ignore sex if our husbands aren’t perfect leaders. We aren’t called to love and be one only if our husbands are perfect. I’m just saying that often this is a roadblock to many women feeling sexual arousal for their husbands, and I don’t believe that it’s unChristian to say that a man should express himself and have opinions. Does that sound right, Kat?

      • I understood that she was saying she wants her husband to lead. I agree in that I want my husband to be the leader, and I find it sexy when he’s confident and takes charge.

        However, she also mentioned how she has regularly taken charge over the years, which makes me think that perhaps it’s not entirely her husband’s fault – much of the blame may be hers; and she also said that she thinks that basing what we want our husbands to be on characters in “romantic” movies is a good thing. I believe that in a post you made awhile back, you told women to keep their eyes off of romance novels for that very reason.
        Jen recently posted…an evening at the park, plus thoughts on living with severe mental illnessMy Profile

        • Hi, everyone! For some reason Kat was getting a weird message when she tried to post one last comment, so she asked me to do it for her. So this is from Kat (not me):


          At some point, a wife being inflexible and domineering becomes more than a personality trait. It becomes sinful when she refuses to admit she is wrong and damages her relationships. (So does being overly squishy as a husband, in my opinion.) If your pastor knows and agrees with you, shouldn’t you both go for long term counseling? What does he recommend? Don’t give up! This might be the fight of your life, but God put you there with this wife and all this could be strengthening you in ways you won’t see till later. Don’t give up! :)


          I am not a perfectly submissive wife or adequate helpmeet to my husband all of the time. I do charge ahead of my husband sometimes, and admitting that was part of my conversation with him. I’m afraid I may have portrayed him as weaker than he is–he doesnt look to the outside world like a timid man, by any means. He is just easy going and nice and, I think, takes the comfortable path of letting me plan and decide what to do,

          For instance, I would say, “honey, what are your plans for today?” and he would tell me he had errands and mowing. I would tell him I needed to buy groceries and clean the house for company. He might ask, “do you want me to take any of the kids with me?” THIS kind of thing is what was wearing on our relationship. He was putting me in the position of deciding, being in charge. Instead, he could say, “Do you need certain kids with you? No? Okay, how about you take these two and I will take those two.” then I can smile and say “That sounds great, Sweetheart!” and we are on our way. These little conversations happened about what time he wanted dinner, if we would attend a concert, what day to celebrate our anniversary, etc etc. No single one of them was a big deal, but I constantly felt like I was in charge and he was asking me to make the call and figure it all out. I do that all day as I teach and care for the kids and house, and I am tired of running logistics all the time. So I asked him to step in front and make decisions on some of this stuff and I would joyfully follow. In my own defense, I am not known to be a ramrod in my social circles or at our church. I am a pretty good follower when someone is leading. In fact, I prefer it. But I also know that kids have to get to bed, the house has to be cleaned, etc. and a void of leadership by the Captain will be filled by the First Mate because someone has to keep the spinning plates in the air.

          Maybe that helps clarify?

          And again, about the silly Hollywood thing–I am NOT saying wives should compare their spouses to movie characters. I keep saying this, Jen, and you keep misunderstanding me. I’m just assuming that most couples watch movies. And have favorite movies. And if the wife likes certain movies, chances are she likes how the main characters interact. And maybe that is a pansy guy and a macho girl. (Hugh Grant comes to mind.) Or maybe that is a macho guy and a more submissive girl. (Arnold Schwarz-howeveryouspellit, maybe?) I am simply pointing out that if a husband is wanting to get to know what makes his wife tick, he should look at the movies she loves and take a hint. That is all I am saying. Please stop putting words in my mouth by saying I think wives ought to compare their husbands to the movie personalities of Brad Pitt or Hugh Grant or whomever. I am not saying that is healthy at all.

          Am I making this too complicated? I did not mean to derail this post. I love my husband, his personality and his strengths and his quirks and his weaknesses and all. I simply was hoping to share a breakthrough we have experienced as we zigzagged around each other, both feeling frustrated and not responding to each other as we wanted to be able to. That’s all.

          Sheila, yes. You restated my points perfectly. I’m bowing out of this little comment thread, because I just keep saying the same things, and keep being misunderstood and maybe I’m crazy?? But I don’t want to cause a fight when people need advice and help. Thank you Sheila for providing this forum. I’m sure I will pop up again soon after another wonderful blog post sometime. :)


      • You’ve stated it well here, Sheila. “Wimpiness” is not submission nor service. “Wimpiness” is a cop-out, whether from husband or wife. Equality and submission do not rule each other out. None of us will perfectly submit or serve our spouses, but indeed both husband and wife are called to do both. Just like I never perfectly follow Jesus’ way in anything (I haven’t given up all I own and started serving the poor and healing the sick full time, sadly), but I can strive for those things as I try to walk in His path. Thank goodness there is forgiveness for our failures, and love to motivate us to keep on going.

        I believe strongly that if each person in a marriage sees themselves as beloved by God, worthy of love and in the words of Genesis, a “good work”, we will have an easier time being in a right relationship with one another.
        LisaZ recently posted…Busy, and about the Culturing Compassion Retreat I Went OnMy Profile

  12. I must admit that reading this as a guy, my head is spinning. It is very hard for me to understand how to be a leader and to tick my wife off. My wife is definitely more headstrong than I am. I have tried for decades to serve her every way I can, but feel VERY rejected overall. I am not saying kat’s words are wrong, but I am having a hard time thinking this is what my wife would want from me. I am going to have to really pray about this before I try this with my dear wife.

    • That’s exactly why most of us seem to disagree with Kat – if the wife is being headstrong and aggressive, and doesn’t show that she has confidence in her husband’s ability to lead, she is usurping her husband’s ability to lead – actions speak louder than words, as they say. It’s one thing to say, “I want you to be the leader in our marriage and home,” but if a wife doesn’t show that through her actions, it’s a pointless and meaningless cluster of words. And if a wife has consistently, over a long period of time, let her husband know through her actions that she thinks she knows better than he does the way things should be done, he’s not going to step up because he’s not going to trust her to trust him.

      And again, the whole idea of allowing Hollywood to influence you on what you think your husband should be like – especially looking at how they approach everything else, mainly sex. It’s silly and harmful. I definitely don’t want my husband to be influenced by Hollywood as to what he thinks I should be like – how could I ever, in good conscience, do that to him?
      Jen recently posted…an evening at the park, plus thoughts on living with severe mental illnessMy Profile

      • I’ll address this idea of a wimppy husband whose wife is the dominant one and has been for so long he doesn’t think she wants him to be an assertive leader. She is assuming the dominant role because you have failed to give this to her, to be this for her. It is total failure. You don’t need to be a Christian to see this either. Plenty of life coaches advise men successfully in relationship dynamics. Pretense of feminism aside, women want men to be assertive, they are attracted to dominance, they are excited by male leadership. When you fail to be this for your wife you are turning off the very thing that likely attracted your wife to you to begin with. So she isn’t attracted to you anymore. She doesn’t find you sexy. She thinks you are a wimp. She resents your not being masculine and takes on the dominant role because you refuse. And she does this by nature. So the bible had it right all along and if you fail to be the leader tshe desires then don’t complain that your wife doesn’t want that, because she does. No amount of being “nice” can remedy the situation. It’s not bad to be nice, it buds emotional intimacy, but it absolutely needs to be built on a foundation of masculine leadership and assertiveness that women naturally find attractive.

  13. Communicating your needs is one thing but trying to bend our spouses to and fro as our needs change is something else. Ecclesiastes 7.13 says consider the work of GOD, for who is able to straighten what he had bent. The HOLY SPIRIT intercedes and changes us to be CHRISTLIKE, but our wants and needs change constantly. Both spouses should be constantly bending over backwards for each other in submission to GOD, and to please our spouse. But even if they don’t,apply the witty principle. When JESUS is telling Peter about HIS future and Peter points to John and says what about him and JESUS says what is that to you,you follow me.

  14. After thinking about this more, the original blog mentioned someone that basically said, “if you are a frustrated hubby, go to your wife and ask her what you need to do to make her happy” and for now put your needs secondary. Great advice. After thinking about it I realize that I have tried this more than once and get back, “everything is fine, your great”. I still have tried to be the best hubby I can. My next step was going to be to have a serious and somewhat stern talk on how this is really not working for me and I want our marriage to be great for both of us. To do that we both need to communicate more and be more honest.

    But now I hear advice saying instead I should stop being in “serve” mode all the time and just tell her what we are going to do. My experience has been she is fine with me making decisions as long as they are the same decision she would make. She has a strong view that she has the right answer and usually does not take others views as possible options. This is not just me – even my pastor has said he sees her this way and many people have found her to be this way.

    I am still assuming my plan of firmly pushing her to take the time to work on the marriage by reading books and really talking about how she feels.

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  1. […] How a Marriage Changes. It really can happen, but it takes dedication and commitment to work on your own stuff first! […]

  2. […] Sheila Gregoire of To Love, Honor, and Vacuum also has a relevant post today on How a Marriage Changes. […]

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