Reader Question of the Week: How do I Convince My Husband I Want to Change?

'Questions?' photo (c) 2008, Valerie Everett - license:
Every weekend I like to throw up a question someone sends in and let you readers have a go at it. This week I received this question from a woman who needs some encouragement, and I know that many of you out there can give her some! She writes:

I bought and read The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex – it has challenged and changed my way of thinking and I’ve expressed this to my husband and read much of it out loud to him.

But he is extremely skeptical that I am really going to change.

I really understand why he would feel this way – he has been let down SO MANY TIMES before. He half jokes that I’ve ‘cured’ his desire by my lack of enthusiasm – as he’s just not as interested as he used to be.

I want to reassure him that I mean business – that it’s not just a fad and not just hormonal, but I’m also wrestling with the fear that he doesn’t ‘want’ me that much now – though I really can’t blame him.

I don’t want to give up – I don’t want everything in our marriage to be wonderful – except sex – but can see I’ve kept us in a rut for such a long time that this is going to take time and I need encouragement from others who have been a ‘stinker’ in this area – but have changed and come out the other end with things being better than they were before even though their husbands were skeptical and wary at first. Thank you.

Now, for those of you who have gone through this in marriage (or are going through it right now), how did you change the dynamic? When did your husband start believing you? And how do you get over the resentment when you want to change, you’ve made the decision to change, but instead of being excited, your husband talks you down (which is actually natural, if he’s had disappointed hopes before).


  1. This actually is happening right now with me and my husband, only the opposite way – he has promised me (as of the past couple of days) that things will change drastically for the better from now on, but I’m very skeptical. I told him that it’s going to take awhile for me to be able to trust that he is making changes that will last, that he’ll have to prove himself to me for a long period of time before I can trust him. I do make sure to encourage the efforts that he makes, though, and build him up when he’s acting in a loving way.

    I guess what I would suggest is just keep consistently showing your husband through your actions that you’re making a real, lasting change. Honestly, words don’t mean that much when a person has been treated badly for a long time. It would probably be good for you to initiate sex and intimacy often, to show him that you’re truly interested.
    Jen recently posted…water your grassMy Profile

  2. It is called proving it to him by following through and keeping at it. When I stopped nagging and manipulating my husband after 23 years, it took him a long time to believe I actually changed but now he knows I have because I no longer am trying to change him! Just keep reminding yourself that you can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens you, keep reading Sheila’s blog for motivation, and be persistent and in time, he will believe you have changed but all change takes time and work. Just wanting to change and confessing it is the first step towards changing.
    Lori recently posted…Are You Alkaline?My Profile

  3. When we determined to heal our very broken marriage, we both agreed that talk was cheap. We demonstrated our intentions every day with our actions; by choosing to respond differently to old patterns; putting our money where our mouths were. Simply put, stop talking and trying to convince. Do it.

    We’ve now been married for 21 years-it keeps getting better!

  4. Across the board, people believe you’re going to change…when you change. We can say we’re going to change all we want, but until we actually follow through and do it, it’s just talk. Sometimes, we just gotta buck up and plow ahead no matter what anyone around us thinks or says, because we’re not just changing for them – we’re changing for ourselves, and we’re changing for God.

    Ugh, I needed that little pep talk for myself this morning…LOL…
    Melissa recently posted…To The Allergist We Go!My Profile

  5. Husband Perspective says:

    From the other side perspective, we are going through this right now. For years our marriage has been GREAT except for sex which has been essentially non-existent. Last year we reached a critical juncture where it had to be fixed, or it would have caused our end after 17 years together… patience can only cary you so far. It’s not that she didn’t wan’t to fix the problem… she didn’t know how, and when we tried to fix it, we failed… The depression of the failure would put things on hold for months

    Today I have hope, I believe it will be fixed, eventually, why? Because I can see her trying, continually… she agreed to us getting professional help. He have been seeing a counsellor for the last 4 months… she is working through her barriers one by one… It’s not fast, it takes time and we have a long way to go… she stumbles over new obstacles that are discovered, but it’s when she decides she is going to back and try again and not let it stop her, that is why I believe she will change.

    If you want to convince him you are going to change… you need to be changing. You need to show steps of change (you don’t need to be completely changed yet, in truth I hope for you that you never stop changing/growing in this area together for the rest of your lives). See a counsellor (preferably with him), read books/blogs and talk to him about what you are trying to learn/discover (my wife forwarded me this link saying “I could have written this letter” and told me I should respond). Decide to convince him, decide you want an enriching experience with him and initiate… Surprise him in the shower, or waking up in the morning. Reach out and touch him at night. Buy sexy underwear. If he doesn’t respond… try again…

    If he has lost hope over years, it may take months to get his interest back, so if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again… eventually it’s your continued effort that will convince him.

  6. Like those above, actions will tell him the most about your sincerity. When you feel the doubts about his desiring you, pray for courage and take action. I’m changing that aspect of our life right now, too, which we are both enjoying very much. We both are trying to change some things. I think he trusts my ability to change this more than my ability to change my criticisms. Those are harder to change, so I am really trying to pray for help, to pray for forgiveness for my probs, and also for the ability to forgive when he acts less than charming about my efforts to change. Good luck!!

  7. We’ve faced some of this in the very recent past… and it’s tough. I agree with the others that have commented in that he’s going to need to see the change to believe it. At the same time, though, I would caution you against being the one to constantly pursue him… as that can lead to him feeling less like a man. He needs the thrill of the chase. Instead, flirt and be available, but let him lead as well.
    Nicole G recently posted…Sex and Chores?!?!My Profile

  8. I think that actions speak louder than words. I had a bit of a ‘revolution’ in this area about a year ago. My husband was skeptical at first because I had let him down so many times in the past by making a real effort and then two weeks later being back where we started. But time proved that I was changing for good and we have never looked back – I can say that sex is now a fantstic, fun, romantic and very regular experience for us both and we are both happier for it! Good luck – just keep believing in yourself and as time passes your husband will see that this is a permanent change.

  9. Let me start by saying KUDOS to you for reaching out to other women with this question rather than pouting over your husband’s failure to be supportive! This is a huge step in a healthy direction. And a hard one.

    I’ll echo what everyone else has said: Change. That will be the “proof” he needs.

    However, you will also need encouragement, cheerleading, someone to say “I believe in you!” And that can’t be your husband, at least not for a while (perhaps a LONG while.)

    I learned this the hard way. For years, I promised to make intimacy a higher priority. I’d tell my husband, “I’m looking forward to ____ tonight!” wanting him to respond in a way that would help me continue my forward momentum, only to hear, “We’ll see.”

    “We’ll see” wasn’t what I needed to hear. So rather than recognizing that it was what he needed to say in order to protect himself, I’d say, “Fine! Have it your way!” and drop the whole making-intimacy-a-higher-priority kick. This, of course, proved him right, time and time again.

    My husband can not be my momentum-continuer or personal cheerleader during changes that involve him. When I try to make him do so, it feels like our relationship dynamic switches from adult-to-adult to child-to-parent, as if I’m the child seeking his approval.

    I’ve found that I need a Godly friend to be my accountability partner. “All” that I am accountable for is my actions: did I do what I said I’d do? If so, we celebrate! If not, she helps me understand why without letting me go down the dangerous road of excuse-making.
    Cheri Gregory recently posted…How a Bad Movie Showed Me the Best in My ManMy Profile

  10. Seconding what a lot of others have said – count on initiating intimacy a lot more often than he does over the next few weeks/months… especially since he is now so well schooled in not going there…and if/when he does start initiating, please, *don’t* say NO!! (Unless it really will put your health at risk). When we worked thru a similar issue in our marriage, after I had ‘proved’ that I was willing again (by initiating over and over again) my DH and I had a conversation that pretty much concluded with me telling him I would basically say ‘yes’ everytime he asked/started things – we both knew I might be really tired and not all that into it at first, but that generally I’d come around to having fun, too – and there were some boundaries around what activity was OK with me – but that is all part of ‘safety’ within marriage. We did not have any issues surrounding abuse at all, so there were no issues there to deal with.
    Even when there was a period to deal with, we found ways around it…and at first it meant for a lot of yes- saying… and serious frequency, LOL… but it has since tapered off some. I think that is probably to be expected, though…I’m sure there was a bit of “Does she really mean it?” going on!! I firmly believe that increasing frequency gets hormones circulating that increase desire for the next day or two as well.
    Nike says it so well… “Just Do It!”

  11. Given the number of false starts in this area, he is trying to protect himself. If he thinks you have changed, and you back off again, then he gets hurt again. If you think about it, his actions are very rational.

    So own it – he won’t believe it until you have done it consistently for five to ten times as long as you have ever done it. Keep it up, and he will eventually know it’s true.

    As for his desire, that may also be limited in the same way. Not necessarily because he chooses to, but as a way of protecting himself. After he knows it’s for real, watch out!
    Paul Byerly recently posted…The words we use for sexMy Profile

  12. We’re going through this right now too!! Hubby recently commented along the lines of “I wonder how long you can keep this up” and I know that it will be a work in progress, since I’m still struggling in some areas and can feel myself slip up now and then. I think that just keep trying, praying, don’t get discouraged, and know that time will prove to him that you truly do “mean business”!
    Nicole Elliott recently posted…Mommy Pampering Time with Perfectly PoshMy Profile

  13. WOW! I must say that I desperately needed this for myself. My husband is discouraged as well and I feel like giving up on trying. I am so glad I read through all the comments. I will persevere and use a dear friend to keep me accountable to do what I say. No more empty bedroom promises!

    • Jen —

      Having “been there” before many times, can I also suggest grace and humility?

      Grace for yourself when you “fail” and do make an empty bedroom promise after deciding “no more.”

      Humility to tell your husband what happened when nothing happens. This has been the hardest thing for me, but ironically it’s been my honesty when “nothing happens” that has ultimately caused my husband to believe me when I say I want more “something” to happen.

      When I stopped pretending nothing happened (or hoping he hadn’t noticed…which he always did!) and started saying, “I meant to ____ but I let ___ happen instead. I’m sorry. You probably feel ___. I’m sorry. With God’s grace, I’m going to try again.”

      THAT is when he started believing that I was making changes. Turns out that he didn’t expect perfection, and he wasn’t waiting to pounce on me for every slip-up. He wanted acknowledgement that his desires for intimacy with me are legitimate and valued.
      Cheri Gregory recently posted…Recharge Your Marriage: The PURSE-onality ChallengeMy Profile

      • I love that, Cheri! I’ll definitely take that approach next time I mess up on the things I struggle with. Thanks!

        (This is a different Jen than the one you were replying to, by the way….. :))
        Jen recently posted…nerdinessMy Profile

      • a good ROI says:

        I think this is a great suggestion Cheri, but please please if you do say this actually make the change that you promised to make.

        I speak from experience because my wife has used similar words to me and that is all that keeps on happening, words. They are very sincere, and I assume she is sincere, but still the hurt and rejection is there. I would say it is even worse because God is being brought in to it.

        So again, these are great words to use but only use them if you are truly serious and are actually making the changes you are talking about.

  14. I think prayer in general with your marriage as well as follow-through and consistency as other’s have stated. I have been on the disappointing end with my husband (as in I was disappointing him) and I prayed a lot to the Lord to help me love my husband in a physical way that was pleasing to him. And Sheila has posted advice on “just say yes to sex” and sometimes when I don’t really “feel it” I just say “why not” and end up having a good time! :) Within reason of course (if I’m physically ill, etc.).
    Nicole @ Working Kansas Homemaker recently posted…Stormy DaysMy Profile

  15. Nicholle Olores says:

    I have a good read here in your blog. Only the couple can save the marriage and no other people. Talking is the best way to understand each other’s side. Anyway, thanks a lot for sharing!
    Nicholle Olores recently posted…Custom Kitchen Cabinet Makers BrisbaneMy Profile

  16. What do you think of scheduling sex? It might be a good up front way to demonstrate her commitment to improving if she went beyond, “I’m committed to improving” to something like, “I’m committed to sex every Friday night.” or “every other Sunday morning” or whatever seems like a reasonable schedule. I know many say that scheduling sex takes away from the spontenaity. But when spontaneous sex isn’t happening, putting it on the calendar and committing to it might be a way to get things going again.

  17. I am wondering about this as well. In January I found out my husband was having what I consider an emotional affair with an old girl friend via email and texts. We live far from her so I’m sure they have not been in contact physically but he has shared intimate details with her including how we only had sex 4 times in the last year. I was so shocked and hurt I confronted him gently but I realized I had to change. So since then I have done all the intiating and I’m wondering if he will ever take the initiaive again? Just for the record he never seemed all that interested in sex and it was not like I was turning him down every day we just both always wanted to get to sleep/tired/kids etc. I have tried to plan date nights too. I’m getting a bit discouraged because he is not romantic at all (but he thinks he is!) I feel like I am just going through the motions to please him and so he will not stray.

  18. It sounds like he’s protecting himself from being hurt again. The only way you’re going to convince him is to stop trying to convince him. I know that sounds silly but it’s true. I haven’t been married super long so I don’t have a ton of advice to give you, but I can tell you this, anytime I try and convince my husband of something, regardless of what it is, it usually doesn’t work. Merely demonstrate your love for your husband and your resolve to change by your actions. Show him you mean business by doing, not talking about it. Be respectful and honoring with your actions and your words. Do you know what his love language is – how he prefers to experience love (see Gary Chapman’s the Five Love Languages)? This might help you determine how best to go about actively changing. I’d also suggest sitting down and discussing what your expectations are together. Too often if expectations are too high then the results won’t turn out so well (i.e. you don’t want to be distracted and then the phone won’t stop ringing, or the kids keep interrupting, etc). Maybe take him to a romantic hotel or B&B over a weekend getaway just the two of you and plan some “Get to know you” time together where you can relearn each other and grow in your spiritual/emotional/physical intimacy.
    Hannah Williams recently posted…Don’t Toot your Own Horn (Putting off Self), Peacemaking Part 2AMy Profile

  19. I think that actions speak louder than words so your husband will begin to believe you when he SEES a change. We had issues early on in our marriage and although I couldn’t fix the whole situation by myself, I began to work on ME and then once my hubby saw a difference in me; he was inspired to work on him and in turn, we began to work on our marriage together.
    Mandy recently posted…Free Clorox Wipes – Teachers OnlyMy Profile

  20. My fear would be that my hubby’s ambivalence in my changing would be justified. What if I prove him right????
    The Baby Mama recently posted…Your Tag CloudMy Profile

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