Editor's Note: Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family? Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in each weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
Dear Dr. David,
I am a twenty-seven year old husband from a seven year marriage. In the first year of our marriage together, my wife and I fought like cats and dogs. I was constantly going out with my friends and taking advantage of my wife, her time together, her wants and needs. I was not a very good husband. It has taken me years of arguing and resentment to realize that I haven’t let go of her past wrongs that happened before I knew her and after we were married. Now I understand that at least for the things that have happened since we were married, I was a lot to blame, if not completely. I have a really hard time trying not to bring up her past when we argue about intimacy or respect for one another.
Lately, I have been very emotional. I finally see how wrong I have been in loving my wife. I’m doing everything in my power to show her acts of kindness and love by helping her with our two children and giving her time to herself. But when I kiss her or try to be close to her it feels like she is forcing herself to respond lovingly and that in her heart she thinks I am doing these things to get something in return (which used to be my way of trying to get to her physically) or that I am just saying/doing the things she wants, but not really meaning it from my heart (which couldn’t be farther from the truth).
After breaking down emotionally repeatedly over the last week or so she seems concerned that I am beating myself up and she is probably right. I have returned the feelings of love and admiration that I once had in the beginning for her (and should have had for the entirety of our marriage) and I fear my wrongs have damaged her ability to fully love me. Patience seems is the only thing I have left to rely on but my heart is breaking every moment that she doesn’t want to hug me, kiss me or even spend time with me. It almost feels that I am reaping what I have sown. That I have created the bed I lie in.
Is there anything else I can do to win her heart again? ~ Heartsick
Your story is touching. You have lived long enough, and matured enough, to realize the error of your ways. Most of us over thirty years old have a moment, or moments, of truth when we re-evaluate our lives and see the wrongfulness of our actions. I’m impressed that you are three years ahead of schedule—not behind and stuck with lying in the bed you’ve made.
The Scriptures are clear that we will reap what we have sown (Galatians 6). The Apostle Paul talks a great deal about the impact our behavior has upon others, and that there will be scars in our lives. That is true for you as it is for everyone—absolutely everyone!
However, remember that reaping what you sow works in the positive direction as well. While you’re reaping the “weeds” you’ve sown previously, if you plant good seeds now, by acts of love and kindness, you’ll reap great rewards later.
The Scriptures offer even more hope. Romans 8: 28 says, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” Is the Lord pleased with your actions? No. Are there wounds that need to be healed? Yes. But, with the Lord’s help, they can be healed and your marriage can not only be healed, but transformed.
Here are a few more things to ponder.
First, a heart of repentance is a powerful thing. The Psalmist says that a pure and contrite heart will be honored by the Lord. You show evidence of a Godly sorrow leading to repentance, and in time, with patience, your wife will likely discover and appreciate the new you. Continue to show her, in different ways, that you are sincerely sorry for your actions.
Second, we are not robots. You cannot expect your wife to simply respond reflexively to your changes. She has been wounded, and it will take time, action, and God’s grace for her to heal. Don’t expect an overnight change. Your patience will shout to her that you’ve changed. If you expect an immediate change, this suggests a manipulative attitude on your part.
Third, there are some things you both can do to heal together. Consider seeking couples counseling where you both talk about how you’ve been wounded, and wounded your mate. Pay close attention to allowing her to share the depths of her pain. Expect her to share intense feelings of anger, hurt and perhaps even resentment. She may need to share some of these feelings again and again, in a loving and accepting atmosphere.
Your wife has been hurt deeply, and needs to share the depth of her pain. It’s been said when we are grievously hurt, we need to share our stories one hundred times. Far fetched? Not necessarily. Might it be hard to listen to her pain again and again? Most certainly. But this is the height of love. Your challenge may be to create a “healing space” for your wife, where she is free to share her feelings with you without judgment, defensiveness or excessive explanation.
Fourth, it takes time, and new experiences, to rebuild trust. It takes lots of time to build trust, and it can be broken and damaged in an instance. Stick with it. Move at her pace, honoring her timing. Create new experiences that symbolize a new stage in your marriage. Sit down and create new dreams and goals. Believe that this is a new day.
Finally, invite God into this healing space. Bathe this aspect of your relationship in prayer. Read Scriptures together, especially those pertaining to healing and forgiveness. Share together, pray together and rebuild your relationship together.
Originally posted April 17, 2007.
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