Although my intended audience is low-libido wives, recently a husband left this comment,
“I read your blog to help me understand my no drive wife…..….There is no hope after so many years of this. I know everyone’s different but any insight into what your husband did that created an environment for change? My instinct is to just tell her to keep her stingy affection.”
Here is my answer. I am happy to give it because in our marriage’s dark and dusty season, we had no idea how to show love to one another. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Once we were shown some practical tools to implement, change happened quickly. We had reached the point where staying the same was more painful than changing.
You are absolutely right, Mr. Commenter, that everyone is different and every marriage has its own personality. It’s important for you to know our marriage’s personality to see why his particular changes affected me so profoundly.
Dave pointed to Ephesians 5:21 as our relationship’s life verse very early. We wanted our marriage based on respect and communication. We both have moderately strong personalities. We typically fall into traditional gender roles, but this is because we enjoy the traditional gender roles not because we feel it’s biblically mandated. So, I’d say we are a blend of complementarian and egalitarian philosophy.
It’s OK if your marriage is different from ours.
Dave and I will be the first to tell you that we aren’t perfect, individually or as a couple. We still mess up. But, we did make significant change. And it started with Dave.
He created an environment for change by changing himself. Like Optimus Prime, he transformed.
He quit yelling.
Granted, he never yelled at me, but, there was yelling.
He got a hold of his anger.
Now, part of his anger was from being sexually unfulfilled which I didn’t understand that then. However, he didn’t wait for me to understand to quit yelling and learn different ways to cope with his frustration.
He became more pleasant.
He worked hard at replacing his diminished anger with pleasantness. He added smiles. He added hugs with no sexual overtone to our interaction.
He changed to a pleasant tone of voice.
This was HUGE to me. I’m excruciatingly sensitive to any critical or condescending tone of voice. He took this seriously and worked on his tone.
He quit taking his frustrations of life out on me.
There is a difference between sharing frustrations and taking them out on someone. Don’t act grumpy to your wife and kids just because you were scolded at work. That has nothing to do with them. Do tell her what happened and let her share your burden.
He quit running from me.
Because he was not getting the affirmation he needed from me sexually, he ran to other things that would satisfy his need for feeling valued; church work, his job, anyone who needed help moving, anyone who needed anything. He was never home for us to build a relationship.
He started being a servant in our home first. And then, if there was someone who needed help, we discussed our schedule and went together.
He quit telling me, ’You shouldn’t feel that way.’
He quit downplaying my emotional response to things. I know now looking back, that my anxieties and frustrations were threatening to him. But, my emotions weren’t a reflection of my lack of value and confidence in him. I just needed him to hold me, tell me everything was going to be OK and stay in tune with me while I talked ‘it’ out. Whatever ‘it’ happened to be that day.
He started seeking me out.
The real me. The imperfect Christian who has fears and anxieties even though she’s trying really hard to have faith and trust in God. He would gently probe for truth when I seemed down or sad and accepted what I said, again, without telling me, ‘you shouldn’t feel that way.’
He allowed me to be flawed and broken.
This goes along with seeking out the real me. By allowing me to be flawed and broken, he allowed me to let him be flawed and broken which led him to reveal his flaws and brokenness.
In some homes, love is currency and very conditional, even though it’s professed to be freely given. You must behave exemplary, perfectly, in order for love to be bestowed. That unspoken rule can get carried into your adult relationships. You will only be loved if you are perfect and you can only love others who are perfect, as well. This will suffocate a marriage and a family.
So, basically, we discovered grace.
He started joining into the conversation.
Husbands want wives to take their needs seriously and actively participate while enjoying sexual intimacy. This includes eye contact and vocalizations. Wives want husbands who take their needs seriously and actively participate while having a conversation. This includes eye contact and vocalizations.
I learned for him to stay with me in a conversation, I couldn’t dump a million words on him. Also, I had to concentrate on listening just as much as I talked. I had to give him time to process his thoughts and not jump right back.
He began to share with me what I could do to meet his needs (aside from sexual needs).
Two examples of this:
- He asked me to meet him at the door when he arrived home from work with a hug and kiss.
- He asked me to attend his softball games and be his cheerleader.
He invited me to quit living separate lives.
We have three sons within three years of age (twins and a spare). When they were young, it was easier to divide and conquer. We split up duties. But, we never debriefed.
What started out as just managing schedules became standard mode of how our house worked. We kept using this strategy thinking it was effective. Maybe in time management it was efficient, but in marital relationship it was not. (This goes along with ‘He quit running from me.’)
We began doing errands together. Even if it meant one of us sacrificed time toward something else (like time at the driving range or time watching a favorite tv show).
We began to attend functions together. Dave attends a pharmaceutical networking meeting once a month. It’s very casual at a local brewery. I go along. It’s a way for him to make me a part of his work life.
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard that men tend to compartmentalize their life. Work stays in the work section and home stays in the home section. Dave worked hard to integrate me into all areas of his life so that I wasn’t just in the home section.
He began helping out with my non-profit organization whenever possible so we could serve together.
We intentionally started getting up in the morning before the kids to have 15 minutes of prayer time alone. Another sacrifice of time, you go to bed earlier than you may want to have enough sleep, or you just sacrifice the sleep.
There is only so much time in the week for recreation and family after you deduct work hours. Those remaining hours should be devoted to God, your spouse, and then some to your children. Think outside of the box for how you can incorporate into each other’s lives.
Without anger, he started telling me how important sexual intimacy was to him.
Even now, he has a hard time giving a voice to this deep sensitive topic. During our season of dark and dusty, he had broached the subject of sexual fulfillment only to have me shoot him down. Now, he had my full attention because he had worked so hard to build this intimate friendship. Yep, friendship. He became my friend, again. Actually, he became my friend with benefits.
Sometimes, being a better friend to your wife means challenging her. When you are gently forthright and confident in sharing your needs after being a good friend, it may stretch your wife to grow. If she’s seen your transformation (inner Optimus Prime?), I’m willing to bet she will be all in. If you’ve been a jerk for a long time, it may take a while for her to trust your change is permanent.
For the wives who are reading, we started to engage in the marriage bed on a consistent basis during Dave’s ‘Optimus Prime Season.’ All issues can be worked on at the same time. I didn’t wait for things to be perfect to move towards him, just as he didn’t wait for me to be active in the marriage bed to move towards me.
I must be honest about a couple of other things.
A course called Dynamic Marriage guided us through this change.
These skills slowly clicked into place over an 8 week period.
We were also rebuilding a lot of trust, healing from his pornography addiction, during this season of transformation.
Sometimes, Optimus Prime reverts back to the dusty old tracter-trailer. He’s not always the shining knight and that’s OK. We are not perfect. We revert, sometimes, to learned family-of-origin habits. It’s OK because we’ve learned grace and we know that our visit to the dark and dusty place will be brief.
Like I said in the beginning, every husband is dealing with different dynamics in their undersexed marriages. Not all marriages are going to heal in the way we healed. But, maybe our story will give you food for thought.
I had some sexual baggage coming into the marriage, mainly indiscretions in college, no full childhood sexual abuse. Wives who have been victimized sexually in any season of life bring a whole new element to the Marriage Bed. This will take special counseling and guidance.
And finally, may I leave you with this quote? Author Michele Weiner Davis states,
“A more loving marriage may be the only aphrodisiac your marriage needs.”
I would ask that you ponder, with an open heart and no defenses up, how you could be a better friend to your wife that would create a more loving atmosphere? Because, after becoming her friend, she may be able to better hear your voice about your deepest desires for connection in your marriage.
Books that influenced our transformation
His Needs, Her Needs, by Willard F. Harley.
LoveBusters, by Willard F. Harley.
Sex, God, and Men, by Douglass Weiss.
Other books we have found valuable
Boundaries, by Henry Cloud and John Townsend.
Surfing for God, Michael John Cusick.
Love and Respect, Emerson Eggerichs
Here’s another thought about influencing your wife:
She’s Got Song! (The Generous Husband)