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Paul J. Bucknell
What can a wife say to her husband who has a straying heart? It is important that she be honest with her sense about his loss of affections. One can think that it is better to preserve unity by not bothering the situation. After all, the husband is usually being faithful in one or more areas. However, you must seek a greater goal of intimacy. Silence leads to situations that blow up in our faces.
Use these strong areas of your husband to express your thankfulness to him. Genuinely thank him for helping you in so many areas of your life over the past years. If you come up and only voice your difficulties, he might think you are only going through another emotionally unbalanced time. By speaking the truth in love, you are able to help him realize you are not responding to a situation but a general circumstance. By thanking him, he sees that you have been thinking about your whole circumstances.
There is no promise that he will not be threatened and act defensively. If he does, first again remind him that you really do see how he does well in certain areas of caring for the family. And again mention that you are not responding to just something that happened this week but a whole pattern of things over a period of time. After this, go and mention that you would like for him to share how he thinks things could be better. We cannot fully answer his every possible response, but we are anticipating the more negative response. If he answered nicely and concerned, you would need less guidance in this matter.
But if he begins to state big inclusive statements, don't respond quickly or shout back. You might be hurt. But keep reminding yourselves of the greater goal of intimacy. He in fact should take your cue and lead this inquiry. One of these sweeping accusations that he might make goes like, "You always are hounding me about ....." It is important for you to respond truthfully. If you have failed by continually bringing this subject up again and again, then you indeed have failed the scriptural warning by being like a constant dripping.
"A constant dripping on a day of steady rain And a contentious woman are alike." (Proverbs 27:15)
Openly apologize for this. You must realize how irritating your responses have been. Ask for forgiveness. Tell him of your earnestness that you do not want to do this but also that you don't know how to address this problem and would like his help. It is very possible that he might go on with some words about how he has spoken to you about this before. They probably will not reach your feelings and satisfy you. Refrain from any negative reaction to his response.
He might be exasperated with how you do not listen to him. Allow him to have his man answers. This is how God has made him. Listen. Listen carefully. If he is genuine, trust God to give at least part of the answer to your problem through his words. This means that you will actually believe he is addressing the problem even if you have heard it before. Instead of rejecting what he says, try to understand. Ask him to explain. Don't reject outright what he says. You need to first pray this through with him.
This might be only as far as you can go at one time. But if you listen, you are already obtaining what you haven't had: his attention. He has shared some words from his heart, even though they might be roughly shared. Your bad response in the past might be partly responsible for the way he responds.
He might only focus on "your" problem and this might infuriate you. Don't worry about this. God's clue for you to work through these circumstances is subjection to your husband. You must do this or you will end up contesting him. This is not God's design in solving your marital problems. If he senses a genuine humble and responsive spirit, he will get more and more responsible for his answers. There might be extenuating problems such as adultery, alcoholism, drug problems, etc., that keep him from being fully honest. But if you can present a humble and learning heart, he will know that he can talk to you without getting yelled at.
Let me go back one step and help you understand a bit more his possible response. His response might not be well thought out or totally irrelevant. Don't get upset about this. Be patient. This will happen if he has told you something before, and you did not rightly respond to him. A bad response pattern has developed. That is still on his mind. So out it comes even if it is not too relevant. After listening, humbling your heart, responding and praying, you can if appropriate answer whether he has any other suggestions. Or you could ask for another time you could discuss this again. If you have received what he has said, then he will probably be open to this. You could also mention that this has helped you a bit, but you still need further help. Be constantly praying for him even if he is a non-Christian. Ask God to speak to you through him. Focus on how you can be better even though we know it takes both sides to grow.
A man is able to see the truth better if the wife is humble and subjective. Think of the wife as a mirror. If she is unresponsive, he can blame the wife for all the problems. His wife acts as a blurry mirror. He sees the blurry mirror and blames everything on her. However, if she is humble and responsive, then the mirror is clear. He knows he cannot blame her even if he does. The truth comes right back to him. He can see his imperfections in this way. The man might bluff from seeing his problems or masquerade it through some bellowing, but he is able to see it. This is one practical reason the scriptures warn a wife not to bother her husband with his problems and instead treat his words as God-sent. It will not be a total solution, but it has given you a key in which you might be able to snuggle a bit closer to a man who has become rather incommunicable.
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. And let not your adornment be merely external--braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands. (1 Peter 3:1-5).
It is difficult for the wife to appropriately vocalize her concern for two reasons.
I would encourage this wife who finds her waning affection for her husband to step forward to correct it. She is probably right with her feelings. Something is wrong. She, however, must not think she needs to know the solution. In fact, she should be very guarded about her subjective conclusions. They are often misleading and wrong. But her gut response is probably right. She needs to introduce the problem or her husband will just get less and less interested in her. She can come and say that she has noticed that she has not been too responsive to him and sorry about how this might affect him. She might point out reasons for this distance. This would help him start thinking. But try to stay clear of making any suggestions on how he is the cause of her non-interest unless he asks. And then, make your suggestions prefaced with "I'm not sure but... ."
She should be able to ask him where he believes she has not been very affectionate and caring. This is your key to apologize. I know it sounds very unfair to focus on yourself but this is the way to break the wall between you two. You take out your bricks on your side first. After this, he will be much more willing to ask you where he himself has done wrong. Don't answer quickly. First assure him how he has been so good in certain areas. Then kindly mention how this or that has disappointed you. You do not need to stay on the topic unless he asks for clarification. He probably can see through to his faults very quickly but slow in admitting them.
If the wife if uninterested, she might fear the marriage is over. She doesn't love him. Again, as discussed before, affirm that love is primarily a commitment rather than a feeling. Her feelings come and go. Don't discard the marriage. Be careful lest the evil one comes in and makes you feel like you need to give up. Don't. Divorce is not an option. Look to the Lord to help you be more affectionate and kind even if you don't feel like it.
For example, be clear when you are physically not able to rightly respond to his needs. Don't sheepishly avoid him. He will not understand. You need to state the truth. Listen to his responses and look to them as ways God can help you even if it seems impossible. Remember, you are caught in a wave of subjectiveness; he can see more clearly than you. Don't forget that you are to live by God's Word by faith. You must get back into his Word to be refreshed by His Spirit.
Don't draw the conclusion that if you don't have the right feelings for him that personal care and tender words are hypocritical and therefore not right. You do not need to feel for him or other people to be nice. You are nice because God calls you to be nice. You will be able to thank him for certain things; you will be expected to say certain tender words to him. You might have decided not to say these things because you fear he will want to be close. You need to remember two things and they must be kept in balance.
1) Remember there is the need for your husband's closeness. God has made it this way. You have an obligation to fulfill physical intimate needs. Much is said about a woman being frigid and no doubt there are many reasons for it. But the scriptures are clear that this physical intimacy is an important part of married life. Note, that I Corinthians speaks about mutual duties.
Let the husband fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again lest Satan tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (1 Corinthians 7:3-5, NASB).
The wife and the husband are obligated to each other. Of course, if the husband wants the wife to do ungodly things then these must be stopped even to the risk of the marriage. Physical relations are considered normal and right. You do not want to cause undue frustration in him by not caring for his needs. Yes, he might be selfish and insensitive to your needs; this makes it much more difficult for him. But by focusing on your obligations to the Lord, you should seek to do your best.
2) Remember you might be going through special circumstances such as physical trauma, fears, anxieties, tiredness, distractions, etc. If you just brush your husband away, he might not understand. It would be better to come to some common agreement and agree for a certain time that you will hold back physical intimacies. Pray for him that he would understand. Trust God for extra grace.
This can be a very difficult situation if the husband does not respond in love and patience. Pray constantly. Ask God for extra strength and time to care for your husband. If you do not appropriately address this distance between you two, as the scripture says, you are setting your marriage up for failure.
God has His design for the wife. She is to be submissive. She needs to care about what her husband says. She is not a free agent. She is his. If she doesn't like her husband's ways, she can not just stop loving him. She does not demand him to change this way. Instead like Sarah in 1 Peter 3 she quietly changes him through her kind and good example.
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