You’d have given your marriage a 7 or 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. You might prefer more appreciation and more frequent sex, but things seem mostly OK. Then comes the dreaded “We need to talk.” Your wife’s seen a lawyer. Or she’s asking you to move out. Or she uses words that let you know she thinks your marriage is more like a 1 or 2. You knew she wasn’t thrilled with life, but you had no idea it was that bad. You feel blindsided by your wife.
There’s good reason for you to feel hurt, angry, and like a failure. You’ve given so much to this marriage; why aren’t you getting any recognition for all that? You’ve apologized, haven’t you? How could she spring this on you like this? What more could she want from you? If you can’t win, why keep trying? “Women; can’t live with them, can’t live without them.” You feel trapped.
I have plenty of things to say to wives who are unhappy in marriage, and there are many wives who are behaving badly. But today I’m talking to you husbands.
Many men (not all!) are less focused on relational details than many women are. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; God made you that way. But if you feel blindsided by your wife don’t give in to the temptation to get defensive. Of if you feel defensive, put that aside for a bit.
You can think of this as me, a woman, giving you an inside view from the other “side.” Put a check on your anger or fear and consider these ways you can respond that can open the door to restored connection and goodness in your relationship.
Listen. Be curious.
You probably haven’t taken much time to reflect on what’s going on between you (perhaps with the exception of “I need more sex”). When it comes to communication, feelings, and other relational details you may feel like, “That’s just not how I’m wired.”
But your wife has a different view of the world than you do. For there to be any chance of repairing the breach in your relationship you’ll need to get curious about her perspective. Start with imagining “What’s it been like to be married to me?” This is not about heaping more shame on yourself, and it’s not about justifying any ways in which you’ve been less than the person God has needed you to be. It’s about being honest with yourself and with God.
And then be curious about what your wife might have to say. If she’s willing to communicate at all, ask questions. Stop yourself from trying to defend yourself or tell her she’s wrong; you’re seeking to see things through her eyes. She may not necessarily be “right,” but that’s not the point. You’re first seeking to understand.
Seek HER Before Seeking Her Body
A woman can sense if you are seeking HER, or seeking what you can get from her. She knows whether you truly see and value her, or whether she’s more of an object to you. For example, if you primarily touch her only when you want sex she won’t believe you value her for anything else.
A woman wants and needs to be seen as a person, a human being, someone with dreams and values and hurts and fears and opinions and gifts and beauty. She needs to be nurtured and cherished. And she needs you to work to win her heart over and over and over again.
Think of something else you value a lot, such as your professional reputation, a classic car, money, or whatever. How do you cherish that? You notice, pay attention, invest time and resources as a priority, care for, speak positively about to your friends. Is that how you treat your wife? Does she experience you treating her as the most valuable part of your life?
See Yourself as Learning to Love Well
You didn’t go into marriage knowing all you need to know. The templates that developed in your mind around marriage were incomplete, distorted, perhaps downright destructive. As far as God’s economy is concerned, marriage is not primarily to make you happy, but a laboratory in which you learn to love well.
Some men need to get blindsided before they realize that marriage requires more of you than you thought. But if you really want to have a successful relationship you will need to change. You came into marriage a sinner. (Yes, so did your spouse.) You came without the skills or mindset that make for lasting intimacy and wholeness. But you can learn.
So, if communicating about things “under the surface” is hard for you, if you’d rather not talk about feelings or sex or money, if you naturally avoid hard conversations, then you’ll need to learn communication skills.
If you’ve seen your wife as obligated to give you sex, if you’re frustrated at the lack of intimacy, if you’re tempted to go (or have gone) elsewhere for sexual satisfaction, you’ll need to deal with your own sexuality, work hard to rebuild trust, and learn what intimacy truly is all about.
As a man, you’ve done hard things before. You can learn to love well too. Get some marriage mentors. And invite God right into the middle of your marriage. It may be messy and awkward for a bit. But the fruit of learning to love well will be more than worth it.
Your Turn: Have you been blindsided by your wife? How has this changed your perspective on your marriage? Does this article give you any ideas about what to do next? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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