Today’s post comes from a couple who’ve been involved at Grace Family Church for several years. They share how life’s demands caused their love life to bottom out for awhile, and what they did to rekindle the romance.
When our kids were little, I was tired! Between meals, diaper changes, playtime, leading a mom’s group, volunteering, laundry, and grocery shopping, I was exhausted by the time my husband returned from work every night. As soon as he would walk in the door, I was ready to clock out and have some time for myself. Alone. I didn’t want to be needed by ANYONE.
My evening routine was predictable. I fell into bed early, watch a recorded TV show I didn’t have time to see earlier in the day, and then fall asleep. After awhile, my husband quit coming to bed with me. His evening plans included loving and being loved by his wife, and that rarely happened. It wasn’t that he didn’t try to make me feel special by planning date nights and doing nice things for me. He did. But I was still resentful of all I needed to be to everyone. Eventually he began retreating to his home office, and we became two ships passing in the wind.
The seed of resentment I was sowing was producing unhealthy, diseased fruit in my husband in the form of pornography and lust. I found out that my husband’s sexual needs were being temporarily fulfilled through on-line images. I became jealous and skeptical of every real-life relationship he had with other women, as innocent as they truly were. I badgered him and demanded details about who he was spending time with. The truth is I was growing concerned that another woman would make him feel loved and desired. (Matthew 26:41, 1 Cor. 10:13, James 1:14-15, Matthew 5:28, Genesis 2:18, Proverbs 7)
My eyes were opened to the potential destruction I was causing when several friends, Christian friends, had marriages that were ending or on the verge of ending due to extra-marital affairs or addiction to pornography. One person confided to an emotional relationship via email. I was shocked! Appalled! What were they thinking? Then God showed me that I was in a very delicate position as well – no different to the temptations of this world than they are – and I had better heed His warnings or I could very well be suffering the destruction of my own marriage.
I sought wise council from the Holy Spirit through prayer, the Bible, and a mentor at Grace Family Church. I read The Excellent Wife, Power of the Praying Wife, Sheet Music, and The Five Love Languages. Then, I made a decision. I was choosing to be the wife God equipped me to be. I was going to decide to love sex again. I was going to create interesting, unexpected and fun intimate time with my husband that would not include crossing boundaries that we, or God, would not be alright with. I was going to make him feel like the most fortunate man in the world! (Prov. 4:7, 24:3-6, Hebrews 13:4)
I prayed each morning about what I could eliminate from my schedule, what foods I should eat to increase my energy, and carved out time for a nap even if just a short one. I let a few household chores go by the wayside. I chose to have a smile on my face when he came home and to tease him with what he could expect later. Then I acted on it – no more excuses.
Everything was great for about three weeks when he said to me, “I’m not going to get too used to this. I know it won’t last long.” I was crushed. But I knew he had valid reasons for thinking my sexual desire in him would be short-lived. But God really had done a work in me. I loved and respected my man enough to make the necessary changes.
Now, almost ten years later, we have maintained our sexual relationship with each other to a level where my husband now says, “You never leave me wanting.” We pray together every morning and cherish what we have. God can restore your marriage if you follow His ways. It takes effort, a little bit of awkwardness at first, some uncomfortable discussions, decisions, lots of prayer…and time. And it is worth it.
Yes, kids change everything. What an awesome blessing they are but when ours were really young, everything seemed to revolve around keeping them fed and clothed, and getting the food off their clothes, off the floor, etc. Gone were the days of jumping right into relaxing and romantic time with my wife.
My workday would end but hers was just kicking into full gear by the time I pulled in the driveway. “Honey I’m home!” turned into, “Where should I jump in?” That is, if I remembered to ask. No wonder we’d finally bump into each other at the end of the night and have different priorities in mind. It was a battle going on in my house – not really me against my wife – but a battle against the distractions of life trying to takeover! I was unprepared for that battle and it was taking our intimacy hostage.
Something that began to help was praying on my drive home to mentally transition from the workday into evening time with my family. If I continued thinking through work projects or troubles going on elsewhere, I couldn’t be fully present when they needed me. What’s worse, I think men have a tendency to escape the frustration of intimacy problems by burying themselves further into their work or hobbies. At first it seems fulfilling but it never fixes the real problem – it’s only a distraction.
Speaking of distractions, the most destructive one is seeking out images on television, online, or worse – seeking casual conversation and attention from women that aren’t your wife. It doesn’t even have to be pornography but a lot of times it starts there. Jesus was pretty clear about it in Matt. 5:27-29. We’re constantly bombarded from every angle with images engineered to ignite our desire. A desire to be desired. For men, part of it is emotional but most of it is simply physical. It’s so very easy to fall prey to the fantasies of online,TV or movie images because they’re available 24/7. But it’s not intimacy and it’s never fulfilling. It’s a slippery slope constantly craving more… like eating an entire bowl of your favorite candy. If you always snack on candy, you won’t only lose your appetite for dinner, you’ll eventually get sick.
At a point where I felt increasingly frustrated with myself, I realized that kind of “snacking” was ruining my appetite for my wife. It wasn’t fulfilling. If anything it was making me bitter and insensitive. It was distracting me from the problem itself.
I wondered: What would happen if I took that energy and attention completely away from un-Godly desires and the things that would never be truly fulfilling, and instead turned that attention only toward my wife?
I took up washing dishes and making sure at the end of each night that the kitchen was clean and ready for the next day. I’d pitch to help get the kids bathed, in bed and try to straighten up a bit. In the morning I’d make her coffee just the way she likes it. Serving your wife is a great place to start building back lost intimacy.
Another big step was when I had an honest conversation with her about how very much I needed her and that I’d been distracted and wanted to desire ONLY her. We were BOTH distracted but with different things. We realized we needed to step up and make sacrifices for each other and be more sensitive to each other’s needs. I needed to reassure her that the whole world wasn’t on her shoulders and that both of us saving energy and desire for each other was way more important than the living room being straight!
It’s easy to say, “Oh, the kids just wear me out during the week,” or, “Honey, I’m too tired from work to help you,” or, “I can’t focus on anything when the house is a mess.” It’s hard to say no sometimes to a few of the less-important things in order to keep some of ourselves ONLY for our spouse. But the sacrifice is worth it and so VERY fulfilling.
What we found is that things don’t always need to be a big deal. Get creative. Women would be totally surprised by how far a little bit of attention goes toward making your husband feel desired. Mine really took the initiative. I’d get home and she’d look as cute as ever. She put little hearts on the fridge calendar marking “special nights.” That was VERY cool.
Over that time we also found great tips by going to couples’ groups and some great resources from FamilyLife.com – a book called Rekindling the Romance and a pack of date night ideas called Simply Romantic Nights. We set date nights and began to enjoy a whole new level of intimacy in our marriage. There are a lot of great resources around but the real fix was getting our attention turned to what was really important.
Now, years later we of course have little bumps in the road here and there, but we know what’s important to each other and how to make each other feel treasured. We flirt like we’re dating and look forward each night to curling up and watching a little TV before bed. And these days, we don’t need to put hearts on the calendar!