Have you ever seen the kid’s movie Madagascar?
If so, you’ll remember that from the time the four main characters (Marty, Melvin, Gloria & Alex) get onto the island, they don’t eat anything. Nothing. Not until the very end of the movie when the shifty penguins introduce them to sushi, do they finally fill their hunger.
Every time I watch that movie, I am so bothered the entire time by the fact that they haven’t eaten anything, I can hardly enjoy the movie. There is just an uneasy undercurrent in my mind, because, THEY NEED TO EAT SOMETHING! (It must either be the mother, or the Italian in me).
I have this same feeling when I’m speaking to a woman who has told me that she and her husband are not (or are very rarely) being intimate.
She may have moved on to talk about other things, but my mind is stuck in one place. Even if she starts telling me about other good things that are going on in her life, there is a siren going off in the back of my mind: DANGER, DANGER, NO SEX, DANGER. So I often try to gently bring the conversation back around, because this is my thing and I genuinely want to help.
But it’s a touchy subject, and I’m often shrugged off, I think for three reasons:
1. It’s too personal.
2. Women often don’t realize what a big deal this is.
3. They dread the thought of facing the problems or changing in the area of intimacy.
I suspect it’s usually a little bit of each.
If you are a woman struggling in this area of intimacy, I would be so honored if you would allow me the privilege of speaking to your heart for just a moment.
First of all, I want to recognize your heart and who you are. I don’t know you, but I know that marriage advice can feel so much like it ignores your unique situation and the ways you feel mistreated.
If you are not giving yourself sexually to your husband, chances are it’s because you feel your own needs have gone completely overlooked.
You can tell through your husband’s actions and words that he does not really care about your heart. He has not cherished you, tried to pursue you, has been careless and maybe even downright mean to you. And pulling back from a man who has not shown true care is about the most natural thing in the world. I understand just where you are coming from!
But I’m going to take a bet on you. If you are still reading this, I am going to bet that you are a woman after genuine change and healing. Even if the idea scares you, the fact that you’re reading this article tells me that you are not just content with this separation from your husband. You want more.
And I’m praying that as you continue reading this, your heart would be flooded with an unknown compassion and understanding about your husband. I pray that the humblest part of yourself will grasp on to the truths you need to hear- because I really do believe that God wants to heal your heart and marriage, and I’m really hoping you will allow it to happen.
How do men express intimacy?
For a man, sex is the primary way he feels accepted and expresses intimacy. The same way that for most of us women, acceptance and intimacy are felt through good communication, feeling loved and understood- for men, that comes through sex.
If your husband were not speaking to you AT ALL, you would probably completely shut down. If you and your husband are not being intimate, that is why he has completely shut down to you. Maybe he is there, day in and day out, doing the physical acts of commitment, but his heart is far away.
If your husband were not speaking to you AT ALL, it might take a little while, but something would eventually spark that part of you that was being ignored: a romance novel, romance movies, someone who you really feel understands you- all of these are unhealthy alternatives to your husband. And some of you are there already.
If there is no intimacy happening with your husband, there is a good chance he has found another outlet in masturbation and maybe pornography as well. That is just the truth. These things, of course, only divide you further. And who is winning here? Neither of you.
But here is the question that will make all of the difference in the world.
The question that 9 out of 10 times will determine whether your marriage will ultimately thrive or fail.
Are you willing to humble yourself to restore intimacy in your marriage?
Are you willing to go to God with your sins and shortcomings, stop fighting against your husband with the huge case you have built against him- turn on your heels and head in a different direction.
The high road where you stand with God and let him do the fighting in your marriage for you.
That might sound overly simple, but as someone who has counseled many women in relationships over the years, I can tell you that:
Humility is always the make or break factor.
Will you allow yourself to fall on the rock and be shattered, as the scripture says, or will you continue to try to push through in your own strength, ignore what God says to you, and ultimately be crushed? I know this is a harsh truth, but we need to speak the truth to each other in love! And this is it, girl.
As a sister in Christ I want to challenge you to see the bigger picture: The enemy is after your marriage (all of ours!).
More than any other relationship on the planet, marriage can paint the best and most beautiful picture of sacrificial, Christ-like love. And your marriage being whole and healed would not only mean your home and children thriving- you have no idea what a ray of light a thriving marriage shoots out into the world for God’s glory.
The beginning of a healthy marriage is a healthy heart.
And healing a broken marriage requires 2 steps on your part:
1. You need to begin acting respectfully toward your husband. If you’re not even sure what that looks like or why that’s important, start here.
2. You need to start cultivating DEEP intimacy with God. This needs to be your outlet. The place you release all of your hurts and feelings. The place to “tell on your husband”, and leverage the power of prayer to ask God to begin to change both you and your husband’s hearts. Prayer is your ONLY weapon here. But thank God it is THE most powerful thing on the planet. I can attest to the power of prayer in my own life and marriage, and it has worked miracles!
What the enemy intended for evil in your marriage, God can use for good.
Oh, please believe this today about your own story. Yours.
It can be made into something you can’t even imagine now. All of the pain, all of the hurt, all of the brokenness caused to you by your husband (unintentionally), and by others (maybe very intentionally)- all of that brokenness you carry around inside of you, that nobody else in the world understands. God sees you and he knows!
And he is calling you close to himself. And I believe that somewhere deep inside, you know it!
Don’t let go, don’t lose heart. Can you stick around for a little bit and take a look at some things I believe can help you as you start on this new path in your marriage?
A version of this piece originally appeared at realstrong.org, published with permission.