Reconciling with a Wife Who Has Hardened Her Heart

Adobe stock Gefangen“I’m trying everything I can, but my wife just doesn’t want to reconcile our marriage.”

“I’m doing all I know how to do, but my wife still wants a divorce.”

“My family is split apart, but my wife says ‘no’ to working on reconciling.”

Those are just three of many statements we’ve heard here at Marriage Missions, where the husband is seeking to restore and rebuild their broken marital relationship, and yet the wife will have no part of it.

They ask us for help and to be perfectly honest, we often aren’t sure how to help them. First off, Steve and I are not Marriage Counselors —we’re Marriage Educators. And many of these types of couples need more help than we can give them. When you’re talking about deep-seeded problems, which are complex and have been going on a long time before they approach us, it’s seldom something that can be resolved with an obvious solution.

Good Starting Point

But I’ve done some digging into coming up with at least SOME type of “answers” for husbands, hoping they will be a good starting point. When a person feels they are drowning ANYTHING of any substance is better than nothing. This is true, at least, for the immediate moment. And that is what I’m offering here —something of substance to help you in your immediate desperation.

You will need to work through this journey together with God to see how He helps you to unravel this complicated situation. It may or may not end up with the result you desire. However, who knows? It may end up better. I don’t know. But when God is invited in, you can be sure that you will find a place of peace, at some point in time. And it will be the best solution that you can grasp, given the fact that we live in a fallen world. With the Holy Spirit as your “Wonderful Counselor,” you have more going for you than any other way you could ever go.

That doesn’t mean that God won’t use other human counselors and advisors to help you at some point, but as the familiar term goes, “He’s got your back.”

The Bible says in Proverbs 30:21-23:

Under three things the earth trembles…” One of those three things is “an unloved woman who is married.” You may be screaming inside that you WANT to show her love and are willing to do what it takes to give it to her. But for some reason —one you may not understand, her availability to receive your love is slammed shut.

I don’t know if it is your fault, her fault, the fault of “the perfect storm” of emotions all tangled up, sin run amuck, and/or someone else’s fault. But whatever it is, it is. It’s best to work with what is, rather than work in denial of the truth. It’s important to work with what you CAN do, rather than what you wish you could do. Denial will take you to a dead end, as far as getting any positive results.

I’m going to present an article for you to read, to pray over and consider. It may or may not be for you. (It may be for the next husband reading this, or even wife, because many of the same principles pointed out can apply to husband’s whose hearts have hardened.) Or there may be parts, which the Holy Spirit may use to speak to and help you. It’s the gleaning process, in action.

Start With Prayer

Please read through it and ask the Lord to help you to keep your mind open to what He wants you to come to know. A good prayer for you to sincerely express to God may be:

Search me O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me
and lead me in the way everlasting.
(Psalm 139:23-24)


There IS a reason your wife’s spirit is closed off to you. It may be one or many or all of the reasons I pointed out earlier. However, you need to know that it didn’t happen overnight. It may seem to you that it did because of how it all came down. But in reality, it has been closing off to you for a while and it just now came to a final closure —one that opened your eyes to the final door slamming shut.

Closed Spirit

A number of years ago, I heard Dr Gary Smalley talk about the process of how a spouse’s spirit closes. He showed an open hand with all of the fingers splayed wide apart. He likened the heart being in the place of the palm of the hand. It’s the soft part of who they are and very vulnerable when nothing is protecting it.

And then he gave examples of different “events,” which can cause a spouse to close a protective finger over their heart. Because of these events, they felt too vulnerable to being hurt again by the “offending” spouse. Sometimes confession and repentance opens the fingers again. But sometimes, the offended spouse never opens up in the same way ever again.

He then showed that sometimes a spouse has been hurt so much over time. The result was that he or she will completely close off in spirit, from the other spouse. The hand looks like a closed fist. There is no part of that “heart,” which is open and vulnerable to the way you can approach it. And sometimes it never opens again.

In his book, Winning Your Wife Back Before It’s Too Late, Gary Smalley writes the following.

He wrote:

Although there are probably hundreds of ways to offend your wife and close her spirit, we consistently see several that top the list. You can close your wife’s spirit by:

• speaking harsh words

– telling her that her opinions don’t matter

– being unwilling to admit when you are wrong

• taking her for granted

– making jokes or sarcastic comments at her expense

– not trusting her

• forcing her to do something that she’s uncomfortable with

– being rude to her in front of others

– dismissing her needs as unimportant

Your wife could probably make up her own list of the things you’ve done to close her spirit.

We consistently get calls from men all around the world who are desperate because their wives just walked out the door. The most devastating part is that many of these men fail to realize that little by little, their actions closed their wives’s spirits. Because this happens internally, many men don’t realize they’ve offended their wives.

And one day the husband comes home to find his wife’s spirit rolled up in a tight ball, like a sow bug. You may not always be aware of what you do to deposit anger into the life of your loved one. However, when it comes to relationships, a preventative rule of thumb is this: whatever dishonors another person usually closes her spirit!

If you have been wondering why your wife left or perhaps why she resists your efforts at reconciliation, the answer is usually found in a closed spirit. The sad reality is, the more a man steps on the spirit of his wife, the more resistant she becomes to him.”

Gary goes on to then state the following:

“Our purpose in writing about a closed spirit is not to make you —who may find yourself with a closed sow bug, instead of an an open wife, feel guilty. It is to provide hope. I have done many things to close the spirit of my wife and the key to reconciliation is to learn how to reopen her spirit.”

I realize THAT’S what you are trying to do. Dr Smalley’s book gives you some ideas, which you may find helpful. They have worked for many husbands. They haven’t worked for others, but you never know until you pray, read, and see if God is leading you that way. For this reason, you may want to obtain the book to consider his advice.

I want to give one more illustration, before I move on from this point. I’m hoping it will help you to see what could have happened with your wife. It was written by someone named Camain, who asked for prayer on the Internet for his wife’s hardened heart.

Referring to his wife, he wrote the following:

“Someone said that she is really hurt, and you’re right, she is. I may not have hit her, or degraded her, or anything like that. But it’s the little things that have added up over the years. Each of those little things was a brick in a wall. Little by little with time being the mortar, that wall has gotten big and hardened.

“At first I tried to bang myself against it, repetitively hitting it. I can’t break this wall down though. The only thing that can is time, Gods help, patience and perseverance. I have to be patient, loving, and humble. I’m trying hard to find and identify all the issues that have caused harm to my marriage. No matter how big or small, I’m trying to ask for forgiveness of them, and stop doing them.”

I can’t help but think of “the earth trembling” because of a wife who feels “unloved” so she closes her spirit, walled off from being open to her husband again —at least, not at this point.

True, we don’t know the circumstances. And true, sin is involved somewhere —you can count on it. But nonetheless, her spirit is closed.

A Helpful Article

I came across an article, which I referred to earlier, believing you will benefit from reading it. None of what has been said, nor will be said in this article, excuses sin. Whether it’s the husband, wife, and/or others, which caused the spirit of ANY spouse to close off, it is wrong.

But hopefully, at least SOME of what the author, Reb Bradley has written will help. At the end of this article, he offers additional resources. I need you to know that I don’t know much about Reb or his resources, so I can’t really recommend them. That is up to you.

All I can say is that I saw a lot of credibility in what I was able to glean and recommend you prayerfully consider all God shows you, which is important for your situation. Below is the link to this article.

Please read:


Above all, I hope that your ultimate goal goes beyond reconciling with your wife. If that is the case, your “solutions” will be most likely be temporary, when and if you do. Ultimately, I hope your ultimate goal is to go to GOD and make sure your life is clean. Do not give your wife added “excuses” as to why she could remain closed in her spirit in reconciling with you.

Also, realize that giving forgiveness and reconciling the marriage are two separate steps. Your wife may have much, which she needs to forgive you for, and much she needs to surrender to the Lord. But that does not mean that she will have to reconcile in living with you as husband and wife again. If she doesn’t feel safe with you (physically, spiritually, and/or emotionally), she may decide to forgive you, but she still will not live with you.

Live For God

I can’t account for her actions, and neither can you. This is between her and God. You will need to come to the place where you will live for God, EVEN IF your wife doesn’t join you in marriage again. Are you a man of God who can live like this? Are you a man after God’s own heart?

If you are, and you are sincere, then it seems to me that there is more hope for you that you can be reconciled to God AND to your wife. But I don’t know what your wife will do.

I do know though, that God wants to work in and through your life, whether your wife comes back or not. It is my sincerest hope you will participate with Him in this mission.

Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International wrote this article.


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Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness Save My Marriage

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359 responses to “Reconciling with a Wife Who Has Hardened Her Heart

  1. My wife and I have been together for 10 years, married for 9 this past June. We have two beautiful young girls. Just this past February my wife told me about her affair, and I forgave her for that and agreed to counseling. We went to one session only to find out later on that she only went to calm my feelings and to give me false hope. She asked for space and for me to move out. I agreed to the space she wanted and 2 weeks later she wanted a divorce.

    So months later I filed not wanting to but she kept insisting. I love my wife and I want my family more than anything in this world. I have been praying and doing whatever I can to stop this before seeing the judge. My wife will not open up to me at all even though she knows how I feel. I’m still getting rejected. I’m a patient and understanding person. I know that I’m not perfect but I strive to be all I can for her and my girls. Since I’ve been gone all I feel is lost, lonely, and empty.

  2. She may be in an emotional affair. You may just need to say “ok”…if this is what you want, and move on. It may move her out of the fog; it may not, but you can’t change her, you can only change YOU. God will have to do the rest.

  3. I have offended my wife with harsh words. I know GOD will not forgive me. I feel lowered and ashamed of myself. I do not want forgiveness. I want to repent for my sin.

  4. How do I explain to my husband about closing a woman’s spirit? What exactly is her spirit? What book talks
    about this the most? Thanks.

  5. I have been married for almost 20 years. I was raised in a Christian home, my husband was not. We eloped when I was 18 because my family would have never agreed to the marriage. Where my life is at now, I wished I would have listened because I chose a hard road.

    My husband has a difficult time loving me the way God commanded him to. As a young couple, married and having a first child within a year, my husband was not emotionally there for me. He was working at school and it seemed to me to be just the season we were in so I accepted it. Then our second and third child… his school was over and he started a new job, another season where he needed to focus on other things. When I finally grew tired of the neglect and tried to communicate with my husband that it was starting to have negative effects, he minimized my feelings and asked me not to be negative. I ended up getting attention from a work mate and unfortunately found myself in an affair. I stopped it almost right away and confessed to my husband. He forgave me and we reconciled. Only three short years later, I found myself back in the same emotional state. I was determined to communicate better and keep myself from temptation.

    I shared with my spouse my feelings and he told me that I was asking him to meet needs only God could. I set out to seek the Lord, only, a strange thing happened, my romantic feelings died. My spouse and I did well as friends but the marriage part was really suffering. He insulted me, put us into financial ruins, denied his actions and made me to believe I was crazy for thinking the way that I did. Now today… I love my spouse but I don’t trust him. He doesn’t show signs of true repentance or understand how his actions effected me (which is most likely why he doesn’t repent) It’s like he has blinders on.

    I read some on “gaslighting” and alot of it sounds like what I’m living. I’ve hardend my heart toward my husband so his lies will not hurt me anymore. I’m not bitter and I won’t be a victim anymore. I made a stand and moved out. It’s been almost 9 months and now my husband would like to start trying to fix our marriage but it’s hard because I’ve had to work through the emotion of me living a lie all these 20 years.. WHAT SHOULD I DO??? I DONT THINK HE’S AN HONEST PERSON, BUT I DON’T WANT TO DIVORCE IF THINGS COULD CHANGE. . . HELP!!

    1. Martha, I could have written the exact post you wrote last night, almost down to the hour. My husband and I have been together for 6 years (3.5 married). I am in the same situation as you and I am searching for my own answer. It is a difficult situation and I understand your pain.

  6. I went to jail over a charge I had nothing to do with. I had to plead guilty because I couldn’t stand a chance to argue the cop. I have a suspended sentence and am paying a fine and that put us in debt. This is at the beginning of my marriage. I gave my life to God in jail and got baptized and promised God I will live a good life and asked God to be the center of my marriage.

    A month ago, my wife left. I asked her to stay away from drugs and former friends that do drugs so we don’t get into trouble and I stay out of jail. I was asking her. Not demanding. She said I was controlling when I am trying to do the right thing. Tried getting her back in church and she refused. She left and I found explicit texts to other guys she works with. I love her and trying to do the right thing and somehow I ran her away. I’m praying daily for God to repair my marriage. Am I a fool? I need help. I can go on for days. She says she doesn’t love me. This hurts so much for doing the right thing and I feel that I am failing my promises to God. Please pray for me and my wife for God to fix this. She is cold and hardened against me.

  7. Me and my wife have had arguments over finances, her kids, my work, and she believing that I don’t love her as I say I do. She is very abusive and every time she has hit me I have held her arms to keep from being hit. Three times she has ended up With a broken finger or fracture. I never intentionally meant to hurt her but I couldn’t let her hit me any more. I’m very much in love with her and don’t know what to do. I have said hurtful things out of anger that I didn’t mean, things about her and her kids, horrible things. Please reply; any help would be appreciated. There’s more to talk about just can’t type it all at once now. I’m not sure if there is another man or she’s acting as if there is. i just need advice.

    1. AJ, You and your wife are acting in toxic ways with each other. You BOTH need to wise up. You can do better than this. You know you can. You need to sit down at a non-abusive time (maybe more than once) to talk about what to do to stop this cycle. This is not to be a blame time, but a time to figure out how to stop this explosive behavior from happening. You have the right not to be hit by her, and she has the right to not have you breaking her fingers. Both of you should not be saying “hurtful things out of anger” that either one of you doesn’t mean. Surely, you can learn to do better.

      Go into the “Communication and Conflict” topic of this web site. See if both of you can figure out how to take your actions and words with each other in a better direction. You need to find healthier ways to express your disagreements with each other. And you need to act as partners with each other, not mortal enemies. Pray for each other, pray together, love each other, find ways to be supportive. There are kids around that are watching you both tear each other apart. That should not be. You are their examples. You both need to grow up, find ways to do this better, and partner with each other in working through your differences in ways that don’t devastate and shame. Be the adults here. Don’t give into letting yourselves act in low life ways with each other. BOTH of you need to partner up, and live out your wedding vows, as you promised. Love, honor, and find ways to act as a marital team.

  8. My wife has slammed the door shut on us and I gave her every reason to. I became so blind to how badly I was hurting her and letting her down. I drove my best friend away and I can’t convey to her how deeply saddened I am now that I understand what I have done. I spoke harshly and allowed anger to blind me. I’ve found help and reconnected with my faith. I pray everyday that God helps us let go of the anger and find a spirit of forgiveness. I truly destroyed a love that she told me was her HOME and I so desperately want to make amends. Please pray for us both. God willing, we can have a healthier life, and if it’s in his will a life together.

  9. I walked out on my wife and her two precious girls at the end if July this year. I felt I was not loved or wanted anymore and a few negative comments to add. I was wrong for doing this. I am the one that broke our vows by walking out. I am a born again believer in Jesus Christ. I try to live and be as honest as I know how. I have tried to talk to her and want to reconcile, but she has not talked to me since July. I’ve been praying to God for help and assurance. How can we reconcile if she won’t even talk to me. I need help, please.

    1. Jeff, from this article you are responding to you know that neither Cindy nor I are marriage counselors. We are marriage educators. This article gave you some insight into the heart and mind of your wife. There were no “quick fixes” given in it because there just aren’t any after we have wounded our wife’s heart this deeply. Keep in mind this deep hurt happened less three months ago, which to your wife is the same as 3 seconds ago in her mind. I also gleaned from what you said this isn’t her first marriage. Now, if she was deeply hurt by her previous husband(s) in that relationship, then what you did was add more “proof” that she just can’t trust men. “All they care about is themselves!” I won’t kid you, Jeff, you have an uphill battle to win your wife’s heart and from our experience it rarely can occur unless you both work with a good “marriage friendly” counselor to work through ALL of the issues that led up to you leaving.

      I’m sure if your wife was honest she would have to admit that she contributed to what happened. (NOTE:I am not saying it’s her fault you left. That was entirely your decision and yours alone). But I’m willing to bet that you both brought a lot of baggage into your marriage and if both of you can’t deal with the issues you’ll just keep repeating the cycle over and over again.

      Here are a few questions to consider: 1) How does your wife know that your heart is broken for what you did and how sorry you are for breaking her heart? 2) Have you confessed your sin to God and asked His forgiveness; and likewise have you confessed your sin to your wife and asked for her forgiveness? 3) How would she KNOW that you are committed to changing the behavior that led to you leaving in July? 4) Do you think you really know what’s going on in your wife’s heart – what hurts her, what she’s afraid of, what brings her joy? 5) Do you make it a regular practice to study your wife (to get behind her eyes) 6) Since your wedding how much time have you spent reading and learning about marriage and what it takes to be a Godly husband? How many marriage conferences have you attended?

      I can tell you Jeff that after 44 years of marriage to Cindy I have made all of the mistakes you’ve made in marriage (some over and over again), but thankfully I’ve also come to learn (because I have invested the time and energy into it) to learn what Cindy needs (to be able to answer the questions above).

      Marriage is HARD. Second, third marriages are even harder, if they are going to succeed. Thousands of couples get married every weekend thinking their marriage “will be different” only to learn (the hard way) their marriages are the same – filled with problems that drive them crazy and lead them to think they “made a mistake” which too often leads to divorce because one or both think the “next marriage will be different if they can just find the ‘right person.'”

      Successful marriages aren’t finding the right person it’s becoming the right person – and that’s where the hard work comes in.

      If you need help in finding a good counselor in your area call Focus On The Family at 1-800-A-FAMILY and ask for their counseling department. Share with them what’s going on in your marriage and they can refer you to someone close by because they have spent the time vetting counselors all over the country. Now, it may be quite a while before your wife will agree to see a counselor because her pain is still off the chart. She needs to see you are a broken man before any healing can start to take place.

      If you seriously want to start learning more about what your wife needs we have a lot of articles in the section “For Married Men.” I hope this gives you a little insight into what you “might” be able to do to turn things around, Jeff. I know it looks like I painted a bleak picture without much hope, but nothing could be further from the truth. God is able to take what we screwed up royally and turn it around for His glory. He did it for Cindy and me so I know he can do it for you and your wife.

      1. Recently I found out my wife has been talking to another guy for about a month now. It hurts like crazy. The reason she felt the need to reach out to someone else was because of my lack of giving her and our three kids time. Which is true. I have been a horrible husband and father. I’ve been begging and pleading for another chance, but now she’s so cold towards me. Every time I ask her something about us she just says she doesn’t know. I mean she has to know something right? Yesterday I printed a bunch of stuff off online for us to sit and go over, by the time I bought it up, it was too late into the night, so I asked her, tomorrow just go through the folder and we can’t talk about it the next day. So the next day I asked if she went through it, and all she did was give me tons of excuses as to why she didn’t. It hurt my feelings a lot. All I asked was for her to read some of the stuff I printed out, so we can try and work on us. But I think she’s completely checked out. I don’t know what to do. Please help, I don’t want to lose her nor my kids.

  10. I really enjoyed the advice outlined in this article. I am currently experiencing in my marriage”the closed spirit scenario”. However, my wife is not willing to bring resolution to any issue. How do I get her to discuss these issues that may have inflicted pain and hurt? Kindly note that infidelity on my part is not an issue here. We have been married for 20 years.

  11. I woke up today after 2 and a half years of being without my wife and kids to realize why this has happened to me!!! I caused it and I don’t deserve to have a chance at anything in life! How could I be so selfish not to see what I caused, God? Why didn’t I stop the talk and be a true husband? Yes there was a material force also involved, but that was no excuse for what I slipped into her ears every night!! She even told me not to, but I was wrapped in a world of make believe. Please excuse me for a moment, I will continue this comment later! Thats wat losers do! Never can finish anything good in life!