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.

But I’ve done some digging into trying to come 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, at least for the immediate moment. And that is what I’m offering here —something of substance to help you in your immediate desperation.

It’s a starting point, where you and God will work through this journey together and as see how God 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 somehow, 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. However, 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 that “Under three things the earth trembles…” One of those three things is “an unloved woman who is married.” Now you may be screaming out that you are WANTING to show her love and are willing to do what it takes to give her abundant love, but for some reason —one you and I 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 look back, trying to wish things away —wish they never happened. They did. And now you work with what you CAN do, rather than what you wish you could do.

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 you. It’s the gleaning process, in action.

When given the opportunity, 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)

But the first thing I want to point out is that 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, but 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.

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 here and there, over their heart because 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, 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:

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.

At our office in Branson, Missouri, 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 some husbands. They haven’t worked for others, but you never know until you pray, read, and see if God is leading you that way, so 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, and little by little with time being the mortar, that was 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, and try 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.

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. If it is the husband, the wife, and/or others, which sinned in some way, so the spirit of ANY spouse is closed off, it is wrong.

But hopefully, at least SOME of what the author, Reb Bradley has written will help in some way. 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. Please click onto the following link to read:


Above all, I hope that your ultimate goal is not ONLY to reconcile 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 —that you 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 with you in the way you desire, living as husband and wife again. If she doesn’t feel safe for some reason (whether it is physically, emotionally, spiritually, and/or emotionally), she may decide to forgive you, but she still will not live with you.

I can’t account for her actions, and neither can you. This is between her and God. And 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.

This article is written by Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions International.


Filed under: Bitterness and Forgiveness Save My Marriage

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

  1. I have been married 34 years, we have two grown children. My marriage is falling apart, for lack of communication. There are times we don’t talk for 3 weeks. It’s like a living nightmare. I have such deep hurts, but when I try to talk to him, he is oblivious and doesn’t acknowledge anything. In his eyes there is nothing wrong, and if it is, it is my fault, because he says he doesn’t do anything wrong and is trying hard to get along. Even when in instances when things are obvious and clear to define, as in certain instances are, and I try to point them out, he always finds a way to point out it is really my fault and he is not doing anything wrong, saying I am over-reacting and imagining everything.

    He wants to tuck every problem ‘under the rug’, wants to turn over a new leaf, pretending they’re not there. And when I don’t respond the way he wants me to, pretending everything is fine, he draws back in his turtle shell, and silent treatments start. I can’t live like this anymore. I’d rather live in one room shack, being alone, eating only bread and water, than going through this nightmare. I have no way of supporting myself; I work part time, and to live on my own is out of my reach. I just don’t know how to rescue myself from this nightmare. I think I am at the end of my rope…I don’t know what to do. I feel abandoned and all alone.
    God help me!

    1. Hi Hope, I am a husband married 36 years, also 2 grown children. I can only imagine what your situation is like… and it likely did not develop from one day to the next, but has built up over a long time.

      How is he “trying hard to get along”? Is he aware of your deep hurts? Wasn’t there a better period in which you two were talking more often and sharing with each other? Can you define in more clear terms how you got to where you are now?

      Is your husband also unhappy? Does he acknowledge that this woeful lack of communication is NOT OK? Or is your husband a very phlegmatic, quiet type, while you tend to be more verbal? Or is your husband quite happy here, and you are the one shouldering the burden? I’m trying to get a better picture of the dynamic between you.

      Prayer is a powerful tool…are you are prayerful person? Do you have friends and family whom you trust, and to whom you can turn for support? Perhaps you can contribute more information so readers here can pray for specific things, and share from a more knowledgeable position with you. Take care for now…Hope you return…WP (Work in Progress)

      1. Hello, WP, Thank you for your response to my comment and for caring. No, our situation didn’t develop overnight, and there were times we would sit long hours, late in the night, talking, planing and just being together. Our problems started when our daughter, who is the younger of two children, was in teenage years. When she would not comply with simple home rules and was disrespectful to me and rebellious, we had arguments, and she would talk back to me, my husband never supported me. Then when I got upset with him, he blamed me because, as he said, I “lost it” and over-reacted. He said I didn’t know how to raise kids, so HE WILL. So I took my hands off. He really didn’t.

        Our son turned out fine, because he gave his life to the Lord at early age. But our daughter not so good, although she in many ways did retain lots of teachings and principles and acknowledges them as right, but is not living them. We have to trust God in this case. The hurts from those times cut very deep, some instances of his insensitivity toward me forever etched in my memory. Our communication broke down, and after each episode of silence my resentment was deeper. I struggled with it and it became a mountain between me and God also.

        My husband is a quiet man, works hard and has no time for anything but work. I know he is overworked. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t want to stir anything, wanting to pretend that if he turns over a new leaf, not facing issues and acts peaceful, gives me a pat on cheek, asks me how I’m doing, being kind toward me, I should do likewise and go on like nothing happened. After all, he’s trying to fix it.

        I’m the type of person that if there is a problem, we must deal with it, and I need to be reassured that my side is being heard and considered, or else I too will shut up and will become unresponsive to his attempts to “go on” like everything is fine. So, when I don’t go along, silent treatments start.

        I can’t express in words the resentment I feel toward him at those times. It grows and turns into bitterness, and then I can’t pray. When after, what is often weeks of silence, he starts to say “hello”, and says if I want to talk, we talk. By that time I have nothing to say. He says, I hold grudges, but if he acknowledged my hurt, and tried to understand me, my grudges would melt away. In May of 2015 I went to my home country in Southern Europe where I come from, staying a month. From the beginning of the year to the month of May we probably were on speaking terms 1/3 of time, 2/3 we didn’t speak… Just before my trip we started to speak. I honestly didn’t know what I would come home to… I was hoping that he would have missed me. When I came I didn’t feel like a missed wife. He was good and nice, no arguments, but no closeness as if there is love between two people. Few days after I told him that we need to have marriage counseling. He got offended by me saying this, and said he thought things were good between us and we can work things out. This episode ended with 2 weeks of silence. There were many more since then.

        Last Father’s day was the last one. I have a music leading ministry in nursing home/ retirement community chapel. He was there once before visiting. For a while I wanted him to come again to one of the services, so we planned for Father’s day. I was looking forward to it, then going out having a dinner together. He had some problems a few days before, so I told him if he doesn’t feel up to it this Sunday, it’s OK, and he can do it another Sunday. He said he’ll be fine.

        I am very happy in my ministry to the elderly, and have much love for them, which is being expressed in every way and my songs are sung from the heart. I was glad my husband was there. After service when we went to the car he never said a word about anything, my music, service, not one mention of service, my songs, being happy for me… NOTHING. I was looking for his encouragement and his approval… We went to a store, since it was to-early to eat yet. But when I saw how he was, I told him it’s OK, we go home and eat. I couldn’t endure silence in a restaurant when we’re supposed to enjoy not just food but time together. There was mostly silence on the way home, and when he spoke it was about trivial things like cars on the road, mowing grass, his work…

        I am hurt; I feel abandoned. Time and space doesn’t permit me to go on…The article link on this page (Reconciliation to a hardened wife), describes me to the point that I was practically ‘floored’ reading it… But how many husbands do listen? If I gave this to him to read, what would his reaction be? When once I put everything I felt into a letter, he cocked up, said it is NOT true. Weeks of SILENCE followed.

        I just don’t know if anything will help a man who is so hardened to his wife’s needs. God knows I am willing, but there has to be both people input. Or else I think I will suffocate. I have no other family here in this country, (only him and children) and it isn’t easy for me to make friends. In the area that I live people tend to be reserved, and I have experienced prejudice. I still have my Slavic accent, so they know I’m not from here. So I am very lonely person, longing for love and closeness. That’s why I’m so happy with the residence in nursing home, they are very receptive. I appreciate people’s kind words and their prayers and and am deeply touched when someone shows that they really care.

        1. Hi Hope, I have read through your most recent text several times and I will try to put my thoughts in order…

          I too do not live in my own country – I am American; my wife is Dutch, we now live in the Netherlands – in the province Limburg now for 25 years, where people are also very reserved, and when one does not make friends easily. Am I to understand that you two live in your husband’s country – the USA – where he feels at home and does have friends and family? Americans can sometimes be predjudiced…I know!! In any cse, this is an additional hurdle for you… I can very well imagine how you feel – I have had the same. I have my American accent, so people know right away I am not from here either!

          Ahh yes, your husband IS quiet, I was wondering about that – therefore my question in my last text. I am also the quiet type…I can well imagine that your husband did not comment on your singing and ministry, but perhaps not because he doesn’t care, but because it doesn’t occur to him to comment or express his observations. He is a hard worker, and immersed in his work…it is likely that he has no idea really, of how keenly you feel the impact of this lack of sharing and communication. If he is an American, and living in his own country, he likely has no idea of what it is like for you to live in the US without family, and among people who perhaps are wary and standoffish with a person who clearly does not come from there (your Slavic accent). Has he ever lived in your country?? I would guess not, from what you have said.

          I think it would be good if you were to let him read this text you just wrote. It is well thought out (well written). He needs to know where you are and how you feel. He may feel that “things are good between us and we can work things out…” well then…. let’s work things out!! He needs to know that you feel hurt and abandoned. Likely he does not know this. Did you ever go to marriage counselling?

          Your involvement with the elderly sounds like a lifeline for you!! You are clearly good at worship and singing (my wife is too). This you should keep up of course!

          Is your daughter now older, and beyond that difficult stage? Or are you two still conflicting over how you should be raising her during these last years?

          I wish I had better answers. For sure, your Father in Heaven knows your conflicts and stresses. See what you think of these suggestions. Perhaps you should write him a letter consisting of your text here? Tell him that you really need to talk and share, and feel emotionally more one?

          Prayer is powerful…perhaps also you can share some of these things with the elderly with whom you are singing? Is that a possibity?

          One last thought- It is interesting that your husband sharted to be more communicative with you just before you left for your month’s stay in your home country. It seems that he is very much in his comfort zone, whereas you are not…. and when he realized that you would be gone… only then did he make an effort to open up a little…… Did he initiate communication? Or did you? You take care…. many on this site are very prayerful people…. WP (Work in Progress)

        2. Thank you Hope, for posting your honest comment. How I pray you and your husband are able to work out your differences in some way. As I read about your problems, they are all too familiar –communication differences. My husband and I sure have had our fair share of them (most couples do) –particularly earlier in our marriage before we learned more how to bridge our differences. We still have our times, but they are VERY much fewer and less complicated.

          You sound like a wonderful woman… one I wish I knew personally. I love your heart concerning your music ministry to the residents at the nursing home. I’m proud of you and I have a feeling your husband is too. He just isn’t “skilled” or isn’t tuned into the importance of telling you so. When you said he’s quiet, it occurred to me that as a quieter type, he has a tendency to back away from communication situations. I’m not sure. But I’ve seen it over and over again. Opposites very often get together, and eventually have to find ways to make their opposite ways work together for them.

          I just read something that reminds me of your situation (and most marriage situations). Mike Mason wrote, “Marriage is not about sameness, but about oneness, which is characterized less by similarities than by differences. One partner is a man, the other a woman, and that’s just the beginning. One is sociable, the other reclusive; one prefers sunshine, the other clouds and rain; one loves poetry, the other scorns it; one is punctual; the other lives largely free of the constraints of time… How can two such opposites ever be one? Might as well ask how a glove fits a hand, or how black print appears on a white page. Oneness arises from differences fitting together, from contrasts corresponding.” It’s true… but even if you are opposite from each other, you CAN find ways to make your relationship work. My husband and I have. He was the avoider and I was the one who wanted to get it out in the open, and deal with it. We’ve since learned more about each other and how to build relationship bridges… and through the years we’ve grown closer and closer and have an excellent marriage.

          I don’t know if you are much of a reader, but I know of two books that have helped countless couples bridge their differences. Many of the principles we have learned the hard way are laid out in these books. I highly recommend for you to read them because they could perhaps give you insight into your husband’s “love style” — how he approaches life and “love” and what you can do to build bridges, rather than walls between you. The first one is a book written by Milan and Kay Yerkovich titled, How We Love: Discover Your Love Style, Enhance Your Marriage. It’s published by Water Brook. The authors of this book “draw on the tool of an attachment theory to show how your early life experiences created an ‘intimacy imprint’ —an underlying blueprint that shapes your behavior, beliefs, and expectations of all relationships, especially your marriage. They identify four types of injured imprints that combine in marriage to trap couples in a repetitive dance of pain. The principles and solution-focused tools in this book will equip you to… –identify the imprints disrupting your marriage –understand how your love style impacts your mate –break free of negative patterns that hinder your relationship –enhance your sexual intimacy, and –create a deeper, richer marriage.” I heard the Yerkovich’s talk about this subject and could see how it could absolutely change the lives of couples in positive ways as they better understood each other’s communication styles. It’s truly an enlightening book –revealing things I’d never realized before. I’m thinking it would do the same for you. I’ve provided a link within this reply that will lead you to a way to purchase it (plus a link to the next book).

          There is another book we highly recommend: Talk Easy, Listen Hard: Real Communication for Two Really Different People written by Nancy Sebastian Meyer, published by Moody publishers. This is a book we highly recommend because it has shorter versions of some of the important communication info we have read through (that helped our marriage) that will help you to better understand your wife or husband. As the book says, “it helps you tackle your communication barriers, not each other.” Many of the things covered in this book (which is laid our very simply), are things we learned through many different resources. But what’s great about this is that it’s all in one book —some of the highlights of the best, within the same resource. How I wish I would have had this book earlier in our marriage. This book can really open your eyes if you read and apply the info.

          I pray this helps in some way. I know that what you wrote has much, much more that you haven’t conveyed. But it’s really not possible to write and discuss it all. I do hope though that you prayerfully read these books and ask the Lord to give you wisdom on how to best bridge your differences –giving each other grace, and yet also getting more of your needs met. I hope that WP gives some insight from a man’s point of view, as you have asked him to. It helps to get input from many. I pray that somehow you and your husband learn (and hope you apply) what it takes to get closer to being on the same page in meeting each other’s needs. I have a feeling you are both wonderful people, but somehow you need to learn how to do life better together than you are right now. My husband and I have… and we are very different, but as I said, our marriage is absolutely terrific. It CAN happen. We were close to divorce at one point, and now I can’t imagine my life without my husband. We are madly in love with each other. I hope that for you.

  2. Can you restore your marriage when you feel your husband doesn’t love you anymore? I’ve been married for 6 years now and this is my second marriage. I have a daughter from prior marriage. Everything was great at first but since we had our own child my husband seems to lose interest in our marriage. He is a great dad with our son only. I desperately tried to get his attention and feeling so unloved, I became a terrible person. I cursed, belittled him, didn’t respect him and hurt him with my words. I even asked for divorce several times.

    Things got worse and worse. If before he has a little interest on saving our marriage now I feel like he shut down completely from me. I apologized for all the damage I caused and he accepted it but he doesn’t seem to have any interest in me anymore. My heart is broken; he does things that hurt me and I tried to take it positive to not fight but on the inside I am dying. I really want to save my marriage, and I would do anything to fight for it. But I always wonder if I can recover his love.

    1. Hi Maria, You situation sounds difficult, but by no means impossible. At least you are owning your negative contribution… “I cursed, belittled him, didn’t respect him and hurt him with my words. I even asked for divorce several times.” This, of course, needs to stop Yesterday!!

      The best things you can do are: PRAY… and treat him as you would like to be treated. Another, perhaps more risky strategy, is to pull back just a little… allow him space… take just a little distance. It is possible that you have been giving the impression of being “needy” and “desperate” – both of which are “not so attractive.” Be there for him, let him know that you love him, but be busy with your own friends, activities, hobbies as well.

      You will know when the time is right… but also… flirt with him! Initiate physical intimacy… We men need that from our wives! Let him know that you want him, desire him… The following sites are very good:

      I hope these ideas help… Please ket us know what’s happening? Take Care, WP (Work in Progress)

  3. I am a husband that is fighting to win back his wife’s heart. There have been many small things throughout the years that have hurt her. I have grown towards God through this like never before. She has closed hers off even to God. I feel that I’m doing everything I can possibly do to work on me. Yet, it does not faze her and she is not willing to seek help and wants to seperate/divorce. I am standing and fighting for our marriage.

    She wants desperately to find a story of someone else that has felt this way and has restored their marriage. Not easy to find. There has been no infidelity. Just brokeness. Small things over time. I pray constantly. This pain is sometimes paralyzing. We have two children (9 & 11) this is effecting. She is not willing to work this out for their sake. She feels broken. She has lost her faith in our Lord where it was once stronger than mine.

    I REFUSE to give up on her and feel that she needs rescued from these decisions where she is going away from her core beliefs. She will not be happy going against them. Yet, she is willing to do that to get away. I am devastated. She has lost her love for me.