Women are complex emotional creatures. Your wife doesn’t need you to completely understand her or figure out all her ins and outs and ups and downs. She may not even understand these things about herself. But to seek to love her, no matter what, is a goal worth pursuing.
Cindy of Princeville gave great wisdom in her survey response. She said, “If I’m crying, hug me. If I’m laughing, hug me. When I’m doing the dishes, hug me. If I turn away from your hug, especially then, hug me!”
When a wife is hardest to love, chances are this is when she needs it the most. When I was trying to explain this to Art, I knew I needed a word picture to help him understand. As I thought about what example I could use to help him get what I was saying, I decided to compare my emotional needs to his sexual needs.
Sex —now this is something most husbands understand. At least they understand their need for sexual intimacy on a consistent basis. I know that if I am not meeting Art’s intimate needs, he’s more likely to be tempted in this area. If Art is not meeting my emotional needs, then I am more likely to be tempted in the emotional area. I am likely to struggle with insecurity and doubt in the authenticity of his love, if he is not making an effort to fill me emotionally. Granted, my ultimate significance comes in my relationship with the Lord, but as Art needs me sexually, I need him emotionally.
This is where the dilemma often occurs. By the time I am emotionally needy, I am usually hard to love. I need Art to fill me emotionally like my physical body needs to be filled with food. If I feed my body on a consistent basis, then I have energy and I feel able to function. If, however, I starve my physical body, then I feel cranky, lethargic, and unable to exert energy.
Think about how you feel when it has been too long since you and your wife connected sexually. This is how she feels when it has been too long since the two of you have connected emotionally. She will be starving emotionally and likely exhibit the same symptoms I described when a body is starved for food. She’ll be cranky and a little hard to love. But this is when she needs your love the most.
Even So, Love Your Wife
Ephesians 5:25-27 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Just before these verses Paul (author of this book of the Bible) tells wives to obey their husbands (verse 22). The NIV Life Application Study Bible says this in the commentary on these verses:
How to Show Love
Paul devotes twice as many words to telling husbands to love their wives as to telling wives to submit to their husbands. How should a man love his wife? (1) He should be willing to sacrifice everything for her. (2) He should make her well-being of primary importance. (3) He should care for her as he cares for his own body. No wife needs to fear submitting to a man who treats her in this way.
Christ loves the church with “agape” love. This is pure, unconditional love. It is a love based on the decision that no matter what, be she sweet or be she cranky, you choose to love her. This love pursues its bride. This love actively seeks to know how to love her. It is a love that gives and does even when it’s tired and doesn’t feel like giving or doing. This is the love that drove Christ to do what He did for the church, even unto death. This is how God calls a husband to love his wife.
Love As Jesus
Kay Arthur, in her book A Marriage Without Regrets, writes:
And how did Jesus love the church? He humbled Himself, girded on a towel and washed filthy feet, that she might be “cleansed by the washing of water with the word.” He offered His flesh to be torn by evil men that she might be without “spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” He died on a cruel cross that she might be made holy and blameless.
O, beloved, our Lord loves us warts and all! Unconditionally, sacrificially, patiently, enduringly, and endearingly. God forgives and does not forsake. Read the gospels and see Him in action; read the epistles and see Him explained. Then you will know how a husband is to love his wife. …Can you imagine what would happen throughout the homes of [the world] if husbands would begin to love their wives in this agape way? Can you picture what would happen to the divorce rate? It would plummet like the stock market did in the Great Depression —only instead of depression the great boom this [world] has ever known would arise.
Easy? Not at all. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely. There will be days when loving her takes every ounce of courage and strength.
Let me leave you with the words the Lord gave to Joshua as he was about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. He too was overwhelmed. He too felt inadequate —maybe just like you. But he was successful because he kept these words of his God close to his warrior heart:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified: do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: I can do everything through Him who gives me strenth (Philippians 4:13).
This article comes from the book, Capture Her Heart: Becoming the Godly Husband Your Wife Desires. The book is written by Lysa TerKeurst, published by Moody Press. It is endorsed by the ministry of Focus on the Family and is subtitled, “Becoming the Godly Husband Your Wife Desires.” This book is actually more compact than most, which might appeal to many who don’t want to pick up a book to read, which is large and complicated.
— ALSO —
The following is a link to The-generous-husband.com article Paul Byerly wrote, that you may find helpful when you need to talk to your wife concerning a difficult issue. While we’re not sure the title of the article is the best, the content is really good. We encourage you to read:
• HELPING HER TO GROW UP — THE TALK
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Filed under: For Married Men
12 responses to “When A Wife Is Hardest To Love, She Needs It Most”
(SWAZILAND) Wow this is awesome. How I wish every married couple can access to these teachings but most importantly I wish every single person can have access to this as well. This is just too rich. I’m still single. so I know I need to hear all this so that when I enter into marriage I know what I’m getting myself into. Marriage is work!!
(USA) Of course I agree that a husband must love his wife like Christ loved the Church, but Christ does not model endless pursuit either. See Revelations 3 and the Laodiceans. If we are in sin, continual sin, what does that do to our fellowship with God? It brings us OUT of fellowship with Him. If a wife is loved by her husband year after long year; pursued by him in earnest for YEARS, and yet she continues to reject him sexually, she is in sin (1 Corinthians 7) and he is NOT called to endlessly pursue her.
Unless we are to be more righteous than God, who does not fellowship with us when we are in sin? Eventually it can be likened to casting pearls before swine. Will you continue to bring roses to a woman that throws them in the gutter each time? Perhaps for a while but to unceasingly persist is a fools errand. Yes, follow Christ’s example. He stands at the door and knocks. He gave up His life for us. But He isn’t going to keep dying on that cross. God will not be mocked.
(USA) I am sorry you feel this way Landschooner. I would encourage you to take a good look at what our Abba Father has done for us- the love He has shown for us- by sending his most precious and perfect Son to SUFFER (so that by his stripes we would be healed) and DIE (so that by his death & resurrection we could be saved) for us.
You are extremely mistaken in your belief that God does not fellowship with us when we are in sin! That is a lie straight from the pits of hell. Of course Satan wants you to believe that! Then he has you right where he wants you. You really need to understand God’s love for you. I would suggest getting some Joseph Prince sermons (Grace and Favor is the best one to start with) and I will be praying our Abba (Daddy)’s love will be realized in your life.
(USA) Our relationship with God is hindered by our sin. If we live in sin our fellowship with Him is hindered. As a believer, I believe our salvation is secure, but living in sin DOES hamper our relationship with God and HE does treat us differently. Even WE in Matt 18 are to treat those in sin differently. Of course we all sin, but if we adopt a lifestyle of sin and do not repent, eventually we are to be removed from fellowship.
Here are verses from scripture about and/or implying sin damaging our relationship with God or hindering our prayers;
1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. Isaiah 59:1-3 (English Standard Version)
7 Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 (English Standard Version)
13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered. Proverbs 21:13 (English Standard Version)
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 (English Standard Version)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8 (English Standard Version)
18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. Psalms 66:18 (English Standard Version)
25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” Mark 11:25 (English Standard Version)
9 If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. Proverbs 28:9 (English Standard Version)
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4:3-4 (English Standard Version)
6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 John 1:6-10 (English Standard Version)
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12 (English Standard Version)
Landschooner…Your problem is how to rightly divide the word of truth…You’re confusing God’s grace with the Law. Any believer living in sin probably isn’t conscious of God’s Love and unmerited favour for him. Remember, Paul was the only Apostle who was given great revelations about the gospel of Christ and He said in Romans that Sin SHALL NOT have dominion over anyone who is under God’s grace. It is the Law that fuels sin.
(USA) My wife was molested as a child. When her parents divorced and was left to do whatever she wanted as a teen, what came out of this is an emotionally distant woman. While involved at church and with an outward perception to others of having it all together, at home she is without skills, incapable, or unwilling when it comes to emotional and physical intimacy.
I thought it was only with me until my daughter recently shared that she did not have a close relationship because she won’t share her feelings. I was angry and hurt my daughter had to feel this yet felt strangely validated, as she has always denied her intimacy issues and blamed it on my actions. Without God, I would have divorced her. With God, I have woken up in the middle of the night when she would sleep on the couch, I would pray and she would come to bed minutes later and be intimate.
God’s timing was perfect as I have been at wits end so many times when I wanted to throw the towel in, but then God’s perfect timing would somehow be shown to me. He knew what was needed and when. Counseling is not an option for her at this time. There is so much more depth to this situation complicating any simple answer. I keep praying but sometimes anger gets the better of me and we go weeks without a word until I have to talk. She can out “not talk” me. She is a leader in Bible studies but can’t share thoughts, dreams, feelings to her family. How to bring her out? I am tired of pretending there is a big elephant in the room. There is much understanding to gain here at this site, thanks.
I don’t think Christians know how to give advice about emotionally distant women. According to the Christian blogosphere, we are all dizzy, unstable and emotionally incontinent.
The article really hit home for me as I had not loved my wife unconditionally and did not recognize that she was also hurting from past relationships. Now I’m living separate from my wife due to a job, and coming into the knowledge of learning how to love. Unfortunately my wife desires to move on from our marriage but I know GOD is able! The testimonies on this site have been encouraging, because this is the hardest thing to do, when you see your failures and GOD is changing your heart but your spouse still only sees your failures. Pray for our marriage.
This article Is helpful. I am the wife though. How would I encourage my husband to read this article? My husband had been through an illicit affair with our officemate which caused conflict in the workplace where we both work. He said he had repented of his sin. How is it that I still feel that I have not been pursued and filled emotionally and compare his dedication with his mistress during the time of their relationship? Hope to be counseled on this. Ok for me not to post this comment but would appreciate your kind advice. Thank you and God bless.
As the wife of an emotionally unavailable man, I read these and just sigh. There is nothing I can do now. I’ve read Love and Respect, His Needs Her Needs, the Five Love Languages, numerous others. I’ve gotten us both in counseling, got mentors from the church, got only myself counseling and yet here I am. Square one. My husband is an honorable man, a good man. But he’s a workaholic so starved for the approval of men that our family here at home is in starvation of his presence.
I’m convinced nothing will ever change. This is my lot in life to be forever unfulfilled and not loved. And coming to grips with this has been like suffering the death of something. At this point, if he turned around today and gave us a second of thought it would feel awkward and uncomfortable, and frankly…Unwanted. Is there a point of no return? Is it possible to emotionally starve to death? I think I have. I’ve been through the gamut of all the emotions and now I just want to NOT feel. And I don’t. I’m not even mad anymore. Honestly. But this apathy is scary. Who knew in the end you could get comfortable not being loved? Who knew you could come to prefer it? I have no intention to divorce. I’m hard pressed to believe a man who genuinely loves a woman exists today. I certainly don’t want to replace my husband. But I’m in a strange place where I know I can’t go on and I know I can’t stay here. I don’t know what to do.
Hey, thanks guys. I’m so glad God lead me to this site. I have been praying, wishing and hoping to get my wife back. We decided after almost four years to try it again. Next month January will be the month. Thank you for Ephesians 5:25-27.
This is very true. I believe the scriptures and I know they are good for learning. Here is an issue that I see very often, especially now days since things are more liberated. I know sometimes men take advantage of a wife or a girlfriend, especially when they are vulnerable, but some women have a knack of taking advantage of her man, whether it is intentional or unintentional. I know that we are to love our wives according as the word has said. My question is how long does a man suppose to persevere in this. And how does a man talk to a women with these abilities, to somewhat use themselves to control the man or husband, what is your take?