When Resentment is Killing Your Sexual Intimacy

Let’s face it.

Marriage isn’t a walk in the park.  We know this. We live it.

The covenant of marriage is rich with God’s abundant blessings, but also is not short on His opportunities for painful growth.

That can be hard. I get it.

Recently I was speaking at a women’s gathering, and one of the women asked what to do about the resentment in her heart toward her husband.

Even though the issues were relatively minor ones, the resentment was killing her desire for sex.

She didn’t want to make love.  She was frustrated and resentful.

Here are three tips you may find helpful:

1. Think about a time you needed grace.

This is particularly helpful if your husband’s slights against you are rather minor.  He didn’t pick up his laundry.  He forgot to swing by the store.  He was late to your kid’s parent/teacher conference.   He said something that was hurtful to you, even if he didn’t intend it to be.

We all need grace.  All of us.  I’m not saying don’t express your disappointment or desire for him to step up his game a bit (“be on time, please”), but who among us hasn’t done many of these same things.  We slighted someone we love and we needed grace.

Sometimes when we can remember a time we needed grace (and received it!), we are more likely to forgive our husband and choose to let the resentment go.

2. Address big issues.

Certainly, there are big serious icky issues that can happen in a marriage that feed resentment relentlessly.  I don’t need to list them all, but suffice to say betrayal, cold-heartedness, and careless choices with serious consequences would probably cover the gamut.

We can let resentment fester or we can get down to the hard and cumbersome work of addressing those big issues.  No, there is no guarantee that your spouse will share your commitment toward healing, but you will never know if you don’t try.

Some of the strongest marriages and most tender of sexual connections are built upon the tenacity of not giving up when the going gets awful.  Address big issues.

3. Pray.

I am not listing pray last because it is not of vital importance, but rather because I thought you would see it way too cliche if I listed it first. Now that I have gotten you this far, I imagine you are more willing to hear me say pray.

Pray that God would help you forgive.

Pray for God to reveal to your heart the damage resentment causes.

Pray for your sexual intimacy, that God would help you embrace it and pursue it as if your marriage depended on it.

Pray that you would hunger for a peace that surpasses all understanding.

Pray. Pray. And then pray some more.

Pray without ceasing.

I know it comes as no surprise that little resentments (and big ones too) that are left unchecked will consume our hearts and minds if we let them.

Consumption is resentment’s gig… its calling card.  When we are resentful toward our husband, we lose capacity to want to be naked with him.

On the other hand, when we feed grace, resolution, peace, problem-solving and friendship with our spouse, we are more likely to WANT to get naked with him.  Not a simple correlation, I know, but a correlation nonetheless.

Is resentment killing sexual intimacy in your marriage? What are you going to do about it? Cling to it?

The other option would be to start counting the costs of what it will mean to cling to it. They are costs I don’t think you genuinely want to pay, even if it may feel good in the moment.

You may think you want to punish him with little or no sex, but it will become impossible to punish him without simultaneously punishing yourself and your marriage.

And who wants that?  Not me — in the short run or the long run.

Copyright 2017, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

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11 thoughts on “When Resentment is Killing Your Sexual Intimacy

  1. Phil says:

    @Julie – this is so true! Getting over the “icky” issues as you put it, can be so difficult. Withholding sex and intimacy by either side seems to be the natural defense. Because you are hurt, you want to hurt your spouse in a way that you know will cut the deepest.

    It is so hard to be Christ-like and truly forgive and forget when your spouse has sinned against you. From the perspective of the spouse who has had sex withheld, you just give up trying after a while.

  2. OlderMarried says:

    I love this post, because I’ve been thinking about how blessed I’ve been in my marriage, even after 45 years. (And ok, I’m a guy reading a woman’s website–sorry ladies). I remember when we were so anxious to begin our lives together. Never once did her parents–whom I’m pretty sure were mortified–speak against the marriage.

    When my wife would call her mom, her mom would always, so I’m told, tell her to go home, suck it up, make up, and move ahead. I guess my point is that it helps to have parents and family on the side of the marriage, not on any one spouse’s side.

    Our church, too, was helpful. One lady, who was older, and worked in S.S. with my wife, would listen as my wife would enumerate my sins, which were many, I know. She told her one time, “You know, after church today, you need to go out to eat, and then go home and take a nap.” Then she said, “Do you know what I mean by ‘taking a nap’?”

    This began, in the early days of our marriage, many Sunday afternoon “naps”. Unhurried, slow, time together in bed. In winter, we warmed the bedroom; in summer, we cooled it to perfect comfort.

    It’s amazing how much of a blessing that was. Things she held against me were discussed, and rectified, so easily I remember, in the afterglow of lovemaking. A lot of them were silly little ones, like picking up after myself, or taking care of the car or yard. Any resentments I had about her were completely forgotten, after that blessed time.

    After the kids came, the “naps” continued. We installed a very expensive lock on the bedroom door, and the kids loved having the entire house, except our space, to themselves. This included the remote, back before computers and ipads. They never complained and knew we were “napping”, although I really don’t think they knew we weren’t actually asleep.

    I love the three items you mention: simple grace, dealing with big stuff, and prayer. We were lucky. No one had affairs, and jobs were always secure. Health wasn’t a huge issue, until a bad car wreck many years ago nearly took her from me. And that was a year of pain, of worry, and of sexual drought. Her dad worried, thought we’d divorce. I remember my tears as I told my father-in-law once and for all how much I loved his daughter, and that he would never have to worry that I would take care of her. He seemed to “ease” in his worry, and I felt proud of myself, and my temporarily crippled wife, and most of all of the rock solid marriage we had grown.

    I know sex isn’t as important to her as it is to me. I think, if I didn’t request “naps”, she’d just not think of it. (I’m way past being hurt by that.) I’ve accepted that, and I tolerate “not tonight, but for sure tomorrow” as easily as a good cold glass of chardonnay at the end of the day. I can anticipate the next day in joy.

    It’s been a great life with the love of my life.

  3. GB says:

    Older Married,

    Thank you so much for sharing that! I want my husband to be able to count on me the same way.

    Julie, thanks for this post. This is just the encouragement I needed today to get back into the game.

  4. Carol says:

    How do I get over the resentment of his going back to his parents the day after our wedding even if was 35 years ago? He did come back, but only because Mama told him to. I should have left then when I was young and had a good job and before he talked me into having kids. They are adults now but at my age I can’t get a decent job which pays enough for me to support myself so I can leave. He refuses to have sex. What am I supposed to do?

  5. OlderMarried says:

    Thanks GB, for your kind words. I don’t think two spouses need to have the same physical +need+ for lovemaking, but I think they should +value+ it the same.

    In my case, I think sometimes my wife isn’t up for it, but she still values it enough to make it happen. Once things progress, I think she enjoys it also, but in a different way, and maybe a different intensity.

    I can say, that after a period of busyness where sex is put off, and then it does happen, everything “lifts” for me, in a way that is hard to explain. Problems seem smaller, I feel more gracious to complete strangers, and I feel so “easy” with her. I overlook things that maybe on other days would irk me.

    I can only say for me that it is the center hub of the wheel of our life together.

  6. G says:

    I am sorry to all of you for what you’re going through, as for me I have given up! Whatever happens, happens, I have tried for years to be intamate with her she just doesn’t want me, it’s been so many years of being starving sexually intamaly and I m tired of trying she now has asked me to sleep in other room or sofa says she’s not comfortable with me there it’s not fair I have been a good man and provider everything she has it’s cuz I bought it for her, now granted I’m old at 52 and retired I still pay the bills and do housework and I try to be in shape for her you know maybe she will notice me but it never happens and on the other hand she is getting bigger n bigger I don’t know why I think she doesn’t want me to find her attractive and that might lead to intamacy and she can’t have that … I know you guys don’t want to hear all this whining I’m just venting because I’m so tired of trying, and just so you know I have tried n tried there’s been women who want to talk to me I talk but that’s it, I’ve been told I’m good looking why doesn’t my wife want me? !!! What to do I just want to go for a very long drive ?

  7. G says:

    We have been married over 30 years, within 6 years in the beginning she had told me she had been abused by her adopted father, I sympathized with her and have supported her in everything, but since then we haven’t been intamate it’s so hard sometimes I go to counciling with her but she hasn’t gone in a while, right now we are roommates as she has asked me to sleep elsewhere (sofa) and that’s been going on for over a year my question is to miss Julie; why if she says she can’t or won’t make love to me do I hear at night when she thinks I’m asleep her relieving herself I hear her moaning and heavy breathing from the other room I guess what I’m asking is she takes care of herself but won’t even let me sleep in the same bed with her much less touch her, it makes me so angry and resentful, miss Julie I’m not a bad man I pay bills, pay rent, bought her all that she has including the bed I’m not allowed to sleep in with her, I wash dishes, do yardwork I try to look nice for her I’ve heard that I’m good looking but I’m thinking she just doesn’t want me in that way and it’s been SOO long, I’m angry, I’m confused and getting depressed please can you offer advice PLEASE

  8. Alan says:

    A week ago I thought this thread had a lot of comments. I’m surprised there are only five.

    Sexual resentment has to be in the top 3 reasons causing collapse of communication in a marriage, and perhaps even the collapse of the marriage itself. I’d even bet half of spouses in failing marriages feel resentment (frustrated, sad, angry, or otherwise just giving up) because they think their spouse doesn’t understand their need for intimacy. I know there are many, many husbands in the “I give up” category. I don’t know about wives, but I’d suspect a high percentage also.

  9. PreciousMarriage says:

    @oldermarried,
    What do you mean she experiences a different intensity? How do you think your wife views it, as compared to you? Does she enjoy it only for your sake, or does she genuinely get pleasure out of it?

  10. Larry B says:

    @Alan:

    Yes, sexual resentment is a very big contributing factor in marriages deteriorating and eventually failing. I heard a segment on the radio a few years back by the couple who run (I won’t mention the website name) a site for married people to meet others for extramarital affairs. They said the people who seek affairs are longing for emotional and sexual intimacy and have not received that for years from their spouse. So, clearly this is a major problem. Thankfully, there are good Christian marriage blogs out there (including Julie’s great blog here). But, the Christian churches need to do a better job in this area and address this issue in their ministry. As well, parents need to talk to their children as they approach adulthood and stress the importance and the value of a good, mutually fulfilling sexual relationship with one’s spouse.

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