Reconciliation with a Hardened Wife
Version 3, Updated 2/4/2014
How are you doing, husband? Is your wife considering separation, or worse, are you already separated? How are you handling it? Are you angry? Were you shocked? Do you feel like you have just awakened from a long sleep, and now find yourself becoming an intensely spiritual man? Would you like to win your wife back and restore your family?
I cannot promise that all who read this article and follow its recommendations will see their family restored, but I do believe that it presents the best biblical recommendations for a man abandoned by his wife -- particularly for men who feel they have been unjustly abandoned. Brothers, as you read, keep in mind that what is presented here is most effective for men who have given their wife no biblical grounds for divorce. Those men, who have been guilty of some kind of sexual sin or have been abusive, have wounded their wives very deeply, so have a more difficult path to walk. However, they will still find here great benefit. The man caught up in adultery will want to also read the article I’ve Been Unfaithful (Adultery or Porn).
Husbands, for your information
When a woman first seriously considers divorce she usually isn’t thinking about the theological implications of her desires – all she knows is that she is desperate to get away from her husband. She doesn't arrive at this state of desperation by a process of calm deduction. She is simply reacting to the feeling that she "can't take anymore." Her departure is typically a sign that she has hardened her heart towards the man to whom she once entrusted it. Likely, she has been hurt over and over, and finally decided she will tolerate no more emotional pain. Her leaving may have been an attempt to coerce her husband to change, but more often it has been a desperate effort to survive. She sincerely believes that she cannot endure any more heartache, so she has reached out and grabbed onto the separation like a drowning swimmer clings to a life ring.
One of the reasons she became so weak, and finally, unwilling to go on, was that whenever she became hurt, she also became angry. As time progressed, the hurts mounted up and the less she felt able to endure. She inadvertently was doing what Christians are warned not to do, and was letting the sun go down on her anger (Eph 4:26), which grew into bitterness, which ultimately defiled her (Heb 12:15). In a final act of self-defense, she hardened her heart so that it would no longer be vulnerable to pain. This wall around her heart seemed to give her the courage to emotionally cut herself off from her husband.
Sadly, most husbands have few memories of “hurting” their wives. But let all such men consider – if a woman does something as extreme as leave her mate, claiming she can no longer handle the emotional pain, isn’t it likely she is, in fact, in pain? (If emotional feelings could bleed, a man would see a trail of blood following his wife as she leaves him.) The truth is that a hardened woman only got that way because her feelings got hurt over and over. Herein lies the problem – most women believe that they have communicated their hurt to their husbands, but most husbands only have memories of their wife’s bad attitudes. All those times a wife thought she was simply expressing the cry of an injured heart, her husband only perceived hostility, coldness, or hatred. She felt like she was begging for tenderness and sensitivity, and he backed away because he thought he was being attacked. My experience is that most women leave their husbands, because they entered marriage with expectations of feeling cherished and secure, and their husbands unwittingly have sent the message that they are not. Hence, those women end up feeling defrauded, then often bitter and hardened.
The man who hopes to reconcile with a wounded wife must first realize that for her to return to him will require that she trust and forgive him. Such a wife may be consumed by bitterness, but rather than concentrate on what his wife is doing wrong, it is better that an abandoned husband think about what he must do facilitate the softening of her heart to help her forgive and trust him.
Understanding a woman’s communications
The Bible says that a wife is the weaker vessel (1 Pet 3:7), not meaning that she has less physical strength or stamina than her husband, but that she has a more emotional nature and is more inclined to view life and make decisions based on her feelings than is her husband (1 Tim 2:14). Because of this, and because women have a greater natural need for their husbands (Gen 3:16), women are also more likely to look to the marriage relationship for value and significance. When men marry, most are clueless to these differences and consequently, to the power they have to inflict emotional pain on their wives. Simply stated, it is this basic difference between men and woman that causes the misunderstandings at the root of so much marital stress.
When women attempt to communicate their feelings of fear, dismay, or anxiety, they use words, cite facts, or employ a tone that causes a man to imagine he is being attacked. In her mind she is looking for compassion and understanding, but to his ears she is finding fault with him. Unfortunately, when a man feels attacked he responds defensively. He either waits quietly for his wife to finish her tirade, defends himself, counter attacks, or leaves.
Unfortunately for clueless men, when a woman attempts to communicate her concerns for herself or the family, she often does so out of fear or distress, so her words take on what he perceives as an attacking tone. Although a woman thinks she is initiating a discussion that appeals to a man’s innate sense of protectiveness, he hears it as criticism of his faults. She feels she is appealing to her protector to rescue her. He thinks he is the one who needs protection from her.
Instead of recognizing that his wife feels distressed by something, he immediately attempts to quell her stress and shield himself by quietly discrediting her or angrily attacking her facts. This perceived lack of compassion will cause his wife to become more frustrated, which evokes more intense communication.
A woman’s goal in such a conversation is not to win an argument or to flaunt her superior debating skills. Simply put, she is typically crying out for understanding, and wants her husband to respond with empathy and help. She wants not to be corrected, but to be validated in her distress. That is why a woman might make her points citing “facts” that a man believes are inaccurate. Unfortunately, we husbands think we can change our wives’ minds employing logic and reason, and by correcting their misstatements. But women usually aren’t trying to win an argument and don’t want us to tell them that they shouldn’t feel what they know they feel. All they know is that they feel something deeply and want us to understand how they are feeling. Correcting them is a big mistake on our part.
Here are a few examples of how women attempt to share their hearts and how we perceive their words to be attacks:
For a more detailed presentation of this chart, go to: A Man's Guide to Female English
When a woman does something so extreme as to leave her marriage, it is usually because she has sought many times to communicate her fears and distress to her husband, but he has not tried to understand or rescue her. Instead he has invalidated or corrected her feelings. This is especially heart-rending for a woman, because the very reason she chose to entrust herself to this man in the first place was because she believed her heart was safe with him. She was certain he would protect her feelings and make her feel safe -- physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Over a period of time, after a woman feels her heart condition has been ignored by the man in whom she sought protection, she decides she can tolerate no more pain. She concludes that not only is he not safe with her heart, but he poses the biggest threat to her. She finally runs away from him in desperation.
At that point we husbands feel unjustly abandoned. We want to fix it by apologizing for something, but we are annoyed with her at the same time for leaving us. Unfortunately, a woman is not easily won back by a dozen roses and an apology. In fact, the more wounded she feels the harder she will make her heart to keep it safe.
A woman’s heart can grow so hard that she will mistrust everything about her abandoned husband. If he confesses his failings to her she will perceive him as self-absorbed. If he talks of his painful loneliness and begs her to restore the marriage, it will prove to her that he has no clue how much he has hurt her. If he explains why he has done what he has done, she becomes more convinced of his self-absorption and more confident that she has made the right decision. Her mistrust grows so strong that if he says black she will say white. To her he has almost become Darth Vader. A hardhearted wife will want nothing to do with the one who caused her so much pain.
How a hard heart is softened
What are God’s means for softening a woman’s hardened heart? In Scripture, God reaches hardened hearts in several different ways:
God sovereignly touches them, or does so in response to our prayers
A Christian’s new nature, if the heart is not too far hardened, will respond to words of Truth, ie: spoken by a friend, a seminar tape, a sermon, a radio preacher, a counselor, etc. (These words are not often received when spoken by the offender.)
The hardened wife sees the situation from another perspective, like King David when he was creatively confronted by Nathan the Prophet.
Realizing the impact her decision is having, or may have, on her children or others
She comes to a place of great spiritual brokenness and humility caused by an overwhelming personal trauma or by the humiliating exposure of a sin
Overwhelming love. God loves her through people, ie: her husband, child, friend, parent, etc.
A time of mutual crisis, ie: compassion for her injured child may temporarily get her outside herself, and cause her to lower her defenses (or she may grow harder, blaming her husband for the crisis)
She sees something in her husband that gives her hope, so she lowers her defenses to try again.
How a man might regain his wife’s trust
1. A man must first understand his wife’s condition:
She originally decided to marry him when she became convinced that she could entrust her heart to him.
She views her husband as one to whom she entrusted her heart and who then was repeatedly rough with it. She left because she not only felt betrayed by the one to whom she gave her heart, but she felt deeply devastated by the constant wounding.
She has been hurt, so is now overwhelmed with a sense of desperation to emotionally or mentally survive.
She is likely unforgiving, bitter, and vengeful. (The wife who has decided that she will no longer stay with a man who has been unfaithful or abusive is not necessarily bitter or hardened. She may just want to find a safer place to be.)
Out of self-protection she has hardened her heart toward her husband.
2. A wife who leaves her husband is hardened not just against him, but possibly against God. A man must therefore pray, pray, pray! He must plead with the Almighty to intervene for the sake of his wife’s soul. God is a specialist in hardened hearts, and a hardened believer will not repent without God’s softening intervention.
3. A man must stop feeling sorry for himself, like he is a victim of a heartless, contentious wife. He must see himself as perpetrator of hurt – not a victim of rejection. Self-pity will pollute a man’s prayers, and create an “odor” which his wife smells every time she relates with him.
4. If a man is to reconcile he must be able to identify how his wife feels, and repent of those things that he has contributed to the problems. He must therefore, pray, pray, pray! He will need God to reveal to him those things he did which accidentally sent the message to his wife that she meant little to him.
5. Once a man is confident he has identified his offenses, he should seek to understand his wife’s pain, before he repents to her or writes a letter of repentance. A man’s purpose must not simply be to win back his wife, but to repent and fulfill his role as a follower of Jesus, making amends to one he has hurt. The key in repentance is not simply confessing faults – it is expressing compassion and empathy for your wife’s hurting condition. Before writing any letters, be sure to read the section on letter-writing at the end of this article. A self-oriented letter can kill any chances of restoration.
6. The greatest cause for concern for any man whose wife hardens her heart, must not be that she has hurt him, is alienating the children, or is destroying the marriage. An abandoned husband’s greatest cause for concern is the condition of his wife’s well being – as Scripture warns, a bitter or hardened heart is a dangerous condition for any soul (Eph 4:18; Heb 3:13, 15; Deut 31:27; 1 Sam 15:23; Acts 7:51; 28:27). A husband must look beyond his own frustration and be concerned that his wife might be deceived and hardened toward God. He must be concerned for her, because her steps are walking her away from intimate fellowship with God. A hardened woman merits her husband’s compassion, not his arrogance.
The Wrong Ways to Reconcile
1. Apologize in a self-centered way.
Do not make the letter about you. It is not about what you want. It is not about your feelings. It is not even about what you have done wrong. The only way to regain your wife’s trust is to communicate to her your understanding of her pain.
Do not offer explanations as to why you are so blind and why you hurt her. It will only sound to her like you are excusing what you have done.
No matter how excited you are, do not share with her newfound revelations you may have discovered about yourself, related to why you do what you do. It will only sound like an excuse.
Don’t try to make her understand you. She’s not interested in why you did what you did.
Do not tell her of your present emotional condition
She already believes you are self-absorbed. Do not talk about yourself and prove her right. (Besides, putting the focus back on yourself is really a sign that you are indeed self-absorbed.
2. Be certain she is aware of her contribution to the problem
Blame or discredit her in some fashion.
This will put her on the defensive, causing a negative reaction.
Apologize that you didn’t respond that well to her offenses
3. Communicate to her that you have not changed
Repeat familiar unfulfilled promises to change
Ask forgiveness again for the same old things will only remind her of unfulfilled expectations
4. Express anger or annoyance when you speak with her
Yes, she is hurting you and the children, so yes, it is natural to be angry, but she believes she is simply reacting to your offenses, so in her eyes, you are the last person qualified to point out her sin
She believes you owe her, so she will be even more offended when your anger suggests that she owes you
She will view your attitude as a further expression of the same thing that drove her away.
Your anger will express a lack of understanding concerning her and the pain you have caused her. (The presence of anger reveals pride in you that has not been dealt with, and the fact that you have not accepted your huge part in the problem.)
5. Write a good sounding letter without proper follow up.
If you write a beautiful letter of understanding and repentance, but have no change in your heart, your wife may at first get her hopes up and begin to soften, but when she spots your inconsistency she will become even more angry and possibly harden her heart beyond your reach. (If you write a good letter, but lack the love and humility of Christ in your heart, you will express annoyance at her rather than concern. And she will feel it.)
If you make promises of change, you must be certain to follow through – perfectly!
The Right Way to Reconcile
1. Remember that you are trying to reach someone with a hardened and mistrusting heart
Her condition was caused because she has felt unloved, un-cherished, not cared for, despised, neglected, unimportant, and pushed aside for your self-love and self-interest.
Your goal must be to contribute to the softening of her heart, which will require you to regain her trust. She will only trust someone who understands her pain.
2. Die to pride and self concerns.
You have been proud and selfish now it’s time to “take the beam from your own eye.”
3. Understand her hurt condition.
She doesn’t want to be right – she wants you to understand the way she feels.
4. Own your failures.
The things that you did to help cause her hurt condition.
5. Communicate to her that you empathize with her and do not blame her.
Come alongside and comfort her. Look to one of her girlfriends as an example of understanding, ie: A girlfriend would likely look at her, feel her pain, and express compassionate understanding for what she is probably feeling.
Feed back to her how she is probably feeling
Let her know that you understand what it is like to walk in her shoes as one who feels hurt, ie: "Honey, you must feel conned. Before we were married I communicated to you that I would cherish you for the rest of our lives. But since the first week, I know I sent you the message that you weren't important to me. Whenever you wanted to do __________ together, I would never do it. Whenever you wanted to go with me to ___________ I wouldn't go. By choosing my own comfort and convenience over yours I have left you feeling that you weren't important to me, and I was a fool to send you that message. You deserve more than that."
Listen to her, don’t just correct her
Your wife does not need a list of everything you did wrong. She doesn't want to hear you talk about you, even if you are confessing everything you did wrong. She is focused on her pain, so it make it your top goal to describe to her the pain she is feeling and following that what you did to cause it.
6. Meet with an insightful counselor
Make a phone appointment with our office if you like
Have the counselor show you how you contributed to your wife’s wounds.
Learn the nature of her pain so that you can empathize and feel compassion for her condition
Keep reading -- the balance of this article will be very helpful.
A woman who leaves her husband doesn’t want to throw away her marriage, but she feels like someone deprived of oxygen. In desperation she escapes the marriage just so she won’t suffocate. In the separation she then feels like she can breath for the first time in years, and doesn’t want to return to a relationship that only robbed her of breath.
MEN, pay attention -- that is how a wayward wife feels. She only departed because she felt she could endure no more. Most women don’t want to rip up their family and drag their children through the trauma of a broken home. However, they feel they can’t survive unless their husband ceases to pose the same emotional threats he has always posed. In her state of self-preservation, returning to suffocation is not even a remote possibility.
Most abandoned men have no clue as to the demoralized state a woman’s heart reaches in order for her to destroy something she wanted so much. All a man knows is that his wife is mad again and acting more irrationally than ever. A departing wife is typically angry, but feels driven to her distressed condition and extreme decision. She is escaping something that poses a horrible threat to her.
For this reason even the most sincere apology usually doesn’t work to win back a wife’s heart. A man who simply says he is sorry for hurting her feelings offers her no hope that things will be different; neither will a man who tries to guilt his wife into returning with admonishment, rebuke, and discipline. Especially unsuccessful is the man who tries both -- apology and rebuke.
A man must remember -- a woman originally came to him because she thought her heart would be protected. She left, because she felt unsafe. For her to return she must be convinced she is safe. For this reason, a man must make it his priority to understand how his wife feels. She doesn’t need a letter in which her husband simply apologizes for his mistakes or misbehaviors. She needs words that communicate that he understands how shredded she feels and what he has done to contribute to her pain. I want to repeat that concept: The thing that will give a woman hope that things will be different is if her husband is able to describe how torn up she feels, and how he contributed to her condition. She doesn’t need a well-rehearsed humble-sounding script. She needs to be convinced by her husband's words of empathy towards her condition and by his deep humble remorse, as he takes responsibility for contributing to her pain. To apply this directly to you -- remember that she married you believing you would make her feel secure and treasured; yet now she sees you as the biggest threat to her mental and emotional well-being. The one person she looked to for safety proved to be one most unsafe to her heart.
Men, if your wife has left you, she has felt hurt for a long time. It is likely that she sought to communicate her feelings, but you interpreted the passion of her words as whiny complaints or attacks. You responded not with understanding or compassion, but with defensiveness and correction as you warded off the verbal rocks she was throwing. This left her feeling alone, unheard, and unvalued.
Now guys, if you start feeling defensive to the foregoing statements, you are missing the point. She felt those things! You cannot tell a woman she shouldn’t feel a certain way. That is my whole point – she sincerely believes what she feels and is only responding according to what she believes.
If there is anything you can do to help soften your wife’s heart, it is to gain her trust. Your wife needs a letter or conversation in which you are not only able to describe the depth of her fears and distress, but do it with the remorse of someone who realizes that he caused the pain. As an example, if you were in someone’s driveway and backed over their child with your car, how might you respond to them? Would you calmly say, “I’m sorry for killing your child. I should have been more watchful and in less of a hurry. I’ll do better next time I am here.” Or would you hold the grieving parent in your arms, weep with them, feel sympathy for the loss, and beg their forgiveness for what you had done? Your wife needs to know you understand and feel for her condition. Other than praying for a miracle from God, this is the only thing I know a man can do. The key is not confession of wrongs, but empathy and compassion.
How can a man determine what he has done to hurt his wife?
Many abandoned men are in this predicament, because they have always discredited their wives’ “complaints” as emotionally based and therefore, unfounded. It is a wise man, however, who recognizes that whether or not his wife bases her feelings on an accurate view of the facts, she still truly holds those feelings. To her they are valid. For example, she may not have actual grounds to fear for the family’s financial future, but if she is afraid, then it is important to understand that those feelings of fear are real to her, and deserve compassion. Her feelings may be unfounded and not based on facts, but she feels them nonetheless.
Consider in Scripture, how Jesus responded to those who wept over the loss of Lazarus (John 11:33-35). Although he knew he was going to resurrect Lazarus from the dead, he empathized with the mourners’ heartache. He didn’t try to talk them into a more chipper attitude, by presenting them with the fact of Lazarus’ forthcoming resurrection. He didn’t remain perky, although he knew he had a great surprise in store for them. Verse 33 says that when Jesus saw them weeping, “…he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled,” and verse 35 says, “Jesus wept.” Although their grief was unfounded, he didn’t invalidate their pain, he felt it with them.
It is a wise man that will learn to validate his wife’s emotional condition. He can do so by communicating his understanding of the genuineness of her feelings of distress, fear, heartache, etc. It is a foolish man who tries to talk a woman out of her feelings – worse, who belittles her for them. If an abandoned man is to repent to his wife of what he did to cause her hurt, he must do some intense soul searching and investigation.
1. Determine what she would likely say the offending actions are, if asked by another.
Since your wife is the one who took offense at you, your ultimate goal is to see the situation through her eyes. You may view her perspective and subsequent accusations as groundless, but if you want to regain her trust, you will need to communicate to her that you understand what she has gone through.
2. Review her various accusations from over the years.
She has probably told you many times why there is a problem. Perhaps only a sentence, or it may have been greatly exaggerated, but the nugget is probably there to be drawn out.
3. Review your actions that seem to have caused her retreating reactions.
Selfishness, angry outbursts, periods of neglect, unfulfilled promises, quiet bitterness, or any other offensive actions need to be considered carefully.
4. If your wife refuses to tell you what you have done wrong, ask someone close to your wife what the things are that she has shared with them.
Discretion must be observed here. You are merely gathering information, so be certain you don’t end up trying to win this person to your side. It’s reconciliation you are seeking – not victory in a conflict.
5. Have a counselor help you dissect your life, opening each closet of your soul.
One or two visits may not accomplish the task. You must drop your guard and be willing to receive reproof, instruction and encouragement.
6. Commit daily times to prayer and the Word, allowing Jesus to reveal your blind spots.
An insightful counselor will be able to help you discover your blind spots, but only Jesus can bring you into full acceptance of your true spiritual position and help you to accept responsibility for the course you must take.
7. Set aside a time each week to increase your spiritual sensitivity through fasting and prayer.
More on how to prepare a talk or write a letter of reconciliation
I realize that I have already given detailed coaching for how to resolve issues with your wife, but over the years I have found that most guys at this point still don’t get it. We as men are so different from women that I am convinced a little redundancy is necessary.
I have been blessed to be married to a very insightful, very articulate woman for more than 35 years. In that time she has thoroughly explained to me how women think. In the early years I shared with her letters of repentance that I received from husbands and she would read them and explain to me why they would further alienate their wives. With her coaching, I have since received and critiqued multitudes of letters of repentance from men, yet have never received one that wouldn’t have been damaging had a husband sent it to his wife.
To remedy that I once posted a sample letter of repentance for men that they could use as a template for writing their own. I found however, that guys were using it, but it wasn’t from their heart, so their life didn’t match their words. Such a letter needs to come from the heart. If the words do not actually reflect your feelings and insights, it will not take your wife long to figure that out and she will probably respond by hardening her heart beyond reach. Therefore, it is absolutely imperative that you listen to the free lecture, Unraveling the Mysteries of the Female Mind and pray God gives you deep insights into your wife. Believe me, you don't want to write an inadequate letter -- it will reinforce her low opinion of you and could inoculate her for good.
A successful letter or conversation must NOT be about you and what you understand about yourself. It must NOT be full of appropriate sounding apologies or promises of repentance. And it must NOT be a list of everything you did wrong in your marriage. It must be about your wife and her pain -- pain that YOU have caused her.
Your wife must know that you understand her wounded condition and how you have contributed to it. Only after she senses that you have genuine compassion for the wounds you have caused, is it possible that she will open her heart back up to you. (Of course, apart from you, God may move upon her as well.)
Brother -- you must understand that no matter how strong your wife appears in her ability to speak her mind, and no matter how capable she is in an argument, she is not your opponent and never has been. Your wife is the weaker vessel whom God has entrusted to your care --- to be treated with gentleness (Col 3:19) and understanding (1 Pet 3:7). The Bible says she is like a rose (Song 2:1). Yes, she has thorns, but her fragile nature must be nurtured and protected from all threats. To protect her petals she must be kept out of the wind and handled with tenderness. If you fail to water her, miss the signs that she is starved for care, or treat her roughly, her petals will fall off. Can you justifiably be annoyed with a flower that has lost its petals after you've treated it roughly or failed to protect it?
I offer you on this website what I have learned as a counselor and husband, but my suggestions come with no promises of reconciliation -- just increased possibilities.
Understanding her wounds
When a woman decides she wants to marry a man, it is often because she has responded to the wooing of her heart. He pursues and courts her, and she feels loved, cherished, and valued. Finally, when she feels that he is safe with her heart, she agrees to marry him. On her wedding day she then gives her heart to him. She doesn't give it to her cousin, to the guy down the street, or to any other man -- she entrusts her heart to the one who convinced her he will protect it and keep it safe.
A guy rarely understands that his wife has given him her heart, and doesn't realize that he has the power to cause her either great joy or severe heartache. Simply by the way he listens to her, the way he looks at her, or the tone in which he speaks to her he can make her feel either treasured or totally worthless. Unfortunately, by clueless male insensitivity throughout his marriage, a guy can easily send his wife the message that she is insignificant. Eventually, after having her heart stepped on over and over, she is desperate to emotionally survive, so she takes her heart back and abandons the very one she thought would be her protector.
For a woman, separation is not typically prompted by boredom or her husband's loss of looks. It is mostly about safety -- she flees that which threatens her. In fact, that is why many a woman will take out a restraining order against her husband or forbid him from contacting her. She has felt out-of-control and at his mercy for many years, and thinks that she will remove her husband's power to hurt her if she creates a "husband-free" zone.
No woman who invests years of her life into a marriage will casually throw it away. For a woman to abandon her marriage she has to be in a state of extreme desperation. Tragically, most guys who attempt to reconcile do not understand the depth of pain it took to drive their wives to forsake their marriage. Consequently, they try to reconcile by offering apologies or writing letters that are mostly about them -- their mistakes and feelings of remorse. If a devastated woman is going to open her heart back up to the husband who continually stepped on it, she needs to know that he sees the damage he did, feels for her in her painful, broken condition, and will therefore make great strides to avoid stepping on her heart again.
Think about it guys -- if a playful dog bit you every time you went in the yard with him, would you want to risk returning to the yard again? If a nearsighted dentist accidentally cut your gums or cracked a tooth each time you went in for a cleaning, would you want to entrust your mouth to him again? For you to trust him, wouldn't you need to know that he knew exactly what he had been doing and had a plan to buy glasses? For a woman, it is not entirely about hearing from her husband that he regrets what he has done or has a plan to change. Since it was her heart that was injured by the very one she expected to protect it, she must sense that he fully understands how she feels, and that he has become safe. My free session Unraveling the Mysteries of the Female Mind will help you grasp that.
So as you write your letter or prepare to speak to your wife, keep in mind that what is most important is not your words, but your ability to communicate your empathy and compassion. I want to repeat here my earlier illustration. See her like you would see a woman whose child you just ran over with your car. A woman who is suffering such loss will despise a general, undefined apology and promises of repentance. Think about it -- how would you comfort a woman whose child you just killed? You wouldn't say to a mother who holds the broken body of her child in her arms, "I am so sorry your kid ran in front of my car. I'll be more careful next time I am on your street." You would probably, in reality, be at a loss for words, but great pain and remorse would be obvious in your eyes. You would feel for her as a parent, and if you did speak, your words, tone, and actions would communicate empathy.
The only reason your wife flees from you is because you ran over her heart with your truck. She needs to feel the same empathy from you, as you would show to a mourning mother.
It would not be wise for me to provide you a sample letter, but at the least I want to offer you further insights into your wife, which will help you better understand her present condition, and which will increase the possibility that she will soften her heart toward you.
If she is a typical American woman, you can be sure she waited her whole life for the man that would make her feel loved, valued, and cherished. She wanted what any little girl dreams of – she desired a man who would make her feel that she was worth something, a man who would make her feel loved and secure. She wanted to be the princess sought after and made safe by her knight. She craved a man who would want her the way she emotionally needed him.
As a teenager you probably longed for a woman, but you weren’t thinking about security and emotional intimacy. You wanted a female companion, a partner to take care of you, and be available to meet your needs for physical intimacy. These two distinct dreams ensured that marriage would bring with it challenge for both of you.
When you were single, you pursued your wife to win her heart. You wooed her with gifts, candlelight, and soft music. Maybe you wrote her letters or sang her songs. However you did it, by all the attention you showed her, she felt desired and cherished, like she was a princess on a glass hill who was worth a great quest. By the way you listened to her, she came to trust you, finally feeling that her heart would be safe with you. Whether you knew it or not, you convinced her you would be her heart’s protector.
On the day you got married, she entrusted her heart to you, but like most guys, you didn’t have a clue how to take care of her heart. You didn’t even know she gave it to you, so you didn’t protect it carefully. You kept it in your pocket with your car keys and slammed it down on the dresser every night with your wallet. Unfortunately, after a guy says "I do" he also says “I'm done.” He relates to his new wife the same as a guy who has just caught a fish. When a man catches a fish for dinner, does he leave the bait on the hook? NO. He puts his lure in the tackle box, and takes his fish home to eat. He got what he came for, so stopped fishing.
As guys we enjoy romance, but it does not mean to us what it means to a woman. We like romance and use it like bait to catch a woman. But after we land ourselves a wife, we put the lure in the tackle box and stop fishing. We cease doing that which our wives believed we would do forever. In her heart she said, “Yes, I will marry you, because I want to feel this way the rest of my life.” Has it occurred to you that she now feels severely defrauded?
You came along and led her to believe that she could trust you with her heart, but it wasn’t long after she married you that she began to conclude how wrong she had been about you. You no longer made her feel special. You were obsessed with work or anything else that interested you. The only time you acted romantically was when you wanted the marriage bed. She married you to build a relationship, but your mind was stuck on you.
Most women who flee their marriage do so because they tire of feeling the pain of rejection. It is hard for them to extend their heart to its protector time and again, just to have it dropped on the floor or swatted back by him. Most men have few memories of swatting their wife’s heart, but that is because they never knew their wife offered it to them. They thought she was just complaining.
Those “swattings” occurred when your wife was telling you what was on her mind. She often shared her comments with frustration and she sounded like she was complaining, but she just wanted to be understood and rescued from those things that emotionally assaulted her or robbed her of security. In her mind she was not on the offensive – just passionately, vulnerably begging for help or understanding. Unfortunately, you thought you were being attacked, so responded defensively. On those occasions when your wife needed the most understanding and support, you saw her as an opponent to be corrected, avoided, or defeated. For years she has been trying to share her heart with you, but you just got angry or defensive every time she opened up. You finally wore her down, and now she has left. Your defensive responses have left her seeing you as self-centered and uncaring. In her mind, the one she married to find protection has proven himself to be her biggest threat.
Is it possible that instead of being annoyed with her for leaving you, you should see her as a saint who put up with your clueless indifference for so many years? Has it occurred to you that your insensitivity wore her down? In 1 Peter 3:7 husbands are told to “...live with your wives in an understanding way...” I beg of you my brothers – strive to understand your wife.
She left you in order to protect her heart. She probably felt like she was suffocating for a long time, and now she can finally breathe. Can you really blame her for leaving? She just wanted to breathe. How much do you love her? Do you want her living with a guy (you) who deprives her of air? You obviously want her to give you another chance, but do you think you can be her oxygen now? You probably never understood those things you now get about her. You should probably tell her so.
If you now understand what you did to drive her away, do you also understand why she doesn’t want to risk with you? How much do you love her? Will she ever meet another man who loves her as much as you?
It is God’s intention that a good marriage not be a result of highly biblical marriage counseling or top-notch coaching. I believe I have offered here solid, practical help for a guy in crisis, but it may only be a Bandaid if that guy does not see that the most important relationship he has is with Christ. Our Lord cares about your marriage, but He cares more about you and your relationship with Him. He intends that you walk fully devoted to Him, like all those He calls. Walking in full submission to God, sold out to Him, you will find the grace and power to be the husband God calls you to be. A good marriage is a natural result of walking closely to the Lord -- not of learning the tricks of communication and love.
This crisis may have gotten your attention, but it is God’s intention that He have your whole heart. That’s really what your wife needs anyway – a man who stands strong, who loves God with all his heart, and walks in humility and compassion.
Most Christian guys get really spiritual when their wives leave them, but in my experience, only 30% stay earnest with God after the crisis has passed. That is because they are desperate and are ready to do whatever it takes to get back what they have lost. Unfortunately, such guys are as crippled by self-centeredness as their wife believed them to be. The same selfishness that alienated their wife in the first place will make their zeal for God fade away when their wife returns and the crisis is over.
My brother -- don’t you be one of the 70% that flakes out on God. He has sacrificed His son and purchased us with His blood, so that we would live sold out to Him. Give yourself fully to Him, because He is God – not just to get your wife back. Your wife will thrive on deep, selfless love, but to give that to her will require that you drink from God’s well of love daily.
I strongly recommend that a man listen to my 8-set series “Captains Through the Storm.” There he will find deeper meaning to the basis of this article. Available in CD or mp3 download format.
PS: If you want immediate help, I have posted for you a 1-hour audio presentation called "Unraveling the Mysteries of the Female Mind." You can listen to it online or download it as an mp3 file. If you desire phone counseling or help with writing a letter of reconciliation, go to the UltimateHusband.com main page and click on the link in the left hand sidebar Counseling and Letter Critiquing.