Dealing with a Hard & Cold Heart in Marriage
You’re tired of getting hurt.
The lack of follow-thru.
The unmet expectations.
The harsh words and cold shoulders.
Resentment and bitterness has set in.
Slowly, one heart is growing hard and cold.
What do you do when your spouse shuts you out from their heart?
How do you get back in or do you?
Do you just live in a platonic and cold marriage for the rest of your life?
ERIC: Hi it’s Eric here with my beautiful, gorgeous wife Jolene for another episode of The Marriage Mentor. In this episode we have a man who called in and we’re going to listen to what he has to say and then we’re going to comment on that, so go ahead and play it.
CALLER: Hi, I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I’m having problems with my wife and my marriage and I’m sure most of the problems lie with me. I’ve been married for over 35 years; for the last 10 years, my wife and I have not been intimate at all. We’ve been at war. I love my wife to death, I know I haven’t been the best husband in the world, but I think I’ve been a good father. I’m self-employed, trying to run my own business, tried to help everyone I can, but it seems that no matter what I do for my wife, it’s not enough. I don’t feel neglected necessarily, but I would like to be a little bit more understood. I try and talk to my wife; I don’t know why she doesn’t listen. She avoids me… I think that she has an affair. There’s no reason that I think that she should, but there just has to be a reason why we haven’t had sex for 10 years. It’s ridiculous. I blame myself, I loaned money to her family and it’s been a problem, I think she resents me for that, because they still owe me money after 30 years. It has added some pressure in our marriage, for sure. I love my kids; I have a son and a daughter, grown now. One still lives at home – my wife uses her as an excuse every time we try to talk, saying that she doesn’t want her to hear, so we can never talk anything out. I try to go for a drive to talk to her; she doesn’t want to hear it – it’s all ‘blah, blah, blah, and blah’ on and on like she just tunes me out. I just don’t know what to do. It’s pretty obvious that she wants nothing to do with me anymore. I do have my share of problems, I’m no saint, there’s no doubt, so I’m not blaming anyone for it – I just want to know what to do. Thanks for your time.
JOLENE: Well, that just broke my heart.
ERIC: Okay so, just to kind of summarize that again, he’s been married 35 years. His wife doesn’t want to have anything to do with him; they haven’t been intimate for the last 10 years. He says he loves her and he hasn’t been perfect, but he thinks he’s been a good father. I’m going to touch on some of these things. Then there are issues with money with the family, etc… The least important thing I’m going to address first is the money with the family – forget the money; it’s gone, don’t talk about it again. Be done with it – it’s gone.
JOLENE: Yes, however, from a female standpoint – he said what, 35 years? Let me talk to a young wife for a minute…
ERIC: He loaned money to her family.
JOLENE: Yes, I thought he loaned it to hers, but even if it was his – let me talk to the young wife that is listening in right now and any husbands that are listening in. Wives crave financial security. Here’s what I found interesting when he said he was self-employed – I know what it’s like being married to a self-employed man and I know what it’s like to go through financial famine. So I know from first-hand experience that a wife has to run to The Lord as her Provider. It sounded like this woman, many years ago, didn’t do that. She was struggling; she was drowning. And instead of leaning in closer to her husband, she blamed him. He wants to do whatever he can to fix the marriage. This wife’s heart is hard.
ERIC: And who knows what else has transpired during that 35 years, because he says he’s not been perfect, but that could be the understatement of the year for all we know. Obviously, her heart is hard and she doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. The advice I’m going to give might sound trite, but it’s true and it’s right – you need to wipe the slate clean, you need to go back to The Lord, you need to become the man that God wants you to be in spite of however your wife feels about you, in spite of whatever is going on with anything else. You need to become the man that God wants you to be.
JOLENE: Let me interject something right there – that advice that you just gave should apply to women as well, be the wife that God is calling you to be! Regardless of any marital issues you have or not; every single day you should be wiping the slate clean to have that thriving marriage. Do the part that God has asked you to do in marriage. Let the Holy Spirit intercede in your spouse’s heart.
ERIC: And ultimately we talked about in the past how we point the finger at each other, saying ‘it’s her’ or ‘it’s him’ and maybe he’s not doing that, but he has to go all the way back to the beginning and become the type of husband that a wife would love. That this wife would love. Now she’s terribly hurt and closed off and they haven’t been intimate for years. God can repair that, He certainly can. But if this guy is just going to be the same guy he’s been – whatever he’s done, however he’s acted – the things aren’t going to change. He needs to (in spite of however she’s treated him – even if she’s completely wrong!) ignore that and go back to The Lord and in spite of her become the man that God wants him to be. Once he gets right with The Lord, then he’s in a position where…
JOLENE: …Let me ask you something, sorry. What does getting right with The Lord look like? Imagine there’s a listener who’s a new believer and they’re wondering what that term means.
ERIC: Well, it starts with repentance, even for the believer, we have to repent of our sins daily. It starts with repentance, it starts with humility, it starts with getting into the Word, because if you don’t know the Word and you aren’t in the Word, then how is he going to act when situations come up? He doesn’t know how to act!
JOLENE: So he asks the Lord for forgiveness and he has a humble heart. Based on the message he left, my heart broke and I saw some humility there, but he has to go to the Lord – we’re not the Lord.
ERIC: It’s got to be humility, not self-humility. Let me explain that, he could be saying ‘Oh I’m wrong, but no one’s perfect’ – that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about ‘God, I’m rotten and only You can do a work here. Only You can make me anything worthwhile.’
JOLENE: So, a surrendered heart. Have a surrendered heart, have a repentant heart. Do that with the Lord. Then what?
ERIC: Then he needs to start from the beginning, he needs to go back to his wife and he needs to apologize to her. And he can’t do that right up front –that’s part of that repentant heart. She might say, ‘forget you!’ It doesn’t matter; it’s something that he’s got to do. Now that he’s right with The Lord and walking with The Lord, then he can approach his wife and start from the beginning. What I mean is, he’s apologized and says, ‘look, I just want to spend time with you.’ That just means just getting a coffee or going out to lunch, or whatever.
JOLENE: So does he try and have a deep conversation with her right there or does he just try and find out about his wife?
ERIC: He just starts from the beginning. You don’t just start right in with deep conversation, ‘hey, we just met now let’s have this deep conversation!’
JOLENE: Here’s where I’m trying to connect the dots with the listeners, male or female, because you might be a wife listening in and your husband may have a hard heart. He may be holding the grudge; he may not be forgiving you. So if you are at that place, whether you’re married five years or ten years, 25 years – always go back in your mind, and this is what I try to do in my marriage today, I go back in my mind to when Eric and I were dating and the grace was easy and the forgiveness was easy. Can I still apply those things today? Can I still be a woman who is interested in your heart today even though I’ve seen all your shortcomings? As a man can he just sit with his wife and get to know his wife? Is that what you’re saying?
ERIC: I am, but if she allows it. She might not allow it. If that’s the case, then he needs to just dwell there with as much understanding as he can – it might take time. I remember a pastor saying that once he got saved it took his family two years to actually believe that he was really changed. Because they didn’t believe it – he actually wanted to kill them.
JOLENE: So what can this man do? In my opinion, he can win her back if she’s open to it.
ERIC: So if she’s open to it… what does that mean? How do you know if she’s open to it? You’re a woman.
JOLENE: I’m a woman, that’s right!
ERIC: This I know. But how’s that going to work? Talk to me from a woman’s standpoint.
JOLENE: Well, the woman obviously struggled in the marriage all these years and like most women, we hold on to it and the seeds of bitterness start to grow and the next thing you know there are all these weeds of bitterness now infesting our heart and our marriage. The love has been choked out – what can she do? If I were the guy, here’s what I’d want: I want to have just a lighthearted, ‘let’s go to dinner; let’s make things simple – let’s laugh again!’ She’s probably not laughing; she’s probably dead inside. Here’s what I’d want to see: a woman who was really struggling – she probably appreciates flowers! I’m a frugal gal, so it’d be really hard for me to receive the flowers, but I’d think ‘wow! He’s really thinking of me!’ You’re not coming at me trying to address all of the major issues in marriage; you’re just trying to soften my heart. I’m making the choice as to whether or not I’m going to let you in, inch-by-inch. You might write a card to me that says ‘you make me smile’ or ‘you make me laugh’ – it’s all got to be lighthearted! She doesn’t want to deal with the issue, because, in her mind, there’s no hope for the marriage. But we know that God can transform and redeem any marriage – there’s no marital problem too big that Jesus Christ cannot come in and take care of and restore. If he goes back to 1 Corinthians 13:4 – Love is patient and it is kind. It doesn’t envy, it doesn’t boast, it’s not proud, it does not dishonor. What are those little things you can do? What are those little things you did when you were dating her?
ERIC: Well, you bring up a great point, because people think that love is this feeling and they don’t feel loved. Look, love is an action. He might not feel loved, but he needs to love her; that means he treats her in a way of love. He might not have feelings either for her! It doesn’t matter – you could bring any person in here right now and I could show them love and I don’t even have to know them. Love is an action and I think that’s really important for people to understand. If the action is there and the action is done, feelings will follow, but the action has to be there. You talk about the things that he could do and they could just be simple things.
JOLENE: Very simple. He could cook her a meal without saying a word, he could vacuum – what’s her love language? He may not even know that. It might be quality time, words of affirmation, service or gifts. It’s obviously not physical touch because they haven’t had sexual intimacy. One thing that comes to my mind is the dare challenge or the dare book – it’s like a 40 day thing – there’s something actionable that he could do while taking that challenge; he could first research it… Google it, pull it up on amazon and do something kind for her once a day for the next 30 days or whatever it is.
ERIC: And sometimes the kindest things are the daily things. He might make dinner and just say, ‘hey I made this’ and that’s it. Don’t expect a thank you, don’t expect anything, but she is paying attention!
JOLENE: Oh, she is so watching! I certainly wouldn’t address the issues, because he’s tried to address it and she has shut down. Now, I would just try and win her over by his conduct. Here’s the deal: you do your part, you do what God is putting on your heart to do for her, and she might just throw it right back in your face! If that’s the case, then just zip it up! Don’t say a word and just keep trying to love her. Then maybe at some point you could ask her what she wants out of this marriage, because for the most part, women don’t want horrible marriages, neither do men. But they don’t know how to fix it. So take the baby steps, try and win her over, get right with God first, apologize to her second – whether she accepts your apology or not, have a heart felt apology – and then live your life in a way where you’re pouring out love upon her in the hopes that her heart will soften.
ERIC: The reason he has to treat her this way is not for her, it’s for The Lord. He’s called to act a certain way based on being a believer and acting like Jesus in spite of how she treats him. It doesn’t matter whether it ‘works’ or not.
JOLENE: Because he’s got more of a chance of it working this way than the other way!
ERIC: Right. But it’s not a ploy, it’s not like ‘oh, here’s a formula, do this stuff and it’ll all work out’. It doesn’t matter, even if it never works out, we’re still called to be obedient, no matter what.
JOLENE: In a thriving, vibrant marriage, the husband will cherish the wife. What he didn’t do for the first 35 years doesn’t need to define the next 35 years of his marriage – he could walk in the type of ways that the Lord wants him to through cherishing his wife – which means to love her like Christ loves the church. The man is to lay down his life for her and obviously, the ideal thing is for then the woman to respect her husband in return. That’s not happening in this marriage today, but do your part. Whether you’re a man or woman listening to this, you’re called to do your part according to what the Bible says for us to do – me to do as a wife and my husband is also called to do his part.
ERIC: I think the last thing I had a question about, she uses the excuse that her daughter will hear, and so they can’t have a conversation. Well, that’s just an excuse, but I’m wondering: they’ve been together 35 years, how old is his daughter? She’s not young.
JOLENE: He said that they were grown adults, but here’s what breaks my heart. Women can’t see when we decide to tighten up our hearts, put up that wall, and don’t want to let our men in – we’re, in essence, teaching our children what type of marriage to have based on the marriage that we’re portraying. So if I sat down with this wife, I’d say that she has to get over the hurt, the pain, and all the disappointments, because I know what she wants! She wants that beautiful marriage and she wants the beautiful marriage for her children.
ERIC: I was in a pizza place the other day and they had these quotes on the wall and one great quote was from John Wooden, who was a basketball coach, and he said, “The best thing a father can ever do for his children is to love their mother”. This is a great, great thought because that sets a stage for their life, as well, and their marriage.
JOLENE: Anyone listening to this please know that in any marriage, whatever the state, male or female, you can’t change the spouse – you can only change you. When the change comes, when the Holy Spirit brings the change in you out of your obedience to the Word, and as He’s molding you and transforming you, your spouse will take notice.
ERIC: And as you stand before the Lord, He’s not going to say, ‘where were you wronged? Tell me where you were wronged.’ He’s going to say ‘what did you do with what I gave you?’
JOLENE: Right, right. Love her according to the scripture and be that man or woman that God is calling you to be in spite of what your spouse does or doesn’t do with it. So those are my thoughts.
ERIC: Those are great thoughts, as always.
JOLENE: I’m Jolene Engle, here with my husband Eric, and we will see you next time.
Live a poured out life for Christ,
Married 30 yrs. I received Christ 22 yrs ago. He didn’t and continued lifestyle. He received Christ 10 yrs ago but still does drugs and unfiltered tv. I have seen the changes but my heart doesn’t want to open or be intimate at all. He says he doesn’t understand what drugs have to do with it. Its hard to communicate as we are very unequally yoked still and he isn’t sober. I am in ministry he sometimes says he doesn’t believe the Word. I feel hopeless in my hardened heart but don’t want to be more involved. So I stay and serve him in household duties but feel hopeless when I think of my feeling or lack of for the marriage and it blocks in my relationship with The Lord. Am I wrong to stay apart from him when he doesn’t even begin to try and grow and get free.? Thank you for doing this.
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