Last year I became involved in an emotional affair with my ex-girlfriend. During that time I was very hurtful to my wife. The affair ended, I came to my senses and am in counseling right now. I know that I caused a lot of damage to our marriage and because of this, my wife has lost trust in me and anything I say. Because of this loss of trust, the idea of intimacy makes her physically ill. I do understand why she feels this way. We have discussed this with our preacher and other counselors. Also, we've read books and a majority of these talk about the wife not withholding sex. Here is my question. My wife says that she is not withholding sex from me, but if I do that with her that it will cause psychological damage to her that she may not recover from. Now any good husband would not do this. I would be completely selfish if I did it under these conditions. So, by her saying that, putting conditions on the act as she is doing, is that a form of withholding? Or and I still thinking selfishly?
Both you and your wife have a lot of problems you need to address. Let's start with your wife. Despite the word games, she obviously is withholding sex. She can give whatever reasons she wants, but it doesn't change the outcome that she is withholding sex. Second, her statement that if she has sex with you it will cause her psychological damage -- even irreversible psychological damage -- is nonsense. She wants to feel justified in a simple decision that she has made. She doesn't want to have sex with a man she doesn't trust.
Now, the problem on your side is that you went and sought comfort with another woman. You called it an "emotional" affair. I don't know if you mean that it was purely a relationship where no sex was involved or not. You state that you were hurtful to your wife, but it appears that after you realized you were doing wrong, you went back and really hurt your wife by telling her you were seeing another woman. So not only did you stabbed her in the back, you decided at the end to give it a vicious twist. And now you are portraying yourself as a victim because your wife was hurt by what you did to her.
Should you force the issue? Absolutely not! You're the cause of the damage and you will have to live with the consequences -- however long it takes to repair this breach of faith. Does that justify your wife? No! She is as caught up in sin as you once were.
What do you do? You prove that you have changed. "For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter" (II Corinthians 7:11). The hard part of damaging trust is that it takes far longer to build trust than it does to tear it down. It might take years. You need to learn and prove to be a committed husband. Your wife has to learn to forgive -- her soul is in jeopardy until she does. "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15). I'm mentioning this, not to give you a club to use against your wife, but to put the seriousness of the damage initiated by you into perspective.
You need to work at healing the damage -- not because you can go back to having sex -- because your wife's life is being affected by this matter. I can't predict how successful you will be. Each person is responsible for his own decisions. But you need, for her sake, to give your full effort toward saving both yourself and her.
Thank you so much for your response. I do have to say though if I portrayed myself as being a victim I do apologize. That’s the last thing that I feel myself to be. I know that she is the victim of my actions. I do not want to justify anything I did. The reason I was asking the question was that I am concerned about her spiritual well-being. She says that she is not withholding when she really is. I just wasn’t sure. I understand the relationship between trust and intimacy. And yes, I have damaged that severely.
I just don’t want her to be fooling herself by saying that she will submit but with conditions and that being approved by God. There is no way that I would have sex with her when she feels this way. That would be purely selfish and I’m done with that. I’ve been selfish for too long.
I am doing everything I can to redeem myself with her. Like I said, I am in counseling now and know what needs to be done. I am only concerned with her reasoning both with the issue mentioned above and the forgiveness that you mentioned. She says she has forgiven me, but it doesn’t pass the scriptural test because she continues to hold what I did against me even though she says she doesn’t. But I do deserve what I get and I do know it will take time. I just don’t know how to approach her about these things. I just don’t want her to justify her way out of salvation.
I can think of no better words than these: "Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will" (II Timothy 2:22-26).