Every wife longs to be loved by her husband. This longing is a Biblical one. The marriage covenant is a picture of the covenant between Christ and His church. In this covenant, Christ sacrificially loves the church, leads her, provides for her, protects her; and the church loves Christ and submits to His supreme authority (Ephesians 5:22-30). But what happens when a husband doesn’t love his wife? How should the wife respond?
First: Acknowledge that God commands husbands to love their wives, and it is not a conditional commandment. He doesn’t say, “If your wife is beautiful, if you still feel attracted to her, if she is the perfect Proverbs 31 wife: then love her.” He says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church.” And how did Christ love the church? He loved the church sacrificially, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word (Ephesians 5:25-26), giving Himself up for her while she was still a sinner (Romans 5:8).
Dear Christian woman, acknowledging your husband’s unloving behavior as sin should give you a huge sense of freedom because that means it is not your fault or responsibility. You cannot make him be unloving any more than you can make him be loving. A husband not loving his wife is a sin against God. Even a sin so painful and damaging as sexual immorality is not ultimately a rejection of man (or woman) but a rejection of God himself (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). Your husband’s refusal to love you is a sin against God, rejecting God’s command. You didn’t make your husband sin, and you are not responsible for fixing his sin, so leave it in God’s hands.
Second: Forgive your husband because of Christ. Luke 17:3-4 says, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” Remember the parable that Jesus told about a ruler and his two servants? The ruler forgave one servant a huge debt, but the servant was unwilling to forgive a fellow servant a much smaller debt. Then the ruler said, “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way, that I had mercy on you?” (Matthew 18:21-25).
We are all sinners, and we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:11-12). Have you ever coveted? Coveting is idolatry (Colossians 3:5). God amounts idolatry to adultery against Him (Ezekiel 6:9, James 4:4-5). But God sent His own Son to pay the price of sin (John 3:16; Romans 5:1-2).
Suppose you have believed in the name of Jesus. In that case, you yourself know that when you were dead in your sins, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven you all your sins, having canceled out the certificate of debt against you; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14). Out of that outpouring of God’s forgiveness towards you, you can forgive others. “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32). “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13). Your forgiveness toward others has nothing to do with the severity of the sin done to you or who did it. It has everything to do with God’s forgiveness towards you (Mark 11:25).
Third: Do what is right. The book of 1 Peter instructs wives to do what is right without being frightened by anything frightening. If your husband doesn’t love you, then there is a lot in your marriage that is frightening. It isn’t very comforting to know that your needs aren’t considered. You might not be loved, and you might not be cherished. You might not be led. But your husband’s sin does not give you an excuse to sin. “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you” (Proverbs 20:22 NIV).
Vengeance does not belong to you but God (Romans 12:19). And even though the sin committed against you may make you feel righteously angry (Ephesians 4:26), you must remember that man’s anger cannot live up to the righteousness of God (James 1:20). God will repay (Romans 12:19). In the book of Romans, we learn, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath, and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil– but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good” (Romans 2:5-10).
If your husband is a Christian, rest in the fact that God will discipline him to take the right action (Hebrews 12:6). If your husband is not a Christian now but later repents, then this sin has already been paid on the cross. Jesus paid that price (2 Corinthians 5:21). Suppose your husband never repents, and never believes in the name of Jesus. In that case, he will spend an eternity in Hell separated from God (Luke 13:3, Romans 6:23), which should motivate you to pray for your husband and demonstrate God’s love towards your husband so that he might be won without a word (1 Peter 3:1).
Finally, remember that your healing, joy, and life are independent of everyone but God. Think about the promises of God. None of them are contingent on your husband, and each promise is made by God and fulfilled by God. Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you (Psalm 55:22). The Bible says, “Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed” (Isiah 53:5). So this means when Christ died on the cross, he freed us from sin–all sin– sin committed by us and sin committed against us. Your husband doesn’t have to repent for you to love him (Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”). Your husband doesn’t have to change for you to do what is right. Your healing is independent of everyone but God (Jeremiah 17:14).
So, move forward, oh Daughter of God. Do what is right without being troubled by anything frightening. Remember that God sees you. He saw Hagar mistreated in the wilderness (Genesis 16). He saw Leah was unloved (Genesis 29). And what happened? He took care of them, even though He didn’t immediately remove them from their situation. He will take care of you too, and he promises he will work this out for your good, to conform you to the image of His Son (Romans 8:28). So, forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).