How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse

So you see sex differently in your marriage? So at least one of you is incredibly frustrated? You know you need to talk, but you’re nervous about bringing it up or simply can’t imagine how another conversation won’t become another argument.

I can’t give you a “Guaranteed to Work or Your Money Back” promise, but I can give you some advice on how to increase the odds you’ll actually experience progress. Mind you, progress is not immediate resolution. Some problems have quick fixes, some don’t. But almost all of them can be resolved with two willing spouses.

And what you ultimately want to do in a conversation about sex is get the two of you willing to work on whatever ails the marriage bed.

Man and Woman Talking

Choose a good time and place. I’ve reiterated maybe a hundred times on this blog that bringing up your frustrations about sex right before or right after you make love or get rejected is not likely to go well. Your tension and desire and vulnerability are all very high, so poking at a sensitive subject may bring out out the defense mechanisms or offensive fire for one or both of you.

Instead, get away from the bedroom. It can be your living room, a secluded area in a nearby park, a corner table at a restaurant, a neighborhood sidewalk as you walk together, etc. Simply consider your location, opting for a place that is either neutral or — better yet — positive for both of you. Also pick a time that’s conducive for discussion. Attempting to discuss problems when one of you is stressed or weary or angry won’t lead to effective listening and problem-solving. Set aside time and do your best to find which part of the day or week is most likely to result in calm conversation.

Ask questions and listen to answers. Most of the time when we’re distressed, we feel a deep need to get our own issues of our chest. We want to “clear the air,” “tell you how I really feel,” and “be completely honest with you.” All that’s well and good, but what you need from the conversation is not a vent session but to figure out what your spouse is thinking and feeling. You already know what you believe, but — even if you think you’ve heard it a million times — you probably don’t fully understand where they’re coming from, why they feel that way, what their fears and hurts and dreams and desires are. And that’s what you need to uncover.

So you have to ask questions, then get out of the way and let them answer. Get comfortable with silence even, because it may take some spouses a little while to gather their thoughts and their gumption to say what they want to say.

Consider how you express your concerns. Want more frequent sex? You aren’t likely to get it by saying things like:

  • “There’s something wrong that you don’t want sex more.” [Translation: There's something wrong with YOU.]
  • “I’m a man! I need to have sex more!” [Translation: It's not about intimacy, just a physical need.]
  • “If I’d known you didn’t want sex, I wouldn’t have married you.” [Translation: I don't really love you; it's just about the sex.]

Have people said stuff like this? Oh yeah, definitely. Did it work? Maybe they got some duty sex, but it doesn’t work in the long term and it builds resentment for one spouse and dissatisfaction for the other. It isn’t true sexual intimacy.

Focus instead of what the sex means for the marriage. Why do you want to have it with your spouse so very much? Express that deeper need and desire. Yes, it feels good, but if it were only about a physical release of tension, let’s face it: You could do that yourself. Instead, you desire to be one with your spouse. Figure out how to communicate that.

Talk about what you want your sex life to look like, rather than bringing out a list of perceived offenses. Look ahead to a positive, progressing future for your marriage bed, rather than dwelling on problems in the past.

Ask for baby steps. If you’ve been having sex once a month and you expect to start having it every day, you need to dial back your expectations. Yes, I know you feel like you’re in a sexual desert and a spoonful of intimacy isn’t nearly enough. However, change takes time. Talk to people who have quit smoking or drinking or lost a lot of weight, and they’ll tell you it happened day by day, decision by decision. Prioritize moving in the right direction, and over time you can make a lot of progress.

Ask to add an additional sexual encounter to your regular routine. Encourage her to try one new position. Request he spend a few more minutes in foreplay. Purchase together one sexual aid (lubricant, game, etc.) to try. Celebrate small successes and improve your sexual intimacy bit by bit. Being married has the distinct advantage of a long period of time to make huge strides in fostering intimacy — but they’re made step by step.

So those are a few tips for addressing sexual problems in your marriage. What have you found that works? What challenges do you still face in getting your spouse to discuss sexual issues?

How to Help Your Wife Get Naked

After writing last week on Getting Comfortable Being Naked with Your Husband and Tips for Confidently Baring It All for the Hubby, I decided talk directly to the hubbies…those ones who want to see more of their wives.

See, I get it, husbands. You men are in a precarious position. Here’s the set-up:

  • You want to see your wife naked.
  • She’s not that comfortable with her body.

So you start thinking, “What can I do to help her feel okay about her body?” And the problem-solving begins . . .

Maybe you can tell her to just get over it. Maybe you can tell her she’s pretty…once (that should do it, right?). Maybe you can sign her up at your gym. Maybe you can remind her that many women who’ve given birth have extra fat. Maybe you can suggest she skip dessert. Maybe you can even suggest a weight loss program.

Don’t do it! I’m warning you like the movie audience viewer who sees the girl armed with a hairpin entering the serial killer’s lair. Don’t. Go. There.

In fact, here’s a peek into the female brain: Oftentimes when we complain or vent about something, we don’t want a quick fix. We’re not looking for a resolution. We’re looking for your reassurance.

So what can a husband do to help his wife get naked?

Husband starting to unzip wife's dress

Tell her she’s beautiful. Often, sincerely, deeply. Be consistent and specific, even stating which specific parts of her body you find particularly appealing and why. She may have a hard time accepting the broad statement that she’s “hot,” but tell her you adore the way her hips curve and fit perfectly into your hands? That’s specific enough to mean something.

Want an example? Check out Song of Songs 4 and 7, where the husband wonderfully describes the beauty of his wife.

Tell her what seeing her naked body does to you. And no, I’m not talking about the erection, men. You don’t have to say that. We see it.

Express the arousal, emotion, and satisfaction you experience when you get to see and touch the one woman in the world you’re allowed to, and deeply want to, see and touch. Tell her why it means so much to share your body with her and have her share her body with you. Say why you love having that view, that access, that just-you-and-me feeling. I don’t need to give you the words. You men express yourselves pretty well when you need to. Just make it a priority.

Allow her time to prepare. She may not want to just yank it all off and jump into bed buck naked. It’s a vulnerable thing for women to remove their clothing, and your wife may need time and practice to feel comfortable baring it all — even for you. Suggest she take her time, maybe starting with a bubble bath, putting on lingerie she likes (you can like it too, but make sure she’s good with it), and turning on relaxing music.

Give her a chance to run through whatever routine works to diffuse the pressures of her day and help her get into a let’s-get-naked mood. The more you can help her through the initial jitters, the more likely she’ll grow used to this nude thing and get undressed more readily and easily.

Focus on more than the super-sexy parts. Yes, we wives know you like breasts and lady bits. It’s actually pretty awesome how awesome you men think your women are. However, your wary wife may assume you don’t like the rest of her body so much if you’re always racing to the erogenous zones. I mean, who claims a film is their favorite movie when all they ever watch is the climax scene?

So hang out at other parts of her body. Spend time touching, caressing, complimenting, kissing, fondling…her face, her arms, her legs, her torso, her neck, her whatever. Let her know through your full attention that so much of her body is beautiful to you, that every part of her matters. You can still get to the climax scene, but pay attention to the rest of the show.

Watch your words. Your opinion really matters, and she’s especially sensitive to how you view her body. She figures that out by what you say, how you say it, and even sometimes what you don’t say.

Consider this scripture: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29). Your words have to build her up according to her needs. What does she need you to say? And what does she need you to refrain from saying? I’m not trying to put you guys in a eggshell mine field, but simply watch your words and your tone and make sure you’re building her up with what you say.

Don’t talk about other women. While you shouldn’t lie to your spouse, you needn’t share every single thought that crosses your brain. If my husband notices a beautiful woman during the day (I’m not talking about lusting here), how does that help our marriage and my confidence for him to share how she looked when he gets home?

Wives who recognize how visual their husbands are are all too aware of how many beautiful women are out there for your viewing. We know some ladies surpass our beauty and could capture your attention. Then we look at ourselves and wonder what you could possibly see in this body that would excite you so much. So avoid lusting after other women (Matthew 5:27-28) and don’t always point out who else you find physically attractive.

Encourage her toward health. If your wife is extremely overweight, frumpy in appearance, or let herself go in some other way, don’t point at her flaws from the other side of the room. Get on her side and become a supporter of her health. And don’t just talk weight loss. If you simply focus on weight, she might go on yo-yo diets and screw up her metabolism and health and appearance even more. Talk health. If she’s healthy, she’ll look and feel better.

Suggest walking together. Suggest taking cooking classes together. Keep the kids while she exercises with friends or goes to the gym. Encourage her to update her wardrobe. Schedule a spa and makeover day for her. Make her health and her feeling good about her body the priority, and you’ll both appreciate the results.

Helping your wife feel better about her body will encourage her to feel comfortable and confident enough to share it with you!

And now let’s ask some wives and husbands, how can a husband help his wife feel more comfortable and confident getting naked in the marital bedroom? What’s worked or would work for you?

Tips for Confidently Baring It All for Your Hubby

Last week, I addressed Getting Comfortable Being Naked with Your Husband — particularly our attitude and approach. I promised specific tips this week on how to get over your trepidation and share your body more freely with your husband.

How can you grow more comfortable and confident baring it all for your hubby? (Because yeah, he wants you to. He told me so.)

Woman taking off robe - head & shoulders only

Focus on what you like about your body. We all have especially good features and less appealing “flaws.” (Although “flaws” isn’t the right word.) We ladies tend to focus on what we believe is wrong with our bodies. Perhaps we think it keeps us humble or something, but it’s not boasting to recognize your best features and revel in how God made you. You are wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

So take stock, girlfriend! Check. You. Out. Stand in front of the mirror, consider past compliments, and/or think about your own perspective, but figure out what you like about your fabulous body. Be specific. For instance, my list would include the texture of my hair, the dimple that appears on one cheek when I smile super-big, the color of my eyes, and my navel (hey, we all have a preference for outty or inny, and I happen to like what I got).

Then look for ways to display those features to your husband and rehearse the list in your head when you disrobe. You’ll feel better knowing what unique and beautiful traits you have to offer for your husband’s viewing.

Stop comparing. Stop comparing your body to someone else’s or to the body you had once upon a time (or could have if Spanx would make a beneath-the-flesh product). This is tough because advertisers are on a near-rampage to have you feel “less than” so you’ll buy their product to feel “as good as.” Want to look as good as [insert hot celebrity's name]? Buy our [diet pill, home gym, clothing, plastic surgery, etc.]! Don’t get sucked into comparison games.

And don’t wait for perfection to bare your body. Your husband’s likely not comparing you to anyone else. I hear from hubbies all the time who essentially say about their wives, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you” (Song of Songs 4:7). Are their wives objectively perfect? I doubt it. But they believe it.

So stop holding yourself to an impossible standard. The standard is who you are, the best you can be today, and your husband’s affirmation.

But the even better, higher, truer standard is God Himself — how He sees you. God doesn’t lie, and He thinks you’re amazing. Beautiful. Stunning.

Take care of your body. Now I’m going to be frank with my girlfriends here. We know why some of us wives aren’t confident baring it all: Because we’ve let our bodies go. We used to eat better, exercise more, dress nicer, style our hair, get out of pajamas at least once during the day. Whether you’ve acted clueless about your transformation from beauty to beast (no, it’s not that bad), or you beat yourself up so much you’re craving another pint of Ben & Jerry’s to feel better, you know who you are.

I don’t want to add another straw of shame to the camel’s back. By no means! I’m on your side!!! I’m a writer, for heaven’s sake, so it’s ever-so-tempting to have my wardrobe be all yoga pants and oversized tees. My hair adores quick-and-dirty ponytails. I haven’t been to my exercise class in . . . no idea. And believe me, something happens after age 40, and suddenly lettuce leafs seem to add as much to my waistline as a dish of chocolate mousse. Yes, it’s an ongoing challenge.

But when we attend to our health and grooming, we look and feel better. You know you do! Moreover, the Bible encourages good health with warnings against gluttony (calls it sin), says our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit, and gives the example of the well-clothed and hard-working wife in Proverbs 31. So let’s take care of ourselves! Now don’t sweat the number on the scale or go in search of some unrealistic, useless beauty ideal (see point above); simply get healthy and be the best you! Then you’ll feel better about the body you have to bare for your husband.

Prepare for the unveiling. So you’re still nervous about getting naked. Totally understandable. With the exception of that junior high communal dressing room for physical education [insert bad memories here], you don’t generally get naked in front of other people. Your nude body is none of their business. Except it’s your husband’s business — it belongs to him too (1 Corinthians 7:4).

So how can you calm your nerves and put your best foot (body) forward? Prepare: Take a bubble bath. Set the scene with favorite lighting, like candlelight or a low lamp. Choose lingerie  that highlights your assets. Turn on calming or intimate music. Take Lamaze-type breaths. Use meditation techniques. Go to your “happy place.”

This isn’t the time to Go Big or Go Home — more like Go Slow. Take your time, take deep breaths, take it easy. You. Can. Do. This. Like anything else you’re afraid of, it gets easier the second time and the third time and the fourth time… Recognize it will get better — but only if you take that first step.

Consider his reaction. Most hubbies look like a kid in a candy store when their wife bares it all. Or like they’ve opened the best Christmas present ever: “For me? It’s exactly what I wanted!” We wives can get so caught up in thinking about how we look or staring at our “problem areas,” we don’t attend to hubby’s reaction. Which could be the reassurance we need.

If you can’t tell what he likes by facial expressions, speak up and ask! Many guys don’t think to enumerate what they find so appealing. Look, I’m married to a guy who seems to think words are on a rationing list somewhere. So if I need to hear something specific, I’ve learned to ask. Once I throw out the question — like “What are your favorite parts of my body and why?” — he’ll answer with a list resembling the husband in Song of Songs.

And then believe your husband. If he says your breasts are “like clusters of fruit” (Compliment. Really. Song of Songs 7:7) — accept it! Tell yourself again and again and again it’s true: He really thinks you’re sexy.

Now what’s your advice? How have you become comfortable with your body and baring it all for your hubby?

Do You Have a Blind Spot in Your Marriage?

“The deepest struggles of life will occur in the most primary relationship affected by the fall: marriage.”
- Dan Allender and Tremper Longman

I came across this quote recently. It’s cited in Gary Thomas’s Simply Sacred daily readings book. It brought home to me something I’ve been thinking a lot about: Why is sometimes more challenging to be selfless and patience and giving to your own family?

I’ve been seeing it recently with stories I’ve heard from friends, comments from blog readers, and yes, my own experience. It comes in statements that sound like this:

“She’s so generous with her church, but she criticizes everyone and everything at our family reunions.”

“Our kids have so many good friends, but they fight constantly with each other.”

“He’s always leading youth events and going on mission trips, but he hasn’t taken me out on a date in ages.”

“She’s involved in so many ministries, giving of herself constantly, that she never has time for sexual intimacy with me.”

blind spotWe’ve all known that person who acts one way among church friends and another way in other contexts — the hypocritical Christian. But that’s not really what I’m talking about here. Many people who are devoted and gracious with others simply don’t see their own neglect or mistreatment of family. It’s a blind spot.

So in the realm of sexual intimacy, they don’t think about how that area of their life is also ministry.

The husband who patiently takes time to study the Bible with a seeker or greets visitors with a smile and questions about their day may turn around and show little to no romance or affection for his wife. Then he wants sex and can’t figure out why she isn’t leaping for joy at the prospect. The wife who pours her heart and soul into teaching children in Bible classes and serves meals to shut-ins may get home and pour nothing of herself into being sexually engaged with her husband. Then she can’t understand why he’s always so disgruntled about her charitable activities.

It requires intentional self-evaluation to ask “How am I doing?” again and again in our marriage. We tend to get married, grow comfortable, and fail to make the effort needed to maintain and deepen love. We remember our manners outside the home and forget them with our family. Especially our spouse.

But you see, Satan’s all over that. I suspect he’s just fine with you teaching Bible classes now while he slowly, subtly, certainly tears at the seams of your marriage, rip by rip. It may take time, but eventually he can render someone ineffective in ministry to others because they neglected ministry at home. With the foundation of your marriage crumbling, it’s not as hard to knock you down.

One of his weapons is messing with your sex life. Whether it’s distracting a spouse from marital intimacy with good things like ministry or bad things like porn. (Of course I recognize there’s a huge difference between these two, but marriages can suffer from both.) Whether it’s encouraging selfishness with constant demands for sex or with constant rejections of sex. Whether it’s creating division in how we view the significance of sex or the significance of other activities.

Over time, we let intentionality go and fail to give sexual intimacy the attention it requires to thrive. One or both spouses begin to feel untended, unloved, unimportant. The godly principles we espouse — such as love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness — are increasingly absent in our marriage. Over time, we lose our deep connection, distance and resentment grow, and eventually it’s easier to show kindness to the barista in the coffee shop than to your own husband or wife.

How do we get it back? How do make sure that Satan doesn’t gain a foothold through our marriage bed? Intention. Commitment. Reminders. Time. Bible study. Communication. Prayer.

We have to recognize the temptation to see our ministry as happening outside the walls of our home. Yes, we have a calling to reach out beyond our borders, to proclaim the Word and ministry to the needy. We shouldn’t neglect that calling. But neither should we ignore the ministry inside our home, and even in our marital bedroom. God has given us a unique opportunity to minister to our spouse in a way no one else can. This marriage bond means that we get our sexual needs and desires met through only one source — that beautiful husband or wife you vowed to love.

Satan wants to tear it down. God wants to build it up.

We decide whether to approach our sexual intimacy in marriage with godliness and honor.

Has sexual intimacy been a blind spot in your marriage?

Getting Comfortable Being Naked with Your Husband

Woman peeking past doorLower the bedroom lights. Cue the burlesque jazz music. Step into the bedroom wearing nothing but a smile. And what do you get?

Well, you either get a happy hubby, a super self-conscious wife, or more likely both.

I had a brief exchange last week with a commenter and fellow blogger about whether wives are able to disrobe and display their goods to their husbands with confidence. I admitted that it took quite a bit of time in my own marriage to get there. While my body is objectively less attractive than it was when I was younger, I’m far more confident now about sharing my body with my husband.

So how do you get to the point where you can enter your bedroom where hubby awaits with just a smile and a swagger? Here are some thoughts on sorting through our self-doubts, ladies.

He just likes naked. Whether you understand it or not, God has infused your husband with an appreciation of feminine beauty and especially nudity. As in, your nudity. The draw isn’t that you look like a supermodel. You don’t have to look like a supermodel. You are beautiful because you are all woman — which is entirely different from him and incredibly intriguing and arousing.

You have curves. You have breasts. You have softer flesh. You have tender, exciting places down below. Whether you also have ten extra pounds and some varicose veins doesn’t detract from all of the goodies he sees. We wives simply need to recognize that God created men to be visually excitable creatures, and your hubby is aroused and interested in your naked body. So show it off!

It’s the only body you have. You can spend your whole life wishing you were taller, shorter, curvier, thinner, fuller, flatter, lighter, darker, etc. But this is it — the body you have. And it’s a pretty good one. Hasn’t it served you well in many ways?

There are plenty of people with unusual challenges like paraplegia or malnutrition or terminal illness who would love to have the very body someone complains about all day long. Now I’m not trying to give you what-for just because you’re unhappy with some aspect of your body. That’s understandable, because we all have something we might want to change and the feelings that come with that simply are. But learning to appreciate what you have goes a long way toward being willing to share it with your husband.

Since this is your body, find ways to love it. Focus on your best features. Keep it healthy. Enhance what you can. Live in gratitude for your body. Get over thinking you want someone else’s, and intentionally learn to appreciate this one and only body you have.

Remember he ain’t perfect either. I find my husband very attractive, even though I objectively realize he will not be named People‘s Sexiest Man Alive any time soon. He’s my flavor of man, so I think he’s “the bomb.” Why not believe your hubby feels the same way about you?

He loves you and that impacts how he sees you — making your beauty shine and your flaws seem insignificant. Moreover, he recognizes you’re both aging, that wrinkles and gravity are taking their slow toll, and he doesn’t expect you to look like a 20 year old for the rest of your life. (Hey, some of us didn’t look our best at 20 anyway!) He knows you aren’t perfect, but he isn’t perfect either. But you still can be perfect for one another.

You’ve been through so much, what’s a little peep show? Honestly, this one has contributed a lot to my level of comfort around my husband. Truly, what’s the big deal about showing him my body after all we’ve been through together?

We’ve experienced the better and the worse, the richer and the poorer, the sickness and the health. We’ve seen each other at our strongest of times and our most vulnerable. We’ve nursed each other through stomach flu, surgeries, and grief. We are intimately connected in every other way, so why would I withhold this one way?

If you want that deep connection with your husband, you have to open yourself up. You have to trust him with your heart and with your body. You truly aren’t likely to have a fabulous marriage in every other aspect if you cannot also be vulnerable and open in the marriage bed. Chalk it up to one more thing that makes your relationship unique: You walk through life together in a way you don’t with anyone else, including the way you share your bodies with each other.

All of these deal with your attitude and approach to being naked with your husband. Next week, I’ll cover some specific tips on how to get over your trepidation and share your body more freely with your husband.

Are you comfortable being naked with your husband? If you’ve grown in this area, please share how you became more confident about sharing your body with him.