Where to Begin with Improving Your Marital Sexuality

Unmade bed

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Hello again on a Monday! For the time being, Mondays are the day I answer readers’ questions. Today’s question is from another Anonymous reader:

My hubby and I have been married for 4 years and just recently had our first child. Neither of us waited for sex until marriage, although it is something we regret. Before we were married and early on in our marriage, we had a great sex life. But over the last couple of years, it’s…dwindled a bit. More often lately, my husband complains that sex is boring for him, mostly because of a lack of variety in the bedroom. While I understand his issue, I also have one of my own: new positions often hurt and sometimes make me feel like I’m being used. Some positions hurt before pregnancy and childbirth, but even more do now that my body has been changed by having a baby. Our daughter is 4 months old and I’m breastfeeding, so I’m sure hormones play a part in this. I was also molested by my stepfather as a child (though he never forced intercourse) and my first sexual partner was very emotionally absent. I’m sure these play some sort of part in my issue as well, at least emotionally. I WANT things to get better, but I’m truly at a loss. Any advice?

Like many couples, there are various challenges to having a satisfying sex life. Specifically, this reader mentions:

  • Regret from engaging in premarital sex
  • Complaints from husband about lack of variety
  • Physical pain with certain sex positions
  • Emotional hurt from feeling used
  • Hormonal changes in her body
  • Painful memories regarding sex

Many of us have one or more of these issues to contend with at some point in marriage. I’ll tackle each issue briefly and then give a prescription for where to begin improving marital intimacy — even when several obstacles are present.

Regret from engaging in premarital sex. Not starting out on the right foot can lead us down the path of feeling guilty or believing that we are getting payback when our marital sex life is flailing. I have definitely spent some time wallowing in regret for my past sins. However, God’s desire is that we confess our sins, choose His path instead, and receive forgiveness. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 says in part: “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers…will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

So you messed up. A lot of us do. But God is in the business of taking imperfect situations and turning them into good (Genesis 45:5, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28). When a woman was caught in adultery, Jesus did not say, “Go now and wallow in your sins and regret for years.” No, he simply said, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).

You are now in a marriage blessed by God, seeking out His will for intimacy with your spouse. There are consequences to entering marriage with a sexual past, but God wants to heal you and bless you both. Let Him do so. (See The Gospel in the Bedroom.)

Complaints from husband about lack of variety. I am perplexed by your husband’s statement that “sex is boring.” I wonder what variety he desires because some husbands may be looking for more frequency and participation from their wife while others use this statement to get their wife to try something edgy they’ve seen in porn. A lack-of-variety complaint can run the gamut for what we’re talking about here.

Variety for variety’s sake isn’t all that appealing to me. However, variety can provide new sensations and connection, and that is attractive. Variety can come through different positioning, different locations, what you wear, setting the scene, and even the use of sex toys or props. If the request for variety includes activities that are questionable or simply off-limits to you, however, you need to negotiate.

Find out what kind of variety would work for you both and introduce small changes. Most of us won’t do something way out of our comfort zone, but we will incorporate something new here and there until our repertoire has expanded over time.

Physical pain with certain sex positions. Thankfully, there are many positions. You can adjust a position feels sometimes by shifting your limbs or hips to get more comfortable. However, when you’re getting back in the saddle after childbirth, many wives report desiring more control over how the husband enters. The woman-on-top position may be preferable for that reason.

I suggest you talk it out as you engage in sex. Try to avoid the “you’re hurting me!” scream in the midst of intercourse and opt for something positive like, “Let me shift and see if I can get more comfortable” or “That hurts. Can we try ____?” Also use lubricant if you need it.

Emotional hurt from feeling used. All too often, husbands give the impression that they need sex from their wives like they need food from the drive-through. Some wives feel like a receptacle for their husband’s sexual satisfaction, and for almost all husbands, it is so much more than that.

Sex is how a majority of men feel emotionally bonded to their wives. That sounds crazy to us women who must feel emotionally bonded to have sex. However, it’s true. I don’t know your husband, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that he wants to have hot sex with you because he loves you, not simply because he wants to ejaculate in some chick. You are not just anyone; you are his wife, the mother of his child, the woman he chose to spend his life with.

So what can you do when your husband’s advances feel like you’re being used? Ask what having sex means for him as far as your relationship is concerned. Also, express what you need from the your marital intimacy. Speak up for what feels good, what you want from the experience, and how you need to be cherished.

Hormonal changes in your body. The worst time in my married sex life was when I was breastfeeding. I loved nursing my kids, but it wreaked havoc with my sex drive and ability to lubricate. I later discovered I was extremely low on estrogen, and a cream from my obstetrician  drastically helped with the pain of intercourse post-childbirth. I still struggled with drive, though.

If I had it to do again, I would talk to my OB more about my sex life. Your doctor can help address how your hormones are affecting your marital intimacy. Be specific and don’t accept the “well, it takes a while for sex to get going” response. This is your body and this is your family: Insist on doing what you can to help balance the needs of you, your baby, and your husband.

Painful memories regarding sex. Of all the things I hear about sex, this is the one that gets steam to come out of my ears. Sexually assaulting a child is absolutely unconscionable to me, but my belief is that God will deal with those people.

Sexual assault weaves together the body’s sexual parts with feelings of pain and hurt, and that imprint can linger for a long time. My advice is two-fold: (1) get professional help through counseling or healing resources because that scar remains and needs to be dealt with; and (2) create new memories that counter the bad, old ones, thus retraining your body that sexuality is a good thing in a covenant marriage relationship. Remember that you are not to blame for what happened, and your body is now a beautiful gift you give to your spouse.

So should a couple simply knock these out one at a time? Yes, but quality sexual intimacy in marriage isn’t merely about removing obstacles. You should set forward-looking goals for what you want your sex life to be.

Sit down (outside of the bedroom) and discuss with your husband what you want for your sex life  and invite him to explain what he wants. Try to be specific. How often? What things would you like to try? What do you most enjoy about your time together? What does having sex mean to you? How does it feel when you are pursued, welcomed, or rejected in the bedroom?

Lay out your desires as openly as possible, not placing demands on your spouse or complaining about past hurts, but looking toward a positive future together. You don’t have to agree on every single point to have terrific marital intimacy. I can almost guarantee that one of you will want to have sex more often than the other and that one of you will want to try something the other doesn’t want to do.

That’s okay. A healthy sex life as God intended is not about selfishly meeting your own desires but building an intimate physical relationship with your spouse. There will be give-and-take and live-and-learn. But by expressing your desires, you can start to see where you and your husband have the same goals, how you can work toward meeting his needs and desires, and express that you are interested in good sex and what that looks like to you. Then you can evaluate which of the above obstacles need to be addressed immediately and discuss how to address them.

Seek resources to deal with each issue, set up a plan to work toward your dream sex life, and celebrate progress as you go. One of the absolute best parts of God’s plan for sexuality in marriage is that you should have plenty of time to work on developing physical intimacy with one another.

Blessings for a beautiful life of intimacy!

7 thoughts on “Where to Begin with Improving Your Marital Sexuality

    1. J

      I’m polling some fellow marriage bloggers for resources they are aware of, so I’ll expand my answer later. However, I did find some helpful information online. I know there are organizations that assist with childhood abuse survivor healing, counselors who specialize in this topic (which would require local research), but there are some resources listed on this website: http://www.achristianhome.com/pamela's_thoughts/ChildhoodSexualAbuse.htm. I’m not familiar with A Christian Home, but the links looked good. Just be discerning. The book I also found recommended more than any other was The Wounded Heart by Dan Allender. Wish I could send it to you!

      I’ll follow up with more info later. Blessings, Jennifer!

  1. Jenny

    A wonderful book I found is “When A Man You Love Was Abused: A Woman’s Guide to Helping Him Overcome Childhood Sexual Molestation” by Cecil Murphey. It will make you cry the whole way through it, but it’s extremely helpful. I had looked at a couple of other books before I found that one, but I would only recommend the one by Murphey. He has a website, too, for men: http://shatteringthesilence.wordpress.com.

  2. Anonymous

    In regards to the pain with intercourse, this may be another conversation to have with a professional. There are physical therapists that specialize in this area. My wife was still experiencing stabbing pain with any activity 2 1/2 years after our daughter was born but her OB kept telling her “It takes time.” Like J said, don’t settle for that. It took doing some internal stretches in the end but now she is more comforable than ever before.

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