Two to Tango, Two to Change Your Sexual Intimacy

Couple dancingSome wives admit to mishandling sexual intimacy in their marriage and now want to make a change. In fact, they’ve started changing. They are approaching the marriage bed with a better attitude and attempting to make behavioral adjustments that show a greater willingness to work on physical intimacy.

So why isn’t it working? Why is he not responding with enthusiasm? Didn’t he say that’s what he wanted?

I’d been meaning to talk about this subject and then Sheila Gregoire wrote a wonderful post on How Do You Reset Your Sex Life? I encourage you to read it.

But I also recently addressed this with a reader who shared her own story. And my answer included this tidbit:

From what I’ve seen, making a change requires time for both parties:

  • One spouse decides to change, but needs time and intentionality and practice to create a new habit.
  • Then the other spouse needs time and repeated confirmation to believe that this change is real and permanent.

I suspect couples give up too soon on one or the other of these…before the positive effects of a new approach can be felt and appreciated.

The spouse who changes. This is the first part of any lasting change — the spouse who decides to change their dance steps. It can be either spouse and it can be in any way that affects the marriage bed. Maybe the wife has been a sexual refuser. Maybe the husband has neglected affection and romance. Maybe the wife has withheld letting her husband see her body. Maybe the husband has been watching pornography or even playing video games instead of making love with his wife. It can be any infraction — small to large — that a spouse now realizes she should change.

So the change begins. This is difficult stuff, because it typically involves a shift in both attitude and behavior. When you first try to break out of the mold and do something different, it can feel awkward and vulnerable. But you give it your best shot, alter your approach, and step out of your comfort zone.

It won’t be enough to do this once or twice, though. If you want to change the sexual intimacy in your marriage, you have to create a new habit. You have to practice this new attitude and behavior until it becomes a part of you and your marriage. And it can be easy to give up too soon.

Like trying out new dance moves, you can stumble your first time out. You might feel “sore” emotionally (or even physically) afterward. Your commitment can waiver. Is this really such a good idea? How quickly can I reap the reward? Is this worth the extra effort?

Here’s the tough Christian truth: Whether or not your spouse ever responds appropriately to your more godly attitude toward sexual intimacy, you still have the obligation to do what’s right for your marriage. It’s the example set by Jesus — to love and put others first (see Philippians 2:1-11 and 1 John 4:19).

Hang in there and keep going when you’ve decided to make the right change. God will bless you for your faithfulness, although it may be in unexpected ways. However, your marriage may simply need time to adjust to the new you to begin to live into more God-honoring sexual intimacy.

The spouses who responds. Just as one dance partner can change steps, the other may choose to follow or stay put. If your spouse has suddenly changed, it can be unsettling. Your first response might be eagerness and encouragement, but it could also be nervousness and suspicion.

After all, why the change? Are they trying to manipulate you for some other purpose? Is there something they’re hiding? Is this simply a fluke? You may want to tamp down any excitement, because you can’t stand the thought of falling so hard again; you’ve had your hopes up before, and having them dashed is too painful. As Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

It usually takes time for the receiving spouse to believe this change is really happening, that it’s not for some ulterior motive, that it could become permanent. Experts say it takes maybe 28 days to create a new habit, and maybe it takes that many times of your husband not rejecting you or your wife trying different positions or activities to believe that a shift has really occurred.

So what’s your Christian duty here? Be patient, loving, forgiving. Realize that your spouse is trying to change and help them through. It may not be a seamless transition to a new pattern of sexual intimacy for your marriage. Your wife or husband may mess up, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sincere or that you won’t reach a better destination together. It can be a struggle to stick with it, but in Luke 17:14 Jesus says, “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” So your job is to hang in there with your spouse, continuing to be the husband or wife you should be.

Changing together. I truly believe many couples give up too soon along this journey. We’re impatient to receive the rewards of our efforts. Maybe that’s why there are so many farming references in the Bible about sowing and reaping! People in an agricultural society would have certainly understood the time-lapse between planting and harvest — and in between, cultivation and care are needed.

My own analogy has been dance steps. It takes two to tango and two to change. If one of you introduces new dance steps, it takes a bit for the other to pick up on them. And then it takes even more time to practice the dance and make it part of your repertoire. The change isn’t immediate. It takes time.

But in a covenant marriage, you have time. Use it.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Another recommended article on this topic: I‘m Changing But My Husband Doesn’t Seem to Notice from Forgiven Wife

4 thoughts on “Two to Tango, Two to Change Your Sexual Intimacy

  1. Dan

    If the “habit” you wish to establish is more sex more often, then more frequent sex would be the effective thing to do. After “28” days the change would become habit, as in part of your preferred sexual behavior.

    The problem lies in when the wanted change rises from a personal preference or desire. Using a physically benign example, lets say you want your wife to wear some specific things: lingerie, thigh highs, heels, boots, a role playing costume, a scarf, gloves, jewelry, a cap or hat, whatever. We will assume these are not rooted in fetish for the moment. The needed frequency to establish the desired behavior as habit becomes a more difficult thing to accomplish. Perhaps not so much so with jewelry or a scarf, but it could with bulkier items that dictate or restrict movement, position. or personal comfort. Putting on the jack boots and leather corset every other night to become comfortable with it and cpuld be less than fun. I realize the example is a little extreme, but the point is certain things may be more difficult to repeat to the point of comfort and adoption than others. If you try the corset three times out of ten or fifteen which could span over two months or better in some marriages, was that really often enough and occuring closely enough for a fair go at it. Particularly with clothing or other wearable items, would some other style, fabric or brand fit, feel and perform better. In the course of trying anything, you may need to make mid-course corrections, which could restart the cycle all over again. Like J says, “But in a covenant marriage, you have time. Use it.”

    Wives, I am not ignoring you desiring change in your husbands’ behaviors with the gender limiting example above, I just don’t feel qualified to speak as a wife for some odd reason. :)

    Reply
  2. Bonny Logsdon Burns

    Exactly, J! I love the farming analogy (and this time of year there is a lot of ‘action’ in the barnyard). It takes time to accomplish harmony in the dance steps. Communication is key, here, too. Talk with your spouse continually during the cultivation process. Persistence builds hope and continual persistence grows into a beautiful intimate relationship! Like you said, J, don’t give up too soon!! Our personal journey took about two years to reach the point where were could tango backwards and forwards without stepping on each other’s toes.

    Reply
  3. RT

    Hello J,

    Thanks again for a good post. I liked the post from TLHV as well. You gave a reply to that post that included this quote:

    —-This is a quote that gets to the heart of a man’s pain in a poor sex/sexless marriage.
    “She isn’t just denying him sex, she is in a profound way denying that he is her husband, and thereby denying the very existence of the marriage. Men understand this intuitively, which is why a persistently denying wife is so disturbing to men; they know what this means even if they can’t articulate it.”—-

    What was the source of that particular quote?

    Reply
  4. Bruce

    If only my wife would read this and believe it is possible for us to find a way to make sex mutually satisfying. I can’t even bring the subject up without it becoming a 2-hour exhausting conversation rehashing our awful sexual history. It always ends with her saying “I’m trying” but then she never follows through or even makes an effort to pretend I am anything but her very last priority. I am trying to have hope but Just feel drained emotionally. All my best efforts and prayers just seem futile. For the sake of my children and my covenant I cannot end the marriage but oh how I long for my wife’s love and affection!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>