Do Your Spouse’s Sexual Problems Feel Personal?

In the 3 1/2 years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve become even more convinced: For the majority of people who don’t respond to sex in healthy ways, it’s not about their spouse — it’s about them. That is, it isn’t personal.

For instance, the woman who was molested as a child and now doesn’t want anything to do with sex would likely feel that way no matter whom she married. The same for the husband with a porn addiction, the low-libido / no-libido spouse, the wife who had sex-is-dirty teaching, etc.

But here’s another reality: It feels personal.

Drawn heart w/crackAfter all, this is your body, your marriage, and your marriage bed, for heaven’s sake! How can it not feel personal? It’s hard not to get ruffled and riled up — which adds to the challenge of resolving the sexual intimacy issue.

For example, even if a husband knows his wife’s resistance to unveiling her body has more to do with her own insecurities, he’s lost that viewing pleasure and sense of intimacy. So he starts to talk to his wife about the issue, but it quickly turns from reassurance to frustration to pleading to anger to resentment. Because yeah, it feels personal.

And there’s often an ongoing cycle of other’s core problem –> feels personal –> emotional pain response — > conflict or avoidance of problem . . . Which can go on for minutes, days, weeks, months, and even years in a marriage.

So how can we break out of the cycle? How can we adopt a better approach to the core sexual intimacy issue?

Engraving of Jesus healing paralyzed man

Jesus heals paralyzed man brought by four friends; Bernhard Rode via Wikimedia Commons

Pray for your spouse. Bringing someone else’s issues to the throne of God reminds you of your role. You are a mat-carrier, not the Healer. (See Luke 5:17-26.) Continue to bring your beloved’s name and issues before God and then pray for a change in his heart, a desire to seek help and healing, your own patience and wisdom, and the Spirit’s guidance in knowing what to do — what that “mat” should look like in your marriage.

Reconsider your approach. That’s exactly what the four friends of a paralyzed man did when they brought him to see Jesus and couldn’t get through the door of a crowded house. Wouldn’t it have been ridiculous for them to keep shoving against people at the front door and running into the same wall of not-gonna-happen? If what you’ve done for the last three years regarding the issue hasn’t moved the needle a millimeter, or has made things worse, why are you still doing it?

I don’t know what shift your particular situation needs, but ask what you’ve been doing and how it’s going. A good starting place is whether you’re meeting the standard of loving your spouse according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Are you approaching your spouse with agape love? Maybe you can make headway coming from another angle or find a better way to cope.

Find support. Whatever the issue in your marriage, I’m willing to bet you’re not alone. Some other spouse faced the same thing — and figured it out. There’s encouragement and wisdom among God’s people, so look for those who will support you in making positive progress.

Many situations seem hopeless right now (mine did at one time), but if you could see ten years down the road, you’d know there’s a revival coming. I can’t make guarantees, but I hear the testimonies fairly often and I have my own story. Look for people and resources to assist your journey toward healing and reconnection in your marriage.

Enjoy what’s going well. We tend to notice the thing that’s not right and dwell exclusively on that. Sometimes our marriage looks like this:

Pencil tips (6 sharpened, 1 broken)

And all we see is that one broken part.

Of course, a sexual intimacy problem is not a broken pencil tip. It’s way bigger than that. However, putting all of your focus on the one thing that’s wrong can give you a poor perspective of the whole and make your beloved less willing to deal with the issue. After all, if there doesn’t seem to be anything good happening in your marriage, why work on the sex stuff?

Nurture and appreciate what’s right in your marriage — the sharpened tips — and then work on what’s wrong. Take inventory of what you treasure about your spouse and your relationship and delight in that, while still addressing the issues you face. You’ll likely find yourselves having more energy and incentive to work on the problem parts when you appreciate the whole.

Remind yourself often of the we. You probably won’t get any breakthroughs or progress as long as you’re both hunkered down in the it’s-personal perspective. Instead, you get caught up listening to your own feelings instead of listening to your spouse, you become over-sensitive to anything your spouse does that exacerbates the problem, you start wondering if this person was the right pick to begin with, and/or you withdraw your heart entirely from the equation. Not a good place to be.

Yes, the problem may primarily rest with one spouse, but you’re on the same team. Marriage is a we thing. Remember “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 HCSB), but only if they’re working together, not against each other. Even better is letting God weave himself through your marriage, for “A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:11). Let the we be you, your spouse, and the Lord.

Does your spouse’s sexual problem feel personal? It does affect you personally. No doubt about that. But try to move beyond your emotional wounds and begin the healing of your marital intimacy.

9 thoughts on “Do Your Spouse’s Sexual Problems Feel Personal?

  1. MHMC

    I’m a wife dealing with sexual rejection. It is painful. Even when I do remind myself that the issue is not me, but goes much deeper, I still have a hard time reconciling the fact that I am not “wanted” or “desired”. A woman wants to be pursued and cherished. That doesn’t happen with a spouse who wants nothing to do with sex. Sex is usually a barometer for how the rest of the relationship is going. When there is no sex, there can be a breakdown in all other areas of the marriage. Resentment settles in quickly, and prayer is the only thing to keep one from getting bitter. Dealing with the issue is not always an option, as the spouse who is uninterested tends to take it personally whenever it is brought up. In the course of the marriage, the approach has changed many times, but always the same response. “No”. In SOME cases, this is not a physical problem, but a mental one, and if you are dealing with a passive aggressive spouse, the denial of intimacy is used as a weapon- punishment- for something you did (or didn’t do). But with passive aggressive people, they won’t tell you what you did wrong. They just go on punishing you until they need something from you. So, I continue in a marriage, where my needs are never met, constantly look for ways to please my husband . And even though I feel neglected, lonely, and rejected, that one time he wants to be with me makes me feel like I did something right- only to wonder what it was I did that made him “happy”. I stay because I am committed to the marriage, and because of my faith in Christ. But if I did not have the assurance that God can do all things, even heal my marriage, I would not stay. It is torture.

    1. B

      I have the same problem only opposite sex….My wife would not even commit on our honeymoon night….over 20 years of rejection…..the problem is now there is at least some sex..but it is without passion or variety….I find myself at this point because of the bitterness wanting to reject that from my spouse….I have forgiven…….but the frustration and anger won’t go away……I know Jesus plan for my marriage is not misery…

  2. Bob

    I found your website today. Today we have been married 37 years. GOD’S timing is perfect! I have been struggling with the feelings of rejection… pain… lots of pain… My wife was abused by her dad from about age 7 until about 20. As you guess, this has efffected how she feels about intimacy. Over that past 4 years I have been dealing with performace issuses – partly due to prostrate issues (some surgury) and partly due to fear of performance. My wife tells me to just have sex when I want it – I tell her that is not much different than what happened to her as a child – it would be so much like rape. we we do have sex, she asks how much longer will this take? OUCH! So many other issues! We have been to seperate councilors, My help me understand that I have to being willing to even DIE for MY WIFE.
    I long for the time when she understands sex is not dirty – but a true gift from GOD. I long for the day that we can have a truely enjoyable time of physical intimacy.
    But today you have helped me refocus my prayers. I used to pray for GOD to help me to nbe true, to help me have a normal sex life, and at other times to take away my desire. I LOVE my wife so much …. but it still hurts so much! Today I will start praying for GOD to help her understand what happened to her was not her fault and for GOD’S will to take place concerning our intimacy.

  3. K

    Several of the comments above mention praying for their wives b/c of previous abuse. As a survivor od childhood abuse, I can tell you that there is a light at the end of this long and dark tunnel. The inner turmoil may involve misplaced feelings of guilt or shame, or it may be memories that flood back. Patience and prayer are the best gifts you can give your wives as they work their way through this. Kuddos gentlemen!

  4. rejected?

    I have debated posting this for several days…. but here goes.
    My husband and I have a committed marriage, but an ugly specter keeps popping up -porn. He enjoys porn , I don’t. He is trying very hard to curb the habit because ofmour Christian beliefs and howmhis viewing effects me. I feel rejected, hopelessly ugly compared to the women on the sites, and less sexual as a result. He still has a desire for me, compliments me on how sexy I am, but my inner voice still says I’m not good enough. Help!

  5. Paul Byerly

    rejected? – I understand how hard it is to believe, but honestly this is all about him and has nothing to do with you. He uses porn because something is broken in him, not because of how you look or what you do with him sexually.
    I pray the Lord will help you to accept and live this truth. It will not change your husband’s desire for porn, but it will mean his choice to sin will not hurt you so much.
    Blessings

  6. Pingback: 3 Attitude Shifts That Vastly Improved My Marriage Happiness | Hot, Holy & Humorous

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