Working Through Physical Pain in the Marriage Bed

Well, tickle me happy! One of the marriage advocates I most admire is here today: Jolene Engle of Christian Wife University. And she’s talking about an important topic for many of you wives: physical pain in sex. Here’s her story and insight.

Working through Pain Guest Post by Jolene Engle

Not long after I became a Christian, I met and married my husband. We remained pure until our wedding night because we wanted to honor and obey the Lord with all aspects of our lives. Now, I’ve got to tell you, I. could. not. wait. to have sex with my new husband!

You should have seen me at my wedding reception. I ate my dinner fast and I ate my wedding cake fast. This new wife was looking to leave the party as soon as possible so I could head to our honeymoon!

But sex…it’s been a complicated thing for me. From dealing with the emotional baggage from a promiscuous past, to a low sex-drive (I entered into peri-menopause when I was 32), and then having physical pain when I had sex with my husband. This gal was not happy about the limitations and obstacles faced in the marriage bed!

It was just one month after our wedding day when the simplicity of our sexual intimacy died down. I received news from my doctor that I had precancerous cells of my cervix and surgery was now scheduled on my calendar. I eventually recovered from this, but what I didn’t know was that there was a storm up ahead that would sweep through our marriage bed.

It was less than two years later when we welcomed our firstborn son into the world, and that’s when the gale force winds of pain and infections swept through my body. After giving birth, I dealt with a gone wrong episiotomy and a prolapsed uterus which made sex extremely painful. When my next son entered the world, my body broke down even more. Each month I had rupturing ovarian cysts, and I dealt with depression due to my hormonal imbalances. My body was riddled with infections, and one infection invaded my private parts and stayed there for well over a year. The doctors had no answers. Vaginal Inflammation. Chronic Infections. Rupturing cysts. This was my way of life for so many years.

I was chronically ill, but I was also chronically seeking to connect with my husband. I didn’t want to deprive him because of what my body was going through. I believe this attitude helped my husband to be chronically understanding, gentle, and loving toward me. My health problems, the problems that the Lord allowed in our marriage, forced my husband to live out his biblical command to love me like Christ loved the church. He had to put that verse into action in the marriage bed!

If you’re dealing with physical pain, here are my tips:

  • Be intentional to pursue intimacy even when there is pain. (This doesn’t mean you have to have intercourse.) You can be Sex Savvy, as J has taught, and you can be creative in spite of your issues. This shows your husband that you still desire him regardless of your limitations. And let’s face it, some intimacy is better than no intimacy. Of course go slow and relax! The goal is connecting with your husband.
  • Work hard to find a solution to your problem. Become your own advocate in dealing with your health. Go to doctor after doctor after doctor until you find a solution. Read books. Eat special diets. (This helped with my inflammation.) Dig high and low to find answers and remedies to help you. The health of your marriage depends on your diligence! I found that when I did this, my man saw I meant serious business that our physical intimacy was important to me. And I believe my physical weaknesses helped him to live out 1 Peter 3:7: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
  • Don’t invite Satan into your marriage bed by turning to porn or reading erotica novels in the hopes that these things will fix your intimacy issues. These choices will just compound your problems by fracturing your emotional and spiritual intimacy. Keep in mind that God is allowing the physical limitations to take place in your body and He is the Great Physician. He can heal you at any time. Have faith. Have hope, and always choose a God-honoring path in your marriage bed. (If you’ve taken a wrong turn, just repent and get back on the narrow path.)
  • Use coconut oil. The lubrication will help your sexual experience, and since coconut oil is natural it shouldn’t cause any burning or irritation to your skin. Just make sure you’re not allergic to it! Test it on another part of your body, first.

It’s been almost 17 years now since I said, ‘I do’ to my man. We’ve endured a lot, but we’ve worked hard to try to fix my issues because our physical intimacy is important to our marriage. As I look back over all these year, it felt like my marriage bed was ravaged by the locusts, but my God (and yours) says this…”So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten” (Joel 2:25).

Fight for your physical intimacy rather than neglect it. You’ll be surprised by how much your determination will make a positive impact on your marital relationship. You’ll come out of this trial even stronger and closer as a couple.

Jolene EngleJolene was once an atheist who is now sold-out for Jesus Christ. Her heart beats fast for discipling women and you’ll find her doing just that at JoleneEngle.com. She is also the founder of Christian Wife University where she helps wives connect the dots from their reality to the Christ-centered marriage they long for and the one God intended.

Jolene and her husband, Eric, run a weekly podcast called, What’s a Girl to Do? where they provide biblical guidance for women and wives. She is also the author of the book and bible study, Wives of the Bible.

19 thoughts on “Working Through Physical Pain in the Marriage Bed

  1. Rebekah

    “I was chronically ill, but I was also chronically seeking to connect with my husband. I didn’t want to deprive him because of what my body was going through. I believe this attitude helped my husband to be chronically understanding, gentle, and loving toward me. ”

    Love this! This was what my husband and I missed in the first few years of marriage, and now it is exactly what makes times if difficulty bearable and even fruitful now. It is beautiful maturity from both spouses; giving service and understanding that smooth the hardest bumps. I think this advice is what more COUPLES need to hear instead of the usual, “just do it anyway” advice. Real marriage is mutual sacrifice and service!

      1. Anonymous

        I was chronically Ill dealing. With severe Pain and chronic respitory. I thought. My husband. Understand but. the things. he say make me fill like im a burdene to him. I told how he makes me feel.

  2. Aimee Imbeau

    I can relate to your story…my husband and I had to deal with issues from childhood trauma. But you are so right, He does restore – He gives back what the locusts ate and so much more!! But it requires work on our part. Sometimes a lot of work. But the intimacy experienced is so worth it. To be whole in every way, including sexually whole, is what our Saviour desires for us.
    I appreciate this post more than you know.

    1. Jolene @Christian Wife University

      Aimee, you are so right about it taking A LOT of work! There were many days, weeks, and months through my 10 yr. of chronic ill-health journey that all I wanted to do was cry. And many times I did. But I also fought! I think that is the key to any thriving marriage, whether there is physical pain or emotional pain from past experiences. I think when we take the perspective of, ‘God is in this and we can get through this’ attitude, that is when the marriage gets stronger. Glad to hear what I shared ministered to you. To God be the glory!

  3. Stephanie

    im so glad I found your article on Pinterest! My husband and I married late (34&35), first time marriage for both. We have been married 10 years. The first year, I got pregnant and our son passed after 30 days. Then 5 miscarriages and a wonderfully successful adoption. Our son was a few months shy of 2 when I fell down the stairs and broke my ankle. Something in that fall kick a hidden autoimmune cocktail into high gear. Our son is 4, and I have RA, fibromyalgia and sjrogens. I am on heavy pain meds daily and to say there have been physical pain issues in the bedroom is an understatement! I am praying for guidance and my husband is so understanding. He does so much and never complains. It seems we start to get it figured out and then another round of pain/sickness makes it impossible.
    Sorry for the long post! I truly just wanted to say thanks!

    1. Jolene @Christian Wife University

      Hi Stephanie,
      Wow, you’ve been through a lot! God’s got some great plans to use your mess for a beautiful message! I totally understand where you’re coming from as I live with lupus, fibro, sjorgren’s and a virus. My immune system was totally depleted for about 8 years of my journey. We’ve gotten it stronger but I still live with limitations. But those limitations force me to be God-reliant and God-sufficient rather than self-reliant and self-sufficient. As you know, this is not an easy path, but it is a path that will draw us closer to our Savior. Stay strong sister!

  4. Misty

    Just wanted to say that reading this made me realize that I am not alone and there can still be intimacy with chronic pain. Your blog really has given me hope. Thank you so much.

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  6. M

    I also have a lot of physical issues from MS to a complete hysterectomy at 29 for cancer and recurring ovarian cysts. I have a blood clot disorder that keeps me from using hormones to help with my menopausal issues. My husband is also one of the millions of men who suffer from low testosterone. We are getting help, but we’ve not been able to have physical intimacy in over 4 years. We will be celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary next month. We are closer than ever because we put a priority on being intimate. Intimacy doesn’t have to be purely physical. We love to be with each other, and there’s no one else we’d rather spend time with or talk about. We both read extensively and foster conversations about anything and everything. I also try to be as pretty as possible for my darling husband. Yes, I feel horrible most of the time, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t look pretty. No ugly dingy white underwear that my grandmother wouldn’t even wear. Pretty tank tops and pj pants. I take care of my skin and use cosmetics to cover my dark under eye circles and pale face that makes people stop me in public to ask if I’m ok. My husband is the person I want to impress the most. He appreciates my efforts. We do things for each other. I can no longer clean or cook much, but my husband reassures me that it’s my company that he wants, not the chores that I used to do. I listen to him and rest during the day so I can feel well enough to talk to him at night and do something with him. I used to think that my home and meals should rival Martha Stewart’s because my self worth was tied up in how amazing a wife I could be. While my husband does share my love of cooking, all the other tasks just weren’t important. The most important aspect of keeping our relationship intimacy is being honest with each other and telling the person what we need. The 5 Love Languages is the best instruction manual to help us articulate how we feel the most loved. I, like a lot of women, felt like I shouldn’t have to tell my husband what I wanted. My husband WANTS to please me, but he’s not a woman and doesn’t pick up signals like women do. I don’t always understand what he wants either. I used to feel so bad that my dh didn’t put as big a priority on gifts as I did. That’s not how he feels love. Now that I’ve told him that it’s how *I* feel loved, he gets so excited to surprise me with flowers as well as other gifts–he’s even picked out handbags for me–knowing my taste better than I do. It shows that he really *does* pay attention, but he didn’t feel confident enough to try to please me until I stopped criticising what he did do for me. Dh’s love language is acts of service and being thanked for what he does. I’ve cleaned the kitchen for him, and I try to catch him doing chores and give him a huge hug and kiss and tell him how much that means to me. By his reaction, you’d think I bought him a sports car. I also “flash” my husband. Yes, I lift up my shirt and let him watch me get dressed. I think body image is Satan’s biggest tool in keeping Christian couples from enjoying the sex lives that God intended. My dh tells me that my body is perfect, and he loves every single inch of it. Not believing him was very hurtful to him and to our relationship. Instead of hiding my body and not letting my husband enjoy it, I believed him when he said I was beautiful. His opinion is the one that matters the most to me, anyway. I walk differently in public. I dress modestly, but I also dress attractively, like the Proverbs 31 woman who clothed her family in scarlet–the best clothing she could find. My dh gave me the best compliment recently, by telling me that my positive and grateful attitude was what made him want to race home and spend time with me. He treats me like a queen because I treat him like my king. We still squabble and are far from perfect, but we have prioritized our marriage as the outward example of Christ’s work in our hearts. We can’t wait to be able to get our physical relationship back to what we enjoyed as newlyweds, and we know that our sex will be better than ever because we truly know and like each other. As my grandmother would remind me: Life can make you bitter, or it can make you better. I am so thankful for God’s love and instruction so we can make our lives better.

    1. J Post author

      There’s so much beauty in your comment. Thanks for sharing it. Blessings to you and your marriage!

    2. virginia

      Your comment has given me more hope. I’m sorry to hear about your health & at the same time it’s reassuring to know that you & your hubby have been able to stay together through this. Everything I’ve read about couples when one becomes chronically ill is so negative. I struggle with fibromyalgia, depression and many add’l issues & am unable to do most of the things I used to. My sweet husband has been more than supportive & so loving & taken over household chores & all of the cooking. You’ve given me more ideas to focus on intamicy & for that I thank you!

  7. virginia

    I thank you so very much for this post! I deal with chronic pain & intimacy is not what it used to be. My relationship with my amazing hubby is 2nd only to my relationship with the Lord. He means so much to me & I know that physical intimacy is an important part of our relationship. Again, thank you for all of the tips & encouragement!

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  9. Bri

    Thankful I found this. Tears are streaming down my face. My husband and I married right out of college just over a year ago and I started the battle against my chronic illness before we started dating. He has been my biggest support and to this day I can’t believe he chose this life. As if the guilt was not enough, intimacy pain has been an issue for us since our wedding night. Being a young bride, I felt very alone. Reading your posts and the comments have blessed me in so many ways. I thank you for your vulnerability and faithfulness.

  10. Rachel

    I am a 12-year survivor of breast cancer. I had a bilateral mastectomy and complete hysterectomy. Since the cancer was fueled by esyrogen, that isn’t an option. On top of that, I had a sexual sin decades ago for which I never forgave myself until tonight after a frank conversation with my husband, my soulmate of 29 years.
    Body image issues? Check.
    Ongoing health/pain issues? Check.
    Thanks for the article/testimony. Praise God I found this!

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