Q&A with J: Is It Possible to Have a Great Marriage (and Sex) Long Term?

When I read this question, I immediately knew I had to cover it. Because while the wife describes her specific situation, this is an all-too-common problem.

So my husband and I have only been married about 1 1/2 years. Lately when I’ve been visiting with other married women from church/Sunday school, they complain constantly about their husbands. If I try to say something nice about my husband, it’s met with “you’re newlyweds…just wait.” Its usually followed by an eye roll and a “husband’s just don’t understand” topped off with “I wish he would do”and ” I have no libido.” I know the honeymoon wears off eventually. But I guess I need encouragement that you can still love each other, have sex, and enjoy one another ten years down the road. I don’t want to dread my future marriage, but that’s what I’ve started doing and it’s started to affect the way I treat hubby. I want to start now to invest in the future so we CAN have a good marriage later. I guess I feel like maybe it’s not possible. Thoughts?

Isn’t that so sad? Didn’t your heart just sink at the thought of this young wife standing among Christian women who could be mentors, as Titus 2:3-5 prescribes, and instead they’re bashing their husbands and dismissing this wife’s desire to stay in Christ-like love with her husband.

Title with silhouette of embracing couple and sunset in background

Let me say emphatically to you, reader, Yes! You “can still love each other, have sex, and enjoy one another ten years down the road.” And 20 years down the road. And 30, and 40, and…

Is marriage without challenges? Of course not. You’re a sinner, and he’s a sinner, and you just merged your lives — with that equation, something will go wrong at some point. But it is more than possible to have a holy, healthy, and happy marriage. And wouldn’t you think the Church would be the one place where this would be announced from the rooftops?

It is more than possible to have a holy, healthy, and happy marriage. Click To Tweet

After all, Christ himself, when asked about the stiff requirements of salvation, responded, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible” (Matthew 19:26). Shouldn’t we be saying, “With God, a beautiful, intimate marriage is absolutely possible”?

Look, my own marriage hasn’t always been happy, but we’re definitely happy now and we’ve passed that 20-year mark. And I could name many couples who are also happy, committed, and, quite frankly, having sex like bunnies. No, I don’t know all the details, but I have conversations with enough wives and hear from enough spouses through this blog to guarantee that plenty of marriages are not just surviving, but thriving. Even those who’ve been married for decades.

Statistics support this as well. In Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, The Good News about Marriage, she explains how the “half of marriage end in divorce” claim is complete bunk, based entirely on projections that turned out to be wrong. About two-thirds of couples stay together, and among those, statistics show that spouses are largely happy. The University of Chicago NORC posts annual findings on Trends in Psychological Well-Being, and in the latest year reported, 2014, spouses who reported being either “very happy” or “pretty happy” comprised a whopping 96.5%.

Now research also shows that marital satisfaction dips after you have children. That isn’t true for everyone, of course. But I’d feel remiss if I didn’t warn you that bringing a child into your home — if that’s something you and your husband plan to do — can temporarily affect your happiness. It’s not that you don’t adore your children and feel happy to have them in your life; it’s just that there’s stress, exhaustion, differences in parenting styles, etc. that go along with having children. However, if you know where the treacherous waters are, you might well be able to avoid them by being intentional in supporting one another.

As for sex, Sheila Gregoire reported in her excellent book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, that wives had their best sexual intimacy long after they were newlyweds. Not to discount what you’re enjoying right now (enjoy it, sweetheart!), but a decade or two into your marriage, you’ll know each other’s bodies even more and have a history of sexual intimacy that makes you feel even more connected. Quantity of sexual interaction often decreases, but quality increases.

So with all this good news, why are women in church standing around bashing their husbands and shushing the one wife trying to be positive?

I’ve been in that circle with those women. Not your particular women, but wives like that. Here’s how they typically work: One wife says something disparaging about her husband, and another wife is quick to jump in and agree. Now the tone has been set. Women, being relational in nature, want to connect with the people in our midst, so others join in with their own complaints — wanting to show I understand, we’re connected, we’re all in this together. Soon enough, it’s become a husband bashing session, and the way to gain acceptance and approval is to share your own can you believe my husband?! story.

Let me give you some practical suggestions in those moments. Look at the circle and find the woman who isn’t joining in. She might be an ally. When sex became the topic of conversation and I was often the lone voice of sex positivity, I realized someone else in the circle wasn’t talking. If I got that woman alone, I’d often find out that she agreed with me, but she just didn’t feel comfortable speaking up. So it turned out that I wasn’t alone. Sometimes that woman was even two women or three women or more. Cultivate those friendships and see if you can set a new tone together.

Seek other women who are marriage and sex positive. They’re in your church, because they’re in every church. Oftentimes, they are indeed the quiet ones, because the negative tone has been set by more vocal members. But turn special attention toward older women who’ve been married 25, 40, 50 years. I once sat down at church next to a wife who’d just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary and simply asked, “What’s the secret to fifty years?” Because here was this woman who had golden wisdom, and I wanted it. She wasn’t negative; rather, she was honest, godly, and helpful (she answered, “forgiveness”). Look for those ladies.

Keep speaking positively about your husband. If you maintain your positive attitude and share what’s so great about marriage, eventually they might stop brushing you off and start wondering what you’re doing right. You never know who you might influence with hopefulness and holiness. As Paul so aptly said in 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” Your marriage may be young, but you can still set a good example.

Your marriage may be young, but you can still set a good example. Click To Tweet

Finally, you’ve noticed a difference in how you’re feeling about your marriage and treating your husband. If these conversations continue to injure your marriage, walk away. Your marriage takes priority. The apostle Paul also said, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character‘” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Wives who continue to bash their husbands and encourage others to do the same seem to me to qualify as “bad company.” Since they are believers, try to alter the tone first, but at some point, you need to do what you must for your marriage.

Also, check out my post on Finding Friends to Support Your Marital Intimacy.

Hopefully you can turn the tide. I’m certainly on your side! I’m a happily married wife, and I know you can be one as well for many, many years to come.

64 thoughts on “Q&A with J: Is It Possible to Have a Great Marriage (and Sex) Long Term?

  1. Nick Peters

    J. I am visiting family and not at my computer, but for my Valentine’s Day episode this year on my podcast, I interviewed my friends Les and Jan Grebe. They have been married fifty+ years and assured me it keeps getting better

    Reply
  2. Annette

    Oh my – tell her this isn’t true. My husband and I have been married 34 years and it only gets better. There are no more kids at home so that means anytime the urge strikes – go for it! It many not be as frequently as when we were first married but the quality is definitely there. And I look forward to at least another 20 + years of enjoying my husband sexually.

    Reply
  3. Jason@SongSix3

    Wow! A year and a half and she’s already being made to wonder about her future?? How unbelievably SAD!

    My wife and I have been through the fires of hell in our marriage (the story is all on our blog), but in 5 months we’ll be celebrating our 30th anniversary. And let me tell you – it’s the BEST it’s ever been! She and I have learned how to be best friends, as well as how to actually TALK about what happens in our bedroom. (Hinting around with code words just caused us more stress!) These two things together have done absolute wonders in our marriage!

    Yes, you absolutely CAN have a great marriage (and sex) in the long term. But you’ve got to be willing to work for it. Let me assure you, it will NOT just come naturally.

    30 years folks… that’s where I’m at. We were just talking last night about the early days when we met. I was a teen and she wasn’t even driving yet, but today she is more beautiful to me than ever before. Over those years we’ve been through the grinder multiple times, but we kept handing the pieces to Jesus.

    I know there are many who are much further than 30 years in, and they’re as happy as we are. You can do this.

    Reply
    1. RNmom

      “Over those years we’ve been through the grinder multiple times, but we kept handing the pieces to Jesus.”

      That’s beautiful and profoundly honest. Exactly what God wants us to do.

      Reply
    2. Todd

      Just wanted to second this post by giving it a heartfelt AMEN!!! We’re 25+ years in, and it’s amazing how much greater our sex life (which was always pretty darn good) is these days!! I’d have to say our marriage as a whole is indescribably awesome these days, and the glorious thing is, so would my beautiful wife…😉😎😏

      TD

      Reply
  4. Art

    Cultivate your marriage.

    Attend Marriage Conferences.

    Read books about marriage.

    Read blogs about marriage.

    Pray.

    Forgive.

    Trust God.

    Reply
  5. Kailin J

    Whenever anyone says anything negative like that to either my husband or me, we always say something like, “Iit doesn’t have to be that way.” We know we chose each other, and we continually choose each other and our attitudes toward each other.

    Reply
  6. Bobthemusicguy

    How tragic that the message she gets at church is negative regarding marriage and sex, and then the world offers marriage and sex messages based on the wrong worldview. No wonder so many get messed up!

    On the men’s side it’s not much better. Women just don’t get it, women tie us down, women keep us on a short leash, etc. and the message is implicitly or explicitly, sex is about feeling good and it’s your right, so demand it!

    My wife and I both were influenced by well-intentioned but wrongheaded messages about marriage, especially but not limited to our sexuality. The most common idea expressed gave us to understand that sex involves our flesh, and flesh is opposed to the spirit, and so sex is at best low on your priority list, at worst something you never do or feel bad about if you have sex.

    I got no help from parents about marriage and sex, and no help in any church I’ve been a part of. I’m preparing to approach my new pastor about how we as a church can help marriages thrive, not just survive. Very often, Christians don’t seek help in a marriage until its survival is on the line. Even if that’s not an issue, we need to help marriages thrive. And that starts with cutting the negativity, open or implied, that puts down our spouses and doesn’t honor Christ.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      When you reported that men say, “sex is about feeling good and it’s your right, so demand it!” I immediately thought, Yep, that’s pretty much what we think y’all are saying. Please speak up for something better, and we sex-positive wives will try to steer the conversation from “you don’t have to have sex if you don’t want to” toward “here’s why and how you should want to.”

      I’m saying a prayer that your pastor will agree with your concerns.

      Reply
      1. Bobthemusicguy

        And then the men say, We knew the women thought that and are trying to find excuses to limit sex, and then the women say . . .

        Maybe it’s some sort of “group gossip?” Like any gossip, it’s spreading misunderstandings, half truths, and outright lies. And like any gossip, it takes someone to at least step away, and even better to speak the truth to kill the lies.

        I’d appreciate suggestions for resources to suggest to my pastor.

        Reply
          1. Bobthemusicguy

            I think your book would be a great resource, but I want to encourage my pastor to make this an ongoing ministry of the church, encompassing all aspects of marriage. Too often, it’s a one time event, a retreat, a conference, etc., that deals with generalities. Those general principles need to be studied as a foundation, a framework. But until people get real vulnerable about their problems, past or present, little is going to improve.

            The really hard times my wife and I went through in the past several years, without any help whatsoever from other Christians, almost broke us. We both refuse to consider divorce, but we would have been little more than roommates for the rest of our lives. God is merciful and He has changed everything. I think maybe He will use us to be a catalyst in our church to help marriages thrive.

            It’s scary being that vulnerable, but your blog and others have encouraged me a lot. And to your original questioner, yes, it’s not only possible, but it’s going to be better and better if it’s submitted to God. Easy? No. But wonderful? Yes!

      2. Four Under Four

        Sadly, what you say is so true. My husband was taught by Christian men in college that sex was about feeling good and he should demand it. He doesn’t demand it, and he came to his own conclusion that it is for me too, but he believes he had the right to demand it, he just doesn’t have the heart to (and, we actually have a pretty active intimate life, so there is not a lot of opportunity). Also, he struggles to connect sex with love because he was taught it’s just about feeling good. Lucky for me, he sees the flaws in this and makes a conscious effort to redirect his thinking, but it still makes me sad that he got those messages from Christians. Personally,I didn’t get many messages at all, good or bad, regarding sex, so we’ve kind of built our own view point together from the ground up, which has been fun.

        Reply
  7. Jn

    A few weeks ago we discussed sex and intimacy in our couples small group (5 couples with younger kids, 1 mentor couple with kids in college). The guys and girls split up to go over some directed questions regarding our struggles/views/points of improvement…

    In short, pretty much every male agreed that they want it more, but for now they’ll take what they can get. I was the only one who said I don’t want just want a warm body, I want an engaged and excited partner… I was just so surprised that the other guys were complacent!

    I really feel like the church expects that this is the path of marriage… eventually sex is just a by-product of some free time now and then, with one complacent partner, and the other partner being pushy to “get some”. When our church talked about sex on a sunday morning, there was no talk of the sexual sin of gatekeeping, just lust and adultery. Frustrated me.

    My wife and I are going through tough times sexually. We have 4 kids 6 and under (all about 2 years apart). We never really had an amazing sex life before kids, but it’s certainly only gotten worse since having them. At this point with so many young kids, the most common words I hear every night are some variation of “I’m just so tired I could fall asleep standing up”–which pretty much puts sex aside for the evening.

    We’ve had clear and loving discussions about the situation, and I’ve made clear my desire for regular intimacy. Afterwards, she says she wants to change, but then won’t take any action to ever make sex a priority–the mom’s group she helps lead and another women’s bible study will keep her up at night, but not sex.

    So, after 4 years of trying to engender change, I give up. It’s not worth my mental stress to try to change her anymore. I love her, but I’m less attracted to her everyday because of our situation.

    At this point, we’re intimate maybe once a month. Maybe. And with the kind of discussions we have in our small group, I don’t see it changing. For those of us higher drive spouses, the Church–and my small group–pretty much doesn’t care about how important sex is… which makes me care less about the Church and my small group.

    *sigh*

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      You have four kids 6 and under? Yeah, your wife IS exhausted. We are talking about topics like these in real ways on our podcast, Sex Chat for Christian Wivess. Maybe she’d give us a listen? We’d love to be the girlfriends who understand what she’s going through, while encouraging her toward more frequent and better sexual intimacy in marriage.

      Reply
    2. Kay

      You are right that once a month is not enough. It isn’t. But this is a season and the season will change. It is MUCH too soon to quit. I think many women don’t realize just how unloved sexual rejection feels, but at the same time I don’t think many men realize how hard it is for young mothers to make that mental flip. Four kids under six is INSANE. Not to be mean. Haha. I have had five pregnancies in 9 years and I am exhausted too. Hope this isn’t too blunt, but my husband and I take a lot of showers with happy endings right now (I’m pregnant) because that is all I have the energy for. This season won’t last forever, but perhaps there are more creative ways you can enjoy one another that requires less effort from her. The shower is a win/win for us. I love the intimate time to touch and be vulnerable by being unclothed together and he loves the happy ending, so we both are getting our needs met. I, too, look forward to the next season when I can be a more active participant, but we are doing the best we can during this one. With each of my kids, it took me about two years before I started to feel human again after giving birth. Please give your wife time. Keep communicating your need, especially the desire to CONNECT with her, and don’t stop expressing that desire. With time, she will have more energy again. Seriously. But those babies are sucking the life out of her right now (perhaps literally, if she is nursing, lol). Don’t mistake the season for permanence! Ask her what you can do that can help her to find more time and more energy for connecting intimately. And otherwise, hang in there!

      Reply
      1. JN

        The number of times I’ve heard that “this is a season” over the last six years is bordering on the absurd. Having kids is LIFE, not a season. As they grow up, new challenges will come our way until they’re out of our house—and that’s at least 18 years from now. I’m not waiting till I’m 60 to get out of the “season” of kids. Her decision is to pour her energy into things other than our intimacy, whether, kids, ministry, or other asides.

        Additionally, I am VERY involved in caretaking. I get my 2 oldest ready and drop them off at school every morning. I do the dishes every night. I do much of the laundry. I bathe the 2 middle kids when they need it (the oldest showers himself). I help brush all their teeth every night. I put them to bed every night.

        This weekend, I’m home with kids from Friday afternoon till Sunday afternoon while she is at a women’s retreat. Next month she’s heading to the east coastto see family for 4 days while I stay home with the kids. I really do give her the space and the opportunity to live as an adult life without kids. She plays weekly soccer and has a girls night out once every 2 weeks.

        We’ve talked about intimacy more times than I can count at this point. It’s her decision to care now. Right now, I don’t care to push her any more (which includes telling her about a new podcast—she tells me every time that she can’t find the time to listen).

        So, I’m done. I’m tired. It’s too taxing to hope and wish she’ll care. I’m at the end of my caring rope. She knows how I feel. From here on out, the ball’s in her court. She knows it.

        Reply
        1. Remsly L Riley

          Dear JN,

          I will pray for your heart and your wife’s heart, so the both of you can hear the the Word of God come alive in your spirits. God loves you and God loves your wife.

          Blessings my brother.

          Reply
    3. Brad

      I hear you. Mine are teenagers and it’s just gotten worse. I’m just a bad guy with a hang up for having a sex drive. Doing laundry, doing most of the house work, helping in the kitchen etc. got turned on it’s head, being interpreted as a subtle message that she is inadequate. I just gave up and decided we’re in a platonic partnership from now on. I’m taking one of the spare rooms when the kids move out.

      Reply
      1. J Post author

        I get that she’s not attending to your desires and needs. However, two wrongs don’t make a right. You’re putting up barriers to keep from being hurt more — and I understand and sympathize with that — but what if, just what if it was possible to get back to the love you had when you married? Housework clearly isn’t doing it for her, so what makes her feel loved? Do you need to have some heart-to-heart conversations not just about sex, but all kinds of intimacy? I pray that you can turn this around, and I truly believe you can accomplish a lot with God’s help. I’m praying for you both. Blessings!

        Reply
  8. elleelle

    Yes! It is more than possible 🙂 I wish it wasn’t like that when women get together. There is one lady in particular I know that speaks ill of her husband and how much he wants sex and it just makes me sad. Sad that she would share so freely and sad that she feels that way. I love one of the previous comments, it is a choice. You continually choose. You choose your attitude and how you react to every situation. You choose to be selfless, you choose to ask hard questions, you choose to stay committed. We have been married for almost 11 years now, so not terribly long, but through kids etc there are definitely ups and downs with intimacy but again, we choose how important it is to us and how to make it a priority. I think one of the best things for my husband and I (beyond a shared faith) is that we laugh together and we can make each other laugh. I am married to my best friend. It is wonderful. If it was based on me and my emotional reactions and fluctuations in what life throws at us we wouldn’t last. But when it is based on our faith and commitment before Christ, in His strength, it will last.

    Reply
  9. Scott

    We’re at almost 35 years, and yes it can just keep getting better. Be intentional. Work at every dimension of intimacy (sexual, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, financial – all of you). Learn to love selflessly. Forgive readily.

    I whole-heartedly agree with J than you need to surround yourself with life-giving, marriage- and sex-positive couples. Start a marriage group in your church!

    Reply
  10. Allison Wilson

    I’m so saddened to hear this is what is being said at church, by believers, but I’m not surprised. The church, as a whole, has not taught Biblical marriage (husbands to love and wives to RESPECT regardless of the other person’s actions). We have taken the world’s view of “happily ever after” which is nowhere near what the Lord called us to in marriage. We’re told that we will have trouble in marriage, but that it is for our GOOD so we can learn to be more like Christ. We want it to be effortless…like we do our conformation to Christ’s image. He never said it would be that way at all.

    After 23 1/2 years, and in active marriage ministry for over 10 of those, my husband and I can honestly say that everything about our marriage is better now than it ever has been. EVERYTHING. 😉 We don’t assume it will get better on its own, and we take the time to make sure it grows rather than stagnates. Hubby recently said that he doesn’t understand why people say marriage is “hard work”. It’s EFFORT, but not work. I told him that’s because we’ve done the effort part for so long. That’s the key.

    As others have said, KEEP building up your husband. Find marriage minded couples with whom you can spend time. That is a HUGE part of being happily married. The more negativity you have around you the more negative you will be. Seek out ways to strengthen your marriage. There are wonderful resources out there! Take advantage of them.

    Praying for marriages, and blessed by all those who are passionate about making them better!!!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I’ve said that marriages are work, but at some point I realized that I don’t have the negative connotation associated with “work” or even “hard work” that some people have. So I think you’re right, that “effort” is a better word choice. And it’s effort well worth putting forth!

      Reply
  11. Ashley

    Wives have no business in this “let’s all bash our husbands” talk, but I wonder how many wives in these conversations are speaking out of a place of really deep hurt. Churches many times don’t handle marriage problems well. I’ve been in counseling with my husband about real, deep, painful stuff, and some of the answers we received were so superficial. And there were negative assumptions made about me that were just flat wrong. Again, it’s wrong to talk that way, but when there’s hurt inside, sometimes it’s easier to say “he is a slob” than to reach out again for help and get kicked while you’re down.

    Reply
  12. RNmom

    Yes it is totally possible and should def be a goal you strive for. I have been married 15 yrs and remember hearing the same stuff when we were engaged and after we got married. All the “you just wait…” comments. It was discouraging for sure but my grandparents had a great marriage. They were the sweet little old couple still kissing on the porch swing and holding hands. He’d still swat her on the butt playing around in his 80’s. I never talked to anyone in church about marriage because the women were so pessimistic. Outside of pre-marriage marriage counseling from our pastor that is. My husband and I are best friends and have been since we met. That doesn’t require elaborate trips or fancy meals, expensive gifts or wine. It’s a commitment to make it last and make it good. Once you decide that, you learn to enjoy life together no matter what happens. Stress, finances, children, other family members, big life changes, job promotions, demotions or losses, it’s all in how you look at what you face and being mindful of who accompanies you on the journey. A spouse is suppose to be a friend and a lover, if the two of you always put each other first it will strengthen your bond and love as you age and grow together. Prayers for some real role models for you two!! And if you can’t find any make yourselved the role models you wish you had found.

    Reply
  13. Cortney

    [cheers] Thanks for writing on this! It’s so aggravating to hear “you’re young and in love…” as if your interest and passion for your spouse must fade. Ridiculous. You chose to share your whole life with them – not just a couple years of happiness – live it up and celebrate! It’s always exciting (and reassuring) to see more “experienced” couples who are still affectionate and clearly enjoying each other.

    Reply
    1. Eli

      It is frustrating to hear that. I recall everyone saying, I’d like to hear what you have to say seven years in. That made me want to get to the point quickly just to prove them wrong (looking back, what a waste of my thought life😉) Well, 9 years in and though times can be hard (4 kids from 7 to 9 months- yes, it is exhausting), we still really love one another. We also have an active sex life. We have nights where I’m too tired, or he’s too tired, but we try to meet one another’s needs. To the writer of the question: enjoy that hubby of yours and realize you might be gifted with more wisdom in this area then the other women there. That’s ok, someday soon you might be the one to inspire or lead a class about the subject and help others. Nothing goes to waste in God’s economy!

      Reply
  14. Eric

    J,
    It’s refreshing to read these testimonies of commentators to today’s blog, that their marriages have improved with the years. I’m writing this in our kitchen as my 80-year-old wife is getting supper, and may I say we’ve had a wonderful 54 years together. Well I remember that afternoon in March 1961 during college spring break when she said “Yes!” to my proposal, and we had our first warm, lingering kiss!
    We’ve had our ups and downs. I’ve lost a few jobs, found better ones, and she was extremely happy as my social secretary in the years I pastored a small country church, and later when I taught a large adult S.S. class in a city church. All this while she was rearing our four children. We have four married children, a dozen grandchildren and half a dozen great-grandkids. I can say with Robert Browning, “Grow old along with me/The best is yet to be.”
    Until I had major heart surgery four years ago, we had hot sex twice weekly–often more. In all, more than 5,000 times during our first 50 years. The best romp I remember is, after 13 years of marriage, we made love on the floor of a lakeside cottage in Maine next to a roaring fire while a thunder storm roared outside. Things got more than a little electric that night, and nine months later our fourth child was born.
    As for the dear young wife who’s being abused by other church ladies with their “unrighteous” tongues . . . “set on fire by hell” (James 3:6), she should tell these gals with bad marriages, “My ears are not garbage cans.” Of such people Paul writes, “take note of that person; don’t associate with him [or her]” (2 Thessalonians 3:14; see verses 6-14, and also Romans 16:17-18).
    My advice, dear lady: Leave, even if you must change churches. In Ephesians 5:31-32 the Lord makes it plain by the Holy Spirit that Christian marriage is to be a pattern of Jesus and His Bride, the Church. Folks who use their tongues to denigrate Christian marriage will one day have to answer to Christ Himself for this.
    Eric

    Reply
  15. Alicia

    Thank you a thousand times over for this post! And thank you to the reader who wrote in with her question. While I’m sad to hear she’s encountering this, it helps me know I’m not alone. I keep reading on all these Christian blogs what an excellent source people at church are supposed to be for marriages, and how women need other women. But all I encounter at women’s groups at church is what this reader described: husband bashing and sex negativity. Even before my now-husband and I married, I saw this. It darn near discouraged me from getting married, since I was getting the same messages about marriage both from church and the world. Ironically, I was getting more marriage and sex positive messages from my non-believing friends than from other Christians. When my husband and I did marry, and I spoke (and still do speak) well of him, I got told the same thing this reader did. “You just wait honey, you’re new at this, you’ll feel like we do in a few years, and then we’ll talk.” Thank God there was one woman in the group who is not like that. She and her husband have been married for 13 years, and according to her, are more in love now than when they first married, and that continues to grow. She has been a huge encouragement to me, long before I actually started to get to know her, because she was the one positive voice I heard in a sea of negative ones. She became a mentor to me well before she was ever aware of it. Now, she and I talk often about how she and her husband continue to make their marriage what it is. We half-jokingly call ourselves the “marriage missionaries” of our women’s group, because we actively strive to be the difference we want to see. It’s very,very slowly starting to have an effect. There’s not nearly as much husband bashing in the group as there was before. Now when I speak well of my husband, most of the rest of the group just goes silent, but my friend supports me.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I’m so glad you found an ally and you’re both working toward a marriage-positive message! I certainly can’t speak for God, but I have a feeling He’s pretty pleased with y’all for that.

      Reply
  16. Anonymous

    We have been married 35+ years and we share a common rule… never say a negative thing about our spouse to others. We only say positive things. We save our complaints when we are alone with each other.

    Reply
  17. B

    I tend to stay away from women’s groups for a similar but different reason. Yes, I have heard them complain about “oh he just wants so much sex” – but as a higher drive wife, what I hear is “oh I’m so perfect and so hot and so worthy of love my husband just can’t keep his hands off of me. He loves me SO much.” That should be fantastic, right? But as a higher drive wife with a husband with a low drive, all that “too much sex” chatter makes me feel like “well, I must be old, ugly, disgusting, and unworthy of love” because my husband has no problem keeping his hands to himself.
    So, although things between us have gotten a little better, I still keep my distance from the cliques of women at church who act like they are so amazing their husbands can’t get enough of them. And my situation is too embarrassing and too painful to talk about. The last thing I want is to be judged by groups of almost perfect women. I’m not going to pretend I’m something I’m not, so I just stay away.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Hi, B! Yeah, I get it. But this is sad too. Because it would be nice if higher-drive wives could explain to lower-drive wives what rejection feels like, and for lower-drive wives to explain to higher-drive wives why they don’t engage. (It’s rather unlikely it’s the reasons you give, but we’ve been working on you with that. 😉 ) Then we might better understand how to seek unity in our marriages with a spouse whose libido isn’t quite like our own.

      Reply
  18. Eric

    This post has sure drawn a TON of positive comments. As a former pastor, and for many years an adult Sunday school teacher, it’s my observation that most Christian adults, and particularly those with negative attitudes toward married sex, as well as those who quarrel with their spouses, have never read a Christian book on marriage or sex, or have ever accessed online information about marriage or sex, such as J’s blog.

    About 20 years ago I was teaching a 13-week Sunday school course on the Song of Solomon, using a lesson manual from a well-known evangelical publishing house–and the class all had manuals as well. At the time, I was team-teaching with a younger married man, now the pastor of a thriving church. I mentioned that until recently most studies on the S of S ignored that it’s major theme is about sex. At this point an older married woman stormed out of the classroom shouting, “Sex, sex, sex. I don’t ever want to hear that word again!” At the time, neither of us teachers could figure out what I said that shook her up.

    OTOH, the replies to today’s blog in particular, and to most of J’s blogs are positive. Keep up the good work of educating us, J!
    Eric

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I’m currently teaching a women’s class at church on sexuality. It’s honest, but not graphic, and definitely Bible-based. I’ve been so pleased with the participation from our women! However, I’ve also noted that some ladies who usually attend women’s classes aren’t there, and I’m curious why. I truly believe there are various reasons, but I suspect a few of those not coming are the very women I’d like most to reach. We’ve got to find some way to get positive marriage and sex messages across in our churches generally.

      Reply
      1. Eric Wiggin

        J,

        My theory as to why they’re not coming to your class is they could be ones who were sexually abused when young, or who gave up their virginity before marriage and felt guilty about it, but have never taken it to the Lord and received His forgiveness. I once had a couple quit a class on Genesis, and the lady complained to the pastor that I’d mentioned sex. Hey–can you teach Genesis without mentioning sex?
        Re that 50% divorce rate, which e2 corrected. Dr. Phil McGraw was quoting it on his show until recently. I think he must have stopped because he discovered it was baloney. Of course something like two thirds of these 50% are serial divorcers, on their second, third or fourth divorces. I researched this for a Focus on the Family title (THE GIFT OF GRANDPARENTING) about 25 years ago. The actual general population divorce rate was then 27% for first-time marriages, and lower for Christians in the North, but slightly higher in the South, for reasons too complicated to discuss here.

        I’m sure Satan, who hates marriage, is behind the reason that secular media so often touts these skewed statistics. “Figures don’t lie, but liars can figure” (quoted from my Dad).
        Eric Wiggin

        Reply
        1. J Post author

          “Hey–can you teach Genesis without mentioning sex?” Well, that’s going to be hard, given the stories about Abraham and Hagar, Lot and his daughters, Judah and Tamar, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, etc. I always want to say to people like that, “Maybe you should take that up with God, because I didn’t create sex or write this book. But He did.”

          But yes, some do have legitimate hardship from their past that makes sex a sensitive topic.

          Reply
  19. Kay

    I’ve only been married 10 years but almost every night I tell my hubby how glad I am to be his wife. He is fabulous. The biggest thing that has helped us is to remember in everything that we are ON THE SAME TEAM. Any time we approach an issue as combatants, we both lose. We struggled with the team mentality after kids arrived. Until then our lives were nearly identical, and in one push my entire life was turned upside down. We got caught up in the “who is more tired” and “who deserves a break more” game, which is not at all fair. While I still think that I win both of those😉, I see now that it doesn’t matter; we BOTH are tired and we BOTH need breaks. We need to stop one-upping and instead work together so we BOTH win. That realization is when everything changed for us.

    We just celebrated 10 years later December and he is still my favorite. It’s been hard, don’t get me wrong. Not because our relationship was hard as much as life is hard. We’ve had postpartum depression, children’s unexplained illnesses, painful deaths of friends, a miscarriage, etc. But we try to stay on the same team even though the game is constantly evolving. Kindness goes a LONG way. That is harder for me than for him, but I am appalled by how other women talk about their husbands and you know they aren’t very nice to them behind closed doors either. Maybe I’m a jerk, but sometimes I can’t help but feel like “Yeesh, I’d be miserable too if I were married to you” of some of these wives. Kindness and a team spirit (all rooted in Christ) is the secret to a lifelong love, or at least has been so far. I want my husband to thank God every day that he married married me, and I act accordingly.

    Sex is only getting better. It’s been a rollercoaster with childbirth and years of breastfeeding that at times made orgasm impossible altogether. But we still made it a priority, even if it looked different during different seasons. Sex is just the same as everything in life; it has good times and bad times and that is OKAY. With time, the good times keep getting better and the bad times are less bad because you know now to relax; it will change again soon enough. Right now is hard, for example. This is my first pregnancy after a miscarriage and I am emotionally a wreck. Sex is hard because I am so nauseous that the movement literally makes me sick. (Like, have to run to the bathroom and throw up. Kind of a mood killer.) So we shower together instead. Very intimate and sensual and a happy ending for him. It’s not ideal but this is my fifth pregnancy now; we know it doesn’t last long. Again, we are a team. His needs are a priority to me and my needs are to him so we worked together to find a win/win. You can let these things drive you apart or drive you closer, and we’ve chosen the latter. It sounds like many women, like those the OP mentions, have chosen the former. When she comes to that crossroads (and she will!), I hope she too chooses the latter.

    Reply
  20. libl

    I know so many couples who around the 5-10 year mark in their marriages got divorced. The pattern fairly typical, too. The husband gets comfortable, detached, and bored. The wife gets busy (usually with children) lost, and unappreciated. She starts making herself over…losing weight, getting a new look, returning to school or career, and hubby just loses himself deeper in the TV, video games, porn, or work. Then, divorce papers are issued. She has found her new, independent life…and sometimes a lover. He just accepts it and eventually finds a new girlfriend to fill in the blank.

    Oddly enough, I found us in a similar pattern. I recognized it, and I did feel tempted to consider divorce. I held on, though, and things did improve. I think this is common, especially among couples who never really learned to communicate. The marriage seems to “blow up” after 5 to 10 years. But, if they only held fast and did the dirty work they might have survived and come out the other side to thrive. Instead, they start the pattern over with another spouse, and now have the complication of shared and blended families. Sometimes divorce is needed. I know too many women who had to divorce their unrepentant abusive husbands, and a few men who had to divorce their unrepentant philandering wives. I am not talking about those circumstances, though.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      One of the most interesting marriage studies showed that a large percentage of couples who reported being unhappy changed their answer to happy five years later, even without counseling or other intervention. Too often people get frustrated and impatient and give up, instead of — as you say — holding fast and doing the “dirty work.” A bit of effort can yield some beautiful results. And good for you revitalizing your marriage!

      Reply
  21. Ashley

    Reading these comments has been so encouraging! We’ve been married only just under 8 months, and the negativity older ladies can direct your way is beyond discouraging. My husband is so incredibly patient and willing to put in the effort to make sure we get started on the right foot. We’ve been meeting with a counselor even beyond pre-marital to help us through the learning curves and I can’t recommend that enough! It has given me so much more peace of mind knowing that we’re learning communication practices the right way and building a solid foundation. Counseling is not just for when you’re in trouble – it’s much more effective as maintenance before trouble ever comes! I’m so very thankful too to have a husband who sends his coworkers “wife woes” right through the other ear. It’s definitely not just women who bash their spouse, unfortunately… Thank you for the encouragement!!

    Reply
  22. e2

    Totally agree about the misleading divorce stats. The 50% number comes from comparing the number of annual weddings with annual divorces. But, think about it; the pool of marriages that can end in divorce in a given year is much larger than the number of weddings in that year. The pool of marriages covers decades of weddings. The vast majority of marriages survive until “death do us part.” I recall reading a figure even larger than Shaunti’s two-thirds, but it was several years ago and I don’t recall the source. But, given our social pessimism, I’ll take the two-thirds as promising.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      From my understanding, the 50% number comes from projections made when the divorce stats were rising, and they took an “If things continue like this, then half of all marriages will end in divorce” attitude, and that latter half is what got quoted. But it is an interesting question of how to measure the divorce rate. What we’d really like to know is the percentage of marriages that last, but that’s not readily available information, whereas marriage and divorce records are. Feldhahn goes into how they try to figure that out, but the “promising” message (as you call it 🙂 ) is that a majority of marriages do indeed last. And a majority of marriages are happy too. In fact, that 96% number I cited includes about 60% of spouses who answered “very happy.” That’s promising too!

      Thanks for your comment.

      Reply
  23. B

    Maybe I should write a book about the pain of sexual rejection. (I’m kidding, I’m not qualified to write a book) – but the point is, I’m a woman, and I know all too well what it feels like.
    I’ve always been kind of amazed while reading blogs, that so many women don’t seem to “get it”. Of course my view is through my own filter, but it seems like a lot of women don’t understand how blessed they are to have husbands that DO love them, and DO find them attractive, and DO find them sexually attractive. I feel like many women come off as though they are better than their husbands and are doing him a “favor.” I wish they wouldn’t see things that way. I wish they wouldn’t treat their husbands as if he’s pestering her, when he very well may be trying to love and connect with her.
    Sometimes I think if some women could spend a few days on the opposite side, being rejected as I was for several years, they would change their minds and see his advances as a gift of love and a blessing.
    Things have gotten better here, where he doesn’t flat out reject me anymore, so that helps a little. I’ve learned to stop asking (most of the time, sometimes I just can’t take it anymore 😉). So while I’m no longer suffering the pain of being outright rejected, it’s still hard knowing I’m not nearly as womanly or loveable as the women who have husbands that pursue them on a regular basis. But – babysteps, right? (Although at 41, time for baby steps is swiftly fading!)
    But I digress, as usual. My point is, I wish there were a way I could help other women see how painful it is to be sexually rejected by the one you love and who claimed to love you, as well as what a blessing it is to have a husband who DOES want you.
    But I don’t like talking much with other women because they can be extremely judgemental. If I were to share my pain, it would be met with scoffing – or a comment like, “You’re so lucky to have a husband who isn’t so into sex. I wish my husband would back off.” No, no you don’t. Trust me.

    And kudos to Ashley and her husband for going to counseling! We had no premarital counseling – I didn’t even know it was a thing back then (been married 22 years). I wish we had. We didn’t even have advice from our parents, so it is by the grace of God alone that we have made it this far! We are so blessed that we both came to Christ as adults, and we just have some kinks to work through and some baggage to deal with. But we will definitely encourage ALL of our sons to be sure to have quality pre marital counseling when the time comes.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I absolutely know what you mean about the scoffing comments. I’ve gotten those too when I’ve expressed my enjoyment of sex in the face of women who were complaining about their husbands’ high libidos. I also know that I wasn’t alone, because I got into private conversations with certain women who were sex-positive. They did, however, tend to be quieter about it.

      I’m once again going to challenge, though, on this one: “Of course my view is through my own filter, but it seems like a lot of women don’t understand how blessed they are to have husbands that DO love them, and DO find them attractive, and DO find them sexually attractive.” What low-libido spouses would really like you to know is that their rejection is rarely about lack of love or not finding their spouse attractive. So while we want them to understand our side, we should try to understand their side. Think about how you feel when others pooh-pooh what you know to be true about your emotions, and then consider how we need to respect those of the lower-libido spouse. I’m not saying they should talk the way some do (obviously, since that’s the point of this post), but the underlying emotions are there.

      Blessings, B!

      Reply
    2. Four Under Four

      Except sometimes it isn’t that your husband just loves you and wants you that much. Sometimes (and sometimes often!) its just because he’s horny and wants sex, and you are his only outlet. That isn’t a good feeling! (Not trying to diminish the pain you feel of being rejected, but just pointing it that at least some of those wives aren’t being pursued for love, but for lust and then the sex becomes a chore that kind of just hurts your heart). It’s sad, but true.

      Reply
      1. B

        Maybe. Not trying to diminish your feelings either, but is it possible he DOES love you that much and DOES want you that much – and perhaps because you might not see sex as a way of loving and being loved as much as I do, that you might be misjudging his intentions, at least some of the time? Perhaps his desire to be with you so often isn’t so much about being “horny”, but because he loves you and feels love by being intimate with you? Just a thought.

        Reply
        1. Four Under Four

          Not misreading it. That’s the exact words he said. In his words, “It’s just sex. It’s not about love are all! I mean, I love you more than anyone, but sex is just sex and I want it, and you’re my wife, so who else is going to give it to me?”

          To clarify, we’ve worked past that stage. But it wasn’t a “loved” feeling at all, and even now I have to fight that thought. That was part of the bad teaching my husband received from Christian men.

          Reply
  24. John

    I always enjoy this site for all of its wisdom and encouragement from all who participate.nothing speaks more clearly than personal experience whether it
    Be from struggles or victories . You are such a great source of passion to make marriages thrive.

    Reply
  25. Kari

    Love this! I just finished Fawn Weaver’s “Happy Wives Club” (one of my favorite gifts for brides-to-be) and she basically summed it up by saying that if you CHOOSE to be happy and have a good marriage, you will! Not discounting the very real struggles couples face, but let’s not over complicate things- if you want to have a happy marriage, then make it a happy marriage! 🙂

    Reply
  26. Four Under Four

    I agree with the previous posters- you are an inspiring writer, and I appreciate the work you do to help our marriage thrive!

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Wow! Thanks, y’all. I appreciate the encouragement, but y’all are doing much of the encouragement from your comments on this post. Blessings!

      Reply
  27. Aimee

    We have been married for 14 years, we have five kiddos and life is hard. The thing is, there’s no one I would rather do this with. I think that’s where a lot of people go astray. They think, my husband is so annoying, we don’t agree, we are so different. The thing is, if you spend that much time with any person and do life with them, it is going to be hard. They will probably get on your nerves some. Look for the things to be grateful for. I have to admit, I tell my friends about some of the things my hubby does that drive me nuts, but I also tell them about the things he does that are awesome. I want to be real with people so that others don’t think my life is always peachy keen. The hard parts are part of life. Accept them, be honest about them, and recognize and focus on the good.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      Yeah, I think we start looking at our spouse as “one more thing” instead of our partner in messy life. Well said.

      Reply
  28. Hannah

    What a great post, and great comments! I just want to voice that, while I would not describe my church as “sex positive,” simply because it isn’t brought up, I have never heard Christian women bashing their husbands, nor have I experienced someone telling me to just wait a few years if I said something positive about him. (I’m in my 20s, married 3 years.) I attend a very typical midwestern evangelical church and spend a lot of time at women’s social events too.

    I have zero doubt it goes on when it’s so rampant in popular culture, but maybe it’s getting better? I would love to have more openness with regards to sex, but after reading this I’m thankful for the women I know, bashful as they may be.

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      I really appreciate you commenting, because it’s a good point that churches can do this well. And some do. I don’t hear real bashing in my church either. Wives do talk about frustrations of dealing with the opposite sex, but it’s all in the context of wanting to understand each other and grow together, not apart. So yes, these places exist.

      Reply

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