Monthly Archives: July 2017

Why You Feel Worse Than He Does about the Premarital Sex

Blog post title + woman curled up with head to knees

Did you have sex before marriage? Either with your husband or someone else? Or maybe several someone elses?

Welcome to the majority. Statistics show that 97% of Americans have sex before marriage. In highly religious groups, that number goes down to 80%, which is quite a difference. However, that’s still 4 out of 5 devoted Christians who didn’t wait until the ring was on the finger, the I Dos were spoken, the deal was sealed.

Waiting for sex until marriage is God’s design and desire, but the reality is that many of us didn’t achieve that goal. And if messing up was the end of our hope, not a single person could make it to Heaven. Rather, there is forgiveness, redemption, and clean slates through the saving work of Jesus on the cross.

But a reader recently emailed me saying that he hadn’t gotten the sense that my premarital promiscuous past came with any real consequences for me or my marriage: “I came to the conclusion that your premarital ‘adventures’ had not affected you at all.”

Wow. If I have left that impression, let me correct it right now. I have not talked about all the specific consequences of my past, poor choices — my sin — because some are quite personal and painful. But having sex before marriage remains my greatest regret.

I do not carry the guilt of my sin, because through the blood of Jesus, I have been washed, sanctified, and justified through Christ and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:11). Still, if I could anything in my life over again, that would be it.

Many wives feel similarly about their past promiscuity. They hate the choices they made, they ache over the consequences, they wish they could go back and do it differently.

Some of that emotional baggage follows them into marriage, like dragging an invisible suitcase filled with heavy heartache. But when these wives try to talk to their husbands about the issue, their feelings are sometimes batted away with “That was so long ago” or “I don’t care about those guys; you’re with me now” or “Why are you dwelling on the past?” The husband doesn’t really understand why the issue still impacts her view of her sexuality and her openness in the marriage bed.

But it does.

For many wives.

So why do you feel worse than he does about premarital sex? Why is easier for him to move on from his past? Why doesn’t he understand what you’re going through?

Apparently, there’s a gender gap in sexual regret.

Apparently, there's a gender gap in sexual regret. Click To Tweet

Looking specifically at teen sex, one study cited that 72% of girls who engaged in sexual intercourse wished they’d waited. That’s nearly three-fourths of young ladies who regret the sexual choice they made. But what is the percentage for teen boys? 55%. While still a majority of guys, that’s a substantial drop.

What about adults? The Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the University of Texas at Austin together interviewed 853 Norwegians and 466 Americans. They wanted to know if religiosity influenced sexual regret after casual sex, with Norwegians representing far less attachment to religion than Americans professed. They didn’t find much difference on the religiosity scales (although I could argue with what they defined as “religiosity”), but they discovered an interesting outcome that women experienced far more sexual regret than men.

Then there’s the National Marriage Project, which surveyed a thousand single Americans and then studied them for five years. Among the 418 who got married during that time, 23% who only had sex with their spouse prior to marriage reported higher quality marriages than those who had additional sexual partners in their past. Even more revealing was that the more sexual partners a woman had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be. But the researchers didn’t find the same thing about men.

So are our husbands all too happy to collect sexual partners before marriage with no regrets at all? No, I don’t think that’s true.

Plenty of husbands also say they wish they’d waited for their wives. But they don’t always carry residual regret the same way.

I suspect that’s more about how men target their focus and compartmentalize events. Many husbands don’t feel their prior mistakes or sins have a bearing on how they feel about their wives. Simply put, they’re often better at putting the past behind them with a that was then, this is now attitude.

That’s a great thing when you consider that husbands are not comparing their wives to other women from their past. They’ve flipped that page and moved on.

Now I’m not at all trying to diminish the weight of sin. Because that is what our poor choices were. But I am saying that there’s a gender gap in sexual regret likely based on gender differences in our brains.

But that doesn’t solve this disconnect — that she continues to carry baggage from her promiscuous past and he doesn’t fully understand. What can a wife (and husband) do?

Admit your sin.

The first step in clearing your state is being honest about your failings. That may sound like I’m encouraging you to dwell in the past, but nothing could be further from the truth. Admitting our sin is simply a first step. As 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That’s a big if there at the beginning, one we’d be well-advised to heed.

Embrace His forgiveness.

I was recently asked if there was an aha moment for me in my marriage — that moment when I let go of my past baggage (as awful as it was) and embraced a different future for my marriage. For me, it was finally, fully understanding this passage:

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 nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers 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 (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Ah, the beauty of that past tense. The sexually immoral is what I was, but I also was washed, sanctified, and justified in Christ Jesus. Believe it, cling to it, embrace His forgiveness.

Identify your baggage.

Be honest about what messages and concerns you’ve brought into your marriage based on your past. Much of what we think about ourselves, our husbands, and our sexuality can be tainted by our prior sexual experiences. What errors in thinking and behavior have you adopted based on your previous sexual choices and how you were treated by those other men?

To replace your erroneous thinking with God’s truth about sexual intimacy in marriage, you need to know where you’ve bought into lies. Here’s a common lie: That you don’t deserve full pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed because you screwed up before. Not true. You are in a married wife now, pursuing God’s plan for sexual intimacy, and He longs to bless you and your husband.

Share your struggle.

Your husband doesn’t have to fully understand, and he may have a different way of looking at past promiscuity. But explain your own thoughts and feelings as best you can. You might also want to use a line I once used with my husband when he told me, for the millionth time, not to worry about something: “I literally have no idea what that looks like.” I went on to explain that while he can shove something in a mental box and tuck it away, I cannot. It’s just not how the female brain typically works. If your husband can begin to understand, you can enlist his help to push through your sexual regret and enjoy the full blessings of a healthy marriage bed on the other side.

Husbands: Support her journey.

All of my other tips are for the wives, but this one is for you men reading. Research has shown that women struggle more with this, so please recognize it’s not some flaw in your wife that she can’t quickly and easily let go of the past. If you want to really help your wife, don’t belittle her feelings, dismiss her struggle, or shut down conversation. Rather, reassure and comfort her, help her embrace a new perspective, and make sexual intimacy a beautiful experience for her too. Just be her Barnabas; that is, her encourager as she journeys toward a healthy and holy view of sex in your marriage.

Do sex God’s way.

For a while after I embraced God’s design of sex, I still struggled. I ruminated about my sinful past, carried personal labels like slut in my mind, and felt a fair dose of heartache from time to time. But over time, my husband and I logged so many positive, one-flesh sexual experiences that those outweighed everything that came before. The scales tipped, and “sex” in my mind became equated with this holier and deeper version of sexual intimacy. In some ways, “just do it” is good advice. And by it, I don’t mean sex itself, but sex God’s way.

Have you struggled with your premarital promiscuous past? How have you embraced God’s way instead?

Same image as before...sized for Pinterest

WaitingTillMarriage.com – 4 Cool Statistics About Abstinence in the USAStatistic Brain – Abstinence StatisticsPubMed.gov – Trends in premarital sex in the United States, 1954-2003; Verily – Sex Regret Isn’t about Religious Guilt as Much as Biological Instincts, New Research Shows; Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation – Teen Attitudes Toward Sex; The National Marriage Project – Before I Do; Verily – Regret Is Not the Same as Slut-Shaming

Do You Know What You Need to Pray For?

Blog post title, with woman praying (just showing torso & folded hands)I sometimes ask people who know me well to tell me what faults they see in me. They’re always reluctant to speak bluntly about what my flaws are, but I reassure them that I’m pretty sure I know anything and everything they could come up with — that I won’t be surprised. Because I’ve done a lot of self-examination, and I can name most of my sins and struggles in a heartbeat.

Most still pass on telling me what faults they see in me. But the few who do name something hit on a weak area I already knew about. In fact, it’s usually an area I’ve been praying about. For a long, long time.

But now and then, someone mentions an area I hadn’t really thought much about. In recent years, my family has been talking to me about my “tone.” A tone which would mean nearly zero in my family of origin, because we are almost all emotionally expressive, but in Spock World (husband and two half-Vulcan sons), my tone apparently comes across as abrasive at times. While I still don’t entirely get it, at least now I know something else I should be working on and praying about.

What about in your marriage? Or specifically regarding sexual intimacy? Do you know what you should be praying about? What traits you need help from God to improve? Where your sins and struggles are?

After reading hundreds of comments and emails from people about the specifics of their marriage bed, I can honestly say that some of us know exactly what you should be praying about … but a fair number of you don’t. You don’t see where and how you have contributed to issues in your marriage bed, or maybe just where you need God to pour into you with patience, perspective, and perseverance.

How can you know what to pray for?

Ask yourself.

Think about where you feel the struggle. In which moments do you feel frustrated or challenged regarding sexual intimacy? Or what areas are places of potential growth? What changes do you see coming your way in terms of marriage dynamics, external pressures, scheduling challenges, etc.?

Some find that just mulling over such questions uncovers issues they need to pray about. Others find that journaling over the course of a few weeks and then looking back at what they’ve written reveals patterns that should be prayed about.

Ask others.

Start by asking friends. No, really. You don’t have to ask where you need to pray about sexual intimacy, but you can ask what flaws they see in you. If they are willing to answer, you might discover a problem you were unaware of. And if it’s an issue in general life, I suspect you’re carrying it over into your marriage and even your marriage bed.

Then ask your spouse. Now this is tough, because if you ask you have to shut up and listen. This isn’t the time for defensiveness, nor pointing the finger back at your mate. You may not understand what they point out as a problem (like my “tone”), but you’re honoring your marriage partner by accepting this area is a concern for them. So even if they’ve misdiagnosed the reason, they’ve hit on an issue that you need to address. Then you can take that issue before God.

Ask God.

Pray for the Lord to reveal to you where your weaknesses are. If anyone knows where you need spiritual work, it’s God. He knows your sins and struggles, but ask Him to reveal those more clearly to you.

Once again, you then have to listen. Pay attention to the nudges you might feel during the day, the scriptures that pop out to you in Bible study, the counselors God might send your way to advise you of your weaknesses. Once you ask God for help, let Him answer in the way He chooses.

But remember that even if you don’t know exactly what to pray for, God is still listening.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

Q&A with J: “When I Orgasm, I Shake All Over”

Today’s topic is about strange reactions wives experience during/after an orgasm. Here’s the reader’s question:

Strange question, but i’m not really sure where to get more info. Sometimes when I orgasm I shake, all over, uncontrollably but not in a seizure manner. It doesn’t happen all the time and I can’t figure out rhyme or reason for it. It kind of freaks me out, but my husband loves it! He stands there all proud and takes it in. Do you know if this happens to other women? Why/how it happens? I can’t say I enjoy it because I can’t make it stop.

Blog post title + illustration of woman with hands on cheeks and mouth open (like "wow")

Yes, it happens to other women.

In fact, there are several reactions wives have during/after orgasm that, while seemingly strange, are perfectly normal:

  • shaking
  • crying
  • laughing
  • muscle exhaustion
  • numbness

Why do these things happen? From my research and talking to others, I point the finger at three causes:

1. Physical exertion.

While it promotes emotional intimacy, sex is a physical activity. It requires the effort of your body — bones, muscles, nerves, etc. When you tap those resources, your body can react with fatigue demonstrated by such reactions as numbness and shaking.

Maybe this has happened to you when you ran for a long time or played sports or danced the night away: When you finally take a break, you find your muscles are twitching, or you can’t fully feel your feet, or you simply feel like a puddle of goo.

The build-up to orgasm can make your muscles tense up to such an extreme that when the orgasm is over, your body reacts as if you ran a few miles. And it doesn’t have to do with your physical shape beforehand; rather, it’s a sensitivity some women have and others don’t.

2. Emotional expression.

Has it ever struck you as weird that women cry when they win the Miss America pageant? Or when their children win an important award? Or on the presumably “happiest day of their life”—aka, the wedding? I’ve had to explain to my husband that I don’t just cry when I’m sad, but sometimes I cry when I’m supremely happy, because it’s the overwhelming emotion makes tears form in my eyes.

That can happen in the marriage bed too. Maybe your overwhelming emotion comes out with crying, but it could also be uncontrollable shaking or laughter. While it may feel like odd timing, it’s good news that you feel so emotionally connected during lovemaking that your body responds with this reaction. However, yet again, some wives who greatly enjoy sexual intimacy never experience this reaction. It’s fine to have and fine not to have.

3. Brain chemicals.

Related to the second reason, but worth it’s own point, is that certain brain chemicals are released during orgasm, such as endorphins, dopamine, and oxytocin. These chemicals cause feelings of pleasure and bonding. But they can be overwhelming to our bodies as well, causing us to react afterward with extreme fatigue, crying or shaking, or spontaneous laughter.

This is simply the biological side of emotion, a wonderful formula our Creator worked up to keep our bodies in tune with our hearts. In the marriage bed, these brain chemicals help to feel more positive and connected with our mate. They just also happen to have unusual physiological effects in some wives as well.

Two other points the reader made that I want to quickly cover:

It doesn’t happen all the time and I can’t figure out rhyme or reason for it.” Yeah, our bodies are like that. You can’t always find why things happen when they do. Almost like good / bad hair days: Why is your hair so cooperative on Monday, only to behave like a tangle of straw the next? I don’t know.

You can track these moments and see if there’s a pattern, like maybe what you did that day that might have led to greater physical exhaustion or interactions between you and your husband that increased emotion, but there might not be a pattern at all — at least not one you can discern.

I can’t say I enjoy it because I can’t make it stop.” I don’t know if twitching like that is a particularly enjoyable experience no matter what, but the reason you gave for not enjoying it is “I can’t make it stop.” But here’s the thing: Orgasm involves a loss of control. Your genital muscles contract uncontrollably, you may make unusual noises uncontrollably, your face may scrunch up or your mouth widen like a scream uncontrollably, you may ejaculate a small amount of fluid uncontrollably. Are you detecting a theme here?

In Song of Songs 5:1, God encourages the husband and wife saying, ” Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (ESV). The word there really does mean “drunk” or “intoxicated.” And anyone who’s ever been drunk (glad my mother and kids don’t read my blog) knows you lose control when you’re three sheets to the wind. I’m not saying you should be as stupid during lovemaking as a wasted teenager over Spring Break, but it ‘s obviously okay with God to let yourself be awash with emotion and pleasure in the marriage bed. Meaning, if you shake, just let yourself shake, and let your husband enjoy the moment too.

Throughout my answer, you can see two threads that run through everything:

  • These reactions — shaking, crying, laughter, etc. — are normal during/after orgasm; and
  • Their existence depends on the woman’s sensitivity to them.

If you are particular sensitive to one of these reactions, how much you experience the shaking, crying, etc. could relate to the intensity of the orgasm itself or it could seem random. Rather than shy away from those moments, simply embrace them as part of your particular experience of sexual intimacy.

And if you don’t have these reactions, that’s fine too. You may be enjoying orgasm just as much as the next gal, but your body just doesn’t react the same way.

Indeed, God made sex both a simple and complex design. It’s not hard to understand putting Tab A into Slot B; that’s simple. But take two unique individuals, pair them in a covenant marriage, and allow them to explore and enjoy their own repertoire of sexual intimacy, and it’s quite a complex and beautiful thing. Lean into your own experience.

Forget What You Look Like While Making Love

I no longer care what I look like when my husband and I make love.

Let me clarify. I do care about being clean, shaving my legs, wearing something sexy, etc. But I used to be so self-conscious about the expressions my face made or how my body might appear to him in certain sexual positions. I wanted to look beautiful throughout — just like how lovers look so attractive throughout the sex scenes in movies.

I confess to even sucking in my tummy or lying at an angle that made my breasts look more perky or posing in what I considered sensual ways. You know what happened? I just made it harder for myself to get fully involved in the experience. I was taking a part of my brain and focusing it on my looks rather than the sensations I was feeling, or his gaze-worthy body, or the intimacy we were enjoying.

How about you? Are you too aware of what you look like while making love? Are you self-conscious about your body and your facial expressions? Do you feel uptight in some way as you try to control how you come across to your beloved husband?

Blog post title + illustration of woman making satisfied expression

I suspect he’d rather you stop all that worrying and get far more into enjoying the experience. Just keep a few things in mind:

He’s in love with you, not your glamour shot.

Look, it’s great to spruce up for your husband and present yourself in a way that makes him feel special and you feel confident. But at the end of the day, your husband knows what you look like. You’re not going to fool him by sucking in every time he walks into a room, or he’s going to start wondering why you always look constipated.

If he’s interested in or responsive to making love, then your husband knows he’s getting the whole you — not the you from your 1990s glamour shot. And honestly, he’s no glamour shot himself. We are real people with real bodies, and our desire for sexual intimacy in marriage goes beyond what you look like in any particular moment. It’s about the life you have together and nurturing an even deeper connection.

Enthusiasm trumps appearance.

Husbands often tell me that they want their wives to express themselves fully in the marriage bed, untethered and with enthusiasm. What makes you look good to your husband is the expression on your face showing that you’re enjoying what’s happening and the shifts in your body that might make some parts less objectively pretty but show that you’re “into it.” He wants you to let go.

And I almost hate mentioning this, but I believe a big part of the appeal of porn for men is just that these women seem so eager and excited about sex. I am NOT saying you should be your husband’s porn star (jeez, I hate that saying), but it’s informative about what men intrinsically desire. What God intended is surely not for any man to use porn to satisfy these longings, but rather for a covenant husband and wife to be enthusiastic in their marriage bed. Just read how the wife in Song of Songs speaks: “Take me away with you — let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (1:4). She’s in a hurry to get busy, because sexual intimacy is part of her intense love for her husband.

Sex is funny.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Sex is a funny activity. It’s funny-peculiar and sometimes funny-ha-ha. Of all the ways God could have gotten this procreation thing done, we have to get naked, get into positions you don’t really use for other activities, and then make movements that are really quite amusing if you think about it. Personally, I think this shows that God is in favor of joy and fun for His creation, and we should embrace the humorous part of sexual intimacy in marriage.

Once you accept that as part of the whole deal, it frees you up to be more playful and vulnerable in the bedroom. Suddenly, when you grunt like a wild animal in the middle of sex, you’re not embarrassed, but rather tickled by how much you were getting into it. (Likewise if it’s him doing the camel grunt.) You don’t mind the funny facial expressions, because that’s part of the whimsy of lovemaking. Hey, even if you fart right in the middle, you two might just laugh rather than freak out (yes, it’s possible).

If you learn to lean into the experience, not stressing about your appearance, then you and your husband will enjoy lovemaking even more. And I’d bet you’ll look really good to him, all excited about having sex together.

But if this all sounds like a tall order for you — forgetting what you look like while making love — my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, has more tips on preparing for a night of vulnerable lovemaking and letting go in the moment.

Does God Care about Your Sexual Heartbreak?

In the worst years of my marriage, I cried myself to sleep. Not once or twice, but too many times. Sometimes the conflict was so bad that we’d be in the same bed, turned in different directions, not touching in any way, and both feeling lonely, even though our mate was inches away.

Some of you know what I’m talking about.

My prayer life then was fairly active, because I desperately wanted something from God: I wanted Him to fix my marriage. But in the back of my mind, I had this question: Does God really care about my heartbreak?

Because if He cared, why wasn’t He repairing all of our broken places? Like, yesterday?

blog post title + illustration of broken heart

But when I read stories in the Bible of devoted believers, they often spend time “in the pit” where things are tough and faith is tested. I’m not sure we Christians really understand how to live through hardship and wait on God’s deliverance.

Do we really understand how to live through hardship and wait on God's deliverance? Click To Tweet

Now that I’m on the other side, I can tell you three things for certain:

1. God cares about you and your marriage. He is attuned to your heartache, but He also has a point of view that you and I don’t have. He can see not only today, but tomorrow and the future. God’s willing to let us stew longer than we’re comfortable with, because He has an eternal perspective.

The Lord will allow us to endure emotional pain if it motivates spiritual growth.

Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice” (Psalm 55:17).

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” ( Psalm 34:18).

2. God is answering, but maybe not how and when you want.

I wanted God to fix my marriage, which — to me — mainly meant fixing my husband. Perhaps you can see how this approach would go awry. But it took me years to understand that God was patiently answering my prayer, by pushing me harder and harder to look in the mirror. It was when I realized how unloving I’d been to my husband that I began to put godly principles into practice in my marriage. And that changed everything: my attitude, my behavior, and my husband’s response.

What if God is trying to speak to you, trying to nudge you in the right direction, but you aren’t truly listening? What if you don’t hear His answer because it’s not how and when you expected? What if the answer means you have to change?

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver” (Psalm 66:10).

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:4).

3. You’ll eventually be glad you remained faithful.

Of course, the problem with that statement is the word eventually. Are we talking next year, when our marriage begins an uphill climb to intimacy in the marriage bed and beyond? Or are we talking on our death-bed, feeling good about being faithful to the end but never really enjoying what God meant us to have? I really want to say that it will be next year or, better yet, next week. Especially since I fervently believe that living according to God’s plan produces positive results not just in the afterlife, but immediately in our lives right here.

But I’d be lying if I guaranteed something. I don’t know when it will happen, and you can only control your part of the equation. But I believe God’s promises that we will be rewarded for faithfulness.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

He’s listening, He cares, He’s answering, and He’s preparing a reward for righteousness.

In the midst of tearful days, that may be hard to believe. But continue to pray for your sexual intimacy, and then listen for His voice. Take baby steps in the right direction, putting into practice what you have learned through prayer and study.

Intimacy Revealed CoverTo help you focus on this task, pick up my book Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage, which walks you through Bible study, questions to ask yourself, and prayer time to start making the changes you and your marriage bed need.

(Apology: I changed the cover on the ebook, and it messed up the paperback version. So that’s currently not on sale. It will be up next week—promise!—just as soon as my graphic designer gets back from her weekend with hubby and sends me the correct file. 🙂 )