Does Your Sex Drive Take a Dive in the Holiday Season?

I’ve been sleeping too much lately.

Usually, it’s the other way around — not getting enough sleep. But after a rough start to last week with serious sleep deprivation, I decided to make it up with earlier bedtimes, later wake-up times, and a couple of naps. Surprisingly, I’ve had no problem soaking in every last moment of sweet sleep. I’m like a hibernating bear.

So when I woke up this morning and thought, Why am I sleeping so much? and Why would I totally pick sleep over sex right now? I reminded myself of what time of year it is.Does Your Sex Drive Take a Dive in the Holiday Season?

December brings together three challenges to your sex life. Especially us ladies. See if you recognize any of these.

Stress

The Christmas season is a joyful time in many ways. But remember that to-do list that’s always hard for you to get through? It’s grown by three feet.

You have presents to buy, wrap, and send. You have lights and decorations to put up. You have the Christmas pageant, choir performance, or candle lighting to prepare for. Your work wants you to participate in the charity drive, Secret Santa exchange, or off-site party. You need to send Christmas cards (for those of us who still do that). You must take the children or grandchildren to see Santa, the live nativity scene, and/or a tour of Christmas lights. You must get ready for the arrival of family or get ready to travel if you’re going somewhere else.

Whether you are naturally Suzy Snowflake or struggle against being the Grinch, you still have more to do this time of year. Good stress or bad stress, it’s still more stress.

And stress has been shown to negatively affect our sex drives. Prolonged increases in cortisol, the “stress hormone,” lower your libido. It’s harder to relax enough to become aroused and enjoy a sexual encounter. And with pressures all around us, we simply have less time.

Sex can feel like another to-do that’s down on the list between mail grandma’s pecan pie recipe to my husband’s cousin and make a stocking for the dog. It might happen, but if it doesn’t, you figure you’re still okay. Yet deep down, you know your marriage — and your marriage bed — are more important than that.

So take a few steps to help with the stress factor:

  • Cross off items on your list that you really don’t need to do. Be honest, and even ruthless. It’s good to say no to some opportunities so that you can say yes to your marriage. If you struggle with this, ask a trusted friend to take a look at your list and let her be the bearer of the “you’re not doing that this year” news.
  • Involve your husband in the to-dos, asking for help. Of course, he won’t do the task like you would — for example, he might buy cookies instead of baking them for your daughter’s school holiday party — but that’s okay. You can get more things done, and you’ll feel a sense of togetherness. Which will hopefully translate into a desire to get together in a more pleasurable way later.
  • Put sex on your list, near the top. We mostly accomplish what we plan for. If you prioritize sexual intimacy, you’ll likely get it done. Even block off time for this important nurturing of your marriage and intimacy.
  • Compartmentalize, like a dude. It may seem like I’m asking for the impossible, but hear me out: Guys have an uncanny ability to focus on the task right in front of them. What if we gals adopted a bit of that approach? Make an intentional effort to shove all your must-dos aside so that you can be fully present in the marriage bed. Remove from your bedroom the stacks of gifts to wrap, the holiday decorations to go through, and the small children asking when Santa is coming. Take the time you need to mentally prepare, maybe with a bubble bath or body massage to counteract the stress. When your mind wanders, meditate back to the thought that this is my intimate time with my husband.

Fatigue

A close compatriot of stress is fatigue. Your fatigue could be caused by juggling so many holiday-related tasks that you feel like the official Christmas Court Jester. When you finally get home and into bed, you burrow into the covers and hide from the world and the demands of the day.

Or perhaps you feel the need for more downtime to balance the busyness of the season. When not working that to-do list, you want to throw on your flannel pajamas, grab a cup of cocoa, and binge-watch the most recent series of Gilmore Girls. You’re too exhausted to get your lady parts excited about sex.

Maybe the weather is wearing you down. It’s darker earlier. And later. Basically, it’s dark a lot of the day. And it’s cold. (To those in the Tropics or Australia, I know this isn’t you, but…) And if you’re in an area like mine (Southeast Texas), it’s not that cold but it is gray and rainy.

Whatever the cause, you feel too fatigued to get aroused. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if your husband just wanted to snuggle on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls with you? (Don’t hold your breath.) But you have a niggling feeling that ignoring your sexual intimacy altogether would be short-changing your marriage.

Instead, be consistent with your sleep habits. Make yourself go to bed and get up at regular times, keeping your body’s clock on track. Interspersed with those holiday comfort foods, be sure to consume healthy foods — vegetables, fruits, nuts, water. Even if you love mulled wine, wassail, or eggnog, don’t overdo the alcohol because that will make you even more tired. Find ways to exercise and do some activities that simply give you a burst of joy, whether that’s going to an art museum or ice skating or watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Finally, look for better times in the day to make love. Nighttime might not work well for you this season, but could you get up a little early for some nookie? Plan a “lunch date” so you can have needed naked time alone? Get in some afternoon delight? Be creative and give your husband that time of day when you’re most perky.

Depression

This is a wonderful season for many, but a really hard season for some. Those who already struggle with depression may have additional challenges this time of year. And Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that most often occurs in the winter months.

Without sufficient exposure to sunlight, our serotonin levels can decrease. Serotonin is a body chemical responsible for mood balance, and its deficiency is one cause of depression. For those who suffer from SAD, one option is bright light therapy. But even making sure you get out of the house when the sun is out can help.

Also, it’s tougher to exercise in the winter months. Yes, there are winter sports, but many favorite activities are off-limits this time of year. And we probably walk less, avoiding getting out when the weather is cold or dreary.

We’re also more aware of personal losses during the holidays, whether it’s the relative who died this past year or the adult children who won’t be joining us this Christmas.

Some depression sufferers may need to ask their doctors for help or a temporary increase in their antidepressant medication. And if you have the “winter blues,” you may actually be experiencing depression, so get sunlight, get exercise, get help if you need it. Also, prioritize self-care. I don’t mean a marathon of holiday movies with a tin of Christmas cookies and a half-gallon of eggnog. Rather, find and do activities that give you a smile and a sense of accomplishment.

Our spouses shouldn’t be relegated to the bottom of our priority list. Rather, we should give our best gift to our beloved. And sexual intimacy is a beautiful gift we need to give this season. Figure out what’s making your sex drive dive this season and then find ways to bring your libido back.

10 Intimate Things to Enjoy for Christmas

The Christmas season focuses on parties, decorating, shopping, cooking, and big-eyed children with wish lists as long as pythons. (Some children’s lists may include “python.” I’ve heard they make good pets.) The holidays can become a time of stress and even conflict between married couples. But we want to stay focused on keeping our love and intimacy strong.

So I racked my brain long and hard — or at least hard — and came up with some things you and your spouse can partake in together to bring you closer, emotionally or sexually, during this busy season. Here’s my list of 10 Intimate Things to Enjoy for Christmas.

Married Couple in Santa hats, kissing

10. Take a Christmas Lights Tour. Jump in the car with your spouse and take a tour through the neighborhood to look at lights. Or head to a local attraction – the port, the town square, the park – that has a light display. Talk about what you like as you view the lights and let the wonder of the season give you both a smile. Click HERE for a list of some Christmas lights attractions.

9. Hang Mistletoe…and Use It. Mistletoe has a history of being considered a fertility herb and an aphrodisiac. The tradition of kissing under mistletoe actually has its origins in mythology. These days, however, we recognize it as a cute plant that we hang up and smooch under for the sole reason that it’s fun. So string it up around your house! On the tops of door frames, in entryways, or over your bed, put up a little mistletoe and invite your spouse to join you.

8. Listen to Love Songs. There are so many romantic songs for the holidays. From I’ll Be Home for Christmas to All I Want for Christmas is You to Merry Christmas, Baby to Santa Baby, there is a lot of wonderful music you two can share over the holidays. A few other favorites of mine include A Christmas Love Song, Baby It’s Cold Outside, and I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm. Make your own music collection and play some tunes as you snuggle by the fireplace in each other’s arms.

7. Visit a Nativity Scene. As you gaze upon the Christmas story represented by a baby, mother, father, and visitors, take a moment to think about the role of Joseph and Mary. Talk about a loving couple! If you read the accounts in Matthew and Luke, you see that both were unselfish and intent on honoring God. Can you imagine the loving relationship those attitudes produced in their marriage? I believe that on the night Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary did what other loving husbands and wives do when their firstborn arrives: They held each other, stared at their infant in awe, and felt closer for having brought a child into the world. (Then they went home and said, “What have we got ourselves into!” But that’s another story.)

White Christmas movie poster6. Watch Romantic Movies. Several romantic movies are set during the Christmas season. Here are a few titles to consider: Christmas in Connecticut (1945), The Shop Around the Corner (1940, the inspiration for You’ve Got Mail by the way), While You Were Sleeping (1995), White Christmas (1954), Holiday Inn (1942), and Miracle on 34th Street (1947, 1994). And for those who crave action and can look way past the language, there’s Die Hard (1988). (Okay, it isn’t technically romantic or Christmas-y, but those terrorists take over the office building on Christmas Eve and Bruce Willis wants to protect his wife.)

5. Wear Santa-themed Lingerie. If you’re game, you could play sexy Santa for each other. (Yes, I know that the real St. Nick was an actual saint, and I’m not trying to dis that image. But he didn’t wear red & white fur either.) You can find Santa lingerie at a lot of stores this time of year.

4. Add a Sexy Gift to Your Wish List. How about deciding that hubby and wife will buy each other one sexy gift this year? You can have your own private gift-opening on Christmas morning (or Christmas Eve for an early present). It can be anything from lingerie to massage oil to a sex toy. Or buy a book about intimacy to read together, or a game with sexy ideas (Married Dance and other Christian retailers offer romantic games). If you suggest the idea ahead of time, it will create some anticipation of what your sweetie purchased and how you can enjoy it together.

3. Wrap and Then Unwrap Your Bodies. There are plenty of places on your body where a bow can be strategically placed. You can simply opt for ribbon and bows, or wrap yourself up in a sheet and add a fabric ribbon with a bow on top. You could even buy one of those huge gift bags or a giant stocking and tuck yourself in. Add a message tag if you wish with a flirty line like “You’ve been so nice, it’s time to be naughty.” The fun part, of course, is the unwrapping.

O'Henry's The Gift of the Magi book cover2. Read The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry. I LOVE this short story about a couple who are strapped for money and want to get the best gifts for one another at Christmas. This is love at its best, least selfish, and most satisfying. You can read the full story HERE.

1. Make Love. Okay, this isn’t specifically a Christmas gift. It’s a wonderful gift anytime of year. But great sex in marriage comes with a giving attitude. Set aside a time for the two of you to be sexually intimate and try to outdo each other in providing your spouse pleasure. Merry Christmas, Baby!

What ideas do you have for making this holiday season a romantic or sexy one? How can you use activities or gifts to bring you closer at a time when busyness threatens to bring stress and conflict? Got any favorite holiday movies or songs? Chime in!

This post was first published in 2011 and has been updated.

Does God Want to Save Your Marriage?

Does God want to save your marriage? That’s the question I consciously, and more often subconsciously, asked myself when my marriage was on the brink many years ago. Believe me when I say that I was 90% sure we were not going to make it. Things look dire.

But as I prayed and prayed, I couldn’t figure it out. I was trying so hard to make things work — reading Christian marriage resources, seeking counseling, attending Bible classes centered on making your marriage better. And I was praying. Mostly pleading in prayers that God would fix the mess that our relationship had become.

does-god-want-to-save-your-marriageI would read verses like these and wonder why He bothered to make such promises when they didn’t seem true for me:

In my distress I called to the Lord;
    I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice;
    my cry came before him, into his ears.

It felt like He wasn’t listening. Or didn’t care how close we were coming to our breaking point. As if He could take His sweet, eternal time, while our hearts and our marriage fell to pieces.

Yes, I was bitter and hopeless at times.

And right now, at this very moment, someone reading this blog feels the same way. You’ve been praying for your marriage, begging God for help, wondering what’s taking so long or whether He’s even listening at all. You feel so close to the edge that you’re sure your marriage will tumble over the cliff and be impossible to restore.

I cannot make guarantees about what will happen for you, but looking back at my history — and hearing the histories of others — I am convinced that God wants to save your marriage. He wants to start with your soul, but He cares deeply about your covenant with your spouse.

When you call out to God in your distress, He hears your voice. And it moves His heart.

When you call out to God in your distress, He hears your voice. And it moves His heart. Click To Tweet

For many reasons, He wasn’t kowtowing to my schedule. But the biggest reason was that He had things to teach me.

Yes, I wanted the fix-it formula for improving our marriage, I wanted to know what kind of conversations between my husband and me would result in a breakthrough, and I wanted God to change my husband so that he would understand and meet my needs. But I wasn’t really listening to God and finding out what He wanted. I wasn’t willing to learn.

Now when I read that verse from Psalm 18:6, I read it in context of the whole psalm. And what David says in this passage reflects exactly what I experienced.

1. God didn’t swoop in before the trouble happened, but at the point when David worried that all was lost.

The cords of death entangled me;
    the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
    the snares of death confronted me (v. 4-5).

Why did God wait? I don’t know. But it does take especially large doses of trust to believe that God’s got this, even when you can’t see how it’s going to work out. If you use this opportunity right, you learn to rely even more on the only one who can truly save you.

2. As much as God wanted to defeat David’s enemies, He mostly wanted to take hold of David.

He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
    he drew me out of deep waters (v. 16).

God cared about my marriage, but He wanted to start with me. I had my own set of issues I needed to work on, some that involved my husband and some that were just mine. If you aren’t working on yourself — letting God work on you — you’re not pursuing what He wants for your marriage. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You can’t have a healthy and happy marriage when one or both of you are profoundly unhealthy and/or unhappy. You have to let God take hold of you and draw you out of your deep waters.

3. God’s rescue was in line with David’s righteousness.

The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me (v. 20).

Truthfully, when my marriage was bad, I was getting back pretty much what I put out. While praying for peace and restoration, I displayed attitudes of arrogance, contentiousness, and contempt. My intentions were good and many of my ideas on how to improve our marriage were solid, but I paid little attention to how I communicated them and treated my husband. Before you expect God to show up and fix your problems, you’d better take stock, humble yourself, and work on those areas where you lack righteousness.

The number one thing that improved my marriage was living out biblical principles. God rescued me when I fell in line with what He’d already told me to do in his Word. That’s when dealing with me according to my righteousness became hope and healing for my marriage.

4. Once David was saved, He gave credit to God for the win and for keeping him safe.

You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great (v. 35).

My husband and I still annoy each other and get into arguments sometimes, but our marriage is solid and happy. Did we have to work at it? Oh yeah. Roll-up-our-sleeves, sweat-on-our-brows work at times. But now that we’re here, I’m one hundred percent certain that we wouldn’t have made it but for God. His help made us great, and He sustains us. I pray you reach this point, understanding at an even deeper level the goodness of your Heavenly Father.

Sometime today or in the next week, I hope you’ll read all of Psalm 18. As you read, consider what promises are there and what you need to change to get in line with God’s plan for your marriage. He’s listening — now listen to Him.

A Sleigh-ful of Gift Ideas for Your Spouse

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! But I’m figuring by the time you read this post, you will have already consumed all the turkey, dressing, and cranberry sauce you can handle — plus a little more. You will have spent time with friends and family talking about everything you have to be thankful for, or perhaps discussed the details of your aunt Josephine’s hip surgery or argued all the particulars of your contrasting political views. (I’m hoping it wasn’t that last one.) And you’ve prayed to God telling him how grateful you are for the blessings in your life, even while they are disappointments as well.

It’s a day for even us natural pessimists to be Glass Half Full people.

And tomorrow begins the Wallet Half Empty season. Also known as Christmas! 🙂

For those who are already finished with their Christmas shopping, you probably don’t need to read any more of this post and we sorta don’t like you anyway. You give us a case of envy the size of our Thanksgiving turkey. (Just kidding.)

But for the rest of us — who start our shopping on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, or any other cleverly named days inviting you to spend money — I wanted to give you a single place to access all of my gift ideas.

A Sleigh-ful of Gift Ideas for Your Spouse - sleigh with presents insideFollowing are posts in which I suggested specific items you can give your beloved which might just spark a little Christmas cheer in the marriage bed.

Note: Some of these posts were written a while ago, and if a link doesn’t work, it’s because that item or link is no longer available. Sorry!

10 Sexy, Manly Items for Your Hubby’s Christmas Stocking

Top Marriage Book Picks for Christmas

13 Sexy Valentine’s Gifts from Your Grocery Store (works for Christmas too!)

7 Sexy Valentine’s Gifts You Can Make

8 Cool Valentine’s Gifts for Your Hot Hubby

8 Sweet Valentine’s Gifts for Your Spicy Wife

Favorite Books for Christmas Gifts

Wrap It Up for Hubby: 10 Christmas Gifts for Your Marriage Bed

Love & Sex Coupons for Christmas

10 Sexy Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband

Of course, you could always pick up a copy of Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design! It’s aimed at wives, but there are many tips couples can read about and give a try. Indeed, plenty of husbands would love it if you tuck that book under the tree, open it together on Christmas Eve, and then promise your hubby you’ll read the book and prioritize sexual intimacy in the coming year.

You probably have a friend or family member who could use this book as well. And you could even match it with a couple of other marriage books to show your support for their whole marriage.

Stay safe on the roads and in stores. And enjoy shopping this weekend, this season, or — for those who wait until the last-minute — Christmas Eve.

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Q&A with J: How Can I Feel More Free Around His Naked Body?

Today’s question is from a wife who doesn’t struggle with her husband seeing her naked. But she struggles with seeing him naked.

hi, soon I’ll be celebrating fifth anniversary with the most amazing husband I could ever wish for…. When we got married, I was a virgin, but it wasn’t hard for me to let my husband see me, explore me and to make love in the daylight. It still isn’t. But it was hard to see him naked and to be brave enough to explore his body. I feel more awkward seeing him, than letting him see me. Although it’s getting easier (and I like and love my husband a lot), I still prefer him to have his underwear on until the last minute before intercourse. I would love to change that and get used to him touching me not only with his hands but his penis also while preparing for intercourse. As I told – he is awesome, so he is totally okay with it, but still I’d love to feel more free around his naked body. Any suggestions where to start? 🙂

Q&A with J: How Can I Feel More Free Around His Naked Body?

This is a truly serious subject, but I can’t help myself from imagining a wildlife program with the announcer saying: “And here we find the male form in its natural habitat, a wild and untamed thing. While some females of the species find this male ‘plumage’ attractive, a few females display a fear response when confronted with the daunting phallus. Our goal today is to help this one shy female successfully approach and interact with the male, using a process referred to in psychology as desensitization. Through repeated and escalating exposure, we’ll help the female learn to appreciate and engage with this rather impressive appendage.”

Look, while it’s unusual that this reader is perfectly fine with exposing her whole body to her husband yet has issues engaging with his genitalia, it’s not entirely surprising. Honestly, that wiggly thing in between his legs becomes a rather sizable, potent tool come intercourse-time.

Thinking back to the days of seeing my first penis, I do remember thinking that it was big. Like way bigger than I thought I was “down there.” And — holy space invaders — it was supposed to penetrate! Then there were testicles and, um, hair. It was just a whole other landscape.

All I’m saying is that I don’t know the reason why you, questioner, are resistant to seeing and touching your husband’s genitals, but there are understandable reasons why you might be nervous.

On the other hand, your comfort with him seeing you but discomfort with you seeing him might have something to do with a past experience. This response would make total sense for someone who had been molested as a child by an adult male flashing his genitals at her. Or even a child seeing a naked man in a context that felt disorienting (a glimpse of porn, walking on a particular movie scene, etc.). If you think this might be the case, I’d advise sitting down with a Christian counselor and delving into that issue.

Either way, let’s talk about addressing that nervousness.

Systematic desensitization is a process developed by psychologists to help persons suffering from phobias. The idea is to take what you’re afraid of, come up with a plan for exposing you to that stimulus through repeated and increasing presentation, and over time you learn to move past your fears.

For example, let’s say you’re like Indiana Jones and you fear snakes. Instead of throwing you into a pit of poisonous snakes with nothing more than a dying torchlight (which, by the way, is called flooding), we put you in a large room with a glass-caged snake at the far end. You sit there for a bit and go through relaxation techniques to get used to that exposure. The next time, the snake moves closer. Closer again the next time. Eventually, we take it out of the cage. And, if you want, the successful conclusion might be actually holding the snake.

Yes, this really works with people. And not merely for phobias, but simply situations in which you’re nervous. It’s the whole reason I’m an introvert who can function like an extrovert in social situations — I’ve learned to handle my belly butterflies through desensitization.

And this process could work well for your issue in getting used to your husband’s naked body and particularly his genitalia.

You can’t really cage that “beast” and set it across the room while you learn to relax, but you can do things that expose you slowly and let you relax when confronted with his nudity. Here are some practical ideas to explain what I mean:

  • Does he dress/undress in the bedroom when you’re there? Perhaps you could make a point to be in the room when he’s getting ready for work or at bedtimes so you can acclimate to his nakedness.
  • How about taking a shower or a bubble bath together? You can stay focused on the main goal — getting clean/taking it easy — but you’d also be close to him while he’s nude and get used to how things look and behave.
  • Have you ever played naked Twister? You don’t have to play that one, but grab a game and play in the buff. You can take nearly any board or card game and make it into Strip ___: Strip Battleship — sink their ship, they strip; Strip Monopoly — pass Go and collect $200 and a garment from your spouse; Strip Gin Rummy — loser of the hand also loses a piece of clothing. That atmosphere can make getting undressed more relaxed and flirtatious.
  • You know that front flap in most men’s underwear? Slide your hand in there and touch him. You can let your hands get used to the feel of him without adding visuals to the experience.
  • Do you use strategic lighting? Candlelight or low lights can go a long way toward creating a soothing atmosphere and allowing enough visuals to see one another without conveying a stark Here I am in all my glory!
  • Could you do an I’m exploring and you can’t interfere session? While your husband lies on the bed, slowly remove his items of clothing, touch him tentatively and then more intensely as you wish, and have the freedom to explore at your own pace. That opportunity to remain in control and take breaks when you need to pause, breathe, and relax can help you feel more confident about him being naked in your presence.
  • After having sex, can you remain naked together and talk or snuggle? That might be a less intimidating situation and would allow you to be close to him. Bonus points for stroking his penis or testicles post-lovemaking.

You can probably come up with your own ideas in line with these. But essentially, you’re looking to expose yourself to his genitals in ways that encourage you to relax, to feel good about the experience, and to become confident about your willingness to see and touch him.

Finally, add a component of self-talk that settles on the truth of your husband’s body: that it is “remarkably and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, HCSB). Repeat this and other such verses to yourself before and during the unveiling of your husband’s body:

“How handsome you are, my beloved! Oh, how charming! And our bed is verdant” (Song of Songs 1:16).

“My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand” (Song of Songs 5:10).

Ask God for His perspective of your husband — every inch a masterpiece. His genitals are also remarkably and wonderfully made. Once you see and believe that, you’ll be more motivated to look, touch, and enjoy this special part of his body.

Ask God for His perspective of your husband — every inch a masterpiece. Click To Tweet

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