Q&A with J: Sexual Release Without Sinfulness

Our question for today comes from a wife who is currently separated from her husband, fighting for her marriage, and trying to deal with her restless sex drive. Here it is:

Our sex life has been amazing from day one. I have a very high libido and I just enjoy sex and trying new things, etc. However, we are currently separated due to him falling into an international affair. I am fighting hard for my marriage and I’m praying the Lord will grab his heart and turn him from his sin…

My question is this: I’m 31 years old with a high libido and I feel trapped in how to how to honor the Lord with my sexuality right now. How can I get a release without indulging in anything sinful? I believe masturbation is okay, especially in my situation, but it has become really hard to climax without having a scenario in my head. I believe erotica can erode a marriage, but are there certain types of erotica that can help people people in my situation?

Blog post title + woman under bed covers with arms raised

First off, I’m praying for your marriage too, and I invite my readers to do the same. Obviously, the best answer is for this marriage to be not only restored but brought to a place of thriving.

Yet whatever happens, you have to deal with this high libido that was awakened in marriage and now has no place to be satisfied. I feel for you. Your sex drive doesn’t just go away when your spouse is gone; it can be a hungry little beast when not properly fed.

You essentially have three ways to deal with a restless sex drive.

1. Release it.

That’s where your question heads to: “How can I get a release without indulging in anything sinful?” You say that masturbation is okay, and I’ve laid out my own position on this blog before. A summary of my perspective would be that masturbation that brings you and your spouse closer together is okay and masturbation that draws sexual energy away from your spouse is not okay.

Long physical separation from your spouse could be one of those times when it’s beneficial to “take the edge off” so that you can remain focused on your husband and your intimacy with him and not be tempted by another’s man attention, get cranky with your husband because it’s been way too long, etc. But imagining a scenario in your mind that doesn’t involve your husband takes sexual energy away from him; it’s inherently detrimental to your relationship.

If you’re imagining anything other than your hubby in your mind, you’re in sinful territory. And that’s what erotica encourages you to do. Jesus said, “But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, NLT). Of course that also applies to a woman looking, or imagining, a man with lust.

Ideally, if you’re masturbating to be able to withstand a long physical separation from your spouse, you’re doing so with their knowledge, support, and even presence (yes, some married couples Skype and simultaneously pleasure themselves). In your case, however, that’s not possible. So you need to be careful about how you engage in this physical release.

Look at your motives, your heart and your mind, and what will best keep your sexual energy on your marriage. Prayerfully ask those questions and listen for God’s answers.

2. Channel it.

You don’t have to use sexual energy sexually. That pent-up feeling can be channeled toward other activities. For instance, physical exercise can help diffuse that tension. It’s another way to be active, experience body chemical highs, and end up with that level of fatigue you sometimes feel at the end of sex.

I’m sure you’re also missing that physical touch that comes with sexual connection. You can refocus your desire for sexual affection to other forms of affection and other relationships. Spend more time with family. Volunteer in your church’s nursery. Head to a convalescent home and hold hands with an old woman, who might also have some wise life advice to share while you’re there.

Check out these and other ideas on what to do with your sexual energy when you’re not attached in this post.

3. Ignore it.

You’re probably thinking, I can’t! It’s impossible to ignore. But hear me out. In psychology, there’s a principle called extinction. In behavioral therapy, we know that linking a stimulus and a consequence causes people to expect the latter when the former shows up. The classic experiment is Pavlov’s dogs who heard a bell before being fed and thereafter drooled for food whenever they heard the bell ring. But if you de-couple that stimulus and consequence (bell → food), eventually the conditioned response (drooling) goes away. That’s extinction.

Right now, your hungry little beast — aka, your sex drive — wants to be fed. But it doesn’t literally need to be fed. You don’t have to have sex for your heart to keep beating. So it’s possible to use a bit of extinction in dealing with your drive.

I don’t believe your libido will completely go away, because our sexuality is an integral, God-given part of our humanity. But if you constantly shove juicy morsels at that beast, it will keep coming and coming, demanding to be fed. If you ignore it, eventually your drive will diminish. Enough to be more manageable.

Lest you think I’m being completely unrealistic, my husband and I did not have sex for about four months when expecting our second child. I was right in that high-libido part of my pregnancy when my doctor announced that health risks precluded intercourse. I did a lot of ignoring my drive, and so did my husband. Over time, it got less demanding. So I believe it can be done.

(By the way, for those who are in a marriage where you should be having sex and one of you has been practicing extinction, this might help to explain why it’s hard to get going again. But you should, for the sake of your marriage.)

Which of the three options should you choose? Each of them — releasing your sex drive, channeling it, ignoring it — could be beneficial depending on the motives, circumstances, and goals. But ask serious questions about what would honor God and your marriage when deciding what to do.

Once again, I’m praying that your marriage will be saved.

Sex Tonight? What Does Your Magic 8-Ball Say?

Magic 8-BallWhen I was growing up, there was a toy that many of us played with called a Magic 8-Ball. Manufactured by Mattel, it looked like a pool table 8-ball but had an icosahedral (20-sided) die inside. When you asked a question and then shook the ball, one side of the die would show up through a window to give you an answer.

I never had one myself, but I played with others’ magic 8-balls. It was fun to ask random questions and then see such answers as: “Without a doubt”; “Cannot predict now”; and “Don’t count on it.” It was all a game, of course.

But I was thinking about how we often have a set of ready answers when it comes to having sex in marriage. It’s like we have our own internal magic 8-balls and whenever our husband asks, “Do you want to have sex?” we shake up the ball and spit out one of the preprinted replies.

The original possibilities for the magic 8-balls included 10 positive responses, five wishy-washy, and five ain’t-happening:

● It is certain
● It is decidedly so
● Without a doubt
● Yes definitely
● You may rely on it
● As I see it, yes
● Most likely
● Outlook good
● Yes
● Signs point to yes
● Reply hazy try again
● Ask again later
● Better not tell you now
● Cannot predict now
● Concentrate and ask again
● Don’t count on it
● My reply is no
● My sources say no
● Outlook not so good
● Very doubtful

Those aren’t terrible odds. If your hubby approached you to make love, it might be a nice deal if half the time he got a positive response, one-quarter of the time he got what amounts to “you can talk me into it,” and only one-quarter of the time was a no. Of course, it would be even better if the nos were fewer and the yeses or maybes higher, but for some marriages and some seasons in marriage, a 75% success rate of experiencing sexual intimacy when a higher-drive spouse initiates is a decent result.

But you know what? I bet a lot of us wives have an internal magic 8-ball stacked with negative responses. Maybe half of the time, your set-point is no. Or maybe it’s just a whole lot of maybes — with your willingness contingent on all of your to-dos getting done and the stars aligning just so.

And yes, I know, it could be you with the higher desire and your husband whose magic 8-ball could use a substantial adjustment.

Refusal of sexual intimacy isn’t a game to the one who’s asking. If the higher-drive spouse wants to make love, it’s usually not about physical release or recreational enjoyment. As I’ve often said, if it was just about the orgasm, they could get that done without you. Rather, the desire to make love, and the rejection felt when the nos pile up, run much deeper.

Maybe like me, you toyed with a magic 8-ball when you were young. You asked questions like, “Will we have a pop quiz tomorrow?” “Am I smarter than my sister?” or “Am I getting the gift I want for Christmas?” The results you got were interesting or even funny, but they didn’t really matter. However, perhaps you also asked relational questions like “Will I get invited to prom?” or “Does the guy I have a crush on like me?” Remember how you felt when the negative answer kept coming up over and over? Even though we knew it was a toy — just a silly way to pass the time — we longed for a positive answer and felt a sense of disappointment when it didn’t happen.

Now imagine that’s real. Your husband approaches you for sex, you shake up your magic 8-ball, and a negative answer spits out time and time again. What kind of disappointment does he feel?

I recently shared one of my archived posts, Be His “Sure Thing”, on social media and received several positive comments and shares. Because I think this is one of those game-changing ideas in marriage, that saying yes to sexual intimacy should be the response that our spouse most hears. As I said in that post:

There is a deep warmth that comes from knowing that your spouse is your “sure thing” — the one who will talk with you when you need conversation, who will embrace you when you need to be held, who will make love when you need to feel that one-flesh physical connection.

In marriage, we’re supposed to be there for our spouses in all those ways that make us feel loved. Your way might involve more affection or conversation, but his way might focus on mutual sexual pleasure. Or vice versa. And that’s a completely legitimate way to express love in marriage. It’s God-made and Heaven-endorsed.

I’m not saying you can never say no. I think that’s a legitimate answer when circumstances force sexual intimacy to take a temporary backseat to other needs in your lives. (Although I highly recommend rain check sex.) But how’s your internal magic 8-ball? How many of your possible answers are positive? Do you need to rewrite a few?

Praying Together for Your Marriage

Sex is a somewhat awkward act. It involves getting naked, striking positions you don’t usually do for anything else, and making various body movements and noises. It’s one of the reasons I’ve said that sex is not merely hot and holy, but humorous.

Yet plenty of married couples have had sex numerous times and still balk at the awkwardness of praying together.

Why do we struggle to link hands and hearts and go to our Heavenly Father in prayer?

Why do we struggle to link hands and hearts and go to our Heavenly Father in prayer? Click To Tweet

Blog post title + couple holding hands to pray over Bible

I wonder if in some ways praying together as a couple is even more vulnerable. You have to be willing to speak up and share what you’re thinking, feeling, and longing for. You might need to confess sins in front of your spouse and ask for guidance in ways that reveal your heart. If you pray openly and fervently, you reveal deep parts of your soul.

In that moment, you also come to God together as a couple, two individuals now one flesh before their Creator. It can be an intense reminder of the commitment and challenge you’ve taken on.

If you wonder why you should even pray together, here are a few reasons:

1. Every couple I talk to who regularly pray together deeply believes it has helped their marriage. Some swear that praying together is what saved their marriage or revived it. Inviting God to work in your marriage is powerful stuff. Ephesians 1:19-20 says: “I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms” (NLT). Don’t you want resurrection-level power working on your marriage and your marriage bed?

2. It brings us closer. It’s a vulnerable experience, but vulnerability is what leads to intimacy and trust. Oftentimes, praying together doesn’t start out at that deep level, but with time you become more comfortable revealing your mind and your heart. It’s hard not to feel a strong bond to someone who lets their guard down and prays to God with you, and you show your own closeness to someone by letting them see you as well.

3. It results in more satisfying sex. No, really. Both research and anecdotes have linked daily prayer with better lovemaking. I suspect it’s because they mutually promote intimacy in marriage.

So how can you get past the awkwardness and approach God’s throne together in prayer?

1. Remember, it’s just a chat. We tend to get caught in “saying the right things” when we pray aloud, but if you treat it like a regular chat with your Heavenly Father, that might loosen you up to relax and just speak what’s on your mind.

2. Start small. We sometimes treat our prayer lives like weight loss goals: I’m going to lose 20 pounds by this summer! We’re going to wake up at 5:30 a.m. and pray together for half an hour! Those sound great, but they’re overly ambitious and you’ll likely never make those goals and then give up. Aim for five minutes a day together in prayer. Start small and grow from there.

Aim for five minutes a day together in prayer. Click To Tweet

3. Take turns, or don’t. Praying together means you’re both present and paying attention. But from there, you can take turns or one of you can pray and let the other simply listen. Knowing that you don’t have to speak every time might free some of you up to go ahead and give it a shot. When you feel comfortable, you can jump in.

4. Use touch to focus. For many couples, it’s helpful to hold hands or embrace while praying. It helps to create a circle of concentration and it’s a reminder of our connection as we pray.

5. Pray specifically about your marriage. You can cover other things, but many have a tendency to make prayer into a list of requests for other people: Dear God, help Johnny do well on his math exam, be with Grandma in her upcoming surgery, and help Uncle Joe get a new job. All well and good, but if you’re taking the time to pray together as a couple, then pray about being a couple. Ask God to use that infinite power to heal your rifts, strengthen your bond, and pour His love into you so that you can better love one another.

6. Try praying before or after sex. This one might feel more awkward, or even risky. But give it a shot! You might find that praying before or after sexual intimacy gives you a better perspective of God’s ongoing blessing of your marriage bed.

I’d love to hear your own take on how praying together as a couple has helped your marriage and your marriage bed. Please share!

Sources: CNN: Couples Who Pray Together – Have Better SexCouples Who Pray: The Most Intimate Act Between a Man and a Woman; Family Life: What Happens When Couples Pray

Q&A with J: “I Can’t Really Seem to Get Into Sex”

Today’s question is from a wife who’s struggling with her pleasure in the marriage bed:

Hi, I’m hoping you can give me some advice. My husband and I have been happily married for 11 years…I love him more than ever…the problem is I can’t really seem to get into sex. I know it’s important and we usually have sex twice a week but I don’t seemed to get turned on through it. I do orgasm most of the time but I just want to desire sex…I want to really want sex!!! I want to have the wet “horny” feeling but only very occasionally does happen. We do have 4 kids aged from 3-9 years so I don’t know if that has anything to do with it. I’m kinda hoping one day this stage will pass and I’ll all of a sudden be back into sex? Anyway, any advice would be great!

Blog title + couple's feet in bed pointed away from each other

First off, yes, I think four children ages 3 to 9 years has something to do with it. Lots of wives report a decrease in their libido while their children are young, because that’s when we’re exhausted, distracted, and stressed. If you think that’s contributing, then check out my suggestions in When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 2.

But the libido and pleasure issues may run deeper, as they sometimes do for wives. I’ve talked recently about how in 15-30% of marriages wives are estimated to be the higher-drive spouse, but that still means that in 70-85% of marriages, he wants sex more than she does.

And many women have been sold the idea that they’re supposed to want sex like their husbands — with a burning need or intense desire to be experience sexual pleasure. They think the proper order of things is desire, arousal, sex, and then orgasm. But you know what? That’s not what the research shows. Rather, female sexual desire seems to kick in for many after the decision to engage and getting aroused.

Yet what concerns me is that you say, “we usually have sex twice a week but I don’t seemed to get turned on through it.” Yeah, your body should be more responsive to sexual sensations. That’s how God intended it to work.

So while I don’t want you to sweat not having that “horny” feeling before you start having sex, I do think you need to look into why you’re not enjoying the experience.

And for that, I’m actually going to turn you over to three trusted sources. Because while I’ve definitely addressed this topic (for instance, herehere, and here), these three ladies have gone above and beyond in reaching out to lower-desire wives. I believe they can help you get on track.

OysterBed7. Bonny Burns maintains the OysterBed7 blog where she says, “I blend science, scripture and stories of my own life to encourage and empower the low sex drive wife and her marriage. You write what you know and I know about low sex drive.”

Her honest, gentle approach is also biblically and practically based. While I suggest reading her blog, and listening to her on our joint podcast, Sex Chat for Christian Wives, she has a specific resource you might want to check out: Unlock Your Libido: 52-Week Sex Drive Transformation.

The Forgiven Wife. Chris Taylor defines the mission of her blog as: “to encourage Christian wives as they work to grow in their approach to sexual intimacy in their marriages. After 20 years of restricting the sex life in my marriage, I have learned to dance with desire and enjoy the full intimacy that comes with passionate and joyful sex with my husband.”

I know you’re not restricting sex in your marriage, but Chris delves into reasons why a wife would feel disengaged in the bedroom and unable to experience full pleasure, and then she addresses them with practical suggestions. You can also hear Chris on our podcast.

Boost Your Libido Course. Sheila Gregoire recently launched a new product, and I had the pleasure of checking it out fully. Her Boost Your Libido course not only deals with a wife’s sex drive, but her pleasure in the bedroom. This course has 10 modules with videos of Sheila explaining the main points in a wife-to-wife chat format, along with a fact sheet, worksheet, brainstorming exercise, and additional resources.

Sheila deals with such issues as “What Is Libido?”, “Making Hormones Your Friend,” and yes, “When It Doesn’t Feel Good.” I’ve really enjoyed Sheila’s blog and resources over the years, but I found this course in particular to be a great approach for working through the issues of low libido and enjoyment of sexual intimacy.

You can view the videos in the privacy of your home, or perhaps with a friend or two so that you can discuss and support one another. (However, you should each pay for your own course, for ethical reasons and to get the additional materials you need to make progress.) She suggests taking your time through the homework, but it’s not hard to complete. You can easily see the big picture and how progress will be made by working on these modules.

And you know what? It’s $39. I know that’s more than a book, but $39 is a pair of shoes, one piano lesson for your child, a meal for two at a sit-down restaurant, and just 1/15th of an iPhone. Seriously, a total bargain. For more info, click on the pic below.

Let me assure you that I rarely do affiliate links. While looking into advertising some on my blog, I’ve been so reluctant to do so because I’m not willing to just throw products at my audience that I don’t entirely believe in. If I outright suggest something, I’ve viewed the entire resource myself and believe it’s a good deal for my audience.

So, while I write some about low libido, I know that it’s not my niche like it is for these three women I’ve mentioned. And I trust them to give you good advice. I encourage you to check out their resources.

Cultivating Romance and Awesome Sex in Marriage

I’m back from France! It was a lovely trip, although I missed my husband terribly (twelve days away from each other) and I returned with a nasty cold. Looking at my draft posts for what to put up today, I realized I’d never properly shared a couple of interviews I got to do with the Awesome Marriage podcast.

Dr. Kim Kimberling, host of Awesome Marriage, is a professional Christian counselor with oodles of experience helping relationships thrive, not to mention his own happy 40-year marriage! He interviewed me for one podcast, and his producer, Christina Dodson, interviewed me for a second podcast — a bit of girl talk, so we could go a little deeper into the subject.

I really enjoyed both of these conversations, and the content is well-worth your time. Here’s a clip from one of episodes:

Now I encourage you to tune into one or both of these podcasts. Just click on the image below to go to their web page where you can listen. Or find the episode on iTunes or other podcast providers.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO FIND THE EPISODE

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO FIND THE EPISODE

And remember that the best place to go for what I have to say about sex in marriage by God’s design is my book, Hot, Holy & Humorous. Check it out here!