Category Archives: Current Issues in Sexuality

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.

Do Our Yoga Pants Make Men Sin?

Let’s talk about modesty. Wait, wait…don’t run away! I know you’ve already read about this subject, probably many times over, and I saw you flinch when I brought it up. But I want to get real about modesty. In fact, I might even rant a little. So read on.

Title with 5 pairs of yoga pants

Modesty is an ongoing issue in our culture. In case you hadn’t noticed, a lot of women out there show off a lot of their bodies. In today’s world, guys don’t have to step too far out of their house to see images or real women with curves, cleavage, “camel feet,” and cutaneous membrane (aka skin). Given how visual many men are, it can be a struggle for many of them to keep their thoughts entirely pure.

I feel for them. And so, I’ve talked to wives about modesty in the past — how we need to choose stylish clothing that covers enough, the care we should take in choosing swimsuits, even my own practice of sometimes asking my husband when I put something on, “Is this okay?” (I learned years ago that he’s a better barometer for whether a miniskirt is short enough to attract male attention I’m not looking for.) We certainly don’t want to contribute to the temptation for men to lust.

I’ve also been frustrated with women who don’t get it. Like how I was once going through a church potluck line and caught a not-so-brief glimpse of the woman in front of me with her thong peeking out of a low-rise miniskirt. Thank goodness my husband or teenage sons weren’t in line behind her! I don’t want my sons or my husband to have such information waved in front of their faces.

1 Timothy 2:9-10 says: “Also, the women are to dress themselves in modest clothing, with decency and good sense, not with elaborate hairstyles, gold, pearls, or expensive apparel, but with good works, as is proper for women who affirm that they worship God” (HCSB, emphasis added). Women should be modest, for the sake of the men in their midst and to honor God’s will.

Women should be modest, for the sake of the men in their midst and to honor God’s will. Click To Tweet

However … not too long ago, I was reading a post that mentioned modesty and some blessed wife had as part of her comments something like, “But please don’t take my yoga pants. You have no idea how nice it is to be in something comfortable …” (I wish I could find that comment!) I laughed and found myself agreeing. I often wear yoga pants and a T-shirt while working at home and doing laundry. And then, I need to run out to the store. So am I supposed to change from yoga pants, even when my shirt covers almost the whole backside? Seems a bit silly to me.

And yet you can find entire articles castigating women for wearing yoga pants. In another post written to women about modesty, two men in the comments said they’d basically been visually assaulted by women wearing yoga pants in their presence. Really? Is the prevalence of yoga pants the downfall of otherwise good Christian husbands?

Job 31:1 says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman.” And I fully appreciate men who take this covenant to heart. Many Christian husbands are dedicated to keeping their minds pure and avoiding visual temptation.

But my thinking about modesty and lust is changing. Partly because I see so much blame placed on women for men lusting. I’m not letting us women off the hook for needing to use decency and good sense when we go out in public. However, I don’t see men getting the same flack for how they present themselves in public. If you want to see what I mean, read this humorous post on “When Suits Become a Stumbling Block: A Plea to My Brothers in Christ.” Men in suits are attractive. So are men in uniforms. I mean really, how could any man proclaim to be a holy Christian if he’s also a well-built firefighter in uniform? Don’t you know what you’re doing to us?!

We’ve also preached this modesty message so much to teens that some of them probably think Psalm 119:9 reads: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By ‘bouncing his eyes.'” No, no, no. It says: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping Your word.”

What does the Word of God say about modesty?

In addition to the verses referenced above, not a whole lot. Here’s a quick run-down:

The Lord says,
‘The women of Zion are haughty,
walking along with outstretched necks,
flirting with their eyes,
strutting along with swaying hips,
with ornaments jingling on their ankles
.’”

(Isaiah 3:16; and verses 17-24 explains you how God will punish those women)

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes” (1 Peter 3:3).

And that’s it. At least specifically regarding modest apparel. Of course, there are principles of modest and God-honoring behaviors. We also have scriptures that talk about not being a stumbling block to others, about building up our brothers and sisters in Christ, about living with reverence before God. Obviously, if you’re walking around in low-rise shorts with your bum hanging out, that’s not exactly an advertisement for Christianity. (And, by the way, you’re essentially wearing your underwear in public; they might be expensive denim, but you’re in undies. Stop that.)

But you know what else the Bible says? It says to treat people with respect, to look beyond their appearance and see them how God sees them, to purify our minds and our hearts in Christ Jesus.

And I’ve become really bothered by the idea that men are just bouncing their eyes off every woman who shows a little more cleavage than they want to see or who ran up to the grocery store on the fly in her yoga pants to grab much-needed diapers for her infant. Doesn’t that pigeonhole women’s bodies as temptation? As if “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13) is referring to women’s curves or yoga pants. Doesn’t that approach have the potential of objectifying women as well?

Rather, how did Jesus treat women who were immodest in their lives? Jesus let a sinful woman anoint his feet with oil and spoke directly to her to forgive her sins (Luke 7:36-50). He had a direct conversation about faith with the Samaritan woman who’d been married five times and living with a man outside of marriage (John 4:1-26). He refused to condemn a woman caught in adultery and encouraged her to stop sinning (John 8:1-11). Jesus looked past their immodesty and saw the woman His Father saw.

Which makes me think that maybe we’re missing something.

Maybe the problem is only partly what someone’s wearing and more what our hearts are doing. Is the test whether we can look at each other as sex objects or whether we can see the person underneath?

Maybe the problem is only partly what someone’s wearing & more what our hearts are doing. Click To Tweet

This is by no means meant to let women, and men, off the hook for dressing modestly. But you how about we hear a little about how men dress and behave in public? And how about taking responsibility for our own thoughts and hearts?

If you can’t have a conversation with a woman who shows too much cleavage or a guy in your gym who’s muscled and shirtless, you’re going to have a really, really, really hard time in this world. And it’s not entirely the world’s fault.

We have to own our responsibility to not lust. And if it’s hard? Well, being a Christian isn’t supposed to be eating-cupcakes-easy all the time. (What did you think that verse about taking up your cross meant? Matthew 16:24.)

We have to own our responsibility to not lust. Click To Tweet

As for me, you might see in my yoga pants at the grocery store. Not because I’m wanting any guy to get a full-view of my caboose, but because they’re comfortable and I was too lazy to change. However, I will make sure I’m wearing a long T-shirt to cover everything that should be covered. And if I have any doubts about how I might come across, I check with my husband, because he has a better sense of those things at times.

I suspect plenty of other women, good Christian wives even, will be dressed in exercise or lounge attire as well. And we hope you can still have a nice conversation with us. Because that is nothing like the immodesty of the women Jesus dealt with, and He managed to handle it all just fine.

We believe in you guys. We don’t want to tempt you, but we also believe that — with God’s help — you can keep your minds and hearts where they should be.

Q&A with J: “What Should We Call Persistent Porn Use?”

Usually on Thursdays, I answer a reader’s question. Today, I want y’all to answer my question. Here it is:

What should we call ongoing and persistent porn use? If you read various marriage blogs, you might have seen some recent discussion about porn “habit” vs. “addiction.” (You can see my post here.) Some say it’s a habit and calling it an addiction makes it harder to fight because that connotes that it’s outside their control. For others, it feels well beyond habit and calling it an addiction prods them to getting the help they need to overcome. 

While I understand that “addiction” isn’t quite the right word, “habit” doesn’t seem enough. At this point, I’m thinking maybe we need a better label. What alternative words could we use to refer to a porn addiction/habit?

Title with text over black hole graphic background

I’ve honestly believed this argument over semantics isn’t nearly as important as just fighting off this evil. But after reading various comments on the subject, I’ve decided it matters to some to use the right words.

Calling it a habit gives some porn users the empowerment they need to gain victory, because then they feel like it’s a behavior they control. For others who have tried to quit, repeatedly and unsuccessfully, labeling it an addiction encourages them to seek the outside help they need to break free.

Honestly, I don’t want to cause problems for either group. I’d hate to think that my word choice inadvertently hindered anyone’s ultimate victory over this terrible temptation.

But what is persistent use of pornography?

Is porn use an addiction?

Substance addictions and persistent porn use have these similarities:

  • Someone else often offers you the first “hit”
  • You try it out of curiosity or intrigue
  • Your body delivers a natural chemical reward
  • You might seek out stronger forms of the substance to receive the same or a more intense effect
  • You experience a mix of good feelings and bad consequences
  • If you try to quit, you may experience resistance or a sense of loss

Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife wrote an excellent post on Is Porn Use an Addiction (and Does It Even Matter)? In that article, she also points out:

For a person who is trying to medicate emotional pain, the “high” they feel after using a substance is a respite from their pain. When the effects go away, they often feel worse emotionally—but they don’t know how else to address the pain, so they continue using, again and again.

I also believe many porn producers are like drug dealers, in the way they entice users, offer increasingly intense experiences, and ignore the damage they do users and those around them.

However, recent research studies have shown that persistent porn use doesn’t behave physiologically like an addiction. For instance, in one much-touted study, “subjects who reported experiencing problems as a result of their pornography use did not display characteristically addictive brain activity when viewing sexual images” (The Daily Beast: “Your Porn Addiction Isn’t Real”; Journal of Biological Psychology: “Modulation of late positive potentials by sexual images in problem users and controls inconsistent with ‘porn addiction'”). Rather, some experts propose it’s more analogous to a compulsion (see American Psychological Association: “Is Pornography Addictive?”).

Moreover, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) — the manual used by psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors to diagnose and treat clients — does not recognize a hypersexual disorder or porn addiction. The experts determined there was insufficient evidence to support these labels and the treatments that would follow.

Is porn use a habit?

Habits and persistent porn use share these similarities:

  • You form them through a system of cue/trigger, routine, and reward (see ABC News: “Science of habits: Understanding why we do what we do”)
  • You reinforce the habit through repetition
  • In anticipating the reward, you create a craving to engage in the routine
  • You link the habit to other environmental triggers (e.g., a certain room in your house or time of the day)
  • Even when the habit is clearly hurting you (or people you love), it’s an entrenched routine you tend to fall back on

According to researcher Dr. Wendy Wood, as you repeat behaviors in the same context, thus forming a habit, your brain shifts from processing in the decision-making center to a sensory motor loop that no longer retains information on the goal or outcome. The result, according to Wood, is “our minds don’t always integrate in the best way possible. Even when you know the right answer, you can’t make yourself change the habitual behavior” (Science Daily: “How we form habits, change existing ones”).

For example, in one interesting study on habits, 98 people watched movie trailers and were given popcorn to munch on, some of it fresh and some of it one week old. Those used to eating popcorn at movies ate the same amount of stale popcorn as fresh, because — even though stale popcorn is yuck — they had an entrenched habit triggered by the environment (LA Times: “People eat out of habit, a study finds, even when food is stale”). That sounds like the persistent porn user who — regardless of how yuck the porn is — feels compelled to watch, because it’s a triggered routine.

The habit argument is laid out well in “Does Your Spouse Have a Porn Addiction or Just a Bad Habit? The Difference Matters!” on Sheila Gregoire’s To Love Honor and Vacuum blog.

Yet, habits run the gamut in whether they’re good, neutral, or bad. Thus, when some hear the word “habit,” they’re more likely to think about how their kid puts his dirty shoes on the couch or their husband leaves the Worcestershire sauce on the wrong refrigerator shelf than someone taking up smoking or losing himself in hours and hours of porn. And calling it merely a habit sounds to some like you’re putting what is adultery of the heart (Matthew 5:28) on the same level as consuming more coffee than you know you should.

Moreover, the suggested way to kick a habit is to change the trigger. But what if the craving is the trigger? Or what if the trigger is something you can’t control, like having a computer (that you need for work, home tasks, etc.) or being sexually refused by your spouse? (This is not blaming the spouse for porn use! That spouse is not responsible, but that action could be something the porn user has in his habit loop.)

Is porn use something else?

I asked on my Facebook page for alternative words, and here are some of the answers:

  • struggle
  • affair
  • sin
  • betrayal
  • self-control problem
  • virtual adultery
  • compulsion
  • bondage
  • trap
  • spiritual stronghold

Let me clarify one more thing. I’m not a licensed counselor, but I went through a graduate program that prepared me to become a counselor, including making diagnoses. I do not contend that porn use can be classified for medical treatment or insurance reimbursement as an addiction, because that is a specific definition in that context.

However, if someone writes me a question or a comment that refers to the person or spouse being “addicted to porn,” I’m not going to argue with them. When your co-worker says, “I’m addicted to coffee,” or your best friend says, “I’m addicted to superhero movies,” or Robert Palmer says, “You might as well face it, you’re addicted to love,” we understand that they’re using “addicted” colloquially. I hope to use more precise language from now on, but quibbling over their terminology still seems far less important to me than providing insight, encouragement, answers, and hope.

Now I hope you’ll chime in! What alternative words could we use to refer to a porn addiction/habit?

Should You Track the Frequency of Sex in Your Marriage?

How often do you have sex? It’s a question some spouses can easily answer, and some not so easily.

If you read my short story, “After the Baby,” in Behind Closed Doors: Five Marriage Stories, the main character is a husband who knows exactly how long it’s been since he and his wife made love. Because it’s been too long. And I get that in comments and emails from time to time — a spouse who can state with absolute accuracy how many times they’ve had sex with their mate in the last month or year.

Yet maybe we think we know, and don’t. Spouses are not always on the same page about how often sex is happening in their marriage.

I found it interesting that Jimmy Kimmel Live has grabbed couples off the street and asked how many times they’d had sex in the last month. Check out one clip from the show:

One couple matched each other’s answers, but the other didn’t. Why the discrepancy?

It made me think about the suggestion I’ve heard that a spouse track how often they make love in their marriage. Is this a good idea?

Calendar being marked with a pencil

I used to think probably not. Because this practice is often suggested by someone who thinks they’re not getting enough, and they’re basically looking for evidence (translation: ammunition) to make the case that they’re being cheated.

But I then I decided to test it out myself. Unbeknownst to my husband (Hi, love! Are you reading this?), I marked on my calendar the days we made love for about a month. And you know what? It was more often than I thought it would be.

As the higher-drive spouse right now in our marriage, maybe I was a little more focused on when it wasn’t happening than when it was. And isn’t that really a bit short-sighted? Perhaps even selfish?

Now that I have a better sense of our routine, I can relax a little more. Yes, I sometimes want a higher frequency of sexual intimacy, but we’re doing pretty well. And putting those instances on the calendar, I could connect what might have gotten in the way of us making love or, better yet, what made it a good time to make love.

My general conclusion was that loaded calendar days kept us from connecting in many ways, including physically, while quality time together often ended with lovemaking. Hardly a stunning revelation, but it was helpful to see in my own life.

If you can approach tracking the frequency as an interesting experiment, perhaps it would be worthwhile to see how often you’re making love. I suspect what would happen is what occurred in the video. Some couples would find that they’re having sex about as often as they thought, and then they can decide whether that’s enough for their marriage or if they need to make some calendar changes.

Other spouses will discover a discrepancy — probably because lower-drive spouses think they’re doing it more often than they are, and higher-drive spouses think they’re doing it less often than they are. For this second couple, it could be eye-opening to discover the truth of what’s happening in your relationship. And it might pinpoint an attitudinal or behavioral change you need to make for the wellbeing of your marriage.

Having actual data could help you avoid making unfounded accusations about what’s happening in your sex life. After all, one of the Ten Commandments is “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16). And let’s face it: Some spouses have falsely accused their spouse of pursuing more or giving less sex than they actually are. If you’re tracking to uncover the truth, maybe this idea would work for you.

Have you ever tracked the frequency of sex in your marriage? Were you surprised by the results? Do you consider this a good or a bad idea?

Related Post: How Often Should You Have Sex?

A Prayer about Sexual Temptation

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the struggles people have with sexual temptation. Whether it’s a porn habit/addiction, reading or watching erotica, emotional affairs or adultery, or lusting after others, too many marriages face troubling situations and the appeal of temptation that has damaged, or will damage, their marriage bed.

In keeping with my Praying More goal for 2017, I’m posting a prayer for the sexual intimacy in our marriages at the end of each month. This time, I invite you to pray with me about the sexual temptation we and our husbands face.

A Prayer about Sexual Temptation with woman's hands holding heart

Dear Lord,

We know you are listening. You have invited us to cast our anxiety on you, because you care for us (1 Peter 5:7). We are weary and burdened and need the rest that only Your Son can provide (Matthew 11:28). Because we are under attack, our husbands are under attack, our marriages are under attack.

We are under attack, our husbands are under attack, our marriages are under attack. Click To Tweet

Sexual temptation is constant in our world. We cannot turn on a television, walk through a mall, or visit the grocery store without being exposed to lies Satan wants us to believe about sex. The world promises that sex is about our own selfish pleasure, that flesh is a commodity, that consent is all that matters, and that Christian ideals about sex in marriage are antiquated, irrelevant, even prude.

But You created sex to be a beautiful gift in marriage. Please prick our hearts when we stray from Your superior design for intimacy. We invite the Holy Spirit to convict us when we have lost our way, whether through our actions, our words, or our thoughts. Help us to take every thought captive, Lord, and make it obedient to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Strengthen our husbands as they struggle with visual temptations and the false messages of the world. You said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). I don’t want my husband to be alone in this battle; rather, I want to be his helper.

Mold my heart so that I can be a safe place for him to admit his struggles. Give me courage to fight alongside him. Help me to be a constant support so that he can gain true victory. Give me your eyes to see him as you do — a sinner in a battle for his heart, soul, and effectiveness in the world. May his problems become our problems, as we live into your one flesh design for our marriage.

But wives are also prone to sexual temptation. You know my struggles and how Satan wants me to wander from my marriage and Your plan. Lord, help me to be in this world, but never of this world. Protect me from the evil one (John 17:14-16). Help me to avert my eyes, to guard my heart (Proverbs 4:23), and to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18).

Where I have been blind to my faults, show me where they are. Expose the lies I have bought into. Help me to align my desires with Yours. Prod me to take action to rid myself of temptations in my own home, to confess my sin to someone who can help me (James 5:16), and to seek professional assistance if I need it.

Put in place the resources and mentors my husband and I need to deal with the struggles we face. Lead us in Your righteousness (Psalm 5:8).

Oh Father, my heart also aches that many — far too many — spouses were mere children when the “father of lies” (John 8:44) spread his poison. They were exposed to porn and other sexual temptations at a tender age. We know how deeply You care for our little ones and the harsh fate You’ve declared for those who cause them to stumble (see Matthew 18:1-6).

Help me to see those exposed so young, who yet struggle as adults, as victims as well as sinners. But You alone can give us victory and trample our enemies (Psalm 60:11-12). Activate me and other Christians to oppose this preying on our children whenever we see it. Use us for Your purposes, to save not only this generation but the next. 

Above all, help us to seek the best in our marriages and our marriage beds. Let my own marriage bed set the standard for what sexual intimacy is and should be. Bless our sexual union so richly that we lose our taste for anything but Your perfect plan. Infuse our hearts with sexual longing only for one another.

All this I pray in Jesus’ name,

Amen.