Category Archives: Sexual Intimacy Encouragement

Q&A with J: How Can My Groom Turn His Sex Drive Back On?

Today’s question comes from two different readers who contacted me with similar situations. Both are newlywed wives who haven’t had the sexual intimacy they expected to have after they tied the knot. Here’s the first one:

It has been one month since we got married and we still haven’t had sex. He told me last night that he was nervous almost to the point of tears because we have always been taught not to have sex before marriage, and now it’s all of a sudden okay. He said it’s like a Wall is there that he can’t get through. What should we do? How do i help him? He feels bad because i want to and he can’t, and i feel bad because i don’t want him to feel pressured. I just don’t know what to do.

And the second:

I recently got married and waited until marriage. My now husband wasn’t a virgin before but waited with me. The sex has been less frequent and passionate than I had expected and last night he revealed to me that because he had to ”turn it off” for the last 2 years to stay strong for me that he has a hard time turning it back on. I feel really sad about it and kind of mad too. I’m trying to not take it personally but I never thought I’d have to ask for sex or even be turned down in the first month of marriage. I’m trying to be patient and pray about it. Any suggestions on what to do?

Blog post title + photo of bride & groom sitting on bed

There are differences, in that one groom has never had sex, while the other had it previously but waited with his bride until they got married. But both gentlemen are having a terrible time awakening their libido after keeping their sexual feelings in check for so long.

It’s admirable that they waited, just as we are commanded to do, but sometimes our message about premarital purity encourages people to simply repress their sexual feelings. Repression here is “a process by which unacceptable desires or impulses are excluded from consciousness and left to operate in the unconscious” (Merriam-Webster). Our libidos aren’t really gone, but we stamp them down so hard, it’s difficult for them to get back up when the right time arrives. (See also When Your Groom Is Anxious about Sex).

But I don’t see where the Bible teaches repression of our sexuality. Rather, we can acknowledge our sexuality and exert self-control: “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6). Look at Jacob, who worked for seven years to marry Rachel. He kept his behavior in check, but he didn’t deny what he eventually desired, even saying to his father-in-law at the end of those long years: “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her” (Genesis 29:21). Can’t get much clearer than that.

Even 1 Corinthians 7:9 says to singles: “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” In other words, control your sexual desires outside of marriage, and if you can’t do that, get hitched. It’s a nod that God made us as sexual beings, a fact we cannot and should not ignore.

God made us as sexual beings, a fact we cannot and should not ignore. Click To Tweet

Teaching repression of our sexuality can result in situations like these where it’s hard to turn your libido back on, even when you’re in the right framework for sexual intimacy (marriage).

But to the question: How can you awaken his libido after it’s lain dormant for a while? How can he get past that hump of repressing his sexuality?

Give yourselves grace.

It stinks not to get to make love on your wedding night. Many couples look forward to that experience. But plenty of couples actually don’t have sex right away, due to physical issues, time constraints, or even Aunt Flo visiting at the most inopportune time. But one of the perks of sex in marriage is you have a lifetime to get to know one another physically and experience all kinds of sexual pleasure and intimacy.

Let’s imagine that you make love once a week (it should be more, but go with me here), and you’re married for forty years (more than reasonable, given the average age of marriage and life span in the U.S.). At that rate, you’ll have sex 2,080 times. Two thousand eighty times. So even if you miss out some at the beginning, you’ve got plenty of time to figure this out and still have lots and lots of sex. Point being: Relax. Give yourselves some grace and time to work things out.

Talk about the baggage.

We all bring baggage into our marriages—some toting in a toiletries bag of issues and others dragging a massive trunk behind them. But make no mistake: We’ve all absorbed bad ideas about sexual intimacy. Erroneous messages surround us, both in the secular world and, sadly, the Church. All kinds of messages soak in, and we can find them hard to shake once married.

So talk about it with each other. Be honest about your expectations and concerns, and then listen to his. Let him know that whatever he says, you won’t judge it harshly. Once you’ve admitted what’s going on, challenge each of your internal beliefs and see which ones hold up to God’s Word. For example:

  • “Sex is dirty.” No, sex can be twisted and misused, but sex itself was created by God and “everything God created is good” (1 Timothy 4:4).
  • “Enjoying sex too much is ‘indulging the flesh.'” No, that’s not what “the flesh” means. Rather, Galatians 5:19-21 says, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Those are all sins, but sex with your wife is not a sin and thus not on the list.
  • “Men are supposed to have the higher libido.” No, you can’t find that in the Bible either. Read through Song of Songs, and you’ll see that sexual feelings abound in both husband and wife. Sometimes one more than the other, but it shifts from her to him, him to her.

Bringing your anxiety from the subconscious to the conscious level and then challenging those beliefs can help you work through the barriers preventing you from experiencing sexual intimacy.

Focus on romance and foreplay.

In three different places, Song of Songs says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). That presumes that you can arouse or awaken love when it’s time—that is, in marriage.

Focus on that word arouse, and make that your goal for now. Not orgasm, not penetration, not even erection necessarily, but arousing the sensations that eventually lead to all of those things. I firmly believe that couples don’t spend enough time exploring one another’s bodies and discovering what arouses them. But the knowledge you gain through this process will be beneficial throughout your marriage.

Get a great book with ideas on what to do, so you can try out different activities. You know, like this one, which I highly recommend:

Click to buy or find out more!

Take the pressure off, and give yourselves, and especially him, permission to enjoy touch, exploration, and romance. Let your husband know that he doesn’t have to “perform”—that this can be an opportunity to get to know one another and experience pleasurable feelings.

Use self-talk and encouragement.

When dealing with high anxiety or fear, psychologists often prescribe systematic desensitization. You can find many resources on how to apply this procedure, but it’s gradually exposing yourself to the anxiety-inducing stimuli and introducing a relaxation response at each stage. This principle works with sexual anxiety as well.

Let’s say you’re going through the foreplay mentioned above, and your husband becomes tense. You two can pause, and he can remind himself that sex is a gift from God, meant to provide intimacy in his marriage. You can encourage him as well, helping him relax. You two could even stop to pray for God’s comfort and courage to continue. When the tension has released enough—it may not release completely—you can get back into your groove.

Using desensitization techniques, he can likely progress a little farther each time, until intercourse is possible…and enjoyable. Another way to think of this is baby steps. Nothing says you must leap into intercourse on your wedding night, but marriage is the time when you get to build all kind of intimacy, including physical intimacy. Be willing to build slow, feeling good about each stage of progress.

If problems persist, see a doctor and/or a counselor. There’s nothing wrong with this taking some time, but you do want to be moving in the right direction—toward God-honoring, mutually satisfying sexual intimacy in your marriage.

10 Movies to Boost Your Holiday Spirit & Get You in the Mood

Now that Thanksgiving is over (in the USA), Christmas season is fully upon us. Perhaps you’re a total Christmas Fangirl, who delves into this season with all the excitement of a toddler in a ball pit. But maybe you’re more like me and struggle to get into the holiday mood.

When you listen to today’s podcast episode for Sex Chat for Christian Wives, you’ll hear about my challenges with this season and my determination to do better this year. One thing I’ve resolved to do, to channel my inner Santa, is engage in holiday activities I truly enjoy. Among those are great Christmas-themed movies.

If they have a romantic bent, all the better … because that reminds me that the holiday season is also a time to enjoy being a couple. ‘Tis also the season to be intimate!

With that in mind, here’s a list of Christmas movies to get yourself in the holiday spirit and in the mood for romance with your spouse! (Quoted descriptions all from IMDb.)

Illustration of movie camera with spotlight on blog post title

10. Christmas in Connecticut (1947). 

“A food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for a traditional family Christmas.”

Movie still of couple riding in sleigh during snowfall

Dennis Morgan & Barbara Stanwyck

A domestic diva, I am not. Thus, I’ve always related well to this heroine’s efforts to appear like she’s got it all together for the holiday season, even if the truth doesn’t quite line up. But amid the comedy of this movie is a nice love story. And I admit (as you’ll see below) that I’m partial to the classics.

9. The Family Man (2000).

“A fast-lane investment broker, offered the opportunity to see how the other half lives, wakes up to find that his sports car and girlfriend have become a mini-van and wife.”

Close-up of couple

Tea Leone & Nicholas Cage

Accused of being a knock-off of It’s a Wonderful Life and filled with sap and saccharine, I respond that this film is “guilty as charged.” But that’s also what makes it a gem to watch! This movie hits all the right notes on what we believe about the deep power of love and family.

8. The Shop Around the Corner (1940).

“Two employees at a gift shop can barely stand each other, without realizing that they are falling in love through the post as each other’s anonymous pen pal.”

Heroine standing at the corner reading a book, while next to her hero reads a newspaper (both ignoring each other)

Margaret Sullivan & Jimmy Stewart

If that sounds a lot like the plot of You’ve Got Mail, that’s because it is. Nora Ephron didn’t remake the movie, but she used the same setup. The original story, however, was charmingly done with Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan and all takes place in the busy shopping season of the holidays.

7. Miracle on 34th Street (1947).

“When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.”

Heroine holding her daughter, with hero looking on

John Payne & Maureen O’Hara (and Natalie Wood)

Not only do we learn to believe in the spirit of Santa Claus, but a single mom finds love in the process. There’s also a remake from 1994 with Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott, which I thought I’d dislike (because I often dislike remakes) but it’s a rather sweet version as well.

6. White Christmas (1954).

“A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.”

Two couples dressed in Santa costumes and singing

Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Bing Crosby

I’ve always thought the plot of this film was a bit thin, but as an avenue for some fun dialogue, wonderful music and dancing, and a lot of Christmas glitz, it can’t be beat. Four incredibly talented actors/singers make this film a classic that’s still worth watching.

5. The Holiday Inn (1942).

“At an inn which is only open on holidays, a crooner and a hoofer vie for the affections of a beautiful up-and-coming performer.”

Hero playing piano and singing, while heroine sits nearby and sings along

Bing Crosby & Marjorie Reynolds

Speaking of musicals, this one has less glitz but more appeal to me. Bing Crosby is joined by Marjorie Reynolds and Fred Astaire in this delightful film that features many holidays, including Christmas. And this film boasts the first movie placement of Crosby crooning “White Christmas.”

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

“Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but his attempts to bring Christmas to his home cause confusion.”

Characters kissing on Pumpkin Hill with large moon behind them

Jack Skellington (“The Pumpkin King”) & Sally

Ah, Jack and Sally, what a beautiful kiss you shared on Pumpkin Hill! If a skeleton and a ragdoll can find love in the crazy world of Halloween Town, then there’s hope for all of us. Yes, I know this is a nontraditional choice, but it really is one of my favorites.

3. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

“An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.”

Close-up of couple after dance/pool scene

Donna Reed & Jimmy Stewart

I know what some of you are saying: “Why isn’t this film number one on the list?!” Because as much as I love this film, it focuses some on romance but a lot more on family as a whole. It’s a terrific movie, well worth watching again and again, but not quite as good as the next two (in my opinion) for getting in the romantic mood.

2. Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

“A recently widowed man’s son calls a radio talk-show in an attempt to find his father a partner.”

Heroine holding teddy bear and and hero with son facing her, all on top of the Empire State Building roof

Meg Ryan & Tom Hanks

This enchanting film is about finding love in unexpected places. What always strikes me about this movie is that, despite it lasting an hour and 45 minutes, Ryan and Hanks only spend about two minutes together on screen. I like that choice, because the storyline shows how much personal growth these characters must do to be ready for a life together — a lesson worth considering ourselves.

1. While You Were Sleeping (1995).

“A hopeless romantic Chicago Transit Authority token collector is mistaken for the fiancée of a coma patient.”

Couple standing outside in front of Christmas tree

Bill Pullman & Sandra Bullock

Lonely Lucy has no one to spend the holidays with, until her crush on an injured businessman leads her to a family who welcomes her with open arms. However, the kind of man she thinks she wants isn’t who she really needs. (Welcome to how God often works, by the way.)  I appreciate how romance takes the lead, but family is always right there as well.

Perhaps you notice a few of your own favorites missing from my list. Confessions: I’ve never seen Home Alone or Elf, and I disliked A Christmas StoryLove Actually has some great storylines and others that are just, well, ick to me. Meanwhile, I really like Gremlins and Die Hard, but concluded that they’re not the best choices for boosting one’s holiday spirit or getting you in the mood. 

But feel free to come up with your own list. And don’t forget that there are puh-lenty of made-for-TV Christmas movies every year, all in the spirit of holiday cheer and romance, which you can find on Netflix or Hulu or wherever you watch.

Your turn: What did I leave off the list?

5 (More) Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Wife

Last week, I gave y’all five more Christmas gift ideas for the hubbies. This week, let’s talk about what hubbies can get the wives. Again, remembering that my subject matter is usually the marriage bed.

I haven’t done nearly as many posts with ideas for wives, but here’s a previous one for Christmas: What Does Your Wife Want for Christmas? And from Valentine’s posts: here and here. Here are my five more ideas:

1. Making Love Potions.

How about some home recipes for foods and oils that could enhance your sexual intimacy? Making Love Potions has wonderful illustrations, inspiring quotations (including a couple from the Bible, but other sources as well), and instructions for making aromatic drinks for stimulating mood, to sensual massage oils, to natural personal lubricants. If your wife enjoys cooking or being crafty, this could be a great choice for her to use her interests and skills in ways that benefit your marriage bed.

P.S. You men can also make these recipes, of course.

Book cover - illustration of woman with "potion" bottle in hand

2. Aphrodisiac oils and perfumes.

Good Clean Love — and other companies, I’m sure — have a line of aphrodisiac products that includes essential oils, perfumes, and personal lubricant. Our sense of smell is definitely connected to the emotion center in our brain, and it’s this insight that has caused aromatherapy to really take hold in recent years. Some wives detect a difference in how sensual they feel with the use of aromatic products like these. Maybe your wife would enjoy them as well.

3. Comfortable Sleepwear.

I’ve advocated plenty for wearing lingerie and covered the why and how of getting lingerie in my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design (which is also a great gift). But when asked in my closed Facebook group what intimacy-related gift was my favorite, I answered that my husband once bought me sleepwear that was super-comfortable, but something that he enjoyed viewing me in. A few hubbies followed up with questions about what that means.

Well, some lingerie is so uncomfortable and/or revealing that many wives don’t want to wear it. Indeed, when I look through what counts as “sexy lingerie,” some items look more like contraptions than clothing. So why not get your wife something that feels really feels good and covers her, while still being suggestive or nice to look at. Here are some ideas:

illustration of cami + shorts and chemise nightie

  • Camisole and shorts set
  • Cotton or satin chemise
  • Long, single-straps nightgown (wives: wear without panties)
  • Pajama set in thin or sheer cotton
  • Satin nightshirt

Your best bet for finding such items is a local department store.

4. Behind Closed Doors.

When I’m not writing about Christian sex and marriage, I’m often writing fiction. While I write some other mainstream stories (under a different name), my book, Behind Closed Doors, was a labor of love in which I joined my passion for godly sex with my joy of writing fiction. The genre is basically Christian romance, but specifically covers issues of sexual intimacy in marriage. Each of the five stories deals with a different challenge in gaining or maintaining hot and holy intimacy, but none of the “lessons” are hit-you-over-the-head. They’re just stories, which I think your wife would enjoy.

Book cover - couple close to each other on top half, wedding bed on bottom half

5. Bedroom budget.

I admit this one isn’t necessarily cheap. However, ambiance matters to many women, yet we tend to spend money on other stuff for the house more readily than our bedrooms. What if you just handed her an envelope with money or an IOU inside with the caveat that it must be spent on sprucing up the bedroom so that it’s a place you both want to be?

Let her redecorate with better sheets, nice pillows, soft lighting, and even word art, like I have in my bedroom:

"I have found THE ONE whom my soul loves." Song of Solomon 3:4

Bless her with the opportunity to make the bedroom a place she wants to be … with you, of course.

What other ideas would you add to my list?

5 (More) Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Husband

Now some of you are already done with Christmas shopping, you crazy people, but the rest of us are just now making our list or filling in the gaps. In the past, I’ve had lots of suggestions for Christmas gift ideas for hubbies!

10 Sexy Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband

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

10 Last-Minute Stocking Stuffers for Your Husband

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

5 Fresh Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Husband

Not to mention my Valentine’s posts with gift ideas (here, here, and here). What else is there to suggest?

Well, here are five more Christmas gift ideas for your beloved, manly, sexy hubby! Remembering that I focus on bedroom kind of stuff. 😉

Click on any image below to find the link for that product. (All Amazon links are affiliate coded.)

1. Wet Wipes for Men.

You know what kills the mood? Body odor. And let’s face it, wives, sometimes your man stinks. (Sorry, guys. Talking truth here.) I’m not saying we wives never stink, but studies show that our female noses are more sensitive than male ones so we’re more likely to pick up on body odor, even when the issue is mild.

If your guy doesn’t time to do the whole shower thing, how about some manly wet wipes? I found a couple of brands.

Whice for Men.

Whice for men

Dude Shower Body Wipes.

DUDE Shower Body Wipes, On-The-Go Singles for Travel, Unscented, Naturally Soothing Aloe and Hypoallergenic (1 Pack, 10 Wipes per Pack)

2. Body groomer.

I’ve talked here about us wives “trimming the hedges,” and our Sex Chat for Christian Wives podcast also covered the subject of hair removal down there with our episode on Tending Your Garden. But what about the guys? How about a little manscaping?

You don’t necessarily want him to use the same shaving equipment on his nether regions that he uses on his face. So I did a bit of research on what experts suggest for manly groin grooming, and here’s one great option for hubbies.

Phillips Norelco Bodygroom.

Philips Norelco Bodygroom Series 7100, BG2040

3. Double hammock.

Hammocks are very popular right now. My teenage sons and their cohorts love to hang out in hammocks at the local park. But you know what’s more fun? You and your honey-bunny snuggling up together.

All that close affection outside of the bedroom certainly helps stoke the fires of romance inside the bedroom. Plus, even if it leads to nothing at all … it’s cuddling with your hubby! Still good stuff. Here’s one example, but you can find a lot of choices at Amazon or your local sporting goods store.

Striped outdoor hammock with couple inside

4. Underwear.

A few years into our marriage, I piped up and gave my two cents about what kind of underwear I’d love to see my husband in. (No, I’m not giving you details.) Suffice it to say that he incorporated my opinion into what he now wears. But I also got the opportunity in that conversation to hear what was most important to him about underwear, and that was comfort.

Since then, I’m always on the lookout for men’s underwear that might be better or more comfortable. One particular brand was mentioned on the Art of Manliness podcast, and when I checked it out, I was impressed with its BallPark Pouch™ design that keeps everything down there tucked in just so, allowing for comfort and “breathability.” Check them out.

Saxx.

24-Seven Men's Boxer Brief – Heather

5. Ultimate Intimacy App.

When the creators of this app contacted me for support, I did what I always do: Took my time looking through the resource to make sure it’s something I can confidently recommend to my readers. Truth is, they did a really good job with this one.

Ultimate Intimacy App screenshot

The Ultimate Intimacy App is free, but go ahead and upgrade for $6.99 to get the restricted content. The core part of this app is a game you can play with sections on Romance, Foreplay, Heavy Foreplay, and Hot & Heavy. Don’t worry — there’s nothing extreme even in the Hot & Heavy section. And as I always say, if you don’t want to do something a game suggests, skip it. This should be a physical intimacy tool to use in ways that serve your marriage.

There’s also a section on Conversation Starters to increase emotional intimacy. And I must admit the creators have excellent taste in books when Hot, Holy & Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design is listed among their recommended Products. (No, I didn’t ask them to plug my book. They just chose it.) Moreover, they have a section on Positions with tasteful illustrations from Christian Friendly Sex Positions to inspire you.

And there you go — five more Christmas gift ideas for your husband and your marriage bed!

Remember as you deliver the gifts that a lot is in the presentation. For instance, add a note to the groomer about what oral delight you’ll be blessing him with once he trims with it. Or take a few screen shots of the Ultimate Intimacy game, print them out, and wrap up that paper along with instructions on how to download the app as a teaser.

Let your husband know that the gift isn’t just the item itself, but the way you’ll use that item together later to nurture your physical and emotional intimacy.

What ideas do you have to share? What are your sexy and satisfying Christmas gift ideas for hubby?

Q&A with J: What Can I Do About My Sexless Marriage? Part 3

Are you sick of this topic yet? If you’re the refused spouse in a sexless marriage, you’re not. Because you want answers.

Also, some spouses who are not engaging fully in sex in their marriage have been reading as well. While they understand the need to improve sexual intimacy, there are good reasons why they’ve been refusing — or at least reluctant — and they want answers too.

Last week, I talked about the importance of building trust as a foundation for working together toward mutually satisfying physical intimacy. This week, I want to talk about four things that blocked all progress in my own marriage in the past and that happen in sexless marriages too.

Blog post title + man sleeping on bed with tearful woman sitting on edge

These aren’t my ideas. They belong to John Gottman, Ph.D., author of Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. Dr. Gottman and his colleagues have done extensive research into committed relationships and what causes them to thrive or fall apart. He identified what he calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Sound familiar? Yeah, because he swiped that title right from the Bible.

But Gottman contends that these four communication styles can accurately predict divorce or, if you stick it out regardless, deep unhappiness. Let’s see how these patterns directly impact what you’ve been dealing with in a sexless marriage.

1. Criticism.

One or both of you is likely critical about what’s happening. From refused spouses, it’s talk about how selfish or mean their mate is. And from withholders, it’s often about how selfish or oversexed their mate is.

Criticism isn’t voicing a complaint or concern about what’s happening; it’s an attack on the other person. It’s not “We haven’t had sex in a while,” it’s “You’re a cold-hearted person.” It’s not “I feel pressured to have sex,” it’s “You’re a pervert.”

Years ago, when I took over management of a Christian preschool, I asked a schoolteacher for advice on how to talk to parents about their misbehaving child. She wisely told me that verbs are always better than adjectives. If you say, “Johnny is mean to other kids,” reasonable parents will take that as criticism (because it is). But if you say, “Johnny took a toy from another child, and when the child asked for it back, he hit her and called her a name,” reasonable parents will realize they’re child is being mean to other kids. The point being: deal with the behavior, not your presumption of what it means about the person.

Stick with talking about the issue itself: the lack of sex in your marriage and the barriers that prevent you from enjoying the intimacy God intended you to have. Don’t descend into criticism of the other person, because no one responds well to being personally attacked.

Don’t criticize one another, brothers and sisters. Anyone who defames or judges a fellow believer defames and judges the law. If you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12, CSB)

2. Contempt.

It’s hard not to build up resentment when you’ve been at odds over sexual intimacy for so long. The refused spouse can be understandably resentful for having to go without, for their constant physical discomfort, for feeling ignored or insulted, for having their sexual longings — and thus a core part of their self — belittled. Meanwhile, the withholder can understandably be resentful of the pressure they feel, the frustration of not having a sex drive, and the sense that their worth to their spouse is wrapped up in sexual performance.

But resentment can kill a marriage, and contempt is essentially resentment on display. It’s outright disrespect expressed with ridicule, name-calling, harsh vocal tone, and body language like shrugging and eye-rolling. It’s the difference between saying, “I know you want more sex, but I’m just not sure how to get my body in the mood” and “You want more sex? Well, I’d like a week-long vacation in the Bahamas, but neither of us is going to die if we don’t get what we want. Is that what you’re saying — that you’re going to die if you don’t have sex right now?”

That’s an example from a withholder, but I guarantee the contempt can go the other way. And the point is all that contempt makes the subject matter rife with negativity, such that any time the topic is brought up, you and your spouse both immediately tense up.

I’m going to digress for a moment and say This One. This is the horseman that I had the hardest time with! I still struggle at times with resentment for things I wish I had gone or would go differently. But as tempting as it is to hold on to resentment, especially when you feel its source is reasonable, I cannot think of a single time it did me any good. Letting go of the issue isn’t the answer, but letting go of the resentment will help you better address the issue itself.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

Intimacy Revealed ad, click to buy book

3. Defensiveness.

Your spouse asks a question: “Are you touching me because you want sex?” And you respond: “So what, I can’t touch you now? You think I’m so oversexed that I can’t put my hand on my own spouse without immediately wanting to get busy?!” Whoa. Where did that come from?

It comes from feeling like questions and statements from your spouse are personal attacks, whether or not they are. Defensiveness is a way of counterattacking, or rather a peremptory strike. You know a defensive person when they ask things like “What is that supposed to mean?” or “You’re just trying to get me to _________.” Defensive people also transfer blame by pointing the finger at others, circumstances, and past events. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m struggling with getting in the mood tonight,” they might say , “I can’t get in the mood when I have all this stuff to do. Do my priorities mean nothing to you?”

Defensiveness is a form of self-protection as well for those who experience fear and self-doubt, which I’ve come to believe is a primary reason why withholders don’t engage in sex. Because if the problem isn’t you but something outside of you, over which you have little control, you don’t really have to change it. And for some, changing is super-scary. It can involve pulling back layers, exposing hurts and vulnerabilities, and even risking the relationship you have now.

Defensive spouses need a different target — the struggle itself. They need a spouse who can come alongside and reassure them that marriage is a team sport. It’s not you against each other, but you together against the problem.

‘Who told you that you were naked?’ the Lord God asked. ‘Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?’ The man replied, ‘It was the woman you gave me who gave me the fruit, and I ate it’ ” (Genesis 3:11-12).

4. Stonewalling.

Try to start a conversation about sexual refusal, and some spouses will erect an invisible wall faster than you can say “one flesh.” They’re not critical, contemptuous, or defensive; they’re just not there. They shut down. And that is stonewalling.

In some ways, stonewalling is the most controlling tactic, because you have absolutely nothing to work with. The shut-down spouse doesn’t respond at all, so you can’t address the underlying issues, correct any erroneous assumptions, or share your feelings. It does no good to talk to a wall.

At times, I’ve recommended that a spouse stop talking about sex in their marriage — when it’s become such a contentious subject that pushing the topic makes things worse. I’m not saying you don’t stop working on sexual intimacy, but rather stop trying for that one discussion that will result in a breakthrough. That might be what someone with a stonewalling spouse needs to do — just shut up for a while. If the topic is so painful to your spouse that they automatically shut down, you may have some other work to do to create a more trusting environment for them to be willing to engage.

Of course, stonewalling can’t be allowed to go on for too long. You have to eventually address the snarling, stomping elephant in the room. And this is a circumstance in which intervention may need occur. Interventions, however, can be effective or damaging, all depending on who intervenes and how. So approach this one carefully.

But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry” (Zechariah 7:11-12).

So I’ve laid out these four communication styles that hinder progress in sexless, or sex-challenged, marriages. Now what?

Well, I’m going to tackle this subject one more time next week — and get to concrete tips on how to confront sexless marriages. But I encourage you to make sure you’ve read what I’ve said so far, because these posts lay the foundation for being effective with those specific steps.

Is the Church Failing Sexless Marriages?

Q&A with J: “What Can I Do About My Sexless Marriage?” Part 1

Q&A with J: How Do I Write a Post that Helps Sexless Marriages?

A Prayer for Those in Sexless Marriages

Q&A with J: “What Can I Do About My Sexless Marriage?” Part 2