Tag Archives: dealing with sexual problems in marriage

Q&A with J: “My Marriage Bed Is a Mess” Part 2

Last week, I talked about the many emails in my inbox with specific stories of hardship surrounding the marriage bed. While I desperately wish I could clone myself and answer every single question fully, I simply cannot.

I’m one tiny part of the Body of Christ, and what I say isn’t the only wisdom out there by any means. I do what I can, but I trust that couples in rough situations can find godly answers from various sources.

Still, I want to share six candid responses that come to mind when reading stories from people who write me and essentially say, “Our marriage bed is a mess.”

Blog post title with unhappy couple in bed

Previously, I covered three possibilities that could apply to your circumstances. Very quickly, they are:

1. You’re married to a selfish jerk; that is, a spouse who dismisses your beliefs, belittles your feelings, and/or thinks your body belongs solely to them to be used as a sexual tool.

2. You are the selfish jerk, meaning you’re the one complaining about how you’re not getting everything you want in the marriage bed and arguing with your mate about how you’ve been mistreated.

3. You have a poor theology of sex, meaning you have been taught and/or adopted erroneous beliefs about sexual intimacy that have had a negative impact on your marriage.

For each of these issues, I provide some answers in the prior post.

Now for the next three responses that often occur to me as I read various scenarios. See if one of these applies to your situation:

4. You’re making mountains out of molehills. Just in case you’re not familiar with that idiom, it means that you’re taking what should be a minor issue and making it a major issue in your marriage. Such emails come from people who:

  • Get overly frustrated with their spouse for not doing a specific sexual activity. For instance, I understand the man who’d like his wife to swallow when she performs fellatio. What I don’t understand is acting like your sex life totally stinks because she won’t!
  • Take deep offense at mild slights. One example here would be the woman who cuts her husband off from sex because he glanced at a pretty girl in the restaurant, figuring somehow that means he’d rather be with her.
  • Hold grudges from past problems. These spouses have amazing memories and can bring up a whole Samsonite store of past baggage when it suits them. Any current issue is seen in light of their tally of offenses from the past, whether or not it applies.

One of the major shifts that helped my marriage so very much was starting to ask myself how much something really mattered. Was the slight personal? Or was my husband behaving in a way that was core to his personality or world view? Was it something I absolutely had to have? Or could I let it go? Was I accurately assessing what was happening? Or making assumptions that weren’t necessarily true?

I still have to do this from time to time, because it’s oh-so-easy to think that something that bothers you is colossally important. But it isn’t always that important. Sometimes you can just talk it out or let it go or … keep your mouth shut, pray for God to work on your heart, and be the one to change.

5. You’re making molehills out of mountains.

This is the spouse who watches “a little porn” and doesn’t think their mate should be upset. Or they had an extramarital affair and complain that she isn’t getting over it quickly enough, because after all, it’s “in the past.” It’s the spouse who doesn’t really like sex and thinks it isn’t that big a deal that it’s been a month or two.

While the previous problem was like people who get a paper cut and think they’re dying, this category is for those who are like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, missing arms and bleeding profusely while proclaiming, “It’s just a flesh wound.”

Monty Python & the Holy Grail: King Arthur fighting armless Black Knight

Good gravy, what’s it going to take for you to understand your spouse is in emotional pain? And that you need to do something about it. Starting with taking your vows to love and cherish your mate seriously. That includes valuing their feelings and trying to work through issues together.

Even if something doesn’t seem big to you, find out why it matters to your spouse. Ask what they’re going through and show genuine compassion and respect. Also find out what really matters to God, because you might well have some false beliefs about what intimacy in marriage should look like. Soak yourself instead in the truth, the way God designed sex in marriage to be. It comes down to this: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).

It comes down to this: 'Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.' Click To Tweet

6. You need to ask a different expert.

Having studied a lot about sexuality, and specifically sex from a biblical perspective, I consider myself something of an expert in this field. But I’m not a medical doctor or a licensed counselor or a church pastor or a parenting guru. I know my limits.

If you’re dealing with physical or body chemistry issues that impact your marriage bed, the first and best place to start is your doctor’s office. You may need to push for some answers, or even change doctors, but almost every physical challenge that affects your bedroom has an answer or treatment that will help. Ladies, if you’re looking for someone to consult, check out my post on finding a good gynecologist.

If you’re need resources on teaching young children or even teens about sex, I have written several posts for parents (like this one, this one, and this one). But I’m really not up on books, curriculum, or speakers in that field. My target audience is marrieds, particularly wives, and I mostly keep that focus.

There are other issues as well that I get asked about where I just don’t know and believe other experts are better qualified to answer. If you have a question about sex, consider who might be the best source. Maybe it is me, and I’m obviously happy to answer many questions I receive on this blog. But you might need to talk to your pastor, a doctor, or someone else to get the guidance you need. If you aren’t sure where to go, ask wise friends, whom I hope you have.

Once again, I wish I could get to more emails and answer each specifically. But hopefully these six answers address some of the challenges out there in marriage beds. I encourage you to ask some questions and try to figure out what the source of your problems is. And from that place, you can figure out what step to take next.

In all things, cover your marriage bed in prayer. And know that others are praying for you.

Are You Sure You’re Communicating?

I recently read a great blog post by Kevin A. Thompson, The Most Frustrating Moment of Marriage, which involved a miscommunication.

And it reminded me of my own recent story with my husband.

We were at a Tex-Mex restaurant (yum!), eating fajitas and conversing about this-and-that. Hubby was also, given the large-screen TV nearby, watching the World Cup. I mentioned I’d been nervous that day because my outfit involved wearing two shirts that covered everything and what-not, but I wasn’t wearing a bra. Without that familiar feeling of a bra, I felt a little uneasy in public — like I might lean over a bit wrong and show something I shouldn’t show.

To which my husband said something like, “So what if you do? You worry too much.”

Say what?!

Immediately, my feelings went from unease to emotional hurt. My heart sank to my stomach (along with my tortilla chips and salsa). Had we hit a point in our marriage when my body was no longer special? Was he was okay with me giving a peep show? Did he care about me so little? Was the magic over? (Yeah, yeah, a bit melodramatic. I know.)

I slid away from him on the booth, he kept watching the-game-of-no-scoring soccer futbol, and we didn’t interact much after that. A few minutes later in the car, I revisited the subject. I recounted how earlier in our marriage, he’d asked me to get rid of a cute, little miniskirt (emphasis on little). I was young and didn’t understand men’s visual acuity that well at the time, but his request was so out of character, I figured it was important to him and obliged. After a while, I appreciated and even cherished that memory — how my husband wanted to keep my private and hinting-at-private areas within our marriage. That made me feel special, valued, treasured.

And now he was throwing me to the wolves and their steely, hungry eyes.

We went back and forth about our feelings for a bit, until he finally said, “I don’t want anyone to see anything, but you’re freaking out about this, like it would be horrible if someone saw your bra strap.”

I raised my voice. “I told you! I’m not wearing a bra.”

Silence.

“Wait, you’re not wearing a bra?”

“No, honey. I told you that.”

“Oh. Well, that’s different.”

And my husband was back.

Mind you, once again, I was dressed modestly, with nothing showing and nothing likely to show, but my story demonstrates how easily a couple can argue about a misunderstanding. He just hadn’t heard my original statement. (He was, after all, watching the World Cup.)

Couple arguing

My own cautionary tale involves modesty and keeping yourself only unto your spouse. But there’s opportunity for plenty of other misunderstandings regarding marital intimacy.

  • She rejects sex tonight. He takes it to mean she doesn’t desire or respect him, but she’s thinking about the extra five pounds she saw on the scale today and feeling overly self-conscious about her body.
  • He says he wishes she’d be more adventurous in bed. She assumes he’s comparing her to previous sexual experiences or the porn he saw before they married, but he’s remembering that one time when she tried something different and enjoyed the experience so much (“wish I could excite her like that again“).
  • She expresses her disappointment they don’t make love more often. He hears that she sees him as inadequate and feels pressure to perform, but she misses the closeness of their lovemaking and wants to walk with him in taking steps to reawaken his sex drive.
  • He suggests ignoring the kids for a while and having a little “afternoon delight.” She hears that he cares more about getting his sex hunger sated than what happens to their children (“what kind of father is he?”), but he craves his wife’s attention and figures some lovemaking while the kids watch another VeggieTales would benefit everyone.

You can see how this happens. We communicate poorly, or only part of our message is received. And then we’re in conflict.

It’s never fun to argue with your spouse about sexual issues, but it’s kind of silly to argue about sexual non-issues — things we never said or intended. You may eventually get to an Emily Litella moment like we did, or you may never get on the same page and keep approaching your problems with erroneous assumptions.

Emily Litella character, SNL

So what can you do to avoid misunderstandings?

Slow down the conversation. When we feel hurt and sense conflict coming on, we tend to heat up, open our mouths, and let ‘er rip. Instead, when you feel that unease rising inside you, take some deep breaths and slow your words.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19 NKJV).

Make sure you’re listening. Are you really hearing what your spouse is saying? Or are you looking for points of disagreement or an opportunity to butt in with your own perspective? Pay attention to your beloved’s words, facial expressions, and body language. Make your focus figuring out what’s happening with your spouse.

“To answer before listening — that is folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:3).

Ask for clarification. See if you’re getting it right. Obviously, if I’d asked early on, “So you don’t care if I bare my breasts?” there’d have been no misunderstanding or argument between my husband and me. (Of course he cares if I bare my breasts — he wants them bared to him only and often!) If you’re surprised or hurt by something your spouse said or did, probe a bit to see what’s going on. Clarify your understanding.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established” (Proverbs 24:3).

Repeat back your understanding. When you think you’ve got it, say it back. If your spouse says, “No, that’s not it!” then keep talking until you do get it. Unfortunately, we often make our first goal winning the argument or expressing our own feelings, but our primary goal should be getting on the same page about what the problem is. When you agree on a diagnosis of the problem, you’re far more likely to work together toward a mutually satisfying resolution. Or when you finally get your understanding right, you may discover there wasn’t such a problem after all.

“It is honorable for a man to resolve a dispute, but any fool can get himself into a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3 HCSB).

Before you go barreling in to fix a problem regarding your marital intimacy, make sure you know what the problem really is. Get your spouse’s perspective on it. You may discover something you simply didn’t understand before, that will help you grow closer and stronger.

Have you had any silly misunderstandings? Or serious ones? How have you handled erroneous assumptions?