Tag Archives: lack of sex drive

Q&A with J: What Can I Do About My Sexless Marriage? Part 4

For a whole month, I’ve been tackling sexless marriages as the primary Q&A topic, not to mention a couple of other posts:

Q&A with J: “My Sexless Marriage Is Making Me Lose My Faith in God”
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
Q&A with J: What Can I Do About My Sexless Marriage? Part 3

Today, as promised, I’m providing some concrete steps of what to do to address the issue of sexlessness in your marriage. But I encourage to look back at the above posts to make sure you’re laying a foundation of trust and avoiding negative communication styles that could undermine your efforts.

Blog post title + couple in bed, turned away from each other

And let’s return to this gem: Love must underlie all your efforts. Without genuine love for your spouse, it’s all for nothing.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-13).

If you do all the right things but your spouse feels manipulated, that won’t help your marriage.

If you do all the right things but your spouse feels manipulated, that won't help your marriage. Click To Tweet

Sure, your spouse might comply out of guilt or the seeming futility of arguing, but that short-term win will damage your relationship over the long-term. Not to mention that God isn’t impressed with a spouse getting more frequent sex merely to satisfy his or her selfishness; that’s just not the picture of sex in marriage our Creator paints. Rather, it’s one of shared, mutually satisfying intimacy.

Some of you are likely saying, “I don’t care how begrudging the sex is right now; I just need some sex.” Oh, how I ache for you! But I stand by the belief that it’s worth pursuing higher, long-term goals so that you and your spouse can have the physical blessings God wants you both to have.

So what can you do? Let’s talk about steps for addressing a sexless marriage.

Set reasonable goals.

According to the popular SMART acronym, goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Your goal, I presume, is specifically to have more sex which is measurable by a certain number of encounters per week or month. But the third and fourth criteria, which overlap, are tricky. Because what’s currently achievable and relevant probably isn’t what you ultimately want. It may be far less than you want.

However, if your wife’s issue is that she endured sexual assault in her past, she isn’t going to suddenly switch her emotions and start jumping your bones the moment you walk through the door. That’s not achievable. Nor is it reasonable to expect a mom of four little ones to clear her calendar for a long night of lovemaking twice a week when she’s exhausted and can barely stand the thought of being touched by any more hands. (Trust me, that’s a thing.) And the husband who stopped having sex because his libido tanked with his high-stress job and decreased testosterone with age won’t simply rediscover his mojo buried somewhere under the bedroom pillow.

So write out your ultimate objective, but then break it down into smaller steps. If you find out that you two can leapfrog a couple of steps, great. But by setting goals that are baby steps forward, achieving each one will show you’re making progress and encourage you both to continue. Here’s an example I put together:

ULTIMATE OBJECTIVE SHORT-TERM GOALS SMALLER STEPS

(covered later in post)

Have mutually pleasurable sex twice a week, in which orgasm occurs at least half the time Reboot our sex life with a sexual encounter in the next three months Start a conversation
Write down what issues my spouse brings up and consider how I can address (not argue) them
Show physical affection without any expectation of or overture for sex
Follow up with a second conversation one week later
Demonstrate through actions that I care about other forms of intimacy as well Plan a date with an activity my spouse enjoys
Line up babysitting, finances, and any other details required to make the date happen
Set aside fifteen minutes to talk with and listen to my spouse each day
Spend time in the Bible and in prayer aligning my desires with God’s plan for sex Identify relevant scriptures and read through one per day
Ask my spouse if they’re willing to pray with me and follow through if yes

You could break this into even smaller steps, but maybe this gives you an idea of how to approach such a task.

Start a conversation.

Notice I said start, not have. Few of us are convinced from a single discussion to change our minds, hearts, attitudes about any subject. So why do we keep thinking we can launch into one conversation with our spouse and achieve a major breakthrough? I’m betting 99.9% of you will need to have multiple talks about the lack of sexual intimacy in your marriage.

I’ve learned a lot about effective conversations from my parenting successes and failures. Those areas in which I’ve influenced my teens the most are ones where I opened up communication lines and slowly, albeit intentionally, got my message across. I didn’t push my opinion, but I did let them know where I stood. Then I asked what they thought, and I listened. When their perspectives seemed skewed, I calmly gave my two cents without expecting them to immediately see things my way. But when I’ve tried to control their conclusion in a single conversation? Yeah, that’s where I’ve fallen on my face. Most people don’t want to be told what to do, much less what to think.

Likewise, take an easy, multiple-conversation approach to your spouse with this sensitive subject. Start the conversation by letting them know that you want to be able to discuss issues freely and supportively in marriage, whether it’s finances or annoying habits or your sex lives. Don’t push much beyond that in your first go-round. Just get across that you intend to do whatever you can to provide a safe atmosphere for the two of you to work together to increase all forms of intimacy in your marriage.

Later you can follow-up with a “Have you thought about what I said?” and/or “Is there anything you wish I understood about your sexuality?” And yeah, listen and don’t expect a ten-second miracle. Miracles do happen, but oftentimes we forget how many steps the Israelites took to reach the Red Sea that God parted for them.

Invest in your friendship.

We’re far more likely to do things for people we like — including listen to their concerns, help them solve issues, and spend time together. But let’s face it: In some marriages, the spouses love each other, but they don’t much like each other. Is it any surprise then when sex doesn’t happen?

If you’ve neglected your emotional and recreational intimacy, it’s time to revive that part of your marriage. Do it because it’s a good and right thing to pursue, but you may well reap the benefit of better communication and progress with your sexual intimacy.

Think about what activities your spouse enjoys and make them happen. Show interest in their hobbies. Listen to their stories. Chuckle at that joke you’ve already heard eighty-seven times. Ask how you can help with their day. Engage in random acts of kindness, just because.

Again, don’t do it out of manipulation. Your spouse likely knows you well enough to sniff out ulterior motives like a hunting dog on a fox. This is when you’ll need to keep your own lines of communication open with the Heavenly Father, to stay on track with keeping a pure heart.

Woo your spouse like you did before.

Remember when you snagged that honey-bun of yours? All you did to capture their attention and adoration? Of course you can’t just pretend to be back on those falling-in-love days. In fact, half of your friends couldn’t stand how mushy you were back then, and it’s good that you’ve settled down into a more mature relationship with bills to pay, a home to maintain, and family to care for.

However, some of the ways in which we wooed each other could have hung around and benefited our marriage. I can’t say exactly what those things are because they vary from relationship to relationship. In my own marriage, we let dating fall by the wayside for too long after the kids came, and until a few years ago, we didn’t foster kissing nearly enough. Re-introducing such romantic connections helped us feel more connected and opened up more opportunities for sexual intimacy as well.

Ask yourself this question: What do I do regularly that makes my spouse feel special?

Not what do I do for my spouse, but what do I do that makes my particular spouse feel special. Some of you could write a page-long list of all the things you do for your spouse, but they don’t really speak love to your spouse. Figure out what actions make your spouse feel special and loved and then do them, regularly.

Set proper boundaries.

So far, you might be feeling like everything’s geared toward your spouse getting what they want and none toward you getting what you want. Well, here’s a rubber-meets-road statement: Your needs and desires matter just as much as theirs. Not more, mind you, but not less.

Some of you pursuing the steps I’ve laid out so far will get push-back that is simply unacceptable. It’s not okay for your spouse to call you a pervert because you want to have regular sex in your marriage. It’s not okay for your spouse to keep blaming you for past hurts you’ve apologized for and done everything to rectify. It’s not okay for your spouse to compare you to someone else who mistreated them. It’s not okay for your spouse to accuse you of egregious sins you haven’t committed. It’s not okay for your spouse to call you bad names.

Setting boundaries is the process by which you encourage the extinction of bad behavior. People tend to continue with bad behavior when it allows them to get what they want. Take away the payoff, and they’re less likely to repeat the behavior. However, where people get caught up in applying boundaries well is one of two areas:

  1. You stop before the process has sufficient time to work. It takes time for the other person to recognize that things won’t return to their former state. Most people are likely to push even harder before finally accepting that a new normal has been set and adjusting themselves accordingly.
  2. You start behaving badly yourself. Instead of setting a boundary, you launch a counterattack. Your message gets lost with the other person feeling like they have to defend or argue back. When using boundaries, you constantly need to check your emotions and remain calm.

What does a boundary look like? If your spouse calls you a pervert, it’s not: “I don’t have to put with that! I’m a completely normal husband who just wants to have sex with his wife.” Instead, it’s something like: “It hurts that you would call me a pervert when I just want to be intimate with my wife. I want to hear why you feel that way, but I reject that label.” And if your spouse continues on that trajectory, you end the conversation, calmly but firmly. “I really want to know why you feel like this so we can address it, but I just can’t stand here and let you call me names. We’ll have to talk later.” And then, you walk away.

But ack!I that means no progress happened, right? No, it doesn’t. It means you’ll need to take more time to establish communication guidelines to foster better conversations in the future. Remember — long-term view.

Offer to pursue outside help.

Let’s say your spouse is refusing because:

  1. They have an issue they own (e.g., prior molestation, health problems, a porn addiction) that makes it difficult to have sex; or
  2. Not feeling any real libido themselves, they see no point in pursuing sex in your marriage.

These scenarios cover the vast majority of sexless marriages. And both of them could benefit from outside help.

In the first case, you offer to move heaven and earth to help your spouse heal, emotionally and/or physically. You encourage your spouse not to give up on getting answers. You research the issue with them, making sure your sources are solid and biblical. You suggest a new doctor, a new treatment, a new support group, a new marriage counselor. You watch the kids while she goes to the support group. You have a garage sale to pay for his subscription to porn-blocking software. You make it clear that whatever outside help you (both) need, you’re all in. And you will not give up until you both experience the blessing of physical intimacy God intends for your marriage.

The second case is obviously harder. Because most such spouses just don’t understand how hurtful and isolating their refusal is. They don’t feel this need to have sex, and they can’t fathom why it’s such a big deal to you. It would be like someone trying to sell this South Texan a pair of snow tires. Why would I need that? Why would anybody need that?

You should still offer to get help — to speak with a counselor, a pastor, a mentor couple in your church. Tell your spouse you know this is an area of contention, but you’re willing to sit down with an external mediator and hear what they have to say. But here’s where you have to do your homework: Find out who will be sex and marriage positive. Don’t pick the first Christian counselor in the phone book, but ask around and see who’s got a good reputation for giving both spouses a fair shot in the counseling room. You don’t need someone just taking your side or just taking your spouse’s side, but rather someone who will listen to both of you and address the underlying issues so that you can find unity. Say to your pastor, “What do you think is going on with the sex lives of married people in our congregation?” and see how he responds. You can learn a lot that way.

Don’t try to stack the odds in your favor by speaking specifically about your situation and making sure that person’s on your side. Your spouse will likely learn about that and feel manipulated. (Because they were manipulated.)

Also, if your spouse thinks you need a help in some area, be willing to go get it for yourself. Indeed, some of you would benefit from saying to your spouse, “I want us to get marriage counseling, but if you don’t want to go, I’m going on my own. I need someone to talk to.” That alone will motivate some spouses to show up, if only to spout their side of the story. But if they don’t, you’ll still have someone to speak with who can help you get perspective and take active steps to help your marriage.

Call it quits?

That’s a question mark there, because it’s not what I advise, but something I get asked about often: Is it okay to leave my spouse if he/she refuses to have sex with me?

Is it okay to leave my spouse if he/she refuses to have sex with me? Click To Tweet

After a lot of thought on this one, I believe divorce likely is permitted when sexual refusal is deep-seated, persistent, and aggressive. But in such cases, they’re are usually many other problems in the marriage that make calling it quits an option.

But just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something. There could be good reasons to stay.

I’ve heard from several spouses who’ve said that as soon as the children are grown, they’re done with their spouse. Do you really think divorce won’t affect your adult children? My parents divorced when I was in my mid-twenties, and it still hurt. Moreover, the consequences of having two separate families where there had once been one continues. Look, my parents had good reasons to call it quits, but I just want you to understand that divorce isn’t an easy walk-away for anyone. Sometimes divorce is the best choice, the only choice, but sometimes we think it is when it isn’t. As difficult as it would be for you, it might be worth staying for the sake of your family and community as a whole.

Here’s another reason to stay: I’ve got several testimonies in my inbox from couples who rediscovered their sex life in later years and are so glad they didn’t throw in the towel. Sometimes a refusing spouse finally realizes the damage they’ve done and decides to turn things around. Or a libido awakens when the demands of parenting or a high-stress job fall away. You just don’t know how this is going to go, and shouldn’t you give everything of yourself to your marriage before walking away?

Stop being a jerk.

I added this last one, because I do hear from spouses (male and female) who are so harsh in the way they talk about their spouses that my initial reaction is, “Good gravy, who wants to sleep with that?” Frankly put, some of you aren’t getting laid because you’re acting like a jerk. So stop it.

Stop insulting your spouse publicly and privately. Stop looking only for people to agree that you’re getting a bum deal and be willing to seek real answers. Stop grousing about the unfairness of life, and deal with the hand you’ve been given. (Someone else who’s getting more sex has a different crappiness in their life. Trust me.) Stop being an unhappy person your spouse doesn’t want to be around. For more on this point, you might want to read Kevin A. Thompson’s excellent post, I Wouldn’t Sleep with You Either.

And this is now the longest post I’ve ever written. If you stayed with me this long, I pray you found something helpful. Believe me, I’m pulling for you.

Intimacy Revealed ad, click to buy book

Q&A with J: “A Sexual Stimulant for Women?”

Today’s question is an interesting one, from a husband wanting to help his wife’s sexual desire:

So I hate to ask this as I can see [there] being conflicting opinions on the subject but, do they make a sexual stimulant for women? As well as you know they have been making them for years for the guys but I can’t find anything that looks reliable for the woman’s side of things. My wife and I have talked about this off and on for some time and she is willing to try almost anything to help her with her almost non existent drive in the bedroom.

I write about sex drive differences, but honestly there are resources more dedicated to low libido in wives than I am. Here are just three you could take a look at:

Image result for amazon.com unlock your libido

Bonny’s OysterBed7.

Given the question, I think Bonny’s site is a particularly good resource, because she addresses the science of sex and low libido. Bonny does a great job of giving emotional encouragement, practical tips, and covers studies that show which substances do work or don’t work in lifting your libido. She also has a great book titled Unlock Your Libido: 52-Week Sex Drive Transformation. She’s also one of my podcast partners, and she brings her science knowledge to our Sex Chat for Christian Wives.

Boost Your Libido course.

Sheila Gregoire of To Love, Honor, and Vacuum has a wonderful online course for low-libido wives that walks them through reasons they might not be “feeling it” and what to do about it. She doesn’t talk supplements so much as tips, but they are helpful and might indeed boost your wife’s libido. Click below to find out more.

Dr. Oz’s List.

Confession: I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Dr. Oz. I think some of his advice is really good, and some of it is, well, opportunistic. But I found this article on his website with natural substances he suggests could boost female libido. Do they work? I’m skeptical how much of this stuff you’d have to actually eat/take to get results enough to notice a difference. But then again, why wouldn’t you just try and see for yourself? Especially when the prescribed substances include innocuous things like pumpkin seeds, walnuts, and chocolate-covered strawberries.

In addition to these resources, I suggest your wife see a doctor and get tested for hormone levels as well as deficiencies that can cause fatigue and low response, like low thyroid and anemia. Tell the doctor what exactly is happening, so she’ll know what to look for. It’s certainly possible that her physiology makes it difficult for your wife to feel desire.

But also remember that many women don’t experience a sex drive the way it’s been primarily described — as a desire for sex followed by engagement. Instead, many wives have a libido that is responsive, in that the drive is there after engagement in affection, foreplay, and sexual activity begin. There’s nothing wrong with having a responsive drive; it’s the way many of us were created. What matters instead is whether she can get into the sexual experience at all.

As for an actual sex stimulant for women? Nope, I don’t really know of anything I’d recommend. There are some shysters who will sell you something that claims to fire up a woman’s libido, but they’re not a magic pill. Stay away from anything that sounds too good to be true, because it probably is.

Like or not, sexual desire can be a delicate dance for many women. So just be patient, investigative, and willing to try various thing to see what works. I wish you all the best!

What?! You’d Rather He Have an Affair?

I heard such a sad thing the other day on the radio. Now and then, I listen to the Dennis Prager show. I particularly enjoy his “happiness hour” and the hour he lets callers ask him anything under the sun. (He’s also interviewed the fabulous Sheila Gregoire for his male/female hour.)

Anyway, this man called in to ask Mr. Prager for his take on this scenario: The man’s wife wanted him to have an affair so that he could “get it out of his system” and not desire sex so much with her. What floored me is that Mr. Prager said he knew of another couple where the wife had said the same thing and he presumed that other wives felt that way.

I immediately wanted to find that wife, buy her a cup of coffee, and have a heart-to-heart. But I would have to make my tongue behave, because what I’d want to start out saying is:

You’d rather he have an affair?!!

Some ecard: "What are you?! Crazy???"

Which really isn’t the way to ease into a conversation about what sex should mean for a marriage. A wife who is this reluctant simply doesn’t get it.

I don’t know if such a wife would even read my blog, but if she did, here’s what I’d truly want to share with her:

God gave your husband his sex drive for a reason. Yes, there are crazed sex addicts, but your husband isn’t likely one of them. If he wants to have sex frequently and friskily, he is most likely . . . normal. God created us to be sexual beings, to desire and enjoy physical connection with our mate. His Word is clear that sex serves several purposes: reproduction, relational intimacy, and pleasure. God knew what He was doing when he invented libido. It’s only when we twist sex to purposes outside God’s plan that the drive becomes a problem. In the context of a covenant marriage, a desire to have sex is a blessing.

Your husband doesn’t just want sex. When he chose you, he chose having sex with you. Yes, some husbands do not make this clear when they say things like, “But I need sex!” However, having heard from many husbands at this point, the vast majority are not merely interested in sex. They specifically want to have sex with their wife. He chose you. He wants you. To put it bluntly, if it was just about physical release, he could accomplish that without you. Sex has a deeper meaning for him, and what he most desires is connection with you (though, yes, that does include the Yippee! feeling of climax — hopefully both his and yours).

If you don’t like sex now, you can learn to like it. If you really hate sex, there’s something going on that needs to be addressed. Maybe you simply received bad teaching on what sex is in a marriage. Maybe you’ve had a bad history that includes abuse, promiscuity, or mistreatment. Maybe your body isn’t cooperating due to health issues. Maybe your relationship is faltering and needs work. Maybe you haven’t tapped into the pleasure centers of your body and learned to relax and enjoy. Whatever the issue, it can be addressed and, in almost all cases, fixed. If you don’t like sex now, make sex a priority, deal with any medical or psychological issues, and learn what you need to do to foster a positive response to sexual intimacy with your husband.

Extramarital affairs take their toll, even if they only seem sex-based. It’s simply a fallacy to believe such drivel as: “It’s just sex, nothing else” or “What she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” The act of sex engages the senses, releases pleasurable body chemicals, and can result in positive or negative consequences depending on the context. It is not a neutral thing. Sex has the power to bind you to the other individual in a private, shared way. No wife should want another woman to have that influence and connection with her husband. Yes, I joked about how tempting it would have been to say, “Go see the other wife,” when the kids were young, I was exhausted, and I entertained the thought of polygamy for a split second . . . but ain’t no way I want another woman touching my husband. I know too well the impact of sex, and only spouses should have that kind of impact.

Sex both expresses and fosters covenant love in a marriage. Sex is not icing on the cake. It’s an ingredient in the cake. Want a great cake? You’ll need flour, eggs, sugar, etc. Want a great marriage? You’ll need shared values, communication, sex, etc. God blessed marriage with the gift of sex as a way to both express our love to one another and foster our love for one another. Sex in marriage should not be optional. It’s essential. Those couples who have the best marriages will testify to the importance of sex in keeping them connected and engaged with one another. Plus, as I’ve said many times, it’s hard to get your “panties in a wad” over some small annoyance when your hubby just sent you to the moon with a mind-blowing orgasm. I doubt that’s what the apostle Peter meant when he said, “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), but it does apply.

Mostly, I would want to listen to this wife and hear her emotional state — why she has concluded that she would rather her husband be in the arms of another woman than to make love to him herself. I would want to guide her past the hurt or faulty thinking she possesses. I would want to give her tips for desiring and enjoying sexual intimacy. I would want to challenge her to love her husband in the way God intended her to love him — with her mind, heart, and body.

Have you ever felt this way about sex in your marriage? What would you want to tell such a wife?