Tag Archives: low libido

Q&A with J: No Interest in Sex & Meeting Emotional Needs

It’s Q&A day again! Today, I’m tackling two questions: one about a lack of interest in sex and the second about meeting emotional needs in marriage. Let’s get to it!

Blog post title + illustration of bed with question marks above

1. No Interest in Sex

I’m in a strange predicament. I relate to the term “demisexual”, which basically means someone better be my best friend if they want a prayer of me thinking they’re attractive. I lovingly refer to this as “the most convenient orientation”, but it has had its inconveniences as well.

Growing up, I was unable to relate to my friends who seemed to fall in love so quickly. I rarely thought about sex until I got serious (staying pure till marriage- no worries!) with my fiancé. Sex seems like fun! I’m looking forward to it and I want to be as experimental (now that I know you can be! Lol)

The hardest part, though, is that both my fiancé and I have a mutual concern. I don’t think much about sex. I am not interested in it as much as the normal person. I don’t understand why sex sells and I am a businesswoman and a performer. I am mortified that my wiring is going to ruin my marriage. Heck, it took me two years to kiss the poor boy. He is the most respectful and patient and loving man I have ever met, but I feel so guilty and like this aspect of me is going to be a curse on our relationship.

What advice do you have to give to women who just don’t have much active interest in sex? Or couples with different libidos?

Let me first say that I don’t think all those terms (“demisexual,” “asexual,” etc.) are all that helpful. It’s a label that makes it seems like you’re different in a way that doesn’t seem all that weird to me. A lot of people aren’t that interested in sex with someone unless and until they feel deep companionship and connection.

A lot of people aren't that interested in sex with someone unless and until they feel deep companionship and connection. Click To Tweet

In addition, not being interested in sex isn’t the kiss of death to your intimacy either. Many — really, the majority of — women have libidos that are more responsive than proactive. Such wives can have wonderful sexual intimacy if they prioritize sex in their marriage, decide to engage, and then surrender to the pleasure of the experience. They may not ever have an independent urge to have sex, but from memories of how good it made them feel before and how sex keeps them connected to their husband, they continue to enjoy ongoing affection and sexual pleasure throughout their marriage.

All that said, a nonexistent libido or inability to respond sexually could be a problem. One question I’d have is whether you experience physiological arousal at any time. That is, do you experience lubrication and swelling in the genital area at any time when you’re with your fiancé? Women often aren’t as aware of their arousal, but if their bodies are physiologically responding, it’s a good sign for future sexual engagement. If that’s not happening, you should visit a doctor to check on hormone levels and any other factors that could influence your sexual physiology.

I also highly recommend a video course recently released by fellow marriage and sex author Sheila Gregoire titled Boost Your Libido, which you can find HERE.

If you get married and continue to have problems, I’d suggest seeing a counselor to determine what else might be going on. God really did create us to be a sexual beings, and while our libidos can run the spectrum, having zero sexual interest or response isn’t likely without some underlying reason.

Related post: What Is Sexual Interest? Why Should I Care? from OysterBed7

2. Meeting Your Spouse’s Emotional Needs

This has less to do with sex and more with maintaining a healthy marriage.

My husband and I are similar in many ways but words of affirmation is an area where we are not. He is a tender, humble, hilarious husband! I have nothing but good things to say about him—to others. But when it comes to expressing appreciation and love, in a deeper, heart-to-heart way, to HIM, I stink! I feel so uncomfortable!

My husband is an ESFJ, if that means anything to you, so feeling valued and appreciated is very important to him. He truly NEEDS to hear affirmation–a LOT. For me, as an ESTJ, I can go without words of affirmation for a long time and be totally fine. Sometimes his constant need for praise feels like insecurity and can be annoying to me. At the same time, I hit the jackpot in regards to husbands and am overwhelmingly grateful most days.

Any insight on how I can become more comfortable in being verbally affirming?

For those who might not recognize the label, that’s a four-letter personality type based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a test I’ve taken, administered, and interpreted. I’m a big fan of the MBTI.

But emotional needs have also been identified through other resources like The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman and His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr.  Regardless of which approach you use, you’re likely to discover that you and your spouse are not the same person. Surprise! You express and experience love in different ways.

You're likely to discover that you and your spouse are not the same person. Surprise! You express and experience love in different ways. Click To Tweet

Now most of us expressed love in just about every way possible while courting, because the experience of falling in love does that to a person — makes you gush out your feelings through every pore they can find. Once married, or past the honeymoon phase, we tend to fall back into the habits our personality type is comfortable with. That’s a good thing, because it means we’re maturing in our love. But it’s also a bad thing if we let go of an action that was particularly meaningful to our spouse.

What’s the answer? Well, you can keep your personality type and still meet your spouse’s emotional needs. You will have to do some changing, but it won’t be that painful. Really. Here are my suggestions for meeting the emotional need of verbal affirmation, but the principles can apply to meeting any emotional need for your beloved spouse.

Recognize it will be awkward at first. Whenever we’re setting up a new habit, it feels unnatural at first — because it is. But over time, it will become more natural if you keep at it and let the new habit sink in.

Set up a routine. Make a point of saying something affirming when you wake up, when you leave, when you get home, or whatever triggers work for you. Even set up reminders on your phone to share something positive with your husband.

Write it, if that’s easier. Some people feel weird saying compliments aloud, but find it easier to write them down. If that’s you, then buy some cute post-in notes or stationery and make it a habit to write a word of affirmation and plant it where you husband will see it (e.g., in his lunch bag, on his computer screen, on the bathroom mirror).

Be genuine. Don’t say stuff you don’t believe or “fluff” that you think he wants to hear. Look for something positive in your hubby that you really believe, even if it’s something small, and then comment on that.

Pray. Yeah, pray for the right words and the right attitude and the right reception from your husband. It seems to me that your desire to bless your husband in this way is entirely in line with God’s will, so surely He will bless you in this endeavor if you invite His guidance.

That’s it for today’s questions. More Q&A next week!

Does Your Sex Drive Take a Dive in the Holiday Season?

I’ve been sleeping too much lately.

Usually, it’s the other way around — not getting enough sleep. But after a rough start to last week with serious sleep deprivation, I decided to make it up with earlier bedtimes, later wake-up times, and a couple of naps. Surprisingly, I’ve had no problem soaking in every last moment of sweet sleep. I’m like a hibernating bear.

So when I woke up this morning and thought, Why am I sleeping so much? and Why would I totally pick sleep over sex right now? I reminded myself of what time of year it is.Does Your Sex Drive Take a Dive in the Holiday Season?

December brings together three challenges to your sex life. Especially us ladies. See if you recognize any of these.

Stress

The Christmas season is a joyful time in many ways. But remember that to-do list that’s always hard for you to get through? It’s grown by three feet.

You have presents to buy, wrap, and send. You have lights and decorations to put up. You have the Christmas pageant, choir performance, or candle lighting to prepare for. Your work wants you to participate in the charity drive, Secret Santa exchange, or off-site party. You need to send Christmas cards (for those of us who still do that). You must take the children or grandchildren to see Santa, the live nativity scene, and/or a tour of Christmas lights. You must get ready for the arrival of family or get ready to travel if you’re going somewhere else.

Whether you are naturally Suzy Snowflake or struggle against being the Grinch, you still have more to do this time of year. Good stress or bad stress, it’s still more stress.

And stress has been shown to negatively affect our sex drives. Prolonged increases in cortisol, the “stress hormone,” lower your libido. It’s harder to relax enough to become aroused and enjoy a sexual encounter. And with pressures all around us, we simply have less time.

Sex can feel like another to-do that’s down on the list between mail grandma’s pecan pie recipe to my husband’s cousin and make a stocking for the dog. It might happen, but if it doesn’t, you figure you’re still okay. Yet deep down, you know your marriage — and your marriage bed — are more important than that.

So take a few steps to help with the stress factor:

  • Cross off items on your list that you really don’t need to do. Be honest, and even ruthless. It’s good to say no to some opportunities so that you can say yes to your marriage. If you struggle with this, ask a trusted friend to take a look at your list and let her be the bearer of the “you’re not doing that this year” news.
  • Involve your husband in the to-dos, asking for help. Of course, he won’t do the task like you would — for example, he might buy cookies instead of baking them for your daughter’s school holiday party — but that’s okay. You can get more things done, and you’ll feel a sense of togetherness. Which will hopefully translate into a desire to get together in a more pleasurable way later.
  • Put sex on your list, near the top. We mostly accomplish what we plan for. If you prioritize sexual intimacy, you’ll likely get it done. Even block off time for this important nurturing of your marriage and intimacy.
  • Compartmentalize, like a dude. It may seem like I’m asking for the impossible, but hear me out: Guys have an uncanny ability to focus on the task right in front of them. What if we gals adopted a bit of that approach? Make an intentional effort to shove all your must-dos aside so that you can be fully present in the marriage bed. Remove from your bedroom the stacks of gifts to wrap, the holiday decorations to go through, and the small children asking when Santa is coming. Take the time you need to mentally prepare, maybe with a bubble bath or body massage to counteract the stress. When your mind wanders, meditate back to the thought that this is my intimate time with my husband.

Fatigue

A close compatriot of stress is fatigue. Your fatigue could be caused by juggling so many holiday-related tasks that you feel like the official Christmas Court Jester. When you finally get home and into bed, you burrow into the covers and hide from the world and the demands of the day.

Or perhaps you feel the need for more downtime to balance the busyness of the season. When not working that to-do list, you want to throw on your flannel pajamas, grab a cup of cocoa, and binge-watch the most recent series of Gilmore Girls. You’re too exhausted to get your lady parts excited about sex.

Maybe the weather is wearing you down. It’s darker earlier. And later. Basically, it’s dark a lot of the day. And it’s cold. (To those in the Tropics or Australia, I know this isn’t you, but…) And if you’re in an area like mine (Southeast Texas), it’s not that cold but it is gray and rainy.

Whatever the cause, you feel too fatigued to get aroused. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if your husband just wanted to snuggle on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls with you? (Don’t hold your breath.) But you have a niggling feeling that ignoring your sexual intimacy altogether would be short-changing your marriage.

Instead, be consistent with your sleep habits. Make yourself go to bed and get up at regular times, keeping your body’s clock on track. Interspersed with those holiday comfort foods, be sure to consume healthy foods — vegetables, fruits, nuts, water. Even if you love mulled wine, wassail, or eggnog, don’t overdo the alcohol because that will make you even more tired. Find ways to exercise and do some activities that simply give you a burst of joy, whether that’s going to an art museum or ice skating or watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Finally, look for better times in the day to make love. Nighttime might not work well for you this season, but could you get up a little early for some nookie? Plan a “lunch date” so you can have needed naked time alone? Get in some afternoon delight? Be creative and give your husband that time of day when you’re most perky.

Depression

This is a wonderful season for many, but a really hard season for some. Those who already struggle with depression may have additional challenges this time of year. And Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that most often occurs in the winter months.

Without sufficient exposure to sunlight, our serotonin levels can decrease. Serotonin is a body chemical responsible for mood balance, and its deficiency is one cause of depression. For those who suffer from SAD, one option is bright light therapy. But even making sure you get out of the house when the sun is out can help.

Also, it’s tougher to exercise in the winter months. Yes, there are winter sports, but many favorite activities are off-limits this time of year. And we probably walk less, avoiding getting out when the weather is cold or dreary.

We’re also more aware of personal losses during the holidays, whether it’s the relative who died this past year or the adult children who won’t be joining us this Christmas.

Some depression sufferers may need to ask their doctors for help or a temporary increase in their antidepressant medication. And if you have the “winter blues,” you may actually be experiencing depression, so get sunlight, get exercise, get help if you need it. Also, prioritize self-care. I don’t mean a marathon of holiday movies with a tin of Christmas cookies and a half-gallon of eggnog. Rather, find and do activities that give you a smile and a sense of accomplishment.

Our spouses shouldn’t be relegated to the bottom of our priority list. Rather, we should give our best gift to our beloved. And sexual intimacy is a beautiful gift we need to give this season. Figure out what’s making your sex drive dive this season and then find ways to bring your libido back.

How Libido Works: For Women, That Is

If you follow me here or on social media, you’ll quickly discover that I share a lot of what Sheila Wray Gregoire of To Love, Honor, and Vacuum writes. That’s because we have very similar views on sex in marriage, and her wisdom is well worth my readers’ time.

Not to mention that we’re friends. Which is one of major bonuses of doing what I do — getting to meet like-minded people who are smart, fun, and Christ-like.

It’s my pleasure to share her with you today! Sheila’s here to talk about how libido works — for women, that is. Because it’s not how many of us were taught that sex drive works. And now…Sheila.How Libido Works: For Women, That IsHave you ever noticed that movies and TV shows make women’s sex drives look just like men’s?

Here’s what happens, pretty much every time: the couple’s together, and they start to pant. So they fall into each other’s arms and they begin to kiss. Then the clothes come off. And then they end up in bed.

They pant, they kiss, they take off their clothes, and they end up in bed.

Pant. Kiss. Clothes. Bed.

Every time.

If this is what you see, over and over, you may begin to think that’s natural.

So there you are, at home with your husband, and you’re waiting to pant.

And nothing happens.

So you figure, “I guess I’m just not in the mood”, and you return to browsing Pinterest or you go and make another cup of tea.

But what if that whole portrayal of women’s and men’s sex drives is wrong?

Rosemary Abbott of the University of British Columbia did a study a while ago that found that while men tend to be aroused BEFORE they started to make love (that’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?), most women are not aroused UNTIL they start. They’re not panting at all!

Instead, they make the decision to make love, and then once they start, they relax enough and tell themselves, “I am going to have FUN tonight!” It’s only then that their bodies kick in.

For women, our sex drives are primarily in our heads. If our heads aren’t engaged, our bodies won’t follow.

But that also means that we have a great deal of power when it comes to our libidos! Instead of waiting to feel in the mood, we can tell ourselves positive things about sex: “I am going to enjoy this tonight.” “I am going to sleep so well after this!” Or even, “I am going to rock my husband’s world!”

Unfortunately, many of us don’t quite understand this. We figure that our bodies should kick in if he does the right thing, romances us the right way, or touches just the right place. So we start making love, but while we’re doing that we’re also composing shopping lists in our heads, trying to figure out if there’s enough milk in the fridge to get us through breakfast, and planning our errands route for tomorrow. So sex feels lousy. And it must be his fault, because he’s just not doing it right!

Now, there’s no doubt that husbands often need to learn what makes wives feel good (because many husbands don’t understand foreplay, for instance!). But it’s also true that one night he could do something that has you in raptures, and three nights later he’s doing exactly the same thing, move for move, and you’re lying there thinking, “Will you just get over with because I want to get to sleep!” It’s not about what he’s doing; it’s about what you’re thinking!

That’s why great sex isn’t about panting beforehand and it isn’t JUST about him doing the right thing. It’s also about us concentrating and putting our brains to work for us!

When you make love, ask yourself, “What feels good right now?” That makes your brain cut off that shopping list and concentrate instead on your body. And you just may find that it does feel good, after all!

God made women so that our response isn’t as automatic as men’s sexual response tends to be.

We have to make the decision that we want to make love. We even have to make the decision that we’re going to have a good time! But I think there’s a logic behind that. Because we need to make that decision, then both husbands and wives have an incentive to work on feeling intimate outside of the bedroom, too. We have to build goodwill towards each other to even want to make love in the first place. If our sexual response was always automatic, then our relationships could be quite shallow.

Instead, when things work well, we get the best of both worlds. We feel close to our husbands, and we feel great in the bedroom. But ultimately it’s up to us: will we decide to jump in and take the initiative, or will we sit back and wait for the panting to happen?

Personally, I’d suggest jumping in. Sex helps you sleep better. Sex helps you feel closer. Plus great sex feels amazing! It’s too great a gift to leave to chance. So decide to have fun tonight, and see what happens!

Sheila WC 100Sheila is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 31 Days to Great Sex. She blogs everyday at To Love, Honor and Vacuum.

Come on over and download her free ebook, 36 Ways to Bring Sexy Back to The Bedroom!

Thanks, Sheila! I love this wise advice.

Q&A with J: I’m in a Sexless Marriage

Today’s question is heartbreaking. Listen to this husband’s emotional pain as he writes:

It has been 22 months since my wife of 22 years has had sex with me. She has told me she doesn’t feel a desire for sex. She either has an excuse for not doing it or want even answer my requests. I am really struggling with the situation. I’m looking for suggestions on how to discuss the issue further with her. The most hurtful thing to me is that my interpretation of the situation is that she doesn’t care about me enough to do something for me that she knows would make me happy.

Low-drive wives who struggle with high-drive husbands, please read that last sentence. I hear this again and again from husbands who want greater sexual frequency: What hurts isn’t the “blue balls” of not getting any sex; it’s the dismissal of their emotional needs and desire to connect physically. As I’ve often said, if it was just about the sexual release, he could take care of that on his own. Rather, it’s about sexual intimacy with his wife.

Q&A with J: I'm in a Sexless Marriage

Experts define a “sexless marriage” as one in which couples have sex less than 10 times a year. This poor husband has gone completely without for 22 months — almost two years — which isn’t sex-less so much as sex-free. And it’s absolutely not okay.

Of course, I’d love to chat with the wife. Oftentimes, a woman will tell a girlfriend what’s really going on more than she will her husband. Because she’s embarrassed or doesn’t think he’ll understand or gets caught up in her own fears. It’s risky to talk to your spouse about what’s going on in your head and heart regarding this most vulnerable, intimate act. But the wife isn’t available at the moment.

That’s okay. While spouses cannot make one another change, we do have influence. So to this husband . . .

She has told me she doesn’t feel a desire for sex. To me, this is the key line in your email. Because that’s where I’d start.

Did she have desire previously? If she used to desire, or at least enjoy, sex but doesn’t now, what changed? That’s what you need to know. And if you can calmly have that conversation with her, you might discover the underlying cause. Has her sex drive diminished with perimenopause or menopause? Is she under greater stress now than before? Is she discouraged in your relationship in some way? What’s different now from the way things were before the 22-month dry spell began?

Getting her to share such information requires creating a secure space for her talk, and not feel judged. Yes, she might have failings she should own, but this isn’t the time to point fingers or apply blame. As much as possible, make this subject one you can discuss as easily as “What did you do today?” Keep in mind Romans 12:18: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Approach your conversation with the goal of peace and understanding.

Does she have a desire for you? Too often, a lower-drive spouse views sex as an optional component of the relationship. If they feel like it, they’ll engage in sex. But if they don’t feel like it, they’ll just say they don’t want sex. That’s not the ultimate point, though, because it’s not just about sex. You clearly, and understandably, feel her rebuffing of sexual encounters as a personal rejection of you.

When you approach the subject of your sex life together, try to speak in terms of deep intimacy, loving acceptance, and physical expression of love. I understand you feel this as a strong physical need — because the longer you go, the more raging that physical drive can feel — but try to avoid statements like:

  • I want sex.
  • I need a sexual release.
  • I can’t go without for this long.

Dig deeper to what you really feel about this situation, with statements like:

  • I want us to connect physically.
  • I need to feel one flesh with you.
  • I miss you.

Make it clear that it’s not just the sex, but the sexual intimacy you desire with her. You can even liken your desire for sex to activities that make her feel connected to you — perhaps conversations, holding hands, vacations together, etc. Explain your perspective that sex is an important part of feeling uniquely connected to your wife.

The most hurtful thing to me is that my interpretation of the situation is that she doesn’t care about me enough to do something for me that she knows would make me happy. It’s normal and reasonable for you to feel rejected personally since she appears to be making no effort to address the lack of sex in your marriage. However, one thing here hit me as well. Yes, sex would make you happy. And I think you should be happy in that way.

But what about her happiness? What would your wife get from being sexually active with you? What’s the payoff in her world? Yes, of course we should serve one another in our marriages, but God also designed sexual intimacy to be mutually pleasurable. It’s not for one spouse or the other — it benefits you both.

Plenty of Christian wives have heard the erroneous message again and again: Sex is for him. What a pile of cowpattie! It’s for him and for her. God’s biological design of male and female and His Word repeatedly convey that He wants husband and wives to delight in this gift for marriage. What can you do to ensure your wife gets that message from you? That she knows it’s not all about your needs, but about your mutual needs and satisfaction?

Your wife might need to hear how much you want to sexually pleasure her to a mind-blowing climax, or maybe for now she just needs you to offer her a full-body massage with no strings attached. There are many ways you can communicate with your gaze, your words, and your touch that you long to bring her physical happiness that’s meaningful to her. From that place, wives are often more willing to engage sexually over time. Because they feel safe and cherished.

Those are some thoughts specific to your email, but I’ve written many times about related topics. Here are a few other posts you might want to check out:

How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse – how-to advice

3 Things Higher-Drive Spouses Long For – perspectives for you

For Wives: When You Don’t Desire Sex – possible reasons for her low-libido

More on Wife’s Low Sex Drive – more resources on low libido

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Q&A with J: Getting Over Your Baggage

I feel like I’ve been answering a high percentage of questions lately from newlyweds. But I’m happy to do it, and I’m sure today’s question applies to plenty of wives in various stages of their marriage. Read on:

I’ve so enjoyed your blog thus far and am grateful for your spiritual guidance. I am a newlywed and want desperately to have a deep sexual relationship with my husband. I’ve found it so difficult to be in the mood though for a number of reasons: 1. My body image is a mess. This is the worst I’ve felt about my body in a long time and I hate being aware of it. How can I be naked and let someone touch me when I hate my body so much? 2. I had an abusive ex that still haunts me and creeps into my thoughts. 3. I was raised really devout Catholic and I still feel guilty for the “dirty” parts of sex. For some reason I can’t get out of this juvenile mind set.

All of this combines to make me not in the mood. Like ever.

I love my husband so much and I want our marriage to be a successful one. Any advice to work through my baggage I would very much appreciate. And so would he.

Other wives, did you see yourself in there somewhere? This reader did a great job of separating out the topics, so I’m going to deal with them in that order.

Q&A with J: Getting Over Your BaggageMy body image is a mess. This is the question so many wives ask themselves: “How can I be naked and let someone touch me when I hate my body so much?” I’ve tried to answer this question in so many ways and enlisted other wise wives to help:

Don’t Touch Me: I’m Ugly!
Facts and Figures
3 Practical Tips for a Sexier You
Husbands, Help Us Feel & Be Beautiful
Feeling Beautiful: A Wife’s Goal for 2015
Feeling Beautiful: From His Perspective
Feel Beautiful in 2015: Fight The Frump!
Feel Beautiful: Dust Off Your Exercise Shoes!
Feeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While Shopping
How Do You Feel Beautiful? with Sheila Wray Gregoire
Put Your Body to Work to Help You Feel Beautiful with Gaye Groover Christmus
Feeling Beautiful Beneath the Sheets with Julie Sibert
Feeling Beautiful Starts in the Mind with Keelie Reason
Permission to Feel Beautiful with Bonny Logsdon Burns
4 Ways to Feel Beautiful When You’re Not Really Feeling It with Jolene Engle

I also deal with this issue several times in my devotional book, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriagewith scriptures and focused prayer.

But today as I leaned back in my office chair wondering if there was anything else I could add, I paused to listen to the background music coming through my earphones. Was it a coincidence that Casting Crowns’ “Voice of Truth” was playing? Maybe, maybe not. But here’s the conclusion of the chorus:

Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe
The voice of truth

I encourage you to go through those posts and my book, which include wisdom and tips about feeling beautiful. But Casting Crowns is right: It’s ultimately about training our minds to agree with God’s perspective of us. It won’t happen overnight. But we can choose to listen, we can choose to believe, we can choose to rehearse the truth in our heads: You are “remarkably and wonderfully made“! (Psalm 139:14 HCSB).

I had an abusive ex. I’m not clear on what type of abuse this entailed: verbal, physical, or sexual. Or even all three. But I’ve seen the damage that domestic abuse causes, the open wounds it leaves in the victims, the pain they have to heal from. Domestic abuse can be caused by a woman or a man, but statistically it is more often the male — and I believe this is Satan at work. As usual, the accuser creates nothing, only twists what God created.

Overall, God made men biologically better equipped to be a physical protector. Man’s physical strength should be used to keep others safe, but Satan turns that on its head and convinces some men to use their might to abuse others instead. It’s a horrible thing, and if you’re being abused, you need to get out and get out now. Your situation is extremely unlikely to change, and will likely get worse, unless and until you break the cycle by pulling away.

Thankfully, this reader is out of that situation and now in a marriage where abuse is not occurring. God be praised! So what about the baggage left over from that awful experience? Once again, it’s about retraining. That was then, this is now. So here are some straightforward tips on getting past the bad memories:

  • Remind yourself that your husband is not that guy. Over and over and over. As many times as you need to. To protect ourselves, our bodies learn which stimuli signal danger and react accordingly. For abuse victims, this can mean that male hand touching you can cause you to tense up, even if it’s a different hand than the one that struck you. You’ll need to do some self-talk to distinguish this stimulus from that one. It will take some time to decouple the stimulus-response, but you can make it happen.
  • Let your husband know what triggers your fear. Communicate clearly which activities cause the bad memories to leap to the forefront of your mind. Explain how he can best touch and arouse you in ways that won’t cause you emotional pain. And look, if there are certain things that need to be off-limits, at least for the time being, tell him. For example, if a young girl was forced to give a man oral sex, she can take that off the sexual menu with her husband, because it’s just too close to the original event. Over time, her comfort in the marriage bed could improve enough that they can revisit that topic, but it’s not reasonable to push optional activities that send you reeling.
  • Have the agreement that you can pause and regroup as needed. If you’re in the middle of lovemaking, and something happens that evokes your fear response, you can call for a momentary break. Just say something like, “Hold on, I need to breathe for a moment.” Then take deep breaths, do your self-talk, and guide your husband on what you need, whether it’s slowing down, touching you elsewhere, or reminding you how much he loves you and will protect you.

Don’t stop being intimate. Because what eventually happens with bad baggage versus our marriage bed experiences is the scales tip. If you put baggage on one side, and your marriage on the other, you can eventually get so many positive experiences of sexual intimacy with your husband that you reach a tipping point. And then sex truly feels like a positive thing. Not that you don’t remember what happened to you, but it no longer defines your view of yourself, men, relationships, and sexuality like it did before.

I still feel guilty for the “dirty” parts of sex. I’m not sure what the “dirty parts” are, but it sounds like maybe it’s the whole kit-and-caboodle. Church tradition really did a number on our perspective of God’s gift of sex. It’s a shame really, but I do see many Christian voices — both in the Protestant and Catholic communities — now trying to correct the fallacies.

I keep coming back to Satan, but really I think that’s where this thing comes from: the effort of Evil to convince us that bad things are good and good things are bad. But read Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter.

Sexual immorality is evil. Sexual intimacy in marriage is good. Let’s not confuse the two.

Sexual immorality is evil. Sexual intimacy in marriage is good. Let's not confuse the two. Click To Tweet

Much of what I said earlier about self-talk, listening to the voice of truth, and tipping the scales applies here. But I’d also suggest that you do an exercise of listing what you believe about sex, then searching for the biblical truth about that subject and the real conclusion. For instance, you might write:

Good girls don’t have sex. Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my beloved among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. Song of Songs 2:3-4 Good wives delight in sex with their husbands.
Good girls don’t initiate sex. Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits. Song of Songs 4:16 Good wives invite their husbands to have sex.

Once again, Intimacy Revealed is an excellent resource for helping you view sex the way God designed it to be — as an intimate expression of love between husband and wife.

But if you don’t know what’s okay and what’s not, talk that out with each other, remembering the consent that matters most is your Heavenly Father’s. And He smiles on husband and wife sharing the intimacy and pleasure He gifted to marriage.

You have a process to go through, but your mind and your experience can be turned around. Take one small step today, another tomorrow, and so on and so on. Together, you can grow your marriage bed into a beautiful place you both anticipate with delight!