Tag Archives: sex 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.

It Takes As Long As It Takes

I have great intentions. After the recent death of my father (and chairing a writing chapter conference in my area), I was certain I’d be back up and running last Monday. Sure enough, as usual my post went up on that day and I proceeded to catch up on one email account (not the other), cleaning my desk, and reading blogs I’m subscribed to and sharing some of those posts on social media. I was feeling pretty good.

Then the week progressed.

By the time Thursday came, I wasn’t feeling so together anymore. I’d spent a lot of time sorting through my father’s stuff (including some really cute pictures of me as a kid — mixed in, of course, with some truly shudder-worthy pictures of me as a kid). I also found myself more tired than usual, just a kind of malaise sinking over me. I read more, slept more, felt guilty more. Because what I didn’t do was write. Not here, not really anywhere.

And then two of my best friends separately said something that converged around this thought: It takes as long as it takes. They were referring to my grieving process. Because I haven’t actually cried much, I hadn’t labeled my feelings as grief. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought they were onto something. I needed to give myself some grace and let myself the hook for needing a full week to recover.

It Takes As Long As It Takes

And really, this is something we should recognize in whatever struggle we’re dealing with in our lives: It takes as long as it takes.

This is so true in our marriages, y’all. I can see this lack of grace we give ourselves and our spouses in our impatience for issues to resolve. Here are some prime examples:

How long should it take for her to get aroused? As long as it takes. Some women seem physiologically ready at the drop of a hat, and others require a lot more wooing and tender, loving care. I can look up averages and report on those, but being an outlier doesn’t make you a lesser lover.

The point is that she gets aroused, and however long that takes, that’s what you two should devote yourself to. And that means you husbands reading this, please let her have the time she needs. For most wives, if we can have a little space and time to figure out how this all works, that arousal time will shorten a bit after a while. She may still never be ready at the snap of a finger (besides fake sex scenes, who is?!), and that’s perfectly fine.

How long does it take to climax?  As long as it takes. I hear from wives who report that it seems to take forever for them to reach that peak, and some husbands feel frustrated that their wives can’t get there quicker or the wife feels guilty for taking so much time.

Get over it! If you’re slow to orgasm, consider it just more time to touch and make love. And men tend to take longer to get to their climax as they age — which can be nice or frustrating too. Lighten up on yourself and your beloved, and just reset your mind that orgasm isn’t the only perk to making love … and it will (most likely) happen for him with a bit more time.

How long will it take to heal from adultery or porn damaging your marriage? As long as it takes. When your heart has been broken, your trust has been fractured, and your spirit has been wounded, it’s going to take time to heal. Some marriages might seem to bounce back after an affair in weeks while others need up to a year. You need to be experiencing some forward progress, but I understand that jumping right back in bed with the person who sinned against you isn’t realistic.

This is also something the adulterer or porn addict needs to understand: You may have taken that brave step of confessing and repenting, but restoration requires effort and time as well. Be willing to commit to healing, but know that it’s okay if it feels slow at times — as long as you’re moving ahead.

How long before my spouse responds to my change in behavior regarding sexual intimacy? As long as it takes. This one is big in my opinion, because I often encourage people to do the right thing for their marriage and their marriage bed, even when they see no positive up-tick in their sexual frequency, intimacy, or satisfaction. That’s a hard sell, right? Because if we do the right thing, shouldn’t we start to feel the rewards?

I’m often reminded of Galatians 6:9: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” The truth is that I started treating my husband with a more Christ-like behavior months before I saw any real results in improving what was then my destined-for-doom marriage. And some of that improvement was really God changing my own attitude.

Chris of The Forgiven Wife has been beautifully transparent about her own journey of having to do the right thing for a long time before she saw improvement. I encourage you to read her story. Because she took to heart Galatians 6:9, specifically “if we do not give up.” Let’s be honest, we tend to give up too soon. When the truth is, it takes as long as it takes. And I’ve heard from couples who stuck it out and 20 years in experienced a total rejuvenation of their sexual intimacy; believe me, the spouse who was waiting for change was not unhappy that he/she remained faithful.

So I’m giving myself some grace for not being here last Thursday or Saturday, as I normally would have been. My impatient, work-driven self lost out to taking the time I needed to recuperate.

Maybe we should give ourselves some grace and let certain issues in our marriage bed take the time they need. I’m not at all encouraging complacency or “settling.” Rather, we should be intentional in nurturing our intimacy, yet patient and persevering as we wait for the good that can come.

But those who hope in the Lord
Will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

Two Words That Could Change the Course of Sex in Your Marriage

I’ve written before about two words I tell husbands over and over and two words higher-drive spouses need to hear. While I think those words are important, there are two other words that many marriages need. If you’re unhappy with the sexual intimacy in your marriage, I truly believe they could change the course of sex in your marriage.

And the two words are: I’m sorry.

Couple in bed, facing away from each other + blog post title

When marriages face problems and challenges in their physical intimacy, there is often a storehouse of hurt in one or both spouses. Even if the issues are external or involve sexual baggage brought into the marriage, when our husbands react poorly to what’s going on, we can feel rejected, attacked, abandoned, or misused. Our hurt feelings are harbored in our hearts and weigh us down.

Logically, we might know we should act differently to resolve our issues. Our husbands may know that as well. But we’re both steeped in personal pain that extends beyond whatever’s going on today. He asks for sex, and she’s reminded of all the times he ignored her emotions and pursued his own pleasure. She rejects his advance, and he feels the burden of all the previous refusals. He wants her to wear revealing lingerie, and she feels the pang of his previous porn use. And on and on.

It could be something large or small, but we feel these slights. And oftentimes, we don’t recognize the hurt we’ve caused our spouse with our words and actions. Maybe it was something we did or said that came across in a way we didn’t even intend.

But the hurt is there, it’s real, and it’s affecting sexual intimacy. Or really, just intimacy in your marriage.

What needs to happen? So many marriages need to start with those two words: I’m sorry.

  • I’m sorry I used porn/erotica.
  • I’m sorry I overlooked your sexual needs.
  • I’m sorry I demanded acts you weren’t comfortable with.
  • I’m sorry I assumed you didn’t love me emotionally when you pursued me physically.
  • I’m sorry I stopped touching you to avoid sex.
  • I’m sorry I pressured you and didn’t wait for our wedding night.
  • I’m sorry I didn’t listen.
  • I’m sorry I yelled.

How many of you in your marriages are longing to hear those two simple words from your spouse? I’m sorry.

Of course, that wouldn’t solve everything, but a genuine apology could change the course of your sexual intimacy — demonstrate that your spouse loves and respects you, renew hope for something better, begin to heal wounds long festering in your heart.

What if your spouse needs to hear those words from you?

Let’s face it: Plenty of us are reading this post and thinking, “This is exactly what my husband needs to do — apologize to me!” After all, if he’s 90% of the problem . . .

But I encourage to think about that. Even assuming he is 90% of the problem, you likely didn’t handle something well. You have your own issues that have hampered progress. Perhaps you even enabled his behavior in some way, not pursuing what was good but what was easy.

Almost everyone has some blame they should own up to. And it may be more than you’ve admitted to yourself, or to him.

Step away from the marital bedroom, sit down for a heart-to-heart conversation, and apologize for whatever you’ve done that has muddied the waters of your physical intimacy. It may be the two words your spouse craves, and it could set a new course for sexual intimacy in your marriage.

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

3 Barriers to Communicating with Your Spouse about Sex

Many spouses need to have a conversation about sex with their mates. They are not satisfied with the sexual intimacy in their marriage, and they see issues that need addressing, problems that need solving, holes in their heart that need filling.

Whatever the concern, it’s imperative that they start a conversation about sex. But all too often, such discussions devolve into frustration, contention, and stalemate. What’s keep you from making progress?

Couple with barrier between them + blog post title

1. Making yourself heard. You’re hurt by your spouse’s actions regarding marital intimacy, whether it’s insisting on activities you don’t want to do, resisting sex altogether, or whatever. You are sure that if only they understood how you feel, they would adjust their thinking and things would go more smoothly.

So you start the conversation, explain your thoughts and feelings, present information, argue your points, persuade, plead, beg, cry. Whatever it takes, you’re willing to do it, if only your spouse will listen to you.

Guess what? You’re making that conversation all about you and your feelings. Yes, you and your feelings matter! They matter a great deal. But so do your spouse’s.

Instead, try to ask questions and listen. Find out why they are resisting your viewpoint. What is in the way of them engaging more intimately or giving up porn or whatever you’re dealing with? Show real concern for your spouse’s feelings and give them a safe place to talk about what they are facing.

By doing so, you open up more conversation, gain insight you need to combat the problems, and show genuine care for your spouse. You might be surprised by what you discover if you’ll make the goal letting your spouse be heard and responding to them in love.

2. Keeping score. “You never…!” “You always…!”

We married people are excellent at keeping score. Especially if you’re unhappy in a specific area like sex. The rejected spouse knows exactly how many days it’s been since the last sex encounter or how many times she initiated and was shot down in the last week. The put-upon spouse knows how many times she’s been hit up for sex with no prior warning, romance, or affection. We don’t have to intentionally keep score; we have to intentionally stop keeping score.

Starting a conversation with a litany of your spouse’s failures is sure to end badly. Would you want to hear about everything you’re doing wrong? Then why do you think your spouse would respond to that?

Instead, talk about what you want. Instead of dwelling in real and perceived hurts, paint a picture of what your sexual intimacy could be like. Refer back to what it has been in the past, or what you imagine for the future, or — the best option! — the way God designed sexual intimacy in marriage. Speak of terms of the pleasure, connection, and closeness you desire to have as a couple; what your vision of sexual intimacy would mean to you, to your spouse, and to the relationship; and how a change in your sexual intimacy would honor God and keep your marriage strong.

Show how a new approach to sexual intimacy would be a beautiful thing for both of you — an ideal worth pursuing.

3. Blaming your spouse. If only he would… If only she would… Plenty of us believe that if our spouse would change, our problems would resolve.

Frankly, sometimes that’s true. Maybe your sexual problems really are the result of your spouse’s selfishness, sexual history, inability to deal with past abuse, or hormonal issues. Whatever it is, it could very well be that your spouse is a bigger part of the problem than you are.

But so what? You’re married. One flesh and all that. If you view your spouse as the enemy, you’re a divided team, and divided teams don’t win.

If you view your spouse as the enemy, you're a divided team, and divided teams don't win. Click To Tweet

Instead, make it a WE problem. One of the great perks of marriage is having someone on your team to support you and help you through tough times. Be your spouse’s biggest ally! Whatever the issue may be, it’s a we issue now — one you can tackle together. Remember Ecclesiastes 4:9-10: “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”

Don’t let your spouse fall alone. Reach out and help! Be stronger together. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (v. 12). Together, and with the third cord of God on your side, you can conquer almost anything!

Ask your spouse what you can do to help, and address your sexual intimacy issues as a we thing. “We can build wonderful sexual intimacy, and we can get through this together.”

For more tips on talking to your spouse about sexual problems in your marriage, see How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse.

What difficulties have you experienced talking to your spouse about sexual issues? What has worked for you?