Tag Archives: The Marriage Bed

Truly Beautiful with Lori Byerly

What can I say about Lori Byerly? She’s been a champion for godly marriage and healthy sexual intimacy for years, on both The Marriage Bed (a site run with her husband) and The Generous Wife. Early on in my blogging, I was delighted to connect with her and find such wisdom, encouragement, and beauty.

Lori has influenced me in many ways, including the post I wrote about 3 G-Words to Improve Your Marriage. Generosity definitely had to make the cut. If you’re looking for daily tips and insight for your overall marriage, I strongly encourage you to check out her site and follow her on social media.

In the meantime, let’s hear what she has to say about feeling beautiful.

Truly Beautiful with Lori Byerly

When I think of someone beautiful, the first person that comes to mind is my grandmother.

As a child, she was so good to me. Back then she was in her sixties and seventies with white hair, plenty of wrinkles, and a comfortable body just right for hugging grandchildren. She made the most amazing biscuits and gravy from scratch, and I knew she prayed for me every night before bedtime. I was special in her eyes, and she was special in mine. She was truly beautiful.

It’s hard for me to reconcile this kind of beauty with the beauty found in Cosmo or reality TV. How do you compare the latest color in lipstick to a hug that says you are wanted? How do you compare the airbrushed figure of a model to the body of a woman who has birthed several children, whose arms have cuddled, held, and comforted?

At its heart, I think this is a clash of kingdom values.

The kingdom of the world values outer beauty. If you have outer beauty you have value. Work hard to make your outside look great!

Now let me say, I think it’s good to take care of your appearance. There is nothing wrong with a change in hairstyle or buying pretty new shoes. I love it when my husband notices my new earrings or tells me I’m pretty.

But appearance is not worth. It does not represent all of who you are.

Appearance is not worth. It does not represent all of who you are. - Lori Byerly Click To Tweet

Outer beauty is a gift that fades in time.

The beauty of the Kingdom is timeless and never fades.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
and to inquire in his temple.
Psalm 27:4 ESV

Jesus has a special kind of beauty. As we become more like Him we grow in this truest form of beauty.

I don’t know if my grandmother ever knew how beautiful she was. She came from a different generation and was the practical sort.

My grandmother had this lasting kind of beauty, the kind that makes a profound difference in the life of a child. The kind that tends flower gardens and feeds hungry people. The kind that serves and stands for things of value. I wish I had time to tell you the stories of her life and how many people she touched by simple acts of kindness and love.

Like my grandmother, I will never grace the cover of a glamor magazine. I have graying hair, a growing array of wrinkles, and a body that’s just right for hugging grandchildren. At times I struggle with my culture’s views on beauty, but when I “gaze upon the beauty of the Lord” or when I remember my grandmother’s sweet beauty, I know that I am enough and that I am beautiful.

Lori ByerlyLori Byerly is a wife, mom and grandmother. She blogs at The Generous Wife (the-generous-wife.com) and works as a marriage and sex educator (themarriagebed.com) with her husband, Paul. They live full time in an RV (thegenerousjourney.com), traveling the US, encouraging folks to grow their marriages.

More on Wife’s Low Sex Drive

Q&ALast Monday, I answered a question from a reader about her low sex drive, providing a checklist for possible causes so that the libido issue can be addressed. Another reader asked a similar question in my Q&A for J at HHH post. Here it is:

My husband and I have been married for almost 4 years. We were great friends for years before, have known each other since we were kids, and have lots of fun together. We did not have sex until we were married (he had before me though). I have always heard about great sex lives, and how much people love it, and how amazing it is, but honestly, I just don’t get it.

I have practically no sex drive to begin with (we have sex maybe a couple times a month, and we are in our 20s)–I know this hurts him. So when we do have sex, it often feels like it’s a chore for me. I have been told many times by other Christians that it is my wifely duty and I have to…I can’t always be turning him down just because I don’t want to. When we do, he is willing to take his time, etc., but I just want to get it over with as soon as possible so I can go to sleep. I rarely enjoy it. Honestly, I only enjoy sex if I have had a few drinks, and I don’t do that often. I don’t want my sex life to be based on alcohol making it better.

I feel like I could go forever without sex and be just fine. I just don’t want it and when we have it, it’s nothing great. I have wondered several times what the big deal is. Add to all this that I just feel AWKWARD and so uncomfortable. My husband likes to play around and grab me, etc., but I hate it. I feel like I am being groped by someone who is just a good friend, not my husband. And when we have sex, I am uncomfortable–it just feels awkward to me. It doesn’t feel intimate and loving–it just feels like sex. Nothing more. And afterwards, I usually feel so strange about it too.

I’m sorry this is so long. We have struggled with this for years. I have told my husband I just have no sex drive (it actually broke up my parent’s marriage bc of my father being that way, so maybe it’s genetic?) but I know he wants more. I always feel guilty or used when it comes to sex, and only satisfied if tipsy. Any help??

Don’t you have compassion for this couple? I do.

Since I posted my two cents about this subject last week, I wanted to come back and offer more resources this week. There are plenty of fellow marriage bloggers who have addressed the issue of a wife’s low sex drive as well. If this is a problem for you in your marriage, check out one or more of the following resources (and this is by no means a comprehensive list):

One Flesh Marriage: Do I Want the Libido Fairy to Visit?

One Flesh Marriage: Sexual Intimacy: Journey from Broken to Beauty

Marriage Gems: Possible Solutions for Low Libido

Do Not Disturb: Sex Drives: Libido Saboteurs

To Love, Honor & Vacuum: Reawaken Your Body

The Marriage Bed: Lack of Desire

Winning at Romance: Where Oh Where Did My Libido Go?

Intimacy for Marriage: 5 Things I Learned from My Failed Marriage

Pearl’s Oyster Bed: Where Did My Sexy Go?

Let me clear that while I believe that 1 Corinthians 7:5 instructs spouses that they have a sexual duty to one another, God doesn’t want you to approach sex in your marriage as a chore. Rather, the Bible talks about godly sexuality in marriage as:

Becoming one flesh (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:18, 1 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 5:31).

Satisfying (Proverbs 5:19).

Delightful (Song of Songs 1:2, 2:3, 4:10).

Pure (Hebrews 13:4).

If you do not feel these things in your marriage, try to figure out why. I often hear from couples who went from floundering to flourishing sex lives in their marriage. It may take some effort on your part to find out what’s happening or not happening and then address it; however, it is worth the effort to strengthen this area of your marriage.

Finally, I want to suggest talking to your husband about how you feel about sex now and how you want to feel about sex. Attaining quality sexual intimacy in marriage should be a joint endeavor. Most husbands would be happy to do whatever they can to help you awaken your desire.

One last thing: If you are a wife who went from flailing libido to flaming libido, please comment below on how you got there. What was the issue and how did you address it? You might be able to help someone else if they are experiencing a similar problem.

For Wives: When You Don’t Desire Sex

Q&AI combed my archives thinking that surely I had addressed the topic of low sex drive in wives but couldn’t find a single post on the subject. Today’s question deals with that issue, so here it is:

This may have been discussed in the past (I’ve been subscribing to your blog for about 6 months), but my husband and I waited until we were married to have sex (been married about 3 years) and because we never had sex with each other or anyone else prior to marriage, we came into our marriage not knowing ‘how’ to have good sex or, for me, how to enjoy it. He is all for sex and enjoys it, but I’ve struggled so much the past few years trying to learn how to enjoy sex and desire it. I sort of feel like I could go without it and be fine, which I know is wrong. It’s not that I don’t want it, but I don’t have much of a desire for it either. It seems of more like a chore to me. Which I know is not how it should be, we are in our prime and should be all for it! Is there anyone else out there struggling with this issue?

First, I have to give kudos to this wife! Plenty of wives get into marriage, conclude they don’t enjoy or desire sex much, and simply decide not to engage often. Instead, this wife is trying to learn how to desire and enjoy sexuality for her husband’s sake and for her own. Good for you for continuing to seek what God wants you to have–a marriage that is intimate in many areas, including sexual.

Second, I wish I had more details. If this wife and I were chatting at a coffee shop (in the corner and with low tones, of course), I’d ask questions about what the problem might be. Low drive can emanate from several factors, and it’s of little use to tell my friend to train her senses if she has experienced sexual abuse in her past or her hormones are wildly out of whack. The solution or treatment should address the actual problem.

However, since the question is general, I can run through the checklist–for her and for the rest of the wives out there who may have a low sex drive. How can you turn that libido switch on?

Your physiology is messed up. The first thing to do is to check with your doctor. God designed us to be sexual beings who desire intimate contact with the one we love. While we may differ in our desire for frequency, having no desire at all indicates something else is going on. The first place to check is your body.

Get an appointment with your primary care physician or gynecologist and explain your lack of libido. Don’t have a gynecologist? I give tips on choosing one HERE. Get tested for hormone levels and vitamin deficiencies. Make sure you are not suffering from major depression which can cause a drop in libido. (Ironically, anti-depressants can also cause a drop in libido, but this is case-by-case.) Are you on birth control? The Marriage Bed reported on intriguing research showing a link between oral contraception and lack of desire. Check out this excellent article HERE. Get a check-up and make sure your body will cooperate.

You have negative sexual occurrences in your past. Anything in your past that causes you to consider sex a negative activity can impact how you approach your spouse and marital intimacy now. Were you sexually abused as a child? Were you harassed? Did you blossom early and receive taunting? Were you raped? Were you told that sex was dirty? Did you engage in promiscuous behavior that left you with guilt? Was your first time a disappointment or painful? Have you struggled with pornography?

Imagine this with food: Even if you know logically that your grandmother thoroughly washed and cooked the shrimp, if you got food poisoning the last time you ate shrimp, you are not eager to pop a shellfish into your mouth because the physiological and emotional responses of that prior negative occurrence are imprinted on you. Anything that happened in your past with sexual overtones that left you with that bad taste in your mouth can make you reluctant to take another bite.

What to do? First, deal with your past. Acknowledge what happened and how you were affected. Work through how it hurt you and how you can change the way you view that time. Psychologists often suggest writing a letter to someone involved or even to yourself to air out your full feelings and get perspective (not to be sent). See a quality Christian counselor if you need to. Second, rewrite the script, which is exactly what I said a couple of weeks ago. Essentially, the way to see marital intimacy as a positive thing is to have positive marital intimacy. Make your intimacy so much better than that negative past so that your brain and heart can change direction and see how it really is a blessing from God in this context.

You’re not in touch with your body. To enjoy sex, you need to be able to relax and remain aware of the sensations of your body. If you have difficulty letting go, you may not be sensitive enough to arousal to enjoy the experience. Train your body to notice how your body feels with different touches and textures. Try a set of satin sheets; take bubble baths and notice the way the water feels on your skin; invite your spouse to apply lotion or oil to your body. You can train yourself to focus and be more cognizant of how your body is feeling in various ways. In turn, that will make you more open to arousal during physical intimacy.

You’re not great lovers. I hate to put it that way, but sometimes when a wife tells me she has hated sex for twenty years, I admit to wondering, What’s her husband doing wrong? I’m sure that’s not fair to her husband. And I actually don’t think technique is the end-all, be-all of sexuality. It most definitely is not. However, if your mate doesn’t know how to turn you on, or you don’t know how to help yourself get there, the sex may not feel that good.

Some couples have wonderful relationships, great attitudes, and a desire to connect, but what they need is a little skills-training. Now before you hire a coach to come into your bedroom — God forbid — let me say that all you need to know, you can learn from books, blogs, communication, trial-and-error, and trial-and-success. And more importantly, you can communicate with your mate. Help your hubby know how to touch you in a way that feels good; talk about the places you want to be touched, how you want to be kissed, and how much pressure to apply. Take time to explore each other and how you become aroused.

You have a poor self-image. God has made women beautiful, and consequently we have a desire to be and feel beautiful. Yet, we ladies have way too much pressure to look at certain way. If you dislike your own body, it’s not easy to share that body with your spouse. You don’t want to be naked, you don’t want to be touched, you tense up when your body is exposed. However, beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Having heard from many men on this subject, let me assure the wives out there that you are beautiful to your hubby. Even if magazine models seem to put you to shame (and even those beautiful models are airbrushed so they don’t look like that either), you can confidently enter your own bedroom and know that your husband appreciates the way you look. Believe God’s assertion that you are beautiful and believe your husband when he says that he desires you. Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage had a wonderful post on this subject at Sheila Gregoire’s site: Love the Skin You’re In.

Your relationship is having difficulties. If your relationship outside the bedroom is in distress, it’s hard to want to make love with your husband. It’s been said that men have sex to feel loved, and women have to feel loved to have sex. Wives want to have a sense of security and value in the marriage to be able to open up in the bedroom. Address relationship issues as they arise in as non-combative a way as possible. Seek counseling if the issues are big or persistent. Wives should not withhold sex, however, unless there are severe issues that call for that extreme measure. Continuing to connect physically can help to weather storms in marriage, and husbands in particular are more motivated to work on the relationship if they are happy with their wife in the bedroom.

Stress is sucking the life out of your libido. Stress comes from many places and shows up in various forms. You may be stressed from work demands, household responsibilities, child care, family issues, bouts of illness, etc. It may manifest as sadness, anger, escapism, sleep deprivation, fatigue, etc. Stress is a mood killer all around.

While I recognize that sex can relieve stress, for women it can be very difficult to shift into enjoyment of sex when stress still has its grip on you. Husbands are usually better able to let everything else go and focus on the moment, although stress can certainly affect their libido as well. Yet wives need to be able to relax and surrender to the physical sensations they are having to become aroused and engaged. If stress is overwhelming your life, you may not realize that it’s taking a toll on your sex life.

What do do about stress? It depends on the kind, but in general here are some tips. Prioritize your life. Say no to things you don’t need to take on. Eat healthy and exercise as a wonderful way to care for yourself and as an outlet for stress. Make sure you have someone to talk to. Don’t dump everything on your spouse. But talk about what’s bugging you to your mate, a best friend, a family member, a counselor, or a mentor so that stress isn’t just building inside you. Meditate. Meditation has been shown to relieve tension. Find a quiet spot for reflection and follow the psalmist’s example, “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways” (119:15, but the whole chapter is full of references to meditation).  Pray. Dump your heart on God. The Bible is full of examples of godly people laying all of their troubles before Him, and Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Without a detailed interview on my virtual therapy couch*, I don’t know what the specific issue is.

Larry the Cucumber on therapy couch

Hopefully, I’ve hit on something here. I also recommend taking a look The Marriage’s Bed article on Lack of Desire, and Gina Parris of Winning at Romance frequently addresses the subject of low sexual desire.

May God lead you to the right answer and a fulfilling life of marital intimacy!

*No, I’m not a therapist by profession. I just love that Silly Song with Larry.

Want to Rave about Your Birth Control Method?

Recently, fellow bloggers Paul and Lori Byerly of The Marriage Bed and Sheila Gregoire with To Love, Honor and Vacuum posted on birth control methods. The Byerlys’ article covered recent studies on the negative effect of oral contraception on women’s sexual satisfaction, while Sheila’s post provided a great summary of the range of birth control options available to married couples. Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage also added her take on this birth control conversation.

What birth control method a couple chooses is a very personal decision and includes such factors as if and when they desire to have children, financial wherewithal, what feels comfortable to each and both. Since I’m absolutely fine with sharing my own experience, I wanted to add my personal two cents to this topic of birth control.

The Pill
I started taking oral contraception in high school. It wasn’t to protect me against unwanted pregnancy, but rather to regulate heavy and horrible periods. My doctor proposed the pill as a way to get my menstruation under control. It definitely helped.

Oral Contraceptives

by Ceridwen, via Wikimedia Commons

It also meant that when I became sexually active, I was already used to taking the pill so that was my choice of contraception. I took it for a few years without problem. When I decided to behave like a good girl, I chucked the premarital sex and the pill along with it.

After marriage, I got back on the pill. A couple of years into it, I experienced a terrible depression. I was tired all of the time, cried for no reason, and generally felt awful. My doctor suggested antidepressants, which I began taking. When I was too nauseous to stand it, I stopped taking those pills. I also decided to stop taking The Pill for a while. Voilá! As if a magician had pulled an unexpected rabbit from a hat, my depression was gone.

I tried another contraceptive pill (different hormonal balance), and it had the same effect. After two bouts of depression with oral contraception, I no longer wanted to mess with my hormones. Goodbye, pill!

Condoms
I have used condoms only a handful of times. I have friends who swear by their use, saying that they are easy to manage, keep the mess to a minimum, and don’t alter your body’s balance like oral contraception.

For myself, I hate condoms. First off, is it just me or do any other wives out there think it looks really weird to see your hubby’s penis shrink-wrapped for sex? The bigger issue with me, though, is the lack of skin-to-skin contact. Friction increases arousal and thus the possibility of orgasm. I found it difficult to climax when my husband wore a condom.

Perhaps we could have tried various brands and styles. For instance, ribbed condoms provide more friction. However, I concluded here that skin against skin was an important part of the sexual experience to me. Goodbye, condoms!

Diaphragm
What were my choices now? I saw my gynecologist and talked to him about options — knowing what my goals and desires for birth control were. All hormonal treatments were out — no pill, shots, under-the-skin, etc. No IUD because that violates my moral stance. (Note: IUDs do not prevent fertilization of an egg; they prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. Revised: A reader informed me that the copper IUD releases copper which is toxic to sperm, thus preventing fertilization; I checked her statement and confirmed that the device indeed works toward preventing fertilization and implantation.)

Diaphragm

By Axefan2 via Wikimedia Commons

My doc suggested trying a diaphragm. A diaphragm is a bendable disc with a semi-sphere shape. A woman’s vagina is measured by a doctor so that he can prescribe the correct size. Fit is important because this is a barrier method. In addition to the diaphragm itself, one should apply a spermicide to the edge just in case those crafty sperm swimmers find a teeny opening around the disc.

The first few times I used the diaphragm, it took a while for me to apply the spermicidal gel, bend the diaphragm in half, insert it properly, and then move my fingers out so that it could get into place. After using it for a while, however, I could pop that baby in faster than you could sing a verse of “Camptown Races.”

This was THE METHOD FOR ME. I wished that I had started out with this method. I loved it! It left my hormones alone. It lasted for a long time and did not require me to remember to take something daily or buy something weekly. It just sat there in my night table drawer ready for me when I needed it. It was easy to insert and easy to remove. I could leave it in for several hours and wasn’t bothered by its presence. It prevented pregnancy until we were ready. Hello, diaphragm!

The Conclusion
So am I suggesting that every wife go out and get herself a diaphragm because I’m raving about it? Absolutely not.

What I learned through my experience is this: I should have really researched the options when I was first looking into birth control. Instead, I walked into my doctor’s office, asked about birth control, and walked out with the standard pill prescription. Looking back, I believed that my only goal was to prevent pregnancy. Over time, I discovered that there were other considerations for me as well — such as skin-to-skin contact and convenience.

Each woman and couple needs to look at what is important to them when choosing a birth control method. Various methods have pros and cons. (Be sure to read the Byerlys’ interesting article about recently-discovered cons of oral contraception.)

You may even wish to use natural family planning. Dustin Reichmann of Engaged Marriage wrote a great article for Your Tango on Why I Believe in Natural Family Planning.

But study the methods yourself. Look into the advantages and disadvantages. Don’t rely on your physician or your best friend who suggests the method they like is the method for you. It may be; it may not be.

Also, I wouldn’t put too much stock into the claims that the pill is 99%+ effective while another method is only 98%+ effective and make your decision based on that. I’ve known a few couples who used the pill properly and still got a little munchkin and couples who have successfully prevented pregnancy with natural family planning for years. If you use any birth control method properly, it will likely work. Until that one time when it doesn’t, and I believe that God can get you through that one.

Of course, if you really want to prevent any future pregnancies, I could write a whole other post entitled “In Praise of Vasectomy.” For now, I’ll avoid having my male readers grab their crotches protectively until I can give that topic more coverage.

Your turn: What birth control method do you absolutely love? Go ahead and rave below. Why do you love it? What considerations do you take into account when choosing a birth control method?