Monthly Archives: September 2011

Slap-worthy Practices in Marriage…and Better Options

From time to time — in personal conversation, through my blog, or on Twitter — I hear of spouses who are completely blowing it in the area of marital intimacy. I’m not talking about the spouse whose approach or skills could use tweaking. I’m talking about that selfish husband or wife whose actions are destroying the feelings of the other when it comes to bedroom relations.

"Slapsgiving" scene of How I Met Your Mother

“Slapsgiving” – How I Met Your Mother

And while I generally subscribe to non-violence, some of you, to be honest, I want to slap. Seeing that I can’t actually reach my hand through the Internet, find your face, and deliver a personal wake-up call — not to mention that I really am not that kind of person — I’m merely going to describe some types who are not helping their sex lives.

Pound Counters. Those of you keenly aware that your wife weighs 17 pounds more post-childbirth than when she was leading an aerobics class back in the day and remind her often, stop it. (And all of you whose wives weigh 50 pounds more than they used to, but you knew she had never done a sit-up in her life.) As long as you nag her about her weight, she is very unlikely to feel worth the effort to exercise, dress up, and strut into the bedroom for intimate times. Honestly, what beauty contestant would sleep with the judge who gave her the lowest score? I know this happens with wives judging men as well, but I hear more often from wives feeling that they aren’t pretty enough. And being told that they aren’t pretty enough.

What can you do instead? Tell her she’s beautiful to you, over and over. Find something to compliment — even it’s her eyes. Take her shopping for attractive clothing or lingerie. When you have built up her confidence and remembered why you thought she was so hot to begin with, you can suggest exercising or taking a healthy cooking class together for your mutual health.

Barterers. A barterer is that person who conveys something like: If you build a shed in the backyard, watch the children for two hours, go quilt shopping with me, and give me a 30-minute back rub, I suppose I will open my legs a few inches so you can have sex with me. Really? You are making it clear that you do not want to engage in physical intimacy with your spouse and will only do so if he kowtows to your demands. You are putting yourself in the princess throne and expecting your subject to slay the dragon, save the villagers, and bring you the golden crown before you’ll acquiesce to his request to spend time with you.

God intended sex to be a mutually intimate act. That means that you need to willingly engage in sexual intimacy with your spouse, without all the strings that make your honey feel more like a marionette than a treasured partner.

Porn Junkies. Be assured: Not all men look at porn, no matter how much you tell yourself otherwise. There are plenty of men whose view of naked females includes only their wife and their infant daughter during diaper changes. Fess up to what you are really doing — paying women to titillate you. Porn models and actresses are compensated to pose and portray; they love the dollars in your pocket. Your wife is not paid to be intimate with you; she loves you.

Engaging in pornography imprints a perspective of sex that damages your marital relationship. Physical intimacy is not supposed to occur in quick bursts of increasing arousal in which there is no relational connection between the parties. That is the antithesis of what God provided.

Moreover, a husband engaging with porn negatively affects his wife. When you look at these images and make sex about your private arousal, you communicate that she cannot turn you on and isn’t worth the time to try. Many women experience terrible body image issues because their husband is always looking at gorgeous naked women instead. They feel they can’t compete and often lose interest in trying. Which becomes a vicious cycle because the husband may view more pornography when his marital sex life is lacking.

Sex Withholders. If you withhold sex every time that you feel the slightest bit tired, unnerved, miffed, not-in-the-mood, or just “off,” you make it impossible to have a quality sex life in your marriage. If you can count the number of times you’ve had sex in the last six months on one hand, that is a big problem. If you are waiting for ideal conditions to engage in intimacy with your spouse, you are causing both of you to miss out on God’s design for your marriage.

Unfortunately, one of the common themes Christian sex bloggers see is from husbands wondering how to convince their wives that once a month or so isn’t enough or how to get them to enjoy sex with them. Ladies, the truth is that if you rarely have sex, it probably won’t feel good because you need some built-up elasticity for your body to respond favorably; otherwise, it’s like taking a high-energy aerobics class every six months and wondering why you’re sore after every time.

If you don’t enjoy sex or have problems in your marital relationship that are causing you to withhold, address them! Talk to your doctor. Talk to a counselor. Talk to your pastor. (See my Pain & Pleasure post on pain in intercourse, if you’ve having that problem.) But stop wondering why your hubby’s tongue is hanging out at you every time you undress; he’s like a dog who hasn’t had a drink in days, so no wonder he’s panting.

I don’t really want to slap any of you. Of course not! I pray for the marriages of my readers.

I do, however, want to convince you to follow the Golden Rule. It’s a great way to approach life: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

Think about how your choices impact your spouse. Do you communicate genuine love for them? Are your choices selfish and rationalized? Do you need a wake-up call? Or will you wake yourself up and start loving the person you are committed to with the respect and care we all desire?

Don’t Touch Me: I’m Angry!

Sometimes in marriage, you have a disagreement. And sometimes in marriage, your spouse hacks you off so much, you imagine ripping his head off and throwing it in his face. (Yes, that is logistically impossible, but we’re talking feelings here!) How dare he! What was he thinking? Does he care about me? (Or substitute “she” for “he” if needed.) For most of us, there is no one we feel closer to and no one who can send us from calm to unhinged in seconds like our spouse.

Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip ArtAs you lie in bed late at night seething and sizzling with anger and hurt, your beloved scoots over and…apologizes? Admits he was completely wrong and you were completely right? Begs for forgiveness and thanks you repeatedly for being the brilliant and sexy wife that you are? Oh, how we wish!

Noooo, he strokes your body and suggests a sexual encounter. What??!! You’ve got to be kidding!

At that point, you’re thinking, “The last thing I want to do with you right now is have sex!” You’re not even sure you want to share the same house at this moment, much less entangle your bodies on the same bed! Huff, puff, roll eyes, turn over, groan, push hands away. “Don’t touch me, I’m angry!”

If this has never happened to you, thank heaven. You may wish to go read a different blog post about cute puppies or the newest fashion trends. I truly am thrilled that you’ve got this one worked out, but the other 98.3% of us need to consider this very real problem.

If, as many suggest, we are supposed to be open to the idea of physical intimacy whenever desired by our spouse, what do you do when you can’t even stand the sight of his face, much less his other body parts? Do you pray for a better attitude? Sigh and think to yourself, Let’s just get this over with? Pop up out of bed and demand that you converse for two hours to work out your issues before he can touch one precious inch of your fabulous body?

Ephesians 4:26 says, “‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Easier said than done, right? Not all marital disagreements can be resolved in five minutes. At times, in fact, you have every reason to seethe and no desire to make up.

Let me first say that I have not mastered this one. I’m working on it.

However, I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all answer. Your approach probably depends on several things. For instance, if it was a one-time faux pas on his part, you should probably breathe deep, pray for calm, and let it go. After a few minutes of sexual arousal, perhaps you won’t even remember that moment when he suggested you take cooking lessons from his mother. (And he will no longer care that you can’t cook.)

If the issue is a huge problem or an ongoing pattern, you may need to converse before engaging in sex. Explain (calmly) that you are very hurt by the argument and want to reconnect emotionally before reconnecting physically. But unless it causes your skin to actually burn, try holding hands or cuddle as you talk; touching your spouse can diffuse the anger, make you more willing to hear one another out, and remind you of your affection for one another.

If your anger is based on an issue that isn’t likely to be resolved tonight or ever, or if it’s based as much on the bad day you had or a lack of sleep (see Don’t Touch Me: I’m Exhausted), then you may merely need time to cool down. Figure out what will ease your tension. For me, it’s often a bath. Give me 10 minutes in a hot bubble bath with a good book and a glass of wine, and my stress level decreases substantially. Then I can accept the fact that he will never put all of his shoes in the closet and I simply need to step around the mine field of footwear in my bedroom. Or overlook the abandonment I felt when he retreated to the bedroom while kids were screaming because what really bothered me was the stressful day I had. (I would have escaped too, if I had seen the opening first!)

But I agree with Ephesians. If you often go to bed angry, if you take your anger out on your sex life, if your spouse encounters wrath like Khan when he brushes up against you after an argument, you need to reread 1 Corinthians 13.  In verse 5, it says that love is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs.

If not for forgiveness, reconciliation, and hello, make-up sex, how many of us would even have a marriage after a few years? Deal with anger when it roars its ugly head. Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and work it out. Remember that this person vowed to love you for a lifetime. And that lifetime includes tonight . . . in your bedroom.

Mission Position

I was in the public library once and happened upon the marriage help section. Seeing a title with a couple of Christian authors I recognized, I picked up the book on marital sexuality and thumbed through. When I found the chapter about positions, I was curious. They began by saying that couples needed to break out of the mold and try some new positions. Cool, I thought. Wonder what they are going to suggest.

Turning the page, I expected to come upon the delicious secrets of sexual positioning, a treasure trove of interesting approaches, a veritable awakening of information regarding the many different ways that a husband and a wife can connect in lovemaking!

I found four positions — described very dryly — all of which my husband and I had done in within our first few weeks as newlyweds. Hardly the revelation I was expecting. Sadly, when I mentioned this to a friend of mine, she remarked that three of those positions were probably news to some couples.

Since Christian authors have generally had little to say about positions, I have noticed many Christian couples turning to the Kama Sutra instead. The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Hindu text which includes advice about sexual pleasure and a chapter on positions for coitus. Apparently, there are 64 positions total.

The Bible’s definitive text on godly sexuality does not specifically describe or draw diagrams for sexual positions for married couples. However, scholars do contend that there are clues to positions used by the Lover and Beloved (husband and wife in Song of Songs, or Song of Solomon).

So should a Christian couple pursue different positions? Should they consult other resources? What about those 64 positions? How many of those are worthwhile?

I wondered these things too and once set out on a mission for sexual positions my husband and I had not tried. Now I refuse to consult many secular sources which provide photographs as instructional material. Using a resource that has paid two people to pose in sexual positions for an audience is not God-honoring in my book, so that is simply not happening. I do not get sex ideas from hard porn or soft porn, period.

So I looked among other resources, including Kama Sutra books, the Song of Songs, websites, and conversations with very close friends. And my hubby and I tried some of them. Having done some research and experimentation, let me share what I’ve discovered.

There are only a few main positions, but many variations. For instance, the missionary position (lying down, man on top, woman on bottom) is one category. Within that category, the way it feels for both partners can be varied — depending on where you place your legs, feet, arms, etc. Rear entry is another category, but how much you bend your body and where you place your hands provides different sensations. Those 64 positions in the Kama Sutra? They are really variations within a few major categories.

Some positions are unrealistic. I agree completely with Julie Sibert’s post, Hey, I’m a Housewife, Not a Gymnast (from Intimacy in Marriage). Some of the positions out there require a contortionist or a willingness to undergo traction later to perform. And for the husband, let’s just say that some things don’t bend the way that certain pictures would indicate. (And the mere thought of it would make most men cringe and protectively grab their groin area.) If any man out there can do the position I once saw with the hubby in a back bend, you should try out for the Olympic Gymnastics Team or Cirque du Soleil. That one is definitely not happening for most couples!

Varying positions provides several benefits.

Visual stimulation. Seeing you and your spouse connected from different perspectives can be titillating. For instance, woman-on-top may be particularly appealing for a husband to view his wife’s beautiful body.

Access. Certain positions provide better access to body parts that you want to touch or kiss. Perhaps one time the wife wishes to stroke her husband’s testicles by sitting atop him or the husband wants to enter from the rear to more easily fondle his wife’s breasts.

Control. You may wish to vary who has more control over the time of entry, thrusting, and pacing. At times, the wife may want to have more say for when she is ready for penetration — which may be easier for her from above. Other times, the husband may wish to assume charge of the “work,” so to speak.

Sensation. The husband penetrating his wife from different angles provides different sensations. For instance, I mentioned in my Pain & Pleasure post that rear entry may be more comfortable for wives with a severely tilted, or retroverted, uterus. Also, certain positions have a greater chance of engaging the ever-elusive G-spot (though some couples never find it and enjoy sex just fine).

It’s okay to be adventurous, and it’s okay to not be adventurous. Not every position is worth trying, and positioning alone is NOT the secret to having a great sex life. Spending your time developing a loving, intimate relationship with your spouse is much more worthwhile than reading through the Kama Sutra or any other sex manual. Don’t go making a checklist of all 64 positions with a box to check off beside each one!

The best way to start is to vary your regular position(s) a little. Move your arms or legs somewhere else. Tilt a little to the left or right. Angle yourselves a bit differently. Involve a chair or the side of the bed to create slightly different positioning.

Mission Position isn’t about trying everything so you can say that you’ve done it all! It’s about one key to a great sex life with your spouse: Loving them enough to find ways to mutually experience physical pleasure. If changing up your positioning increases your enjoyment of one another, go for it! If you’re both unbelievably ecstatic with that one perfect position you’ve got going on, keep going. If your spouse wants to try something new and you’re reluctant, you might end up enjoying it after all if you gave it a shot!

And one more thing: The older you get, the harder it is to stick your right foot behind your elbow and your left foot in your ear for the sake of sexual arousal. Some of the positions I’ve seen just make me grab the Ben-Gay and roll over to sleep.

Don’t Touch Me: I’m Exhausted!

It’s been that kind of day. One where you slammed the alarm clock’s off button at 6:00 a.m. and began the sprint. Shower, get ready, throw in a load of laundry, feed pets, wake kids, trip over toys on your way to make breakfast, field phone calls, make lunches, race with kids to the bus stop, juggle work and errands and motherhood, put out fires all day, grocery store trip, help kids with homework, prepare supper, evening activities, and on and on and on. Are you tired yet?

Woman asleep

Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clipart

You fall into bed — long past your official bedtime — with the notion that the only welcome visitor at this moment is sleep, precious sleep. But then the hubby comes knocking instead. “Hey, honey! Heh-heh-heh,” he murmurs as he starts to unbutton the flannel nightgown that you were sure would be a hammer-on-head clue that you are not up for any additional activity today. Will you open the door? Slam it on his fingers and teach him to not mess with the NO ENTRY sign? Will you offer to lie there and sleep through the sex while he takes care of his “needs”? Will you simply utter through clenched teeth, “Don’t touch me, I’m exhausted!”

Fatigue is a tall wall for many spouses. We have full lives with work, children, household responsibilities, church, recreation, friends, and spouses all competing for our attention on the calendar. Most of the time, we take care of the urgent, even before the important.

Sometimes, that’s okay. If your infant awakens at 4:00 a.m. needing to be fed, that’s urgent…and important. You must forgo sleep, handle her needs, and deal with the inevitable lack of rest the next day. But sometimes, we are running around like those proverbial headless chickens without setting any priorities. We have signed ourselves up for every church committee, every PTA event, every team booster club, and we have no time for physical intimacy with our spouse.

In other words, sometimes our exhaustion can’t be helped. Sometimes it can. Make sex a priority on your to-do list. If you write down your daily schedule and there isn’t an hour anywhere in the week to make love to your honey, drop something else, not the sex. Yes, it’s amazing of you to make all of the costumes for your child’s preschool pageant, but if it costs you marital intimacy, it isn’t worth it. Your child won’t care that you hand-stitched their Lincoln hat if you and daddy have no relationship twenty years from now.

Do it sometimes anyway.  Remember that infant at 4:00 a.m.?  Or your early morning work meeting?  Or the phone call from a friend at dawn?  You woke up for those, right?  Because you consider them important.  When you place significance on sexual intimacy with your spouse, that means that sometimes you will agree to have sex when conditions are not ideal.  You may need to shake the sleep from your eyes, do some stretches, or suggest a vertical position so you won’t accidentally doze off midway through.  However, you might find yourself rather alert within a few minutes if you and hubby are focusing on one another’s pleasure.  You might be rather happy you decided to give up the extra twenty minutes of sleep.  In fact, you might sleep better afterward — all cozied up in your sweetie’s arms.

If this is a perpetual problem, address it.  If you are always tired, maybe you have a vitamin or hormonal deficiency or other health problem that you need to discuss with your doctor.  If your spouse seems to always suggest lovemaking right when you have finally snuggled into bed with your eyes drooping, converse openly about finding mutually conducive times for sexual intimacy.  If you wake up every morning before the birds and crawl into bed every night at 3:00 a.m., change your sleeping schedule to get more rest and be more available to your spouse.

You can also reschedule.  There are Christian sexuality experts who recommend never turning your spouse down.  I agree that your spouse shouldn’t feel like an American Idol contestant nervously hoping that they won’t be rejected this time.  Yet, there are those days when life has beaten up on you like you’re Million Dollar Baby and you can barely move.  If you have a generally good sex life, your spouse will probably accept you saying, “How about tomorrow morning?” or “Tonight I want to get a full night of sleep, and tomorrow night I want to clear an hour just for you and me.”  Make sure your spouse understands that the postponement has nothing to do with him/her, but your own temporary fatigue.  Suggest a plan for engaging later. (See Should You Refuse?)

Whatever you do, try to avoid the “Don’t touch me, I’m exhausted!” line.  I’ve used it before, and it doesn’t really have the effect you want in marriage.

Is exhaustion a continuing problem in your marriage?  Is it hindering sexual intimacy with your spouse?  How do you address those times of extreme fatigue?