I received a comment to my Sex and the Pity post a couple of weeks ago. Its message was a poignant one. I want to share it with you and then respond.
“I love your posts. I read them because this is an area I am working on in my marriage. But sometimes I feel like you over-simplify. No, I’ve never had an orgasm while folding laundry either, but I also rarely have them during sex, quite frankly, and neither do many other women. At least at the end of doing laundry I feel a sense of worth. At the end of sex I just feel fat, ugly, conquered, vulnerable in a bad way… So yes, it’s a chore: it’s a ‘routine and unpleasant task.’ My husband can be cruel in many ways. I have begged him to stop. I have prayed that he would stop. Then I prayed that God would change me- that I could be more resilient and more patient and loving with him. Some women would say that I married the ‘wrong man,’ but I know that when I said, ‘I do’ before God that I made a life-long commitment to him being the ‘right man.’ Interestingly, all the Christian marriage books say that more sex will make your husband the man you want him to be. But I’ve given up on him hanging and now just pray that I can be a woman who can withstand his behavior and protect our children from the damage. It’s just not always as simple as you make it to be.”
My response to Anonymous: I agree. I do simplify things because to cover the complexities of having a fulfilling, long-term, God-honoring sex life with your mate requires more than the 500-1000 words I try to keep it down to each post. So I hit at THIS one time and THAT another, hoping that each post will touch someone out there wanting information, struggling, or needing encouragement. My heart genuinely goes out to spouses who have been hurt in area of sexual intimacy in their marriage.
In one way, sex is simple. Intercourse requires inserting Tab A into Slot B, remove, and repeat.
But a healthy sexual relationship requires much, much more. However, I believe that barriers to a healthy relationship primarily exist in one of three areas.
Unhealthy Attitude. The issue that Anonymous brings up in stating that her husband can be cruel and won’t stop highlights his bad attitude. In fact, this is where healthy sex MUST begin. You can hear oodles and oodles of fabulous fixes and techniques, but if one spouse approaches the other and marital intimacy with an unhealthy attitude, such ideas won’t bring about a fulfilling relationship.
The biggest barrier to a good attitude is self. It can be the self-pleasuring of a mate who spends hours looking at online pornography, the self-focus of being too tired or too body conscious to make love, or the self-preservation instinct of someone who was molested in their childhood years. Yes, this is a wide range of issues, but a healthy sexual relationship must begin with prioritizing relational intimacy above one’s self. Let me be clear: These are not all selfishness, but they are about self. For some, putting the marriage first means a simple attitude adjustment; for others it requires deep self-examination or therapy to heal from a painful history.
Perhaps the toughest situations I hear about are those in which one spouse has worked hard to have a great attitude toward sexual intimacy in marriage and the other one is a selfish blockhead (as described by the commenter). No amount of sex education will make make him a terrific lover because godly sexuality isn’t ultimately about arousal or orgasm; it’s about expressing and fostering mutual intimacy through deep physical contact.
Specific Sexual Problems. Some people want to have a better sex life, but they have specific issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps a spouse has low desire, difficulty with arousal, a pornography addiction, physical exhaustion, interrupting kids, a lack of knowledge about the human body, etc. There is a myriad of barriers to a fulfilling sex life that have to do with addressing something specific in the person or the relationship.
At times, I have dealt with such issues, such as sex hurting or mistreatment in your past. Many problems can be tackled with awareness and effort. Yet, some require the intervention of a counselor or physician. The first step here is being able to identify what problems you have in your specific relationship. Your marriage is not exactly like anyone else’s. However, for just about every specific problem, there is a fix. It may be a quick tweak or a long-term program to get things right, but there are couples everywhere who have overcome all kinds of difficulties to become sexually intimate and satisfied in their marriage.
I encourage you not to give up on working toward something better. I have known some wives whose physicians dismissed their inability to become aroused, to which I would say, “Find another physician.” Look for answers. Find help. Making your sex life a priority means trying to tackle the barriers to marital intimacy.
Failure to Nurture. Having planted the seed of a good attitude toward marital sexuality and then seeing sprouts come up as you deal with specific problems, married couples cannot simply relax and expect to reap a never-ending harvest of sexual satisfaction. Intimacy must be nurtured.
Couples must make time to engage in sexuality; if they don’t, work, household, children, church activities, friends, recreation, and more will crowd it out. You must stay in communication with each other about what you want from your sex life — which may change. What felt great five years ago to your mate may not be the same now. Moreover, physical changes in your body (pregnancy, age, etc.) may present challenges that need to be dealt with.
We need to remind ourselves of the importance of sexuality and make efforts to deal with issues that crop up over time. We need to keep our attitude toward our spouse and our marital intimacy where it should be.
Thus, information and encouragement, as well as knowing and applying the Word of God to your sex life, can help substantially. If you wistfully recall your first year of marriage being a veritable sex feast and simply sit around and wonder what happened to the delicious goodies, then you will never achieve the long-term marital intimacy God desires for you. You must nurture your relationship, and that nurturing will look different in different seasons.
So yeah, it’s complicated. Godly sex is complex. Because there are so many ways in which Satan attacks us in our sexual lives — with poor attitudes, annoying and serious problems, and complacency.
Since I — and no other author, speaker, therapist, etc. — can see directly into your sex life, it is up to the married couple to figure out where the barriers are and how they want to move past them. I will be here to deliver information, support, a little humor, and prayers that husbands and wives out there will work on their intimacy and discover God’s beautiful gift of sexuality in marriage.
Those of you who continue to struggle pierce my heart and make me fall to my knees. I know that our Heavenly Father wants to the best for His beloved children, and that includes you. It is my sincere hope that my blog helps to shine light on the blessings our Lord has for us.