Monthly Archives: November 2011

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?

Should You Sext Your Spouse?

Remember those days when a married couple could be in two different locations and hubby could phone home to ask what wifey is wearing. Tucking her Princess phone between her cocked head and shoulder, wifey could then describe a satin-and-lace little thing that brought to hubby’s mind a beautiful image. They could discuss intimate moments they wished to share later when they are together again.

Ah, the good ole days!
from Pillow Talk with Doris Day & Rock Hudson

Nowadays, the standard practice appears to be more straightforward:

Husband texts: “What r u wearing?

Wife pulls back camera phone, snaps a photo, and presses Send.

Wife texts: “That’s what I’m wearing! ;)”

Husband happily eyeballs photo of wife’s scantily clad body. 

Husband texts: “Can’t wait 2 B home.”

Is it just me who wonders if this version of the “What are you wearing?” game is an improvement? For one thing, in the world of sexting, you must actually be wearing the lingerie you describe. No more sitting at home in a pair of sweats and hair in a ponytail and swearing that you are in a teddy and fishnet stockings.

Second, I fear the phone takeover. Once I texted a friend a tongue-in-cheek comment about sex with my husband. I quickly received a text from her number saying, “This is her husband. I borrowed her phone today.” After freaking out for a while, my friend texted again with “Just kidding.” But it made me realize how easy it is for someone else to have your honey’s phone. Perhaps someone is borrowing it to make a phone call, or your child has grabbed it to play Angry Birds. How would you explain that booty photo?

Third, has anyone actually figured out how to take a flattering photo of yourself by stretching out your hand as far as it will go and clicking? You might be trying to take a picture of your breasts and end up with a shot of your elbow. Hardly the effect you were going for. I need good lighting, a tripod, and a self-timer to get a Send-worthy photo. Either that or Mrs. Incredible’s superhero arms.

Fourth, if you text, what do you say? I would think your best bet is to use wordplay, like a pun or double-entendre. That way your sexting can be read in two ways — one quite innocently (in case of phone takeover by an in-law) and one sexually charged (the meaning of which you hope only your beloved clues into). Nicknaming your parts might help in this regard. But remember, everybody knows what “Mr. Happy” refers to.

Finally, it’s evidence. Perhaps I watch too many crime shows, but it seems like all electronic messaging can be retrieved by hackers, police officers, and the FBI. I have no idea what crime one could be charged with — Is there a law against bad sex puns or G-strings on old derrières? — but I wonder if sexting provides a bread crumb trail better left unscattered.

All that said, have I ever sexted my spouse? Yep. Sure have. And no, I will not reveal what I said. (Let Jack Bauer’s team figure that out.) But it was nothing explicit. The content was the sort that would make my kids blush, not vomit, if they stumbled upon it.

Why have I sexted? Because a little teasing can go a long way to creating that anticipation for one another and for lovemaking. Because when you’re far away from your beloved, a little sexting is a good way to remind them that you desire them. Because I like word play and living dangerously. Because it makes my honey smile.

Actually, I do suggest being careful if you choose to put sexting in your marital intimacy repertoire.

What do you think? Should your sext your spouse? Have you sexted? What boundaries do you set or precautions do you take to make sure your private moments don’t become public?

Safety & Vulnerability in the Bedroom

Woman with wreath in hands

Handle with care
Photo credit: Microsoft
Word Clip Art

Sexual intimacy, as God created and desires for marriage, requires vulnerability. Most women understand that sex requires vulnerability, since our bodies are literally invaded by another person’s body part. However, I believe that vulnerability is an issue for men as well.

To give yourself intimately to your spouse, you must lower your defenses, get naked, allow someone to touch and kiss the most private parts of your body, and join yourself physically to another. There is an emotional and spiritual unveiling of yourself in all of this too.

As an analogy, let’s think about stage fright. To perform for an audience, you have to feel comfortable that you have something to say or can actually sing or whatever; you must feel okay about yourself. You must also feel that you have some possibility of connecting with your audience; you must feel okay about them.

But what if you knew going out there that the entire crowd would shout insults and boo? Would you take a single step onto the stage? Would you pick up the microphone? Would you feel like saying one word or singing one note? Would you more likely think, Forget It, and pass up the chance to have a shining moment to express your self to others?

It is so much more vulnerable to engage sexually with someone you love than to say a five-minute speech or sing a two-minute song to people you don’t know. But what if your spouse criticizes, belittles, and generally boos you in every other area of life? What if their criticism extends even into the bedroom, as they comment about your looks or feelings or expectations?

What if when you try to discuss how you feel about your sex life, you are greeted with indifference or insults? What if your heartfelt feelings are dismissed with “You shouldn’t feel like that”? (One of the worst things to say to someone in my opinion.) How can you be vulnerable with someone who is cruel or abusive?

Marriage expert Gary Smalley and his team have done extensive research into the importance of creating a safe environment within marriage so that love can flourish. If a spouse does not feel safe, he or she will not communicate freely, give trust, and participate fully in the relationship. Why share your thoughts or feelings when you know they will be shot down, as they have been repeatedly in the past?

Is there anyway to get past this? How can you follow God’s command to engage sexually with your spouse when it feels like your marriage or your bedroom is a mine field?

I have some background in psychology, but I am not a therapist.

I have worked in ministry, but I am not a minister.

I have gone faithfully for annual check-ups, but I am not a doctor.

Here’s my two cents anyway:

Ask how bad the mistreatment is. Does it rise to the level of abuse? Do you feel mistreated because your expectations are simply not being met? Or are you a moving target in your own home? Is it “He doesn’t appreciate me like he should” or “He tells me I’m stupid, ugly, and worthless several times a day”?

If you are not sure, get wise counsel to make a determination. Your close friends are probably not the most objective people to ask. Talk to a doctor, a minister, a therapist.

Pray for wisdom. If you are in a terrible situation, go to God. You may even be angry at Him right now for what you’re going through, wondering why He won’t intervene and stop it. However, God has promised to be with you through the horrible times (Isaiah 43:1-2, Matthew 28:20). Jesus knows what it is like to be cruelly treated and can relate to hardship. Continue to bring your concerns and sorrows to the Lord and ask for His help to sort through your feelings and your options.

Talk to your spouse. If you have not approached the subject, do so. If you have done so before and believe you can bring it up again without reprisal, try again. However, if your environment is unsafe and you simply cannot talk to your spouse, don’t. Your physical safety must be assured to experience emotional and sexual vulnerability.

Seek help. If you are in an abusive marriage, you are not the wife or husband we are talking to when Christian marriage authors encourage more vulnerability, frequency, or playfulness in the bedroom. You need outside help to get clarity, establish proper boundaries, and get your life back on track. Speak with your minister or a counselor in confidence and let them know what’s going on. Ask for resources. Seek out Christians who will support you as you try to deal with a marriage that has gone down the wrong road.

I hope my two cents helps, but as I have stated, I am not an expert. Thankfully, there are great resources out there for those in need. Seek them out.

God desires that you, His beautiful child, be treated with gentleness, respect, and love. Remember your worth.