Monthly Archives: January 2012

When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 2

In my last post, I started sharing lessons I learned from the time in my marriage when our sex life sucked. In the years surrounding my pregnancy and infant-caring, my sex drive was largely absent while my husband still wanted to go at it like soap opera characters.

Anyway, the first set of lessons involved what the wife could do herself to maintain a good sex life during those trying years. Now I’ll suggest a few things that couples can do.

Approach parenting as a WE thing. John Gottman, the well-known marriage researcher, has a fabulous section on this topic in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. He reports that “in the year after the first baby arrives, 70 percent of wives experience a precipitous plummet in their marital satisfaction.” We might expect this is related to fatigue, stress, health issues with a baby, etc. However, the key is “whether the husband experiences the transformation to parenthood along with his wife or gets left behind.”

Parents with baby

Deutsche Fotothek via Wikimedia Commons

Having a baby is life-altering for most women, but not necessarily for some men. I was blessed to stay at home with my babies. However, that meant that my life was suddenly in a whole other place 24/7. Meanwhile, my husband kept going to work and living a lot of his life the same. He had added a baby to the mix, where the baby was everything in my daily life. I wish I had invited him into the parenting experience better, and frankly I wish he had jumped into it more assertively. We could have made our early parenting years more of a WE thing and thus lessened the burden on me. These days, we have a far more integrated approach to parenting our kids.

How would that have helped our intimacy? Well, that shared experience would have increased intimacy outside the bedroom and allowed us more time and desire to be inside the bedroom together.

Communicate openly about your sex life. My husband did not talk to me about how much he missed our intimacy. He was trying to be patient and understanding on that account and went without for longer periods than he should have. I in turn did not communicate what I was going through, or when I did, it was more like a pity party than an invitation to improve our sexual relationship. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that other couples do this too. Instead, couples need to honestly discuss concerns and look for ways to pursue satisfying intimacy.

Block out time for intimacy. Pre-children, most couples can make love just about anytime they want. After our workdays, we could have sex in the afternoon, evening, nighttime, morning, whatever. We could also do it in our bed, on the living room rug, in the shower, on the kitchen table, whatever. The point here is that our sex lives were flexible and mostly spontaneous.

Yeah well, forget that. When you have babies in the house, you may need to actually schedule times for intimacy. Sure, there are opportunities for spontaneity as well — like your child unexpectedly falling asleep in his bouncy seat and you and hubby running to the bedroom for a quickie before baby wakes up crying. But if you wait for the time when lovemaking fits into the rest of your schedule, you may find yourself waiting too long. Intimacy needs to become part of the schedule.

Have date nights that include intimacy. If you have grandparents, relatives, or babysitters to care for your little ones, take advantage of that. If not, perhaps you could barter with another couple or start a babysitting co-op where several couples take turns watching the kids while the others get a date night. In fact, things got better with our sex life when we availed ourselves of such opportunities.

Be more creative with sexual activity. There were times during my hormonal changes that intercourse did not feel good. Sometimes, it even hurt. That should not have quelled all intimacy. There are other things you can do! Sensual massage, a hand job, oral sex, and other activities are sexually pleasing and intimate in nature. They shouldn’t replace a sex life that involves intercourse, but they can enhance your sex life and carry you through periods when penetration isn’t comfortable. Speaking of which, you may need to try different positions during pregnancy or after childbirth to find a comfortable one for the both of you.

That’s a lot of lessons, huh? Summed up, though, I have learned how important it is to take care of yourself, communicate with your husband, and prioritize marital intimacy. That’s true at any time in your marriage; however, with pregnancy or young children in the mix, there are special challenges that can easily become big obstacles to maintaining a healthy sex life in your marriage.

What challenges to your intimacy are you facing with pregnancy, babies, or young children in the home? If you have passed that phase, what did you learn? What do you wish you had done differently to keep the spark ignited?

When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 1

I was tempted to title this post “When My Sex Life Sucked (and Not in the Good Way)” but decided that my junior high locker room humor probably didn’t need to take main stage. After all, this is a serious subject.

If you’ve read even a few of my blog posts, you know that I am highly in favor of marital intimacy. I flat out love sex with my husband. I desire it. I welcome it. I sometimes initiate it. I revel in it. I thank God for it.

No Trespassing sign

Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

But lest you think that my marriage has always soared in the shake-your-groove-thing department, I will burst that fantasy bubble today. There was a time in my marriage when our sex life was gasping for air like a silent movie actress in a death scene. I had almost no sex drive, and he became very frustrated with my lack of interest.

When and why? It was around the pregnancy, childbirth, and infant years. That time was so hard on me and my body that I didn’t have anything left for the sex area of my life. In hindsight, several things should have happened. In this post and the next one, I will share the lessons I gained in hopes that another couple might learn from what we through. The first set of lessons here involve what the wife can do to sustain, or even improve, physical intimacy in the marriage. In the next post, I’ll speak more generally to couples.

Actively pursue personal health. When I was carrying babies, bearing babies, nursing babies, and caring for babies — better known as the alien invasion years — my body did not feel like my own. It was me, of course; however, my body had been irrevocably changed.

I’m going to interrupt myself and admit that I don’t know whether all of the changes were due to pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones, or other issues such as sleep deprivation and stress. Having only gone the biological route, I don’t know any other. I would presume that adoptive mothers can have the same challenges with an infant in the home.

For myself, however, my body was low on estrogen and likely testosterone as well. I should have told my doctor how I was feeling and asked to have a blood test checking for vitamin and hormone deficiencies. I might have even considered an anti-depressant during the most overwhelming months. Perhaps that seems extreme; yet a temporary boost of energy to make it through those tough months might have done wonders for me feeling better about myself as a mom and a wife, and I would have been more available for my husband and my child.

Continue to emphasize your role as wife. For the pregnant or new mom, almost all of your body’s energy seems to go toward children. After having my hands on my child all day, and my child’s hands on me, the last thing I wanted was for anyone to touch my body. Multiple children means that there are multiple hands on you — some days making you feel like an octopus’s plaything. When you finally tuck those sweet babies into bed at night and listen to their surrendered breathing, and then your husband comes from behind and grabs your tush, your brain may scream, Get off, get off! Having another set of hands can feel like another set of demands.

But intimacy with my husband isn’t a demand; it’s a command from God, a way of being close with your spouse, and a sweet pleasure in its own right. I should have made more time and opportunity for those moments. I should have remembered that I was not only a mother, but a wife.

Let me be clear: I am not saying to ignore your parental duties. But I didn’t let my first child cry for a full minute before I was in there taking care of my little one. My infant always had my attention first. Looking back, it might have been okay to shove in some ear plugs, have a fun quickie, and then go get the fussy baby out of the crib. It’s easier to put off your husband’s needs since he is less likely to wail like a banshee for attention like your kids. But the need to be intimate doesn’t go away merely because you now have a tangible, physical result of intimacy.

Make sure your “Me Time” includes rejuvenating activities, not merely escapism. I took breaks from my kids, but the activities didn’t necessarily energize me. We all have activities that give us a respite from our daily ho-hum, and others that make us feel alive. Those two things are different. Escaping with a good film is fun, but for me reading and writing light a fire in my belly. Attending musical events and singing enliven me. Spending time in nature and dancing make me aware of my senses and surroundings.

But as much I love my scrapbooks, attending scrapbooking crops were social gatherings that I enjoyed but they didn’t refresh me. They drained me more and kept me in mom-baby mode as I slapped on picture after picture of my precious little ones. I wish I had taken piano lessons or joined a book club or started this blog back then. Of course, scrapbooking may be just the thing for you, or karaoke, or roller derby. The point is to find something that energizes you outside your role as mom. You’ll always be mom, but you are more than that as well.

Do things to make yourself feel sexy. It’s hard to make that mental transition from Mommy with the children to Hot Mama for the husband. I wish I had taken more time to have a bubble bath, get a massage, find pretty lingerie to fit my differently-shaped figure, or have a glass of wine or herbal tea now and then to tune into my body. I now know how important it can be to find those activities that trigger feelings of sensuality and self-confidence.

Despite the changes that happen in a woman’s body from childbearing, she is usually still very sexy to her husband. In fact, some husbands find their wives even more appealing after having seen the miracle that grew in her body. The female form is beautiful, and young moms may need some extra time to reconnect with their sexiness so that they can feel good about themselves in the arms of their husband.

It can feel selfish to indulge in these ways. After all, you don’t want to neglect your children just to luxuriate with Calgon. However, your children will be blessed by having a mother who has a great sex life with their father. And you are still totally hot! Tap into that and enjoy it.

Ultimately, all of these suggestions are about taking care of yourself. The responsibility of caring for a tiny little one (in and out of the womb) can be overwhelming for a woman. Your whole life is changing in a way that rivals an Extreme Home Makeover episode. Forget that. It surpasses tearing your home to the ground and rebuilding it. It is big.

It’s also wonderful in the long run to be Mom. However, as easy as it might be to get consumed by parenthood and lose yourself in the role of mother, you will have a child in your home for eighteen or so years and a husband in your home for hopefully many more. (I’m going for golden anniversary. How about you?) It is not selfish to prioritize your health, your personal identity, and your marriage. In fact, if anything, you will be a better parent for adding mother to your roles but remaining the fabulous you that you already are.

How well are you doing in balancing motherhood and self-care? Do you still feel sexy to your husband? Have you struggled with physiological changes?

Do Your Friends Support Your Sex Life?

I have an uncanny ability to find myself in conversations about sexuality with girlfriends. I’m not always the one to introduce the topic, but I am comfortable discussing it. God blessed marriages with physical intimacy, and I want to encourage couples to fully enjoy this gift and make it an integral part of their relationship.

However, many Christian women speak out against sex rather than for it. Sometimes it’s a comment made with presumed jest: “I told my husband he couldn’t touch my girly stuff until after he touched up the paint job.” Or a complaint: “I can’t walk through the room in a nightgown without him attacking me.” A statement of indifference: “I don’t care for sex, but we have it a couple of times a month.” Or even a negative declaration: “I hate sex, and I would be happy if we never had it again.”

To be honest, most of my friends think I’m as rare as an albino alligator — a Christian wife who loves sex. Good gracious! I should be put on display and tour the country. In fact, I recall a specific conversation with close girlfriends that turned to the topic of marital intimacy. I put in my two cents and was dismissed by another lady who joked, “We can’t ask you; you like sex.”

Standing up for rockin’ sex in marriage can be a lonely endeavor. At times, it has felt futile. No matter what I say, some gals seem determined to treat sex like an obligation or a bartering tool in marriage.

Speaking of “futile,” sometimes I wish I could set myself up as the Borg Queen of Marital Intimacy. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. We could just suck in the naysayers one by one and make them realize how terrific physical intimacy can be in a marriage when it’s working as God intended. But alas, I don’t think I could pull off the hairdo.

Queen of the Borg from Star Trek

Queen of the Borg
Star Trek

Thank goodness that I do have beautiful women of God in my life who, like me, are on God’s plan for sexuality in their marriage. For instance, my best friend lets me bounce blog post ideas off her and has offered some terrific wisdom. She and her husband have their own story of challenges, but she has pursued healthy sexuality in her marriage as part of God’s blessing from Day One and reaped the benefits. There are fellow female bloggers who speak well of sex in marriage (Kate Aldrich, Lori Byerly, Sheila Gregoire, and Gina Parris among them). In particular, I thank God for my growing friendship with Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage, a woman whom I respect and who can put me in stitches with her brand of humor.

I think every Christian woman needs others in her life willing to speak out in favor of marital intimacy. Too often, we can find ourselves in conversations with people who intentionally or unwittingly diminish the importance of great sex with our husbands. It is not biblical to refuse your spouse. It is not biblical to make your husband drag you to the bedroom (symbolically, of course). It is not biblical to participate in intercourse like it’s your child’s first band concert (You’re only there for them, and you hope it’s over quickly). It is not biblical to discourage your friends from having what God designed for them — a healthy sex life with their mate.

Instead, I want to hang out with some gals who find sex in marriage to be hot, holy, and humorous — like I do. It is indeed all of those things. I am blessed to have girlfriends who encourage me to make it hotter, holier, and humorouser. Oh wait, not that last one. I do that on my own.

Do you have friends like that? Do your friends encourage you to have the right attitude? Do they give you tips when you need them? Have they suggested you seek help or get answers when there are problems? Do your friends support your sex life? And are you that kind of friend?

By the way, Sheila Gregoire of To Love, Honor and Vacuum did a recent post about the oddity of finding herself being a “sexpert” after she wrote and talked about intimacy. Great read: How Do I Get Myself into These Things.

Bedazzled, Bothered, and Bewildered

I recently learned a new word that I want to share with you. Let’s see if you know its proper definition.

To vajazzle is:
a. To wear bedazzled lingerie
b. To do a strip tease to jazz music
c. To decorate female private parts with bling-bling

If you immediately answered C, good for you. If like many more readers, you cringed when you read C, welcome to my original response.

Apparently, vajazzling is a new trend! It’s a take on the bedazzling phenomenon, only with girly parts. If you don’t know what bedazzling looks like, here are a few examples:

A bedazzled cap.

 

A bedazzled jacket.

 

Bedazzled nails.

 

You can also bedazzle purses, shoes, tote bags, belts, and . . . skin.

 

So imagine taking those little shiny adhesive beads and attaching them to your private area.

After discovering this word (through a writer friend), I did a bit of online research. Apparently, vajazzling has been mentioned on reality shows and by celebrities. There are websites devoted to this process and how it works. You probably have some of the same questions I did, so I’ll share what I learned.

What kind of bling-bling is used? They are “body crystals,” somewhat like the ones used on nails.

Where do the crystals go? You can put them in other places, like around your waist or on your abdomen, but for vajazzling they typically go on the clean-shaven or waxed area above the clitoris. They can be small designs or extend across the triangle shape of a woman.

What kind of sticky stuff is used? Eyelash glue and spirit gum were mentioned, as well as a resin-based glue. The adhesive used is especially for skin, although some might still have an allergic reaction to the substance if sensitive to it.

How long do they last? From what I could tell, maybe five days. Like other stick-ons, friction and moisture wear out the adhesiveness.

Do they interfere with intercourse? Because of their placement well above the vagina, they shouldn’t.

Who puts the crystals on? You can do it yourself (kits are available) or get it done professionally at a salon.

Why on earth would anyone do this??? Yes, this is the question I asked myself. So I had a nice chat with the hubster. It went a bit like this:

Me: Why would a woman want to vajazzle? Is that an appealing idea to men?

Hubs: Well, it would draw attention to the area.

Me: I thought guys were already pretty much drawn to that area. You need more?

Hubs: Well, it’s like an invitation. Like you decorated to let us know you want to have sex.

Me: You need an invitation? How big of a hint? Like should I arrange beads in the shape of an arrow? Write a message down there?

Hubs: I’m not saying I want you to do that. I just understand why some people would.

Me: [Sigh]

Seriously, I am wondering who is doing this. Because it took me a while to go for the idea of landscaping at all down there (see Trimming the Hedges). Now I’m supposed to slap on some bling-bling? I wonder if I could use the sequins from my kids’ craft projects and some Elmer’s.

One final question about vajazzling:

What about the guys? Shouldn’t husbands be decorating their man parts? Where’s the fairness here? Well, as a matter of fact, there is something called pejazzling. The husbands can get in on this trend too.

Now there’s another interesting question for the wives: Do you think your man should glam it up a bit? Get on a bit of shine? Sparkle a little?

Let me know what you think of this new trend. Have you heard of vajazzling? Have you done it? Do you think wives (and husbands) should consider it?

If You Could Write the Vows Now

I have attended quite a few weddings in my life and remember the usual vows taken in these ceremonies. Here’s a sample:

“I take you to be my lawful wedded wife/husband, promise to love and cherish you, in sickness and health, for richer or poorer, for better or worse, and forsaking all others keep myself only unto you, for so long as I live.”

But what do those words mean? Love. Cherish. Sickness. Health. Richer. Poorer. Better. Worse. How do those get lived out day after day, year after year, for the rest of your lives together?

Now I’m not a big fan of the old sitcom Roseanne starring Roseanne Barr and John Goodman. However, there is a scene that has stuck with me. In one episode, the characters Dan and Roseanne Connor have accompanied two friends to Las Vegas for help them get married. At the end of the friends’ ceremony, Dan and Roseanne — who have been married for many years — have a chance to renew their vows. Check out the scene. (I’ll wait.)

Having been married quite a few years now myself, I wonder about rewriting the vows. Should the vows be more descriptive, more practical, more blunt?

More specifically, how about the line above “forsaking all others keep myself only unto you”? Yes, we pledge that, just as many of us understand the commandment “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 8:14). But what does that look like in marriage?

My focus on this blog has been sexuality within marriage, and I have heard the struggles of couples who love each other in many ways but are not loving and cherishing as God expects in the bedroom. So I wonder if I went for the Roseanne model and reworded the wedding vows to be more detailed, what could that look like?

…forsaking all others keep myself only unto you. Not only will I “keep it in my pants” around others, so to speak, but I will actively avert my eyes from things that might pull my sexual attention away from you. I won’t look at pornography or ogle others of the opposite sex. I won’t compare you to people from my past or characters in a movie, TV show, or book.

I will make myself sexually available to you and you alone. If I am disinterested in being with you intimately because of my history or hormones or depression or whatever other cause, I will communicate with you and seek help to remedy the issue. I will take my time to develop an intimate relationship with you. I will approach our intimacy as an “us” thing, not merely as a get-me-satisfied thing. I will not demand that you perform sexual acts with which you are uncomfortable, but I will also remain open to ideas that do not contradict God’s Word.

I will do what I can to maintain my health and appearance, and I will focus on your attractive qualities and recognize that bodies change and age happens. I will learn about your body and my body, about sexuality in general, and most importantly about God’s desire for our intimate life together. I will make time for you and our physical intimacy. I will do everything in my power to make it easy and joyous for you to keep yourself only unto me.

Frankly, I would put a few more things in there like “I promise to never wear another pair of whitey-tighties” (don’t like ’em) and “I promise not to fart in bed” (that kills the mood). Maybe you have a few of those too.

And off the topic of sex, I might add getting stuff actually into the laundry hamper, killing the roach without mocking my scream, and not ever-ever wearing that ugly sweater that you know I hate. Then again, I’m sure my husband would have a long list for me!

But kidding aside, we should think about our vows — what they really mean. We promised something to our spouse at the altar. Yes, we said that we would stay together “for better or worse” but we want more of our marriage to be better than worse. We want to always seek that loving, cherishing, keeping to one another experience. What would it look like if we carried out our vows fully, becoming one flesh daily and not simply on that one ceremonial day?

If you could say your vows again, what would you say or want said by your spouse? How would you describe your wishes for your intimate life with your mate?