Monthly Archives: May 2013

Why I Didn’t Blog, or When You Assume…

Monday came and went.

It’s a day I usually blog here at Hot, Holy & Humorous. But honestly, there are some days when marriage bloggers and authors feel like we don’t have much to offer. Because things aren’t that amazing at that particular moment in our own marriage.

My husband and I had an argument. No, I’m not going to share the details. Suffice it to say that we completely misunderstood each other and did not give one another the benefit of the doubt.

I wish I could even say that it concluded with immediate apologies, romantic declarations of love, and make-up sex. Sadly, it concluded with eventual apologies, heavy feelings of regret, and make-up sex.

(Okay, fine. I’m nothing if not predictable on that count.)

What I finally had to deal with is that, even though I was 92% right*, I was totally wrong in what I assumed about my husband. I assumed motives for him that simply weren’t there. In fact, his reasons for acting the way he did were in reality very loving.

And I completely missed it.

Donkey

What I felt like . . .
Pic by Ltshears, via Wikimedia Commons

I see this a lot here with wives who are frustrated with how much their husbands want sex. They assume that it’s because the husband is a horn-dog who can’t go for a half-hour without thinking of how to get aroused and all he wants is a physical release with his wife underneath him.

That’s almost never true.

I can’t say never because there are indeed some jerks out there, but honestly, if it was only arousal and release, your husband could grab a magazine and head into the closet. Instead, he wants you.

Sex isn’t just about the physical for most husbands — and for most wives. Rather, it’s about connection, expression, pleasure, intimacy. It’s about joining with your spouse in a unique way to show unique love that you don’t share with anyone else. It’s about finding solace and sizzle in one anothers’ arms.

But we tend to assume — based on outward signs that we interpret from the perception we’ve built up in our lives. We can’t get inside our spouses’ heads, but we also don’t ask questions. We just assume we know what the deal is.

I also see this with husbands who assume that their wife is a completely selfish and unloving block of ice when it comes to lovemaking and that her lack of interest or arousal is a statement on the relationship.

Maybe, maybe not.

It’s just not enough information. Some women do withhold because they are selfish, yet many women simply haven’t figured out yet how to make sex a sensual and spiritual experience with their husband. Maybe sex hurts. Maybe she has a bad history. Maybe she doesn’t know where her sex drive went and finding it is number 54 on her list of urgent, must-do items. Sure, you’d like it to be number one, but maybe she just doesn’t totally get it.

But we make assumptions. And we end up with crossed communication and hurt feelings and frustration and despair and unmet expectations and a mess bigger than an over-full diaper pail. Yikes!

So talk.

Ask questions.

Don’t assume.

Give the benefit of the doubt.

Approach your problem as a we issue.

Look for the win-win.

That advice would have saved me a few hours of frustration myself. But yeah, I pulled that “when you assume, you make an ___ out of u and me” cliché. What can I say? I’m still in a work in progress. God is still molding me. (Ouch. He pounded the clay pretty hard that time.)

It’s all worked out. “Spock” and J are on great terms now. We’re feeling the love and reveling in the intimacy. But I hope that my hard lesson learned can help someone else today as they think about how their spouse approaches sexuality.

*This statistic may be a vast exaggeration.

I do have a guest post running over at Sheila Gregoire’s To Love, Honor and Vacuum on What Is Real Intimacy?  Check it out!

Are You in a Sexual Rut?

rut is defined as “a usual or fixed practice.” Sometimes, this happens in marriage: Life around is so busy and we don’t have a lot of time and energy carved out for physical intimacy so we get to the bedroom and order up “the usual.” It could be the same position, the same activity, the same moves, or perhaps the same 1-2-3 combo.

My husband and I are very much like this about restaurants. We have our go-to places with certain items on each menu that we like. At most, I enter a familiar restaurant and ask, “Should I have the A, B, or C?” I never try X. It’s too risky, and after all I know I like A, B, and C. Why chance it?

So does that count as a routine or a rut?

Routines are fine in your marital intimacy. You do have some things you’ll like more than others and, although numerous magazines and websites claim otherwise, there really are a limited number of positions you can strike without dislocating a joint and activities you can perform that get your body humming instead of screeching. Marital intimacy should not be about introducing ever-weirder and challenging things into your sex life.

It’s the rut that makes us feel “meh.”

You get to the bedroom, do your 1-2-3, and you’re done. Even if you climax happily, you feel like there’s something missing. You may wonder, “Is this it?” Perhaps you revisit those conversations with your permanently single friends who warned you that getting married would mean having the same sex with the same person over and over and over until your eyeballs fell out. (Never mind that many of those single friends aren’t getting any sex.) You know you’re physically satisfied, but emotionally? Relationally? Spiritually?

So how do you get out of the rut?

Back to my restaurant analogy. (And why do I always compare food and sex? I need to ask my psychiatrist friend if that means anything . . .) If you want to get out of a food rut, you have three choices:

1. Go to another restaurant. No, I am not comparing your spouse to a restaurant! You’re taking your spouse with you to the new restaurant. We’re talking about your setting. Change it up. Perhaps you make love in a different location or spruce up the atmosphere or add music to the background. Change the mood of your lovemaking, and it may feel like a fresh dining lovemaking experience.

Modern chaise lounge

A different location?
By Kippelboy, via Wikimedia Commons

2. Order something different from the menu. “And now for something completely different . . .” Throw out the old routine and introduce something different this time. Maybe it’s oral sex or a hand job or a different position. Or even start with a full-body massage or a bubble bath together.

Photo of bubble bath

Bubble bath?
Photo from Microsoft Word Clip Art

3. Add something special to your usual order. Since you really like what you’re already having, you can order it again and just add a little extra spice, garnish, or dessert. Tweak what you’re doing by asking questions about how things feel to your spouse and adjusting your approach accordingly. Shift your body a little, add candlelight or scented lubricant, or wear something a little adventurous for you. Think of it as the main entrée plus. Your usual plus something else. Like adding gravy or salsa.

Mannequins in lingerie shop

Add a little something?
By WestportWiki, via Wikimedia Commons

Also, talk to your spouse. See what they might want to change about your routines so that you don’t end up in a rut. Maybe they have some fresh ideas that you haven’t considered.

To get out of your sexual rut, be willing to shake it up a little, try something a little different. Maybe your “something different” isn’t even sexual, but rather affectionate or sensual. Maybe it’s spending more time talking or touching. Maybe it’s playing a game in bed (Strip ____ usually works).

Just throw off the rut and get fresh with your spouse! You’ll likely be happy with the results.

Yes, Kid, Your Mommy and Daddy Have Sex

After sharing this story with close friends, I’ve been told that I must blog about it! Okay, okay. Here’s the story (told in my fiction-writing voice):

***

Climax, here I come. My husband brings me to the peak of pleasure — not like Mount Everest, but more like Mount St. Helens. Heat rises through my body and I erupt in a series of delighted noises as we reach the pinnacle together. We collapse onto the sheets, panting heavily and happily. Dear God, what an amazing gift this is.

Descending back to hum-drum home life, we look at the clock and conclude that we need to clean up and go to sleep. It’s seriously late. We’d worked hard to get our kids in bed tonight. They were at least an hour past the normal bedtime and close to getting their precious necks wrung. Of course, now I picture them tucked under their hairy blankets with fluttering eyelids and cracked mouths, as innocent as cherubim.

I rise and use the bathroom, while my husband washes his hands.

Tap-tap-tap.  

My ear twitches at the sound. What was that?

Tap-tap-tap.

The tapping repeats. “Are you okay?” A small voice seeps through the bedroom door.

Oh. My. God. Really, God — did you know our kid was awake?

“Just a minute,” I answer, a new wave of heat rising in me, this one like a lightning bolt sizzling through my nervous system. I glance at my husband with eyes wider than volcano craters. “Oh my gosh,” I whisper.

He smiles and shrugs. Men. He could probably have sex with our kid knocking on our door the whole time.

“I heard something,” the small voice continues. “Is everything okay?”

“Yes, we’re fine,” I say — thinking as I speak, sound normal, sound normal, sound normal . . .

I shimmy into my pajamas and open the door. The knob clicks as the door unlocks.

My jammied kid stands there, looking sleepy and concerned. “Maybe it was the cat, but it didn’t really sound like it.”

My stomach flutters. Thank God for pets. “Well, the cat is in here,” I say.

“Oh, I guess that’s what it was.”

“You need to head back to bed.” I pray that my tone is no more than a 2.0 on the Richter scale of anxiety. “Good night.”

My child’s perplexed expression melts into relief with my reassurance and embrace. I tuck my child into bed and scurry back to the bedroom.

My husband awaits — tucked under the covers, looking smug and satisfied. I know what he’s thinking: Who cares who heard? I made her bellow like a banshee.

I roll my eyes. Men.

***

There’s actually more to this story. The next day when this child described the event to an older sibling . . . well, let’s just say the older sibling was less willing to blame the cat.

I fully expect the kid who overheard the sexual interlude to one day realize what was really going on. If the child then asks for brain bleaching or therapy, my response will be, “Hey, we told you to go to bed. Maybe you should have listened.”

But all of that is okay because yes, kid, your mommy and daddy have sex.

Husband and wife with child in bed

Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

In fact, it’s reassuring to children to know that their parents experience a loving, and even private, relationship that establishes the foundation of their family. They don’t want the details, but them knowing that you have sex is a good thing.

How do you show your children that you delight in God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage? Without revealing details that are nobody’s business?

Flirt in front of your kids. It’s no big surprise to older children that you are sexually intimate if they catch you smiling, winking, touching, and kissing in front of them. You need not have a make-out session in their presence for them to get the hint. They can see from small gestures that you desire one another, that you have chemistry and romance, that your deeper marital connection trumps the latest relationship drama at their school. As you demonstrate that romance doesn’t die when you say “I do,” you’re subtly communicating the healthy message that mommies and daddies have sex.

Carve out alone time. Let your children know that you need time to be alone as a couple. When they are very young, this may involve getting them to bed early or bartering babysitting with other couples or sending them to grandma’s once a week. As they get older, you can simply tell them, “Mom and Dad need some time alone.” Send them to their bedrooms or to watch a TV show or movie while you and your honey retire to the bedroom. Older children will probably figure out at some point what you’re actually doing in there, but they don’t want to hear about it. Most will happily get out of your way. Still, they are getting the message that dads and moms have a unique relationship apart from the kids they raise and that it’s good for husbands and wives to stay connected this way.

Don’t feel guilty. If they do hear you or — heaven forbid — walk in on you, don’t apologize. At least don’t apologize for engaging in sex with your spouse. If you forgot to lock the door, fine; be sorry for that. But treat your sex life with your spouse as a matter-of-fact reality. As in this is what moms and dads do. Sex within marriage is not something to feel guilty about. Your kids should know that this is a normal, God-designed aspect of marriage. You don’t want them to feel that sex is a guilty act . . . because it isn’t when engaged in according to God’s plan. Of course, it isn’t a public act, so do your best to keep it private between you and your spouse, but if your child does get the notion that something was going on, don’t feel like you have to explain or feel guilty. You didn’t do anything wrong. (In fact, if they overheard you, maybe you did it really, really right.)

Use euphemisms. As I’ve already stressed, that you have sex is fine for your kids to know; how you have sex is not what they should or want to know. If asked directly by your kids what was going on, a raised eyebrow might suffice. They don’t need details. They don’t want details. They will choke to death on embarrassment if they get details. Euphemisms are a lovely thing when dealing with this issue because your child can know that you were engaged in sex without it slapping him/her in the face. “We were having ‘alone time'” is a perfectly good answer. Or come up with your own euphemism.

It’s healthy for your children to know that sexual intimacy flourishes in marriage. When you and your spouse hint at a quality sex life in marriage, it protects them against societal messages that sex is for singles or that sex drives die after the wedding. Research shows otherwise, but they’ll believe what they see with their own eyes even more.

No, I don’t plan to explain the particulars to my child. Yet, I’m pretty sure my children know that their father and their mother have a physical desire for one another and that we enjoy sleeping together. How much sleeping and how much other activity goes on in our bed is a private affair.

But yes, kid, your mommy and daddy have sex.

Should You Go Along with His Sexual Fantasy?

I recently received the following comment from a reader. Her question addresses a specific situation, but the issue is more general.

I was wondering if you could address an issue that I’ve been uncertain on how to deal with. Previous to our marriage, my husband viewed porn. His favorite fantasy is bondage. He told me this before we got married. This is what arouses him the most. I am fairly certain that he has not viewed any pornography in a long time. While we can and do have sex at times without any bondage taking place (that would be him tying up and gagging me, mostly lightly but sometimes hard), he always wants to tie me up when we have sex.

I feel like this is not right, a carryover from a warped view of sex. He does not see anything wrong with it; more an issue of what arouses him the most and makes the experience the most pleasurable for him. He is very good to me sexually, in that he’s learned what physically stimulates me. He will loosen the bonds if I am uncomfortable.

I have a hard time discussing sex with him. I don’t feel like I have ever learned how to discuss sex in an appropriate way – the world’s way is raunchy, the church way is hush-hush, and the first time I ever remember either of my parents speaking about sex that didn’t have to do with morality was on the day after we got married. I’ve told him several times that I don’t enjoy this, once gently that I didn’t think it was needed, but I still give in. If I don’t go along, then we don’t have sex, or I’ve killed the mood because the issue comes up along with initiation. (By the way, the children are 6, 4, and almost 2, so sex happens after they’re asleep.)

The bondage makes me feel objectified, even though he’s told me that he’s “seeing” his wife and not anyone else. So where do I go from here? Obviously I need to take the time to tell him how I feel at a time outside the bedroom where we won’t be interrupted. I don’t feel like I want to strong arm him into “MY WAY,” or berate him. I’m just at a loss on what to say and how to say it, and if I am right in that he’s wrong in this area how to gently persuade him. I do NOT want to give up on having sex with him (it’s too good even when it’s not great). So now what?

You want to what??!!!
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

On Monday, I talked about whether you should share your sexual fantasy. Today, let’s look at whether you should go along with your spouse’s sexual fantasy. In this case, the issue is bondage. But the desire for a specific sexual activity could be a number of things, so I’m answering this question more generally.

Is it biblical? There are prohibitions against certain sexual activities in the Bible, including adultery, bestiality, incest, and other extremes. However, there are also principles of kindness, respect, love, and gentleness (see Galatians 5:22-23 and Ephesians 5:21-33). Whatever you do in the bedroom should not rise to the level of sinfulness and should aim for the ideal of 1 Corinthians 13 love.

Does it involve third parties? Oftentimes, we think this applies merely to adultery, threesomes, or voyeurism. These should be obviously off limits. However, third persons should not be allowed in your visual or thought life either. Watching pornography is inviting people outside of your marriage to arouse you sexually or demonstrate acts for you to copy. Reading erotica and calling to mind fictional characters to become titillated is a way of getting third parties involved. Keep your sexual energy focused where it should be–on the spouse God has blessed you with.

Does it call to mind other relationships or pornography? One question that has been asked of me more than once goes something like this: “Hubby wants to do X which he saw in porn. Should I do it?” I don’t believe that anything and everything that appears in porn is off the table; after all, porn shows intercourse, and that’s clearly on God’s go-to-town list. To my mind, the concern appears when performing a sexual action taps into pornography or past relationships. For instance, perhaps your spouse did something with another person in his sexual past and doing the same thing makes him think of her. Not a good idea. So the issue is not whether the fantasy could be found in porn or his sexual past, but whether it brings to mind someone else. If it does, try to come up with a new fantasy and create memories all your own.

Is it painful rather than pleasurable? One of the expectations of sex in marriage is that it will feel good. When it doesn’t feel good, something is amiss. Usually, people want to experience pleasure and try to avoid pain; yet sometimes a spouse confuses the two. Here’s a tip for why pain in the bedroom might appeal to some: Pain can bring your attention to a localized body part; then the body’s response to pain is to release natural opioids, such as endorphins, to combat the discomfort. Friction in the injured area (like when you naturally rub a stubbed toe) can also relieve pain. The juxtaposition of these sensations, coupled with arousal, can cause people to link pain and pleasure. And yes, there’s more to it than that.

However, my general point is that the Bible never indicates that pain should be part of sexual intimacy in marriage. The Song of Songs communicates tenderness between the two lovers; Deuteronomy 24:5 says that a newlywed man should “be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married”; Genesis 2:24 says that the two become “one flesh”; and Ephesians 5:28-30 is clear about how we should approach our spouse’s body:

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

You should not expect your spouse to be in physical pain, nor to be put in physical pain by your spouse for their arousal.

Does it compromise others? So here’s where I’m going to put having sex in public places where there is a high likelihood of being seen by someone else. I understand the rush of danger pulsing through your veins and the heightening your arousal, but that’s just not fair to someone to have their eyes assaulted by viewing you and your spouse mid-coitus. Beyond treating your spouse with respect, just respect others and keep your sexuality private between the two of you.

Does it gross you out? Okay, yeah, this isn’t so straightforward. But I’m nothing if not frank on this blog, and really, some stuff is just off limits because it’s so totally icky to you. If you have a good sexual relationship with your spouse, you should be able to say sometimes, “No, not that.” It’s never okay to demand or force your spouse to perform sexual acts with or for you that are utterly repulsive to them. (If biblically-mandated intercourse is repulsive, there are serious underlying issues that need addressing.) Degrading your spouse in the bedroom is not God’s design for sexual intimacy. So if the thought grosses you out, ask yourself why. You might be able to try something out of the ordinary after all. But if your stomach is still twisting like a tornado, I think you can opt out. As long as you are putting your full  effort into participating in your sex life within marriage and satisfying your spouse sexually.

As to the original scenario above, I don’t think this wife is obligated to continue with bondage. Her husband is relying on it for arousal; she is in pain at times (“mostly lightly but sometimes hard; he will loosen the bonds if I am uncomfortable”); she does not enjoy it and feels objectified. There isn’t the loving, respectful, pleasurable feel to this story that should be indicative of a good sex life within marriage.

So what do you do when you don’t want to go along? Start by praying. If the fantasy is not clearly unbiblical to you, ask for God’s wisdom on whether you should oblige or pass. Then open up a conversation with your spouse (outside the bedroom) about what you want your sex life to look like. Reassure him that you desire him sexually and want to experience satisfaction and intimacy. Gently explain your reservations and reasons for not wanting to indulge the fantasy.

If he continues to demand or cajole, set boundaries. In my opinion, the best resource for how to do this is the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. They also have an edition for Boundaries in Marriage. I defer to the quality work of these Christian psychologists.

Final note: Prior sexual abuse can complicate this whole issue. Previous victims may not be able to participate in something that reminds them of the horrendous experience they endured. Professional help may be needed to work through what’s normal, what’s not, and how you can successfully approach sex with your spouse.

Should You Share Your Sexual Fantasy?

You want to what?!
Pic from THE LADY EVE (1941)

Some of you have them . . . sexual fantasies. Perhaps you’ve heard something, read something, or merely imagined something that arouses your sexual senses and gets your engine humming. In your dream world, you’d do that very thing and it would be mind-blowing pleasure.

Should you share that sexual fantasy with your spouse?

Now I’m all for honesty in marriage, but I don’t think that honesty involves sharing every single thing that crosses your mind. Husbands often figure this out before wives do, when they learn how to answer the question, “Does this make me look fat?” Indeed, the Bible tells us not to lie, but also to be careful what we say and how we say it. “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23 NLT); “Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people” (Titus 3:2 ESV).

We have a choice whether to volunteer to our mate the sexual thoughts that creep into our minds. So what should be the standard for whether we tell our spouse our sexual fantasy? Here are some things to consider.

Does it involve third persons? Your sexual energy should be focused on your spouse — both in practice and, as much as possible, in thought. Jesus said that looking at a woman lustfully rises the level of adultery (Matthew 5:28).

Of course we notice attractive people in our midst. As many have said before me, “I’m married, not dead.” But dwelling on the appearance of, or our desire for, another person becomes infidelity. We are focusing our sexual energy away from our mate and onto another.

Thus if your sexual fantasy involves a third person, it’s not one you want to share. In fact, it’s a fantasy you should shove out of your mind when it crops up. Come up with another fantasy — one that involves you and your mate exclusively.

Does it violate other commands about sexuality? Obviously, no beasts, right? (Exodus 22:19). But also no injury or degradation. These are not in keeping with the biblical commands for husbands to “love their wives as their own bodies” or for a wife to “respect her husband” (see Ephesians 5:25-33).

Consider whether you’d be asking for something that does not honor your husband and God. If so, it’s not a fantasy you want to share or act out. God is in favor of sexuality, including adventurous activities (read the Song of Songs for confirmation), but even in the bedroom, we should be treating one another with love and care.

Is it based on something you did with someone else? If you were sexually active with someone before, there will be some repeat activities. But comparisons are a no-no, as are efforts to recreate a special memory from a previous sexual relationship. So what if you liked the way that Mr. X did that one little thing eight years ago, and you wish you could do that again? Let it go.

Don’t try to make your spouse be like someone you knew before. Create new memories. Think of how your spouse can delight you in new and meaningful ways. Focus your sexual energy on your here-and-now hubby.

Are you demanding that your mate fulfill your fantasy? You might desire something that’s fine — like an unusual location or a particular sexy outfit or a new sexual activity. However, if you’re expecting to share your fantasy and demand on the spot that he meet it, take a step back. This is your sexual fantasy, not his.

You don’t have a right to demand something outside of his comfort zone and throw a fit if he doesn’t line up with your imagination. Indeed you have a right to expect sexual intimacy (1 Corinthians 7:3-5), but “extra” stuff is up for discussion, not demand. Your attitude, even in the bedroom, should be like that of Christ Jesus: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3).

If you take a loving attitude, and your request is not something sinful, you might find that over time, your spouse comes around and is willing to give it a try. If so, then your fantasy fulfilled will be even better because he’ll be “all in” and excited about the experience as well.

Are you ready to hear his fantasy? If you want him to listen to yours, you have to be willing to listen to his. You might absolutely love whatever idea he throws out, or you might cringe and think, “Holy heart-palpitations, I could never do that!!!”

But it’s only fair that you hear each other out. You don’t have to kowtow to his fantasy, but you also shouldn’t insult him for thinking of it. The idea that — for example — he wants to lay you out on your parents’ kitchen table and make you scream until the ceiling chandelier breaks shouldn’t result in you declaring that you can’t believe he would think that, and how are you supposed to go to Thanksgiving meal with your parents knowing that he wants to do that to you, and how can you ever sit at their table while thinking about how he’d like to move that basted turkey out of the way and baste you with sex juices instead!

You’re not required to do whatever his fantasy is, but listen to it, think what about it might appeal to him, and consider whether it’s something you would be willing to do or to suggest a tweaked version.

Have I shared my sexual fantasy with Spock (Mr. Hot, Holy & Humorous)? After many years of keeping it to myself, I did. In keeping with my advice about the best way to approach sexual issues, I brought up the subject away from our bedroom, while driving home after a good date. I first asked about his sexual fantasy, then shared mine.

I confess that I was nervous. But he was actually very receptive. Spock appreciated that I was thinking about our physical intimacy that way.

So what do you think? Have you shared your sexual fantasy with your spouse? Has your spouse shared one with you? How did that go? What other guidelines would you suggest for whether to share your sexual fantasies with your spouse?