Monthly Archives: April 2014

Lighten Up! And Laugh a Little about Sex

When it comes to the marital bedroom, I honestly believe a lot of us church folks need to lighten up and learn to enjoy a smile, a chuckle, and even a big belly laugh. We can get so tightly wound about sexual issues and challenges that we fail to see the funny involved in this gift of sex from God.

What makes sex funny? Here are just a few options:

  • Um, yeah, I’m getting naked, and he can see all my stuff. Plus, there’s my potentially weird facial expressions and unusual noises coming from one’s mouth…or other places.
  • Oh, the positions we married couples get into to have sex or increase our pleasure! And has anyone else ever fallen or accidentally injured their spouse during the act?
  • Hello, having sex with kids in your house. Trying to get undisturbed time and keep the kids out of your bedroom can feel impossible in certain moments, and getting that knock on the door when you’re “busy” can bring on a laugh or two.

So in my ongoing effort to help us all lighten up and see the humorous side of married sex, today I decided to share a video clip from Christian comedian Chonda Pierce. Enjoy!

So are you able to laugh about sex in marriage? What has given you a good belly laugh?

Special Occasion Sex: Do You Have It?

It’s a special day in my house. I’m not sharing which one, but you know how it is — it could be a birthday, a wedding anniversary, a milestone for your marriage, or a day to remember something special from your past.

And it seems right somehow to have sex on that day. Because you want to celebrate in every way possible, including one of your favorite, and/or his favorite, activities. You want to experience the height of physical pleasure and the special bonding of your flesh. You may even want to step it up a notch and do something “extra” or different for a little spice on your special day. Whatever else happens, one or both of you won’t feel your day’s everything it could be unless some good sex is included.

Is that a good approach? Should you expect sex on your special occasion? How can you make it happen? Here are a few thoughts on special occasion sex.

Couple in bed sharing present

Don’t get bogged down by the schedule. It’s absolutely wonderful to plan for sexual intimacy on your special occasion day. However, we can get too pushy or freaked out about making it happen sometimes. Make it a priority, set aside time, plan for your special interlude. But if your kid unexpectedly throws up or your husband has to stay late for work or you start your cycle, don’t get bogged down into thinking your day is ruined. Be adaptable.

Declare it a birthweek instead of birthday and reschedule. Or go for a quickie or a hand job now and hold off on the other stuff until later. Focus on affection and romance instead. Be thankful that you have that kid, that job, that period (okay, maybe not as much that last one). Both your special occasion and sex should be blessings. If they can’t come together that way, see if you can renegotiate a little and find another way to achieve your goals. And if today doesn’t work out, you can have great sex tomorrow.

Prioritize it with your actions. We often talk a good game about what we want to happen: “Hey, honey, tonight’s the night!” But then we live the rest of our day without consideration for how to create the atmosphere and timing to be intimate. If you focus entirely on throwing the most incredible birthday party for your husband and every minute of the day is taken up by related tasks, how are you going to have the desire and energy to make love when the party’s over? If you’ve planned wonderful meals, sight-seeing, and romance for your anniversary trip but you didn’t bother to pack a cute nightie or necessary lube, what do your actions say about your attitude toward sex?

A lot of life happens seems to happen on auto-pilot: You work your job, do the laundry, make meals, drive to places, bathe the children, etc., and then you wake up and do it all over again. In those hours or minutes that are truly ours, however, we have choices about what we do. If you or your husband wants sex for that special occasion, you need to spend that precious time preparing. That could mean preparing the bed, preparing yourself mentally or with supplies (lingerie, lube, game, etc.), preparing childcare so you and hubby can have alone time, preparing by carving out time for a restive nap so you can stay awake that night, and so on. Make it a priority — not just on your lips, but in your choices on that special occasion day.

Make it special. Special occasions deserve special sex, right? If you can execute it, absolutely! But what constitutes “special sex”? Many wives would define “special sex” as slow, romantic, meaningful…while many husbands would hear “special sex” and think out-of-the-box, spicy, exciting. These aren’t mutually exclusive by any means, but consider both of you when deciding what will make your special occasion sex even more special.

Ideally, both husband and wife are attending to one another’s needs and interests (Philippians 2:3-4) — making sure the other is aroused and satisfied with the lovemaking. But you can also build into your day whatever will help you feel special and intimate. So this is the time to break out the candles and flower petals, the marital intimacy playlist, the gift certificates, the sexy lingerie, or whatever gets you more attuned to your sexual arousal and to your mate. Be willing to try something a little different — maybe a special location or position or activity. Go a bit above and beyond, because yeah, it’s a special day. Worthy of some special lovemaking.

Keep it going. Unfortunately, sometimes I hear a husband say he gets birthday sex and then he doesn’t get anything for a Very. Long. Time. That doesn’t make the sex feel special, but rather obligatory. And duty sex is not what anyone really wants. If your sexual intimacy has been sagging, maybe this special occasion is an opportunity to launch a better, more intimate sex life for your marriage. Whatever sex you had that was fabulous on your special occasion, add it your regular repertoire! Keep it going.

Nothing says that special must only happen on special occasions. Husbands reading this, yes, that means you can give your wife flowers anytime — not just on Valentine’s. And wives, you can prioritize sex or give it added oomph anytime — not just on your anniversary or his birthday. When you make sex special in your marriage all the time, having it on a special occasion is an outgrowth of your deep physical intimacy. It’s still extra and wonderful and meaningful, but it’s also simply part of who you are as a married couple. As it should be.

So what special occasions are you celebrating soon? How do you include sex as part of your marital celebration of the event?

Is Depression Impacting Your Sexual Intimacy?

Being completely transparent here, I’ve had a personal struggle with depression. For whatever reason, my physiology tends toward depression when stressors congregate in my life. I’ve previously described the one time in my life when my sex life sucked, and looking back I suspect mild postpartum depression played a role.

I’ve had a couple of other temporary battles with this frustrating mood disorder, so I’m at least familiar with how it feels to be depressed.* And it’s not the same as being sad. It’s a whole body experience of fatigue, disruption of body rhythms (like sleep), and loss of interest in things you’d normally do. Including sex.

Indeed, a lack of desire for sex is often a symptom of depression. Plenty of married couples have experienced this connection of one spouse’s lack of libido and their depression or an even-milder form called dysthymia. Depression can negatively impact your sexual intimacy.

Depressed woman in bedroom

So what’s a depressed person or the married couple to do? How can they deal with the effects of depression on their sex life?

Exercise. Exercise is a natural way to get those feel-good chemicals pumping through your system. If you’re depressed, add a regular walk or exercise routine to your day. If you’re married to someone who’s depressed, suggest taking a walk or riding bikes or hiking or playing a sport together. Find a way to engage physically.

Exercise not only helps the depression, but it’s been shown to increase libido. It raises your energy levels, your stamina, and — some might even say — your bedroom performance. Moreover, getting in shape helps you feel better about the body you share with your beloved.

Talk it out. A quality counselor can address both the depression and your libido. Now, hear me when I say “quality counselor.” I’m sorry to say that some people receive ineffective therapy. Now if the first auto mechanic you went to didn’t fix your car, you wouldn’t give up on all auto repairs, would you? So if the first counselor you try isn’t helping after a few sessions, find someone else. There are many wonderful counselors, and a few bad ones. Find one who helps you talk through the roots of your problems but also gives you tools to address your current issues.

A quality counselor should be willing to talk about how your mood impacts your marriage bed and give you suggestions for addressing the problems you face. If you don’t know where to find someone, ask your pastor for recommendations or query friends and family. Look online for Christian therapy offices in your area. Oftentimes, a church in your area will have a counseling center on site.

Medication. One option is antidepressants, and it’s an option chosen by many. Sometimes we see this as a personal weakness. However, some bodies simply lack proper regulation of certain chemicals — like those with an inherited propensity toward high blood pressure or diabetes. It’s not a lack of internal fortitude or spiritual faith to take medication to treat a physical problem. So an antidepressant may be a good choice.

However, antidepressants come with their own challenges for the marital bedroom. The most commonly prescribed pills are SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which regulate serotonin levels). One side effect of SSRIs is lack of sexual sensitivity — making it harder to become stimulated, maintain arousal, and achieve climax. So the antidepressant might help your libido while lowering your full experience of pleasure. There could be other pill options with less of this side effect. However, each individual will have to decide what the right balance is and if medication is a good choice.

Do it anyway. If your libido has taken a tumble because of depression, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy physical intimacy when you engage. One of the worst things a depressed person can do is hide away from the world and wallow in their melancholy mood. Instead, take extra effort to step out and do things you’ve enjoyed doing before, and your memories of pleasure may kick in and help improve your spirits.

This includes receiving affection and pleasure from your spouse. That level of touch and connection can be reassuring in the face of feeling off-kilter in other areas of your life. Keep sex a priority, doing your best to engage and enjoy.

Prioritize affection. Speaking of that affection, couples with a depressed spouse may need to focus more on physical touch. Cuddling, kissing, and stroking release endorphins and Oxytocin which lead to a sense of joy and contentment. Extending foreplay can get a depressed person more engaged in sexual activity. Also, spend extra time in afterglow, holding one another and reinforcing those feelings of pleasure. Quickies may not work well for those stuck in a period of depression.

If your spouse is depressed, hang in there and help them through. They aren’t trying to feel bad on purpose, and they need their lover to stick with them through this tough time. Be patient and affectionate.

Remember your vows. Depression is like any other challenge to your sexual intimacy — tough but surmountable. You two promised “in sickness and in health, for better or for worse….” Depression could be that sickness and that worse. If your spouse is depressed, stay on the same team and fight the depression together.

Likewise, covenant marriage includes a promise to be sexually available and engaged with one another. So depression doesn’t give someone an out from sexual intimacy in their marriage. Rather, it’s a challenge to be addressed and resolved or managed. You can have a very satisfying sex life, even if one of you struggles with depression at times.

Has your sexual intimacy been impacted by depression? How have you managed? Where do you continue to struggle?

*Just so you know, I’m currently doing fine. 🙂 But I have experienced depression before.

Two to Tango, Two to Change Your Sexual Intimacy

Couple dancingSome wives admit to mishandling sexual intimacy in their marriage and now want to make a change. In fact, they’ve started changing. They are approaching the marriage bed with a better attitude and attempting to make behavioral adjustments that show a greater willingness to work on physical intimacy.

So why isn’t it working? Why is he not responding with enthusiasm? Didn’t he say that’s what he wanted?

I’d been meaning to talk about this subject and then Sheila Gregoire wrote a wonderful post on How Do You Reset Your Sex Life? I encourage you to read it.

But I also recently addressed this with a reader who shared her own story. And my answer included this tidbit:

From what I’ve seen, making a change requires time for both parties:

  • One spouse decides to change, but needs time and intentionality and practice to create a new habit.
  • Then the other spouse needs time and repeated confirmation to believe that this change is real and permanent.

I suspect couples give up too soon on one or the other of these…before the positive effects of a new approach can be felt and appreciated.

The spouse who changes. This is the first part of any lasting change — the spouse who decides to change their dance steps. It can be either spouse and it can be in any way that affects the marriage bed. Maybe the wife has been a sexual refuser. Maybe the husband has neglected affection and romance. Maybe the wife has withheld letting her husband see her body. Maybe the husband has been watching pornography or even playing video games instead of making love with his wife. It can be any infraction — small to large — that a spouse now realizes she should change.

So the change begins. This is difficult stuff, because it typically involves a shift in both attitude and behavior. When you first try to break out of the mold and do something different, it can feel awkward and vulnerable. But you give it your best shot, alter your approach, and step out of your comfort zone.

It won’t be enough to do this once or twice, though. If you want to change the sexual intimacy in your marriage, you have to create a new habit. You have to practice this new attitude and behavior until it becomes a part of you and your marriage. And it can be easy to give up too soon.

Like trying out new dance moves, you can stumble your first time out. You might feel “sore” emotionally (or even physically) afterward. Your commitment can waiver. Is this really such a good idea? How quickly can I reap the reward? Is this worth the extra effort?

Here’s the tough Christian truth: Whether or not your spouse ever responds appropriately to your more godly attitude toward sexual intimacy, you still have the obligation to do what’s right for your marriage. It’s the example set by Jesus — to love and put others first (see Philippians 2:1-11 and 1 John 4:19).

Hang in there and keep going when you’ve decided to make the right change. God will bless you for your faithfulness, although it may be in unexpected ways. However, your marriage may simply need time to adjust to the new you to begin to live into more God-honoring sexual intimacy.

The spouses who responds. Just as one dance partner can change steps, the other may choose to follow or stay put. If your spouse has suddenly changed, it can be unsettling. Your first response might be eagerness and encouragement, but it could also be nervousness and suspicion.

After all, why the change? Are they trying to manipulate you for some other purpose? Is there something they’re hiding? Is this simply a fluke? You may want to tamp down any excitement, because you can’t stand the thought of falling so hard again; you’ve had your hopes up before, and having them dashed is too painful. As Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.”

It usually takes time for the receiving spouse to believe this change is really happening, that it’s not for some ulterior motive, that it could become permanent. Experts say it takes maybe 28 days to create a new habit, and maybe it takes that many times of your husband not rejecting you or your wife trying different positions or activities to believe that a shift has really occurred.

So what’s your Christian duty here? Be patient, loving, forgiving. Realize that your spouse is trying to change and help them through. It may not be a seamless transition to a new pattern of sexual intimacy for your marriage. Your wife or husband may mess up, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t sincere or that you won’t reach a better destination together. It can be a struggle to stick with it, but in Luke 17:14 Jesus says, “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.” So your job is to hang in there with your spouse, continuing to be the husband or wife you should be.

Changing together. I truly believe many couples give up too soon along this journey. We’re impatient to receive the rewards of our efforts. Maybe that’s why there are so many farming references in the Bible about sowing and reaping! People in an agricultural society would have certainly understood the time-lapse between planting and harvest — and in between, cultivation and care are needed.

My own analogy has been dance steps. It takes two to tango and two to change. If one of you introduces new dance steps, it takes a bit for the other to pick up on them. And then it takes even more time to practice the dance and make it part of your repertoire. The change isn’t immediate. It takes time.

But in a covenant marriage, you have time. Use it.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,

but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 13:12

Another recommended article on this topic: I‘m Changing But My Husband Doesn’t Seem to Notice from Forgiven Wife

How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse

So you see sex differently in your marriage? So at least one of you is incredibly frustrated? You know you need to talk, but you’re nervous about bringing it up or simply can’t imagine how another conversation won’t become another argument.

I can’t give you a “Guaranteed to Work or Your Money Back” promise, but I can give you some advice on how to increase the odds you’ll actually experience progress. Mind you, progress is not immediate resolution. Some problems have quick fixes, some don’t. But almost all of them can be resolved with two willing spouses.

And what you ultimately want to do in a conversation about sex is get the two of you willing to work on whatever ails the marriage bed.

Man and Woman Talking

Choose a good time and place. I’ve reiterated maybe a hundred times on this blog that bringing up your frustrations about sex right before or right after you make love or get rejected is not likely to go well. Your tension and desire and vulnerability are all very high, so poking at a sensitive subject may bring out the defense mechanisms or offensive fire for one or both of you.

Instead, get away from the bedroom. It can be your living room, a secluded area in a nearby park, a corner table at a restaurant, a neighborhood sidewalk as you walk together, etc. Simply consider your location, opting for a place that is either neutral or — better yet — positive for both of you. Also pick a time that’s conducive for discussion. Attempting to discuss problems when one of you is stressed or weary or angry won’t lead to effective listening and problem-solving. Set aside time and do your best to find which part of the day or week is most likely to result in calm conversation.

Ask questions and listen to answers. Most of the time when we’re distressed, we feel a deep need to get our own issues of our chest. We want to “clear the air,” “tell you how I really feel,” and “be completely honest with you.” All that’s well and good, but what you need from the conversation is not a vent session but to figure out what your spouse is thinking and feeling. You already know what you believe, but — even if you think you’ve heard it a million times — you probably don’t fully understand where they’re coming from, why they feel that way, what their fears and hurts and dreams and desires are. And that’s what you need to uncover.

So you have to ask questions, then get out of the way and let them answer. Get comfortable with silence even, because it may take some spouses a little while to gather their thoughts and their gumption to say what they want to say.

Consider how you express your concerns. Want more frequent sex? You aren’t likely to get it by saying things like:

  • “There’s something wrong that you don’t want sex more.” [Translation: There’s something wrong with YOU.]
  • “I’m a man! I need to have sex more!” [Translation: It’s not about intimacy, just a physical need.]
  • “If I’d known you didn’t want sex, I wouldn’t have married you.” [Translation: I don’t really love you; it’s just about the sex.]

Have people said stuff like this? Oh yeah, definitely. Did it work? Maybe they got some duty sex, but it doesn’t work in the long-term and it builds resentment for one spouse and dissatisfaction for the other. It isn’t true sexual intimacy.

Focus instead of what the sex means for the marriage. Why do you want to have it with your spouse so very much? Express that deeper need and desire. Yes, it feels good, but if it were only about a physical release of tension, let’s face it: You could do that yourself. Instead, you desire to be one with your spouse. Figure out how to communicate that.

Talk about what you want your sex life to look like, rather than bringing out a list of perceived offenses. Look ahead to a positive, progressing future for your marriage bed, rather than dwelling on problems in the past.

Ask for baby steps. If you’ve been having sex once a month and you expect to start having it every day, you need to dial back your expectations. Yes, I know you feel like you’re in a sexual desert and a spoonful of intimacy isn’t nearly enough. However, change takes time. Talk to people who have quit smoking or drinking or lost a lot of weight, and they’ll tell you it happened day by day, decision by decision. Prioritize moving in the right direction, and over time you can make a lot of progress.

Ask to add an additional sexual encounter to your regular routine. Encourage her to try one new position. Request he spend a few more minutes in foreplay. Purchase together one sexual aid (lubricant, game, etc.) to try. Celebrate small successes and improve your sexual intimacy bit by bit. Being married has the distinct advantage of a long period of time to make huge strides in fostering intimacy — but they’re made step by step.

So those are a few tips for addressing sexual problems in your marriage. What have you found that works? What challenges do you still face in getting your spouse to discuss sexual issues?