I was recently conversing with a Christian counselor friend about how anger is a secondary emotion. It typically stems from another, hidden emotion — such as fear. So when a spouse reacts with more anger than expected, perhaps the topic or situation has tapped into a place of fear.
That’s where some marriages are regarding sexual intimacy. The topic evokes frustration, resentment, and anger by husband, wife, or both. Maybe it’s even taboo to discuss what’s wrong with their marriage bed, because the subject is so volatile and brings forth a stream of fury or a determined exit or a shutdown of all conversation. There’s no progress in dealing with sexual problems because any attempts result in anger. Which at its core may really be fear.
What are your sexual fears?
Here are some common ones for wives:
Fear of vulnerability. Sex requires such vulnerability for a woman. We reveal our bodies in nakedness, showing our most delicate parts. Our husbands are typically stronger and could take control, so we must rely on him to treat our body with gentleness and love. Also, we’re on the receiving end of intercourse, penetrated by his manhood. All of which can leave a wife feeling incredibly exposed — which can be scary. A wife may react by raising a protective barrier to shut out at least some part of the sexual experience.
Learn to trust. For the vast majority of wives, your husband adores you and will treat you with great care. He may need coaching on how to approach you and your body, but you can help him through. Only when we are vulnerable can we also feel that intimate physical connection of being one flesh in the marriage bed.
Fear of being a “bad girl.” Unfortunately, plenty of well-meaning churches and parents preached such a strong message of “good girls don’t,” that a sense of sex being dirty remains even after the I Do’s. A wife may avoid thinking about or having sex because, at some level, she feels encouraging or enjoying this act makes her a bad girl. Or she might engage but believe that sex is for him. She can’t allow herself to fully enjoy the gift of sex from God because she equates it with indulging the flesh rather than the spirit.
Redefine purity in your mind. God created sex, and it is pure and holy and good in marriage. Study His Word and discover the huge difference between sexual sin (Satan’s twisting of God’s gift) and marital intimacy. God has blessed the latter with His stamp of approval: “Eat, friends, and drink; drink your fill of love” (Solomon 5:1).
Fear of being used for sex. Wives with higher-drive husbands can fear that sex is all he cares about, especially if he pursues it regularly and assertively. It’s difficult to grasp how connected love and sex are for him. Rather, these wives simply experience ongoing sexual requests, ogling, groping, etc. that makes them fear they’re being used for sex, rather than valued as a person.
Understand where he’s coming from. If affection or conversation mean a great deal to you, and he accused you of using him to get it, you’d likely feel offended. Of course you want affection and conversation, but you specifically want it from him. It’s same for him with sex. Sex is immensely meaningful and satisfying because it’s with you — the woman he loves.
Fear of not being “enough.” Wives can resist being open in the bedroom because they fear not being “enough.” She doesn’t feel her body measures up to other women or what she’d like to offer, or she isn’t sure she can do that sexual activity he requested, or she doesn’t know if she’s a good lover, or she still feels awkward and uncertain about sexual intimacy. These fears can plague a wife so much it’s easier to avoid or downplay the situation altogether. Who wants to attempt something they expect to fail at doing?
Give yourself grace. Whatever you feel you lack is either unnecessary or can be learned. You don’t need to have the perfect body to be visually and tactically arousing to your husband. You can learn new moves (see my book Sex Savvy). You can coach each other to improving your pleasure and peaks. You are enough to have satisfying sex and deep intimacy.
Fear of repeating a negative past. Plenty of women experienced sex as a negative event in their past. Whether from sexual abuse or mistreatment or promiscuity or physical pain, bad memories can wedge themselves into our brains and our guts such that any sexual activity can reawaken fear.
That was then, this is now. Recognize your husband is not that person who hurt you. He holds your heart close to his own and wants to protect and pleasure you. If you need outside help, see a physician or your pastor or a counselor. Practice new scripts in your head, reminding yourself over and over that sex with your husband can be positive and God-honoring.
Fear of losing control. Many wives live day after day trying to get control of our schedules, our children, our emotions, etc., so losing control in the bedroom can be frightening. It can be scary to consider the full range of arousal and excitement sex could evoke. Moreover, you may need to shift your body into unusual positions to increase your pleasure or you might make odd faces or release noises when you let go of your inhibitions and simply enjoy. Should we really allow ourselves to go there?
Release your inhibitions. Go crazy, girlfriend! Yes, it can be scary, but it’s a bit like the first time you raise your hands in a roller coaster. Once you learn the pure joy of waving your arms and screaming at the top of your lungs as you plunge downward, you never want the grip the rail again. (Or at least I didn’t.) You get the point. You won’t lose control of yourself by letting go. Rather, you’ll discover a different side of yourself — one that’s itching to get out and have a little more fun.
If you’re frustrated and angry about sexual issues in your marriage, ask if there’s a core fear that sexual intimacy prods? Can you address the fear and find a way to embrace God’s plan for sex in your marriage?
Remember that “perfect love drives out fear” (John 4:18). God’s love is perfect, and your husband’s love will support you as well.
23 thoughts on “What Are Your Sexual Fears?”
“Sex is immensely meaningful and satisfying because it’s with you — the woman he loves.”
I feel like I’m having sex with my husband AND all the women he has noticed, to whom he’s been attracted, by whom he’s been aroused, etc. They are in his mind and therefore present during what is supposed to be an intimate experience exclusively for us. I worry that he can only reach orgasm when he imagines being with someone else.
“Release your inhibitions.”
I fear that if I surrender to orgasm in my husband’s presence, all the women in his mind can see me. He has imagined them doing what I’m about to do. I don’t feel safe. I feel like a child being told to go play in heavy traffic.
“He holds your heart close to his own…”
He is not holding my heart because I check it at the bedroom door. Why would anyone bring their heart into a minefield such as the bedroom?
It is sad that you feel that way, IntimacySeeker. J wrote an essay a few weeks back on talking with your spouse about sexual problems. Humans are not perfect. But, that is not a very good reason for not making the effort to help solve or at least lessen the severity of problems. There can be healing and trust can be regained if both spouses make some effort. More communication, open and honest, can help. Yes, love involves risks. The risk of being hurt is always there. Consider that risks are inherent in living in this fallen, imperfect world.
This is a very insightful essay, J. This will likely help many readers. Thanks for writing it.
@LarryB I don’t hear you denying that you fantasize about other women when you have sex with your wife. I am doing the healing work of which you speak, but it is slow going. My post is an attempt to name the brutal realities that I, and perhaps other women, face in the bedroom. We can’t heal if we don’t name our fears.
Hey, IntimacySeeker. The pain in your comment is so real and intense. I’m saddened that you feel this way about an act that should be pleasurable and intimate with your husband.
I wondered from what you said if he has told you these things — that your husband thinks about other women — or if he pays attention to other women in front of you. That is, where is your sense that he is fantasizing about other women coming from? If he’s made that clear, my heart aches for you. But if you’re assuming that his past and other women around have a bearing on how he sees you, it probably doesn’t so much. Husbands are far more likely to concentrate on their wives, especially during intercourse. If you’re the one he chose, loves, and gets to be with, that’s likely where his focus is.
I pray you don’t check your heart at the door, but rather that doors open for you and your husband to experience the full measure of sexual intimacy. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Thank you for the encouragement. On what research do you base this statement: “Husbands are far more likely to concentrate on their wives, especially during intercourse. If you’re the one he chose, loves, and gets to be with, that’s likely where his focus is.”
I wish I could cite a study for this, but my statement is the culmination of lots of reading on this subject and hearing from numerous husbands. I don’t say this is a guarantee, but I do stand by the assertion that it’s “far more likely.” Unless the doubt is based in evidence, I encourage trusting a husband when he says his mind is on his wife.
My assumption is based on what I have read, my own need for security, and my analytical thinking patterns.
IF a man can’t not notice other women AND those images get recorded in his mind AND those images reappear involuntarily AND husband tends to keep his eyes closed during sex AND husband prefers positions where wife’s face is not in view…you see where I’m going with this process.
Also, it feels more secure to accept this than to believe otherwise and be hurt later.
I’m not sure how it makes you feel more secure to worry about something that might not be true about your husband. By the way, as for positions where the wife’s face is not in view, there could be other reasons — like more friction or deeper penetration from other angles and other beautiful views of your body (which hubby might not get to see at other times, so it’s a special treat then). I’m not saying it is that or that your husband isn’t thinking about others — but assuming the worst without confirmation isn’t likely helping your relationship or your own sexual confidence. Maybe you can lovingly ask your own husband sometime — outside the bedroom — how he handles images of other women and why he prefers certain positions. Sometimes I’m surprised (happily) by my own husband’s answers to questions about our sexuality when he explains his male point of view.
Is this something he is actually guilty of, or are you projecting your own insecurities onto him?
This post hit so close to home. I’ve been dealing with insecurity the past few weeks and at times have even felt like I’m going crazy. It’s fear- irrational fear. You identified several of what I have been feeling. Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone. I needed this post tonight.
Glad to know it touched you, LH. Hang in there, because it can take a while to address our fears head-on and find peace. Blessings!
What if it’s fear of not being enough because you were pure but he wasn’t?
What if he compares me to her? What I’m not as good or never will be? What if I’m just less attractive to him than she was?
How do you let go of those fears?
Obviously God wants you to forgive. Obviously it doesn’t help the marriage to think like that. But what if you can’t help it?
What if every time he doesn’t seem interested, those thoughts are summoned?
What if you can’t? What if you believe them? Because what if they’re true?
Yes, you fight those fears. Mainly through his reassurances, your own positive self-talk, and your value according to God.
Speaking as someone who entered marriage with a past, there may be times when a former lover passes through a spouse’s head. But that’s quite different from dwelling or choosing or comparing the one you love and chose to some less-than experience from before.
You don’t have to be a “good lover” to be the meaningful and satisfying sexual partner your husband desires. For one thing, that former person doesn’t have his heart — you do. Then, you’re the one he gets to see, touch, enjoy right here, right now…and for the rest of his lifetime. That counts for quite a lot. Moreover, you have entered a relationship where your sex is not judged by what moves you perform or how “good” you are, but rather how well you fit together — exploring and learning and pleasuring one another. Your sex life will look quite different from anything he had before, because it’s the joining of these two unique people who have committed in marriage and have time and desire to figure one another out sexually and grow together.
I can honestly say that any stray thoughts I might have had earlier in our marriage are totally gone. I barely even remember anyone else, because sexually-speaking, my husband is the center of my universe. You can build that. Give him grace, reassure yourself, and nurture the sexual intimacy God wants to bless you with.
Not to contradict, but I think the only truly effective weapon is God’s word — reassurances from another human being and our own positive self-talk can too easily be overrun by our own negative self-talk and there’s no basis in reality when that occurs — we are subject to whichever voice can speak the loudest. “Take every thought captive” — I believe this means bring it under the authority of God’s Word. Be immersed in the Word, ask God to show you how He will combat this challenge by the power of the Holy Spirit. I do think this can include evidence of your husband’s love, ways in which he has proven himself over time as well as ways in which you are being unfair to judge him based on your own insecurities.
I think we actually agree more than it might seem. Because any self-talk should be based on the Word of God. I’m able to remind myself of my value because I know what the Creator says about me.
I’m glad we were saying the same thing!
I fear his lack of generosity, effort and desire for my pleasure…and yes, he’s made it verbally and physically known to me. He rarely brings me to climax. I have to do it myself.
When there is deliberate neglect or rejection in the marital bedroom, that can signal a bigger issue in the marriage. I’d encourage you to seek counseling or pastoring or mentoring to see how you can approach the issues you’re facing. My heart goes out to you. Blessings!
Thanks J and S.
I know a lot of what I get mad at him for comes from my own insecurity about myself.
How do I convince myself that I need only to be worthy in God’s eyes- no one else’s..?
I know a lot of times I get caught up in trying to find security in how other people see me.. Their approval.
When people think I’m smart, and beautiful, and strong, that’s how I feel. When I get the sense that I am thought of as uncaring, unattractive, rude, or anything bad- it brings me to such a low…
How do I let go of my insecurity and give it to God? How do I find peace in the way He seems me- through Jesus’ eyes..? As clean and worthy because I’m a child of His?..
Be straight up with me. Because I know the way I have been feeling and acting isn’t right.
Beverly of Intentionally Yours Marriage had a great post relating to some of this: She Ain’t Right, Bless Her Heart. Also, I’d encourage you to mark or memorize some relevant scripture and when you start feeling those fears and insecurities creep up, recite them to yourself and/or pray for God’s perspective of your value. Some great scriptures in this regard include Psalm 139:13-16, Psalm 45:11a (it’s a wedding song), Song of Songs 4:7, 1 Peter 3:3-4, Proverbs 5:19. It may take time to create a new habit of seeing yourself as cherished and beautiful, but keep at it and I believe you’ll begin to feel more secure in the love of your Heavenly Father and your husband.
J- every since getting married less than two rates ago I have [experienced] a vibrant and dark feelings against myself and my husband. The fear and pain I feel (and guilt) as being the high drive wife to a hand you feels no need for Dec at all can be excruciating.
I find it difficult to believe him when I ask if he enjoyed our love making when he says yes, because another time I had asked How it feels for him, he started he simply”feels”. Of I ask more in depth, if it felt good, he days “I don’t know”. I know I’m not the only one who feels dirty and awful for desiring to have Dec with their husband often. The pain hits me emotionally, possible, and spiritually–I often feel lost and angry and I don’t want to be angry at me or my Buisman anymore–especially at God for making me this way, but most of all for punishing me by setting me in my worst fear of all by being turned down by a low drove hand. I don’t know what to do.
J – Great post! I’m sending husbands over to learn from this one.
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