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.