Daily Archives: July 7, 2014

Do Your Spouse’s Sexual Problems Feel Personal?

In the 3 1/2 years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve become even more convinced: For the majority of people who don’t respond to sex in healthy ways, it’s not about their spouse — it’s about them. That is, it isn’t personal.

For instance, the woman who was molested as a child and now doesn’t want anything to do with sex would likely feel that way no matter whom she married. The same for the husband with a porn addiction, the low-libido / no-libido spouse, the wife who had sex-is-dirty teaching, etc.

But here’s another reality: It feels personal.

Drawn heart w/crackAfter all, this is your body, your marriage, and your marriage bed, for heaven’s sake! How can it not feel personal? It’s hard not to get ruffled and riled up — which adds to the challenge of resolving the sexual intimacy issue.

For example, even if a husband knows his wife’s resistance to unveiling her body has more to do with her own insecurities, he’s lost that viewing pleasure and sense of intimacy. So he starts to talk to his wife about the issue, but it quickly turns from reassurance to frustration to pleading to anger to resentment. Because yeah, it feels personal.

And there’s often an ongoing cycle of other’s core problem –> feels personal –> emotional pain response — > conflict or avoidance of problem . . . Which can go on for minutes, days, weeks, months, and even years in a marriage.

So how can we break out of the cycle? How can we adopt a better approach to the core sexual intimacy issue?

Engraving of Jesus healing paralyzed man

Jesus heals paralyzed man brought by four friends; Bernhard Rode via Wikimedia Commons

Pray for your spouse. Bringing someone else’s issues to the throne of God reminds you of your role. You are a mat-carrier, not the Healer. (See Luke 5:17-26.) Continue to bring your beloved’s name and issues before God and then pray for a change in his heart, a desire to seek help and healing, your own patience and wisdom, and the Spirit’s guidance in knowing what to do — what that “mat” should look like in your marriage.

Reconsider your approach. That’s exactly what the four friends of a paralyzed man did when they brought him to see Jesus and couldn’t get through the door of a crowded house. Wouldn’t it have been ridiculous for them to keep shoving against people at the front door and running into the same wall of not-gonna-happen? If what you’ve done for the last three years regarding the issue hasn’t moved the needle a millimeter, or has made things worse, why are you still doing it?

I don’t know what shift your particular situation needs, but ask what you’ve been doing and how it’s going. A good starting place is whether you’re meeting the standard of loving your spouse according to 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Are you approaching your spouse with agape love? Maybe you can make headway coming from another angle or find a better way to cope.

Find support. Whatever the issue in your marriage, I’m willing to bet you’re not alone. Some other spouse faced the same thing — and figured it out. There’s encouragement and wisdom among God’s people, so look for those who will support you in making positive progress.

Many situations seem hopeless right now (mine did at one time), but if you could see ten years down the road, you’d know there’s a revival coming. I can’t make guarantees, but I hear the testimonies fairly often and I have my own story. Look for people and resources to assist your journey toward healing and reconnection in your marriage.

Enjoy what’s going well. We tend to notice the thing that’s not right and dwell exclusively on that. Sometimes our marriage looks like this:

Pencil tips (6 sharpened, 1 broken)

And all we see is that one broken part.

Of course, a sexual intimacy problem is not a broken pencil tip. It’s way bigger than that. However, putting all of your focus on the one thing that’s wrong can give you a poor perspective of the whole and make your beloved less willing to deal with the issue. After all, if there doesn’t seem to be anything good happening in your marriage, why work on the sex stuff?

Nurture and appreciate what’s right in your marriage — the sharpened tips — and then work on what’s wrong. Take inventory of what you treasure about your spouse and your relationship and delight in that, while still addressing the issues you face. You’ll likely find yourselves having more energy and incentive to work on the problem parts when you appreciate the whole.

Remind yourself often of the we. You probably won’t get any breakthroughs or progress as long as you’re both hunkered down in the it’s-personal perspective. Instead, you get caught up listening to your own feelings instead of listening to your spouse, you become over-sensitive to anything your spouse does that exacerbates the problem, you start wondering if this person was the right pick to begin with, and/or you withdraw your heart entirely from the equation. Not a good place to be.

Yes, the problem may primarily rest with one spouse, but you’re on the same team. Marriage is a we thing. Remember “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts” (Ecclesiastes 4:9 HCSB), but only if they’re working together, not against each other. Even better is letting God weave himself through your marriage, for “A cord of three strands is not easily broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:11). Let the we be you, your spouse, and the Lord.

Does your spouse’s sexual problem feel personal? It does affect you personally. No doubt about that. But try to move beyond your emotional wounds and begin the healing of your marital intimacy.