Today’s email from a reader is short, but packed with issues. This wife has faced several struggles with sex and worries that she’s going to be stuck with these problems forever.
I’ve been struggling through theses past few months breaking down mental and physical blocks towards sex. I guess I should probably start at the beginning. Three years ago my husband and I got married and we were both virgins. The whole time we dated I would shut down any feelings I would get of arousal, I felt a lot of shame for those feelings. By the time we made it to our wedding bed I had essentially made myself react a-sexually. I felt nothing, well, I felt pain. A lot of pain that worsened each time we had sex. Fast forward to a few months ago (I had a baby) and I couldn’t stand penetration, it hurt so bad. Turns out the physical side of my problems was Vaginismus. I’ve been treated and now I’m slowly getting to the point where I don’t feel guilty for having or asking for sex anymore. I’m still breastfeeding but I’m worried that even after I stop my hormones won’t work. I can’t even remember what it feels like to be aroused, I haven’t even had an orgasm (during sex) which has been a disappointment for my husband. Do I need to wait until I stop breastfeeding to see if my hormones are messed up and that’s why it seems like nothing is working? I’m worried I’m going to be stuck this way forever.
Let’s start with the good news. You desire something better, and you’re seeking treatment for one of your sexual issues. That’s wonderful. Because some spouses, faced with deep challenges, simply throw up their hands and give up. Instead, you realize something is missing and it’s worth seeking sexual intimacy for him, for you, and for your marriage.
Anyone experiencing pain during intercourse should visit the doctor, explain the issue, and request a physical examination. There are several legitimate reasons why sex might hurt, but there are also answers. Seek treatment quickly and persistently so you can move toward the sexual intimacy God wants you to have in your marriage.
In this reader’s case, it’s vaginismus — the involuntarily tensing of muscles in the vagina, which makes it painful or impossible to have intercourse. It is a treatable condition, and Sheila Wray Gregoire wrote well on this topic: Wifey Wednesday: When Sex Hurts.
Now let’s deal with the other issues.
Shame about arousal. The reader writes: “The whole time we dated I would shut down any feelings I would get of arousal, I felt a lot of shame for those feelings. By the time we made it to our wedding bed I had essentially made myself react a-sexually.” Unfortunately, some women have received so many don’t-have-sex messages that they mistake their God-given sexuality for sinfulness. Even when they simply feel aroused, they experience shame.
The purity message in the Church can be so strong we end up communicating not only that good girls don’t, but good girls don’t even think about it. That’s entirely unrealistic and unsupported by Scripture. Rather, God created our bodies to respond in sensual ways to the one we love but commanded we express those feelings in the right context — the marriage bed.
The way to combat the shame you’ve felt is to consistently replace it with truth, retraining your thoughts to line up with God’s plan. Reading biblically based blogs and books about Christian sexuality can help, but the Scriptures themselves are the best place to go for ultimate truth. Read the Song of Songs through more than once, and consider that God, the Creator of sex, made sure that book was in His Holy Word. My devotional book, Intimacy Revealed, specifically walks wives through scriptures that relate to sex in the marriage bed, showing how God designed us to experience pleasurable sensations and physical intimacy with our spouses.
When you begin to feel shame or tension, remind yourself of God’s goodness and His generosity when it comes to sex. Purity is no sex outside of marriage, not no sex at all. A wife having amazing sex in her marriage is absolutely pure.Purity is no sex outside of marriage, not no sex at all. A wife having amazing sex in her marriage is absolutely pure. Click To Tweet
Role of hormones. Hormones definitely affect arousal and pleasure. Certain times of the month are easier to engage than others, and pregnancy and breastfeeding years can be challenging to one’s libido and sexual response.
That said, hormones aren’t everything. Usually, when a woman’s hormones are in the way, it means that sexual engagement requires more effort, but it can be done. You might not have an independent sex drive, but you can get turned on and awaken your drive in the moment. It might take more foreplay to get things going. You might need additional lubrication. Certain positions might be more comfortable than others.
Likewise, breastfeeding can lower your libido, but it shouldn’t keep your body from responding sexually unless something else is going on. I experienced too-low estrogen while nursing, and once that was remedied, I was fine. So if you think breastfeeding is messing with your sexuality, talk to your doctor.
Your marital intimacy shouldn’t have to wait for months on end until everything is back to “normal.” Look for ways to engage sexually now.
Elusive arousal. Who wants to have sex without being aroused? I suspect the answer is nobody, but I can state with certainty — not me and not you. Quality arousal is key to experiencing satisfying sexual intimacy with your husband.
How can you rediscover the sensation of arousal? Some of your issues are indeed physical and you’re addressing them, so let’s talk about other ways to foster responsiveness. I suggest reading my post on preparing for sex, which might help you get in the right frame of mind. With some anticipation and preparation, you can begin to awaken your senses.
You can also engage in foreplay that focuses on the five senses. For instance, ask him to apply massage oil or lotion all over your body, and let that experience relax you. Close your eyes, and let him touch you lightly up and down your arms and legs, then your torso, and moving toward your private areas. He can use his hands, just fingers, or something soft like a feather.
When you’re engaged in sexual activity, try to block out anything other than the sensations your body is experiencing. Okay, don’t block out your husband, but you know what I mean. We wives can have wandering minds, and you’ll enjoy lovemaking more if you attend exclusively to your interaction.
You might also feel more engaged looking directly into your husband’s eyes or communicating verbally during sex. Some wives respond more to these reminders that sex in marriage goes beyond physical pleasure into the realm of intense intimacy.
Feel free to speak up for what your body desires or reposition his hands or mouth where you think it will feel good. If something doesn’t feel good, speak up then too. Make it clear to your husband that you’re learning too, and you want to figure out together what will make you more enthusiastic about making love.
And breathe. Just breathe. One of the best things you can do is when you start having sensations, slowly exhale. That will relax your body and help you lean into the pleasure.
Absent orgasm. You stated you cannot orgasm, then put in parentheses during sex. Does that mean you can reach orgasm through foreplay? If so, that’s great! It’s more difficult for women to climax during intercourse, because it’s stimulation of the clitoris — direct or indirect — that results in orgasm. In foreplay, your husband can hone in on that target and stimulate you into ecstasy. Having him inside may not allow sufficient stimulation of your clitoris to get you to that peak of pleasure.
If you want to orgasm during intercourse, here are some tips:
- Request more time in foreplay, getting yourself very close to orgasm when he penetrates. You might even want to go ahead and have a single orgasm before intercourse. It can be easier to reach climax after you’ve almost-climaxed or climaxed before.
- Try other sexual positions. Angling your hips or having him move up toward your chest can increase his body’s contact with your clitoris. Some wives also do better with rear entry positions. Just give different positions a shot and see what feels good.
- Ask him to continue touching your clitoris during intercourse. This is easier in certain sexual positions, like woman-on-top, where he can easily view the area.
- Stroke your own clitoris while he thrusts. You can apply the right kind of touch and pressure to yourself, and many husbands enjoy seeing their wives so into the experience.
But if you don’t orgasm during intercourse, don’t sweat it. Just enjoy the ones you have and keep trying. If you think you might orgasm during sex, and it doesn’t happen, ask him to continue to pleasure you to climax after he finishes. Many husbands are willing to keep going until their wife is fully satisfied. Over time, you may figure out how to orgasm during intercourse. In the meantime, enjoy what you have.
Eternity feeling. When you’re in the midst of hardship, and it doesn’t abate quickly, it can feel like you’ll be there forever. Just read these poignant verses from the Psalm 44:22-26, as the psalmist pleads with God:
Wake up, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Get up! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you look the other way?
Why do you ignore our suffering and oppression?
We collapse in the dust,
lying face down in the dirt.
Rise up! Help us!
Ransom us because of your unfailing love.
That sounds pretty hopeless, right? But if you’re calling out to God and both seeking answers, your current situation won’t last forever.
However, you might be there longer than you wish. Actually, you already have.
Still, remain faithful to pursuing God’s design for your marriage. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” God is with you in this journey, and you can nurture your sexual intimacy. Just don’t give up.
14 thoughts on “Q&A with J: “I Can’t Remember What It Feels Like to Be Aroused””
Great article! For me, it’s almost impossible to orgasm a second time, and I’ve found that if I come to the brink during foreplay and then switch to intercourse (being on top with my heels under his knees is usually my choice–sometimes almost rocking backwards and forwards), I have a very intense orgasm, and my husband loves every part of it. But, it’s not every time, and it took a couple years for me to figure out the best angle.
There are probably a combination of things going on but I want to suggest that nursing hormones can impact arousal MUCH more than you think!! My third kiddo is 20 months now (still nursing) but for the better part of that first year, arousal was almost impossible, and orgasm WAS impossible, no matter the method. It didn’t matter what we tried. I have always been highly orgasmic and responsive, so I knew it was breastfeeding. It kept improving little by little so I did not seek medical attention for it, but if it continued much longer I would have.
I won’t sugar coat it; it was a very difficult time. I have always been a sex positive person but I realized how easy it is to be sex positive when you enjoy sex tremendously. So what about when sex doesn’t feel like much of anything or is painful? It was hard, but I am actually very thankful we experienced this, because it forced us to grow deeper in our sexuality to realize it is about so much more than pleasure. My hubby had to let go of the fact that I could not orgasm nor did I want to try and the pressure to do so was ruining intimacy, that I could still enjoy being with him even if I didn’t feel much pleasure. We also spent a lot more time focusing on physical touch and connecting that way, though we still made regular sexual encounters a priority too. A lot of the time that meant showering together. To have that physical connection and a happy ending for him, to talk and to kiss and to wash one another. It was a very tender time that was very special to me. We had to learn that sex is about INTIMACY first and foremost.
And now at 20 month postpartum, things have improved physically and I would say things are so much BETTER than ever before because of the depth of our shared times together as well as the pleasure we don’t take for granted. It was very hard, but I am thankful we went through it. It also gave me time to realize how much my own sexual past was influencing my present and to work through those issues…
So I share because I invite this writer to do the same. Take this time to focus on intimacy over pleasure and work through the shame and other issues. It is hard, hard work, but have patience, because it will be so wonderful when those hormones have less and less impact on your arousal. Hang in there, mama! Talk about all of it with your husband, for sure. Let him know it isn’t him, it’s the hormones, and it won’t always be that way. Find mutually enjoyable activities in the bedroom that increase intimacy. You got this.
P.S. On second thought, I suppose I did end up treating it, just indirectly. At around 15 months or so my cycles were still very messed up and I had every symptom in the book of low progesterone. I started using a progesterone cream to regulate my cycles and ease the symptoms and it is probably then that my sexual response increased rapidly. Perhaps that was my issue all along and explains why I’d did not experience this with my first two kiddos.
It is probably too soon for this writer for any kind of hormonal replacement because of nursing, but keep that in mind for the future of things don’t improve. (P.S. Ditch the mini pill if your doc suggests it; it’s bad news!!)
Hi Kay, thanks so much for your resourceful comments! I’m not the LW but I can relate. My sex life literally died after my first child and I think that it was because of the mini-pill and ignorance that there were no other options- i simply accepted that I was going to have low libido while I was breastfeeding for 18 long months! Needless to say, intimacy with my husband has suffered greatly but as I prayed to be a better wife, God led to J and several amazing Christian sex positive bloggers (So thankful). And while I’m a work in progress, I’m currently pregnant with my second and dealing with pelvic pain – it hasn’t been easy dealing with the pain, vaginal dryness and thrush. But I’m pushing through – we’re using lube (thanks again, J for the blog on that one) and friendlier positions.
Anyway, my question is, which form of contraception have you been using while breastfeeding? I really intend guard our intimacy after the baby this time around but don’t want to get pregnant.
First of all, congratulations! I have a similar story where our sex life tanked after my first two kids, especially the second, but after number 3 we made it a huge priority, which is why we pursued it even though it wasn’t “working” well. It was a good learning experience.
This certainly isn’t right for everyone but I currently do a kind of Natural Family Planning called the Fertility Awareness Method. Unfortunately breastfeeding isn’t a good time to learn this method, so that’s probably no help to you even if you were interested…. If I didn’t have enough experience to be comfortable with FAM, I might look into a diaphragm since we aren’t fans of condoms. But I love everything about this method, especially how much it has changed my body image completely. The more I learn about how my body works, the more blown away I am by God’s design.
This too is a very personal decision but I will not use hormonal birth control again. I am not comfortable with how it works, what the fake hormones do to my body long-term, or the depression and sexual side effects it caused. I stopped in 2008 and I’m never going back!
Thanks for the comment! The diaphragm was my favorite form of birth control. So easy and safe and no messing with hormones.
Thanks, ladies for response! I too have been have thinking of avoiding hormonal methods because of how they can mess with the body and possibly cause abortion. I think a combination of FAM and barrier method might work? I have a bit of time so I ‘ll keep praying and researching for answers.
Apa, it was concern over whether hormonal birth control interferes with implantation of an embryo that caused me to first question the pill and ultimately why I stopped using it. But now the more I learn about the risks and the harm it does to our bodies (not to mention the bodies of the babies we bear), I wish no woman would take it no matter whether they believe life begins at conception or not. But that is a pretty controversial stance, I guess. I am just saddened at how women in our society in general have lost touch with the natural rhythms that God has given us.
When I first started FAM, we did use condoms any time I wasn’t 100% sure what my body was doing. After a couple years of experience now, we don’t use condoms anymore; we just find other fun things to do during my fertile window. ?
There is a new type of diaphragm out on the US marke this year. It’s called the caya diaphragm. The nice thing about it, specially for post pregnancy, is that it fits most women. If you used a regular one between 60 and 80 mm, caya will fit you. It also presumably means you don’t have to get refitted every time your weight changes with 10 pounds. It’s also silicon instead of latex and doesn’t have springs in it. It also has a little indentation that makes it easier to take out. I just got married, we decided to go with the caya diaphragm and so far I’m very happy with it. So you might want to check it out. It’s so new I had to ask for it by name and show my OBGYN the company website. She seemed quite impressed.
Thanks for the info! And isn’t it way easier than you expected it to be? That’s what I found with the diaphragm.
Participating in the thrusting helps tremendously! Often, I do a lot of thrusting and my hubs loves it (so do I). This gives me control and helps me move around and adjust to what feels comfortable and helps me climax. Adjusting the speed can push me over the edge as well…he starts out really slow with short, teasing in/out motions and eventually increases intensity.
Also, the first few months we were married (both virgins) my husband would let me insert his penis. This helped the experience to be less painful because I was directing the timing, where he went in and the angle. I was also able to reach inside my V and pull out some of my natural lube and open myself up before he entered if needed. It is also relaxing because it takes off the pressure if you’re not quite ready…
Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Thanks, J, for quoting this verse. Though the topic of the current blog wasn’t something I need to be involved in, Galatians 6:9 has broad application (to all areas of human relationships), and this verse was exactly what I needed at the moment. When you use the Bible appropriately your words will always be used to bless others!
Thank you, Eric. Many blessings!
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