Monthly Archives: December 2017

Merry Christmas from J

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given... And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Praying that you and yours have a lovely Christmas. If you have any spare time, you might want to check out some of the following gifts I’ve offered readers in the past.

2011 – A Christmas Card to My Readers

2012 – Love & Sex Coupons for Christmas

2013 – My Gift to You: Christmas Intimacy Playlist

Under the Mistletoe short story cover - Title + sprig of mistletoe2016 – A Free Christmas Short Story for You!

And if you don’t have access to Amazon or the Kindle app, you can get a PDF of the story HERE.

I will be taking a holiday break this week to spend time with family, but I’ll be back on New Year’s Day with more encouragement for your marriage and your marriage bed. Many blessings for the remainder of 2017!

Q&A with J: How Can My Groom Turn His Sex Drive Back On?

Today’s question comes from two different readers who contacted me with similar situations. Both are newlywed wives who haven’t had the sexual intimacy they expected to have after they tied the knot. Here’s the first one:

It has been one month since we got married and we still haven’t had sex. He told me last night that he was nervous almost to the point of tears because we have always been taught not to have sex before marriage, and now it’s all of a sudden okay. He said it’s like a Wall is there that he can’t get through. What should we do? How do i help him? He feels bad because i want to and he can’t, and i feel bad because i don’t want him to feel pressured. I just don’t know what to do.

And the second:

I recently got married and waited until marriage. My now husband wasn’t a virgin before but waited with me. The sex has been less frequent and passionate than I had expected and last night he revealed to me that because he had to ”turn it off” for the last 2 years to stay strong for me that he has a hard time turning it back on. I feel really sad about it and kind of mad too. I’m trying to not take it personally but I never thought I’d have to ask for sex or even be turned down in the first month of marriage. I’m trying to be patient and pray about it. Any suggestions on what to do?

Blog post title + photo of bride & groom sitting on bed

There are differences, in that one groom has never had sex, while the other had it previously but waited with his bride until they got married. But both gentlemen are having a terrible time awakening their libido after keeping their sexual feelings in check for so long.

It’s admirable that they waited, just as we are commanded to do, but sometimes our message about premarital purity encourages people to simply repress their sexual feelings. Repression here is “a process by which unacceptable desires or impulses are excluded from consciousness and left to operate in the unconscious” (Merriam-Webster). Our libidos aren’t really gone, but we stamp them down so hard, it’s difficult for them to get back up when the right time arrives. (See also When Your Groom Is Anxious about Sex).

But I don’t see where the Bible teaches repression of our sexuality. Rather, we can acknowledge our sexuality and exert self-control: “Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6). Look at Jacob, who worked for seven years to marry Rachel. He kept his behavior in check, but he didn’t deny what he eventually desired, even saying to his father-in-law at the end of those long years: “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her” (Genesis 29:21). Can’t get much clearer than that.

Even 1 Corinthians 7:9 says to singles: “But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” In other words, control your sexual desires outside of marriage, and if you can’t do that, get hitched. It’s a nod that God made us as sexual beings, a fact we cannot and should not ignore.

God made us as sexual beings, a fact we cannot and should not ignore. Click To Tweet

Teaching repression of our sexuality can result in situations like these where it’s hard to turn your libido back on, even when you’re in the right framework for sexual intimacy (marriage).

But to the question: How can you awaken his libido after it’s lain dormant for a while? How can he get past that hump of repressing his sexuality?

Give yourselves grace.

It stinks not to get to make love on your wedding night. Many couples look forward to that experience. But plenty of couples actually don’t have sex right away, due to physical issues, time constraints, or even Aunt Flo visiting at the most inopportune time. But one of the perks of sex in marriage is you have a lifetime to get to know one another physically and experience all kinds of sexual pleasure and intimacy.

Let’s imagine that you make love once a week (it should be more, but go with me here), and you’re married for forty years (more than reasonable, given the average age of marriage and life span in the U.S.). At that rate, you’ll have sex 2,080 times. Two thousand eighty times. So even if you miss out some at the beginning, you’ve got plenty of time to figure this out and still have lots and lots of sex. Point being: Relax. Give yourselves some grace and time to work things out.

Talk about the baggage.

We all bring baggage into our marriages—some toting in a toiletries bag of issues and others dragging a massive trunk behind them. But make no mistake: We’ve all absorbed bad ideas about sexual intimacy. Erroneous messages surround us, both in the secular world and, sadly, the Church. All kinds of messages soak in, and we can find them hard to shake once married.

So talk about it with each other. Be honest about your expectations and concerns, and then listen to his. Let him know that whatever he says, you won’t judge it harshly. Once you’ve admitted what’s going on, challenge each of your internal beliefs and see which ones hold up to God’s Word. For example:

  • “Sex is dirty.” No, sex can be twisted and misused, but sex itself was created by God and “everything God created is good” (1 Timothy 4:4).
  • “Enjoying sex too much is ‘indulging the flesh.'” No, that’s not what “the flesh” means. Rather, Galatians 5:19-21 says, “The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” Those are all sins, but sex with your wife is not a sin and thus not on the list.
  • “Men are supposed to have the higher libido.” No, you can’t find that in the Bible either. Read through Song of Songs, and you’ll see that sexual feelings abound in both husband and wife. Sometimes one more than the other, but it shifts from her to him, him to her.

Bringing your anxiety from the subconscious to the conscious level and then challenging those beliefs can help you work through the barriers preventing you from experiencing sexual intimacy.

Focus on romance and foreplay.

In three different places, Song of Songs says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). That presumes that you can arouse or awaken love when it’s time—that is, in marriage.

Focus on that word arouse, and make that your goal for now. Not orgasm, not penetration, not even erection necessarily, but arousing the sensations that eventually lead to all of those things. I firmly believe that couples don’t spend enough time exploring one another’s bodies and discovering what arouses them. But the knowledge you gain through this process will be beneficial throughout your marriage.

Get a great book with ideas on what to do, so you can try out different activities. You know, like this one, which I highly recommend:

Click to buy or find out more!

Take the pressure off, and give yourselves, and especially him, permission to enjoy touch, exploration, and romance. Let your husband know that he doesn’t have to “perform”—that this can be an opportunity to get to know one another and experience pleasurable feelings.

Use self-talk and encouragement.

When dealing with high anxiety or fear, psychologists often prescribe systematic desensitization. You can find many resources on how to apply this procedure, but it’s gradually exposing yourself to the anxiety-inducing stimuli and introducing a relaxation response at each stage. This principle works with sexual anxiety as well.

Let’s say you’re going through the foreplay mentioned above, and your husband becomes tense. You two can pause, and he can remind himself that sex is a gift from God, meant to provide intimacy in his marriage. You can encourage him as well, helping him relax. You two could even stop to pray for God’s comfort and courage to continue. When the tension has released enough—it may not release completely—you can get back into your groove.

Using desensitization techniques, he can likely progress a little farther each time, until intercourse is possible…and enjoyable. Another way to think of this is baby steps. Nothing says you must leap into intercourse on your wedding night, but marriage is the time when you get to build all kind of intimacy, including physical intimacy. Be willing to build slow, feeling good about each stage of progress.

If problems persist, see a doctor and/or a counselor. There’s nothing wrong with this taking some time, but you do want to be moving in the right direction—toward God-honoring, mutually satisfying sexual intimacy in your marriage.

What Ugly Christmas Sweaters Remind Me about Marriage

I do not understand the Ugly Christmas Sweater phenomenon.

Where I live, it’s become such a common trend that (1) my son told me he attended an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at college, and (2) I overheard a Target employee explaining to a customer that as soon as they put out the ugly Christmas sweaters, they were all swooped up.

Really? There are that many people who feel they absolutely must own an ugly Christmas sweater?

In case you haven’t seen any of these, here is a sampling, brought to you by

Snowman sweater Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sweater Jesus, Mary & Joseph take a selfie sweater

As someone who tries to “fight the frump” and feel good about myself each day, it’s never really appealed to me to wear a hideous sweater — especially as a way to celebrate Christmas.

But as I was thinking about this fad, I realized that it has three positives:

  1. It demonstrates that one ugly garment doesn’t take away from our whole appearance.
  2. It shows that we like to belong — that people want to share a trend.
  3. It’s a way for us to just be silly with one another.

Hmmm, sounds a bit like marriage to me.

1. One flaw doesn’t take away from how we view each other.

The longer you’re married, the more you likely feel this way. Because even if your spouse seemed flawless when you married them, twenty or thirty years later, body parts have shifted (thanks, gravity!), not to mention that you’ve discovered some personality traits or quirks that you could probably live without. Your spouse has features that are likely the equivalent of an ugly Christmas sweater.

But it’s the person in the sweater that you’ve built a life with, that you adore, that you still find as sexy as ever. And if not’s quite true, maybe you’re spending too much time looking at the “sweater” and not enough time appreciating the person.

2. We like to belong and share.

One of the best things I ever get to say about my husband is just that: my husband.  That possessive pronoun my indicates that he belongs to me, and when he says, “my wife,” it shows that I belong to him. When you signed up for marriage, you signed up to belong to something bigger than yourself — a lifelong trend of becoming one.

Sometimes we forget how much belonging matters to us — when we get busy and spend so much time with work, children, or even ministry that we don’t connect regularly with our spouse; when we neglect sharing our thoughts and feelings and dreams, or stop listening to our spouse’s; when we characterize sex as merely a physical thing that one can do without, instead of understanding it as a conduit of intimacy. Remember that feeling like you belong together is an important part of marriage and needs to regularly nurtured.

3. Just be silly with one another.

I just love that my husband and I have inside jokes. We have a shared sense of humor — the kind that sometimes makes our kids roll their eyes while we’re clutching our bellies in laughter. The ugly Christmas sweater trend gives a strong nod to the notion that we all like to have some silliness in our lives. We want something that makes us smile, laugh, and even roll our eyes.

Marriage is an opportunity to have someone to share those moments with. I suspect many spouses married in part because their mate had a similar sense of humor. But how are we doing in keeping that alive? Do we foster opportunities to laugh? To play? To just be silly? Even in the bedroom?

I’m not quite ready to run out and purchase an ugly Christmas sweater. However, I am willing to learn something about marriage from this trend and ask myself how we’re doing on perspective, belonging, and silliness.

Now, how are you doing?

Hot, Holy & Humorous book ad

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Asking Others to Pray for Your Marriage

One benefit of being in Christian community is having other people pray for you when you’re in the midst of a struggle. There is both comfort and power in praying for one another.

There is both comfort and power in praying for one another. #marriage Click To Tweet

But when my husband and I struggled in our marriage, I don’t recall asking others for prayer. Our problems seemed too personal, too private, and too risky to share with others. What if people looked at us differently after learning how close we were to divorce? What if they responded not simply by praying but offering ongoing advice? What if they shared our problems with others — that is, gossiped about us?

Good relationships require vulnerability and trust. I talk a lot about that in marriage and specifically the marriage bed, but you also need those traits in friendship. And they should be present in a loving church.

Of course, should be doesn’t equal is. Some church communities provide a safe and supportive environment, but some of you have been burned, so to speak. I ache for you, and I pray that you don’t blame God or the Church at large for the failings of some of His people.

But Christians should intentionally create an atmosphere in which individuals and couples can present their concerns to fellow believers and know that they will be covered with prayer, support, and compassion.

To get the support you need, however, let’s think practically about how you can ask others to pray for your marriage and even the sexual intimacy in your marriage. How much should you reveal? And to whom? How can you effectively request the kind of prayer you need?

Blog post title + small group of believers praying together

Determine who to speak to.

Easier said than done, right? But generally speaking, you have two good options:

  1. A person or couple who knows you and your spouse well, and will therefore be invested in maintaining your privacy, following through with prayer, and going to God on behalf of not only you individually but your marriage.
  2. A ministry leader, including a pastor, whose calling is to care for the individuals and relationships in the church. Oftentimes, people in such positions have established policies about how to handle information shared in confidence and a sense of accountability to pray for parishioners.

Be clear about what you’re asking.

Dumping all of your marriage concerns, especially if they involve sexual intimacy, on someone can overwhelm them. What does someone do with that information? They want to help, but what role should they fill?

Make your parameters clear: “For the time being, I’m just asking for you to pray about our situation.” If you’re pursuing other avenues of improving your marriage, tell the person what those are, so they don’t feel like they have to be your marriage’s personal champion. For instance, “we’re seeing a marriage counselor, but I could really use additional prayer” or “I’ve been reading up on the issues in our marriage bed, and I’m still figuring out which path for healing to pursue. Could you help by praying for our marriage’s direction?”

It’s a good idea to let supporters specialize according to their spiritual giftedness (see 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 1 Peter 4:10). Some people have deep compassion and a heart for prayer; others have excellent practical advice for your marriage; and yet others have a calling and training to deal with serious marriage problems. Be clear that you’re not burdening a single individual to fulfill all of these roles. You just want this person or couple to be your prayer ally.

Don’t reveal more information than you should.

Explain what’s happening on a need-to-know basis. What specifics do these advocates need to have when going before God? You don’t want to a friend or church leader to know details that make them highly uncomfortable or that make them see you or your spouse in an unnecessarily bad light. There’s a reason why TMI has become a well-known acronym; don’t make your prayer advocate want to use it about you.

This is especially important regarding struggles in the marriage bed. No one needs or wants to know your specific sexual activities, the size or nature of anyone’s body parts, or what you two have privately said to one another in your bedroom. At least no one that you recruit to pray for you. If you need help with such issues, take them to a qualified individual, whether that’s a physician, a pastor, or hey, a Christian sex blogger. Dump them on people ready and able to address those problems, but give your prayer pal just enough to pray with some specificity for your marriage.

Keep your advocate(s) updated.

Has God answered one of your prayer requests? Tell the person or people who are praying for you! Let their next prayer be thanking God for His presence and goodness. Have your prayer needs changed? Tell your allies what you and your spouse need now, so they can adjust their prayer requests. Do you feel like things are just getting worse? Tell them so they can add hope and perseverance to the list.

Prayer for your marriage will likely to be a long-term undertaking. Stay in contact and let those praying for you know when and how the prayers should be modified to stay current. In doing so, you’re also showing your gratitude for that prayer.

Intimacy Revealed book ad - click for more info or to buyFinally, let me share a personal story showing why it’s important not just to confess your struggles but to ask specific people for prayer.

Years back, when my husband and I were going through the Crap Fest part of our marriage, I shared what was going on with a friend in our church. I didn’t tell her what I needed or wanted, but rather vomited my concerns and feelings right at her feet. About a week later, I was standing in our church gym after worship, where people milled about and children — including mine — played. An elder walked right up to me and said he’d heard that our marriage wasn’t doing well.

As you might imagine, I felt blindsided. Not only did my friend break my confidence and tell someone, without any warning, but this church leader chose a public area in which to confront me. I was disheartened, angry, and ashamed.

I wriggled out of the conversation as quickly as possible, grabbed my children, and left. It took longer for me to pursue further help within my church, because this one incident had left me feeling betrayed.

For a long time, I’ve placed all the blame for that inappropriate encounter on my friend and the church leader. But I think I was at fault too. I didn’t go to the right people for the right things. I could have availed myself of some resources to help our marriage and let the church leaders know, at an appropriate time and place, what was going on. But all I really needed from my friend was her support and prayer. And I think if I’d asked for that, she’d have obliged.

What advice do you have for asking others to pray for your marriage?

Q&A with J: What about “Manscaping”?

Today’s question recently came into my inbox, and I really wanted to cover it because I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this subject with hubbies in mind:

I am about to get married and my fiancé and I had briefly talked about shaving down there. I already do but he is asking me whether I prefer he does or not. I told him I would but then I thought about if it might be painful when the hair reaches that prickly stage where it’s still too short to shave. What do you think? 

Blog post title + illustration of clippers

I’ve written about my own awkward experience of going bare down there and my takeaways. And I recommend listening to our Sex Chat for Christian Wives podcast episode on “Tending the Garden,” which covers private area grooming for the ladies.

But what about the gents? Do we wives have thoughts about what the “happy trail” leads to? Is it better to have a wild, untamed jungle? Or a freshly landscaped garden? Should we have any say?

Actually, I love the questioner’s attitude of them talking about their preferences and being willing to accommodate one another. It’s your body, so you get to do what you want with it. However, 1 Corinthians 7:4 says that we yield our bodies to one another in marriage: “The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.”

Quick reminder: This does not mean that one spouse does all the yielding while the other does all the demanding. Or that the balance is 80-20 or 70-30. It may not always be 50-50 — if you’re expecting that in marriage, you’ll be disappointed — but there should be mutuality in yielding to one another.

Consequently, it’s a great idea to ask what your husband likes and for him to ask what you like when it comes to personal grooming. And if it’s something that you’re willing to do or simply to try, go for it.

Now what about “manscaping” — a man removing or trimming hair?

I can’t find hard and fast statistics, but many surveys I saw online indicated that a majority of men manscape, at least somewhat. That involves anything from total removal of pubic hair to a mild trim to keep things neat. Both for aesthetics and for convenience, some husbands and wives appreciate these areas being manscaped.

The questioner specifically asked: “it might be painful when the hair reaches that prickly stage where it’s still too short to shave. What do you think?” Well, I think it’s hair on your body and will feel just like hair on your body feels when it grows back. The only additional aspect is the high sensitivity of that area of your body. However it feels to you to shave down here is likely about how it feels to him.

But for the reason you mention, and for the reason that masculinity is often linked with some hairiness, far fewer men shave it all off than women do. Men are much more likely to clip and trim the area.

What you two decide to do is all up to you. I don’t see any biblical issues involved in whether you shave a little, a lot, or none at all.

From a practical viewpoint, it’s often easier to make changes in smaller steps. Going from deep shag carpet to smooth-shined floor is quite a leap! In the marriage bed generally, It’s often more reasonable to ask for a stretch in the comfort zone. If he hasn’t manscaped before, you might be better off asking your fiancé to just tidy up down there before your wedding night.

He might want to do more, and that’s fine. But if you’re worried about him feeling physically uncomfortable, start smaller. He can always trim more, but you can’t put cut hair back.

Just like for women, there are “hairstyles” for men down there. These, of course, get named differently by various websites, but essentially they’re:

  • completely bare
  • small “landing strip”
  • a triangle shape
  • a “mustache” look with pubic hair just above the penis
  • a close-cut grooming
  • a longer, basic trim
  • au naturel — that is, all the hair you came with

There are also different parts that can be shaved. While hair on the penis shaft isn’t typically a big issue, the shaft can still be shaved to make sure it’s smooth. More importantly, though, is the area around the penis and the testicles.

There are also good ways and bad ways to groom down there. (He really doesn’t want to nick anything important in that area, right?) Encourage him to make sure he has the right tools — a good set of clippers with plenty of settings, a quality razor, and shaving cream or lotion. From the bit of research I did, it seems that clippers work better in area around his penis and on his penis, but a razor is more precise with the testicles.

But hey, I don’t own the equipment, so I’m hoping some of my male readers will chime in on this one and give some helpful tips. (Without too much personal info, guys, please.)

And since you’re getting married soon, how about checking out my other posts on the wedding night and honeymoon:

Wedding Night Sex
Preparing for the Wedding Night
What Should a Groom Know about His Wedding Night?
What I Wish I’d Known before the Wedding Night
What to Pack for Your Honeymoon or Vacation

And you could always pick up a copy of my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, that has lots of great tips for wives married one day or many decades. Congratulations and many blessings to you both!