Monthly Archives: September 2019

5 Things that Burn Me Out on Marriage Ministry

I have several drafted, but not quite ready, posts in my queue, and I have every intention of getting to them all. But I’ve been focused recently on dealing with comments and emails, catching up on reading others’ blog posts and articles, and going through research about sexuality. And frankly, I feel a little burned out at the moment.

Don’t worry—I’m not quitting marriage ministry! Hot, Holy & Humorous will be here for a looooong time, if I have anything to say about it. 🙂

But here’s what I mean. Burnout is defined as “exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration” (Merriam-Webster). And I do lack emotional strength or motivation sometimes, because I get stressed or frustrated with some of what I hear out there about sex in marriage!

So today, since I owe y’all a post anyway, I’m going to lay it all out there and tell you what gets me burned out on marriage ministry.

Gender Bashing.

There’s always been gender bashing—men complaining about women, women complaining about men. We don’t totally understand each other, and yet we have to live together. So like siblings, we find it easy to blame and complain about the other.

To be fair, I’ve sighed or rolled my eyes about such things as “man flu.” But always in jest and with a sense that we gals have our own stuff too. But the humorous point out of differences is not what I’m talking about.

Example of such humor:

Rather, real gender bashing seems to have ramped up lately, particularly in Christian circles! Either all the problems of the world are the patriarchy or they fall at the feet of those nasty feminists. Good gravy, y’all! Have you not heard that evil was here on earth before man and woman were in conflict? Satan slipped into that garden in the form of a serpent (literally or figuratively, take your pick) and tempted humankind to sin.

Of course there are men who promote the patriarchy and angry feminists who attack men, but the vast majority of men and women around you aren’t them. So stop falling for the manosphere’s and angry-feminists’ hoopla and look at what God says. No, no, not that one verse they pulled out to support their position, but the whole of God’s Word. What does God say? ” In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

Stop the gender bashing already. We need to learn to live with these other people with the kindness and respect humans made in God’s image deserve.

Stop the gender bashing already. We need to learn to live with these other people with the kindness and respect humans made in God's image deserve. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Martyrdom.

This is my tell it like it is post, so I’m just going to say it: Some of you are more invested in being a martyr than making your marriage better. If you’ve been complaining about the same thing over and over and over, and nothing ever changes, you might be a martyr.

I’ve witnessed caring, support, terrific advice, and action items given to someone struggling with the sexual intimacy in their marriage and that person rebuffing all or nearly all of it. They usually give reasons why all that won’t work with their scenario, but at the end of the day, that’s often bunk. They just don’t want to do the right thing or the hard thing to make the situation better. (Admittedly, now and then, leaving the marriage is the best decision, and that’s an incredibly tough choice.)

Ask yourself what you really want when you come to a blog like mine. Do you want ideas to make things better? Or do you secretly wish someone would tell you that you’re right, that you’ve been sorely mistreated, that have every right to be angry? And you may be correct, but what has that gotten you?

If you’re steeped in resentment and bitterness about where your marriage or the sex in your marriage is, write down ten things you’ve tried to do about it. Put the paper away, come back in a few days, and read the list. Be honest: Are all the things basically the same thing? For instance, talking to her, pointing out Scripture, over and over. Did you give those efforts long enough to work? Even if it’s 90% of your spouse’s fault, do you listen to advice on where you need to change?

Hedonism.

I hedged on what to call this category, but I think it’s accurate, since hedonism is the belief that pleasure and the pursuit of happiness are the highest goal in life. Now apply that to the marriage bed, and you get what I hear and see: Spouses and couples chasing the sexual high.

Look, I’ve written extensively about how to make sex more pleasurable and exciting. I’ve got lots of tips here and in my books for spicing up your sex life! But at the core of everything I say is God’s design for intimacy between husband and wife.

Yet that doesn’t seem to be the goal for an increasing number of Christians anymore, or even some Christian sex authors frankly. Rather, you can find information on every kind of kink out there, with some Christian saying it’s the thing that will make your marriage bed sing! Whether it’s:

  • anal sex (a risky practice that has increased in frequency with the use of porn and erotica)
  • sex toys that mimic body parts (I can’t tell you how many women I’ve heard from that want or use a dildo, but would they be as excited if their husband wanted to use a vaginal sleeve?)
  • BDSM (bondage/discipline-domination/submission-sadism/masochism)
  • exhibitionism (having sex in public, or sharing the specifics of your sex life with others, as if you’re aroused at the thought of others reading it)

Or some other fringe practice. We need to be careful not to put pleasure ahead of all other considerations. God calls us to treat our bodies and others with honor, gentleness, and kindness. Pleasure is absolutely good in the marriage bed, but it must remain in the context of agape love and covenant intimacy.

Pleasure is absolutely good in the marriage bed, but it must remain in the context of agape love and covenant intimacy. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Argumentativeness.

I like debate. Raised by a father who enjoyed the back-and-forth of ideas, I was the child who took to it and remained at the dinner table with him to discuss deep topics and debate theological issues. I continued that practice with others in college and can recall many conversations, particularly with men, in which I verbally sparred over politics, religion, and philosophy. These discussions helped me hone my own viewpoint and sometimes changed my mind.

But what I like individually isn’t the same as what’s good for my ministry and my readers. All too often, I get comments or emails where someone takes me task for a statement I made or asks me a follow-up question on a particular, and while it’s an interesting idea and I might engage if we were sitting at a restaurant table over coffee, it’s not relevant to the primary point or what people need to hear.

Example: If I just spent 900 words explaining to wives that men are not pigs after all, and some dude comes on and leaves a comment arguing one point in a way that smacks of yeah, men are pigs, I’m not approving that comment! I feel bad sometimes about it, when they’ve written 900 words themselves and I know that took some time and effort, but this blog ain’t just about you! Nor is my email inbox or my Facebook page. It is about you, but not just about you.

If you want to debate something from my blog, ask whether your comment will be constructive and whether it’s primary or petty. And if you’re just going to argue no matter what, ask yourself if you wouldn’t rather use your time more productively. Because you’re exhausting the rest of us. Seriously.

Sales pitches.

I hemmed and hawed about including this one at all, because it’s my problem really. But it is causing me some burnout moments, so here we go.

I hate selling you stuff. I mean, I love offering you fantastic resources, telling you about my books and podcast webinars, encouraging you to use what’s available to improve the sexual intimacy in your marriage! But I hate selling. I always end up feeling like “Professor” Harold Hill from The Music Man or a snake oil salesman, even though my products are definitely not snake oil.

But the reality is that people don’t buy a product or service unless they’re convinced they should get it. And that convincing—which can be called marketing or selling, depending on how it happens—is increasingly a huge part of being an author and speaker.

Blatant sales pitch below!

Ad for Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples

Truth is, I make very little money from what I do. I’ve joked about it before, but I honestly would be better off working as a toll booth operator. And I’ve heard all the encouragement about how one should be in ministry and/or the creative arts for other rewards. But no one tells the surgeon who saves lives that should be enough; they get a paycheck. (And no, I’m not comparing what I do to surgeons who save lives! That would be preposterous. I was simply going for the most exaggerated version and showing they get paid too.)

So my burnout conundrum is always: How can get people to buy my resources, which I believe in 100%, without constantly doing sales pitches? A close corollary would be: How can I make enough money to continue doing this ministry, when my family needs me to bring in a higher and more consistent income? I don’t know the answer, but if you have ideas, I’m willing to listen.

The other thing that’s burned me out is my own schedule, but that’s on me. I’ve had an unusual year, with my older son getting married, releasing four books (only one with HHH), and 19 trips on my calendar. Don’t feel too bad for me, though, because one of those trips is an upcoming Caribbean cruise in November that I got for a steal! Still, it’s all sapped my energy somewhat.

Fair is fair. Are you feeling burned out? What’s sapping your energy?

Where Did Your Sexual Interest Go?

It’s a story I’ve heard plenty: Couple gets married, and after a short or long while, sexual interest for one or both spouses wanes.

What happened? Isn’t sex supposed to be wonderful and worth getting excited about? How can the shine wear off so quickly or so well?

As I’ve been perusing research articles I hung on to, with every intention of reading well before now, I came across an interesting study reported in the British Medical Journal. Conducted by the British National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles team, 6,669 women and 4,839 men aged between 16 and 74 with at least one sexual partner in the past year reported their level of sexual interest and factors that affected their desire.

First off, a few caveats:

  • They’re British. You live where you live. Culture can affect our perspectives.
  • Some surveyed were married, some weren’t.
  • Some had a single partner, some didn’t.
  • The researchers spell behavior with a u, so what do they know? Just kidding!

Even so, the results align with a lot of what my readers and Facebook group participants have said, as well as other research in this area. Since it might hit you right where you’re struggling with sexual interest, let’s take a look at what the survey showed.

Most men and women are interested in sex.

Contrary to the oft-perpetuated line that husbands always want sex and wives don’t, this survey showed that a strong majority of both genders desire sex. Only 34% of women and 15% of men reported lacking interest in sex.

Now that does show that a higher percentage of women lack interest than men, but 15% of disinterested men is higher than many think and 66% of women (or 2/3) are on board with getting busy. It’s just not accurate to say that all men want sex all the time and women are the holdouts.

It's just not accurate to say that all men want sex all the time and women are the holdouts. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

These 4 factors lower interest for both men and women.

Researchers asked survey participants: “In the last year, have you experienced any of the following for a period of ≥3 months?” after which appeared a list of difficulties including “Lacked interest in having sex.” Among those who reported lack of interest, four factors were linked to this difficulty:

  • Poor mental and physical health
  • Having an STI in the last year
  • Ever experiencing sex against your will
  • Not feeling emotionally close to partner during sex

One can easily imagine why these factors would dampen a spouse’s desire to engage sexually.

For instance, when someone reports lack of drive, the first thing I typically recommend is visiting the doctor to make sure your physical health is not an impediment to sexual activity and enjoyment. Likewise, if you’re experiencing depression or stress, those can absolutely affect your desire.

Sexually transmitted infections can interfere with physical intimacy, not only in the usual way of making a couple take a break while things clear up. But STIs also increase worry and stress about flare-ups and giving the infection to your spouse.

Sexual assault is a heartbreaking experience, and its survivors can struggle with the trauma for years afterward. If you were molested, assaulted, or raped, please acknowledge the gravity of that event and seek trauma counseling. It’s important that you see someone trained and experienced in treating sexual trauma, so that they can provide quality assistance. If the rape occurred within your marriage, get help now.

As for emotional closeness, no one wants to be used. If you don’t feel that you’re valued beyond your body parts—even if it’s just during sex itself—then why would you want to keep going? As I’ve pointed out before, quite frankly you can get pleasure and sexual release on your own. But God designed sex to intimately connect husband and wife. (See What Are the Real Purposes of Sex?)

Intimacy Revealed Ad

These 3 factors lower interest only for women.

The study identified three factors linked to lack of interest in women only. And before you read on, I don’t like that the first one doesn’t impact sexual interest for men too. It honestly feeds into the “men are pigs” line that I’ve vehemently opposed for years! But results are results. And those three factors are:

  • Three or more partners in the past year
  • Children under 5 years old in the household
  • Not sharing the same sexual likes and dislikes as partner

So why does interest in sex lessen for women with multiple partners but not for men? The standard answer you might hear in the world is that men evolved to spread their seed to as many child-bearers as possible, while women evolved to attach themselves to a single man who would provide for her family. So multiple partners causes dissatisfaction for women but satisfaction for men. Or as I call that theory: blah blah blah.

Sorry, but I find that explanation uncompelling and inconsistent with God’s design for sex in marriage with a single man and a single woman. That’s what He created (see Genesis 1-2). But then what’s an alternative reason for this data?

I sense the issue is two-fold. First, women produce oxytocin during sex within the first sexual encounter with a man; however, men don’t get as big a wash of oxytocin unless/until they’re in a committed relationship. Look, even Sex and the City (a show I watched for like 10 minutes before I concluded it was preposterous) admits that while these women tried to “have sex like a man,” they couldn’t help but want more. Now, of course men want more too! But I’m just talking biology so far.

Second, men tend to compartmentalize better than women do. There’s a reason why Bill and Pam Farrell’s book title resonates with so many of us: Men are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti. Mark Gungor refers to these typical differences as men’s boxes and women’s ball of wire. But essentially men can have sex, drop that experience in a mental box, and move on in a way that women usually can’t.

Did God make it that way so men could have many sexual partners? Of course not. There are many benefits to having different yet complementary systems where one of you has a more pinpoint focus and the other takes in and processes more stimuli. Moreover, God clearly says, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Men are expected to leave and cleave!

Regardless, “three or more partners in the past year” should not be a situation in anyone’s marriage. If that factor is present, your problem is not a lack of interest in sex but not living according to God’s plan for your life.

As for the next factor, all of you moms nodded when you read “children under 5 years old in the household,” because while young kids can be absolutely delightful, they are also distracting, demanding, and exhausting. Those issues don’t tend affect men as much for various reasons—including the physical demands of pregnancy, childbirth recovery, and nursing; the percentage of moms who stay home with kids; division of labor within households; and women’s multi-tasking minds that make it hard to shut off the mom-ear and focus on lovemaking.

The third factor—not sharing the same sexual likes and dislikes as partner—is interesting. I have theories on that one, including:

Of course, it could be a combination of two or more of those. But from the comments and messages I’ve received, wives often feel obligated or pressured to do sexual activities they don’t want to do. Sometimes it’s the wives who need to learn more about God’s list of a-okays, and sometimes it’s the husbands who need to ask about and respect their wives’ wishes.

You can increase your sexual interest.

With few exceptions, your interest in sexual intimacy can increase by addressing or managing the factors mentioned here. Interestingly enough, while wives reported less interest in sex overall, they also reported being distressed about it. Plenty of spouses who don’t desire sex as much they used to, or as much as their partner does, want to want sex.

Plenty of spouses who don't desire sex as much they used to, or as much as their partner does, want to want sex. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

If you’re among those who has less interest in sex than you’d like, ask what your obstacles are. What needs your attention, and how can you take that first step?

If you’re married to someone whose interest has waned, or never been there, consider what your spouse’s obstacles are. How can you support them in addressing those issues?

And one last great finding I want to share: “Those who found it always easy to talk about sex with their partner were less likely to report lacking interest. This was true for men as well as women.” Yep, communication matters.

That’s why I wrote Pillow Talk, a book you should totally pick up and share with your spouse. It’s not just conversation starters, but so much more. It’s a discussion guide for you and your beloved to talk about the challenges to your sex life and the pursuit of deeper intimacy. (You can find a sample chapter here.)

Ad for Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples

Resources: BMJ – What factors are associated with reporting lacking interest in sex and how do these vary by gender? Findings from the third British national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyles; downloadble PDF of study; The Hippocratic Post – Why we lose interest in sex