I’ve addressed talking to your spouse about sex before (like here), but today I’m focusing on advice to wives who need to have a conversation with their husband.
Ladies, if you’ve been struggling with sexual intimacy but worry that bringing up the issue will be met with tension, dismissiveness, or conflict, here are ten tips that can help.
These tips are NOT for couples where abuse, betrayal, and trauma are happening. Rather, this is for the marriage where the spouses are good-willed but sexual intimacy is not what it should be.
1. Wait until you’re calm.
Right after he’s rejected you sexually, made an unfair demand, or said something hurtful, you’re emotionally charged and defensive. That’s the wrong time to talk. You need to approach the conversation with as much calm and control as you can muster.
Step away from the bedroom and approach him when your heart rate is relaxed, your nerves settled, and your mind focused.
2. Choose a conducive setting.
Likewise, the bedroom is usually the wrong place to talk. His or your emotional baggage might stored there, and you need a time and place where you both feel safe.
Choose neutral ground or a place that’s connected with good feelings for him—whether that’s your living room couch, a bench at the local park, or a fishing boat. Pick a time of day when neither of you feels exhausted or extra stressed. Set an atmosphere that’s likely to increase positive feelings and make you both feel relaxed.
3. Recognize that eye contact isn’t necessary.
If I were chatting with your husband, I’d tell him to try hard to look you in the eye, because most of us ladies feel a deeper connection when face-to-face. But men tend to bond shoulder-to-shoulder and often talk more easily during activities that don’t involve eye contact. It might be more comfortable for your husband to share while walking with you or sitting next to you side-by-side.
If it encourages him to open up, why not forgo a little eye contact? Help him feel comfortable with the experience.
4. Lessen tension with physical contact.
Just the simple act of holding hands while you talk can make the conversation less tense. Studies have shown that physical affection lowers stress by decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress hormone cortisol and also by releasing oxytocin, a chemical that makes us feel bonded. It’s also a reassuring gesture that you’re on the same side trying to work through a problem together.
So hold his hand, stroke his chest, arm, or thigh, or snuggle up close as you talk.
5. Pray before you begin.
For years, my marriage prayers sounded like this: “Lord, please change my husband, because he’s the one messing up our marriage.” Looking back, it’s no surprise this prayer didn’t get answered the way I wanted.
Later, I figured out the better approach: “Lord, please give me an attitude of patience, kindness, and respect and help me to have words of wisdom as I speak to my husband.” THAT prayer gets answered.
When you know you’ve got a tough subject to address, like sex in your marriage, pray before you begin—asking God to give you the right mindset and the right words.
6. Ask questions, and listen to his answers.
I credit Steven Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, for summarizing the principle well as “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Too often in marriage, we flip those around, talking a subject to death in hopes of making our husband understand where we’re coming from.
But do you care about his perspective? His feelings? His struggles? Whatever the problem between you, he likely has a reason for reacting the way he does, and discovering what’s going on underneath can help you both figure out where to go next. Ask questions and be willing to really listen to what he’s saying.
7. Avoid assumptions and conclusions.
Take time to clarify what you’re each saying, avoiding erroneous assumptions or conclusions. Some of the biggest disagreements in my marriage have come from one of us thinking we understood what the other was saying and reacting negatively, when that wasn’t what the other was saying at all.
We bring our own perspective and baggage to conversations, and—as much as possible—we need to set that down and do our best to understand what our beloved is truly thinking and feeling. And if you aren’t sure, extend grace. Your husband loved you enough to marry you and stay married to you, so give the benefit of the doubt that he wants what’s best for you and the marriage.
8. Deal with the issue at hand.
Oh, how tempting it is when we’re having a disagreement to drag out every last infraction and dangle it before our husbands. We also tend to make statements that involve always and never, such as “You never care about what I want!” Those approaches are nearly guaranteed to evoke wall-building from our husbands. After all, they’re being attacked, so why wouldn’t they erect a fortress to protect their hearts?
Instead, choose one area where you want to start improving your sexual intimacy and talk about that experience. If possible, simply deal with the last time something happened and solve that problem. Improved marriages are made of one problem solved at a time, until problem-by-problem you get on the same page and move toward great intimacy.10 Tips for Talking to Your Husband About Sexual Intimacy: "Improved marriages are made of one problem solved at a time, until problem-by-problem you get on the same page and move toward great intimacy." @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
9. Agree to change something about yourself.
Even if your husband is to blame for 95% of the difficulties in your marital intimacy, you’ve got 5% resting on your shoulders. Own it.
Truthfully, we’re often more responsible than we think. Or we at least could do something to help our husbands out. Ask your husband what one step you could take that would mean so much to him. As long as it’s not against God’s will or your conscience, commit to doing it. And then follow through.
(Note: If you’re in an abusive or emotionally destructive marriage, it’s not about changing yourself to meet his needs or desires. Rather, it’s time to change the unhealthy dynamics. Get the help you need.)
10. Remember you’re on the same side.
When you’re in conflict, it looks like your husband is the enemy. But your husband’s struggle with porn, his misunderstandings about women and sexuality, his ongoing rejections, etc. are hurting him too. Your marital intimacy is under attack, and the way to win is to fight together.
You can certainly set boundaries, but make it clear that you are in your husband’s corner, wanting to be a united, one-flesh couple as you work through issues. It’s always easier to talk about our personal failings with someone we know has our back. Be his partner, his advocate, his champion.
11. Bonus: Use a good resource.
I’d be remiss not to mention that I have a resource that can walk couples through encouraging, important, and difficult conversations about sexual intimacy. If you haven’t checked out Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples, purchase your copy, download a sample, or check out the sample chapter on my site. Pillow Talk would also be a great gift for couples you know, including newlyweds.
And while this post is aimed at wives, several of these points apply to hubbies too! If you’re a husband looking for more tips on addressing sexual issues with your wife, be sure to follow not only follow this blog but also Knowing Her Sexually.