Category Archives: Sex & Marriage Problems

Sex Struggles in Marriage: Are You Part of the Problem?

Twice in the last two weeks, I’ve screwed up with readers and had to apologize for making assumptions I should not have made. If I explained each situation, you’d understand why I assumed what I did, but that doesn’t excuse my blunder. The fault rests squarely on my shoulders.

Even as I write that, it’s hard to admit, hard to feel the disappointment in myself, hard to fess up to my part.

Why do we struggle to say we’re sorry? For whatever part we had in a conflict? Why do we struggle with it so much in marriage? With it in our sex struggles in marriage?

Self-Preservation

All organisms possess self-preservation, “a natural or instinctive tendency to act so as to preserve one’s own existence” (Merriam-Webster). For humans, that existence includes our sense of self. When we feel attacked, we react in defense.

Interestingly, the two primary motivators of self-preservation behaviors are pain and fear. “Pain motivates the individual to withdraw from damaging situations, to protect a damaged body part while it heals, and to avoid similar experiences in the future,” while ” fear causes the organism to seek safety and may cause a release of adrenaline” (Wikipedia, self-preservation).

I’ve seen this time and time again regarding sexual problems. The pain and fear of what’s happening, or not happening, attacks a spouse’s sense of their self. Rather than ask where or how they might have contributed to problems in the marriage bed, they react defensively. It’s an understandable instinct of self-preservation — to protect themselves from experiencing further damage or to seek safety from the pain and fear they feel.

Defense Mechanisms

We all employ defense mechanisms to preserve ourselves. But we have individual tendencies to use certain ones more often than others.

Before you read on, think about the biggest problem you have regarding sex in your marriage. It may be a huge disconnect that has caused intense conflict or a smaller one that you both want to address. But as I outline six common defense mechanisms, consider that issue and ask which defense mechanisms you relate best to.

Do NOT try to identify your spouse is on this list. At least not yet. Work on yourself first!

1. Denial

“What problem? There’s no problem. I don’t know why my spouse thinks there’s a problem.”

Few people living in denial about sex problems are currently reading this blog post, because the Kings and Queens of De-Nile are unlikely to visit a Christian sex site. However, you may be denying other issues in the marriage that contribute to sexual problems, like relational conflict or porn use.

2. Compartmentalization

“Everything else is great in our marriage. It’s only the sex part that’s an issue.”

This could be true, if you’re dealing with a temporary downturn in intimacy or a physical impediment you need to address. But compartmentalization also happens when someone says the marriage shouldn’t be affected by a lack of sex or that spirituality and sexuality have nothing to do with each other. Truth is, sex struggles may tap into pain or fear, so it’s easier to simply set sex aside and close it off.

3. Projection

“I’m not the one with a problem. My spouse is the one with a problem.”

Again, this could be true if you have a deeply selfish or abusive spouse, but most of us don’t. (If you do, see Are You in an Abusive or Destructive Marriage?) Instead, projection is when we contribute to the problems or feel things we don’t want to feel, and instead of addressing those, we project them onto our spouse. One example is the unfaithful spouse who accuses their mate of cheating, but it could also be something like a refusing spouse who projects onto their spouse the accusation of controlling the marriage bed.

4. Rationalization

“It’s entirely reasonable for me to feel and react the way I do. Because…”

You can recognize rationalization when the sexual problem comes up in conversation, and you immediate have an answer that could be introduced with “Yeah, but…” Then you go on to explain the circumstances that warrant your feelings, actions, and reactions. For example, of course you don’t have more sex because it’s messy and takes too much time. (Concerns which can be addressed, by the way.) Another form this takes is whataboutism, where you rationalize your behavior by pointing out a separate failure of your spouse.

Confession: In a conflict, rationalization and I are practically besties. Sigh. #WorkInProgress

5. Overcompensation

“So our sex life isn’t great, but I do all these other awesome things.”

Compensation is a positive defense mechanism if used as a way to make up for weaknesses with strengths. For instance, I have a sign in my kitchen that reads, “I kiss better than I cook,” to remind my family that my cooking weakness is compensated by my affection for them. But it becomes a problem when we overcompensate, meaning we play the game of “don’t look here, look over here.” We point to what we want our spouse to see, without regard to the problem that matters more to them. This happens with sexual intimacy when a spouse says that they don’t want to have sex but they are a wonderful parent, house manager, breadwinner, etc. Or let’s say he’s demanding in the sack, but he gives his wife a lot of orgasms — whether or not that’s what she cares most about.

(By the way, I still cook and try to make it good. Sometimes, it’s quite good!)

6. Repression

“I don’t know why I’m this way. I just am.”

Repression is difficulty to identify because by definition it’s the unconscious blocking of unwanted thoughts, painful memories, or irrational beliefs. You don’t know you’re doing it, but that buried baggage is still affecting the sexual intimacy in your marriage. It could be as serious as childhood abuse you haven’t addressed or a less severe issue like sexual myths you absorbed. But if you’re having problems with sex and can’t identify the issue, it’s worth asking what you might have repressed for the sake of self-preservation.

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7. Other Defense Mechanisms

These common defense mechanisms address many struggles I’ve heard, but there are other defense mechanisms, including sublimation, regression, intellectualization, undoing, and more.

If you want to explore further, here are three good lists:

PsychCentral – 15 Common Defense Mechanisms
healthline – 10 Defense Mechanisms: What Are They and How They Help Us Cope
verywellmind – 20 Common Defense Mechanisms Used for Anxiety

Beyond Self-Defense

So we often avoid owning our part of a sexual problem in our marriage through defense mechanisms meant to achieve self-preservation. But is that God’s ultimate calling?

  • “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21).
  • “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
  • “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
  • “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”(Philippians 2:3-4).
  • “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
  • “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Look, God wants to preserve us. But He’s concerned with preserving the best of us and our unity (see John 17:22-23). In marriage, that unity is called “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:6).

As Christians and spouses, we must be willing to confront our pain and fear and seek deeper intimacy with one another. That requires honesty, vulnerability, and owning our part.

As Christians and spouses, we must be willing to confront our pain and fear and seek deeper intimacy with one another. That requires honesty, vulnerability, and owning our part. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

I’ve messed up in my own marriage more times than I can count. But I can also see times when things were bad and I made them worse by setting up defense mechanisms to preserve myself at the expense of our relationship. In the end, I created more pain for both of us than we would have had just addressing the problem together, head-on.

Perhaps you can relate?

If you see yourself in this description, start with these two words: I’m sorry. You may be responsible for 90% of the issue or only 10% of the issue, but own your part.

Then begin figuring out how to do something different. What first steps can you take to improve the sexual intimacy in your marriage? Not what can my spouse do (remember projection?), but what can I do? Then pray for God’s wisdom and guidance as you do just that.

How the Sexually Disinterested Spouse Feels

Earlier this week, I shared responses from higher-drive wives asked what they feel about the lack of frequency and/or quality of sex in their marriage. Today, I want to share their responses to a different question.

76 Responses

From a research standpoint, these answers aren’t as useful, because they involve conjecture. While we can express what we’re feeling, it’s more difficult to know what someone else is feeling — unless they tell you.

Even so, the responses are eye-opening and likely accurate. They represent what I’ve researched and heard from sexually disinterested spouses.

Take the vow

Once again, let’s make a promise that:

I will not use this post to feed my resentment or anger, but rather to grieve through my own situation and sympathize with others. Moreover, I will not use this post to challenge or berate my spouse.

I’m sharing all this, in hopes that we will recognize how a big gap in sex drive can take an emotional toll on both the higher drive spouse and the sexually disinterested spouse. Indeed, a mismatch in drives is the #1 sexual problem reported by couples.

A mismatch in drives is the #1 sexual problem reported by couples. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

That gap isn’t a problem if you can negotiate the differences, use the opportunity to display empathy and generosity toward one another, and pursue regular sexual intimacy for your marriage. It may be that one of you gets less than their ideal and the other participates more than their ideal, but couples who’ve worked through the mismatch report overall satisfaction with their sex life.

Where it becomes a problem is when the gap is enough that one feels deprived and the other feels pressured or inadequate, two words that show up in the 45 emotions my respondents named.

Without further ado…

Here’s the list

Question: What primary emotion do you believe your HUSBAND feels knowing that you want higher frequency/quality of sex than he is currently giving?

Accepting

Annoyed

Apathetic

Apologetic

Avoidant

Awkward

Broken

Burdened

Clueless

Disappointed

Discouraged

Emasculated

Empathetic (some)

Exhausted

Failure (like a failure)

Fearful

Frustrated

Guilty

Inadequate

Incompetent

Incredulous

Indifferent

Insecure

Insufficient

Irritated

Justified

Lacking self-confidence

Lost

Moody

Obligated

Oblivious

Overwhelmed

Pitiful

Pressured

Pushed away

Remorseful

Resentful

Resigned

Sad

Shamed

Sorry

Stressed

Tainted (by porn use)

Tested

Unsure

By and large, the most common statement from these higher drives wives was something like “he feels like less of a man.” The emotion named was emasculated. (See A Letter to the Low Drive Husband.)

That’s not what you’d hear about sexually disinterested wives, but the other emotions listed above apply — like burdened, obligated, resentful, and sad.

But aren’t sexually disinterested spouses obligated?

Sometimes a husband or wife (usually husband) writes me with the request that I demand their spouse have sex with them. Because after all, “they’re commanded to do so in 1 Corinthians 7:3-5.” I then point out that this passage is about mutuality not selfishness, that their situation is not easy on their spouse either (see emotions list!), and that you get a lot more lovin’ when you approach your spouse with love! Agape love specifically.

We need to put ourselves in the other’s shoes and imagine the situation from that angle.

  • What if having sex made you feel desirable and cherished, but your spouse refused to have it with you?
  • What if you received little pleasure from sex, but your spouse demanded it regularly?
  • What if you became moody and sad during sexual dry spells in your marriage?
  • What if your spouse seemed to only meet your emotional needs when they wanted sex?
  • What if you felt your spouse’s lack of desire indicated that you were “less than” —less than attractive, less than worthy, less than loved?
  • What if you didn’t want sex because of your bad past experiences, but you didn’t know how to tell your spouse?
  • What if…

I don’t know your marriage’s “what if,” but all too often we don’t know for our marriage. We haven’t asked how our spouse feels about the situation. Or we asked, got a shallow answer, and stopped pursuing more. Or we got an answer but didn’t like the answer or didn’t let sink in and elicit empathy.

What’s the solution?

Here’s where my SEO and book sales would go up if I said: YOU CAN SOLVE THE SEXUAL DESIRE GAP IN YOUR MARRIAGE WITH THESE 5 EASY STEPS! And then I outlined the steps and made them sound quick and doable like a Lose 10 Pounds in 10 Days commercial. Fortunately — or unfortunately for my pocketbook — I’m much more interested in telling you the truth.

The truth is that the solution depends on:

Your specific situation

Is the sexual disinterest due to relational problems? Medical issues? Past abuse? Something else? Is the HD spouse reasonable in their expectations? Pressuring for unwanted activities? Using porn? Something else?

The specifics of why there’s such a big gap matter. A proper diagnosis is needed for proper treatment.

Your and your spouse’s willingness

One spouse can have great influence and encouragement for a marriage to get on track. But eventually, you both have to be willing to work on your sexual intimacy.

You simply cannot make your spouse do something they don’t want to do. (If you do, that’s called abuse, by the way.) That said, you making changes could push things in the right direction.

Your understanding of God’s design

If you believe myths about sex, you’ll prescribe the wrong solutions and not get anywhere. Or your gains will be short-lived. (See our podcast episodes on Lies Women Believe: Part 1 and Part 2, Myths from Pop Culture.)

With the foundation of the Word of God and the truths about sex as God intended it, however, you can begin to see what a loving response would be to your particular situation. Moreover, you’ll know what you’re aiming for and the benefits of having that level of intimacy with your spouse.

Your resources

Access to necessary or useful resources can make a big difference. For instance, if a sexually disinterested spouse experienced childhood abuse, being able to see a trauma counselor could be the most important piece for building fresh intimacy. Likewise for porn recovery programs, Christian counseling or sex therapy, or a medical specialist to address physical issues.

Many couples don’t require that level of intervention. Rather, they need resources like mine, that help you understand God’s design, communicate more effectively, and experience greater pleasure in your marriage bed. Or they can use my resources to supplement those other interventions.

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For more great tips on how to have sizzling sex, check out this book for wives!

Take the first step

Regardless, the first step is talking to your spouse about the gap in sexual desire. For those who say they’ve talked about it a whole lot already, I suggest you clear the air and start over. That is, tell your spouse you know it’s been a point of contention and the topic makes both of you tense, but you want to start over and really understand their viewpoint better.

And then … do that. Ask questions and spend more time listening than talking. My book, Pillow Talk, can help with that, but you may need to introduce the conversation on your own before getting your spouse on board with going through my (fabulous) book. (You can download a sample here to see and share with your spouse what it’s like.)

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Now that I think about it, maybe your first step should be prayer, followed by opening up that conversation. As I write this, I’m saying a prayer for you — that you can address the big gap in desire in marriage, listen and show empathy, and figure out what the next step should be.

And I pray that that many more couples will begin to describe their sexual gap with emotions like optimistic, hopeful, contented, and loved.

As the sexually disinterested spouse, did you relate to any of this list of emotions? If you’re the higher drive spouse, did any of those emotions surprise you?

Launching the Conversation About Sex in Your Marriage (with Downloadable Sample Chapter of Pillow Talk)

A wife recently wrote to me saying that she’d had my book, Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples, on her list of things to check out for a while. But she thought it was just a book of topics to talk about and getting over the weirdness of saying words like “sex” and “naked,” whereas she wanted to go deeper.

Once she downloaded the sample, this wife was amazed how much information and communication the book included. She purchased her copy right away and thanked me several times over.

Yep, notes like those are really awesome! But her statement also gave me a V8 moment. (And those of you who don’t know that a V8 moment is suddenly realizing something you should have thought of before, you’re making me feel old.)

Why had I never shared a sample chapter on my blog?!

You can download a sample through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, with a few chapters to try it, but I wanted to give my fabulous subscribers and readers a freebie here!

Ground Rules

The introduction to Pillow Talk is a guide on how to use the book. But right after that comes a chapter titled Ground Rules. Since it begins, “Whatever you do, don’t skip this chapter,” let me at least summarize what I said there.

Each conversation chapter consists five sections:

  • Introduction—a single paragraph introducing the topic.
  • Ask and Listen—three questions to ask of your spouse and then listen to their answers.
  • Read and Consider—scripture to read together and thoughts on that passage.
  • Touch and Pray—an invitation to hold hands or embrace and pray over what you’ve discussed and learned.
  • Go and Do—two activity options to help you apply what you’ve learned.

That second section, Ask and Listen, is where we can fall prey to misunderstanding our spouse, insisting on our perspective, and wading into arguments. To avoid that happening, follow some ground rules.

First, choose a good time and place. Pick a time when both of you can focus and don’t feel too tense, as well as a location that seems neutral and isn’t loaded with distractions.

When it’s your turn to answer.

  • Be honest and vulnerable. “There is no great gain in intimacy without vulnerability and authenticity.”
  • Consider how you express your concerns. How you express something matters as much as what you express.
  • Keep your requests reasonable. For example, don’t demand a strip tease if your wife won’t undress until it’s dark. Ask for progress that can reasonably happen.

When it’s your spouse’s turn to answer.

  • Listen. “Do not interrupt, do not correct, do not contradict, do not defend, do not criticize.” (See Are You Listening to What Your Spouse Says About Sex?)
  • Stay calm. Easier said than done, but the book has more tips on how to maintain a cool head.
  • Seek clarification. If you don’t understand or something feels like an attack, probe a little. Your spouse may not be saying what you think.
  • Accept their feelings. Just because you don’t or wouldn’t feel the same way doesn’t make your spouse’s feelings invalid. Even if their feelings are based on error, that doesn’t make them illegitimate.
  • Think through their answers. It’s tempting to react quickly, but let your spouse’s words sink in and mull over your response before you speak.

Each of these points is further explained in the book, but those are the basic guidelines.

Sample Chapter

The first chapter of Pillow Talk is about praying for your sex life. While I believe in the importance of starting there, I’m actually sharing chapter two below, because I think it’s more representative of the book as a whole. Also, this conversation could really help some couples open their eyes to their similarities and differences regarding sexual intimacy in their marriage.

Below is Chapter Two: What We Learned About Sex. Or click the button for a downloadable version you can print out.

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How we grew up hearing and thinking about sex can make a big imprint on our perspective later in life. Unfortunately, few Christians report having received thorough, positive, Scripture-based instruction about sexuality. How has what you learned impacted your sexual intimacy?

Ask and Listen

  1. What’s your earliest memory of sex? When did you learn about it, and what did you learn?
  2. What messages about sex did you get from your parents, mentors, and the church as you grew up?
  3. What, if anything, that you learned about sex as a child has negatively affected your view of physical intimacy now?

Read and Consider

Read together Deuteronomy 6:6-9.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

God’s pronouncement to the Israelites in this passage involved teaching the children who God was, what He had done for His people, and how they should honor Him by living according to His commands. This foundational education was to be an ongoing practice, saturating their daily existence.

Within the law of Moses, they were expected to follow commands about sex which showed God’s desire for it to remain holy and mutually satisfying in marriage. But many of us weren’t taught what God’s design for sex really was. Instead, our parents and church leaders were silent, ignorant, or negative. Often they hadn’t received godly instruction themselves and didn’t know how to teach us.

It’s not too late to learn. God’s Word can still teach you what it means to experience intimate, meaningful, and pleasurable sex as God intended in the covenant bond of marriage.

Touch and Pray

Holy Father, You are the creator of sex, the designer of pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed. But we have struggled with messages that make it difficult for us to fully embrace the gift You long for us to enjoy. Help us to align our understanding with Yours.
[Pray specifically for the issues you brought up in your conversation.]
In Jesus’ blessed name, Amen.

Go and Do

1. Take a sheet of paper and make two columns. On the left side, write down underlying messages about sex that you got from the teaching you received. Those can be anything from “sex is good in marriage” to “only bad girls want sex” or “sex is for the man.” In the right-hand column, counter any negative messages with your growing understanding of what God says about sexual intimacy. You don’t have to believe these yet, but record what you think is the right answer. Finally, put a star by those erroneous messages you struggle with most.

2. Trade lists. Yes, this is a vulnerable exercise. But let your spouse see where you’re struggling, so they can help and pray for you. In turn, promise to help and pray for your spouse.

Have You Received Bad Marriage Counseling?

Back when our marriage was firmly planted in a pit of despair, we sought counseling. We tried marriage counseling three different times—not a single appointment, but an extended effort.

Likewise, I’ve often encouraged people to seek Christian counseling for their marriages or themselves, but I admit to worrying sometimes what they’ll get. Because our experience was a mixed bag, and some things said were sadly unhelpful.

None of our counselors was uncaring or incompetent or ungodly. Rather, our poor experiences simply weren’t what we needed, so our marriage didn’t improve and I sank further into despair. I thought: If we’re giving our marriage everything we’ve got, including Christian counseling, and it still isn’t working … maybe we should just call it quits.

With no disrespect to those people who tried to help our marriage, I want to share some “bad marriage counseling” approaches and give tips on how to recognize a good counselor for your marriage.

1. “I know what your problem is.”

Counselors see a lot of the same circumstances again and again. It’s true that for most people who have shared sexual problems with me on this blog or through email, someone else has shared a similar problem. So I can see how that would happen. It’s an easy stretch then to have a counselor spend an hour with a couple and think, “I’ve got this.” They announce, “I know what your problem is,” then describe the issues and prescribe a solution.

More than once, we had a counselor announce what our problem was—and they were off-base. They ascribed stereotypical gender roles or family back stories or internal motives that didn’t apply.

You wouldn’t trust a physician to diagnose strep without a throat culture, would you? Or cancer without a biopsy? Likewise, a good counselor needs to gather information about what you two are actually facing to be able to diagnose the problem and give specific solutions.

Look for someone who asks more questions than gives answers in the first few sessions. That’s not to say a good counselor won’t have insight and good advice—in fact, it’s a great idea for them to give you some obvious tips to get a few “quick wins”—but they should also take time seeing how your issues match common scenarios and how your relationship is different.

2. “Just work the program.” 

Two of our three counselors preferred a specific program to helping marriages. One used a particular book, which we were asked to purchase and read, and the other had his own canned approach. The message both gave was clear: You work the program, and your marriage will work.

I’m not knocking the books or programs people promote to help marriages. I’ve benefited a lot from specific perspectives like Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages and Emerson Eggerichs’s Love and Respect. But I grow concerned when we treat such programs like these, and His Needs, Her Needs by Willard T. Harley, as magic bullets for whatever ails your marriage. What if you work the program and the marriage still doesn’t work? If it’s not the fault of the program, it must be your marriage. Right?

Not right.

On my blog, I try to address specific sexual intimacy issues while returning again and again to principles that apply across marriages (like 3 G-Words to Improve Your Marriage and The Gospel in the Bedroom). Look, I don’t have a magic bullet, and change is hard. Your marriage has its own specific problems, and while the ultimate answer is Jesus, how Jesus works in your marriage is specific to your situation.

Your marriage has its own specific problems, and while the ultimate answer is Jesus, how Jesus works in your marriage is specific to your situation. via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

Marriage counseling should be tailored to where a specific couple is and what they’re dealing with. Principles from programs can be helpful, but the program shouldn’t be the focus of healing the relationship. Just open up the Gospel and tell me if Jesus dealt with every person He encountered in the same way. Of course not! Are there principles He followed? Absolutely. But He tailored His approach to the specific person.

3. “It’s all his/her fault.”

Actually, the problem is a counselor letting a spouse get away with this attitude. I’d venture a guess that in 90% of counseling cases, one spouse thinks all the problems would go away if the other one would just change already. And some of those times, a counselor agrees.

Sure, there are situations in which one spouse is largely to blame—like with a serial adulterer, an ongoing addict, or an abuser. But the majority of marriages are two-to-tango in their dysfunction. Even if one person started the mess, something the other did enabled or escalated problems. Our reactions to our spouse’s bad behaviors make a real difference in whether it’s a blip in the marriage or a dynamic that takes hold.

Our reactions to our spouse's bad behaviors make a real difference in whether it's a blip in the marriage or a dynamic that takes hold. via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

On the other hand, one of our counselors had a different message that seemed just as destructive to me: It’s all your fault if you let your spouse’s bad behavior affect you. This is the notion that you’re to blame for your reactions, so if you feel negative about something your spouse has done, that’s on you.

Whoa, wait a minute. So if my husband cheats on me, and I’m mad about it, I chose that emotion so it’s my fault? Um, no! There are reasonable reactions to certain behaviors in marriage, and we should not beat up a spouse for having those emotions. If your spouse woos the heck out of you, you’ll probably be happy about that. If your spouse pooh-poohs all your date plans for the night, you’ll probably be unhappy about that. That’s called caring about your relationship.

If you’re in couples counseling, your counselor should address where each of you can improve. They should intervene when one starts blaming the other too much or tries to shut down reasonable negative reactions to bad behavior. This is really just the application of the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

4. “That’s not important.” 

When you bring up something that matters to you in a couples counseling session, and the counselor says, “That doesn’t matter,” it feels like they just said that you don’t matter. Maybe they don’t say it quite that way; rather, they might try to steer the conversation away with something like, “Well, that’s a small thing, and we need to tackle the bigger issues here.” That sounds great, but if you brought up the way he refolds his clothes after you already did it, I’m guessing that issue stands for something bigger in the relationship.

This hasn’t happened to us much, but I’ve heard it from readers quite a bit—especially when it comes to sexual intimacy. The scenario is often this one: The higher-drive spouse brings up a lack of sex in the marriage, and the counselor dismisses that as a physical need that isn’t as important as “high-minded” issues like emotional connection and communication. Well, hello! God created sex to be one form of emotional connection and communication in a marriage.

If your core issues are not being addressed, find another counselor who will listen. Again, this would be like going to a doctor and saying, “My knee hurts every time I bend it”; if they said, “Well, that doesn’t matter. I just want to look at your throat,” you’d be annoyed that they didn’t care about your health. If your marital ache is your husband never doing a chore in the house, or your wife rolling her eyes when you talk, or your spouse neglecting sexual intimacy, find a counselor who’ll address it. Along with your spouse’s concerns, which also matter.

But how do you find a good Christian counselor?

You can Google search for a counselor in your area, and you can look into local churches. Larger churches often have a counselor on site or support a counseling practice in your area. But one of the best ways is word-of-mouth. For that, don’t just look for that person who goes to counseling all the time, but the one who has shown improvement. Who do you know that used to struggle with X and is doing much better now? Who did they see?

At your first appointment, ask questions about what kind of approach they take. They should be interviewing you about your situation, but this is also your opportunity to interview them to see if your goals and personalities will work together. Be open-minded and willing to hear tough stuff—that’s part of counseling—but look for someone who listens, gets along with both of you, and seems to be for your marriage.

And be willing to try more than one counselor if the first one or two aren’t a good fit. It’s okay to move on from someone who isn’t helping you to someone you might be able to. Seriously, you’d do that much for a car that the first mechanic wasn’t able to fix, so why wouldn’t you do it for your marriage?

Have you ever been to marriage counseling, and if so, what was your experience? What advice would you give for finding a good Christian counselor?

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Here’s How to Talk to Your Spouse About Sex

Having sex can be awkward. Oddly enough, talking about sex can be even more awkward.

Blog post title + couple talking in bed

How do you bring up to your concerns, desires, or ideas to your spouse? What issues should you even talk about? How can you get them to understand you, and how can you possibly understand them?

It’s not easy, because you are two different people, with different histories, different perspectives, and different longings. But guess what? I’m making it much easier for you!

Pillow Talk Book Cover, click to learn more or find buy links

I’ve released a new book titled Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples. It provides you the framework for having productive conversations on all kinds of topics from kissing to sexual fantasies to frequency to erogenous zones to sexual baggage and much more.

This book is not prescriptive on what exactly your sex life should look like, but rather helps you discuss how you can address the sexual intimacy part of your marriage in a way that honors and satisfies both of you.

For some reading this, that may seem like a tall order. But I can’t think of anything in this book that would be problematic for either a higher-desire spouse or a lower-desire spouse. You each get the opportunity to express where you are and what you think. Of course, you’re often encouraged to not settle for the here-and-now but to pursue healthier and holier sexual intimacy, because that’s God’s design—for both of you and for your marriage.

To learn more about the book, head over to the Pillow Talk page on my site. You’ll find a full description, a sample view, and buy links. For a short time, the Pillow Talk ebook is offered at an introductory price of only $2.99! The print book is coming in early 2019.

I pray this resource will bless many marriages! Happy New Year.