Tag Archives: Summer of Q&A with J

Q&A with J: Can Sex Be Used as Comfort? Yes, But…

I’m back again for another installment of the Summer of Q&A with J. Here’s today’s question sent to me from a husband. He describes a conflict he had with his wife:

I have been giving a lot of thought to a recent disagreement on sexual intimacy. We had been through some tough things over the prior week, and one night I said how much I wanted to make love and feel her in my arms and forget the world for a while. And she got upset with me. Really upset.

At issue was the idea of using sexual intimacy as “comfort.” She was adamant that sex should not be used as “comfort” at all, ever, and felt that my request was inappropriate.

My question is this: Is it ok to consider sexual intimacy as a “comfort” in a marriage? When would it be appropriate? When would it be inappropriate, when would it be “using” rather than “sharing”?

Can Sex Be Used As Comfort? Yes, But...

Let me point this reader and others to a post I wrote on 4 Ways Sex Can Comfort in Crisis or Grief. Specifically, consider these verses from the Bible:

“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her” (2 Samuel 12:24a).

“Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death” (Genesis 24:67).

Thus, my answer is an unequivocal yes — sexual intimacy can absolutely be comforting in marriage. I’ve certainly experienced it myself.

HOWEVER, before you all bring out your thick Bibles to thump your spouses, the issue is more than who is right or wrong. I’m rather curious what the wife thinks sex is for — what are her “appropriate” reasons to engage in sex in marriage.

Some wives who don’t engage in sex frequently in marriage don’t feel listened to and valued, so here’s an opportunity to demonstrate you care about her thoughts and feelings. Ask what she thinks about sex: What purpose does it serve in marriage? Why did God include create it the way He did? Why is there an entire book about marriage and sex in the Bible (Song of Songs)?

Now don’t corner the poor girl and drill her like you’re the hard-nosed detective in the last cop show you saw. In The DNA of Relationships, marriage researcher and author Gary Smalley talks about how we draw close and open up to others when we feel “safe.” He defines as a safe environment as “no one has to worry about being shamed or rejected or punished or attacked for stating personal beliefs and feelings.” Then he notes, “In a place like that, heartfelt communication can bloom and grow.” Ask open-ended questions, invite conversation, and affirm your wife. Listen and rephrase what she says to make sure you understand where she’s coming from.

It’s perfectly fine for you to feel sex is comforting; it’s obviously in the Bible. What’s at question here seems to be her view of sex altogether. Who knows what beliefs about sex she’s learned or ingrained over the years? Some of us have loads of sexual baggage or received negative messages about sex.

When a big disagreement breaks out over something seemingly innocuous, that’s a red flag that you have hit a sore spot. Instead of digging in your heels further, as we are all tempted to do when we’re right, it could be a time to tread lightly and make extra effort to create that safe environment.

By the way, you won’t be able to do this on your own. That’s my heartfelt, been-there-tried-that opinion. I cannot achieve this kind of extravagant love in my own strength. Because yeah, when your spouse fires back at you, you’re wounded and the last thing you want to do is to put aside your pain and minister to your spouse.

Still, that’s what we’re called to do. Extra prayer is warranted. James 1:5 says: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” You’ll need wise words, so ask for them. I also like finding verses that remind me of the kind of person I want to be in that circumstance and try to memorize them. For instance, I wish every married person had 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 memorized, so they could recall to mind what agape love really looks like. But if you’re struggling specifically with compassion or patience or gentleness, find those scriptures and arm yourself accordingly.

In summary:

  1. You’re right: Sex can definitely be comfort in marriage.
  2. Being right isn’t the same as being good: Be careful how you approach your spouse when you’re right and they aren’t there yet.
  3. Foster a safe environment: Better conversation and problem-solving will happen when you both feel safe to express your thoughts and emotions, whether they make sense to your spouse or not.
  4. Ask for God’s help: No one has the power to love perfectly at all times — no one but God — so ask for His help as you work through sexual issues in your marriage.

What do you think about sex as comfort? Have you faced similar conflicts in your marriage? What advice would you give?

Q&A: My Shy Husband Is “Grossed Out” by Sex

When fellow Christians balk about why I write about sex in marriage, I often want to say, “You should see my email.” If they could read the scenarios and testimonies I receive, perhaps they’d understand how important ministries addressing marriage and sexual intimacy can be.

With that in mind, here’s a heart-wrencher question today. This young wife and her husband waited for all the physical stuff until their wedding day, including the kiss. I’ve known others who waited for nearly everything until the honeymoon, and most are like children ripping open the Christmas present with eagerness and excitement; they can’t wait to be intimate! Not so this couple.

My Shy Husband Is "Grossed Out" by Sex via Hot, Holy & Humorous

My question basically is, how do I encourage my husband to be more comfortable with me when he is (well is seems to me) grossed out by stuff… I try to use my tongue while kissing, and [he] absolutely won’t use his. I have stopped because it makes me feel rejected when he does that, but I really would like to be more intimate that way. I tried reading a book with him called A Celebration of Sex for Newlyweds but he didn’t seem interested or at least was to shy to be reading words like sex and orgasm :)…

I don’t know how to help educate my husband so that he is confident in touching me. He doesn’t explore my intimate parts unless I intentionally sit down with him and then he seems to [lose] interest in 3 minutes even though I am doing my best to encourage him. And if I try to move his hand there while in bed he resists me (again rejection feeling). So I want to be respectful of his discomforts so I just suggest every once in a while and leave it at that. But he is fine with me touching him for the most part except that he is extremely ticklish.

So I am feeling frustrated because I want more, but don’t know how to communicate with my shy quite husband. And will I have to keep asking? I also feel frustrated because of the stereotype of the way men should be in my mind and he is not that, i e he does not pursue me aggressively in a sexual manner which is what I want/expect. I feel like I am doing all the work. It seems like he was such a good Christian boy who never ever let his mind wander or fantasize. I ask him if there are things he would like to do or try and the answer is always “i don’t know.” How do I get my husband to want me more and in new ways? I guess the real answer is prayer. I should pray more for him. But again how do I get him interested in learning about sex? 

Mourn with those who mourn. First, I want to hug this wife. Sex is supposed to part of the package deal of marriage, and she’s got a lifetime ahead of her with the man she loves, but it’s just not happening…at all. I want to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15), because this is real grief. Yet God knows. And, while I cannot reach her, He can wrap His strong arms around her and her marriage and help her through.

Sexual baggage? Second, my red flags are up and flying at full mast. If this husband were in my counseling office (no, I don’t have one, but let’s pretend), I’d ask a lot of questions about his sexual history. An extreme lack of interest and discomfort with sexual intimacy could relate to events from his past—such as childhood sexual abuse; harsh punishment for sexual curiosity; teaching that sex is “dirty” or sinful; deep and unyielding shame about prior inappropriate activity (e.g., watching porn).

I suggest sitting your husband down outside the bedroom and starting a conversation about your previous experiences with sexuality. When did you learn about sex and from whom? Did you have any awkward experiences as a child? What did you think sex would be like in marriage? If he will not engage—because it’s about S-E-X—state clearly, “I need for us to talk about this, because I want to be intimate with you in every way, including sex. If you cannot talk to me, you have to talk to someone.” Then outline some possibilities for him, like your pastor, a Christian counselor, a mentor friend, a support group.

And yes, I think there could be a point when he’s had ample opportunity to follow through but hasn’t, and you must enlist help from others. That could mean going to your pastor, explaining the situation, and asking him to gently and privately approach your husband. It could mean telling a close friend of his who’s marriage-positive, a wonderful confidant for your husband, and who’ll take a biblical approach. I would not take this step lightly, but it’s also not okay to live like this for years on end.

Just too much? That said, this “good Christian boy who never ever let his mind wander or fantasize” may simply feel in over his head. If he expended a great deal of effort avoiding sex to remain pure, it could be difficult to flip that switch. In which case, I’d put away the Christian sex book (yes, even mine *sigh*) and reach for the ultimate Christian sex book, the Bible. You need to start with helping him understand God Himself is entirely in favor of him exploring, enjoying, and satisfying his wife in the marriage bed.

Three times in the Song of Songs, the Bible says, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires” (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). Many Christians and churches focus on the first half of that verse, making sure not to arouse or awaken sexual feelings and activity before marriage. But the verse doesn’t stop there; it goes on to say “until it so desires,” meaning there will be a time when love should be aroused and awakened because it’s ready. Marriage is that time.

You can share the Song of Songs, or stories from the Bible about sexuality (4 Great Bible Stories about Sex, 3 More Great Bible Stories about Sex). Take him to one of my favorite scriptures on sexuality—Proverbs 5:18-19: “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.”

Pray for him, and pray with him if he’ll agree. It may help to find some of these specific scriptures and adapt them to pray for your husband’s interest and engagement. For instance, using the above scripture: “Bless my husband’s fountain, Lord, and help him to rejoice in me. Give him Your view of me as loving and graceful. Help him to seek satisfaction in my breasts and my body and to become intoxicated with my love.”

Slowly, slowly. On a practical level, go slow. Like insanely slow. Will this nearly kill you? Not being a patient woman myself, I’m freaking out a little just writing about it. But ask for divine help to persevere and slowly pull your husband out of his extreme timidity.

Set aside chunks of time to use as experimentation. Even if your husband isn’t tuned into his body, your body, and sexuality, he can get there. He may need time, permission, and trial-and-error to figure out what gets him going in the sex department. Explain you want to spend time figuring out how to make sex work between you two.

Also, I’m not a big fan of blindfolds, but I can see a use for it here or simply asking hubby to keep his eyes closed. He may need to tune out the visual of oh-my-goodness-what’s-happening and focus on sensations of touch. Ask clearly and often about what he likes or doesn’t like. If he isn’t comfortable answering with words, he can provide a hand signal or soft noise—whatever works for you. You may need for a time to hold off on intercourse while you help him explore sexuality itself. Remember the goal is ultimately physical intimacy, not a grand finish (although, believe me, I’m in favor of the grand finish).

You have a lifetime together, so breathe easy knowing you don’t have to get this all nailed down by Thursday. Does it suck? I’m a candid woman, so I’m going to agree that it sucks to be rejected by your husband and have him get grossed out by something as simple as a French kiss. Will it always suck? I’m also a Christian woman, so I’m confident saying that answer is no. God has worked wonders in so many marriages when it comes to sexual intimacy, and I think He can spin a beautiful miracle in yours.

What advice do you have for this wife? Do you have a similar situation in your marriage?

Q&A: Will Frequent Yeses Turn My Husband into a Sex Maniac?

Welcome to the Summer of Q&A with J! The first question I’m tackling today addresses giving your husband the green light for frequent sex. If you let him know you’ll say yes when he initiates, will you be stuck with more sex than you can handle? Read on.

Q&A: Will Frequent Yeses Turn My Husband into a Sex Maniac?“[I]n offering sex to my husband every day, sometimes more than once a day, I have turned him into a sex maniac, I think.  He told me that he and his late wife, with whom he had a very good marriage…went through periods…when they only had sex once or twice a year, and that even as newlyweds, it was only once or twice a week.  Supposedly if you offer your husband sex every day, this dissipates his fear that he won’t ‘get any’, so his demand goes down.  No, just the reverse, daily sex and multiple daily sex has become the norm.  Just recently we slowed down to maybe five days a week.

“I’m ok with this — for myself, I’m not so crazy about sex, but I love having that experience with my husband — but, as both of us are devout people, I wonder if it’s such a good thing for him.  I know it’s good for his health and good for our marriage, but I wonder if awakening so much desire is really a good thing, spiritually.  I talk to him about it, because he is surprised by this too, but he doesn’t feel it has any bearing on faith or spirituality…

“On the one hand I am concerned about turning my husband into a sex maniac but on the other hand I can’t help but be flattered.”

I see two major issues in this reader’s question.

“Supposedly if you offer your husband sex every day, this dissipates his fear that he won’t ‘get any’, so his demand goes down.”

I suspect this is true, but not over the short-term. When a higher-drive spouse has longed for sex but hasn’t gotten to experience it fully, an invitation to partake at will can result in a bit of overindulgence. Why? For some, it feels like this just can’t be. They worry this offer is too good to be true, so they must get as much as possible now, just in case, or they test the waters to confirm it’s real and not a pinch-me-awake dream.

Also, imagine you’ve been wanting and waiting for something for a long time. When you finally get the go-ahead, you can go a bit crazy. Think about young kids and Christmas, the first visitors to an amusement park or concert, or even “Black Friday.” If you’ve camped outside Wal-Mart since midnight waiting for the deep-discounted holiday shopping to begin, when 4 a.m. arrives and the attendant throws open those doors . . . you might sprint into and through that store with the fervor of a Cheetah on Red Bull.

But I’ve been shopping on Black Friday afternoon, and it’s not bad. After the initial hype, things ease into a typical holiday shopping crowd. I’d expect the same to happen in a marriage. Once you throw open those bedroom doors to your husband (or wife), they might be extra-eager to soak up all the intimacy they can get. Over time, however, things will likely settle a bit. Will they settle to the same level you might want? Maybe, maybe not. Your higher-drive honey may always want more than you’d order up, but you probably won’t be inundated with Energizer-bunny levels of sexual intimacy.

“I know it’s good for his health and good for our marriage, but I wonder if awakening so much desire is really a good thing, spiritually.”

On one hand, how could it possibly be bad to awaken sexual desire in your marriage and enjoy God’s gift of physical intimacy? Isn’t it living into God’s design to enjoy frequent sex together?

Some believe because sex is physical, it’s somehow “lesser-than” in the spiritual realm. Yet many Spirit-filled activities have a physical component. Consider Matthew 25:34-36: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Jesus counts all these things, very physical manifestations of love, as righteousness. Sex as God designed is a physical expression of agape love to your mate. And because God is so loving, He made it physically pleasurable.

However, there is another side to this. The Bible says sex can get in the way of focusing on your faith at times. Why else would it say…?

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 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. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” —1 Corinthians 7:3-5 (emphasis added)

Refraining from sex here is clearly a set period of time, agreed upon by both spouses, and for a specific purpose. It can be good to abstain from sexual relations for a short period to dedicate yourself to prayer—as one might fast from food for the same reason. It’s not the thing itself (food/sex) that is a problem, but removing potential distractions can foster one-on-one time with God. Day-to-day, however, there’s no indication frequent sex itself interferes with spirituality.

Still, sex could mess up your spiritual life if it continually competes with God for your attention. Exodus 20:3 says:  “You shall have no other gods before me.” Anything can become a “god” to you, meaning you place it above the real Father in Heaven. Jesus also said: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34). If one’s focus becomes all about sex, sex, and more sex—so that your heart is there and not with God and your spouse—then yeah, that’s a red-flag issue.

In the case of this specific reader, I suggest she hang in there, because the frequency will probably go down a little bit more. (Although 4-5 times a week sounds good to me.) She doesn’t have to say yes every single time to be honoring God and her husband with sexual intimacy. But she can. As long as you are prioritizing God above all and otherwise devoting yourselves to your faith, get it on as often as you’d like. And thank God for the goodies when you’re done!

Summer of Q&A: What Was the Most Asked Question?

I promised a Summer of Q&A with J, in which readers can ask questions about the sexual intimacy in their marriage and I will answer with a blog post. The topics that came in are really varied, showing our experiences run the gamut. While many marriages relate to struggling with sex, we struggle in different ways.

Summer of Q&A: What Was the Most Asked Question?

 

Yet one specific question came up again and again. Even across so many different situations, this question was often included somewhere in the email:

Will you please let me stay anonymous?

Let me first say that my answer to all of you is YES. Indeed, I set up my blog so that you may comment using the name “Anonymous” or an initial or a made-up nickname. I wanted to encourage people to engage here and not worry about sharing their private concerns in this public forum.

But the repeated appearance of this question about retaining anonymity makes me wonder about something bigger. How many times does a marriage have problems with the sexual intimacy that are entirely unknown to anyone around them? How many spouses struggle in silence and feel they have nowhere to turn? How many feel anonymous even before God when it comes to the pain they face?

Let me encourage those feeling anonymous in their marital intimacy challenges:

1. You are not alone. The problems posed to me are varied, but they are not new. If you’re a higher drive spouse longing for more connection, plenty of high-drive spouses know what you’re going through. If you’re a wife whose husband has rejected you for a porn addiction, other wives have been through the same. If you feel like your marriage is sexless and hopeless, others have been there and come out the other side with new hope and health in their sexual intimacy. I hear the tough stories, but I hear the victory stories too.

Whatever your issue, another Christian out there is facing a similar challenge. Moreover, you are not alone no matter what — because God is with you. He doesn’t promise us a perfect life this side of Heaven. But He promises us His presence, if we will invite Him in and seek His face.

“Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9b

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4

“Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.'” John 14:23

I could go on all day with verses like these.

2. Seek answers. Many of you are seeking answers already, just by being on my blog or other websites. Perhaps you’re reading books, listening to sermons, praying diligently — asking for wisdom for the struggle you face. I encourage you to continue.

Now I hate to be a downer about it, but I do want to be realistic — so I’ll tell you it was years between when I starting seeking wisdom and when our marriage got much better. That sounds awful, right? ‘Cause when you’re in a big mess, you think you can’t make it another day, much less years! Looking back, though, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat to get to where we are — with an intact family, renewed love and hope, and God-honoring sexual intimacy. And I know where I’d be if I’d never sought wisdom — in the pit for even more years. Who wants to live there?

You’re stronger than you think, and you can do this. And God is even stronger than that — by a long shot. So take it day by day, look for answers, and ask God to lift you up when you feel too burdened to continue. In weeks or months or years from now, you may look back and see how amazingly far you’ve come.

3. Talk to people who know you. I will offer my best advice here, but I can’t get all the details of your situation into a single post or email. It’s not the same as sitting and having a long conversation with you, or — better yet — you and your spouse.

It may freak you out to think about sharing the nitty-gritty details with someone who knows you, but they might have insight that would be helpful. Your own doctor knows your body and your health. Your pastor knows your spiritual life and has seen your marriage. A counselor can speak with you at length and find out more about what’s going on. A close friend can mourn with you, encourage you, and pray for your marriage. A mentor can keep you accountable and be an ongoing cheerleader.

I don’t know who you need in your life, but it helps to have someone who knows you and your particular situation to hold your hand for the long haul. Consider opening up to someone in your midst. Choose carefully, but you might be surprised at the welcome arms that reach out in return.

Do you feel anonymous in your struggle with sexual intimacy in your marriage? Why is so hard to talk to someone? What would help you feel safe enough to open up?