Struggles with Sex

May 29, 2010

in the generous life

I’ve started reading through all the suggestions for tip content.  There was everything from “my sex life is a mess” to “how do I show respect” to “give me practical ideas for …”  I’m trying to group like ideas and address one such idea every few days.

Several gals mentioned struggling with sex or struggling with a lack of attraction for their husbands (I will address the gals who want more sex than their husbands in another post).

I think it’s important to understand that most of us go into marriage with a bad understanding of what sex can be and we are wounded by wrong or bad sexual messages from our families, friends and culture (and intentional sexual abuse, often by those we know).

I’m a big one for self education and running after opportunities for healing.  Intimate Issues is an excellent book/resource.  It is written by a couple of Christian gals and offers some real wisdom.  I would also recommend Secrets of Eve.  Though fairly technical in some places, it is a good study of Christian female sexuality (it would be a good book to read with your husband, if possible).

Pray. Pray. Pray. (Did I mention prayer?) Look around for gals who seem happy in their marriage and ask them to pray for you.  Buddy up and seek encouragement and support.   Guard your sexuality and thought life (be careful what you look at, read, etc.).  Look for opportunities to learn and grow.  Look for ministries that deal with emotional healing (please always check out ministries before jumping in).  I personally like Theophostic prayer.

I’ve also included an article I wrote awhile back that you can use as a checklist.  See if anything stands out to you and use the italicized paragraphs to point you to possible direction for action.

I have grown from a very non-sexual, afraid-of-sex kind of gal to a wife who enjoys sex with her husband.  It can be done, but it does take intentionality and effort to make that happen.

Pain is the precursor to change.  Mel Gibson

Be generous!  Lori <><

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LACK OF DESIRE
by Lori Byerly

There are a number of reasons a person might lack sexual desire for their spouse. When you consider that sexual desire starts with what happens between your ears and then is greatly influenced by the marriage relationship itself, it is understandable that most of what is going to stall desire will be personal or relational in nature. There are, of course, some physical problems that can affect sexual desire too.

The following list can be used to identify problems or potential problems.

PERSONAL / EMOTIONAL ISSUES

poor self image, poor sexual self image, inhibitions – Our culture and, sadly, the church have played havoc with how we see ourselves and our sexuality. Feeling bad about how we look or how we might perform sexually can fill some with dread that steals sex drive. Being ashamed of our body, or feeling one part of it is too small or strange looking, is counter productive to sexual desire.

fear of intimacy – wounds from past relationships can be carried into present ones, making it difficult to desire intimacy and oneness. Men may fear intimacy because they think it’s “weak” or unmanly.

childhood sexual abuse, molestation, rape – In order to dull the pain, fear and shame associated with a previous sexual experience, many victims repress or fight their natural sex drive.

lack of privacy – living in close quarters with parents or (foster, natural, or step) children. This is more likely to effect women than men.

guilt from (false or genuine) sexual sin – guilt over masturbation, playing doctor, promiscuity, abortion, premarital sex with your spouse, non-marital sex before you met your spouse, viewing pornography, adultery, etc. can make approaching sex very painful. Growing up in a strict anti-sex household can make people feel guilty about normal and natural sexual thoughts and desires. Some even feel guilty about their desire for their spouse. Still others feel guilt over things they want to do with their spouse; things they themselves believe are wrong or “kinky,” or believe their spouse would consider weird or sinful.

busyness, stress, anxiety – it takes a certain amount of time and relaxation to make sex work. Always being stressed out or having too much to do will eventually wear out your sex drive.

depression – depression puts the skids on everything in your life, including sex drive.

unforgiveness, deep grief, bitterness, fear, anger, hate – strong negative emotions steal emotional energy from the rest of your life. These emotions don’t even have to be directed toward your spouse to have them affect your sex drive.

other outlets – Investing large amounts of time into work or being emotionally involved with other people (real or not) can tie up the desire and energy that you need for your spouse. This may sound fairly simplistic, but it represents a host of problems – workaholism, a too busy lifestyle, preferring friends (male or female) over your spouse, an over active fantasy life, adultery, romance novels, pornography, masturbation and other sexual addictions – anything that ties up your time and emotions to the degree that it drains dry what you need to emotionally and physically desire your spouse.

When lack of sexual desire is grounded in a personal or emotional issue, it is helpful to talk it out. Pray and seek out encouraging folk (your spouse, a friend or counselor) who will help you face and deal with the problem in an atmosphere of safety and understanding.

As the problems are faced and dealt with, the natural sex drive will begin to assert itself (or your natural drive can be more correctly directed toward your spouse). You may need to concentrate on your sexuality for awhile until it feels more natural for you.

RELATIONAL ISSUES

lack of nonsexual intimacy – it’s difficult to desire someone that is a stranger to you. Over the long haul of marriage, your sex drive needs something relational to work with (my husband always says that the time you spend in nonsexual interaction becomes the building blocks for sexual intimacy).

lack of sexual intimacy, sexual dysfunctions, frustration, disappointment – repeatedly being rebuffed sexually can emotionally, and eventually physically, stall your sex drive. The same can happen for repeated lack of orgasm, impotence, premature ejaculation,retarded ejaculation, or other disappointments in the bedroom.

poor sexual technique, lack of knowledge about sexuality – a lack of understanding can cause things to go poorly in the bedroom. This can open the door to repeated disappointment and frustration which can in turn cause a lack of interest. A lack of understanding of gender and personality differences can cause a good deal of friction in and out of the bedroom.

lack of trust, betrayal, adultery – intimate relationships need a certain level of trust and commitment to operate well. When one spouse has abused the trust of the other, desire for intimacy is diminished.

lack of respect, abuse, manipulation, selfishness – it is extremely difficult to desire intimacy with someone who does not show genuine love or who consistently diminishes your worth and value in some way.

boredom – Most of us wouldn’t get excited about eating the same thing everyday for years; sex is no different. Fear about what the other would think can keep these feeling from being expressed, and the boredom just grows.

Relational issues are a bit tougher to resolve as they involve two people, rather than one. But if both people are willing to work at it, difficulties can be resolved. Pray over your marriage. Read good marriage books and implement their advice or visit and learn from a happily married couple. Sometimes it is helpful to seek out a counselor to resolve particularly difficult problems.

PHYSICAL ISSUES

medical conditions – anemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and hemochromatosis among others. Undiagnosed thyroid disease is suspected by some doctors to be responsible for a significant number of cases of low sex drive.

medicine, medical treatments and drugs – alcohol, prescription drugs, and street drugs are probably the single most common causes of low sex drive. Chemotherapy, high blood pressure medicine, antidepressants, tranquillizers and other medicines and medical treatments can affect sex drive. It may be possible to correct much of this by changing medications and/or dosages, so let your doctor know about the problems. Alcoholism is a very common sex drive killer in men.

hormones – a woman’s natural hormone cycle gives her periods of greater and lesser sexual desire. Hormones can also affect sexual drive during pregnancy, lactation and at menopause. Low testosterone reduces sex drive in both men and women, but this is actually rare in men.

exhaustion – being occasionally tired happens to us all, but chronic exhaustion means you need to check your priorities. Eat well and get adequate rest and exercise (cut back or cut out the smoking and drinking). In men exhaustion can impair erection even if the man desires sex; similar impairment of function is believed to occur in women who are too tired.

painful sex – infections, a poorly healed episiotomy, endometriosis, back problems and other conditions can cause sex to be uncomfortable or painful, making sex undesirable.

For health related problems, see your doctor! Change your lifestyle to take care of yourself and get educated about the physical / technical aspects of sexual intimacy.

Now, y’all, don’t use this list to beat each over the head with.  Take the time to prayerfully look at what you contribute, both positively and negatively, to your marriage. Then look to see how you can help your spouse with what they bring to it also. Think: prayer, forgiveness, encouragement, creative ideas …

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Lauren May 29, 2010 at 2:11 am

Thanks so much for this post. Not enough is being written about sex from a frank, Ggodly perspective.

Reply

Cathy May 29, 2010 at 6:35 am

Thanks for the encouragement! I have never heard of theophostic prayer before but have practiced it by the Holy Spirit leading. I did get healing and a deeper relationship with the Lord and others. So Thanks for introducing to us!

Reply

Knitted in the Womb May 29, 2010 at 10:09 am

Great list!

I will mention though, that one cause of “painful intercourse” that is often overlooked is male circumcision. Male circ now is much different than what God commanded to Abraham–what was commanded to Abraham was only a removal of a small portion of the foreskin, not the entire foreskin as is done now. But even that less drastic circ is not something that Christians are religiously bound to do.

Dr. Christine Northrup does a good job of explaining the mechanics of how male circ results in:

* removal of lubrication
* harder thrusting
* vagina tensing up

You can read the full article she wrote here: http://mensightmagazine.com/Articles/Northrup/lovecirc.htm

Unfortunately, short of a husband pursuing foreskin restoration, there isn’t much that a wife can do to make this problem go away in her current relationships–she can just “treat symptoms” by doing things like using lube, asking her husband to be more gentle… But it is something to consider when deciding whether or not to have a child circumcised.

Reply

Kathleen July 6, 2010 at 5:32 pm

“(I will address the gals who want more sex than their husbands in another post).”

Just wondering when you were going to address this!

Waiting with baited breath,

Kathleen

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