The Stages of Sex Series: Figuring Things Out

by | Oct 2, 2019 | Sex | 60 comments

Adjusting to Sex in Marriage: Figuring things out

In marriage, I think we go through several different stages of sex!

And this month, for our October series, I’d like to go over those different stages, look at the fun parts of each one; look at the red flags that may pop up; and then look at how we can make each stage great.

To start this series, I’d like to look at those first few years of marriage when you’re just figuring things out in the sex department.

When I did my surveys for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that the best years for sex in marriage were not actually the honeymoon years. They were, instead, years 16-24 of marriage. You’d been married for over a decade and a half. You were comfortable with each other and knew everything about each other. You could totally relax. You’d figured things out. The babies weren’t babies anymore. And that’s when everything often fell into place!

We assume, though, that the “figuring out” stage of sex is going to be the best. Those honeymoon years, when you’re both excited to be with each other, and libidos should be through the roof, and you’re all about trying new things. But actually, trying new things often comes in later, when you’re more used to each other.

What’s great about the “Figuring Things Out” Stage of Sex

Everything is new and exciting, and you’ve got the future in front of you! You can create some awesome memories; you’re not in a rut yet so you don’t need to “spice things up” to get them exciting; just being together is exciting.

You’ve got more time available than at most other stages of life (and stages of sex), and so it’s often easier to make more time for sex. And the first big breakthroughs–like figuring out how to bring her to orgasm or discovering how to make a new position work–can be real victories.

Potential Landmines in the “Figuring Things Out” Stage of Sex

When you had sex before you were married with other people, you may figure, “I know what to do now!”

Just because you knew how to please another partner, though, does not mean that you know how to please your spouse! It’s important to start from scratch and really learn each other’s bodies and desires. Men, especially, assume that they know how to have sex because sex tends to feel so good for them, so they may think something is wrong with their wives if their wives don’t enjoy it.

Hint: If your spouse is not enjoying sex, the problem is often not with your spouse  at all. It’s that you haven’t learned how to make them feel good! A while ago in the comments one woman explained how she was trying to tell her new husband that she needed more in bed than just intercourse, and trying to encourage him to read this blog. He replied that he’d raised hogs all his life, and he figured he knew how sex works. Please don’t do this to your spouse! Don’t assume anything.

Even if you had sex with your spouse before you were married, still start from scratch. She may not have had a wonderful time, and she may want a reset. Let her have that.

Communicating about what feels good may feel very awkward

Women, if we want the men to start from scratch, then we also need to learn how to speak up. I know that’s difficult, because it feels awkward to ask for what you want. It’s difficult to talk about sex. And telling him you want something specific can feel like you’re making demands, or that you’re being an imposition, and holding him back, because he could enjoy sex so much better if he could just get on with it, rather than being bothered with all the things that you need.

Resist the urge to be quiet. 

You are setting the stage for the rest of your married life. While you may be okay right now with sex not feeling very good, it’s pretty quickly going to become an imposition if you do it just to make him feel good. Speak up. Tell him that you want your pleasure to be considered in your sex life, too. Set the stage NOW for you being an equal partner in your sex life, rather than your pleasure being an afterthought.

Past porn use or past erotica use can impact your sex life

If you married thinking that marriage was going to cure the temptation to watch porn or read erotica, you’re likely finding out that’s not true. And you may be encountering a ton of other problems besides! Porn and erotica retrain the brain so that what’s arousing is an image, video, or a story rather than an actual relationship, and then you need that stimulation to get aroused during sex (for erotica, it’s fantasy that you really need, so you often mentally dissociate).

You need to make a clean break with pornography and erotica, and these posts may help.

Trauma may surface

If you’ve undergone significant betrayal or trauma in your life, from sexual abuse or assault to parental figures walking out, much of that trauma can resurface, making sex difficult and trust difficult. Seek a licensed counselor to guide you through the healing process, because you don’t need to be stuck.

You may not realize when things aren’t normal

Because we don’t often talk about the nitty gritty of our sex lives, you may assume that things are normal when they’re not. You may think pain is normal, or him not being able to maintain an erection is normal, or him wanting strange things sexually is normal. If you’re experiencing pain, I’ve written before about vaginismus, and the importance of seeking out a pelvic floor physiotherapist. Here’s a more detailed post on red flags in your sex life.

It’s all too easy to get stuck in a rut

Because it’s new, if you try one thing and it feels good, it’s easy to keep doing that one thing, because it can feel awkward to say, “Hey, let’s try something else!” Even if you’d like to try other positions, you can feel embarrassed asking for it, especially if your spouse seems to be enjoying what they’re doing. And so you can start your sex life off to a rather humdrum routine.

That’s what can go wrong. Now let’s look at how to make things go right!

Does your marriage need some spicing up–and some fun?

Try these 24 dares–plus one bonus–to take your marriage to the next level!

How to Make the Figuring Things Out Stage of Sex Great!

Start from Scratch–even if you’re not new at this

Assume you know nothing. Seriously. Even if you have sex with other people before you were married, or even if you had sex with each other–start from scratch.

Why? Because sometimes we get into patterns where sex is really good for one person but not the other, but in a dating relationship, we’re willing to put up with sex not being that great because we want to please the partner/keep them happy/keep them with me. Especially for women, this can be a huge problem. It’s very vulnerable to speak up and say what you like, and sometimes you’re not even sure or don’t have the vocabulary for it, so you don’t tend to say anything. And in that dating relationship, you can often get a lot of satisfaction just knowing that your boyfriend/fiance enjoyed himself and loves you.

But that’s a terrible way to start a marriage. So, guys especially, hear me out on this one: If you had sex before you were married, do not assume you now know how to do it, even if your fiancee was your sexual partner.  And how do you do that?

Aim for arousal, not just intercourse

Focus on arousal, not just “having sex”. Make sure that you know how she feels aroused and how to get her there. Sometimes that means just touching her, or stimulating her in other ways. It may take a long time. It can’t be rushed. But she needs to figure out what feels good, and you need to know that something can, indeed, feel good. Even if you have to hole up for a few weekends until you figure this out, take the time! It’s worth it.

Aim for a few sex marathons

Early in your marriage, when you’re relatively young and responsibility-free, is one of the few times in your life when your time will be your own. So if you’re going to do some sex marathons–where you don’t get out of bed all day, or when you go away for a weekend of trying all new positions–this is the time to do it! When you have small kids and you go away for a weekend, what you’ll really be looking forward to is sleeping in, and you’ll always have your kids in the back of your mind. Now is the time to create some awesome memories!

Try new positions and new things

Finally, make it a habit that you do try new things. Say, every Saturday you have to try a new position or something else that’s new. Take a look at my posts on how to spice things up, or better yet, check out 31 Days to Great Sex or my Sexy Dares! That will help you try pretty much everything, one thing at a time, and make sure you never get in that rut!

The “Figuring Things Out” stage of sex is an exciting time–if you handle it well. The biggest thing to do? Speak up and communicate. If something is wrong, call it out. If you’re worried your spouse is holding something back (like porn use or something else), ask directly. Don’t beat around the bush. You’re setting the stage now for the rest of your marriage. Set it well. Deal with issues (everybody’s got issues, after all!), but then put some time in to trying new things and making sure that sex feels good for both of you. It’s okay to be on a learning curve; it can even be exhilirating! But take the time that you have during this stage to create those awesome memories; to try as much as you want to and you’re comfortable with; and to make sex feel as great as it can.

Weekly Bare Marriage Challenge:

Communicate What You Want!

No matter what stage of marriage you’re at, tell your spouse TWO things today!

Grab a cup of tea, go for a walk, or whatever, and say:

  • My favourite sexual memory is…
  • What I’d like to do more of is….

And then ask your spouse for them to fill in the blanks, too!

Posts in the “Stages of Sex” Series:

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Sheila Wray Gregoire


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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Melanie

    Great article Shiela! Very insightful on the “little foxes” that creep in during those first years and grow up to be thieves that rob the joy of intimacy from marriage. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series! I appreciate and enjoy your blog!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Melanie!

  2. Wifey

    Our problem is that my body doesn’t seem to want my husband to fit in mine any other way than him on top, missionary. When we try me on top or anything different, it hurts. Not excruciating pain thankfully, but tight and uncomfortable. My question is- does it just need to hurt to get better? When we married I was so tight a trusted mom age nurse friend told my new husband how to manually stretch me to make intercourse even possible. It wasn’t fun, but it lead to fun. Is this a similar situation where I need to push through to get the benefits? I sure thought after delivering a nearly 10 lb baby last year that tightness would be a thing of the past!

    • Ina

      Having babies can actually make you more tight if your body overcompensates in the healing process!

      I could have written almost exactly what you did. Recently I’ve decided that I’m worth the time to start pelvic floor physio and she’s been doing a mix of internal muscle releasing and relaxation exercises. I highly recommend looking up pelvic floor relaxation on YouTube and looking into seeing a professional in the area. While we still our very limited in our position repertoire (I’m also 8 months pregnant…) I appreciate having less pain and aches afterwards.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m so glad it’s helping you, Ina!

        • Wifey

          Thank you ladies!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Certainly the more you do things the more the pain does tend to diminish, but if you are having that many problems, even after giving birth to a big baby, I’d see a pelvic floor physiotherapist. You can learn to strengthen those muscles, which ironically can help you relax them more as well. So I think if it’s been going on for that long, even after childbirth, it may be worth getting some help. I think they can make a big difference!

    • Nick

      What if you’ve been married 20 years and never made it through even one of those stages? Then what? Where do we start now?

      Trauma is a past issue but that spouse refuses to deal with it. Simply simply flat out wont reopen that door.

      I’m now a mid 40’s loving faithful husband craving for affection and connection. We never made those fun memories you write about. Getaway weekends, marathons, exploring each other. Let alone just plain good ole’ sex. Where we should be right now is totally comfortable around each other and hitting those good old years of understanding each other. Yet we aren’t even close. Hope? Gone. Another similar blogger to you Sheila shared this.

      “Every follower of Christ will have to sacrifice something precious in taking up His cross”.

      I’m beginning to believe I will be sacrificing true and genuine intimacy.

      • Natalie

        I empathise with you, Nick. 😞 I think at some point the healthiest thing to do is accept the reality you’re living and mourn the loss of the things that could have been. My husband and I too, for various reasons, never mutually had a “young love”, lusty sex life, our longest sex “marathon” to date was 47 minutes, etc. Do I wish we’d been able to experience those things? Of course I do!!! And while I haven’t given up hope entirely, I know that the things I envisioned in my mind won’t come to pass, at least not the way I thought they would. I think it’s best to make peace with that fact, trust that God can still make something beautiful out of your marriage, and let go of those old expectations. I still haven’t learned how to fully let go of them yet; it’s HARD!!!!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Well said, Natalie. Sometimes we do have to grieve what we missed out on, because it is a loss. But you can still move forward.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          You know, this is a really important theme that keeps coming up–you guys, Becky, others. I think I’m going to write about this on Monday. Any thoughts for what I should definitely include? How do you grieve those honeymoon years you never really experienced?

          • Natalie

            Honestly, I’m like the worst person to ask on this. 😝🙈 I grieve it daily it seems! It’s SUPER hard for me to get over (aka I’m nowhere close). I’ve been trying to pray about it and release it and give it to the Lord, but that deep deep feeling of mourning and loss just won’t go away. And me feeling like I’m getting old really quickly and like babies have just totally destroyed my body/shape isn’t helping. And the worst part is that I feel such resentment over it towards my husband. I totally blame him even though I know my perspective on sex at the time played a role too. I blame him for being fat and not trying to attract/woo his new bride, and I also blame him for doing no research about why I wasn’t orgasming and thinking to himself “hmm, how can I become a better lover?” Instead, he basically thought “that sucks that she’s not orgasming. I wish she would. But there’s nothing I can do. Oh well, at least I am. I guess that’s just the way it’ll be”. That mentality just DOES NOT make sense to me!!! And it hurts me and causes so much resentment in me to this day. I know it’s something I’ll need to get over and forgive in order to move forward, but that’s something I’m still struggling with. At least now I know that sex can be fun when we both orgasm. But I’m looking forward to the stage where I’ve let go of my resentment and we can have more intimacy during sex, cuz right now I feel like it’s still at the primarily physical stage (which is odd cuz there’s still not a lot of physical attraction towards my husband on my end… go figure. It’s hard for me to explain).
            I think you have to go through the stages of grieve over the loss of the possibilities that could’ve been when you were young, newlyweds, and were supposed to just be figuring out sex. But I also think it’s easy to get stuck going through those stages, and I don’t know how to address that or what to do.

          • Becky

            I know that for me, two of the things that I struggle with the most in this is resentment and losing hope. It’s hard to not resent the fact that my husband has such an easy time with this, and honestly, not resenting that God made this so hard for women. And even though I know that I’ve made progress, I can’t help thinking that I should have beat this by now. It’s hard to keep hoping that sex will ever feel good for me, or that by the time I figure it out, my husband will have given up on it. (Especially since we’re already currently on a months’ long drought, thanks to the pregnancy pain and nausea.)

          • Nick

            Thanks Sheila for your response and willingness to take a closer look at this.

            I agree with Natalie. I grieve this every day. I wake up with it and go to bed with it. Its constantly at the forefront of my thinking and my life.

            Its not just about grieving the past and what we missed out on but knowing that with with every passing day…more time is lost. Grieving for the future is hard too.

            I have such a strong desire a) for my wife! b) to be with someone who wants and desires me too c) to be physically comfortable around someone d) and for physical touch. IT IS SO HARD to have no affection from my spouse. I feel starved of affection and feel guilty and immature for feeling that way. We literally barely touch. We are now in year 7+ since the last time we were intimate and she admitted to me that not once in our 20 yr marriage did she desire to be with me when we were. Dagger. Heart.

            This next one is a bit hard to explain. I have no desire to be PROVEN right or to FEEL justified…but scripture is clear. God designed us for this. He said it is beautiful and GOOD. I am not wrong for wanting this.

            Scripture communicates the covenant of marriage, between a man and a woman, having emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy. And if ALL THREE are done in a healthy and appropriate and genuine way…that this is the CLOSEST we can get on earth to understanding and experiencing his love for us and his church. Wow! And I can’t have that! ouch. pain. grieving. depression. no self esteem. Knowing that this kind of depth and intimacy is possible, and that we are no where near experiencing it…is very very hard.

          • Natalie

            Everything Nick and Becky said too. Also, to expound on Nick’s last paragraph & to go along with Becky’a idea that “I should’ve conquered this by now”, I also find myself thinking that time is running out. If there’s no marriage and no sex in heaven, then this is our only chance to experience it! And I know whatever awaits us in heaven will be SO much better than even the best sex life here on Earth. But just knowing that this is our only chance to make sex great / the only time we’ll physically be young (& that lessens with each passing year and day) gives me serious FOMO!

            This whole conversation here makes me think I’ve probably ingested WAYYY too much of our culture’s idolisation of youth and beauty and found my identity in that too much. 🤔 And here I thought I’d been working my whole life to find my value and meaning and worth in Christ. I guess I didn’t do as good a job as I thought 😩

          • Ina

            I can echo Betty’s sentiment about resenting God for making this so hard. I remember awhile back you had a post tackling whether God liked women less and at the time the post just made me so upset because I had no evidence to the contrary.

            What helped most with my grief was laying it out before my husband and having him comfort me and affirm my emotions.

            I wouldn’t say I’m grieving our honeymoon years, but I definitely grieve the loss of identity that comes not being able to do the one thing that should come naturally.

          • J

            I didn’t feel like our honeymoon time was great at all, we never had the days you are experiencing. Partly because I dealt with vaginismus and so intercourse was really painful and challenging for me. My husband was also very busy with two jobs and didn’t seem to have the libido I had expected. He also enjoyed oral sex, too the exclusion of other things.

            However all that being the case now, as we have been married 12 years and made it through infertility, health problems and two high needs special needs babies who are now 5 and 8, we are slowly refunding our sex life, getting more comfortable, definitely figuring out sex and each other way more and getting excited about it all again. I feel hopeful and less tired finally but it is hard when you are in a rut!! I want more and have used your tips often, but it’s still hard for us to talk about due to the early struggles.

            However I would say that I don’t resent my husband for our earlier years and I am beginning not to resent /blame myself. For so many years I felt like my husband got a raw deal, got the “broken” wife since I couldn’t give him this amazing sex life. But now I realize that his physical needs were atypical as well (he was OK with sex only every month or two, sometimes longer) and that now we can try to take baby steps to being more open, more intimate and more exploring.

            I’m excited! I just wish now that I had more technical help (*specific questions, don’t read if uncomfortable! *I don’t know if it’s because he is only a few inches taller than me or what but we have yet to be able to do standing front or rear entry or even doggy style. If we can get him in, usually can’t, he just keeps popping out! So every time we resort to good Ole missionary. (the popping out happens occasionally that way too, in the beginning and I just don’t know if that’s normal??) I wish I could have diagrams that aren’t dirty to show me the angles because I just don’t feel like we “line up” right any other way.

            Just a different take on the lack of honeymoon sex… It wasn’t great at all but we got through it (infertility definitely put a kink in what was already not great) and I think we are both happy that we are having more sex this year than maybe in our whole first 5? Maybe 8 years??

            For me the issue wasn’t resentment but instead blaming myself. I’m interested to hear about other marriages having similar issues because talking with friends I always thought I was the only one. ❤️

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Okay, I’m going to seriously have to do a post on that popping out thing–it is a thing! It’s not just you. 🙂

          • Scott


            In response to the similarity in height, my wife and I are the same height and usually don’t have popping-out issues, so it isn’t just the height thing. I’m guessing Sheila will give you more ideas in her upcoming post.

            For non-dirty positioning images, have you tried the Christian Friendly Sex Positions web site? While some of the positions just get laughs from this married couple, it is still quite helpful. For instance, it could push you to try Turtle instead of Doggy (just search for those terms on the site). As half of a same-height couple, I suggest side-of-the-bed positions like Butterfly (her longer legs are helpful with that one), Mermaid, Crossed Keys, and of course Packing the Suitcase. Man on Fire is nice too. What took us a really long time to figure out for those positions was getting the height just right, but popping out has never been an issue for us with Butterfly, and the visuals are awesome for both spouses.

            Hope that helps,


      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, Nick, that’s so tough. I’m so sorry that she won’t deal with the trauma. She’s hurting herself, too, not just you, and that’s not what God has for her.

        Has she seen a counselor in the past who made it worse? Unfortunately, that’s all too common. If she has, if you do research and find a good trauma based LICENSED counselor who is familiar with EMDR and other trauma evidence-based therapies, that may be a start. No biblical counselors, please–only those actually trained in trauma, who won’t say that it’s lack of faith or forgiveness that’s causing you to not be able to move forward.

        If she won’t be open to that, I would sit her down and say something like:

        I love you. I’m not going anywhere. I’m committed to you. I want the best for you. And I’m going to fight for that. But this is not the best. I’m looking at you hurting yourself because you’re not dealing with some serious wounds, and God doesn’t want you stuck. If it were your child who was hurting themselves, you would do something about it. So I want to fight for you, for us, for what God wants to do in our lives and in your life. I want you to start counseling. I’ve found someone safe. I’m going to support you and the family while you go through this, even if it means you’re in turmoil for a while and you need distance to process things. But I’m going to help you and I’m going to be there, but this simply has to be done.”

        Something like that? I don’t know. I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this. I’m so sorry that someone else wreaked such havoc on her life, and it now has such ripple effects. The world can be such an evil place.

        • Nick

          To your questions about talking with her and counseling. The kicker is…she IS a counselor! We did 2+ years of counseling with someone who I still believe was really talented and a good fit for us, but she never broached this subject. Not once.

          I have tried to have very similar conversations like you suggested with her to no avail. Many times over many years. Nothing. It usually ends up with her feeling incredibly terrible for “ruining our marriage” and for “not being enough”. (even though I don’t agree with either of those things.) All conversations ends in tears or a fight. Ultimately she thinks that every time I bring up this topic it is so that I can get sex out of it. She says I bring it up with my own agenda as the end game. She never feels like I bring it up to understand her better. Hear her story. Make her feel safe. I honestly don’t know how to frame any conversation on this topic in a way that sets the table for healthy discussion. I could really use some pointers on this. She really struggles to hear my true heart.

          Second. She’s very smart and talented. Way smarter than me. And she is good at playing the chess game in a conversation. Always 2 moves ahead of me. And while I DO NOT think she does this to manipulate me or to hurt me, I think she does it more as a self defense tool to make sure she doesn’t get hurt, to keep this stuff as buried as possible…this makes any kind of productive conversation really difficult. After years of this I am gunshy of initiating further conversations.

          In no way do I haven’t played a role in our struggles. Early in our marriage I made loads of mistakes. Things I said, things I did, things I didn’t understand. Inability to communicate well or hear her pain and provide a safe place for her. I know I’ve contributed But here we are… really stuck…and I am out of ideas.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, Nick, that’s just so many layers of sad. I’m sorry.

            I’m not sure that my thoughts would change, though. Even if she is 7 steps ahead of you, you can still insist. And you can go to a counsellor and see a counsellor with the express purpose of working on sex, so that they know right off the bat.

            And if she refuses to go? You can still go yourself, so that you can learn how to navigate this. It does sound like you need someone to talk to. This is a big thing to bear. And she does need some help. Being firm that you are going to do the right thing, even if she doesn’t go along at first, may be what she needs to get started.

    • Tory

      Wifey, I had a similar experience, and I have to ask, are you using good lube each and every time? I recommend coconut oil… it can really help. Also, try starting out in the position that works well, and switching after a few minutes… your body should be warmed up and there shouldn’t be pain.

      • Wifey

        Hmmmm interesting thoughts! I must admit lube is far from my mind, but I have coconut oil in the kitchen! It may have to change storage locations… thank you!

        • J

          Lube was a life changer for me! And it helped so much with soreness and aches afterwards! Plus bringing the coconut oil into the bedroom is a great signal that I’m interested or open! Ha!. We don’t have a lot of positions that work other than missionary (I honestly don’t get the angles sometimes! Really??) but at least we have some!

      • Daniel

        And don’t forget to spend a lot of time on foreplay. Foreplay is the primary means of getting HER excited. In a manner of speaking, I’m not sure I support the “start out in the position that works well”… You should always start with foreplay, and then when you go to intercourse, then I totally agree with the “start out in the position that works well”. If you need extreme angles, a wedge pillow may help a great deal.

        In my opinion; sex without foreplay for a woman could be compared to a man getting hit in the family jewels, and then going straight to sex. Are you going to be excited about sex? Maybe. Are you going to become aroused immediately? Probably not. (though this analogy works, it’s not perfect, so I hope you get my point)

  3. Jane Eyre

    Great post, as always, Sheila.

    We’re in the “wow this is horrible and we feel lied to” stage, exacerbated by pregnancy (which brought a whole new level of misery to the experience – the morning after our wedding was easier, and our wedding night might have been easier).

    The one area that we’ve improved upon is him feeling like he has some control over when he finishes. It makes sense once you think about it, but the first time men have intercourse, it’s so mind-blowing compared to anything else that it’s hard for them to have much control over duration. That improves with time, but it isn’t a great thing for them either.

    One other thing I can add to this list is that your method of contraception/birth control may affect things far more than you expect. The Pill can cause a decrease in libido. Condoms have their own set of problems. Natural family planning has no side effects, but the female body finds intercourse easier during fertile periods.

    Circumcision has also been shown to decrease pleasure and increase pain – for women. Apparently, men push harder to make up for the decreased sensation. Who knew?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      All really good points, Jane! I did do a series last year on contraception, and I did a whole post on The Pill, and what readers said about its impact on their libido. I talked about that in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, too. I don’t think everyone understands how much the Pill can impact you. Definitely!

      • Anon

        I’m really interested in what you have to say about the 40s.
        We seem to be the exact opposite of what everything I read says. Sex was GREAT from day 1 really. I loved it. Not a lot of information in my head to give me preconceived notions about what was normal/not normal, good/not good, etc.
        now in our mid 40s , married 25 years, we are having a horrible time. I think he’s lost interest in me. We can’t get on the same page, we are at odds all.the.time. My heart is broken. (No, he’s not into porn and isn’t cheating). Maybe it’s just done for us. Maybe everyone gets a quota and since we had good experiences from
        The outset we don’t get to have it now.
        Bought the libido course and can’t bring myself to finish it since he seems to have lost all interest. No point.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, Anon, I’m so sorry! That’s really tough. I’m glad things went so well for you at the beginning! That does mean that you have something to build on.

          How is the rest of your relationship? Often sex mirrors what’s going on in your relationship, so if you’re not connecting elsewhere, or if there’s a lot of stress elsewhere, sex will fall by the wayside. That’s really common in the 40s and 50s–just the drift coming in.

          • Anon

            We have definitely had a stressful few years with a lack of time for each other and for intimacy. But we were looking forward to that season being over. Now that it is things are just not working. For either of us.
            Honestly, I wish it had never been good if this is what I get now. Because I know what I’m missing and that’s worse. Part of me wishes I could just take sex off the table at this point. If all it does is drive a wedge between us and make us both feel bad there’s no point.
            More research last night and every article I find says these are the best years. Every. Article.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Just because for MOST people they’re the best years doesn’t mean that for ALL people they are, and it sounds like you guys are just different. Have you considered seeing a counselor to work through some of your emotional connection issues? I also have a free 5 email emotional connection course you can sign up for that takes you step by step through how to communicate and feel close again. That’s likely a good place to start, because for you, it doesn’t really sound like sex is the problem.

          • Anon

            Thank you Sheila. We had a bit of a breakthroughs I fought my natural self/inclination to avoid any semblance of confrontation. And we talked about stuff. I told him that I didn’t feel he wanted me. That he was interested in me in that way. And he proved me wrong. I don’t mind being wrong! Now we just have to keep the ball rolling and not gal backwards. Maybe our story will be a redemptive one.
            You really hit the nail on the head tho. I think it’s a relationship issue affecting sex, not a sex issue affecting relationship like it seems at first glance. Thank you!

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Oh, I’m so glad! That’s awesome!

  4. Nathan

    > > He replied that he’d raised hogs all his life, and he figured he knew how sex works.

    That’s just so wrong, insulting and demeaning on so many levels.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It is, but I think it was also just ignorant. I don’t think he meant anything bad by it. I think he just assumed that a real man would know what sex is, and he needed to feel like he’s a real man.

      I wish we could talk more about how NO ONE totally understands sex or how to please their partner off the bat, and there should be an expectation that there will be a learning curve where you both need to listen and adjust. And yet it seems assumed that if you can’t satisfy your wife right away, that means you’re not a man. And so men won’t talk about it, and then you get these frustrated women. We need to do better!

    • A regular reader

      J, to respond to your comment wondering if you were the only one who blamed yourself rather than your husband for your sexual dysfunction, you certainly are not! I’m highly motivated by results and am the one who discouraged my husband from trying after many lengthy attempts to bring me to orgasm failed miserably, leaving me crying into my pillow so my husband wouldn’t feel badly. Of course I thought I was broken when we did everything we knew to do and it failed every time. I gave up on pleasure for myself and threw myself into getting pleasure from pleasuring him. We’re making up for decades of lost time now. 🙂

  5. Dory

    Thanks for another informative blog post! As a single, Christian, 31-year-old woman, I find many of these helpful in preparation for marriage one day. (I’m definitely having my future husband read them!)

    I grew up amidst the “purity culture” with older parents (my dad being 30 years older than my mom) who never talked about sex positively, and probably never had sex or did anything sexual together after they had me.

    Likely because of my upbringing, I’m just not interested in the thought of sex. It seems like a huge chore that would rob me of sleep — especially when I read about all of these problems in marriage here. I want to marry one day for the companionship and to start a family, yes, but I’m concerned about my present state of mind. Is there anything a single person can do now to help?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Dory! That’s a great question. I think the big thing is to look at the Bible and understand what it says about intimacy, and also look at how rooted in the physical world Jesus was. So many of His miracles were about taking care of physical needs, and even wants (wine at the wedding; feeding 5,000). Bodies matter to Him. We tend to get into this idea that the body is bad and the spirit is good, so we’re more spiritual if we’re more in our heads and less in our bodies. But actually, creation is GOOD. And we’re closest to God when we’re united in everything.

      If you can get a picture of that, then I think having a healthy view of sex once you’re married is much easier! I did write a post on how single women can best prepare for sex now, and that may help, but I should likely flesh it out more!

  6. Swty

    Thank you Sheila.
    Yesterday was our 4th marriage anniversary and this is like a reset button on sex life.
    I was really in need of some change.

  7. EM

    Great advice, Sheila. My husband was so patient and understanding when we got married and it really paid off in the long run. When things weren’t working we read Christian marriage books, talked about it, and practiced until we figured things out. He never made me feel bad that it was more difficult for me than for him. He is reaping the rewards now lol 😜 I’m actually really proud of myself for speaking up as much as I did early on, which can sometimes be tough for me. That’s the best advice of all!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s AWESOME! Way to go.

  8. Natalie

    I feel like it should be said that not every couple (or even each person in that couple) goes through the honeymoon stage. While my husband did, I know for sure I didn’t! How could I when I was ashamed of my sexuality & had the idea in my head that sex was for him and something I was duty-bound to give him frequently as his wife?
    Looking back now, I often find myself doubting the solidity of my marriage and mourning the loss of a phase I know I can never get back especially now that we have children and the next time it’ll be just the two of us again, we’ll be empty nesters in our 50s. I need to accept that that time together has passed, it can’t come back, and move on. My husband and I are never going to have a stage in our lives together where we’re both young, energetic & have a crazy wild vibrant sex life where we were both crazy about each other and about having sex with each other. The time we would’ve had that has already passed and I wasn’t able to participate sexually during that time like now, looking back, I wish I had. That’s just the way life goes. You can’t have it all.

    • Natalie

      I just reread what I wrote and I know it sounds excessively melancholy and like I didn’t read the article, so I wanted to give some context. I do think there are a lot of things you possess in your 20s that you just can’t get back later in life. Energy levels and male libido come to mind. Though my husband was overweight (technically in the obese BMI range) when we married, he had a much higher sex drive and more energy for sex. Now at age 30 next month, asking him to have sex more than once a week is like pulling teeth. He says he just doesn’t need it more than once a week. We’ve gotten his testosterone levels checked and they’re actually in the ideal range, which the doctor was pleasantly surprised by for a man my husband’s size. The doctor said male libido steadily declines with age and that I can’t expect my husband to perform like he did when he was in his early 20s. I really wish I could because I’m finally ready mentally and emotionally for that kind of sex life, but now my husband doesn’t have it.

      • Chris

        Natalie, i think thats a very common scenario. By the time the wife figures sex out and gains some confidence, the husband is no longer interested.

      • Learning A New

        I think that male libido is in their minds too. My husband is in his 50’s and his libido is higher than when he was 20! We’ve been married 28 years next month.

        I honestly feel that we place too much stock on the ‘norm’ I do think that if he choose he would want it more (as he does have the added bonus of higher testosterone at his age to help it along)

        PS my husbands T is low and he is happy to engage with me as many times a week as we are both happy to participate.

  9. Becky

    My question would be similar to Nick’s – is there any hope if you missed this stage and can’t go back to it now? I spent the first year of our marriage thinking that I had to just push through the pain and it would go away, and then I got pregnant. I never got my vaginismus diagnosis until after my first child was born. And in spite of the physical help that I got from my 2 rounds of PT, I don’t have a clue how to mentally disassociate sex from pain, let alone how to associate it with pleasure. With 3 young kids in the house now, including a baby sleeping in a bassinet in our room, I don’t have the luxury of time to try to get aroused, and I’m finding myself dreading when I get the all clear for sex postpartum because then I have to start this whole frustrating scenario over again. Is this something that I just have to decide that avoiding the pain is good enough and try to be satisfied?

    • Natalie

      This sounds a lot like me too. Our baby is in our bedroom currently too. While I don’t have a history of vaginismus, I am anorgasmic (if I don’t use a vibrator) and find sex super boring and monotonous when he gets all the pleasure and I never do. Simply that fact alone made me not want to have sex for years / basically the whole first 3-4 years of our marriage. The only way that’s changed, even in the midsts of being pregnant and/or breastfeeding for the past 2.5 years, has been introducing a vibrator into the equation. I know Sheila isn’t a huge proponent of them and I agree overall with her reasons why. But I also think that, for me, me using a vibrator and now orgasming during sex is actually helping my brain break it’s association of sex with being boring and a waste of my time. Now I actually want sex more than my husband. I’m hoping that once we’re out of the pregnant-to-small-children stage of life, we’ll be able to make more time for him learning my body and more quality sex. But in the meantime, I’m getting in my orgasms, having more sex than before (we used to be 1-2x/month max and as little as once every 3-4 months during our newlywed stage before the kids came along), and breaking the bad mental cycles I was in surrounding sex. Hopefully that’ll set the stage for improving our sex life in the next 5-10 years, assuming my husband’s health/libido also improve by then.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear you, Becky. I think I’m going to write a post on this on Monday, because it is a really important question. I know what you went through is so much worse than what I did, because you’re still dealing with it, even after childbirth. For me, it did resolve itself within 5 years of marriage, and childbirth seemed to help. I do grieve for you. I’m sorry.

  10. AspenP

    Great post Sheila. Looking forward to the rest of your content in this series. There’s hope for even hog farmers. 😉 And that’s good news. I think you’re right that we’re best off assuming we know nothing about sex regardless of past experience, years married, etc. I love the context of thinking of sex in phases or seasons. It really combats the “it’ll always be like this” mindset.

  11. Betts

    Hi Sheila,

    Thanks for a great article. I was actually half way through listening to the latest podcast this morning but it stopped suddenly and has disappeared? I’m in Australia so maybe it was taken off, anyway it was great from the amount I heard! Thanks,

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think Connor may have uploaded it and then made it not live because it wasn’t supposed to be live until Thursday morning! Sorry about that. Should be back up now!

  12. Tjajka

    The Glory years post comes out on our 20th wedding anniversary. Please, make it a really good post. 😛
    We should be getting close to the glory years now, shouldn’t we? * (God knows we’ve been in the hectic stage for what seems like forever. 😂) *keeping fingers crossed*

    • Susanna Musser

      Tjajka, I think this is partly what husband and wife decide to make it. For instance, after growing up with the idea that sex is good if it’s working for the male, suffering through many years of a pathological marriage, having an extraordinary number of children and adopting a couple more (four amongst the bunch have disabilities), and experiencing a miraculous change in our marriage after an incredibly painful traumatic loss and its aftermath, after 26 years of marriage, my husband and I are finally having a GLORIOUS time figuring things out during these hectic years (which we expect will last til we die)! We are mutually committed to doing whatever is necessary to make it work in the midst of beyond crazy circumstances. We’re reaping the benefits of this approach big time!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’m so glad things are working now, Susanna!

  13. Anon

    I was so excited for the newlywed phase because growing up all I heard was sex is so fun! So special, so worth the wait! And I loved making out (that’s all we did while dating and engaged) so I was pretty shocked at how boring it all was. So one sided. I felt lied to and resented everyone promising, “it gets better!” I thought, yeah cool but it’s been great for him since the get-go… I don’t really want it to get better for him! It’s not fair, we both were “pure” and so excited. I was really bitter. Once I figured out the clitoris even existed (thanks Google) I started having orgasms during every encounter (before, not during intercourse. I have no idea why anyone insists women need to climax then. It’s incredibly distracting to have so much going on and enforces the idea that intercourse is the only valid way to experience pleasure/can make people feel like if they don’t react like men they’re broken) but it still seems performative and overhyped. I expected to feel so connected, emotional and fulfilled. Talking to my husband is way more connecting to me, although I wouldn’t mind kissing again (seems like once full body stuff is on the table men never want to do that anymore). Ugh idk. We do believe in marriage and sex as eternal possibilities and I’m kinda like ummm no thanks I’d rather do about a million other things. Shrug.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m sorry, Anon! It is tough when it works great for him from the get-go, isn’t it? I’ll be talking on Tuesday to women in that position who have yet to have an orgasm. I do hope that you’re able to keep having fun, though! It does get better (and I’m sorry if you’re tired of hearing that!)


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