How to Awaken Love…or at Least Stop Feeling Like You’re Broken!

by | Jul 15, 2020 | Abuse | 10 comments

How to Awaken Love: Especially if desire has been short-circuited
Orgasm Course

The title of this post may sound corny, but do you remember that verse about awakening love in Song of Solomon?


Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you by the gazelles and by the does of the field: Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.

Song of Solomon 3:5

Many of us have never had our “love” truly awakened.

I think what this verse was trying to say is that desire is a potent force, and we should not awaken it or nurture it or flame it until we’re in a place that it can find its object. Let’s not awaken desire too early, often because when we do that, we actually pour water onto desire.

For some of us “love” was awakened too early, or too abruptly, and so it didn’t truly awake at all. 

This week, as 31 Days to Great Sex launches, I’ve been focusing on sex questions that newlyweds often ask. But this is a problem that often extends beyond the newlywed years: what if desire seems dead, like you were cut off at the knees, and you’ve got some big missing gaping hole in your sexuality that you can’t seem to figure out?

For many of us, that big gaping hole is desire. It’s like it was short circuited, and we can’t seem to get it back.

Several routes to this disastrous awakening exist.

Maybe you were sexually active at a young age, but you felt little pleasure

The first is quite commonplace: you may have been sexually active at a young age, and never really felt desire. Many teenage girls who are sexually active (even if it’s just petting) don’t necessarily experience arousal, orgasm, or even much at all. The guys aren’t really into giving the girls pleasure; they’re too young and immature. And often the girls are doing things to keep the relationship or so they can feel grown up and loved, rather than just feel pleasure. So your body doesn’t necessarily learn how to become aroused, and sex isn’t that exciting.

Please know: I’m not saying that you developed “soul ties” with these guys that make it impossible to feel connected to your spouse today. I’m just saying that when we’re sexual with someone and the pleasure isn’t there, we can cement the idea that sex isn’t really for us; that our bodies don’t really respond. And that can hurt us in the long run.

Maybe you were sexually active at a young age, but DID feel pleasure–and now it seems to have gone

The Christian view of sex is that it is designed for marriage, and so sex outside of a committed, marriage relationship should not be pursued.

Sometimes, though, I fear that in our quest to help young people wait for marriage for sex, we mistakenly give the impression that all sex after marriage is acrobatic, passionate, and amazing, while all sex before marriage is a major dud.

I don’t think we should have to bribe young people to do the right thing, and I think we’d be far better off if we told the truth: A wedding ring is not the secret to orgasm. God wants us to wait for marriage for sex not so that sex will be better (although studies, including my own, do show that it’s marginally better if you wait), but because He wants to protect us from a variety of things, including heartache, pregnancy when we’re not ready, or even abandonment. Saving sex for marriage encourages a community based on commitment, which is better for everyone.

And saving sex for marriage also makes commitment and love the basis for sex, rather than simply desire or pleasure.

So what happens when you did have sex before you were married, and it WAS awesome, and it was orgasmic? Sometimes sex after marriage seems ho-hum. Because orgasm was paired with risk, or with a focus on “newness” or pleasure, then when it’s no longer new, when it’s no longer risky, when it’s about love and commitment and the same guy always, it can seem like it just doesn’t turn you on anymore.

When we have sex, we do release a hormone called oxytocin, which is the bonding hormone. God made our bodies so that, in sex, we’d actually feel bonded and closer to our spouses. It’s a chemical reaction. But when that reaction was with someone with whom there wasn’t commitment, then it’s as if bonding and desire are no longer paired.

Not everyone who is promiscuous before marriage experiences this (though we’re warned about it always!), but for some people, this does affect desire. Again, desire was awakened too early.

Maybe you were trained to repress desire rather than to awaken desire

You knew that you shouldn’t go too far when you’re making out, but you’re also taught that your boyfriend won’t be able to stop. Boys don’t want to stop and can’t stop, so the girl has to be the gatekeeper. He’s the accelerator; you’re the brakes!

We had an interesting talk on the blog a few months ago about this “gatekeeper” phenomenon and how it affects women once we’re married. We’re taught that we are responsible both for our own purity and for his, and so we can’t relax while we’re making out.

His hands are moving everywhere, he’s getting excited, but what you’re thinking is, “Should I stop this now? How excited is he getting? How close to the line are we getting? Should I stop now? Now? Now?”

Meanwhile, he’s able to let himself go and enjoy himself, often because he knows that you will be the one to stop. So he doesn’t need to hold back.

(Note: some guys were gatekeepers, too, but we did find that this was a common scenario among women that we interviewed recently).

What’s happened? You’ve taught yourself to be outside of yourself when you’re being sexual. You’re “spectatoring”, as one of our focus group members called it. Instead of feeling, you’re judging what’s going on. And that’s very hard to get out of. You’ve trained your body to push desire down and repress desire, rather than let it flow.

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Maybe you were exposed to sexually stimulating content before you were ready for it

You saw the Playboy magazines in your uncle’s garage when you were 11, and it made you feel funny, and now you can’t get those images out of your head.

You read that adult romance novel when you were 12, and it fuelled a desire for more.

You got sucked into porn at a young age, and even though you don’t watch it today, those images are still there. You can only get turned on by thinking about really graphic things you’d never want to do in real life.

For most millennial and Generation Z adults, the first time they were truly aroused was not when they were in a committed, safe relationship, but instead when they were exposed to pornography or erotica.

It was porn that awakened love, and that perverts desire. It makes it really difficult to become aroused with your spouse. Desire is often paired with things that you would never want to do, but that’s what your body equates with sexual arousal and response.

Maybe desire was awakened in an ugly way

Then there’s the most heartbreaking one. Maybe you were sexually abused and assaulted, and that has marred desire.

For some sexual abuse survivors, the abuse led to a real aversion to sexual activity.

For others, there’s an additional layer of shame, because their body actually reacted. It’s called arousal nonconcordance: your body becomes aroused even when your mind doesn’t want to, and when you don’t want to. Even if you’re petrified, grossed out, and scared.

Yet because you became physically aroused, you think that at some level you wanted it.

Not true.

Arousal nonconcordance is very widespread. It’s why some rape victims reach orgasm, even when they’re petrified and scared. Some researchers even think that the fight, flight, or freeze response that kicks in when we’re terrified or threatened can trigger sexual response, because certain emotions and hormones are so heightened.

Whether you experienced nonconcordance or not, sexual abuse exposes children and teens to sexuality when they didn’t want it. It makes sexuality into something that is something threatening that is done to you, rather than something where you willingly express what you’re feeling.

If you are a sexual assault survivor, please see a licensed counselor who is trained in evidence-based trauma therapies. You can move forward, but counseling that is not trauma-informed can actually set you back. Please seek out someone qualified, and have them help you find the healing God wants for you.

What happens when “love” was awakened too early–when desire was awakened too early–in the wrong context?

You never truly “awakened” love. You may have learned about sexuality (even if in an ugly context). You may have experienced arousal, or you may have paired sexual activity with deliberate NON-arousal. In whatever case, the relationship between arousal, desire, and married sex was somehow marred.

Many women are in this situation. They just don’t see what all the fuss with sex is about. It seems like everyone is lying to them. The whole culture is trying to con women into thinking it’s something great, so that you’ll want to make love all the time, but the truth is it’s not that great at all. You feel like it was designed for men, and it’s all a big rip off.

Your love was awakened too early, and in the wrong way.

And chances are you’ve become a little bitter about sex. It’s just something else on your to-do list. And then you read on blogs like this one and others that Christian women are supposed to understand how much their husbands need sex, and you’re supposed to put out. Oh, great. That’s really fun now, isn’t it?

And I understand. Believe me, I do. But I also think that there’s a way past this.

Maybe what you need to do is to awaken love again–for real this time.

Maybe it means taking a sexual hiatus for a few weeks, where you just simply touch each other and find what feels good. When you do that, the pressure is off. You’re not working towards a goal. You’re just taking time to explore. Lie naked together and just touch each other. Let him touch you and figure out what actually feels good. Have baths together.

That’s what 31 Days to Great Sex can help you with. You can talk through some of your earliest memories of sex, and understand how you may have equated desire with something ugly. And then you can start awakening in a safe, healthy way without pressure. You’ll explore and learn what does feel good. He’ll learn how to take his time. He’ll learn that your arousal and desire are multi-faceted, and depend on you feeling safe in the relationship. He’ll learn that he needs to take his time!

Please know, even if love was awakened too early, you can still re-awaken it.

I think that’s what God loves to do–restore that which was broken. All of creation is broken, but Jesus is always working towards wholeness. You’re meant to experience real passion, and you can get there. And I hope that the exercises in 31 Days to Great Sex can help you get there!

What do you think? Was “love” ever awakened too early for you? Share your story in the comments!

Written by

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. Jane Eyre

    This is a great post, Sheila.
    Does sex always release oxytocin, or is it mostly enjoyable sex or orgasm that does it? A lot of sex research that I’ve read equates sex and orgasm, so it talks about all the amazing chemicals released in your brain… when you climax, or at least, when you’re really into it.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It’s a whole bunch of things, but mostly orgasm. Touch itself produces oxytocin, but we produce much bigger levels of it during orgasm!

  2. Anon

    This hits close to home. I think we awoken love to early. We were very sexually active. And I think that over shadowed the emotional part. I always struggled with if I was really in love. 8 years and 6 years of marriage later I live with the doubt and wonder. Sex is very important to feel in love still. Did I make a mistake? Is it possible to be happy even tough the in love feelings aren’t there?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely! In fact, those “butterly” infatuation feelings tend to fade after 18 months for everyone, and are replaced with a more steady, intimate feeling. It doesn’t need to be butterflies to make you feel close.

      • Lindsey S

        And oh, how we miss them! That darn dopamine, always such a tease. 😉

  3. Natalie

    Saving this one to my private “Sex Ed” board on Pinterest for future use. 😋 Great article!!
    It’s a fine line between being a sex negative Christian parent (like my parents) and being an excessively pro-sex Christian parent who overly encourages sex to their children at too young an age in hopes of producing a different effect than they experienced as teens and young married’s themselves (like some advice I’ve seen about teaching your children about how to masturbate or gifting your daughter with a vibrator in high school or once she leaves for college so she’s not “tempted” to experiment with boys. Yikes!)
    As the years go on and I develop in my own sexuality more and understand myself better and view my upbringing through different lenses, I’m starting to think more and more that focusing on the actual sex/hot & heavy touchy feely/ penetration talk when your kids are tweens and even teens shouldn’t be the primary focus. The focus should always be more on how their actions will effect their relationship with Jesus. I also think talking as much about your own life experience and what you were taught and how that made you feel and now how you feel about the choices you made is a good route to take too (obviously without delving into detail with your children about your own sex life. Haha, can you imagine what your kids’ reactions would be to that?! 😝🤢)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh YIKES YIKES YIKES to the vibrator in high school thing!!!! People do that? Oh, dear.
      Yes, it is a very fine line between being sex positive and being sex negative. I love how you’re thinking about this, Natalie!

  4. Emmy

    Great and very thought provoking post. Thank you!
    We live in a reversed universe, my husband and I. For some time already, I have been thinking something has got wrong with HIS “awakening” when he was a teenager. Your post kind of confirmed it for me.
    I still do not know how to proceed and what I should do but I know now what the right direction is to look for answers.

  5. Mari

    I am interested in the book, but as a long time blog reader, I wonder if I’ll get anything new out of it. Is the content substantially different from what you’ve already covered in the blog posts?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      What’s different is that it’s actionable, so you can do it with your spouse! And it’s put in a specific order so that you can talk about things and gradually get to the point where sex is more passionate and lot freer. It’s not so much new information as much MORE information, and in a way that you can actually use it!


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