So sex feels terrible. You feel nothing–or maybe even some pain. So how do you look forward to it?
That’s the question that one of our frequent commenters was asking this week, and I feel for her, because I’ve been in her situation. She’s a great commenter (and some of her comments even made it into our upcoming book The Great Sex Rescue!). But I think she touches on something here that many of you might feel, and I’m glad she was so honest.
Built-in assumption that sex is fun. It’s not.
Men, if your wife does not enjoy sex and is only doing it for the sake of the marriage, don’t complain about who initiates or about her lack of enthusiasm.
Sorry, bitter. I did all of these things early in our marriage, only to have my husband assume that sex was actually good for me. The reality is that men look at actions and not words, so if you initiate sex, they think it’s amazing for you and don’t understand the magnitude of the changes that need to happen.
On Fridays I like to highlight some of the comments that came in this week and talk more about them, because a lot of people only read my posts, and not the comments, and so they can miss some of the best discussion!
But what I replied to her was this:
I’m truly sorry, Jane, but can I also say that I’ve been there? I really have. Didn’t orgasm. Wasn’t aroused. Suffered from vaginismus.
But I did get through it, and it largely came from getting help for my physical problems, but also thinking about sex differently and prioritizing what I needed.
I completely understand if your husband isn’t making any effort to make sex good for you. But can I suggest, then, that the problem may not be with sex itself, but instead with the sexual dynamic in your marriage? That can actually be a hopeful message. If it’s the dynamic, it can potentially be fixed. If you really think you’re incapable of feeling good sexually, then that’s a really negative message that’s hard to recover from. What if the problem is not sex being terrible, but the way that sex is being done isn’t doing anything for you at all?
When I got married, sex really didn’t feel very good.
I thought that everybody was lying to me–that all the people saying how great it was were just deceived. Either that, or else I was just broken, and it worked for everyone but me.
But here’s the problem with believing that: sex really will never feel good if you’re sure that it’s going to feel bad.
As I said in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage:
Keith and I had both waited for marriage to have sex, and we both assumed that it would be wonderful, mind-blowing, and perfectly natural. But it wasn’t. It was awkward, it was messy, and worst of all, it hurt. Whenever Keith wanted to make love, I felt rejected, because he wanted something that made me miserable. My frustration finally grew to the point where I wondered, Why can’t he just love me for me and not for what I can do for him? I accused him of selfishness. Of not loving me. Of being a Neanderthal who couldn’t control his passions.
The more we fought over sex, the more certain I became that he didn’t value me. I felt so lonely, and yet instead of being sympathetic and wrapping me in a bear hug, Keith lobbed accusations right back: “Why don’t you care about my feelings? Why don’t you want me?”
After I had prayed for two exhausting years that he would start caring about me, a thought entered my head: Do you believe the only one who can fix this relationship is Keith? Don’t you have something to do with it? I didn’t particularly like that thought, and so I vehemently argued with myself about why changing was impossible. Even if we only considered sex, how was I supposed to enjoy something so gross and uncomfortable?
Then another thought hit me even harder: If God says that sex is good, and the whole world says that sex is good, maybe you should start figuring out how to make sex good.
I was stunned. If that thought was right, then the responsibility fell on me to do something about my struggle. I had to stop thinking sex was awful and start thinking, Sex is great—I just don’t have it all figured out yet. The problem may have started in the bedroom, but it wasn’t a problem with sex. It was a problem with how I was thinking.
The next few years in our marriage became my big research project into this thing called Us. I decided to conquer this sex issue once and for all, because if God created something this great, no way was I going to miss it! I read books and talked to friends about how to make sex work. I talked to wise mentors about how to deal with past issues that held people back. I studied Keith to glean what made him feel loved. Slowly but surely, I fell madly in love with Keith again. And thankfully, he with me too.
Of course, changing how I thought about sex also meant research into how to make sex great, and it meant a lot of communication, and a lot of work.
But here’s the thing: I don’t think sex gets better, no matter what we do, if we’re still thinking that sex is terrible.
And thinking that sex can be good is actually a matter of faith. When it’s always been terrible, you have absolutely no experience that tells you that it can get better. It’s logical to hate it.
To think it will be good, you have to get back to the idea that God is a good God and He loves you, and He didn’t make sex for everyone but you.
You are not broken.
You are not bad.
You simply are having more challenges than others do.
I’m sorry about that. I’ve been there. But please believe me when I say that it can get better!
Maybe it means speaking up and telling your husband that things aren’t feeling good and that you need to go back to the beginning and figure out what feels good.
But you can get there!
I do believe that 31 Days to Great Sex can help highlight some of those problems and give you ways to talk about it with your spouse, and i highly recommend it! It doesn’t just work at how to spice things up, but also helps you have conversations about how you feel about sex, helps you uncover what might feel good, helps you get to the bottom of some of these issues, and then slowly, step-by-step, builds up your sex life so that it isn’t only physical, but emotionally and spiritually close, too. Check it out!
And if you just can’t see sex in a good light, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex can help you understand what God made sex to be–and it’s on sale this month, too!
Sex is a journey of discovery in marriage, and for some it’s a much rockier journey than others. I’m glad you’re all here as I try to steer you towards your goal. I know it can be rough. I know there are obstacles. I know it’s tough. But I also believe that you can get there, and I hope and pray that you can believe it, too.
Have you ever given up hope about sex, and then it HAS gotten better? Are you stuck without hope today? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of Bare Marriage
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