What if You’re Sabotaging Yourself with the “Duty Sex” Message?

by | Feb 17, 2021 | Uncategorized | 30 comments

How do You Get Over the Obligation Sex Message?
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What happens if you want to have a great sex life and you want to embrace sex with freedom and passion, but the duty sex message is holding you back?

I’m going to turn this post over to all of you today, because, quite frankly, I’m swamped.

I have a manuscript due in at the publishers at the end of the week (The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, woo hoo!), and I have The Great Sex Rescue launching March 2 (and the pre-orders are going great! Please pre-order! It really helps us, and it’s only $10.19 through Baker Books right now, with no shipping). I have several podcasts and media appearances booked everyday leading up to the launch too.

But of course, in the middle of all of this, I went the most viral I’ve ever gone on social media. I wrote a thread on Twitter last weekend about the horrible ways that all too many evangelical books talk about sex. You may have seen it, but if you haven’t, take a look! I’ll likely have more to say on this on Friday, so I’ll leave it there.

In our conversations this week about duty sex, though, a woman left a question in the comments that I think is something many of you will share and struggle with. So I’d like to throw the comment out to all of you today:

I somehow internalized this “duty sex” message even though I didn’t grow up super immersed in purity culture. My husband is super loving and mutual and doesn’t want one-sided sex and yet I still (after 10 years) struggle with this. Couple that with depression and fatigue, young kids, a low sex drive (on my end), and a very high sex drive (on his end) and the problem sometimes seems insurmountable.

The first step is at least opening your mind to a healthier way of thinking which you, Sheila, have helped with tremendously. But I get hopeless feeling like I’ll never be free from the guilt and obligation I feel to have sex even though my husband is not pressuring me.

I’m not really sure how to handle it because I very rarely desire sex until after we start foreplay but making the decision to start foreplay feels so mentally taxing and gives me anxiety because I fear my mind and body won’t respond once we start (even though 99% of the time it does). It’s like some crazy, exhausting mental game I play with myself…trying to convince myself that sex is for me too and that it is pleasurable and that I want it…but really the main thought in my mind is usually “it’s been _____ days and I know he wants it and I want to be a good and loving wife and really, I’m just doing it for him because I feel fine whether we do or we don’t”. And then it takes me forever to get into it because I am thinking too much about why I’m doing it and if I will get aroused and how I kinda just want to sleep. It feels impossible to get out of my head. Once we are in the midst of things, I am able to get out of my head and enjoy myself, but the lead up is sooooo difficult! Any thoughts on that??

Okay, everybody, I know she’s not alone! 

So will you all do me a favor today and help her? I’ve really got to get on with editing the book, but I’d love to see your responses!

"A groundbreaking look into what true, sacred biblical sexuality is intended to be. A must-read." - Rachael Denhollander

What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the messages that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these toxic teachings?

It's time for a Great Sex Rescue.

Great Sex Rescue

So let us know–how do you silence those terrible voices in your head that are telling you you’re just doing this because he wants it? Let’s talk in the comments!

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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30 Comments

  1. Jenny

    My first thought is the verse about taking hold of every thought. Seems she already understands that the thinking is the wrong line of thinking so start focusing on the good. We want to be wanted. So how does he show you he wants you? (From this letter sounds like he does) Just that he desires and wants sex with you is a start. Not pressuring but wanting you present and to enjoy it is another great thing. Focus on those and throw away the other thoughts and replace them with the good ones. Think about what feels good and what you want to do in the bedroom. If you are day dreaming about your bedroom time with hubby it helps warm up and focuses on what to look forward too.
    It won’t happen overnight but steps in the right direction I hope.

    Reply
  2. Charissa

    My thought is that you’re feeling a lot of pressure, which doesn’t make sex easy or pleasurable. What if when you say yes, you’re not committing to the whole thing? If you don’t get aroused, you don’t need to have Intercourse – or keep going with anything else. So that way you can stop worrying about your bodily response – and just follow what it does instead. My husband and I have a rule that anyone can stop anything at any time. So some nights we’re like – let’s just cuddle and/or kiss a bit and see where this goes. It sounds to me like you need to give yourself consent throughout the process – and that would help you be able to enjoy the process instead of worrying about what comes next.

    Reply
  3. Bethany

    I had this problem, big time. Avoidance became my goal and sex became a failure to meet that goal…making sex itself a stressor. 9 years of marriage , knowing I was wrong and trying to fix it. I realized it got better when I read books like Sheilas about healthy intimacy. I read her books, sex and love, fantasy fallacy, intended for pleasure, sexually confident wife & some secular books that helped with the brain understanding & how to change it. The secular ones have some take it and leave it stuff, but the brain science and body facts are helpful and intriguing. Those books were “come as you are “ , “mindfulness for better sex” and “cliterate” yea…very informative, definitely some leave it stuff…still very helpful for understanding. Somewhere in all of them and working through my misconceptions and discovering I could change my mind with discipline & truth…I got it. Sex is about knowing and being known. That meant I needed to be present, engaged and vocal about what I did and didn’t like…and to know his reactions and delight in his pleasure, I had to be present, engaged, paying attention. I started to see it as a journey of discovery and something we build together. I began praying for desire to be close to him. Desire to touch him even just on his hand. Desire to have him want to touch me and be close to me. Delight in each other’s pleasure and a focus on each other more than myself. With avoidance dealt with, I received his desire and flirtations freely without fear of intimacy going further. I pursued him…you never think about them wanting to be wanted and pursued…he was smitten over my new attitude. We began gravitating towards each other everytime we were near…delighting in each other’s desire to be close to each other. I spent a lot of time journaling and praying about all of this. Writing the truth and acknowledging where my thinking needed to change. Through that, I put intimacy in a place of importance above my phone, TV, chores, kids…even sleep. I began loving and craving his desire for me and reciprocating at any chance I got. It’s turned into a dance of desire really. The freedom is amazing. I’m not putting his desire in a box anymore…I’m not only in “the mood” if he does xy&z. I love and desire him right where he is. The picture of how Christ loves the church is more clear now. There aren’t conditions around whether I desire him…I desire him because I desire him.
    You can get there! I thought I couldn’t a million times and I buckled down last summer and made it my mission…still building and it’s still getting better all of the time. It’s a journey of discovery and learning to love and desire as Christ loves and desires close relationship with us, regardless of what we do and don’t do

    Reply
    • Roxy

      This is a remarkable testimony, Bethany. To me, this is where the rubber meets the road in our daily walk of faith. This is where change happens. You beautifully applied Philippians 4:8 to a tough situation and clung to hope and faith throughout.
      This really inspired me. Thank you!

      Reply
      • Bethany

        My pleasure! The struggle was so hard for so many years. Where we are now is a place a often thought was impossible. I challenged myself to truly believe that God would lead me to experience intimacy as he intended and that He intended for it to be much more than I could imagine. I prayed for many years hoping he would just flip a switch and change it…after really diving into the books last summer and setting my mind to seek God & gain understanding until I broke into lasting victory, I discovered this couldn’t be a “flip a switch” prayer answer. He answered by walking through each of those books with me, revealing truth, giving understanding and working through A LOT of lies I believed. Lots and lots of prayer and journaling and asking myself hard questions and learning more about How Christ loves us and how He calls me to love my husband. Lots of understanding was gained. It was a journey, it’s still a journey, it’s taken intentionality, it’s taken discipline…it could never be a quick fix like I wanted when I prayed. All of those years, He was prepared to walk me through the healing and understanding, but I needed to start the walking through and keep going with Him.

        Reply
    • H

      Thanks, Bethany. I really needed this post and your comment today. I just put a couple of the books you mentioned on hold through my library.

      Reply
      • Bethany

        My pleasure! I’ll pray for you to press on and see all of the small victories along the way as you move closer to freedom in this area. May you one day freely delight in each other as God intends.

        Reply
    • Nish

      Thank you, Bethany. I had the same goal as you (avoidance) but for much longer. It stemmed first from an upbringing that vilified sexuality, and when I thought I had finally started to get over that, an unexpected pregnancy at a bad time created a lot of anger and resentment and started the fear of sex again (btw the resultant child has been a total blessing). I have no idea how to rebuild intimacy. When we try to get intimate it leaves us both very unsatisfied so we stopped trying. Your testimony brings me hope that we can be more than “just friends” living under the same roof. There is a lot of work to do, though. He is resentful that he cannot express his passionate nature with someone who reciprocates and I am resentful that he was angry with me for getting pregnant (because it only takes one?). I will look into those books you recommended as a starting place.

      Reply
      • Ni

        Actually never mind. Today he announced that we are going to separate. It would have been 20 years but 14 of those without intimacy was too much. We went well past the rebuilding option. But at least now I know what do do if there is ever a next time…

        Reply
  4. Anonymous for this one

    I think a problem could be many women can be more responsive to sex and not necessarily “horny” beforehand and it can be an inner battle between “do I actually want to? What if I don’t respond? Am I only doing it out of obligation?”
    I combat this with a two-part solution. 1. I say yes to sex because it is connective, bonding, important in our marriage, feels great, I almost always respond anyway, and it is a great workout. Lol!
    2. I can say no.
    Having the default be yes but the freedom to say no relieves me of the mind games. I just go for it unless there is a big no, like heavy period, exhaustion, illness, or major issues in our marriage.
    We’re bunnies, though. Both of us are fast when it comes to sex, so it doesn’t take up a lot of a day or a big time commitment. In fact, my husband is the one who tells me to slow down! Lol!
    Obligation sex means you don’t feel you have freedom to say yes, no, later, not now, we need counselling, could you take care of the kids tonight so I can relax first, etc. Obligations sex does not mean yes is the default. Obligation sex means you don’t even have the choice to say yes. You just have to do it.

    Reply
  5. Tricia

    Having been in a similar situation I realized in talking to my husband about this that somehow we had stopped really kissing or flirting outside of actual sex, so every time he wanted to kiss or anything I’d mentally freak out if I was tired, not feeling well, or not wanting to go down that road. So now we started working on just having fun kissing, hugging and being playful when it will not go any further—it has been great. Great to enjoy each other in that way again and helpful because it usually does help me get in the mood and out of my own head for later on too. Now I initiate a lot more frequently because I am feeling loved and relaxed.

    Reply
  6. Kasey

    It sounds like the fatigue and not having time to unwind and take care of yourself are a big problem. I would suggest talking to your doctor about the depression and fatigue. There may be real hormonal or emotional issues that need professional assessment. I know when I was on birth control it killed my drive and made me depressed and I struggled with not wanting sex. When the kids came along I had to ask my husband to do the bedtime routine with the kids so I could take a bath and clear my head before I could get in the mood as well. It’s hard when your mind has been running all day to tap into the deeper emotional part of yourself. Lastly, it is helpful to remember that, once you get started, you will likely enjoy. Maybe listening to some romantic music will help you mentally tune out the negative thoughts.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      You sound like me at 10 years of marriage. I’m just about to hit twenty. My sweet husband was so concerned about my arousal that I couldn’t get out of my head. I’ve learned that good sex primes me to enjoy it the next time, and that a ticking clock on how long it’s been makes it hard to get back in the mood. We’ve learned to be honest about when it’s awkward and take it slow or pick another night. Back rubs help a lot with no obligation for it to turn into more. Bottom line, if you have a good husband, which you’ve said you do, it does get better with time. Our sex life has gotten better and we are better at it because we both want it and love and respect each other.

      Reply
  7. Bethany

    In addition to my comment above, another helpful thing I discovered was Maca Root Powder in capsules on Amazon. I’ve been taking it for 8 years to keep my hormones in balance. I used to fall into depression for 2 weeks prior to my period. Maca Root is touted to increase sexual desire…I wouldn’t say it’s a magic sex pill, but it has surely kept me from hormonal lows…which helps me be in healthy place to move in that direction. I highly suggest trying it for a month. It’s been a godsend. It usually takes people awhile to try it, but they always call me amazed when they get around to it.

    Reply
    • Roxy

      Oh, I love Maca root too! I have some (in powder form) in my coffee every morning and it gives me a huge boost and makes me feel more even. Taste takes some getting used to, but it’s worth it.

      Reply
  8. John

    As a husband trying to help his wife in a very similar situation, I am curious what is the most helpful thing for a husband to do to support her? Loving unconditionally, praying, being patient, and trying to reflect Christ in our relationship feel like givens. However, for example, I don’t know if I should never ask so there is no pressure to say yes or guilt for saying no repeatedly. I have little hope of things ever being different.

    Reply
    • Bethany

      I would sometimes wish my husband would be interested in reading the books that I was reading and we could talk about things we learned. We could have had a lot of constructive conversations and I would have seen that as very understanding and supportive of him

      Reply
      • J

        Bethany, while this is the case for you and many wives reading blogs about sex, you need to remember that just as many, if not more, husbands wished the same for their wife, who would not read a book or blog about sex. That doesn’t mean that they are necessarily to prude or don’t like or enjoy sex. It is either not that important to them or there are things in their life way more important to them.
        But I think the most common problem is that to many (men and women) see sex as an itch to be scratched and if it doesn’t itch, there is no need to scratch it.
        In my view, that approach to sex is the same as viewing communication as just passing on information. Most women love good communication with their husband, but if his approach to it is that it is just passing on information, and at that time he has really nothing worth passing on, he’s got nothing to communicate. While for her it’s all about the back and forth, looking in his eyes, noticing warm body language, his smile, his kind reaction, his interest in what she’s saying, even if it’s not really any essential information she’s passing on. It creates closeness relationally.
        In my view sex is the same! If we limit it to the bedroom, it becomes an itch to be scratched. If there is an itch (strong sex drive, feeling horny etc.), great! Most lower desire people don’t have that itch very often. But if the approach to sex becomes “great communication” that isn’t just about relaying needed information, then sex becomes a lifestyle of making our spouse be aware and interested in us sexually, all day long, even if we are the lower desire partner. It creates closeness, but it would look significantly different for the two different genders. I don’t have room for that here.
        One huge misconception that lower desire women have about men is that they think he wants “sex” (what happens in the bedroom) all the time. I believe that most higher desire men want to be enticed and aroused by her outside the bedroom. They want great sexual communication just the way she wants great verbal communication.

        Reply
    • H

      What kind of encouragement would you want or need if you embarked on some brand-new hobby, like learning to play a musical instrument or speaking a foreign language? Learning new things as an adult is sometimes even harder than learning them as children, because children are learning everything from scratch. But as an adult learning some new skill, we can very quickly get down on ourselves, because we know what we mean to be doing, but it’s very awkward building up the basic skill set and level of information needed to achieve anything. We won’t give ourselves permission to be awkward, so as soon as awkward happens, we too often back off and just stop.
      Let’s assume a woman has spent the great majority of her life thinking that only men need sex, only men have libidos, only men enjoy sex, women don’t need sex, and for a woman to enjoy sex, she shouldn’t need anything beyond what a man needs. What many women would need is unconditional support as she’s trying to, first of all, unlearn all those lies. And that’s exactly what they are: LIES! (Read Sheila’s blog post on the theology of the clitoris, https://baremarriage.com/2019/05/theology-of-the-clitoris/.)
      Simultaneously to unlearning a whole bunch of wrong info, which has also resulted in creating very deep “ruts” in her brain as far as mental habits and outlooks go, she’s got to learn to FEEL her body, to allow herself to RECEIVE (generally very hard for the average woman), and to form new mental ruts—positive ones—as she fills in the wrong, negative ruts.
      It’s going to take time and, frustratingly, a lot of patience on her part—and yours. If you can at all manage it, try to truly make her feel like the exclusive sexual focus for a decent period of time. Could you swing a month or two without any sexual pleasure for yourself? Especially if you’ve been married for decades, which means her mental ruts are going to be especially deep. You’ll have to refrain completely from any expression of impatience, frustration, or annoyance at what seems like little or no progress in her mental outlook. Can you focus on her and also convince her to just focus on herself, with no thought of pleasing you?
      But while you’re making her the focus, you’ve also got to be completely undemanding. Completely unscheduled. Completely willing to let her learn at her own pace. The least whiff of pressure and she’ll be right back in the morass of those lies. So encourage, but don’t pressure her, as she’s trying to understand what she likes, what makes her feel good, what is pleasurable. And don’t be frustrated if what she wants and needs is stuff that you wouldn’t even consider to be in the realm of sex. She may want a lot of snuggling on the couch, with absolutely nothing else. Or just a backrub, with absolutely nothing else. She may want to do some making out on the couch, without it going any further. See Sheila’s blog post on listening to a woman’s body (https://baremarriage.com/2020/04/the-secret-to-orgasm-listening-to-your-body/), and be willing to stop before step 6.
      It can be done. Plenty of women here are proof of it. You’re a good guy, so show her what a good guy you really are!

      Reply
      • John

        Thank you so much, that was really helpful. I want to take myself off the table for a few months to focus on her. The snag is that she’s only ever experienced orgasm via intercourse and, while she has a great number of virtues, patience is not one of them. I think I just need to be extra patient to help her to be more patient.

        Reply
  9. JR

    Young Kids, exhaustion wanting sleep. I think you need time to unwind. My husband and I have a plan to have him put the kids to bed. Early bedtimes! like 7:30/8:00pm I can even get my teen to bed at 8 because sleep is good for her and she gets up early for school. That gives me and my husband time to be together by ourselves and just sit and relax maybe watch a show together. It also helps us get to bed sooner. Also with having young kids most of the time they don’t do much around the house to help out. Me and my husband also have a thing where he does the dishes (loads and unloads) and cleans up dinner if there is a lot to clean up (pots/pans). I was thankful my husband just asked me one day what is one thing I can do to help and I told him dishes from that day on he is the one who does them. Find something that is one thing you either have trouble with or really hate doing or something you can’t stay on top of and ask your husband if he can help you with that. I also think asking the husband to get the kids to bed is nice cause you’re not yelling at them and getting anxiety but you’re relaxing why he is making them go to bed.

    Reply
  10. Jane Eyre

    Work on treating depression, which affects so much of your life.
    Related to that, work on re-framing the issue. You love your husband and have a solid marriage. Sex feels good for you (albeit with a lot of foreplay) and you enjoy it emotionally, once you get into it. You have already eliminated the two biggest roadblocks that women have to sexuality.
    There is nothing wrong with being responsive instead of the one who just wants it and there is nothing wrong with taking a while to get warmed up.
    Pragmatically, here is a suggestion, feel free to disregard if it misses the mark: try yoga before bed every night. It may help you to relax, focus on your body, and declutter your mind.

    Reply
  11. Annie

    I feel like society has created this image of men being sex-crazed animals and women are the long-suffering bearers of this burden so it makes sense that many women see sex as an obligation instead of a gift and a beautiful and amazing part of a loving relationship!!
    I think this is also compounded by the old fashioned ideas that men work and women take care of the home but so many women are also working full-time jobs on top of raising kids and taking care of the household! It’s no wonder we sometimes see sex as just another chore to get done.
    If sex is something you desire but you’re feeling too tired and it’s become an obligation, I’d recommend getting your hormones checked out to see if there’s something happening there. Another thing is let your husband know ways he can turn that no into a yes please! Maybe he needs to make dinner and put the kids to bed or just really let you know how much he cares about you and focus on you. When I’m not feeling particularly spicy and my husband is, he knows to ease into it and what buttons to push to get my engine running and what moves to avoid too!
    You could also try some visualization to get yourself in the mood, like remembering the last time you had amazing sex. Put on some sexy undies or whatever will make you feel sexy. Maybe get a book with new positions that might make you feel strong and sexy. I love how my body feels when I’ve exfoliated and moisturized and it makes me want to share with my husband.
    It can be hard to pull yourself out of the hole when it’s been a long time so be gentle on yourself and make intentional efforts towards the relationship you want with the man you love.

    Reply
  12. Jess

    Hey all, I am the writer of the original question and I just wanted to say THANK YOU for all of you answers and suggestions.
    I have seen many doctors (had all my hormones and lots more checked) and tried lots of treatments for depression and fatigue. I have recently started a new and different set of medication that I am excited about it’s potential!
    Also, we do early bedtime and my husband cooks dinner most nights (that was my “one thing” that pushed me over the edge). He is great about giving me time to unwind if I need it and helping me get in the mood with back rubs and whatever else I need. On the nights when I take a break from the kids, take a bath, get a back rub, it’s much easier to have sex. I just wish I could get “in the mood” without all of that sometimes because it’s not realistic to do that every time we want to have sex.
    I think what I am learning is it’s just an ongoing process of improvement and I can see how far I’ve come over the years and am excited to keep growing in this area. As one of you said, it’s not an “immediate snap-of-the-fingers answer to prayer,” it’s a journey.
    I am so grateful for the encouragement, suggestions, and support. It’s helpful to know I’m not alone…there are many women on this journey. And I am excited to try to implement some of the things you all have said!
    Also, to the husband that asked how to be supportive of a wife on this journey, I would say, alleviate any mental load that you can from your wife. Also, probably the more conversations you have to seek understanding, the better. Ask her questions like…what can I take off your plate that stresses you out? What is the best way I can help you relax in the evening? What do I do that makes you feel the most loved? Or the most sexy? What do I do or say that turns you off or makes you feel pressured? What type of sexual encounter makes you feel the best physically? Emotionally? Is there any type of sexual act that you would feel better if we took off the table completely?
    And you said you worried about whether you should ask for sex or not because you don’t want to pressure her or make her feel guilty….ask her! Do you like it best when I initiate? Or would you rather I wait for you to let me know that you want sex? If you want me to initiate, what is your favorite way that I do so? Do you want to take intercourse off the table for a period of time and just go back to making out/touching/whatever without the pressure of doing more?
    The thing that has helped me the most is just talking through all of this with my husband and feeling like I get to choose and like he understands me…my fears, insecurities, desires, etc. Your heart is in the right place and that’s a great start!!!

    Reply
    • John

      Thank you, when you pointed out “just ask her” it seemed really silly. It’s an area where she is really self-critical and I hate to see her beat herself up. In those moments it felt loving to not bring things up, but that’s how we got here. Sheila talked about the difference between being a peacemaker vs peacekeeper somewhere. I can’t help combat the negative things she says to herself by avoiding them.
      I read the FairPlay book and I try to be conscientious of her mental and emotional load. I objectively do more cleaning/chores around the house because of it. The thing I have never really figured out is how to get the boys to come to me with things first, or at least a good chunk of the time…there’s no substitute for mama for solving a Lego-sharing dispute.

      Reply
      • Jess

        Haha, your last comment is so true! Sometimes I will ask my husband, “why does nobody ever say ‘daddy’?”. When there is lots of whining and “mommy, mommy, mommy!!!” happening, I will just go lock myself in the bedroom and let him handle it. Sometimes he will tell me, “you got take a break for a while” and that helps!
        I tend to be very insecure in that area too and just continued support and reassurance is the best thing for it…him telling me that he is satisfied, that he thinks I’m sexy, that he loves the things we do together, that he thinks I’m a great mom, that he is grateful for me and the things I do. You can start to combat the negative things she says to herself by saying lots of positive things to her. And, yeah, a lot of times it is hard to bring things up in the moment. It may be easier to bring them up outside of the situation. Maybe take her on a date if possible (or arrange an “at-home date” the kids go to bed) and bring up some of the questions then. Be careful not to be accusatory or sound dissatisfied, but approach from a place of curiosity and love…”I’ve been thinking, I really want to know the ways I can best love and support you in our marriage both in and out of the bedroom”….and then ask some of the questions.
        Good luck! I really think you’re headed in a good direction!

        Reply
  13. Renee

    What worked best for me to get over the subconscious duty mindset, even though hubby had said he only wanted sex if we both wanted it, was when he realised if I was just humoring him and going along with it, it would be a huge turn off and so he would stop, roll over and go to sleep. Nowadays, I am far more comfortable with saying “No” when I really don’t want sex and that it is okay cos when it’s yes, it’s great.

    Reply
  14. JEANNIE M

    She’s going to have to change how she views it. Reading through Song of Solomon helped me, as my focus was on intimacy with the Father. Honestly, changing how I think about things has all been commented to intimacy with the Father

    Reply
  15. Liz

    We have a similar situation. My husband feels like he is somewhat less of a man if he cannot also bring me pleasure. This is it’s own trap. 99% of the time, my body will respond, but not always. So about a year ago, I asked him for for permission/freedom to NOT always have to have an orgasm. THIS IS NOT THE SAME AS GIVING HIM PERMISSION TO TAKE/OBJECTIFY! This is the freedom to say no if my emotions are completely fried. This is the freedom to say yes, but to stop if something is not working right. This is the freedom to say yes and maybe have an orgasm. This is the freedom to say yes and just give him a rockin’ good time as a gift. The key is freedom to engage in a multitude of possible outcomes AND to track with each other in the moment.
    This approach allows my husband to help me clear up whatever emotional stumbling block might be in the way. This approach allows us to negotiate foreplay more successfully, because different scenarios benefit from different foreplay. If I’m not particularly interested, but have no compelling reason to say no, well, jump right on top and see what happens. Sometimes magic. If I am interested, that is where the arousal piece that Sheila focuses on can be crucial. I’m interested, going straight to sex would ruin that. I’m interested, but cuddling will make me lose interest. It’s like a giant flowchart…and a new day can bring a new scenario to navigate.
    Last year we did a deliberate fast from sex during part of Lent. My husband could explore any other part of my body he wanted to, but no sex. This turned out wonderfully amazing, though not exactly easy, for both of us. This is a great way to help unlearn the duty-sex message. It is something I used to put upon myself even though my husband would never have done so. It used to create so much fear in me–if I don’t give him enough, or initiate constantly, then he will turn to pornography, even though this isn’t even necessarily true!
    The Ask Christopher West podcast presents a wonderfully high view of women and sex in marriage, of unity and mutuality. When I started listening to it, I wondered where was this message during all those years of toxic ideas?

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  16. Lauren

    I struggle with wanting to have sex, very much so. It’s a multi-faceted issue though, and what has helped me personally is to accept my part but to also acknowledge it’s not just my issue. I used to feel a lot of guilt and shame over my inability to “want it”… but taking a moment to step back and examine my situation fully helped to alleviate that guilt and shame.
    I don’t want sex, because aside from all the other common issues (depression, child care, chores, exhausted, etc) I also don’t associate sex with my own pleasure. For the majority of our relationship, when we were younger, sex was always about him and his pleasure. I never pushed the issue, because I was immature and sexually inexperienced.
    When I hit my 30’s, and I attempted to try and refocus the sexual trajectory of our relationship towards something that would include me, I was shot down. Foreplay is boring, he doesn’t want to do it. Cuddling makes him feel suffocated, too hot, doesn’t want to do it. Spending time with me one-on-one is boring, phone is more entertaining, he doesn’t want to do it.
    So, I thought to myself, well self, of course you don’t want to have sex! Who would want to, under these conditions?
    So I feel far less guilt and shame, I definitely feel more normal, nothing is wrong with me at all. I just understand myself now, and I’m not content ignoring it anymore.
    So, until he meets me where I need to be, I will continue not wanting sex and that is why. Understanding that has given me a lot of peace, strangely.

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