Why You Need to Work on Your Own Sexual Stuff

by | Dec 5, 2022 | Sexual Intimacy | 69 comments

working on your own sexual stuff in marriage
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When we’re trying to get out of the pit our sex life is in–sometimes we’re the one who needs to grab the ladder.

We’re near the end of our series on getting our sex life out of the pit that one–or both–of us have dug for ourselves.

Often the issues are multi-faceted, too. He may have acted inappropriately. You also have difficulty with sex because of the messages you internalized growing up. Then you’ve built emotional distance, and it’s all been a big mess.

We’ve looked at a 4-point plan for recovery, and I’ve focused a lot on what to do when your spouse is the one who has dug the pit.

But today I want to shine the light in a different direction.

A healthy sex life is the culmination and expression of a healthy marriage.

We talked earlier in the series about redefining sex so it’s not a commodity one gives and one takes, but rather it’s the culmination of what you feel about each other.

A sex life can’t create a good marriage, but it is the expression of one.

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A healthy sex life depends on a healthy marriage. But a marriage can be unhealthy in three ways (and often these overlap):

  • The marriage dynamics are unhealthy
  • You are unhealthy
  • Your spouse is unhealthy

Today I really want to concentrate on the problem when you are the one who is unhealthy. And by “unhealthy”, I just mean anything that’s preventing you from living in passion and wholeness in your marriage, and feeling and expressing the love and intimacy with your spouse.

So it could be childhood trauma; it could be internalized messages you’ve believed about sex (that’s what The Great Sex Rescue is for!); it could be physical issues with sex, like vaginismus or erectile dysfunction; it could be other medical conditions that need treatment and attention.

That’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture.

I don’t just mean being too exhausted for sex because of too much mental load or emotional labor, which is still actually a marriage issue. I mean when you’re honestly married to a wonderful person who is trying, but you prefer to leave sex totally off the table. Maybe sex isn’t pleasurable, but your spouse would love to try to figure out the orgasm piece for you, and is more than willing to do the work. But you’d rather do nothing at all.

Sometimes the problem is not with our spouse. Sometimes the problem is with us.

And this may still pose a lot of pain. But when you marry, you do promise to do your utmost to work towards being healthy and whole. That’s part of what marriage is. You need to work on your own stuff, because your spouse can’t do that for you. And your spouse married you because they love you and they want to be able to express that in every way.

Sex is a part of that.

I want to say this carefully, because I know this can get very confusing and messed up. But your spouse wanting sex does not necessarily mean your spouse is coercing you. Coercion means your spouse is punishing you for not having sex, or is pressuring you in some other way. Someone merely being disappointed, but still doing what they can to show you they love you and to be good to you is not coercion.

A comment was left on the blog in the middle of the marital rape series that said:

I found your blog ages ago while seeking answers for my (now decade long), effectively-sexless-from-day-one marriage to my lovely wife. It’s been fascinating seeing the growth and change in the messages of the blog posts over that time. These last few series have been especially impactful and challenging, and something we rarely get to hear in a Christian setting.

It’s certainly a challenge for men like me to look inward. While just blaming SSRI’s might be the easy cop out [ed. note: I believe he’s implying that her lack of sex drive may be caused by anti-depressants], it’s a good (but hard!) challenge to think out where my own selfishness, entitlement or broken nature may be contributing.

I’d always tried to initiate as gently as possible and back off at the slightest hesitation or lack of enthusiastic reciprocation, with great assurance that she never needed to do anything she didn’t want, and that I loved her no matter what…but I’ve learned more in recent years that’s it’s possible she was experiencing even just being aware that a sex life was something I desired as a form of coercion, even if it was never intended on my part…

That’s “probably” a bit hyperbolic (I hope), but it is a strong, sobering warning to think about as I look at how I approach navigating our marriage these days. How much caution I need to take if I ever try to bring up the topic of sex in our marriage, and how careful and hyper-aware of her feelings I need to continue to be in those few times each year when her desire does show up.

So thanks again for your work here. It’s a sobering challenge, but one I know is long overdue in a church culture that has for too long preached such damaging messages for healthy marriages.

 

Now, obviously this is just one side of the story. But let’s assume everything he’s saying is an accurate reflection of the story, because I have heard and seen stories like this repeatedly. Sex is happening only a few times a year, and it’s been like that their entire marriage. He is trying his best to show love to his wife and be gentle.

He is not in the wrong for wanting a sex life. He is not in the wrong for being sad. This isn’t coercive towards his wife.

It is very easy to fill your life with other things and ignore sex.

And when I say “ignore”, I’m not talking merely about libido differences. If one spouse wants sex once a week and one spouse wants sex five times a week, that is merely a libido difference and something you can talk about and work on.

No, I’m talking about when sex has basically disappeared from your life. That may feel very comfortable and good, and it may seem like the biggest problem in your life is that your spouse isn’t satisfied with that. And so your spouse’s sex drive becomes the main obstacle to your happiness.

But it is healthy and normal to have a sex drive, and it is healthy and normal to want to experience intimacy at every level with the person that you love and committed your life to. When you marry, you do promise that you will do your part to create a healthy marriage, and sex is part of a healthy marriage.

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Now, please hear what I’m not saying. I’m not saying that you need to have sex, even if it hurts you emotionally or physically. I’m not saying you have to have sex as often as your spouse would like.

I am saying that you are responsible for working on whatever it is about you that makes you not want to have sex at all.

I am not even saying that you are responsible for your healing, because you’re not. Sometimes you do everything you can and you still have lichen sclerosus which makes sex physically painful. You still have erectile dysfunction or vaginismus. You still have major depression. You still have a lot of trauma from earlier sexual assaults.

Your healing is not your responsibility. Seeking help is. Doing what you can to work towards wholeness is.

I don’t know what seeking help may look like for you.

It could be:

  • Seeing a physician
  • Seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist
  • Seeing a licensed counselor
  • Seeing a licensed counselor trained in trauma therapies
  • Addressing some addiction issues with licensed counselors and groups
  • Addressing other lifestyle issues that are holding you back from sex

I talk a lot about how obligation shouldn’t be a part of our sex life.

At the same time, though, when you marry, you promise to act married. To share a life together. To be a team. And to connect sexually. If you are completely running away from that–not just having a libido difference, but honestly rejecting sex–that does become a problem.

As I have repeatedly stated in this series, usually the reason this happens is actually rooted in marriage issues, and isn’t just your problem. But there are exceptions.

Sex was meant to be something life-giving to both of you. If you don’t see how it could possibly be that, please get help. Get help for your spouse’s sake. But also get help for your sake. Even if you’re content with the way things are now, you are still missing out on God’s best for your life, and you’re keeping the person you love most from experiencing the fullness of the marriage relationship, too.

 

Why you're responsible for working on your own sexual stuff

This is a hard one to say well. What would you add? How can we talk about this in a healthy way? Let’s discuss 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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69 Comments

  1. JJ

    Thanks for addressing this difficult aspect of marriage. Thanks to you, I’ve done a lot of work to make sure I’m not being coercive, or putting pressure on my wife. She is in recovery from a stem cell transplant, and is also married to her job. Exhausted and stressed out is the norm. Keeping my “sexpectations” very low has been challenging, but helpful. I want her to quit her job, but she won’t hear of it. Once upon a time, we had an amazing sex life, but five kids and two rounds of cancer later—it feels like I’m living someone else’s life. It’s been a mourning process for me, I think. I want her to be healthy, but it’s like she’s a workaholic with a bit of martyr syndrome thrown in. I used to be upset by not being on her list of priorities. Then I realized that *she* is not on her own list of priorities.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s such an interesting final sentence–that she also isn’t prioritizing herself. That’s so hard. I’ll try to address more about this in next week’s post–when your spouse isn’t working on his or her own issues!

      Reply
      • Anna

        I’m not sure cancer should be included in issues you’re obligated to “work on.” Let’s leave it off. I’ve seen too many people tortured by cancer treatment. To no good end. A human being should have that choice.

        Reply
        • JJ

          The cancer (and treatment) are horrible to be sure, but this is about her unwillingness to let some things go and take better care of herself.

          Reply
          • Anna

            That’s why I singled out the cancer for comment.

          • Suzanne

            I personally dont’ think a spouse should want their spouse to quit their job, not if its something they want to do. That sounds like are marriage issue not a her stuff issue, you asking her to stop her career. Sounds like she enjoys her job, most people who are very involved in their career love what they do. Yes she might have some “stuff” going on she needs to work on, but she has cancer, and is going thru treatment for that, that is not “stuff” that is a big deal, that is huge.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I was referring more to what he said about his wife being a workaholic and not caring for herself. Definitely not the cancer!

          Reply
  2. Angharad

    This is such an important message. I love how you have phrased it, that we are not responsible for our healing (and depending on what the problem is, total healing may never happen) but we are responsible for working towards it. It is a lot easier with a partner who isn’t coercive though. We work really hard on overcoming difficulties or finding ways around them, but that’s only really worked because my husband doesn’t pressure me to do anything that’s uncomfortable or make me feel guilty for telling him ‘that hurts’. I can’t imagine having the same freedom if I were married to someone who gave me the silent treatment or told me how his needs weren’t being met every time I went through a bad patch. Emotionally/mentally, I think I’m pretty much healed. Physically, I’m likely to face more and more challenges as time passes but having such a loving husband gives me the best possible incentive to keep looking for ways around the issues.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so lovely, Angharad!

      And, yes, it would be so much worse with a man who was coercive, and the problem is that often these issues aren’t solitary. So often they overlap. So she has pain, but they also have bad marriage dynamics, and he’s watching porn. For so many it’s just such a huge knot to untangle!

      And this post was really about addressing things like in your situation, when it honestly isn’t something with your husband. If he’s watching porn, or if he’s coercive, those things need to be dealt with first. Your marriage isn’t healthy, and you can’t just make yourself have a positive attitude towards sex in an unhealthy or unsafe marriage.

      Reply
  3. Becky

    This misses one huge piece — asexuality. If one spouse is actually on the asexuality spectrum, they won’t have a sex drive, or will only feel sexual desire under specific conditions (like demisexuality). And that is normal and healthy for them. There is nothing wrong with an asexual person, and I don’t want anyone in that boat to hear that from your post.

    Clearly if only one spouse in a marriage is asexual and the other does want to have sex as a component of the relationship, that is going to cause marital conflict. But at least if they can make it, they can begin to discuss how they want to handle it.

    Christian asexuals can end up getting married without realizing their sexuality, because it would be easy to assume that they simply were really good at “resisting temptation” while dating. When no sexual interest appears after marriage, that can be disorienting.

    I would encourage people who have little to no sex drive in marriage to read about the asexuality spectrum and honestly consider if that is that case for them.

    Reply
    • Becky

      That should say “at least if they can NAME it”

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I should definitely write more about this. I know there’s some really interesting research that’s coming out right now.

      Reply
    • Laura

      When I was engaged to my ex several years ago, we resisted temptation, but it seemed easy for me because I was not tempted sexually. At the end of our relationship, I thought it was strange not to feel that temptation whenever I was alone with him. That was rare because he had a roommate, I lived with my mother, and there was always a dog or two around us. As I thought and prayed, I realized I was not sexually attracted to him. I thought that might have had to do with sexual trauma from my past and not having been in a relationship for 15 years before I met him. Also, he was not my type physically.

      Then I sometimes wonder if I might be on the asexual spectrum. Sure, I have a sex drive but I’ve been celibate for over 20 years. Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I could take or leave sex and know that sex is not the be-all and end-all of life. Sure, it would be great to have sex again, but under the right circumstances. In my former marriage, sex was treated as a commodity. My ex sexually assaulted me repeatedly during the last year of our marriage. He was coercive, manipulative, punished me if I said no to sex, looked at porn, and frequented strip clubs. His excuse for those behaviors was that I was not giving him enough sex. If he had it his way, we would have sex twice a day every single day.

      So after enduring all that crap in my marriage, maybe that caused me to almost fall into the asexual category. I don’t know. What I do know is that I want to have a healthy, mutually satisfying sex life if I ever remarry. I have worked hard to deal with my messes and just when I think I’ve got it all under control, there are more messes.

      Reply
    • Chelsea

      Becky. SUCH. A good point! My counselor recently had me look up asexuality when I made the comment to her “if I never have sex again, I would be fine”. It was really helpful for me to start to see some sexual differences. This, to me, was as helpful as understanding vaginismus or lichen sclerosis or even challenges with orgasm. Like you said, it names it.

      Reply
      • Wondering

        This is the part that I’m struggling to understand. What’s the distinction between low/no libido and asexuality?

        Reply
    • Angharad

      On the other hand, if your libido is mainly responsive and you have firm boundaries in place pre-marriage, you can end up being worried there is something wrong when there isn’t! I read a couple of ‘Christian’ marriage books that told me if I wasn’t finding it ‘almost impossible’ to avoid having sex in the months prior to our wedding, then I should call it off because I either wasn’t attracted to my fiance or I was asexual…

      Reply
    • Sedge by the Lakeshore

      “There is nothing wrong with an asexual person.”

      Absolutely. Which leads to the question: what is asexuality?

      For at least some people, can lack of desire be an innate, immutable part of their personhood?

      Let’s say it can’t be changed. Let’s say there is no possibility of having sexual desire for spouse. Would that mean the couple exchanged vows based on a misunderstanding?

      Because if she thought that her sexuality just needed marriage in order to bloom, then she’d be believing something about herself that isn’t true.

      And he’d be believing something about her that isn’t true.

      (Or flip the script because men can also have no be asexual.)

      So anyway. Maybe vows were exchanged based on a misunderstanding. If it was a *fundamental* misunderstanding, then what would that mean for the marriage? Could it have been invalid from the start, despite both fiancees being honest and sincere?

      Reply
      • Sedge by the Lakeshore

        Typo alert: Or flip the script, because men can also be asexual.

        Reply
    • Kay

      Thank you for mentioning this! I was thinking of asexuality the whole article.

      Because the more work I do and the more healing I experience, the more I realize I am on the ace spectrum and always have been but it was masked my purity culture.

      The statistics show there are a whole lot of us out there. And the church did not equip us to know anything about it.

      Reply
    • Jeanette

      As someone who learned four months into marriage that her spouse wasn’t (and hadn’t been) interested in sex… (In his case, he had normal testosterone levels for a 12 year-old boy. That can raise your risk of osteoporosis.) There are medical conditions with some major consequences that can also cause a complete lack of libido. Asexuality is also a thing. I’m just saying there are other things that can be going on that it’s a really good idea to treat.

      Reply
  4. Anonymoose

    “Your healing is not your responsibility. Seeking help is. Doing what you can to work towards wholeness is.”

    I think this is an important distinction.

    Years ago, sex continued to be very uncomfortable (I reserve “painful” for worse things such as vaginismus). I went to the GYN multiple times, eventually having several procedures done- some of which were painful- to figure out what was “wrong” with me. The last procedure (which indicated no reason for intercourse to be uncomfortable) was so painful that I decided I was done searching for answers. I was so frustrated, in pain for weeks as I healed from it, and I didn’t know where else to turn for help.

    Turns out I simply was not aroused, and the area was not pliable enough to avoid tearing, etc.. I had been programmed by evangelical teachings and such that sex just wasn’t for me (because I was female), so I put up with being uncomfortable for up to 3 days each time after intercourse. Now I know what was wrong. We rushed things because he was ready to proceed and neither of us understood true arousal indicators for my body so we didn’t know to delay until my body was ready.

    Not once did the GYNs ask me about or explain more fully the arousal piece. Basic teaching would have done wonders. I didn’t have resources I felt comfortable using (read: I stuck to “Christian” resources) to learn about this and other aspects. Grateful this site has tackled the difficult topics. I have learned so much here in the past few years!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, wow! What a story. I think this is really common. That you’re not aroused, you tear, and then things hurt for days afterwards (even urinating hurts). And you can get into a cycle of infections too. I’m so glad you figured this out now, but so sorry that no one asked you the right questions!

      Reply
      • Andrea

        Yes, people mistakenly think the pain is about the hymen tearing the first time, but its usually microtears inside the unaroused vagina. I recently listened to a podcast on which a sex therapist said that most of what she does is actually just sex education, that most problems she encounters with couples who come for therapy is that they don’t know the basics. I really like the rule that the person getting penetrated is the one who sets the pace, but for that to work well it would also require for that person to know her body well, feel confident slowing the man down, just all this patriarchal baggage we all carry that complicates the implementation of that very sane piece of advice.

        Reply
  5. Andrea

    Can we please, please, pretty please, destigmatize female masturbation? All the studies show that women who masturbate enjoy partnered sex more, in fact, those are the studies that get the field of psychology criticized as being “just common sense” since, duh, of course she’s going to enjoy partnered sex more if she knows how her own body works and can show her husband how to pleasure her. Just imagine the awesome mind-switch that happens for a woman who knows her orgasm is in her own hands: “Hey hubs, I’m about to experience wave after wave of sexual pleasure. You wanna join me in this endeavor and help out or…?”

    Reply
  6. Kim

    Too often there is a desire for working on something but it’s completely cost-prohibitive. I really need to see a pelvic floor pt (and did for a time but have had another baby since) but it broke the bank and I still feel guilty about that financial toll. My husband is the MOST caring and always considerate of me. I WANT to have sex but it is uncomfortable at best most of the time. I still enjoy it because he prioritizes me and we share great intimacy. If he gets a whiff of my discomfort, he wants to stop. But we’d literally never have sex then and neither of us wants that. I’d love to work on it more but we just can’t afford it because our insurance doesn’t cover it. When I was going it was $450/week at a minimum. That’s over half of our household income. So I just live with the discomfort. 🤷‍♀️

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Kim, that’s so sad! I totally get it. I wish there were better, more affordable options.

      Reply
    • I. L.

      Yes, health stuff can be so expensive. Pelvic floor PT helped me enormously but was pricey and time consuming.

      Some chronic health conditions can get worse with sex, too. I get symptom flare ups after, enough that we have to check calendars first to make sure there’s no reason I’d need to drive for a couple of days, that I don’t have work commitments, that he’s available to do school carpool and all kid care, meals, etc. I’m now learning these symptoms MIGHT be treatable, but insurance won’t cover the specialists I need. So while we’re both interested in having sex and don’t have trouble with orgasm for either of us, the intense amount of planning required means we’re doing great if we manage twice in a month.

      Reply
      • Matt

        My wife won’t “work on her stuff” yet, and suffers from many of these culprits (low libido, SSRI antidepressants, herniated disc, probably vaginisimus, depression, family trauma, poor premarriage messages, hypersensitivity). However, one thing we did change was that sex for is (0-2 times per month) is now just hand stimulation. This has removed most of any physical discomfort. It might be worth proposing such a thing for you as well.
        As a guy, I still feel a drive for true sexual intercourse, but know that it would only incur pain. Perhaps this is where we have landed for the rest of our lives? Knowing that I’m not causing pain is at least a relief. Knowing that I’m not worsening her experience with every encounter, and layering more emotional pain, is even more important.

        Reply
  7. K

    This was helpful; thanks, and I liked the nuance of being responsible for working on being whole without being responsible for healing. I think this is my issue – the problem is me being unhealthy (physically). I have a very caring husband who is more than willing to do the work, but it’s hard for me to want it.

    In response to the comment above, I do think asexuality often suggests something wrong – though it may be hard to identify what. For the first 6 years of marriage, I probably would have fit that description. Absolutely zero arousal or interest in sex. It turned out that birth control pills were the cause, and once I came back on them, I developed a libido, was able to get aroused and even managed to orgasm once. (Then we had children and our sex life stalled for quite a while, though it did recover.)

    I developed a whole lot of non-specific health problems after the birth of our younger child, and when health was not so good, I had no interest in sex. At one point, when I had literally zero interest in it, I started a boron supplement and overnight went from ‘asexual’ to just raring for it! I’ve never read anything about possible mechanisms for that, but it showed me the massive effects that physiological problems can have on sex drive.

    Since a health ‘crash’ 3 years ago, I’ve been entirely anorgasmic, though I’ve often got what feels like 98% of the way there, leaving me feeling more frustrated than if we’d not tried. It can be tempting just to give up trying, so this was a good encouragement for me.

    Reply
    • K

      I mean things improved when I came *off* the birth control, not onto it! Just a typo.

      Reply
      • Jen

        Birth control did that to me, too. This was back in the mid 1990’s, and when I told my (male) doctor about my libido drop from the Pill, he said, “That’s not possible.” End of discussion. How invalidating!!! I switched doctors, went off the Pill, got my libido back, and avoided the Pill like the plague. Years later, researchers found the connection.

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, what a roller coaster! That is really interesting, though, about how you felt totally nothing and then had supplements and your sex drive came back. I really should research and write more about the biochemistry of libido and orgasm. There’s so much to learn and I think it’s the missing piece for many women.

      Reply
      • K

        Yes, I think the nutritional aspect is a missing piece for many of us.

        For example, zinc levels are well-understood to have an effect on sexual function for both men and women.

        e.g. this study on post-menopausal women.

        “Zinc supplementation in the intervention group, resulted in a significant increase in testosterone levels compared to the control group, which improved sexual function in postmenopausal women non-significantly.”

        https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34311679/

        There are plenty of other studies on zinc and sexual function, though lots have been done in relation to men rather than women.

        Surprise surprise, research done since the 1980s showed that hormonal birth control depletes women’s zinc levels (and other nutrients like vitamin B6). I’d guess this is a problem for all kinds of medication. I know of epilepsy medications which are known to deplete zinc (sodium valproate), for example.

        When I consulted my doctor about sexual pain, she just did an examination, said I had no obvious evidence of a mechanical problem and said I should just focus more on non-penetrative sexual activities. Actually, my arousal level was so low and my sensory issues were so bad that I had to grit my teeth & clench my fists to even cope with my husband laying his hand flat & still on my back, let alone any kind of stimulating touch. The doctor never suggested there could be a nutritional issue, or that my BCPs might be a contributing factor. I only worked it out in hindsight after I stopped taking them in order to get pregnant. (At the same time I discovered that the significant spiritual depression and other mental health challenges I’d been experiencing for the previous 7 years all disappeared without me doing anything else different other than stop taking the contraception.) I’ve met a lot of women who’ve had similar bad reactions to hormonal birth control but didn’t realise until after they stopped taking it.

        In one group I’m in, to do with iodine supplementation, one woman started painting diluted iodine on her vulvic area. She went from anorgasmic to climaxing merely from the stimulation of washing in the shower. Lots of other people tried and didn’t have such startling results, but it’s clear to me that physiological / biochemical things can have a big effect on arousal and orgasm.

        Reply
  8. Blue

    Great post. And to that commenter….it really might be the SSRIs. From personal experience it basically makes you asexual. I really think they do not properly explain what “sexual side effects” means when for many it means “completely unable to become aroused or orgasm.” Especially if one takes them when young or before initiating a sexual relationship, they may not see the difference.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, this can be true for a range of SSRIs. It’s really difficult. But not all have the same effect on people, and often it’s quite individual, so I always encourage people to talk to their doctors and see if a different medication may work but have fewer side effects.

      Reply
    • TJ

      Original commenter here.

      First of all, thanks for this article; it’s an encouragement for a guy like me. After so many years and reading so many stories of entitled, coercive or lazy husbands who don’t pull their weight, it can occasionally be easy to get dragged down by the assumption that it’s all on me. Either for wanting too much, wanting it wrongly or not being good enough or doing enough to be worth desiring.

      Mental health issues can be tricky from what I’ve learned. Everyone responds to different medications differently, and adjustment periods can be rough. My wife has been through several meds over most of her adult life, and once you’ve found a combination that helps the anxiety and depression, it’s always a gamble to tinker with it.

      I’ve always tried to make it clear that I value her mental health first and wouldn’t even want to pressure her into risking her mental well being just for my sake.

      If she ever brings it up as something she wants to explore for herself or for our marriage, I try to be supportive however I can. But as long as it’s something she either doesn’t think about or is content with, I feel very hesitant or uncomfortable bringing it up. I’ve learned from experience that usually leads to guilt, obligation and trying to force it for my sake, which is definitely not something I want for our marriage.

      It can feel like a tough catch-22 sometimes.

      Anyway, thanks again for writing this. I didn’t expect my first ever post here to wind up in the blog. I continue to appreciate all the research, work and writing that you do for wives, husbands and marriages.

      Reply
      • Blue

        Well TJ, I’m just someone on the internet. But honestly it’s unfair to you. I mean I don’t know what the answer is, but honestly assuming everything is honest here, it’s just unfair to unilaterally end your spouse’s sex life from the get go. I mean I agree with everything Sheila has said about mutuality in sex and periods of abstinence and taking sex off the table for at time for health reasons both physical and mental, but also if from the very outset of my marriage I knew my husband was going to be on a medication that meant he never wanted to have sex I might have considered him ineligible for marriage. I don’t know what the answer is here but you’re not wrong for wanting this and it’s really not fair to unilaterally not even try from the outset. An effectively sexless marriage from the outset is quite a different animal from “years passed and we lost the connection.”

        Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Honestly, TJ, you sound like such a loving husband. Thank you for commenting. You restore my faith in humanity.

        I don’t know what you should do. I can’t give specific advice because I don’t know the whole story. I am sorry for what you’re walking through though. Your wife seems very blessed to have you, and I hope you both can find healing and wholeness.

        Reply
  9. K

    I don’t know if the person who left the comment about SSRIs is reading this, but there is a *lot* of research suggesting that vitamin D supplements have similar effects to SSRIs, and operate via some similar mechanisms. It might be worth researching to find out if vit D could offer enough benefits to reduce the dose even if not come off the meds. (I’m not a doctor, so would recommend you doing your own research – the PubMed website is a great place to start as it’s a database of publicly available peer-reviewed research studies.)

    Reply
    • Anonymous

      Vitamin D reduces the risk of several cancers but its well studied in preventing prostate cancer. This is really important if theres a strong family risk of the cancer. Regular frequent sex also greatly reduces prostate cancer risks to.

      But to suggest a person stops taking vitamin D supplements is something they need to talk to their doctor about and i don’t recommend going off of it myself.

      Reply
  10. Jo R

    “YOUR HEALING IS NOT YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. SEEKING HELP IS. DOING WHAT YOU CAN TO WORK TOWARDS WHOLENESS IS.”

    What if wholeness is getting to thirty on your scale of one to a hundred? Or fifty? What if you don’t get any farther than that? You work and work, you hit a plateau, and no matter what you do or how hard you try, you’re not getting any better.

    At what point can you just STOP? When can you stop beating yourself up for not getting closer to a hundred? When do you get to just rest, to stop striving?

    So many of us have chronic, incurable physical issues. It doesn’t matter how well we eat, whether we exercise or not, how much or well we sleep or not, we’re just NEVER going to be “whole” physically.

    Why wouldn’t the same limitations apply to our mental, spiritual, and emotional progress toward wholeness, where we simply hit the max we’re capable of in this life?

    Reply
    • Angharad

      Maybe it depends how we look at it? Seeking to improve our health and wholeness (whether physical, mental or emotional) shouldn’t ever be about ‘beating ourselves up’ for not doing better. Just about doing the best that we can and resting in the knowledge that we ARE doing our best. God is the one who talks about not breaking a bruised reed or quenching a smoking wick. I don’t think He’s going to expect us to get mad at ourselves for not doing better when we are finding things hard.

      I’m never going to be 100% physically fit again. And some days are worse than others. But I never stop trying to be as well as it is within my power to be. And I try to do the same in the areas of mental, emotional and spiritual health too. It’s hard for anyone to know what their limit really is anyway – think about how it is when you learn something new. Because the improvements are so small and gradual, you think you’re not getting better, but someone who hasn’t seen you for a while is really impressed by how much better your French/Painting/Tennis has become. So I don’t want to set a limit on how much I can change, because I don’t know what God is going to do in my life in the future.

      But don’t ever beat yourself up for not doing better – God sees your heart x

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that very well may be the case, Jo. If you’ve tried and tried and you’ve honestly hit the wall–then maybe this is where you are. Every situation is different.

      But I also have known so many who won’t even try. It’s so hard to write about this well and cover all sides, and it’s really tricky. I just want to encourage people to try. If you’ve tried all you can and you’re just done–then that’s okay. It’s a fallen world. Sometimes some of us bear the brunt of that.

      Reply
    • Sedge by the Lakeshore

      I read the article as saying that working on your own stuff is important, and just assumed that Sheila meant that it didn’t have to consume your life, working towards wholeness.

      And yeah, I can totally see how there are times when you have to stop trying to change something (like a health problem) and focus on managing it.

      Reply
  11. Jane

    Thanks for the article. Is there a third category in between coercion and just being sad/disappointed? This isn’t my marriage, but it’s family members I’m very close with and trying to comfort and counsel as well as I can. They’ve been married for over 25 years. The wife has had her own sexual stuff (internalized bad teaching, vaginismus for the first few years of their marriage), but she also has basically never orgasmed, and the husband thinks it’s her problem (and at least for a long time, so did she). He almost never initiates sex, but because sex is the only way that he’s able to connect emotionally, if she hasn’t initiated it in the last week or so he’ll just lose all interest in spending time with her. I don’t think he intends that as a punishment or pressure–he just feels distant from her, and as a result loses interest in spending time connecting with her (which is of course its own problem). But the result is that she initiates one-sided sex to prevent that.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yeah, that’s a really, really bad pattern to get into. Our survey found that those who never orgasm, who don’t feel close during sex, often eventually give up on sex altogether and the marriage becomes sexless.

      It sounds as if they need to take a break from sex so that they can both see that they can be intimate outside of sex, and she can feel valued. Then they can bring sex back and work not on giving him an orgasm but on figuring out how sex works for her, even if that takes a long time. But continuing what they are doing will eventually increase the distance.

      Reply
      • Jane

        Yeah, that makes sense. Another piece of the problem is that she’s unable to set boundaries and he’s unable to hear criticism. (Eg: He breaks his promise to do a handyman task by a certain day, she pleads (desperately, because this is a longstanding pattern) with him to understand that he broke his promise and it’s hurting her deeply and making her feel unvalued, he feels attacked and says that he had just been gearing up to do the task but now she’s created a negative association with it and he can’t work on it at all for a while, she doesn’t feel like she can set a boundary like hiring someone else to do the task because he would be so angry.) So I definitely see that they need to take a break from sex, but I’m at a loss as to how to either help him to see it (since that would involve acknowledging that he’s been messing up in ways that have hurt her) or help empower her to set the boundary herself when he doesn’t see it.

        Reply
        • LG

          It sounds like her husband might be a covert narcissist / covert emotional abuser. He knows on some level what he is doing in breaking promises and may be getting a sense of power from it. He is getting a reward from the repeated behavior and from her reaction. Breaking promises over and over can be a part of coercive control and emotional abuse. I say this as someone who lived through this.

          Just a thought: this was true in my marriage and it took 10 years of battling the confusing fog of his behavior and lack of understanding in the Christian culture for me to see it and learn about it. Out of the fog now, though!

          Reply
  12. Jaimie

    Thanks for sharing this. What I would like to see covered is what do you do when the issue is with you, but there’s no easy fix or solution for your problem? I developed vulvodynia over 10 years ago after a yeast infection, and despite doing “all the things”to help, I haven’t been the same since. I’ve been to see the top expert in my state, I’ve tried so many medications, I hate to think of the stress I put on my liver and kidneys, I’ve done multiple rounds of pelvic floor physical therapy, I’ve laid on the bathroom floor using dilators until my back ached, and yet I haven’t experienced truly pain-free sex in over a decade. I’ve honestly forgotten what it feels like. My husband has been pretty understanding through it all. He’s endured long stretches without sex, when I have had flareups and has generally accepted the fact that our sex life just doesn’t look the same as if I hadn’t developed this issue. At the same time, though, I know he really struggles with being discouraged. Like a lot of men, he likes to be “Mr. fix it”and he just doesn’t understand why there’s not some treatment out there that will make this issue go away. Since I haven’t found one, yet, I am left feeling like I have no choice but to deal with less than comfortable sex, because I can’t expect my wonderful, loving husband to endure a sexless marriage because of a medical issue that isn’t his fault.

    Reply
  13. Jackie

    I’m wondering if you Sheila (or anyone else who knows more than me) could help me figure out what I need to fix or need help with. I felt convicted after reading this post but also feel very discouraged when thinking about trying to fix anything.
    I don’t really want to have sex anymore for various reasons and wondering if its just life situational/hard circumstances my husband and I are in and we just need to chill until its better, or if we do need professional help.
    I am married to a wonderful man who’s not perfect but he’s not abusing or unkind or anything like that. I had super painful sex for months when we first got married and just pushed through it even though I desperately wanted to stop but pushed through since thats what you are supposed to do, first kiss was traumatic for me and I have never liked kissing after that, definitely lots of resentment we both have towards each other still from that. The Great Sex Rescue helped us enormously! But also think we might need more now.

    We just moved to a new area a year ago with a new job and a hard pregnancy last year and very hard postpartum and now a 6 month old who sleeps so horribly that I’m losing my mind and a 3 year old that is stressful all the time. My husbands new job has been going so horribly that we are thinking of suddenly quitting because its just not working for our family. We dont have time to connect or figure out anything even outside of sex.
    I wasn’t able to orgasm until two years into marriage so there was a time when we had a good time.
    Sorry for sharing so many details!

    Reply
  14. Insecure Husband

    I’ve been married for 15 years, and thankfully it hasn’t been totally sexless, but within weeks of our wedding my wife’s desire, which had seemed red hot during courtship, evaporated to nothing. I felt like she rejected me because of my inadequate sexual performance; having experienced sex with me and finding out what I had to offer, she just wasn’t interested anymore. Whereas I was a virgin when we got married, she had been sexually active with her high school/college boyfriend for several years before we met, and I couldn’t help but feel like she was comparing me to him. I wanted to learn how to please her, but her feedback ranged from unhelpful to outright hurtful, as she clearly had no patience for my ineptitude. I gave up trying, accepting quick, one-sided sex when she offered it, although obligatory sex seemed to divide instead of unite us. I have learned that she perceived me as coercive and manipulative because I was cranky and distant when we didn’t have sex, but from my point of view I was just hurting. I did not intentionally make my love conditional on having sex, but I can see how it might have felt that way. Fast forward to today, and not much has changed. We’ve tried counseling which helped us talk about it more openly, but she still shows infrequent interest, she hasn’t had an orgasm in 15 years, and I’m afraid to express my desire for her or ask if we can try something to reboot our sex life because I don’t want to somehow come across as coercive. When I’ve tried, she accuses me of “only thinking about sex.” I’m still haunted by comparisons with her ex, with whom my wife was able to climax “easily, often, and sometimes multiple times” (in her words). Other than sex, we work great together, and I regularly pray to be content with what we have, but I’m just not. I feel stuck and I don’t know how to be okay with myself and our marriage.

    Reply
    • Bill

      I understand this challenge very much. It is so demoralizing when you really want to do whatever you can to improve your sex life, but your spouse just doesn’t seem willing to even talk about it, or to validate your feelings that there might be room for improvement. And so it can easily spiral into feelings of rejection and resentment, which doesn’t help the problem.

      It may be that your wife’s past sexual history is leading her to make unfavorable comparisons about your prowess as a lover. But an alternate explanation, especially after 15 years, is that she carries guilt, shame, and/or mixed feelings about the past, and those thoughts erupt whenever she thinks about sex. So she shuts down most thinking about sex in order to keep those emotions out. Just a theory.

      Reply
      • Insecure Husband

        Bill, thanks for offering that perspective. I definitely need to change the way I think about it for my own mental wellbeing, even if it doesn’t improve the quality of my marital intimacy. And who knows, maybe if I can stop believing that it is something inherently inadequate in me, I’ll be able to enjoy it more and make it more enjoyable for my wife.

        Reply
        • Jo R

          A couple of questions to Insecure Husband:

          What if your wife had been a virgin but had become quite accomplished at bringing herself to orgasm with her own hand? Would that have been a big hangup for you? Or maybe you’d have found that “hot”?

          Should you find yourself single in the future, are you going to eschew dating divorcées or widows? Will you be up front that you expect the women you date to be virgins so that there’s no possibility of your having to “compete” with her memories?

          Since your wife married YOU and not this ex-boyfriend, then maybe she didn’t actually love him. Maybe she really did (and even does) love YOU and thought that you’d be a better husband than the ex.

          Why don’t you prove her right?

          Reply
          • Insecure Husband

            I’ve thought about your second question before, and if I ever found myself single I would probably stay that way because I don’t want to be a disappointment to another woman.

          • Jo R

            Now that you’ve further explained your situation, you should definitely realize that being willing to do what you can is wonderful! It would go quite far in most situations. For many of us, mere willingness in our spouse would completely right the ship.

            Someone making you feel bad for being inherently unable to do something is irrational. You might as well be blamed for having brown eyes instead of blue or for being 6-foot-1 instead of 6-foot-4.

          • Insecure Husband

            In my wife’s defense, she had no way of knowing about this particular trait before we got married, so she had no idea what she was signing up for, and I’m not sure even today that she believes it is really outside my control. I purchased a book by experts on the treatment of premature ejaculation and they dispelled several myths in the first few chapters before recommending a course of action that requires partner participation, but she won’t read it, let alone try to put any of it into action. And when we went to counseling it was with the agreement that we were there to work on our communication, not try to fix our sex life. I feel like for her it is not worth the time or energy to address right now. I could only speculate why that might be, but for now I’m looking for anything that I can do on my own to make the situation better or at least less painful. I’ve thought that a sexless marriage might be easier, but she gets offended when I have tried to refuse her. I’m not sure if she initiates because she actually wants me, or if she just feels like it’s her duty even though I’ve told her repeatedly that I don’t want pity sex. She once told me that she’s interested in sex in general, just not with me, and for awhile I was paranoid that she would cheat on me, but that fear did not give her enough credit. She really is a wonderful woman with a complicated relationship with sex, or maybe just a husband who has a complicated relationship with sex.

      • Jo R

        Yeah, sure, Bill, or maybe she was looking forward to having “legal” sex, and she was horrified that her new HUSBAND wasn’t motivated to take care of her sexual needs, especially compared to a mere boyfriend.

        It’s interesting that you assume the wife has some kind of mental or emotional problem when her own husband admitted he basically never even tried to improve his skill set. Is there ANY chance she was expecting her husband to care as much about HER having an orgasm as he expected to have his own?

        If she actually is “shut[ting] down most thinking about sex in order to keep those emotions out,” I’d say at a guess those emotions aren’t the guilt and shame you mention as much as they are frustration, annoyance, disappointment, disbelief, ire, resentment, exasperation…

        Reply
        • Bill

          I didn’t “assume” anything. I suggested a possible explanation. And we must have read a different post. You say “he basically never even tried to improve his skill set.” He wrote: “I wanted to learn how to please her, but her feedback ranged from unhelpful to outright hurtful, as she clearly had no patience for my ineptitude. I gave up trying…I’m afraid to express my desire for her or ask if we can try something to reboot our sex life because I don’t want to somehow come across as coercive. When I’ve tried, she accuses me of “only thinking about sex.” “

          Reply
          • Bill

            I now see your later posts and I’m glad there is better understanding.

    • Jo R

      I’m going to shoot straight from the hip here, so please do try to pretend like I’m a fellow penis-bearer instead of just some random, big-mouthed woman on the Internet.

      Did you have to learn any new skills at college? Did you have to kick up your math abilities, or your foreign-language accent and verb conjugations (or whatever your area was)? Or if you are employed in a trade of some kind, did you have to learn how to do precision carpentry rather than mere rough-in work? Or learn to plumb with PEX in addition to soldering copper? Did you ever learn to throw a curve ball or a perfect spiral? Or maybe you were musical, and somehow, miraculously, you could play scales and arpeggios perfectly from day one, much to the amazement of your instructor (though not, of course, of yourself)? Did you EVER learn ANYTHING from ANYBODY, or have you always been more knowledgable and more skilled than every other human being on the planet in every facet of life?

      I ask these preliminaries, because I’m trying to see if you are in the club where “Women should not teach men anything” or just the more exclusive club of “A wife should not attempt to teach her husband anything.” Because if you’re in either of these clubs, you should stop reading RIGHT NOW.

      Still with me? Great.

      When a woman says, “I really don’t enjoy XYZ,” way too many men somehow manage to hear “You’re a moron for doing XYZ.” Note carefully, she did not call you a moron. She assumed you heard her state her preference, because that’s what she did.

      Perhaps your wife was actually hurtful. But perhaps you reacted badly when she said something factual, and she realized (a lot more quickly than some women) that she would never be able to teach you anything at all, because you’d be too busy getting your feelings hurt instead of, I dunno, learning something you didn’t already know, or at least needed to improve on.

      You yourself admit you gave up. Couldn’t throw a perfect spiral the first time you picked up a football, so you gave up. Blew your first attempt at writing an Excel macro, so you gave up. Screwed up your first dovetail joint making a drawer, so you gave up. Wired a GFI outlet with two of the wires reversed, which prevented it from working, so you gave up. Whatever it was that you didn’t do perfectly the first time out, or the second, or even the third, you GAVE UP.

      How do you get better at something if you give up?

      You then accepted (presumably infrequent) completely-focused-on-you-and-your-penis intercourse (AKA duty or obligation sex) for FIFTEEN YEARS. And were cranky when you didn’t even get that as much as you wanted. Your wife, proud possessor of a God-given clitoris, went without orgasm COMPLETELY for those same fifteen years.

      Having spent so much energy and attention on yourself, now you’re mad at HER for not believing that you really, really, really want to change. Um, really?

      I’d recommend a year, minimum, of sexual activity that SHE picks, that YOU do, willingly and wholeheartedly and uncomplainingly, that focuses on HER ORGASM ALONE. Or just making her body feel good, like long massages with no sex at the end. You tell her, blubbering if necessary, that you’ve been a selfish ass (as in donkey), and that you want to try to make it up to her. You also tell her YOU ALREADY KNOW, RIGHT NOW, that you never CAN make it up to her, because those fifteen years are GONE and are never coming back. Maybe that’s why God made the clitoris to generally be multi-orgasmic with little or no refractory period, so that when husbands—excuse me—IF husbands ever pull their heads out of their butts, said husbands can at least make up in quantity what they stole from their wives for all those years the husbands were making sure to get their own orgasms.

      Guys are generally so competitive about stuff, so why don’t you aim to rock her world so much that there’s no FRIGGIN’ way she’ll even remember that boyfriend’s NAME, let alone anything else. But you’ll have to do it for HER sake, not so that you can metaphorically put notches on your bedpost for how great YOU are.

      She’s your WIFE. She can’t (or isn’t supposed to) get sex and orgasm and intimacy from anyone but you. You’ve let her down, but instead of you feeling bad about FAILING HER, you’re feeling bad for YOURSELF. Yeah, no wonder she’s not interested. It’s all about YOU and YOUR experience, not HERS.

      OK, end rant.

      Reply
    • Jo R

      Actually, the more I think about this situation, the madder I get. Not at you, specifically, Insecure Husband, but because of the pattern of behavior.

      Is this dynamic not a perfect example of TONE POLICING by the husband against his wife? Their initial sexual experiences in marriage revealed “ineptitude” on his part (his word, hence the quotes), and she expressed her disappointment and frustration. Could she have been more gentle with her response? Could she have phrased her requests for what to do and what not to do with patience? Sure, and of course.

      But here’s the tone policing part he contributed. He got his feelings hurt, and THEN HE DIDN’T EVEN TRY TO IMPROVE. Instead, he spent FIFTEEN YEARS settling for duty sex that she wasn’t excited about (what a shock for her to have that reaction to what for her was pleasureless penetration—when she actually knew what she was missing, to boot), and NOW he’s upset that after all this time, she’s not really interested in improving things.

      So, it didn’t matter a whit that HER CONTENT was absolutely correct, EVEN IN HIS OWN EYES. She just wasn’t nice enough about it, so that gave him a free pass to CONTINUE HIS SELF-CENTERED BEHAVIOR and make NO IMPROVEMENTS to himself.

      What if he’d admitted his hurt feelings, then spent six solid months being guided by her? She is, after all, the best person to teach him what she likes in bed. There would almost certainly have been a whole lot less duty and a whole lot more mutual enjoyment.

      She gave what she could. He gave nothing. He made no effort. Why, all of a sudden, does SHE now need to make an effort? I’d say he deserves fifteen years of no orgasm while giving her that pleasure, not as retaliation or revenge, but because … let me see … what’s that phrase I read somewhere one time? “A man reaps what he sows.”

      Reply
      • Insecure Husband

        Jo, I appreciate your perspective, and you’ve accurately read between the lines on a few things, but jumped to a lot of incorrect conclusions. Of course, there are two sides to every story, and you are only hearing mine. For the sake of brevity I left out many details. I absolutely gave up for a while, and I deeply regret that. During that period I not only gave up on trying to make sex good for her, but I was also emotionally absent from our relationship. However, I realized my need to repent, and also that sex purely for physical gratification left me feeling empty, so for the last 11 years I have tried to make up for it. Lots of tears and asking for forgiveness have been a part of that to this day.

        I would LOVE to rock her world, as you put it. She is explicitly disinterested in anything other than a penetrative orgasm. When we were first married, she didn’t want any foreplay, she just wanted to get right to it. I get the impression she thought I was selfish because I couldn’t last long enough for her to climax. I’ve tried sprays and researched various techniques to last longer, but nothing has worked and there’s not much “practice” I can do without her cooperation. Apparently her ex was the energizer bunny and would just pound away until she climaxed, to the point that she learned to fake orgasm just so he would stop when she knew she wasn’t going to get there. I’d love to be able to last that long, but so far I’ve been wildly unsuccessful. She sometimes lets me give her manual stimulation now (never oral), but she has never masturbated and can’t really tell me how she likes to be touched. Nevertheless, through trial and a lot of error I can sometimes make her feel pretty good before she tells me to stop and start using my penis. It still culminates in disappointment for her and embarrassment for me. Other times I make one wrong move and she shuts down immediately. When she says stop, we stop and wait until she initiates again, usually weeks later. I never initiate.

        I’ve definitely been overly sensitive to her feedback at times, and she has also been deliberately hurtful at other times. “I don’t need to compare you with anyone to know that you’re not good enough.” I try to compensate for my inability to satisfy her sexually by massaging her head, neck, shoulders, back, legs, and/or feet as often as she wants, averaging probably 30 minutes or more every day, and 99.9% of the time that does not lead to sex. I make it very clear that there are no strings attached. So although I may be inherently selfish, it’s not what you think, at least not for the last decade.

        If this information changes your assessment of the situation or if you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear it.

        Reply
        • Jo R

          Insecure Husband,

          Let me start by offering you my deepest and most heartfelt apology for my previous comments. A large majority of the women who comment here simply CANNOT orgasm via PIV, because their anatomical geometry does not allow for the proper stimulation of the proper areas via that activity (that’s the case for 63 percent of women IIRC). Therefore, if a husband is not willing to give his wife anything other than PIV, she has ZERO CHANCE of ever having an orgasm. That was my framework. That’s why I wrote what I did.

          Your further details make it clear that that’s not YOUR case. Again, I apologize most deeply for assuming more about your situation than you initially shared. That’s on me (makes a mental note to not do that again). My apology does zero to eliminate the pain I know I must have caused you, and I wish there was more I could do on that front. Sigh.

          I have very few thoughts to offer you in the light of your actual situation.

          First, some people have very fixed ideas about what is and isn’t allowed between a married couple, as long as both people are willing. For instance, some people think the only allowed sexual activity is missionary position, in the dark, under the covers, without music. Having the lights on or playing the radio or not being under the blankets (even in the tropics in summertime) would be sinful.

          Second, she found a formula that works for her. I understand her wanting to replicate that. The problem is that her circumstances have changed, and it’s not possible for that formula to keep working. Even if you were also in the three-sigma club of, er, extended duration, that formula was likely going to change sooner or later due to age, health issues, whatever. And it’s just as likely to change on HER side as well, as some women eventually develop issues with penetration due to childbirth-induced structural changes, menopause, lichen sclerosis, or other physical and medical issues.

          Third, and this is going to get weird in a hurry, years ago there was a Dilbert comic where the gang passed out portable, strap-on spines to deal with a work issue (https://dilbert.com/strip/1994-07-24). Depending on how either or both of you feel about such things, there are … devices … that, er, ahem—cough—address your situation.

          Again, my sincerest apologies for how I responded before. I wish you (both) all the best.

          Reply
          • Insecure Husband

            Jo, no hard feelings. Your initial thoughts reminded me of how much my earlier choices undermined our relationship and how I need to be more sensitive to that. I have at times been impatient for her to forgive me and let it go, but it clearly still hurts. I know my original post sounded very “woe is me,” but I came here looking for things that I can change, not how I can change my wife, and you helped me with that.

  15. Anonymous

    So how can I present this article to my wife in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m just trying to fix her? My heart is to help her and if this resonates with her I’d love for her to read it…

    Reply
    • Insecure Husband

      Take with a grain of salt, since I’m struggling with this myself. My recommendation: don’t go there. The whole point of this post is to work on your own stuff. It’s far too easy to read something and think, “Wow, my spouse really needs this,” but you can only change yourself. Trying to change the other person will always backfire, in my experience. However, if you find something in this post or another one on this website that makes you think, “I needed to hear that so I can be better,” you could share it with her at an appropriate time, and maybe it will lead to mutual discovery. It has to be genuine, though, not artificially forcing the discussion. No guarantees, but best of luck!

      Reply
  16. Anonymous

    Hi,

    So I’ve come to this blog as I’m somewhat at a loss of what to do with my sex life right now. I am approaching 2 months of being married, and we have not achieved intercourse. I have read both the Great Sex Rescue, and A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. I was raised in the purity culture and entered into marriage as a virgin (physically speaking). My husband had a much more secular view of sex and was not a virgin, but as we got premarital counseling and read your book together, we came to a lot of new understandings. Although I was still somewhat anxious about having sex, I felt that I had done what I needed to start off on the right foot, with a healthy mindset. I thought we would be able to just “figure it out” together. We did not push to have intercourse on our wedding night, but rather made the deliberate choice to wait until we were less exhausted. However, on the honeymoon, I started to notice something that became quite a hinderance.. My arousal level has gone WAY down. I just listened to your podcast, The Uncomfortable Truth About Waiting for Marriage for Sex, and I totally related to the bit about how some girls felt totally ready for sex during some other makeout session from before marriage, but had a dead libido after marriage. I also remember in one of your books how you mentioned this was a problem for you at one point, but once you both took the pressure of having intercourse off the table, foreplay and arousal became good again. My husband has been extremely patient, and has set no timeline or expectations on me. His secular view on sex, while not all healthy, has actually been a help to me. He only wants to please me. We spent a lot of time kissing and doing what we used to do that would lead to arousal, but all of this has barely helped. Maybe it’s an internal pressure on myself, but I don’t know how to resolve it. We have found some other ways to bring each other to orgasm, but for me, it still feels like I’m missing the piece where I get totally flushed in the face, everything on my body feels good, and my vagina wants to be touched. Do I need to just give that up? I did see a physician before the wedding, and everything looked fine. However, I booked another appointment to talk about the possibility of vaginismus. I haven’t been seen yet. The time we tried to achieve intercourse, it was very tricky, tiring, and left me feeling frustrated. He is quite big down there, and I’m not used to anything other than a regular tampon… We couldn’t quite figure out the “where to put it,” part, which surprised me since he is not a virgin, but I guess since I wasn’t much help it became difficult. He has used his fingers and tongue to work on me down there, and it feels good-ish, but sometimes like nothing, and sometimes like I want him to stop (which he does as soon as I ask him to). When we realized that even putting one of his fingers up was uncomfortable, we stopped trying, and I called the physician’s office the next day. Right now, I’m not worried about achieving orgasm, rather, that I cannot stomach trying penetration again, and that even when we do please one another, it seems to come with much more work than when we were just making out on the couch and I would basically orgasm without him knowing it just from sitting on his lap.. I’m tired, frustrated, and mad at the world and the church for feeding me lies all my life that have most likely impacted this. I feel isolated, and like I am the problem.

    Any advice or resources would be much appreciated.

    Thank you!

    p.s. Not sure what protocol usually looks like for this, but I do ask that you please don’t use my comment as a quote in any of your future blogs, podcasts, speeches, or books. I am a pretty private person and it took a lot for me to even on come on here. Just looking for some help..

    Reply

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