Reader Question: 7 quick questionsOn Mondays I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it–although this summer my schedule might be a little off what with my daughter’s wedding in less than two weeks and my book release of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage on August 18 (such an exciting summer!). But I have quite the backlog of questions right now, and often questions come in that I actually have answered before. So I thought I’d post some of them today, and then point you to other posts where I’ve dealt with them.

So here we go:

1. What is your opinion on bikinis?

A reader writes:

So many women in my church say it’s fine because everyone’s doing it. I’ve always felt torn on the issue. My husband thinks it’s alright to wear one. I do my best to be modest and to not draw attention to the sexual areas of my body so I don’t cause men to lust. Today modesty seems to be a very big issue. You have people suggesting it’s the guy’s fault for lusting if you ran around naked. Others would say if you ran around in a burlap sack and a guy was lusting it would still be your fault. I struggle to find the happy medium. When am I being modest enough? When is it no longer my fault for making someone lust? Is it ever my fault?

So many women have been harmed by being told, “it is your fault if a man lusts after you”–as if our bodies are somehow bad.

I’ve written about the modesty movement and the harm it can do. And I’ve written on how modest should not mean dowdy.

The specific question on bikinis is a hard one and one that I think is largely cultural. If you are at a beach where 95% of the females are in bikinis, then I’m not sure that wearing a tankini or a bikini that covers more than usual is really a bad thing. I don’t know that we can make a blanket judgment about certain items of clothing.

Personally, I don’t wear bikinis, but I’ve always worn tankinis (let’s face it: going to the bathroom in a two-piece when you’re on the beach all day is way easier than a one-piece). And tankinis can also be more modest since they can cover more of your bottom.

My rule of thumb tends to be this: when you’re in a group of people,  make sure that you are definitely on the modest end, without being frumpy.

Also, with the 50s styles coming back, many bikinis are actually more modest. Modcloth has a number of 50s inspired swimsuits for both plus sizes and regular sizes, and they aren’t your typical bikini, like this one:
Poolside Pretty Swimsuit Top in Chevron

So I have a hard time saying today that bikinis are always wrong. And I also believe that you CAN’T blame a woman who is trying to dress appropriately if a man lusts after her. That’s so wrong–and it’s the foundation of the relationship between the sexes in ISLAM, not in Christianity.

2. What Do You Do When Sex is Painful?

I get quite a few of these questions, and I understand. I went through it, too, as I talk about in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. But the questions still make me so sad for these women. Here’s one:

I was a virgin when I was married at 20, and we’ve been married for almost 6 years. I have a toddler and a little baby. I love my husband so much, but I am deeply struggling with our sex life. Before having our son we suffered with a miscarriage, and then struggled to get pregnant for almost a year and a half. Sex during our struggle with infertility really tainted the act for me. It wasn’t about a union or strengthening our marriage, it was like a business meeting. Then we continued to struggle with sex during the pregnancy due to nausea and fatigue. And then I had an extremely traumatic delivery. We nearly lost my son and I needed forceps to get him out. This caused my my vagina to tear all the way through. Now my baby is 6 months old, and sex is still painful. It makes me shake and cry and feel sick to my stomach.

It is so hard to get myself in the mood to want to do something I know will physically hurt me. My marriage is struggling. My husband and I are currently more like roommates than a couple. I feel incredibly guilty because I know I’m the one withholding sex. My husband loves me and respects me and is so wonderful, but I know I am hurting him. After struggling for half of my married life with sex, I feel like I’m stuck in terrible cycles and I can’t seem to break myself out of them.

And here’s another woman who finds sex so painful:

Sheila, I would love for you to write a post about when the act of sex itself is painful. Those of us who suffer from vaginismus experience EXCRUCIATING pain during intercourse, or are even unable to penetrate at all. For the first 4 months of our marriage my husband and I weren’t even able to have sex, not because of the pain but because he literally could NOT get in.

I used dilators and now we can finally “get in”, but it’s still extremely painful and difficult, not romantic or spontaneous at all.

Then last night my husband told me that he doesn’t really like sex as much as he thought he would before we were married. After spending 3 months painfully forcing silicon dilators into my body so that I could fulfill my husband’s sexual needs, having him say he doesn’t like it that much broke my heart. He said it’s not that he doesn’t find me sexy, he just feels like sex isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It makes me feel inadequate and unappealing. I know I shouldn’t feel that way, but everyone always says that all men are sex maniacs, so if my husband doesn’t care for sex it must be because I’m not good at it. You’re always telling us wives to have sex with our husbands to make them happy, but what about when they don’t even want it? Is it just a stereotype that men love sex? What is wrong with my husband (or me) that makes him not care for it?

To both of these women: I am so, so sorry that you’re going through this. This is heartbreaking to both you women and your husbands, and there’s definitely a lot of grieving going on.

I have written about pain during intercourse, and if you’re suffering from vaginismus, as the last letter writer is, I encourage you to read this post about vaginismus–or when sex hurts.

For the first letter writer, I’d encourage you to keep seeing your doctor and talk to him or her about what you’re feeling. I have a friend whose tear never healed properly and it developed into a much larger problem. So I think you need someone to keep an eye on you and make sure it is healing. Having pain for a prolonged period of time is not normal, and it may be that you have to take a break from intercourse for a few months to entirely heal–which is better than aggravating something and have it develop into something worse.

Now, what about your relationships with your husbands?

I think the reason that the second letter writer’s husband isn’t enjoying sex is because it’s really only about the body. She can’t throw herself into something which hurts (for obvious reasons), and so it feels empty. I truly believe that once you deal with the pain issue the whole way you both see sex will change.

Good Girls Guide My SiteFor now, can you all focus on sexual play instead of just intercourse? Often when people feel pain they try to turn off their sexuality entirely, and don’t do even what they can. Play a lot, and then do some of the things in the post on vaginismus to start dealing with the pain. But don’t stop playing, or the whole thing becomes far too serious–and that’s no fun at all. I also talk about this a lot more in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, so check that out for more thoughts.

3. My Husband Acts Like He’s Single

Here’s a sad one:

We have four little children, and we both feel strongly about protecting them. We don’t allow just anybody to babysit our kids. However, it seems this leads to my always being stuck at home with them while my husband hangs out with a group of young single friends. I feel as though he’s spending his money and his time like a single person, while I’m at home being the mommy. When he is at home, he texts the single girls. Everything is extremely aboveboard and beyond reproach… but it still hurts. I know guys need some time to themselves. So, am I being selfish? Should I talk to him about how much this hurts me… or will I drive him away by making him feel that I’m trying to monopolize his life? I’ve jokingly complained about his close friendship with one of the other women, but guys don’t get hints…

I see several issues here, the first one being that the two don’t seem to communicate. He is doing something that hurts her, she’s hinting, but they’re not talking. And they have four kids already!

People, if, in your marriage, you’re keeping back how you’re feeling, you will never develop an intimate marriage!

I think many of us hold back too much. This is a theme in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, but you simply have to talk.

Here’s a post I wrote on just asking for help. Just ask. There is no way around it. He can’t read your mind.

And what about the fact that he’s texting other women? Not acceptable. I’ve written about that, too.

But there’s a bigger thing going on here. They’ve decided they can’t get baby-sitters, so the husband goes out at night. What about just sitting down and planning time for you to do things as a couple? And then planning time when you can go out on your own? It’s not healthy for a guy to be going out alone all the time while the wife stays home. Don’t let this dynamic start! Just talk about it early. Sit down and say, “what would you like to do as a family? What would you like to do as a couple?” And then if he needs an occasional night with the guys, and you’d like a night with the girls, that’s fine, too. But talk about it!

It sounds like the bigger issue is that they never spend any time together. Talk about what hobbies you can develop as a couple.

And get a baby-sitter. Swap with friends if you have to. But find a baby-sitter!

4. My Husband Doesn’t Turn Me On Anymore

Before having children and nursing each for a year, I could look at my husband, be turned on, and count down the minutes till we were in bed. Now, my husband is still the same sexy-hottie (I am not making that up…he is seriously model material, but his character alone is quality enough to make any lady’s hear skip a beat), I am not so much the sexy lady he married, but he is still for some reason drawn to me as though I was. Talk about a lucky lady!! Why am I not turned on by him?? I dread the sex. I don’t know if its my brain/hormones, if I’m depressed, or what?! Is there anything I can cognitively try to get myself excited about his hotness again?

First–totally normal. Those butterflies and severe attraction that we feel tend to wear off within 18-24 months, researchers find. It doesn’t matter what your husband looks like–the feelings tend to fade.

Then, if you’ve got little kids, your hormones could definitely be all wonky. Totally normal again.

31 Days to Great SexSo how do you get yourself turned on again? You have to be deliberate about getting your head in the game early in the day. And here’s a post on how to think of your husband as sexy again!

I’d also recommend working through 31 Days to Great Sex. It helps you talk about this stuff again, flirt, think about sex more, and learn to play again. Sometimes just getting out of that rut is all you need.

5. Just Plain Major Mess

Most of the letters I get, though, aren’t about a specific problem–they’re a whole series of problems in a relationship that add up to something quite serious. Here’s a typical letter:

I’ve read your posts about husbands not wanting sex. It’s a battle in my marriage. He had a problem with porn earlier in our relationship but as far as I know he has stopped and to be honest we have less sex now than when he was looking at porn. It could be stress, he was recently retrenched and is only getting back onto his feet now. However I’m the main breadwinner and as much as I try not let him feel like less of a man, when I’m stressed I think I sometimes do. If it’s medical we currently cannot afford to get it checked.

My main problem is that he will usually have sex if I initiate (although sometimes he will reject me). I’ve  just gotten to the point where I feel so unwanted I don’t want him. I feel if he would rather play Xbox or whatever it is, then I just don’t want him to touch me. The last time I initiated he literally picked up his phone to read a message so I stopped. It completely killed the mood.

If he does initiate its in the middle of the night, he’ll wake me… I work 2 jobs and I’m studying, so sometimes I just can’t wake up. Or I wonder what he’s been dreaming, if it’s even me he wants.

I’ve prayed so hard. I’m trying so hard. I feel so alone as its not an easy topic to discuss with people.

What can I do?

That’s such a tough situation! So let me give you a bunch of different links and thoughts.

First, here’s a post on what to do when you have major marriage problems. What do you tackle first?

Second, what about video games? I’ve written before about how to handle it when your husband plays video games too much. But what if the video game habit becomes more than just a habit? Here’s a follow-up, and here’s what to do when it really needs to be confronted.

But in this letter I see some major sexual red flags. First, it isn’t unusual for a guy to have a low sex drive if he plays video games constantly. Any addiction can steal sexual energy.

But there’s something more going on, and it’s this: sex has become divorced from relationship.

It’s become impersonal. And that’s a major red flag. He never initiates; when she does he’s often distracted; but then he does want sex frequently in the middle of the night, when she isn’t engaged. That’s quite typical of people who were addicted to porn, too, because sex has become entirely impersonal for them.

Your marriage may not have exactly these problems, but if sex really is impersonal, then I’d direct you to this post on sexual red flags in marriage. You need to start over and talk about what real intimacy is and how to achieve it. And that may have to be done with a counselor or a pastor, because he’s missing something important.

I’m sorry–I wish there were some magic piece of advice I could give you, but there isn’t.

Some problems are big, but they can only be tackled with real prayer and with TRUE communication. We have to start talking. Too many couples have stopped, and it scares me.

So I hope those posts help some of you! I know many of you have sent questions in, and I will try to get to them after my busy summer. In the meantime, I do have a post most of the Frequently Asked Questions and links to lots of my posts. And it may help you now:

Tons of Links to Articles Addressing Common Marriage Questions

Have a great week, everybody! I’ve got some great posts scheduled for the next little while as I’m checking out on vacation and prep for my daughter’s wedding. I know you’ll enjoy them.

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