Sometimes We All Need Someone to Save Us

Sometimes we ALL Need Someone to Save UsTo me, today is the holiest day of the year. Easter is the day of celebration; today is the sombre reflection of how much Christ paid so that we could be united with Him.

As I was thinking about what I wanted to share, this story that I wrote in a column last year kept coming back to me, and so I thought I would reprint it. Here’s why: way too often we think we can do life alone. We can just try harder, work harder, put in a little more effort, and we’ll reach our goals. But what if trying harder won’t get you anywhere? What if what we all need to do is be humble and admit that we need help? Sometimes we ALL need Someone to save us.

Christ died so that we wouldn’t have to do life alone. And today I want to tell you this funny story as a word picture that no matter where we are in life, it’s better to stop trying, and start grabbing His hand.

Apparently I value my life at twenty U.S. dollars.

At least, that’s what I tipped the Mexican guy who saved me from drowning last week.

My daughter and I were vacationing in Cozumel, eager for some wonderful snorkeling. And while two of our excursions were highly successful, on one particular day we decided to snorkel right off the beach in front of a popular restaurant. The reef was teeming with life, but unfortunately the current was surprisingly strong. We had no problem swimming out, but when we tried to swim back to the dock, we kept veering to the right.

Within a few minutes a Mexican guy had swum out to us with a flutterboard, but I refused it. I’m a good swimmer. I can tread water for hours. I’ve finished swims that were several kilometres long.

When the flutterboard was proffered, I was so embarrassed. “I should be able to do this,” I kept thinking. “Oh, come on, Sheila. This is ridiculous. Just swim harder.”

My daughter, who is a lifeguard, found it challenging, though she managed to reach the ladder. But though I got within about twenty feet of it, I couldn’t get any closer. All I was doing was standing still. So finally I reached out, grabbed that board, and was pulled in.

Looking back I’m not sure why I was so stubborn. I guess I just didn’t want to accept the fact that I needed help. I considered myself a competent, if not good, swimmer. If I took help, it was as if I would be admitting that I am not as in control as I think I am.

I wonder how often in my personal life I’ve done the same thing—I like to think of myself as in control, and accepting help is admitting weakness. None of us wants to think we are weak.

Often we’d rather have the frustration of butting our heads against a wall rather than give in to the fear of being vulnerable.

No wonder so many of us are spending our lives treading water. Maybe debt is piling up and we honestly have no idea how to create a budget. But mature people know how to stick to a budget! Admitting you have a problem is like saying you’re not mature. So the red ink keeps getting redder.

Or perhaps that pain is getting worse, but we don’t want to go to a doctor because we hate hospitals, and we’re too young to start falling apart. Maybe the principal keeps calling reporting more problems with a wayward child, but you don’t want to admit that something’s really wrong because it could reflect badly on choices you’ve made. And so you lash out at the messenger.

My husband and I speak at marriage conferences, and while I love sharing our failures and victories, the conferences always make me a little sad. There are two types of couples who go: those who can’t keep their hands off of each other, because they’re blissfully happy and want to make sure it stays that way, and those who are about to file for divorce and are giving it one last chance. I always wonder about the middle: those who have a few issues that a little help could easily remedy, but who don’t want to admit they may have problems. And so they wait until everything blows up.

We aren’t meant to walk through this life alone.

Certainly many of us just need to get more disciplined and try harder and we’d be more successful. But sometimes discipline won’t cut it. Sometimes you need help. And in that case, it’s far better to grab that flutterboard and let the hunky Mexican guy save you.

Having a Healthy Sex Life After Sexual Abuse

Yesterday Mary DeMuth talked about how childhood sexual abuse had really impacted her sex life with her husband. She just wasn’t able to be “that sexy wife” that we’re “supposed” to be.

Today Paula shares her own story, and some great advice, on how to get to a healthy sex life after sexual abuse, which happened in her teen years. So appreciate these women sharing their stories!

Having a Healthy Sex Life after Sexual AbuseFor years I wondered if I’d ever be able to have a healthy sex life with my husband. Even though he had nothing to do with the sexual abuse I endured in my teen years, being with him in bed would trigger thoughts, feelings and even flashbacks of those dark nights. It wasn’t him, it was most definitely me. I would feel broken, crying myself to sleep wishing that sex didn’t exist. I couldn’t imagine ever enjoying it, ever being happy in my sex life with my husband.

I couldn’t even bare hope that I would ever use the words “fun” and “sex” in the same paragraph, much less the same sentence.

It’s often a silent struggle. Statistics say that one in every five women has been a victim of sexual abuse at some point in her lifetime, and yet so often we feel alone. As if we are the only ones struggling.

I remember reading article after article about sex online, so many that express how to please your man, how to get in the mood, and why you need to be “doing it” more frequently, but none of these topics were able to provide any encouragement to some one who found intercourse terrifying, even with the man she loved and found oh-so-very attractive.

I’ve been married for several years now, and I am finally at the point where I consider sex fun, and even initiate it from time to time!

For those of you reading this post who have also experienced sexual abuse, let me tell you, there is hope. 

I know your pain, and I know the struggle, but there is another side. It is possible to work through it.

Healing doesn’t come overnight, but there are several things that I learned along the way that truly helped me in this area. I searched long and hard for a post like this when I was in the midst of my struggle, and having not found it when I needed it, I decided to write the post myself, now that I am in a place of healing (and fun!).

This is not a “5 steps to be better tomorrow” list, it’s simply actions you can work through yourself and with your husband to help you progress.

Don’t expect things to be perfect immediately, but just keep moving forward, keep striving for healing and for fun! You will get there!

    1. Think about it early - I found that I needed lots of extra time to ‘get in the mood.’ I would start coaching myself in the morning and continue all throughout the day. Simple reminders like “This is my husband, he loves me and cares for me” and “my husband doesn’t want to harm me or overlook me, he cherishes me”. Positive reminders go a long way in training your mind that sex is safe, no longer something to be feared. Eventually, you will get to the place where being touched and caressed does not trigger the “fight or flight” response in your mind. Thinking about sex with your husband while reminding yourself how loving, caring and gentle he is is a huge help in this direction.

 

    1. Be strategic - If you had a difficult time the night before, spend some time the next morning figuring out what specific things triggered you. It could be a certain position, the way your husband said something, or even his tone of voice. Try to figure out if there are specific things that make sex more challenging for you and identify them clearly to yourself.  For me, I hated being out of control. Positions that left me vulnerable and underneath my husband always triggered the “fight or flight” in my mind and frequently brought flashbacks of my past. Realizing this enabled me to take control a bit more and avoid sexual positions where I felt out of control. This helped me to avoid having those flashbacks and began giving me some completely positive memories of sex with my husband. Personally, I no longer have to worry about specific positions or triggers during sex, and eventually you probably won’t either. But this can be a helpful way of working through it with your husband, if you can identify your triggers and share them with him so that he can be mindful of them in the future. If talking about sex makes you nervous, write him a letter or text him. Anything to communicate your needs so that you can work through it together as a team!

 

    1. Communication - This one is huge. Talk with your husband about why you are struggling so that he’s able to help you. My husband had never endured abuse of any nature, but he was still able to respect my needs and he tried to understand as best he could. It was very helpful for him when I would clearly communicate things like “I’m sorry I turned you down last night, it’s not because I find you unattractive or I don’t care about you, you are the most handsome man I know!!! I’m  dealing with some things from my past and couldn’t get where I needed to be right then”. While my husband knew I was still healing from abuse, it was helpful for him that I would verbalize that I was not rejecting him, I was working through my past.

 

    1. Be careful - Be cautious what you read on the internet, and even in magazines or books. It seems that every time I turn around there is another article being published that says you have to sleep with your husband more or he will stray. These types of stories are not helpful for you in any way. You cannot pressure yourself into enjoying sex. In fact, if you go into it stressed and fearful, you are more likely to trigger that fight or flight response and not be able to get through it (much less enjoy it!). Healing is a process that your husband will take with you. Keep the lines of communication open, like I stated above, and make sure your man knows you are doing everything you can to heal, not only for your sake but for his!

 

    1. Counseling - Find a Christian counselor in your area and talk to her. I spent several months in counseling myself and it was incredibly helpful. If you are not sure where to find a good Christian counselor, you might be able to ask at your church office for a recommendation. Many counselors take insurance, so that may be an option to help with payment as well. My husband and I are by no means rich, but we would have paid 10 times over for the help that our counselor was able to provide me with. Not just in our sex life, but in my every day life as well. A history of abuse can bleed into every area of life, and counseling can help to alleviate that strain and sew your heart back together in ways you never thought possible. This was personal counseling, my husband never came to a single session, but it helped our marriage in more ways than either of us could ever count!

 

  1. Books - I read several books during my healing process, but there are two that really stuck out to me as helping the most. The first, is Sheila’s Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. In reading that book, I was able to see sex as a positive for the first time ever in my life. Not some dirty, sinful deed. The second book was written specifically for survivors of sexual abuse and it is entitled Rid of My Disgrace by Justin and Lindsey Holcomb. It would not be possible for me to fully express how this book helped and changed me. It was like talking to some one who understood for the very first time. The book shows specific places in scripture that talk about sexual abuse, and continually points the reader to Christ for hope and healing. This is not just a “think about Jesus and you’ll be better” type of book, it takes you on a journey of healing in every possible way, all while demonstrating that healing only fully comes in Christ. I can’t recommend this book enough to any survivor of sexual abuse. It was also helpful for me to be able to share with my husband. I asked him to read certain portions and it opened his eyes to what I was experiencing, as the book was able to articulate the feelings in my heart more clearly than my own broken words every could have.

Lastly, let me urge you to take heart. Have hope that you will one day have a happy sex life. It’s not an easy road, but it is so worth it. Your abuser has not stolen sex from you and your husband forever. You can work through it together, and come out stronger and happier than you ever imagined possible.

3 years ago, I never would have imagined sex could be this fun or marriage could be this good. But it is.

It is because God is wonderful, and faithful to complete healing in us.

Don’t give up my friend.

To read more about Paula’s road to healing, you can check out her blog Beauty Through Imperfection.
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Wifey Wednesday: Sexual Abuse Really Messes with Your Sex Life

Sexual Abuse Really Messes with Your Sex Life

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! Today Mary Demuth is joining us to share her story about how sexual abuse affected her sex life.

NOT MARKED - FOR AMAZON 3DWhen I speak one on one with people who have been sexually abused, a great majority of them have a difficult time with sex.

They either border on addiction or have sworn off sex entirely (even in marriage).

Some divorce because they simply cannot have sex with their spouse. It’s a real problem, but so few talk about it.

My own story and journey of healing is chronicled in my memoir Thin Places. I was molested at five years old during my kindergarten career by neighborhood bullies, who eventually brought their friends in on the violation. I told my babysitter. She said she’d tell my mom (but never did), and the boys continued to violate me, which led me to believe that not one adult on earth would protect me. I grew a fierce determination to protect myself, so I feigned sleep to get out of the attacks. Providentially, we moved at the end of that year, far enough away from those boys that I didn’t have to endure their violation any more.

But boy did they stay with me. They haunted my dreams. They obscured my view of sex.

They made me think that my sole purpose in this life was to be used and violated.

I don’t know how I was able to walk the aisle of marriage a virgin—it’s truly God’s grace. Technically, of course, I wasn’t. All those violations from the past ensured that. But when it became my choice, I found the strength to say no.

Truth be told, I walked a strange line between yearning and utter terror. As a fatherless girl, I wanted nothing more than to have a boyfriend fill up all the empty spaces of me, but when my love interest became interested, I ran one thousand miles away, completely terrified. I worried they’d try to make me do things I didn’t ever want to do.

When I got engaged, I worried a lot about sex. My wedding night was not something I anticipated with joy or expectation. The terror refrained inside me. I felt five again.

I shared those fears with my husband, and we made it through. And I’m frankly quite surprised (it is the gift of God) that I can enjoy sex.

But it’s taken many years over the past twenty-two to get to a healthy place. I still disconnect.

I can’t seem to engage my emotions or my whole self. If I enjoy sex, I still have the feeling that I’m legitimizing the abuse. I’ve come to a place of acceptance, too, that I may never be the sexy wife who is “all that” for her husband. My growth has been tremendous, but I still have scars.

We’ve learned to talk about it, not an easy thing to do. My husband knows I’m trying, that I’m not giving up. I’ve been able to communicate my triggers to him, which has helped a lot.

And through it all, I honestly have to cry out to Jesus to give me a healthy view of sex.

It absolutely does not come naturally to me. My fallback is revulsion.

All this stinks. It’s not fair what those boys stole the most precious part of me. It’s not fair to me, and it’s not fair to my husband. They violated, and I’m left to navigate the minefield of memories and feelings.

I walk with a giant limp in the sexy wife arena. I still feel outright rage when I read that for the sake of my husband, I’m supposed to be adventurous and wild, that to be this way represents true spousal godliness. Because honestly? Those words just make me feel less than. Those are a set of guidelines I’ll probably never meet.

I haven’t given up. I press on to be whole. But I also know my limitations. And I know that many of you are reading this and saying, yes, yes. Mind if I offer you grace?

It’s okay to struggle in this area. It’s normal. I give you permission to say it’s frightening and bewildering. I pray you’ll find the words to communicate with your spouse how you feel, how this is hard for you. I hope for an understanding spouse who loves you utterly for who you are, not how you perform. I want to tell you that it does get better, but that you won’t improve by simply trying to on sexy clothes or offering your body as a fruit plate. True sexual liberation comes from the inside out, where Jesus walks into those terrible memories and mourns alongside you. I don’t have the answers. I still can’t reconcile my own sexual exploitation with a loving God, other than to say He has used those awful events to make me more empathetic to those who have walked similar paths. And the thrill that comes when I’m able to offer words of encouragement and truth salves the wound a bit. Whether you’re a man or a woman, hear this: You are beautiful. You are worthy of being cherished. You are worth healing. Stay on the course. Holler your anger if you have to. But keep asking Jesus for healing. And keep offering grace to fellow strugglers.

marydemuth-headshot-squareNOT MARKED - FOR AMAZON 3DMary DeMuth is an author, speaker, and writing mentor who took a long path to publication. When her children were young, she spent ten years writing in obscurity. After creating miles of unpublished words, she began to find success in small venues—regional magazines, a local paper, then national magazines.

Her first published book, Ordinary Mom, Extraordinary God (2005),ushered in thirteen more, including parenting guides, a memoir, and six novels. In the midst of all that, she and her husband carted their three kids off to France, where they were church-planting missionaries nearly three years. Now stateside, Mary lives with her husband and their teens in Texas, where she writes full time and mentors others toward publication. Mary speaks around the country and the world about living uncaged, parenting well, and writing great prose. Find out more at www.marydemuth.com and http://www.notmarked.com. Purchase Not Marked on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or autographed from Mary.

 

Christian Marriage Advice
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Top 10 Ways to Get Ready for Your Future Husband

Top Ten TuesdayToday, on top 10 Tuesday, I’m welcoming the blogger from There Once Was This Girl to share about getting ready for your future husband. Her life was not at all pristine before she was married, but she found God and He made all the difference.

As my husband and I approach our 1 year anniversary, I can’t help but reflect on our past and the difference it has made in our lives to follow the path God had for us. In March we celebrated nine years together. At first we were very happy and in love, but something was just not right. We spent two of those years dating, then three+ years living together. Then the change pressing on our souls that had to happen in order to continue our journey and our relationship with Christ hit us. For the next two+ years we abstained from all sexual relations, as we waited for our wedding night. This was, by far, the greatest decision we made. Those two and half years provided me much-needed time for reflection and insight of my past, mindset and decisions made along the way. The intimacy and connection it brought to my husband and I was unlike no other.

For those of you who are like I was, in a relationship that everyone says you’re supposed to have, but you feel is just not right, I want to give you ten steps to make you ready for the relationship God really does have for you.

Getting ready for your future husband

1. Pray–for you and your future husband.

Ask others to pray with you and for you. Are you asking God to bring you a man or a better man but not truly believing (by your actions and self talk) that you are worthy of the best, most gentle, loving and caring man? Are you praying for your future husband but not asking God to open your heart, mind and eyes to the lies you are currently believing and accepting? Are you not asking God to change you, mold you and prepare you for your future husband? If not, it is time to start.

2. Stop having premarital sex.

It does not matter if you are currently in a relationship. Stop and wait until your married. If he leaves you because of this, then you will know without a doubt that this person is not “the one”. It doesn’t matter if you have a child with this man, you have been dating him for 10 years or your relationship is new. This type of sin slowly chips away at your soul, self-worth and separates you from the relationship you were meant to have with God. You should be insulted as a beautiful and worthy woman of God, if he feels it is important to sample you before marrying you. By not waiting, you are the one in control of your life and you are choosing your own path. When you choose your own path over the one God has for you, you are missing out on the opportunities God wants for you–including the opportunity to meet someone who is really right for you.

(Have trouble with this one? Here’s a post on how to stop sleeping with your boyfriend.)

3. Don’t Define Yourself by Your Boyfriend

If you feel your worth is defined by having a man in your life and having that man stay in your life depends on you giving him your precious body then you need to spend much more alone time with God and His word. Understand these are Satan’s lies you are believing to be true about yourself. These are lies.

4. Learn what real intimacy is.

Understand that sex is really NOT the intimacy and connection you desire and crave. Satan tells us it is readily available to us through sex. This is a huge lie designed to separate us from our Creator, think less of our selves and destroy our self-worth. See the lie for what it’s worth and turn yourself towards Gods truth.

5. Know that sex does not equal love.

Love is not full of lies, cheating eyes, nor cheating bodies. Love is not belittling and degrading comments or gestures. Love is not a strong abusive hand or voice. If you have believed this lie to be true know that you are worth so much more. Read what the bible says love is (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

(Have trouble with this one? Here’s a post on why God wants us to wait until we’re married for sex.)

6. Get involved in helping others.

Get involved at church, start a singles small group. Take up a hobby. Get yourself healthy – emotionally, spiritually and physically. And do this with your boyfriend, if you have one. His character will be revealed as you help others together. And if he doesn’t want to help? That’s a huge sign, too.

(Knowing what kind of person your boyfriend is is so important! Here’s my list of 4 things you absolutely need in a future husband).

7. Love yourself through God’s eyes.

Believe His truths, speak His truths over and over in your head. Speak them out loud. Wrap yourself in the full armor of God and take captive every negative and sinful thought. Believe that you are worth waiting for and your future husband is worth waiting for. Prepare now for future temptation.

8. Realize that you can not pick and choose which parts of God’s word you choose to believe.

There are many sins which are the result of following with your flesh and not with your faith. Sex before marriage is one of those. Control your thoughts and your flesh will follow.

9. Own the truth that you are not alone.

You may feel alone but if you really dig deep into God’s word you will see that you are not alone. You are beautiful, precious and very much-loved. You are worthy and valuable. So much so that saving yourself for marriage…for your future…would be the ultimate gift to give to him. By not waiting you are in control of your life and choosing your own path. When you choose your path over the one God has for you, you are missing out on opportunities to meet someone who you will be able to serve God with fully.

10. Be patient as you get ready for your future husband.

While it may feel that God is making you wait forever, He is still preparing you. Remember He could still be at work in your future husband too. Even though you may be ready in God’s eyes, your soul mate is not ready yet. Be still while He readies him for you. Maybe your future husband is just as stubborn as you once were! Be patient and have faith.

There OnceAs a former single mom, “Anonymous” was skilled at making a messy disaster of her life and home. Through accepting Christ and His word, she was able to find the hope and encouragement needed to improve our situation.  She has a huge heart and passion for single moms in hopes of encouraging and motivating those precious ladies to not follow in her footsteps of disaster but to follow God. You can find her at There Once Was This Girl.

Reader Question: How Do You Reset Your Sex Life?

Every MondayReader Question of the Week I like to post a Reader Question and try to take a stab at answering it. Today a reader is asking, “how do you reset your sex life?”

 I have read The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex and am intrigued by the mention you make of the first four years of your marriage. You mentioned having a lot of pain during sex and that it started your sex life off in a bad way. I had a similar start and now, a year after having a baby, sex is much easier. The trouble is that my husband is so demoralized by our early experiences that we still don’t have sex much, and I’m often rejected. No matter how I plan, prep and try to make it happen, he can be pretty cold. It’s like he’s used to and expects a bad sex life. I’m thankful that you try so hard to put a positive light on intimacy, but it would be nice to hear suggestions on dealing with a cold husband.

That’s a difficult question, isn’t it? It could take other forms, like:

I’m a victim of child sexual abuse, and for the first few years of our marriage I was scared of sex. I’ve received healing now and I want to have a great sex life, but it’s like my husband has shut down.

Or perhaps:

I spent years refusing sex with my husband, but I’ve now realized that was wrong and I want to change. But he doesn’t believe me!

When we start marriage seeing sex as a negative thing, it’s really hard to establish a new dynamic in your relationship where it’s fun, easy, and spontaneous.

I’m going to point you to some resources I have at the bottom of this post, but I’d like to tell you a bit of my story. I don’t do that too often anymore; most of my posts are suggesting advice. But I thought some of you may want to hear more of my story.

How to Reset Your Sex Life

Like the original questioner said, I did have pain during intercourse for the first few years of our marriage. I shared that in my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex; I wasn’t sure if I would or not because it’s something really personal to me, and it really was a very painful part of my life and my marriage. I’m still dealing with some emotional scars from it, as is my husband, although we honestly have emerged really strong together.

Keith and I have been speaking at marriage conferences since 2005, but I never really shared that much about this part of our life, even though we were very open about sex in general. But when it came time to write the book, I really thought it needed to be in there. And so I did write about it, and even shared some rather funny–in retrospect–stories of running screaming from doctor’s offices who thought that all I needed was a mirror and an anatomy lesson to get over my condition!

What I really needed was time, space, and healing–and delivering three children vaginally probably helped quite a bit, too. And so I honestly am totally and completely over that.

But the problem is that because that was such a defining part of our marriage in our early years, it was hard to readjust emotionally and relationally once things were “working”, even when the physical wasn’t a problem. We were in a rut where Keith would want sex and feel guilty; I would feel obligated and feel guilty; and both of us just in general felt a lot of shame.

This questioner is saying that her husband is cold towards her. He very well could be. But I wonder if something else is going on, where he was so ashamed of still wanting sex even when it was painful to her that he eventually just shut down. You see, sometimes it’s easier to shut down than to deal honestly with what’s going on inside your head and your heart. And when we don’t see how we can get legitimate needs met, we often try to build these walls to protect our hearts. And perhaps this man has built a wall, and he’s afraid to see things as having changed because he may get hurt again. And he’s trained himself to think of sex as a negative in their relationship.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, too–it isn’t just if she has a physical condition that makes sex difficult. If she has sexual abuse issues (which we’ll be talking about later this week) or other fears, he can also shut down. It’s his defense mechanism because something that really matters to him seems to be making the marriage worse.

The problem is that even though the husband may shut down his sexuality due to a combination of self-preservation and love for his wife, because he’s shut down sexually it’s now even harder for him to feel or express love, since for most men sex is so intertwined with love. So while he may have shut down sexually to protect them both, out of purely altruistic motives, it often ends up hurting both of you. You’re missing that deep connection–not just sex, but real intimacy. He’s shut off a part of himself, and because of that you’re missing something big.

And if he’s shut off intimacy, then even if you’ve changed, it’s hard for him to compute or adjust to the new reality. He likely has some resentment built up, and he may have transferred a lot of his needs somewhere else. Maybe he gets his self-worth from work, or sports, or something else. Obviously if he’s using porn that’s a big problem, but not all men who shut down use porn at all. I know my husband didn’t. But it’s still hard for them to come to a point where they can have sex without feeling guilty. No matter how much you try to convince them that it honestly is okay, deep inside they feel shame for wanting something that has caused you pain.

I tell you all this to try to help you see it from his point of view. You, albeit unwittingly, without meaning to, pulled the rug out from under him when sex didn’t work for you. And that was likely really devastating to him. Now you need him to forget all that and meet you where you’re at.

That’s hard.

But it’s not impossible. Here are just a few quick thoughts:

1. Acknowledge That Your Husband was Hurt

When sex was hard for me, the focus was mostly on the pain I was enduring–both physical and emotional. Keith’s pain was shoved aside. And that’s really how it needed to be in order for me to get better.

But at this point, if you have emerged on the other side, it’s worth letting him air how he did feel, and reassuring him that he does not need to feel guilty for his sexual feelings. Apologize where you can, and let him know that the fact that he was hurt hurts you, too–even if you don’t see how you could have done anything differently at the time.

2. Be His Friend

I know I say this all the time, no matter what the problem is in marriage, but it is so much easier to communicate about the hard things in our marriage if we’re also communicating about the little things. So work on laughing together and doing things together, and it’s easier to truly reset.

3. Do a Sexual Reset

You need to reset your sex life–so do it! I’ve got a post here that takes you through the steps:

How to Reset Your Sex Life

4. Schedule Sex

When sex is difficult, and fraught with emotion, then it’s easy for each night to feel stressful: are we going to tonight? Is it going to turn into a fight? Will he turn me down? Do I dare mention it?

If you’ve got it scheduled on your calendar–say twice a week, to start with–then it takes a lot of the anxiety out of it. During these periods of adjustment, when you need to find a new normal, I highly recommend scheduling sex, even if it’s only a temporary thing.

5. Be Patient

I want to reassure you today that couples can come through to the other side. If sex has been a major source of stress in your marriage, you really can make it through and redefine sex and become spontaneous and fun! But it doesn’t happen overnight, and you need to be patient.

If you’re the one who has received healing, chances are you have been working at this for months, if not years. You’ve seen the progress. You know what’s occurred. You can feel the difference. But he hasn’t. He doesn’t know what’s going on inside your brain, and it’s quite likely he’s shut himself off so that he doesn’t get his hopes up. He’s afraid to see that it could be better.

Just remember that you are further along in this process than he is, and you need to give him time to catch up. You need to give him time to trust you again–to trust that you do actually enjoy sex. And so give him that time!

6. Be Honest

Okay, here’s the hardest one for me to do–and the one I still struggle with. To Keith, it was so traumatic if I ever made love “just for him”, because it was initially hurting me. He is so afraid of ever doing anything that would hurt me again that if he senses that I’m uncomfortable it’s hard for him to want to keep going.

I needed to learn that when I was having triggers, or things were uncomfortable, I needed to tell him, and we’d stop. If he knew that I would tell him if I didn’t want to, then he knew that if I WASN’T telling him, I really did want to. If he wasn’t sure I’d tell him if I was uncomfortable, he was always, always doubting himself. So if you are getting over sexual abuse, and 80% of the time things work fine, then the 20% that they don’t–tell him. Even if it would disrupt the night. If he knows you’re honest when things aren’t working, it makes it much easier for him to let go when they are. So NEVER fake. That would kill any trust you’ve built up. Be totally honest, and then he’s more inclined to believe that you’re enjoying it when things are working well.

I hope those tips help. I know how hard it is emotionally to walk through something like this, but believe me–healing is possible, and you can both come to a beautiful place in your marriage. I pray that you will!

Now, let me know: have you ever struggled with rebuilding your sex life? What did you do? How did you heal? Let me know in the comments!

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Stages of Parenting: Living with the Ebb and Flow of Relationships

Stages of Parenting: Going with the Natural Ebb and Flow of Relationships

The only constant in life is change. Have you heard that before? Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on life, and you’ve figured out a good routine, and your relationships are on an even keel, something happens to upset that balance. Marriage has different stages. Jobs had different stages. There are even different stages of parenting!

This week I wrote a hard series on my blog: dealing with sexual dysfunction in marriage. So many women write to me torn up with the difficulties they have–difficulties they never thought they would experience. Things were going well, and then–BAM!
I’m glad that series is behind me, because it was hard to write. Yet that attitude–that life throws you a curve ball, and suddenly everything changes–is perhaps the root of the problem.

We expect things to stay the same. We think that SAME is the point of life.

What if it’s not? What if life is supposed to be about change, and adapting to new circumstances? After all, it’s only through change that we grow. And I don’t think God wants us to be all relaxed, with everything all figured out, with our perfect routines and schedules. He wants us to have to rely on Him, and that means that life will be in a constant state of flux. Perhaps if we expected that, and understood it, we wouldn’t interpret regular, everyday things as huge curve balls.

Let’s look at the different stages of parenting to show you what I mean.

Our relationships with our children change over time, and that is a natural thing.

When the kids were first born, they were definitely more mine than my husband’s, in many ways. I fed them. I was with them. He played with them, but not as much as I wanted him to, although he was a great dad.

My youngest even played strange with him (and he was around a lot). She just wanted me, pure and simple. It probably had something to do with that whole nursing thing. Daddy couldn’t do that!

Then they hit one, and could run and laugh and play, and they became Daddy’s Little Girls. They’d go to me if they had a boo boo, but they’d play with Daddy. He was the fun one.

When Katie hit two she decided she preferred me again, and wouldn’t let Daddy tuck her in. That was hard on all of us, but she grew out of that, too, and Daddy became the fun one again. She would wrestle with him, and sneak up on him to see if she could pinch him without him noticing, and things like that. I was still there for the daily things, like getting her dressed, and making her meals, and bathing her, and she always came to me with those types of concerns, but Daddy was her toy.

That isn’t to say he didn’t discipline the girls; just that when they were little, let’s say up to about 10, they preferred him to me when it came to having fun. They preferred me to him when it came to talking things over, but in general they liked him.

When they hit puberty, everything changed. So much of what Keith had done with them was physical: wrestling, hugging, tickling. All of a sudden he had a weird time tickling Becca, and he stopped. It took a few years to renegotiate the “new normal”. And now, as our oldest has a relationship of her own with a guy, Keith has had to learn to deal with someone else holding her hand. It’s quite the adjustment! I’m having a much easier time with it than he is.

Sometimes I get frustrated because I expect him to parent like I do, but I have to remember that first year of their lives, when he didn’t play with them quite as much. He was still trying to figure out where they fit in, and they needed me. I think we’re going through that again. He feels like he’s on the sidelines, because they have all these “girl issues”, and their relationship needs a kickstart. But it will get one; I just have to be patient with all of them.

If you’re wondering why you’re husband doesn’t play with the kids more, ask yourself: could it just be a stage?

Or what if one of your children is preferring you to him right now, and it’s really wearing on you? Again, it could be just a fleeting stage. Katie only played strange for a few weeks. She only made me put her to bed for a little while. And it usually coincided with something big in her life, like she was learning to walk or learning to use the potty. Once these stresses were over she was okay again.

It’s not just men who have ebbs and flows, too.

I have had periods in my parenting when I felt as if I preferred one girl over the other, and it always sent me through heaps of guilt.

But when I look back, I can see that one was going through a difficult transition time, and was naturally more difficult, or moody, or stubborn. And it’s not as if it’s always the same girl, either. Quite often I’ll feel naturally close to one of them for a year or so, and then it will flip. I try not to show favouritism, and it’s not as if I love one more, it’s just that there may be one that I find it easier to be with. As time has gone on, though, I find that it’s more because of developmental stages than it is with them as people. I really do enjoy who they’re becoming.

Looking back on my life I can see years when I’ve had more energy as a parent, and years when I haven’t. I can see years when I’ve been closer to God, and years when I’ve been farther. I think this is natural. Perhaps if we kept that view of life in mind–that it’s rarely a straight line, but more of a series of hills–we’d be easier on ourselves, on our kids, and on our mates. Let’s keep the long term in mind. In the long term, if we’re consistent parents, if we love our kids, and if we nurture them, they’re going to turn out well, most likely. They will be our friends when they are older. They will follow God. But in the short term we may feel like failures with one particular child, or we may resent our spouse because he’s not as involved anymore, or we may feel as if we are doing a bad job.

I think families are more flexible and forgiving than we give them credit for. When your children look back, sure they may remember that one time you totally lost your temper and said something mean. But they’ll also remember all the great times you had, and that will be their primary memory. In the long run, two years that Keith spends renegotiating his relationship with them in these tumultuous years, or several years that I spend trying to get out of a self-imposed wilderness, won’t matter so much. It’s the collection of memories that are important, not each individual one.

So remember those hills and valleys. It’s okay if you’re in a valley; a hill is up ahead. And it will get better. The only constant in life is change, and change is a good thing. So weather those valleys, and keep praying. Another change is up ahead!

Blessing Your Children: How to Spiritually Bless Those You Love

Blessing your Children: How to pray a spiritual blessing over them

Today’s guest post is a wonderful one by Pat Fenner about the Judeo-Christian concept of blessing your children. I love this, because when both of my girls turned 13 I held “blessing” parties for them, where I asked 13 adult women who were important in their lives to come and say a blessing over them–name gifts they saw in the girls, or give them a word of wisdom. Their friends were invited, too, and we turned it into such a fun spa night! It was lovely. And so I’d like to spread the word about this wonderful tradition of blessing our kids–and what a difference it can make in their lives.

Many years ago, our oldest son turned 13.  It was an inspiring time for us as parents, and a significant moment in our family’s history.

About a year prior, when my husband Paul and I were still coming to grips with having our first son enter the teenage years, we began thinking and talking and praying about what we could do to make that transition year memorable and important.  We headed to Scripture, and searched it to see what ceremonies or activities we could possibly adapt from the Hebrew tradition and the early church.  For years we had already been celebrating a Christian Passover as a family, so that wasn’t really a far stretch for us.  We also sought current or popular materials on the blessing, but were somewhat dismayed at what was available at the time.  The few books we could find were dull and dry; not really engaging and a bit too, um, conceptual.  Of course, God uses all things for good (Rom 8:28), so despite the dearth of information, the net result was something that not only truly reflected our family’s beliefs, but the vision and prayers we had for our son, and subsequent children.  How it has evolved and been used over the years is something totally beyond what we could ever have imagined.

Modern Milestones vs Spiritual Steppingstones

What events can you think of that signify a child growing up?

Let’s see, first boyfriend/girlfriend (although these days I hear parents talking that way about their pre-schoolers!  Ugh!), maybe first date, getting a driver’s license, first drink, ears pierced (I guess this one could be for boys, too, these days), sweet-16 birthday, registering to vote or enter the Armed Forces…

These have become what I call modern milestones.  And while they may indeed have some significance, at best they are events on a timeline.  In and of themselves, they add no character to our children’s lives, provide no preparation for their future, and neither strengthen nor build their faith or journey with the Lord.  They are both temporal and temporary.

These modern milestones quite often occur during what we call “adolescence”, roughly between the ages of 13 and 20, when children undergo physiological changes and begin to transition their roles in the family.  (Interestingly enough, this period in life did not even exist as a concept prior to the late 19th century, was not given serious study until the early 20th century, and is generally considered to be an American “discovery”.  But that’s a whole ‘nother post…)

Spiritual steppingstones, however, are more eternal in nature.  They are more a matter of building on and building up than simply marking time.  Daily blessings or an even-bigger and more-celebrated occasion, can become a part of the fabric of your family’s life, establishing routines or customs that can help create a unique family history and identity, among other things.

Why Is It important to Bless our Children?

What are the specific benefits for them?  I believe there are 5 significant ones:

1) Blessing them builds their character and enlarges their life vision

2) Blessing your children encourages them to know you’re giving their future your intentional attention

3) Blessing your kids conveys your dreams and hopes and belief in their future

4) Blessing them daily encourages them to seek and find daily blessings in their own lives

5) Giving a blessing is a tool to grow a deeper and more “real” relationship with them

Responding to The Call

Praying for your Children

As parents, we have not only the right but the privilege to pray for and bless our kiddos, and we can find many ways to speak blessings over them frequently and informally.

1) On a daily basis, we can pray for our children by name during our quiet time.  If there are particular issues that you are working through with them, find a concordance, or use the online one here, and locate Scripture passages that speak to that struggle.  Lift them up to the Father by name.  He already knows, of course, but it’s good for us to ask on their behalf.

2) You can then share that info with your kids, and let them know what you’ve done/are doing!  Tell them how and what you’ve prayed for them (see #1) over a meal, or while you’re sitting together in the family room at the end of the day.  Follow-through by asking them about those situations and how you can further pray for them.  Reassuring them in this way that their issues/problems/requests are important enough for YOU to pray about most definitely blesses them…

3) Decide for yourself the daily events that you’ll choose to use as a blessing opportunity.  For example, when they leave for school in the morning, before practice or rehearsal in the afternoon, at supper, before bedtime.  Locate a Scripture that reflects your dreams and desires for them, or one that is relevant (see #1), replace their name in the appropriate sections and speak it aloud over them!  The first few times may be a little uncomfortable, but I promise that if you persevere, not only will these times become precious to you both, but they will start to remind you if you forget.

A Notable Spiritual Steppingstone

To get back to my opening story, all those years ago, Paul and I did fashion a beautiful ceremony that we have subsequently replicated with unique touches for each of our other children.  It has become a family tradition to celebrate their 13th birthday in this manner.   Referred to in our family simply as “the Blessing Service”, each child has spoken of it (and 1 still anticipates it!) as a memorable and pivotal time in their young lives.

Too much to describe here, I’ve included the information on that celebration in a special booklet I have available on our website, Mom’s Morning Coffee.   Just shoot us an email and we’ll be glad to send you out the free, downloadable document in PDF form, filled with resources and references, the format we use for our family’s service, and sample prayers of blessing.

Blessing your children is a wonderful way to encourage and build them up, and a great tool for releasing God’s best in their lives!

Pat FennerPat Fenner is a Yankee city-girl who has been adopted by the sleepy, sunny south. Married for 28 years and the mother of 5, she woke up one day to discover she reached the stage of life where she is the “older woman” described in Titus 2:3-5. She owns Mom’s Morning Coffee.com with her good friend Candy, and enjoys writing, homeschooling and doing whatever the Lord puts on her plate each day! You can reach her via email and look for her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!

Keeplets to memorize Bible Verses

Wifey Wednesday: Keeping Sex Alive When You Face ED (Erectile Dysfunction)

 

Sex Life and ED in Marriage: How to keep your sex life alive

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the linky below. Today we’re concluding a 3-part series on sexual dysfunction in marriage, and today we’re going to wrap it up by talking about ED in marriage–and how to keep your sex life alive.

We talked on Monday about the different causes of ED (erectile dysfunction), and how to deal with them. And yesterday we tackled premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation. We looked at how porn was often, though not always, the underlying cause of ED and other problems.

But what about when porn isn’t the problem? What about when it is a physical issue, and it doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight?

Here’s an email I received from one woman, for instance:

ED has been an ongoing health issue for my husband for years. It happened gradually, but now we never have sex. Of course that has left a huge void in our marriage. But we’ve been together 29 years, so it’s not a deal breaker either. He’s seen a doctor who found an enlarged prostate, and he takes meds for that. The other stuff to enhance erections are not covered by our insurance, and we can’t afford the out of pocket expenses. He’s also very sensitive to some meds and does not like the long string of side effects that can happen from those.

So how has that affected our relationship? “There is other intimacy you can have,” you say? Well, when a man loses his ability to perform sex, he also gradually loses his other intimacy practices. i.e., playful touch, hugging, flirting — basically anything that might lead to sex. It’s disappointing to us both — we talk about it rarely — it’s hurtful. I get resentful sometimes that he won’t knock down the doors of every medical institution to “get it fixed,” like I imagine he should want to. But the truth is, that even with couples who still have a healthy sex life, it takes work, and sometimes planning to make that time happen. It’s easier to skip because you are too tired or whatever so you get content not having sex. Same thing for us, only it’s because it’s too hurtful to try and disappoint. I feel like we’ve settled.

Am I happy with the sexless part? Not at all. Do I Iove my husband? Dearly!

I still have hope that one day God will restore this part of our marriage. But I’ve accepted that He might not as well.

What do you do when ED, or other sexual dysfunction, is a physical problem, but you don’t want the sexual side of your relationship to end? You do want to feel intimate. You do want to feel pleasure. You want to be able to laugh again without this BIG THING between you–this feeling like you’re distant, and you’re settling, and things will never be totally good again.

I want to give just a few thoughts today, and hope that others who have gone through something similar will chime in, too. I’m not going to talk about how to cure ED today, since I talked about that on Monday. I want to just talk about how to revive your sex life even if things still aren’t working like clockwork.

Acknowledge that He is Grieving about His ED

If your husband can no longer have intercourse, chances are he’s really grieving. A huge part of his life–what many would say is the most important part–seems gone. Let him air these feelings without having to fix them. Now is not the time to say, “but we can still do X…” Just let him vent. And hold him. And tell him, “I will always love you, and we will get through this, and we will find our way.”

But let him grieve.

You Need to Be Able to Communicate About the Sexual Dysfunction and what it Means

That being said, you can’t stay in the grieving process. You have to move on, and you have to find your way through towards a new kind of intimacy.

Now, you aren’t going to be able to do anything if you can’t first talk about the issue. So the question isn’t really “how can we save our sex life if he has ED”, but rather, “how can we keep talking about our sex life if he has ED, and not ignore the elephant in the room?”

Here’s some general guidelines for keeping these lines of communication open. And these suggestions build on each other–as in do #1 before #3.

1. Laugh everyday. Do things together OUTSIDE the bedroom and work on your friendship.

2. Find other hobbies to do together so that you still feel like a unit.

3. When you talk about wanting a sex life, stress that you want intimacy, not intercourse. Stress that you do not think he is a failure or that you want him to be different; the issue is simply that you don’t want to lose what you still can have. Your life is simply different, but your relationship can still grow.

For more ideas you can see my post here about how to talk to your husband if he has no libido, since the issues are actually quite similar.

See Sex as More Than Intercourse

Sex is about being intimate together. It’s about becoming one flesh. It’s about sharing something with one person that you don’t share with anybody else. It’s about becoming open and vulnerable together.

And you can do all of those things without intercourse.

Obviously intercourse is the culmination of this, and when health problems aren’t a factor, I would never recommend giving up intercourse. But if intercourse just doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that you have to stop being sexual beings.

Sex can be about being naked together; sex can be about doing full body massages with massage oil, switching places. Sex can be about taking baths together and talking about your dreams for the future. Sex can be about deep kisses.

Talk to him about how you still want these things in your life. Our letter writer wrote that when ED hits, it’s not just sex that she loses. It’s kissing and touching and affection, and it doesn’t have to be this way. Let him know that you still want to touch him. Again, acknowledge his grief, and tell him you’re grieving, too. But you’ve lost intercourse. You’re not willing to lose everything else, too.

Do What You Can Despite the ED

Some men have intermittent ED, where it works sometimes and it doesn’t work others. Or perhaps he suffers from premature ejaculation where he doesn’t like to have to sex often because he’s afraid he won’t perform well. Agree that you will do what you can–meaning you’ll have intercourse when it works, and when it doesn’t, that’s okay. But it’s not a PASS/FAIL system. Don’t think of each sexual encounter being about orgasm; think about it being about pleasure. See how much pleasure you can give each other, whether or not you come to orgasm.

In fact, start talking about it that way. Instead of, “can we make love tonight?”, or “can we have sex tonight?”, let’s say, “can we feel good together tonight?”

If he honestly can never reach an orgasm, he may be reluctant to do anything sexual. But you can ask him to help you feel good anyway, and see if you can help him feel pleasure when he can. And remember–you can still massage and kiss and feel close. If an encounter doesn’t go the way you had hoped it would, don’t get upset, just go with the flow. It’s really okay. Yes, you’re missing something you once enjoyed, but you still have your husband. You can be sexual without intercourse. Be grateful for what you do have, and think positive things, instead of casting a negative pall over the marriage.

Schedule Your Sexual Times

The default when sexual dysfunction like ED hits your marriage is to cut way back on sex. He doesn’t even want to try. And then when you initiate, he may turn you down. You feel rejected, and he feels like a failure, and you don’t want to keep bringing up those feelings, so you stop initiating. Yet every night, there’s that unspoken question, “should we try anything?” Even if nothing is said, it’s there, between you. And you feel it every time you roll over and turn your back to him as you go to sleep.

One way around this that works well for some couples is to schedule sex. It isn’t necessarily the time that you have intercourse; it’s the time that you spend together naked, massaging, feeling whatever pleasure you can, kissing, and just dreaming and talking together in bed.

I firmly suggest, as forcefully as I can, that shortly after the diagnosis of some sort of sexual dysfunction (with a physical cause), that you agree that at least once a week you will have a “sexual night”. Make it regular, like every Tuesday or every Saturday, and don’t change it except in extreme circumstances. That way you both know what to expect, you don’t feel rejected and nervous and on edge all the other nights of the week (because you do know what’s coming), and he can start anticipating things so that he can also get in the right frame of mind.

Now, this isn’t going to work if you can’t talk about things, which is why it’s so important to work first on communicating. I realize that many people will say, “my husband just won’t do this”, because he feels so much like a failure he’d rather shut down completely than be reminded of what he’s missing. But that’s not a good solution, and couples would be better off if they saw this. So I’d keep at it–keep praying, keep talking to your husband, keep laughing, and keep communicating, stressing intimacy and pleasure, not intercourse. Don’t give up. See a counselor if you have to. But intimacy is still possible, and is so important in your marriage. Don’t write it off just because sex doesn’t work like it once did.

I’d love to know: how is this working in your marriage? How have you find talking to your husband about this? Have you found ways around it? Let me know in the comments!

Christian Marriage Advice

Now it’s your turn! Link up the URL of a marriage post in the linky below. I feature at least two on my Facebook Page each week, which can get you a lot of traffic! And remember to link back here so that other people can read these great marriage posts.

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Sexual Dysfunction in Marriage: Dealing with Premature Ejaculation and Delayed Ejaculation

Sexual Dysfunction in Marriage: When things just aren't working for him

We’re in the middle of a 3-part series on sexual dysfunction in marriage, and today we’re going to tackle two thorny problems: premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation.

In movies everything always works so well! He’s attracted to her, she’s attracted to him, and they fall into bed together and everything goes like clockwork. But what if the CLOCK is part of the problem? Either he seems like he’s playing “beat the clock”, and he ejaculates too quickly to make sex satisfying for her (or even really for him), or he the clock goes on–and on–and on. And it never seems to end!

Both these problems can make sex so stressful, and we’re never warned about that. We’re told sex is going to be this great thing that is natural, and easy, and it doesn’t take much to get it right. But what if, for you as a married couple, it does?

Yesterday we looked at some of the issues with erectile dysfunction, and while they’re related, premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation are a little bit different. So let’s turn to those today.

Good Girls Guide My SiteSexual Dysfunction #1: Premature Ejaculation

In The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex, when I was writing about the problems in the bedroom that guys can have, I said that premature ejaculation is a really unfortunate term. Because how do we define it? The most basic definition is a husband who ejaculates before his wife has a chance to experience pleasure. But by that definition a guy who lasts fifteen minutes could be labelled having a problem if his wife lasts 30 minutes!

Other definitions have focused on the time it takes to reach orgasm. If it’s under two minutes, for instance, many people call that premature ejaculation. But most men can reach orgasm in that short an amount of time–if they’re not trying to wait for longer. So let’s for the sake of our discussion today define premature ejaculation as a man who reaches climax very early during intercourse–say in the first three minutes–and is unable to last any longer.

Sexual Dysfunction in Marriage

Who Has Premature Ejaculation?

Some men, from their first sexual encounter, have premature ejaculation. Indeed, it’s not that uncommon for a guy’s first encounter to be awfully short. Most men, after that initial episode, though, can start stretching out the encounters. Some men, however, never really are able to do that.

Men who have used porn, or who have masturbated extensively in the formative years, also often suffer from premature ejaculation. Not all cases of PE are caused by porn; but many porn users do report experiencing PE. Because they have trained the brain to respond to stimulus very quickly, rather than enjoying the experience of arousal, they have a difficult time lasting.

How Can We Cure PE?

If porn use is the root cause:

Like I said yesterday, quit the porn. If your husband is using porn, nothing else you do will help with the problem. You have to deal with the root first, and that means quitting porn and masturbation. Many men once they quit find that their brains reset and that the problem starts to fix itself.

If this is a longstanding problem not due to porn:

His body needs to learn to enjoy the sensation of arousal, and learn to delay ejaculation. Several techniques can help with this:

1. Play the Stop and Start Game

Start making love, but have him keep track of his arousal levels, on a scale of 1-10. Men who suffer from premature ejaculation often will go from a 6 to a 10 almost immediately. Once he reaches a 6, for instance, stop for a few minutes and have him stimulate you, and you alone. Then start again. Spend a lot of time on foreplay and not as much on intercourse as you start to use this technique, because starting and stopping intercourse can be a little frustrating for both of you. Once you’re able to drag out arousal using other kinds of stimulation, then begin introducing intercourse to the mix.  A good idea is to do the stop-and-start by using different positions, so that you’re moving from one to the other and the stimulation isn’t regular.

It can take quite a bit of time to master this technique, and it doesn’t work for all. But it is a good thing to try, and many people just find it fun anyway (and it often is more satisfying for her if he’s spending more time making her feel good!)

2. Start and Stop Just with Stimulating Him

Similar to above, but this time just stimulate him. When he starts to get really aroused, stop and make him control his breathing. Do this once or twice a week and drag out the experience for longer each time.

3. Bring him to Orgasm Earlier in the Day

Sometimes men have an easier time lasting if they’ve already reached orgasm. So a “quickie” earlier in the day can help him last later.

4. Try an External Aid

I was contacted by The Prolong Climax Control Programme to get the word out about a treatment program that is discreet, inexpensive, and easy to use at home. It’s a device that is used on the penis 3 times a week to practice the start and stop technique. It’s available through internet ordering in Europe and Canada, and it can be used outside of intercourse. He can use it by himself, but I’d recommend using it with him during foreplay so as to help you feel more intimate and to not solidify any masturbation habits.

For those who have had a lot of trouble overcoming PE, the Prolong Climax Control has had great results for many couples from what I’ve seen.

Prolong Climax Control for Premature Ejaculation


A reader also recommends the book Coping with Premature Ejaculation: How to Overcome PE, Please your Partner and Have Great Sex. It isn’t a Christian book, but it has been one of the few things that has helped in her marriage. So you can look at that as well!

Sexual Dysfunction #2: Delayed Ejaculation

If you’ve been making love for quite a while, and your husband just can’t seem to reach climax, or you often stop before he’s finished, then he could have delayed ejaculation. The causes of delayed ejaculation are quite similar to those of erectile dysfunction: there’s a problem in that not enough blood goes to the penis to make it hard enough, and then not enough arousal is present to achieve climax.

When Delayed Ejaculation Has Physical Causes

In some cases, like in erectile dysfunction, it could be a sign of physical issues: circulation problems; heart problems; obesity; diabetes; medication side effects; or excessive alcohol or tobacco use.

It’s always a good idea to have your husband see a doctor if this is a persistent problem to rule out any kind of health problem.

To help with delayed ejaculation, your husband needs to learn to concentrate on his own arousal, because he isn’t able to experience it as arousing enough to send him over the edge. So spend some time just touching him and pleasuring him without actual intercourse. Once he’s able to reach orgasm that way, get him very excited and only then start intercourse. Help him to close his eyes and just think about the sensation–not about anything else.

When Delayed Ejaculation Has Relationship Causes

If you have had your own share of sexual problems early in your marriage, your husband may feel guilty about enjoying sex, or may feel guilty about finishing. Sex is such a complex thing; a guy can start a marriage being completely excited about sex, but if he feels as if you don’t want it, or you feel uncomfortable or painful during sex, then that can affect his own ability to feel pleasure, even if you’ve overcome your own issues.

Allowing him to experience real pleasure and to concentrate on himself can jumpstart this and help you reboot.

Taking the initiative to start sex, too, can show him “I want this. This isn’t something I’m doing just for you.” That can change the dynamic and can help him feel free to enjoy it, and not guilty, thinking “she doesn’t really want to be doing this.” So take a deep breath, try to put the past behind you, and just enjoy being together. Show him that this is something you want, and that you do love being with him.

When Delayed Ejaculation is Caused by an Arousal Addiction–like Porn or Video Games

In other cases, though, it could be a problem not with the circulation system, or with the relationship, but with the arousal process in the brain.

Philip Zimbardo is a Ph.D. psychologist studying men, and in his TED Talk, The Demise of Guys (and I’m paraphrasing because he was talking really fast), he said this:
Arousal Addictions
We’ve become so desensitized because of porn use that what is “normal” is no longer arousing, and people need more and weirder and different to achieve the same level of stimulation.

This is why erectile dysfunction and delayed ejaculation are often two sides of the same coin; with erectile dysfunction the man isn’t able to stay stimulated; with delayed ejaculation the man isn’t able to get stimulated enough. In both cases they need something MORE, and that more was fed to them by porn when the arousal mechanisms in the brain went haywire.

There’s a community of porn addicts on the internet at Your Brain on Porn, who have congregated together to abstain from porn and masturbation and “reset” their brains. It’s not a Christian site, and so I certainly don’t agree with everything that’s said, but there is a wealth of information there and it’s one of the best resources I’ve found on the internet to “see inside” what these guys go through. And what many of them say is that, when they’re using porn, they stop being able to get aroused naturally. Even when they’re having sex, they can’t climax unless they’re watching porn at the same time. Without the porn, they just aren’t aroused enough.

And here’s what’s interesting about what Zimbardo said: this effect is true not only with porn, but also with other arousal addictions. An addiction to video games, for instance, mimics the effects of porn on the brain, where the dopamine receptors are looking for more and more intense stimulation to reach the same high. And so video games become more graphic and more fast-paced. So even if the arousal addiction is not with pornography it can still affect the arousal processes in the brain.

How Do We Deal with Arousal Addictions?

If a guy is suffering from some sort of arousal addiction he just simply has to stop. The community at Your Brain on Porn finds that 90 days seems to be the amount of time it takes most people to rewire the arousal process.

So 90 days with no sex, no masturbation, no porn–and, if necessary, no video games.

Here’s what I like about that: it allows you to work on your relationship, and it allows the man to start experiencing life again instead of constantly feeling like he has to get back to the computer or video game.

Here’s what I don’t like about it: I don’t believe that true healing can come without a spiritual dimension to the problem. We have to acknowledge that we have sinned against God and against our spouse, and we have to ask God to fill us with His Spirit so that we can have self-control. I don’t think will power alone can fix most people; in fact, Romans 7 is all about Paul showing how will power isn’t enough. We need the Holy Spirit.

I think the 90 day reset if this is a real problem due to some sort of an addiction is a great idea. But I think that 90 days also needs to be filled with some prayer sessions, some counseling with a pastor and mentor, and some accountability. A guy has let some sort of an addiction steal his time and his focus away from his wife–and away from the rest of his life. Think about the emotional and mental energy he has wasted on other pursuits! This needs to be a time of real repentance if real change is going to be made.

Porn is not harmlessI know it sounds like I’m blaming it all on porn…

And I absolutely know that in many cases sexual dysfunction is a physical issue, or it’s something that a guy only realized he suffered from once he was married, and there wasn’t an arousal addiction reason. In those cases, trying some of the techniques here can really help. But sexologists, urologists, and marriage counselors are seeing such a huge spike in sexual dysfunction in the last decade due mostly to porn (and to some extent video games). This can’t be ignored. So spread the word about the Top 10 Effects of Porn, and let’s help people to see that porn is not harmless, and that it really can wreck marriages–and your sex life!

The problem is similar to diabetes, really. We call all diabetes “diabetes”. But it’s really two completely different causes. One usually shows up in childhood, and there’s very little you can do about it. The other usually shows up in adulthood, and is highly correlated with lifestyle issues. We may call them the same thing, and they may have similar symptoms, but they’re really two very distinct causes, and that’s what’s going on here, too. Erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, and delayed ejaculation can all have physical causes, but they can also be caused by porn.

Today I dealt more with the porn side. Tomorrow we’re going to look at how to reboot your sex life when porn is NOT the cause of sexual dysfunction, but your husband has another cause for erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or delayed ejaculation.

This post contains some affiliate links, and was partially sponsored. The opinions in it are entirely my own.



When Erectile Dysfunction Hits Your Marriage

Reader Question of the WeekEvery Monday I like to tackle a Reader Question, and this week’s is a common one: “my husband has ED” (erectile dysfunction).

One reader writes:

Can you post about men with ED problems. My husband is 52 and I am 53. We have struggled in the area of sexual intimacy for most of our 27 yr marriage. I was always the one with low libido and my husband would react very negatively. I recently had my hormones checked and she gave me testosterone shots and it reversed our issues! He is struggling with ED. He is on blood pressure meds and thyroid pills. We are trying to talk thru the emotional aspects but it is very difficult.

I would say that’s the typical “face” of ED–a middle aged man, with some health problems, who suddenly finds that things aren’t working well. Yet increasingly it’s also younger men who have ED:

We’re in our twenties and we’ve been married for two years. My husband has never really been able to maintain an erection. Either it peters out before we really get started, or else he ejaculates too quickly. So now he’s almost given up trying, and he just plays video games until about 2 every morning. I want us to be intimate but I don’t know how to get around this.

This week I’d like to do a three-part series on erectile dysfunction and marriage, looking today at strategies to deal with impotence (ED), tomorrow at some of the “other” sexual problems we face, like premature ejaculation or delayed ejaculation, and then on Wednesday at how to keep a great sex life even when these things start to plague your marriage.

I have to admit from the outset, though, that I feel awfully sorry for men. Let’s face it: lots of times we women make love when “we’re not really in the mood”, and it works fine. We don’t always orgasm, and it doesn’t matter. But for a guy, if things don’t work perfectly, everything is thrown off. No wonder it’s so scary! And when things start to go wrong, there’s often a vicious cycle that starts, where they get so worried that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and then these husbands stop wanting sex altogether.

So let’s look at the three main causes of ED–one cause for ED in young men, and two causes for ED in older men–and then see some DOs and DON’Ts for the different scenarios.

If this isn’t an issue in your marriage, please read on anyway! I have a special word further down for wives who haven’t experienced this yet–because I think the key word is YET, and we need to be prepared!

My Husband has ED: A look at ED in young men, ED in older men, and what to do about itED in Young Men

It used to be that the face of ED was Bob Dole in the Viagra commercial–an older man, who had been fine in his younger years, but now health problems and circulation problems had affected things.

Over the last decade, though, an epidemic of ED in young men has started. Here’s Dr. Oz–pretty much as mainstream as you can get–talking with a panel about how ED is now becoming a young man’s issue. And the reason? Porn.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the top 10 effects of porn, and one of the most common that they’re finding is that it causes sexual dysfunction, from ED to premature ejaculation to delayed ejaculation. It trains the brain to become aroused to an image, and not a person. And then when the image isn’t present, the person doesn’t provide enough stimulus. And so the arousal process doesn’t work.

This can be the case even if your husband is no longer using porn. For instance, I received this email:

My husband and I were both virgins when we got married. I was 22 and he was 23. He told me that he had used porn a lot as a teenager, but stopped when he was 20, and while he was still tempted, he really doesn’t look anymore. He and his best friend meet regularly to keep each other accountable & before we were married he gave me access to his computer and phone. But we had sex on our wedding night (it was really quick), and then once three days later, and now it’s been two months and he says he isn’t interested. Is this normal?

Yes, actually, it is normal–at least it’s normal for guys who have used porn a lot in their formative teenage years. Even if they’re not using porn anymore, often that arousal process is still messed up and needs to be retrained.

Porn is not the only cause of ED in young men–it could be that the two causes that I’ll list in a minute for older men apply better to your husband. But for most men under 40, porn is the root cause. So what do you?

1. Stop the porn

No ifs, ands, or buts. This will not get better if he is still using porn–it will only get worse. Project Know is a community of over 73,000 self-reported internet porn addicts who have made the decision to abstain from porn and masturbation, and they’ve produced some great research on their membership. 37% of these addicts reported experiencing erectile dysfunction, and only 27% reported having no sexual dysfunction at all–meaning that 73% of active porn users do report some sort of sexual dysfunction. The good news? Once you abstain for a few weeks, and your body and brain start to normalize, 60% report an improvement in sexual dysfunction–though they could still have problems, as our letter writer shows.

Nevertheless, it will not get better while the porn-and-masturbation cycle is still occurring.

These posts may prove helpful:

Top 10 Effects of Porn (show them to your husband if he’s skeptical)
4 Things You Must do if Your Husband Uses Porn
Are you a spouse or an enabler? (if your husband refuses to deal with his porn addiction)

2. Start the Recovery Process Focusing on Intimacy

Assuming the porn use is in the past, and your husband realizes that it was a major cause, you can now retrain the brain to become aroused by true intimacy, and not just anonymous images. Here’s a post on sexual recovery from a porn addiction, which includes some exercises on learning how to become vulnerable and truly naked with each other.

31 Days to Great SexI’d also highly recommend my book 31 Days to Great Sex (which is only $4.99 in the ebook version), which can walk you through, step by step, how to build real intimacy. Taken together, the book helps couples understand the difference between real intimacy and just sex, and helps couples move step by step towards achieving that.

Some DONTs for Younger Men with ED

  • Don’t recreate porn in your marriage, thinking this will solve it! The answer isn’t to be “hotter” than porn; it’s to retrain the brain to find real intimacy!
  • Don’t berate him for it. See porn as the enemy, not your husband.
  • Don’t rush things. It takes a while for recovery, and if you cling to each other, and give it time, you’ll come out stronger.

Some DOs in Marriages where Young Men have ED

  • Do work on your friendship with your husband–the more you can laugh together, the more you can take on anything!
  • Do work on creating more spiritual intimacy–like praying together or reading a chapter of the Bible before you go to bed. When you can become spiritually vulnerable with each other, this has a big impact on our intimacy, and often triggers a sexual response because of that intimacy.
  • Do encourage your husband to talk to someone else. You can’t be his accountability partner. You have to be his wife. Let him go to someone else to grill him. Don’t let that person be you.

ED in Older Men

When we think of ED, we do tend to think of older men.

Good Girls Guide My Site1. Dealing with the Physical Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

Here’s what I reported in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex:

According the the National Institute of Health, chronic erectile dysfunction affects 4% of men in their 50s, 17% of men in their 60s, and 47% of men over 75. Transient, or temporary, ED affects about 50% of men between 40 and 70. About 70% of chronic ED has physical roots, while the rest has emotional roots.

If your husband experiences ED once, don’t worry about it. It’s likely just temporary and it will pass. If it happens a few times, though, your husband needs to see a doctor. ED is often one of the first signs of circulatory issues, heart issues, and other health concerns. He may not like seeing a doctor, but think of ED as an early warning beacon. Don’t ignore it.

Sometimes ED can be caused by medication. If he’s on a number of medications and he starts experiencing ED, have the doctor or pharmacist take a look at all the drugs in combination and see if they’re all necessary, or if there may be a better combination that he could try.

ED can also be caused by obesity, smoking, or drinking too much alcohol. We may think we can “have a few drinks” to get us in the mood, but actually the opposite is far more common. Living a healthier lifestyle can often overcome many of the causes of ED.

2. Dealing with Emotional Causes of Erectile Dysfunction

A physical root to ED can often morph into an emotional cause for ED. Because a guy’s virility is so tied up in how he performs sexually, when he suddenly isn’t able to, even if it’s for a legitimate physical reason, it can cause him to become so insecure that he’s afraid to try again. Or when he does try, the stress that he’ll fail causes him to fail.

Other men have an emotional root to ED to begin with. It could be sexual issues–perhaps sexual abuse in the past, or dealing with homosexual feelings, or some issues from the family of origin. Or more commonly it could simply be stress. He starts to feel like he’s not man enough at work or in another high pressure situation, and this comes into the bedroom.

If your husband has ED, he’s going to feel sexually nervous. Many men, after a handful of times dealing with ED, swear off sex altogether. I’ve even received letters from women saying that their husbands have moved into another bedroom. Sometimes these same men are then caught masturbating. The men want release, but they’re scared of what may happen to their ego if they attempt intercourse. Or they become almost asexual, deciding that it’s safer psychologically to shut down that part of them.

Some DOs If Your Husband Has ED:

  • Do help your husband through stress he’s feeling–at work, with finances, with family. Help him talk through his feelings by being a sounding board. Do fun things with him.
  • Do treat ED as a minor inconvenience–not the end of the world. Sometimes things don’t work; let’s watch a movie instead, or just kiss for a while.
  • Do work on helping your husband stay healthy. Drink less alcohol, lose some weight, and quit smoking. These can help in the bedroom, too!
  • Do talk to your husband before this happens.

I want to emphasize that last one:

Even if your husband has not experienced ED yet: chances are one day he will. If you talk about it beforehand, it can make it easier. Look: we women are going to go through menopause, and EVERYBODY knows that. It’s talked about and joked about. We’ll get moody, we’ll get hot flashes, and our libidos may disappear–for a time. Because we’re expecting it, it isn’t as big a deal. Maybe we need to talk about ED in the same way! Most men will likely experience at least intermittent ED. If you talk about it now, before it happens, and acknowledge it openly, you can decrease the emotional punch that it may bring. Say that you expect it one day, and when it happens you’ll get through it together and develop strategies once you need to. If it’s something you’ve talked about, then it isn’t coming out of the blue, and it isn’t likely that he’ll be as self-conscious about it.

Some DONTs If Your Husband Has ED:

  • Don’t try to analyze this at the time. Let it go, and then talk about a few days later. Don’t push things in the bedroom, when it just happened.
  • Don’t baby him. Treat it matter-of-factly: this is something most men go through at some point, and we’ll get to the bottom of it. I have confidence in that–and in you.
  • Don’t Make This About You. Helen, from the The Unintimate Marriage, writes about her journey with a husband who has ED. And she has this advice for us: There is one temptation you will have through all of this: to make it about you. I’ve been there. You’re in the middle of a pretty hot and heavy make out session and you realize that it is causing very little reaction in him. All of a sudden you are off track too. You’re thinking, “Oh my goodness! He does think I’m fat!” or “I knew it, he does hate this haircut” top it off with a little, “Has he met someone else that he thinks is prettier than me?” Our insecurity comes on quickly, so I want you to really hear me when I tell you that this is not because of you! Don’t question how he feels about you at the time; treat it matter of factly, and move on to something else. You can talk about the root causes when it isn’t so emotional.

Where We’re Going From Here

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about how to handle two other areas of sexual dysfunction: premature ejaculation and delayed ejaculation. On Wednesday, we’ll look at how to keep a sex life alive even if sexual dysfunction means that intercourse itself isn’t always lengthy, possible, or very enjoyable.