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.

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
Now it’s your turn! Have any marriage thoughts for us today? Link up below by putting the URL of a MARRIAGE post into the linky. And be sure to link back here so other people can read all these great marriage articles! It’s a great way to build traffic for your blog, and I often highlight some posts on Facebook and Twitter, so link up below!



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!

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!

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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.

 

Why It’s Okay to Think About Sex

Thinking about Sex: Hey, married women, maybe we should do this more!

It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! And today best-selling author Shannon Ethridge is joining us with an excerpt from her new book, The Passion Principles, where she shares about how thinking about sex is perfectly okay:

In the summer of 1999 we took our young children for an afternoon outing to the Caldwell Zoo in Tyler, Texas. As we entered an area called the “Texas Petting Zoo,” Erin and Matthew were thrilled over the thought that they’d actually be getting hands-on experience with the animals. Our first stop was the Longhorn cattle pen, where several dozen parents and children waited their turn to pet the new baby calf, which just happened to be tucked up underneath his mama’s udders for an afternoon snack.

My three-year old son watched this scene in amazement, then boldly inquired of me in his loudest outdoor voice, “Mama, did you do that to me when you was a cow?”

Every adult within earshot giggled, and I had to join them. It was an honest question, so I gave an honest answer and replied, “Matthew, I actually did feel like a cow when I was doing that to you!” The giggling turned to guffaws of laughter, and thus a precious memory was made that afternoon.

Not only did Matthew learn how baby calves and baby boys were fed by their mothers, he also learned how many baby animals are made. It seemed like every cage we encountered was filled with animals in heat. The giraffes were necking, the gazelles were horny, the camels were humping. It was like someone spiked the hay with some powerful aphrodisiac. And of course, there was always an inquiring child in the crowd wanting to know, “What are those two animals doing?”

Although humans are certainly on a much higher intellectual and spiritual plane than animals, our basic physical instincts are really not very different. We have four main activities that we naturally gravitate toward over and over—eating, drinking, sleeping, and sexually connecting with our mates. It’s simply how God wired us, and it’s a beautiful thing if you consider the big-picture purposes He had in mind.

Why did God wire us for hunger and thirst? So we wouldn’t starve to death or get dehydrated and make ourselves sick. So our bodies could thrive and manufacture the energy we need to function when we respond to these natural instincts with healthy food and water.

Why did God wire us for sleep? So our bodies and brains could rest and get reenergized for another day of living for His glory. So we could go about our days feeling refreshed, at least until our batteries needed to be recharged once again.

Why did God wire us for sex? Just to name a few reasons:

• to bring beautiful babies into the world,
• so our bodies and brains could experience intense physical pleasure,
• to release stress and tension,
• to medicate emotional pain,
• so our hearts and spirits would feel intimately connected and passionately bonded to another human being,
• so we would feel passionately loved, and have a powerful way of communicating to another that he or she is deeply loved as well.

Most of us can accept our hunger, our thirst, and our need for sleep as perfectly natural, but the fact that we’re sexual creatures can be hard to accept, at least not without a certain degree of guilt. But do we ever feel guilty for experiencing true hunger several times a day? Or genuine thirst? Do we ever feel sinful for growing sleepy every eighteen hours or so? Of course not. It’s how our bodies function, and, like those zoo animals, we don’t waste much time analyzing it at all. We just feed those needs in order to satisfy ourselves.

So why do we waste time and energy analyzing, justifying, fretting, or feeling guilty over our sexual needs and desires? Seems silly, doesn’t it?

I believe the reason we worry about our sexuality is because we have somehow bought the lie that sex is dirty, shameful, base, animalistic, and hedonistic rather than natural, instinctual, spiritual, sublime, and holy. As a result, some of us have lost our ability to accept, embrace, or celebrate that facet of our humanity. Instead, we may shudder with shock and embarrassment to seriously consider how often our brains entertain sexual thoughts. In fact, many of us wish we could just flip a switch and never think of sex at all. Some have actually mastered a variety of techniques that allow them to do just that—to ignore and neglect their natural, God-given sexuality altogether. While I’m certainly not trying to shame anyone, I think the fact that we’ve grown so adept at absolutely starving our natural sexual desires is, indeed, a crying shame.

But what if we learned to accept the fact that God has created us as sexual human beings, and a natural, healthy sex drive comes part and parcel with that blueprint? That sexual thoughts are as natural as a hunger pain? Or a dry mouth? Or sleepy eyes? What if we could grow as comfortable with and ecstatic over a delightful afternoon tryst in our marriage bed as we are with, say, a plate full of our favorite holiday foods, a cup hot cocoa or apple cider, and an afternoon nap to ease the calorie-induced coma? Yes, it is possible to enjoy sex as freely as we indulge in satisfying these other natural cravings!

We must grasp the fact that God placed these human desires in us for a reason—for many divine reasons, actually. If we had no internal compass pointing us toward food, couldn’t we starve to death? If we had no recurring thoughts of drinking liquids, we’d dehydrate within forty-eight hours! No natural gravitational pull toward a pillow means we’d become physically exhausted to the point of delirium within a few short days. Although individuals can live without sex for long periods of time, or even a lifetime if they so choose, let’s think in terms of the bigger picture.

What if humans in general didn’t have any sort of sexual appetite at all? What would happen? Not only would we become painfully disconnected and isolated from one another, but the human race would eventually die off within a century or so! Heaven forbid!

God gave us natural, healthy appetites for everything that our minds, bodies, and souls need. These appetites guarantee our optimum survival. As such, these appetites are certainly a blessing, not a burden. So let’s embrace, cherish, and celebrate them fully!

PRAYER: Thank you, God, for healthy sexual appetites, and for godly ways to satisfy them! May husbands and wives both find great pleasure in one another, and may our marriage relationships bring you great glory as we learn to love each other fully and unreservedly!


Shannon EthridgeShannon Ethridge is a best-selling author, speaker, and certified life coach with a master’s degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to college students and adults since 1989 and is the author of 21 books, including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman’s Battle series. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs and mentors aspiring writers and speakers through her BLAST Program (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers). Her most recent book is The Passion Principles. Find more information on Shannon here.

Christian Marriage Advice
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Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Brain, Your Marriage, and Your Sex Life

The Effects of Porn--a Must Read!

Pornography is ravaging marriages. In our culture porn is treated as if it’s harmless, but it’s not. Porn will wreck the arousal process in your brain and end up wrecking your sex life in marriage. The effects of porn are devastating.

I receive emails everyday from women who are desperate to fix their marriages, but they don’t know what to do. They married men who never seem to want sex. Or their husbands are never satisfied. Or their husbands call them boring or unattractive. And the root of many of these problems is porn.

Here’s the really devastating part: Because so much of what porn does to you happens chemically in the brain, the porn use doesn’t have to be going on NOW to have these effects. A boy who grew up on porn in his teens, and then managed to stop watching it in his twenties (with occasional relapses) will still suffer from many of these things.

The good news: There is healing! You can rebuild those chemical pathways to arousal. But first we have to understand 10 ways that porn affects the brain, and thus wrecks many couples’ sex lives. And so today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share:

Top Ten TuesdayThe Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Sex Life

And remember–women use porn, too! While some of these apply just to men, many of them apply to both genders.

1. Porn Means You Can’t Get Aroused by “Just” Your Spouse

Do you remember reading about Pavlov and his dog in Psychology? Pavlov would give the dog a nice juicy steak, but right before he did he would ring a bell. He conditioned the dog to associate ringing the bell with getting great food. Eventually Pavlov took the food away, but kept ringing the bell. The dog kept salivating at the bell, even though there was no steak, because the dog associated the bell with the food.

The same thing happens when we see porn. Porn stimulates the arousal centers in the brain. When it’s accompanied by orgasm (sexual release through masturbation), then a chemical reaction happens and hormones are released. In effect, our brains start to associate arousal with an image, an idea, or a video, rather than a person.

When you don’t watch porn and save yourself until marriage, then all of those chemicals and hormones are released for the first time when you’re with your spouse, and it causes you to bond intensely (and sexually) to your spouse. But when you spend a ton of time teaching your brain to associate arousal and release with pornography, your brain can’t associate arousal and release with a person anymore. Either you have to fantasize about the porn, and get those images there, or you have to watch porn first. Often people can “complete the act”, but it’s not intense for them the way porn is. You’ve rewired your brain, and now you’re salivating at the wrong thing.

2. Porn Wrecks Your Libido

It’s only natural, then, that many people who use porn in the past, or who use porn in the present, have virtually no libido when it comes to making love to their spouse. The spouse is not what turns them on, and so the natural drive that we have for sex is transferred somewhere else. I get so many emails from young women in their twenties who say, “my husband and I were both virgins when we married, and I thought he’d want sex all the time. But after our honeymoon sex went to maybe twice a month, and that’s only if I pressure him. He says he just isn’t interested.” With so many men growing up on porn, this is just to be expected.

3. Porn Makes You Sexually Lazy

In porn, everyone is turned on all the time. You don’t have to make any effort to arouse someone; it’s automatic. There is no foreplay in porn. And so if your spouse isn’t aroused  you start to think that it’s somehow their fault. There’s no expectation that we will have to “woo” someone or be affectionate and help jumpstart that arousal process. It’s almost as if we approach sex as two different beings and we’re just using each other, rather than thinking of each other. And thus we never learn how to please the other or become a good lover because we’re always thinking that the other is somehow “frigid”. Sex is about getting my needs met; it isn’t about meeting someone else’s needs or experiencing something wonderful together.

4. Porn Turns “Making Love” into a Foreign Concept

Those arousal centers and pleasure centers in our brain are supposed to associate sex with physical pleasure and a real sense of intimacy. But the intimacy doesn’t happen with porn, and so the pleasure is all that registers. Thus, sex becomes about the body, and not about intimacy. In fact, the idea of being intimate isn’t even sexy anymore; anonymous is what’s sexy. We may call “having sex” “making love”, but in reality they aren’t necessarily the same thing. Someone who has used porn extensively often has a difficult time experiencing any intimacy during sex, because those arousal and pleasure centers zero in only on the body.

God made sex to actually unite us and draw us together; He even gave us a bonding hormone that’s released at orgasm so that we’d feel closer. But if that hormone is released when no one is present, it stops having its effects. Sex no longer bonds you together.

Making love and having sex are not necessarily the same thing.

5. Porn Makes Regular Intercourse Seem Boring

An alcoholic drinks alcohol for the “buzz”. But after a while your body begins to tolerate it. To get the same buzz, you need more alcohol. And so the alcoholic begins to drink harder liquor, or drink larger quantities.

The same thing happens with porn. Because porn teaches us that sex is all about the body, and not about intimacy, then the only way to get a greater “high” or that same buzz is to watch weirder and weirder porn. I think most of us would be horrified if we saw what most porn today really is. It isn’t just pictures of naked women like there used to be in Playboy; most is very violent, extremely degrading, and very ugly.

“Regular” intercourse is actually not depicted that often in porn, and so quite frequently the person who watches porn starts to get a warped view of what sex really is. And often they start to want weirder and weirder things.

Now, I’m not against spicing things up, and I do think lots of things can be fun! But when we’re wanting “more” because we’ve programmed ourselves to think “the weirder the sexier”, there’s a problem.

6. Porn Makes it Hard to Be Tender When You Have Sex

It’s no wonder, then, that people who use porn often  have a hard time being tender when they have sex. Sex tends to be impersonal, rushed, and “forced”. I’m absolutely not saying that all porn users rape their wives, but porn itself is often violent. There’s no foreplay. There’s no waiting to arouse someone. It’s just taking what you want.

Being tender means to be loving. It’s to give and to express affection. Because these things aren’t paired with sex in the porn users brain, tenderness and sex no longer go together.

7. Porn Trains You to Have Immediate Gratification and Have a Difficult Time Lasting Long

With porn, when you’re aroused you reach orgasm very quickly, because porn users tend to masturbate at the same time. Thus, orgasm tends to be very fast. The porn user hasn’t trained his body to draw out sex so that his spouse can get pleasure; his body is programmed to orgasm quickly. Many porn users, then, suffer from premature ejaculation.

Some porn users go to the other extreme when they start suffering from erectile dysfunction. They have a difficult time remaining “hard” enough during sex because the stimulation isn’t enough. In their case, orgasm can take an eternity, if it’s possible at all.

8. Porn Gives You a Warped View of what Attractive Is

Sex is supposed to bond you physically, emotionally and spiritually with your spouse. But if porn has made the chemical pathways in your brain go haywire, then sex becomes only about the body. And porn shows you that only certain body types are attractive. It’s not about the whole person; it’s just a certain type of person.

If a woman gains even ten pounds, then, she’s no longer attractive, and the porn user has an honest to goodness difficult time getting aroused, because he associates only a certain body type with arousal.

9. Porn Makes Sex Seem Like Too Much Work

All of this combines to often make sex with your spouse too much work. You’re not aroused; you find your spouse not attractive; sex is blah; and sex requires you to make an effort for your spouse, while you’re used to immediate gratification.

Thus, many people who use porn retreat into a life of masturbation. Even if the porn use stops, they often find it easier to “relieve” themselves in the shower than to have to work at sex.

10. Porn Causes Selfishness

All of this causes a spiral of selfishness where the person ignores his spouse’s needs and is focused only on getting what he wants, and getting it instantly. Often this manifests itself in other areas of the relationship as well, where the spouse becomes annoyed if they have to wait for something, or if they don’t get what they want. Porn has sold them the message: you deserve pleasure when you want it. You shouldn’t have to work to get what you want. Your needs are paramount.

It’s no wonder that shows up in other areas of your relationship.

People who think that porn is harmless and simply helps people “get in the mood”, or “relieves frustration”, are kidding themselves. The chemical processes in our brains are really complicated, and when you start messing with them, it’s really difficult to develop a healthy sexuality again.

However, it absolutely can be done! Later this year I’ll be working on an ebook about it, but for now, this post may help:

Marriage Recovery after a Pornography Addiction

Dayspring My Chains are Gone

Also, let’s remember: too often we tell teenagers not to use porn because it’s a sin, and they’re not supposed to lust. I think we need to start telling them these ten things. If you want amazing sex when you’re older, don’t use porn now. If you do, you’re setting yourself up for a world of hurt. Ask teenagers, “who wants amazing sex when you’re married?”, and pretty much everyone will put up their hand. Then tell them: Use porn now, and you’ll make that almost impossible, without a major work of God in your life. Tell them the truth.

Covenant EyesAnd make sure that in your house everyone–girls, boys, women, and men–are protected from temptation. I’m a big supporter of Covenant Eyes. No, we can’t rely on it alone, and yes, we need a work in the heart. But if we need to reduce the temptation so that God has time to work, I think that’s worth doing. Covenant Eyes sends emails to people of your choice to tell you when someone has accessed an inappropriate site. If kids know their parents will get an email if they try to find porn, or if men and women know their accountability partners will get emails, they’ll be less likely to surf inappropriate stuff.

Show Grace

One last word–please show grace to those who have been ravaged by porn. Especially if the associations in the brain happened when they were young, these people often want to change the most, but it seems really helpless. Rather than pointing the finger in blame, join together to fight the problem together!

Porn is serious. It wrecks people’s sex lives, it makes people selfish, and it ultimately wrecks marriages. Let’s spread the word, and fight against it!

UPDATE: I’ve been asked in the comments and on Facebook to provide citations, so I’ve created this infographic with a few. There’s tons more research at Fight the New Drug, and many other sites.

Top 10 Effects of Porn on Your Marriage and Sex Life: Click through for tons more information and explanations.

Reader Question: I Caught My Husband Texting Another Woman

Reader Question of the Week

A woman writes: “my husband is texting another woman. What do I do?”. Every Monday I try to answer a Reader Question. Sometimes the questions I get are really hard ones, and today’s is an example. I know many of you have caught your husband on Facebook with another woman, or texting another woman, and your whole world is thrown up in the air. You’ll likely relate to this:

My husband does have a history of looking at porn on the internet, but claims to not do this anymore. Recently, I logged into his computer to print something, and his facebook was up. There happened to be a text between he and a “friend” who he claims helped him when we were going through marriage problems a while ago. He says they were just friends and she helped him understand a women’s point of view. Well, the FB text was horrible, sexy talk from him. He was asking her about masturbation and if she thought about him during it, etc. I have been praying about this since, but my question is: do I tell him I know? I am having a very hard time with this, as I feel every time he brings up sex or talks to me about something personal, that he is lying to my face.

I am so, so sorry if you’re walking through this, and I want to give a few general thoughts about it. These would apply whether you catch your husband texting another woman, catch him using porn, or even catch him in an affair.

"My Husband is Texting Another Woman". When you catch your husband betraying you, what do you do?

You Are Not to Blame if Your Husband is Being Unfaithful

I see this in so many women’s emails: the husband is doing something that is completely and utterly wrong, and yet she is the one who feels badly or guilty. Here she’s wondering if she should tell him, because if she does he turns it around and often blames her, and this sends her into a tailspin.

When a spouse is doing something wrong, one of the marks of it is that they will deflect the blame. If you’re walking through a relationship like this, you’ll often suspect something, but if you bring it up you’ll be told that you’re crazy, that you’re jealous, that you need to see a counselor, or, if the person can’t deny it, that it is all your fault because you weren’t sexual enough, or you weren’t available, or you nagged too much.

I’ve seen women who were certain their husbands were having affairs for years, but at the same time they felt that maybe they were just too jealous or were reading too much into things. They started to doubt themselves.

There’s two reasons for this: Your husband often denies and turns things around on you; but you also are so scared to face the truth that the relationship may be as bad as you fear that you throw the responsibility back on yourself.

So let me say this loudly and clearly: If your husband is texting another woman, or sexting another woman, he is the one doing wrong, not you.

You are not to blame. Yes, we can contribute to the temptation to sin. But no matter what you did, there is NEVER an excuse to start a relationship with someone who is not your spouse, and you need to let go of that guilt.

No Matter What Happens, You Will Be Okay

Please hear me on this one. You are bigger than your marriage. You are precious to God, just who you are. If your marriage falls apart, God will not leave you, and He will carry you through this.

For most of us, divorce or separation is the scariest thing we can imagine, next to losing our children. Our whole identity is tied up in being a wife. The thought that the marriage may be at stake sends us into such a tailspin.

Marriage is a wonderful thing. Marriage matters. The vow matters. But listen: God is bigger than your marriage. You are more important to Him than your marriage. And you honestly will be okay. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, you will cry a river of tears. But He will carry you.

Now, hear me on this, too:

I am not saying that your marriage is over. I am not saying that it can’t be rebuilt. But until you are able to say, “My trust is in God, not in my marriage”, you will not be able to deal with this problem effectively. You will be so scared of losing your marriage that it will be hard for you to confront, to draw boundaries, and to do what is necessary to give yourself a chance at saving your marriage.

Now is the time to go running to God, and to find a close friend or counselor to help you do that, so that you have His inner strength and peace to deal with this.

Dont Doubt in the Dark from Dayspring

 

You Must Confront Him

Our letter writer is wondering if she should confront her husband. It’s understandable. As soon as you say the words, you can’t take them back. You can’t go on pretending everything is fine. It’s out in the open, and now all the ugliness has to be dealt with. What if you can’t put that genie back in the bottle?

If you don’t confront him it will get worse. If you don’t confront him you are hurting his own spiritual life. He needs to feel the consequences of his actions; that’s the only way that he will have the motivation to do the right thing.

Love Must Be ToughMany men (and many women) are living in this fairytale that they can have their cake and eat it, too. The more they go down that path, the more they damage themselves as people and hurt all those around them. He must be made to choose–which means that you need to be willing to accept the fact that he may not choose you. (The best book on this that I have found is Love Must Be Tough).

A few practical things: If you have caught him texting, take a picture of it. If you caught him on Facebook, take a screen shot. It is best to have proof so that he can’t argue or tell you that you’re crazy. If you found him using porn, take a screen shot of the computer’s internet history, just so that he can’t deny it. Then, instead of debating whether he actually did it, you can move on to dealing with the consequences of it.

Also, sometimes it’s better to confront him in the presence of a third party who can help you navigate that conversation. If it’s something big, talk to a pastor or counselor first, and ask them to be present while you talk to your husband. This isn’t always possible, but often these conversations go better this way.

Living in Truth is Better than Living in a Lie

There is nothing more exhausting than trying to maintain a fiction about your life. It is easier to live in the truth, even if the truth hurts, than to maintain a lie. Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus is the Truth; Jesus lives in the Truth. If you decide to live in the Truth, too, His resources and His power are there for you in a very powerful way.

Luke 8:17 says:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

God is in the “bringing things out in the open” business.

When people start to be honest with each other, and honest with themselves, then God can work.

Whether you caught your husband using porn, or caught him in an affair, or caught him texting someone, the first step always is to run to God and put your trust ultimately in Him. Then remember: things need to be brought to light. Find a friend, or a counselor, or a pastor who can help you do this. Sometimes sitting down with a third party and confronting him is better than confronting him on your own. But do confront, do bring to light, and do know that no matter what happens, God is there for you and He can carry you.

Wifey Wednesday: Sexual Options Besides Intercourse

Christian Marriage Advice

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! Today please welcome Julie Sibert from Intimacy in Marriage, who is sharing about creative options for alternatives to sex, when necessary because intercourse isn’t possible or desired.

Being a writer and speaker about sex in marriage, I’m obviously a big fan of the one-flesh aspect of intercourse.

God clearly designed a husband’s body and a wife’s body to unite together in the intimate experience of intercourse.  Though it’s not always easy to first figure out the coordination and rhythm needed to make love, nearly all married couples master it within a relatively short period of time.

But what about when intercourse is not an option, either because of medical reasons or other limiting factors?  (The most obvious one for a woman would be the latter stages of pregnancy when sex may be uncomfortable or for the 6-8 weeks after childbirth.  There also may be other medical conditions or injuries for a husband or wife that are not completely debilitating, but still make actual intercourse difficult, so that alternatives to intercourse are necessary).

And even when those limiting factors aren’t present, is there value in a husband and wife enjoying sexual pleasure together that doesn’t always include intercourse?  Yes! There are alternatives to sex that you can still enjoy.

Alternatives to Sex: 3 Ways to Enjoy Sexual Pleasure in Marriage Beyond Intercourse

When you learn to embrace and nurture sexual arousal that is not limited to intercourse alone, the positive effects on your marriage can be profound – endearing you to each other in a way that you never would have considered otherwise.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about completely replacing intercourse.  Not at all. I’m merely saying that a husband and wife’s ability to bring each other sexual delight is a powerful privilege that simply can’t be narrowed to intercourse only.

Here are 3 suggestions for alternatives to sex:

1. Use your hands.

Touch is amazing. Sadly, I think too many couples downplay or short-circuit the extent they can use their hands to bless and affirm their spouse.

Too often, sex becomes overly focused on the penis and vagina, and the couple overlooks other areas of the body that are quite responsive to touch.

When you are naked with your spouse, don’t be in a hurry to get to intercourse.  (In fact, consider taking your time getting naked, possibly undressing each other sensually).

When you start caressing with your hands and fingertips, consider all parts of the body.

Some areas where sexual arousal can be enhanced through touch include the hair, scalp, face, neck, ears, arms, under the arm, sides of the chest, inner thigh, around the knees, back of knee, navel and virtually anywhere on your spouse’s backside.

As a wife, it may be extremely arousing (for you and him) when your husband lightly caresses your breasts and nipples. And for a man, he may find it incredibly exciting to have you caress his inner thighs and testicles.

Use a mix of light and firm touches, with smooth transitions.  Don’t overthink it. You will do just fine if you just consider yourself on a sweet tender mission to explore every part of your spouse’s body.

Respond accordingly to how they react.

When your spouse is caressing you, give feedback.  Offer specific praises or suggestions like, “I really love it when you use your fingernails on my scalp” or “That is so amazing when you lightly touch my inner thigh.”

And don’t be afraid to use your hands (and possibly a lubricant) to bring your spouse to climax.  If you spend enough time caressing each other’s body, you’ll find your desire to have an orgasm will increase.  Why not allow your spouse to use their hands to get you there?

Remember, you are in the exclusivity of your marriage bed, so consider it your private sexual playground to arouse each other.

2. Use your mouth.

I’m sure at first glance at this tip, you think I’m just referring to oral sex.  Certainly, oral pleasure can be such a gratifying way to give and receive sexual love, but using your mouth in other ways to arouse your spouse is enjoyable to explore.

The mouth is full of numerous sensory receptors, so it’s no surprise that when you and your spouse spend more time kissing passionately, your sexual interest and arousal is bound to increase.

And don’t hesitate to use your lips and tongue on your spouse’s entire body.

3. Use your words.

How often are you sexually playful and sexually affirming in the way you speak to your spouse?

There is power in words.  Are you using yours to delightfully intensify the sexual arousal between the two of you?

Discretely, yet intentionally, initiate conversations that are sexual in nature with your spouse.  (These can be particularly powerful if done when your spouse is least expecting it).  Whispering sweetly – and even erotically – in your spouse’s ear will likely stir their curiosity and desire in an all-consuming sort of way, creating intense anticipation.

If handled well, these conversations definitely will lead to two people in bed. And all their clothing on the floor. How delightful is that?!

With the use of your hands, mouth and words, you can heighten the sexual pleasure in your marriage, making sex about more than just intercourse.

Do you see what a difference that could make in the intimate connection you and your spouse share?

Julie Sibertpursuit of passionJulie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage and is the co-author of Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage.  You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, their two boys and one rambunctious German Shorthair Pointer dog.

 

Now, do you have any advice for us today? Link up the URL of a marriage post to today’s Wifey Wednesday, and get some traffic back to your blog!



Why Do Teenagers Rebel? Thoughts from a 19-Year-Old Who Didn’t



Why Do Teenagers Rebel? A 19-year-old explains how it doesn't HAVE to happen!Why do teenagers rebel? Is it automatic? And can you do things that prevent teens from rebelling? I asked my 19-year-old to help us answer that today!

“All kids will rebel, and my job as a parent is to be there to help catch them when they fall.”

I’ve heard Christian parents say that to me time and time again–strong Christian parents, too. But the Holy Spirit does not have an age limit. The Holy Spirit is with ALL Christians, young or old. And so if we can expect ourselves to act appropriately, we can certainly expect our teenagers to as well.

I’m a big believer in this philosophy, and I’ve written about these two different approaches to parenting before. This week, I thought I’d let other people speak about how to raise kids to make good decisions. We started on Monday about how to raise kids who won’t date too young, and then on Tuesday my 16-year-old chimed in telling us why she’s not dating in high school.

Today I’ve invited my 19-year-old to share her thoughts on why teenagers rebel. I said to her, “can you just write something explaining why you DIDN’T rebel?” She sent me this. It makes me tear up to read it.

Hello. My name is Rebecca Gregoire, and I was the perfect teenager.

Obviously I’m saying that as a joke, but by most standards, I truly was pretty perfect. I never drank, never smoked, never partied, never dated, never even swore. (Honestly. I didn’t swear until I was 18.)  I may have been moody, but I always had a good job, and was extremely involved in church and volunteered in childcare and youth ministries. I didn’t rebel at all–I walked the straight and narrow all through high school, and am continuing to do so now that I’m living on my own.

I’m not saying all this to try and make myself look great–I’m saying it to make a point. I’m saying it to destroy a myth that has been hovering over Christian circles for way too long.

Teenagers do not have to rebel.

I am living, breathing proof of that statement. And so are the three girls I live with, and my best friends at our university IVCF group. We didn’t rebel.

Before I continue, let me tell you something else about myself.

I am not demure in any sense of the word. I don’t like listening to authority, and I often get frustrated when I’m told what to do, or how to do it. I like to question everything. I’m naturally extremely proud, a challenger of authority, and extremely stubborn.

Why am I telling you this? To prove that I’m not “naturally predispositioned to submit”. I’m actually the complete opposite.

Whether or not teenagers rebel isn’t contingent on their natural personality, and kids aren’t “guaranteed” to rebel. Obviously teenagers aren’t guaranteed to NOT rebel, either, but there are things you can do that make it less likely.

My family had two children who were complete opposites, and neither of us had a rebellion stage. So it has to be something about the family, not our natural dispositions.

So why do teenagers rebel? And why do some teenagers never rebel? I’ve tried to pinpoint what kinds of things my parents did that helped my sister and me not rebel (though, of course, there are never guarantees that a teen won’t rebel), and here’s what I’ve come up with:

5 Reasons I Didn’t Rebel as a Teenager

My parents instilled in me a sense of family honour

Often teenagers feel distant from their families, like they’re part of it by blood, but that’s it. In my family it was never like that. My mom and dad would make decisions on their own, of course, but they always talked everything over with my sister and me. Even things that we weren’t directly impacted by–we’d discuss everything over the dinner table.

My family is the kind of family where everyone is involved–it’s a team experience. A result of this is that I received a huge sense of family pride, dignity, and honour.

Family honour has been lost in our culture. We are so focused on ourselves, and have become extremely selfish. And I think a lot of that is that parents put their children’s wants over the family’s needs. In our family, Katie and I never went without. But we didn’t get everything we wanted–I wanted an X-Box when all my friends were getting one, but because that would cut out of major family time my parents said no. A small example, I know, but it shows the worldview my family had. No matter what, family comes first.

When your mindset shifts from “me” to “we”, your behaviours and your actions aren’t just going to affect you–you begin to see how what you do affects other people. What I do when I’m in my free time reflects on my family, whether good or bad. And for me, that was a huge incentive to be responsible and make my parents proud.

Dayspring House Full of People I Love

My parents were extremely encouraging, but also demanding

There needs to be a middle ground. I cannot stress this enough.

So many parents I see are all about the encouragement. Their kids can’t do any wrong in their eyes, and they just constantly pour love and affection and butterflies and rainbows into their children’s life. And then other parents are the opposite–they don’t pay any attention to their kids unless they do something wrong and then they blow up. Or, even if they don’t explode in anger, they only ever criticize and never praise their children.

My parents had a happy medium. We weren’t coddled, but we weren’t picked on, either. My parents chose their battles, and also encouraged us when encouragement was necessary but didn’t lie and tell us we were great at something when we weren’t. For instance, my parents never would have told me that I should go for a career in gymnastics, because I am not flexible in the least.

We always knew where our parents stood, and through that, we always knew that they were honest and had a better understanding of who we were.

My family talks about everything

Open communication was big in our family. My mom and dad always made sure not only that they had time to talk to us, but that they had a specific time and place to do it, too. When I was younger, we talked before or after reading bedtime stories, or at the dinner table when we were eating together. When we got older, that spot moved to the hot tub we had in our backyard and car trips to and from the grocery store, friends’ houses, etc.

The biggest part, though, was that we didn’t just talk about school, work, and the like. We talked about whatever was going on in our lives–whether I was thinking about a new blog post idea, how Katie was doing with her skating, or what movie we really wanted to see–anything that came to mind. Our parents became our confidants, and that built a level of trust.

Moreover, our parents shared things with us, too. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is definitely a line here. But in our family, my parents simply humanized themselves to us. My dad would tell us about his favourite movies growing up, my mom would ask our opinions on knitting patterns. She’d even tell me when she had angst over commenters on this blog!

This built a partnership between us. A partnership where one was the parent and one was the child, of course, but nonetheless, a relationship where the actions of one person directly affected the other. Because of that relationship, I never felt like I needed to rebel to be heard, to be understood, or to get my way. I knew that if my parents said no, it was for a reason.

We were never expected to rebel as teenagers

My parents never encouraged any idea of teenage-hood rebellion. They never joked about us rolling our eyes, acting exasperated, or having attitude at all. Rather, they actually made us think that teenagers and the whole rebellion process was stupid and unnecessary. I always figured that I would grow up straight from child to adult, with no “silly teenage stage” in-between. You may think that this is no fun, or that kids need their time to be silly and make mistakes.

But what kind of message does that send the teenager? If kids expect that when they hit 13 they’ll start wanting to go to parties, or go out with boys, or watch inappropriate movies, then they will grow up to fulfill those expectations. On the contrary, if they are raised to believe that those are all optional, and actually unnecessary and somewhat frivolous, they won’t want to disappoint or seem silly, and so are more likely to make positive choices and act like an adult. This doesn’t mean that we miss out on a childhood, or miss out on teenage years–it just means that we use them for training for adulthood, and have fewer regrets when we’re through it all.

Also in this category is that we had very few rules. My parents never needed them, because they didn’t expect us to break them. When parents have a lot of rules it always seems to me like they’re trying to control their kids, and if you have to control them, you’ve lost the battle already. My parents always assumed we’d pick up on their values and make good decisions. Through our close relationship, heart-to-heart talks, and–when necessary–confrontations, we learned their expectations, they learned our points of view, and our family worked together instead of parents trying to reign in their children. Now, I only think this worked because we grew up in such a structured, close, and trust-filled family, but that was a big thing for me. I never felt stifled, so I never felt a need to rebel.

God was centre in our home

Our home never revolved around work, sports, school, or activities. It didn’t even revolve around other people–it always hinged on God and his plan for our family. Growing up in that kind of an environment shaped my view of my actions, choices, and the effect I had on others. When you’re used to basing everything on God’s will and God’s plan, suddenly the parties don’t seem as important. It isn’t as tempting to lie about who you’re hanging out with. Smoking, drinking, and the like just doesn’t really have any appeal, because they don’t help with your ultimate goal–to become a person God will use for great things.

So many times I see families who drop everything for good grades, or who don’t go to church if it’s a busy week at work, or who choose extracurricular activities over youth group and the like. My family, however, was the opposite. If we were tired, too bad. Get in the car, we’re going to church, because that’s what God’s called us to. If Mom and Dad had a hard time with work, we went to church because that’s a place of rest. If I was struggling with school and needed the day to study I didn’t have that choice, because it was my decision not to study earlier.

God came first in everything. And my choices were shaped because of that worldview.

As for Me and My House Wall Decal

I honestly don’t think there’s any one way to make sure your children don’t rebel. Every child is different, and every family contains unique people. But all I know is that for me, this worked. In my family, the trust, communication, and centrality of God in our home made my teenage years one of partnership with my parents rather than a constant battle.

So don’t give up hope–the teenage years don’t have to be war!

Like this? Think it might encourage other parents? Please share on Facebook or Pin it! Just use the buttons below.

Life as a Dare

You can find Rebecca at her blog, Life as a Dare, where she writes about her quest to simplify faith, relationships, and life in general.

 

 

 

The Talk(s)If you’re wondering how to foster a relationship like this with your kids, what Rebecca writes about sounds a lot like what Barrett Johnson is teaching us in his book the Talk(s) ! He really emphasizes keeping open communication with your kids. It’s the best book I’ve read about how to talk to your kids about sex, dating, and relationships, and it’s my store here! Or you can order it in paperback here.

 

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