Wifey Wednesday: Rewiring Your Brain after a Porn Addiction

Rewiring your brain after a porn addiction: learning how to reboot the arousal process.
Is it possible to rewire your brain–to get back to normal sexual arousal–after a porn addiction?

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own marriage posts in the link below.

Today I want to tackle an all-too-common problem. Here’s an email that a young man sent me after reading my post on the top 10 effects of porn:

I think it’s likely I’m suffering from a porn addiction. It started off when I was 12 due to classmates and my desires would get worse through the years due to things getting boring. I was wondering wether you have any tips applying to an 18 year old college guy on how to re-rewire myself to feel normal arousal patterns again and start having normal relationships?

So many things to deal with here! Our letter writer isn’t married, but it’s still an important question. So I’m going to answer his question, and then give some specific advice to porn users who are married. Since 30% of porn users are female, I’m not just addressing this to guys, either. So let’s dive in.

First: Two Things to Understand About a Porn Addiction

Most people get started with porn early.

This young man was shown porn by classmates when he was 12–and that started an addiction to internet pornography.

This is NORMAL. Most porn users report something similar. Women: if you’re married to a guy who uses porn, please understand that he’s likely been battling this since before he even knew you. I know it hurts; I really do. But fight the porn WITH him; try not to fight him. Here’s a post that explains what to do when you discover your husband uses porn.

And please–protect your sons and daughters! Get something like Covenant Eyes installed on your computer and devices when your kids are young, so they can’t seek out porn without you knowing. It’s important to stop it before the addiction cements.

Porn Changes the Sexual Arousal Process

We’re created so that as we become emotionally intimate with someone, desire kicks in. Desire is supposed to flow out of relationship (and, of course, out of physical attraction). But it’s built on attraction and it’s focused on one person.

Porn directs the arousal process internally. It’s not about a person; it’s about your own sexual gratification regardless of relationship. And because porn is usually accompanied by masturbation (and thus sexual release), your hormones cement this. Now you get aroused by the porn rather than a person, and it becomes more and more difficult to get aroused by a person.

Here’s a free ebook from Covenant Eyes that explains what porn does to the brain:

Second: How to Reverse the Process

Pray a Ton

Willpower alone cannot help you quit porn. Only God can truly transform your heart.

So pray constantly. Don’t always pray about the porn, either; just keep a running conversation with God going all day. Tell Him what you’re doing. Talk to Him about decisions you have to make. Practice riding in the car without the radio on so that you can talk to God. The more you talk to God, the more you think about God, and the more God can start to work on your heart, even without you realizing it.

Look for the Root of Porn

Why do you turn to porn? When do you turn to porn?

If you can answer those two questions you’re a lot further ahead at quitting.

Most people turn to porn for one of two reasons: they’re stressed or they’re bored. When someone feels stressed, especially if you feel as if your choices are limited, people aren’t listening to you, or you’re failing at what you’ve set your mind to, porn can be intoxicating. Porn is all about satisfying you. It makes you feel like a king. It gets rid of those feelings of inadequacy.

But it’s all fake.

If you can instead name your issue: “I feel out of control”, “I feel inadequate”, “I feel like a failure”, and then you try to deal with that issue instead, you’ll be so much further ahead. And if you can understand the role that porn plays in your life, then it’s easier to leave it behind.

Find Something to Replace Porn with

I tried to quit Diet Pepsi many times–I knew the aspartame was bad for me. But it only stuck when I decided beforehand what I was going to replace the Diet Pepsi with, and filled my house with it (I chose looseleaf teas).

You won’t be able to fully quit porn until you figure out what you’re going to replace it with. If you’ve been using porn when you’re bored, then you need something else right at hand for you to grab when you’re bored. Maybe it’s a gripping novel. Maybe it’s a friend you call. Maybe it’s an exercise bike. But decide beforehand that when you get the urge to watch porn, you will turn to X instead.

Realize You Likely Will Relapse

Not everyone does; but many people quit successfully for a few weeks or months, but then during a particularly stressful period they go on a binge again.

Rather than berating yourself and feeling like a total loser, “turn a bad day into good data.” Analyze this particular relapse. What happened? Did you let yourself get bored? Did you not have anything to replace porn with handy? Had you just had a fight with your girlfriend/wife? If you can figure out what was different about this incident, you can prevent it happening again.

Flee from Everything that Reels You In to Porn

You’ll be battling not just the pull towards porn, but also the pull to objectify the opposite sex. If something else pulls you in the same direction–say, watching Game of Thrones or reading a magazine or going to a bar–then stop that, too. It isn’t about porn per se; it’s about the whole way you think about sex and relationships. It’s better to detoxify all at once then to just get rid of one part of the equation.

Third: Special Ideas for Married Readers

Make intimacy sexy again!

But how is that possible? You have to retrain your brain to feel aroused not by an image but by your spouse.

And you can do that by increasing the intimacy and vulnerability in your marriage.

I’ve written a longer post about rebuilding your sex life after a porn addiction, but here a few quick thoughts:

1. Pray together a ton–and even pray naked!

It’s very vulnerable to go before God together. Experience that kind of intimacy. Just revel in it.

2. Talk again

Most spouses of porn addicts will say that they could never put their finger on what it was, but they never felt like they truly “knew” their spouse while that spouse was using porn.

That’s because porn stops intimacy of all kinds. In many marriages, the couple doesn’t really share on an emotionally intimate level either. Porn trains you to think of your spouse as an object, as a means to an end, rather than a living, breathing person.

So start talking again and really getting to know each other. Get some conversation starters and use them every night. Go for a walk after dinner. Get to know each other!

3. Practice holding and touching each other while naked–without anything else

Hold off on intercourse. Just take turns touching each other. Let yourself feel your spouse touching you. Don’t try to rush it (porn users have a difficult time being “in the moment” because the focus is on the end result).

4. Learn how to be a good lover

Porn users tend to be self-focused during sex because they’ve trained themselves that sexy is about what happens to you, not what you do for others.

Take a few weeks where the goal of the sexual encounter is to make your spouse hit the moon. You can do this any way you want–you don’t even need intercourse (especially if you’re having issues with performance due to porn use). Watch the effect you can have on your spouse. Learn how much fun foreplay can be.

5. Schedule sex

If you’re going to get good at something you need to practice! I know many couples where the husband (or wife) has successfully quit porn, but they’ve also quit sex entirely because they never figured out how to make sex work any other way.

It’s going to take time and patience and lots of practice. Don’t flee from sex. Don’t be afraid that you’ll fail. It’s okay to finish other ways. But make sure that at least twice a week you’re connecting and trying. You’ll find that the more you get intimate, the more your body will start to respond. You’re reawakening real desire, and that’s a good thing. Scheduling sex may feel fake–but it’s actually a good habit when you’re trying to reawaken real desire.

31 Days to Great SexIf you’re having a hard time with this one, my book, 31 Days to Great Sex, is filled with ideas and conversation starters that let you start slow and build up to a great sex life–maybe even for the first time in your marriage! Check it out.

Rewiring your sexual response will take time. You have to quit entirely; you have to be so vigilant in what you think about; you have to do things that feel unnatural (learning to talk again; learning proper foreplay).

It isn’t easy.

But it is so healing. And God is in the transformation and healing business! He wants to help you–but you have to decide to be part of the solution, too. Fight hard. It’s really worth it!

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow it’s your turn! Do you have a marriage post to share with us? Leave the URL of your post in the Linky below. And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts, too!



Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Too Tired to Have Sex

Stop being too tired for sex! Find ways to rejuvenate instead. #marriage

Ever just feel too tired for sex?

Most of us do at some point or other. And because for women are sex drives are primarily in our heads, when we’re too tired to concentrate on sex, our bodies often don’t get in the game. And then sex doesn’t work well.

One interesting study I came across found that 25% of people reported being too tired to have sex.

That doesn’t surprise me, actually. In fact, I’m surprised it’s not higher. I remember when the children were little, and didn’t sleep, and I was so desperate to get at least 6 hours a night (even if it was broken up), that sex was far down on my priority list. It didn’t mean we weren’t intimate; it’s just that I was far more attuned to my need for sleep than I was my need for sex.

But as I wrote in To Love, Honor and Vacuum, exhaustion isn’t just about lack of sleep; it’s also about lack of downtime to recharge our batteries. It’s feeling like you’re working all the time–which is mentally exhausting, even if you’re not physically exhausted.

So let’s talk about that today: what do you do when you’re exhausted and you have no time for sex?

How do you get to the point where you are actually available to yourself and to your husband, both with time and energy?

Top 10 Ways to Stop Being Too Tired for Sex
Here are 10 ideas that will help you STOP being too tired for sex. And remember our Top 10 Tuesday philosophy: don’t try to do them all. Instead, pick ONE or TWO ideas that especially speak to you, and try your best to follow through and implement them this week.

Taking Time to Emotionally Recharge

Exhaustion isn’t only physical; it’s also emotional. When we aren’t doing things that feed us, we’ll chronically feel exhausted, even if we’re getting 9 hours of sleep a night. So let’s start with emotionally recharging.

1. Recharge Your Batteries Appropriately.

Some people are real extroverts, and they won’t be charged unless they get a lot of time to actually talk to people. If you need it, you don’t have to feel ashamed of it. Just schedule in some time everyday to talk with a friend, or go out for coffee after dinner with her. If you’re an introvert, and you need time alone, tell your husband this, and ask if he can do the bedtime routine so that you can have a bubble bath. In other words, be realistic about what you need.

If you don’t need time alone to feel invigorated, but you need time outside, then take a jog. But don’t feel guilty for taking time away from the kids! They can stand to be with their dad for a while, and he’ll be happier if you’re available to him later. It’s like the quadrant idea I shared with you last week: we all need to do those “important” things that recharge us if we’re going to have energy to pour back into relationship. So even though it feels selfish, it’s actually the opposite.

2. Find Someone to Watch the Kids.

If you’d love to try #1, but you don’t have time to yourself because of the kids, find a teenager in your neighbourhood to watch the children for two hours after school a few times a week so you can get some time to yourself. Don’t just use the time to do errands that won’t replenish you; put a priority on doing what you need to do to feel awake. Or ask your mother or your sister to watch the children for a while. Find someone to be your ally!

3. Schedule Half an Hour of Me Time During Your Day

Don’t let yourself come last in your list of priorities. Schedule time in now, during the day, for you to rejuvenate, whether it means taking a jog, doing a craft, having a bubble bath, or just praying. Take your lunch break at work; when the kids nap in the afternoon; in the early evening when your husband does kid duty. When you do have free time, use it for you, don’t only fill it up with more “things” that you really should get done. The most important thing to get done, after all, is to pay attention to your marriage.

It’s easier to spend time on yourself when you see the benefit in it. You know your marriage is important, but realistically how much time do you dedicate to nurturing it? Do you only pay attention to all the “things” you can do for your family, rather than just being there for your husband? He needs you, not just clean laundry. And when you feel connected to your husband, you also feel more energetic and more excited to get that housework done later!

4. Take One Thing off of Your Schedule

What is making you too busy today? Is it your church commitments? Your children’s schedule? Your hobbies? Whatever it is that is causing you to stop thinking about your husband and start thinking about other things needs to stop. We all need downtime. So find the one thing that is sapping your energy the most, or causing your mind to wander the most, and get rid of it if you can.

5. For One Week, Keep Track of Your “Highs” and “Lows”. Write Them Down.

Not sure what those things are that sap your energy? Try this exercise.

Everyday, think of your “highs” and “lows” for that day. But don’t think only in terms of “when I was happiest” or “when I was saddest”. Think instead of it like this: “When did I feel most invigorated, like I was in the groove and making a difference?” and this: “When did I feel my energy most sapped away, like I was doing something I hated and could barely get through it?”

This is a fun exercise to do with your spouse, because you learn so much about each other (and you learn stuff about yourself, too!) But if you trace this for a week or two, you may find a pattern to when you feel your energy the most sapped. For me, for instance, it’s when I have to deal with my email inbox or when I have to decide what comments to let through on this blog (I get a lot of mean ones or just plain unhelpful ones). It’s exhausting. And after realizing that these two things completely stressed me out beyond all proportion, I hired someone to start doing it for me!

6. Practice the art of compartmentalization.

Men are wonderful at keeping things in their place. They’re not as distracted nearly as much as we are because they’re not naturally trying to multi-task. We do. We multitask naturally, all the time. And believe me, sex is not a good time for multitasking! You should not be writing grocery lists in your head while you’re being intimate. You should not be planning vacations while he’s kissing you. When you’re with your husband, practice being with him. Concentrate on what he’s saying. Concentrate on how he feels. And above all, stop thinking!

If you’re finding that difficult, then when you are making love, keep asking yourself, “what feels good right now?” You’re not judging him; you’re forcing your mind to pay attention to your body, and that can help you focus and concentrate.

Taking Time to Physically Recharge

7. Go to Bed at a Decent Time

Adults need bedtimes, too! If you have to be up at 6:30, that means you have to get to sleep at 10:30. If you want the chance for other things to happen, then you have to be in bed by 10:00.

That may seem early; but the average person needs eight hours of sleep to function at their peak (and I know that’s really hard when you have little ones!). So go to bed.

8. Teach Your Kids to Sleep on Their Own

If your children need you to lie down with them to get them to go to sleep, or need you to rock them, or rub their backs, you’re going to find your nights are taken over by their bedtime routine.

Too Tired for Sex: Teaching kids to sleep on their own

Children who need their parents to get to sleep will also need their parents to soothe them whenever they wake up in the night.

Here’s why: they’ve associated you with sleep. You do this, too. Think about your favourite pillow. You need it to sleep. What happens if you wake up in the middle of the night and your pillow isn’t there? You turn on the light and try to find it. You fully wake yourself up because you can’t get back to sleep without your pillow. But if you wake up in the middle of the night and your pillow is there, you likely roll over and go right back to sleep without anything even registering.

If you’ve taught your children to associate you with sleep by “putting them to sleep”, then your children need you to sleep. When they wake up in the middle of the night, they will call for you. And that’s not healthy for anyone.

Kids need to be taught to self-soothe. That may mean a rough week when you stop rocking them, or lying down with them, or rubbing their back until they fall asleep. They may cry a lot. But they will learn, and then it will be over, and you’ll have your nights back again.

9. Treat Your Body Well

Exercise a little bit everyday, even if it’s just going for a walk after dinner. Eat fewer carbs and more protein. Stretch a lot! An inactive life makes you more tired. A poor diet makes you tired. And not using your muscles makes you tired. Start small if you have to: take a walk, do 10 minutes of stretches with your children every day; start getting rid of the packaged foods and the bread. You’ll find if you do small things, your body will start to like it, and you can add more small things to your routine that do add up!

10. Recruit Help for Evening Chores

What keeps you busy at night, and stops you from relaxing with your husband? Is it the laundry that’s piled up? The dishes that need to be done? The bills that need to be paid or the emails that need to be answered?

If you find yourself working, especially after the kids go to bed, then that’s a problem. We all need downtime, and if you’re doing chores at night, it will be much harder to transition to romance time.

So take a look at what you’re doing at night, and ask yourself: can it be done earlier? Can I recruit other people to help me with some of this? Can I talk to my family about sharing the load? Can I hire a housekeeper to do some of it? Try to rearrange your schedule so it doesn’t need to steal your energy late at night.

 Here’s the truth: often we think we’re exhausted when the issue is we just have too much on our plate, and thus too much constantly going through our brains. Turn off the constant noise in your brain telling you to do more, and turn on that part of your brain telling you to slow down, and practice being in the moment. You’ll find you’re less tired, and much more in the mood than when you’re always focusing on all the things you “should” be doing.

The biggest “should” in your life is about your marriage. You should be enjoying your husband. Are you? If not, learn to! Make it a priority. And turn everything else off!

Which of these 10 ideas would help you NOT be too tired for sex? What has made the biggest difference in your life? Let me know in the comments!

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Wifey Wednesday: 3 Benefits of Postponing Your Honeymoon

Today welcome Frannie Anne from Authentic Virtue, who shares with us the benefits of postponing her honeymoon–as a couple, they ended up being so grateful!

I thought that with my daughter getting married soon this might be a good one to talk about. Here’s Frannie Anne:

Postpoing Your Honeymoon
Every couple awaits their honeymoon with eagerness and joy. Tickets are bought, bags packed and dreams made as they prepare for a time of delight, intimacy and fun. But what happens when a couple cannot afford the time and money honeymoons often demand? What if schedules, itineraries and activities bring offer more stress then relaxation? It’s a road far less traveled, but one I highly recommend:

Postpone the honeymoon and enjoy the benefits of doing so.

My darling man and I had agreed to wait for our honeymoon. Having begun a new job meant that my husband didn’t have the luxury to take time away from work and in reality, neither of us could afford a trip.

But, boy, did we have a honeymoon.

Three months before our wedding, I helped my fiancée move into our rental. During those months he scrubbed, painted, and cleaned the bungalow from top to bottom in preparation for when I would come to live with him. After our wedding, I hopped into his white truck and we drove three hours northwest to our home.

And just like countless couples before us, Dalton carried me over the threshold and our honeymoon at home began.

Now, after eleven months of marriage, we are packing our bags, buying tickets, and preparing for our honeymoon away from home. And boy, are we excited!

Even though we are brimming with excitement, I think there were huge blessings that came from waiting to take our big trip. Here are three benefits of postponing your honeymoon.

1. You enjoy each other without pressure

Traveling naturally creates pressure (and stress). Flying (or driving), checking in, and finding your way around a new environment can cause new couples extra stress that, although they’re more than happy to deal with, doesn’t have to be.

For Dalton and I, two very happy introverts, there was no place like home. We settled into each other (and our marriage) without the stress and pressure of the outside world. Although Jefferson City was new to me, Dalton knew the places I would want to visit, explore, and eat at so he spent the first few weeks making my time extra special. It was wonderful.

2. You know each other

Last night, as we were snuggling in bed, I told Dalton that my love for him had grown so much during our marriage that I wondered how it was possible that I loved him while we were dating — my love is just so much greater and deeper than I ever thought possible! But that’s what happens when you give love time — it grows and multiplies.

When a couple first marries, you really don’t know each other. Oh, you may know what your beliefs are, your plans, and how each of you think. But you haven’t seen how your man handles throwing up, or for that matter, handles watching you throw up. You haven’t seen him handle the in’s and out’s of finances. You haven’t been humbled by his bravery and courage when he patiently waits for unanswered prayers and walks through broken dreams. You don’t know him yet.

But you will.

For us, it was worth putting off an official honeymoon. We know and love each other far better than when we first said “I do.”

And I think that knowledge will make our honeymoon even better.

3. You will enjoy your trip better

This last point may cause an incredulous, nervous shock to radiate among my dear conservative, homeschooling friends, but I stand by it. Your honeymoon is about intimacy … having sex with your beloved.

((GASP!)) 😉

But really, it is!

God designed marriage to be a beautiful, creative, sexual adventure for you and your spouse and, if you have followed His ways, your honeymoon will be the beginning to that amazing adventure. Of course, each couple is different, but for us it was important to give ourselves time. I can’t imagine how stressful it would have been for me if we would have been honeymooning in the tropics and I would have known that at every moment there was some planned activity, some recreation, to partake in.

Of course, I know that it is totally possible to plan a beautiful honeymoon and not be roped into all the activities and adventures offered. But for me, it would have been stressful. I loved knowing that at any time we could go explore our new town and then safely retire back to our cozy, little home and into my man’s strong arms. Physical intimacy (and getting used to it) requires time and I am thankful for the time and freedom not being on a honeymoon offered.

Plus, now that we have been married for eleven months (and we’re both fully used to and enjoying the intimate side of marriage 😉 I know that we will be able to really enjoy our upcoming trip. :)

Good Girls Guide My SiteAnd remember: If you’re getting married soon, The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex will help you get ready for the marriage, and the honeymoon–whenever you decide to take it! It makes a great bridal shower gift–but every married woman should read it, too.

What do you think? Did any of my points resonate with you? Or maybe you had the time of your life at your get-away honeymoon? Let me hear your thoughts — I’d love to know!

Frannie AnneFrannie Anne is a twenty-five year old, apartment-dwelling blogger who finds any excuse to keep fresh flowers and a well-kissed husband.  At Authentic Virtue, she writes about the joys (and learnings) of marriage, being a Christ-following Christian and the everyday blessings of living in the capital of Missouri.

 

WWbutton175 (1)Now, what advice do you have for us today? If you’re a blogger, too, just paste the URL of a specific marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so others can see these great posts.

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Top 10 Ways to Get Turned On By Your Husband Again

How do you get turned on by your husband again? I get this question regularly. So I’m going to let one of my favourite guest posters, J from Hot, Holy and Humorous, give us 10 GREAT ways to keep the flame alive.

10 Ways to Get Turned On by your Husband Again--after not feeling attracted to him for a while. #marriage

J writes:

I recently fielded a question on my blog from a wife who wasn’t physically attracted to her husband. She wanted to have that heart-pounding desire for him, but just didn’t feel it. What could she do?

I answered her extensively, but I want to share a summary here, with 10 tips for how any wife can nurture her attraction and chemistry with her husband. How do we get or keep those heart-thumping sensations in our marriage?

1. Rethink Romance.

Many believe a successful marriage and satisfying intimacy requires falling in love, feeling like he’s your soul mate, being sexually compatible.

Look, I’m thrilled we live in a culture where I fell in love with the hubster and chose to marry him, but marriages in the Bible and throughout history have happened for various reasons—chemistry, love, family connection, alliances, physical provision. And more than a few were truly happy, regardless how they got started.

Why? Because a good marriage involves living out godly principles and acting in love. Start tossing love cookies your hubby’s way, and that target of your attention may start looking pretty darn good.

Quick tip: For real romance, read 1 Corinthians 13 and put “The Love Chapter” into practice.

2. Focus on the Positives.

Have you heard the saying, “folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”? There’s truth to that, including how you feel about others. If you look at the positives, you might find your husband’s attractiveness improves from your adjusted viewpoint.

So reflect often on what’s so great about him! How about starting a gratitude journal and listing 1-3 things each day that make you happy to be married to your man? Focus on his deeper character traits, sure, but also list physical characteristics that are attractive or masculine.

Keeping track of what’s truly handsome about your guy, you’ll begin to appreciate him in a spine-tingling way.

Quick tip: Keep a journal listing your husband’s attractive physical qualities.

3. Express Loving Thoughts.

When you repeatedly compliment someone and watch them light up in response, you reinforce that positive behavior for both of you. So focus on an attractive trait of your husband and express that loving thought to him.

We get the idea sometimes we ladies are the only ones concerned about body image, but husbands usually respond very favorably to their wives expressing what they find attractive about their man.

Train yourself to focus on his handsome qualities. In return, you’ll find the compliments easier to give, and your mind and heart will respond to what your mouth has expressed.

Quick tip: Read Song of Songs for inspiration on describing your man’s handsome appearance.

4. Eat Healthy.

What does eating have to do with romantic chemistry?

Being attracted to someone involves the release of body chemicals that fuel that lovin’ feeling. Chemicals such as testosterone, oxytocin, endorphins, dopamine, and more can affect how attracted we feel in the moment to our mate. And eating well keeps some of those chemicals pumping like they should in marriage.

For testosterone (yes, ladies, we need some of that in our systems), make sure to get enough protein, vitamin C, and good fats, and to limit alcohol intake. Endorphins also respond to foods, particularly spicy foods. Oh, and chocolate. Yes, chocolate can be healthy for your sex life! (In moderation, of course.)

Quick tip: Keep a food journal for a week, then adjust your diet if you need to eat healthier.

5. Exercise Together.

Endorphins are one of those body chemicals I mentioned, and they cause that “runner’s high” long-distance runners report. Endorphins take longer to cultivate, but they’ve been compared to opiates in their ability to produce feelings of calm, stress-reduction, and general happiness.

When you pair your mate and your endorphins, the result is a “love opiate,” so to speak. And how do you increase your endorphin quotient?

Exercise. So exercise more, exercise together. Endorphins release with steady exercise, and sharing those moments with hubby means you get that opiate effect when he’s around. You’ll brain will naturally attach the two.

Quick tip: Suggest an exercise you can do together, maybe even a walk around the block to begin.

6. Pair Your Hubby with Pleasurable Stimuli.

Much as we love our dogs, we are far more complicated beings. Except when we’re not.

Scientist Ivan Pavlov conducted a famous experiment in which he studied the salivation of dogs at mealtime, but he noticed a side effect which became a far more interesting discovery. He rang a bell at dinnertime, then fed the dogs. After a while, the dogs began to salivate simply with the ringing of the bell. We’re like that too. Pair a stimulus with a pleasurable stimuli often enough, and the stimulus gets us licking our lips.

Now if you want to lick your lips over your hubby, pair that guy with pleasurable stimuli! Another body chemical, dopamine, is involved in the reward system of the brain—a chemical that provides good sensations when a particular activity is experienced. Matching the activity and the feel-good results, we learn to repeat that behavior again and again to get the same “high.”

So watch a fun movie together, ask for a relaxing massage, or experience orgasm in his arms. Let dopamine fire away and get you “addicted” to love with your husband.

Quick tip: Give each other massages this week—back, foot, or wherever you each want.

7. Be Affectionate.

Affection is wonderful for its own sake, but it’s also important for the release of yet another body chemical, oxytocin. Oxytocin is often called the “bonding chemical” because it gets released during deep embraces, infant nursing, and sexual activity, and creates feelings of connection, attachment, and yep, love.

Studies have shown you can increase oxytocin through physical touch, like holding hands and sustained hugs of 20 seconds or longer. Now you have to hang on long enough for your body to register the affection and respond with an oxytocin release. But it’s a pretty powerful effect once you put it into practice.

And yes, sexual encounters with your husband definitely impact the “bonding chemical”—with sex capable of producing an oxytocin rush for wives at three to five times the norm!

Quick tip: Hug or cuddle with your husband for at least a half a minute twice a day…or much, much more!

8. Laugh with Your Husband.

Proverbs 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” And some of you wives are walking around with brittle bones when it comes to romantic chemistry for your husband. Cheer that heart up, baby! Laughter is wonderful for your relationship and your feelings of attraction—good medicine indeed.

Remember endorphins? The “love opiates”? Laughter triggers endorphins. When you and your husband share a good belly laugh, it’s good for your feelings of attraction to him.

So watch comedies together, share jokes and word play, flirt and giggle, even go to a Christian comedy show for date night. And as I’ve often said, learn to laugh with one another even in your marriage bed.

Quick tip: Rent a funny movie and watch it with the hubby (snuggled together is even better).

9. Have More Sex.

We wives tend to play what comes first? with this one. Most gals struggle with the idea of having sex with someone we’re not extremely physically attracted to, even our husbands. But it’s really a chicken-and-egg argument. There’s quite a bit of evidence that sexual activity in a covenant relationship increases feelings of intimacy and attraction.

Having regular sex releases endorphins, testosterone, and the bonding chemical, oxytocin. It provides an opportunity to touch extensively, notice your mate’s fascinating body, share laughter, and experience physical highs in one another’s arms.

And you know what? Many of the positive effects of sex noted by researchers only occur in long-term, committed relationships.

Quick tip: Make love one extra time this week. And the week after. And the week…

10. Pray for That Spark.

Not “feelin’ it” yet? Ask for God to reveal all these things to you—what’s so great and attractive about your husband, how to take care of your bodies better, what will make your spine tingle, how to see your husband the way only a sexy, loving wife can.

It may feel weird at first to ask God to get you all hot-and-bothered over your husband, but God wants your engine revving about your man. The very first verses of Song of Songs, the book in the Bible devoted to intimate romance and love, starts with the wife expressing how much her guy turns her on:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers. – Song of Songs 1:2-4

If you want that can’t-wait-to-get-my-hands-on-you desire for your husband, ask God for His divine help. Pray for your romantic chemistry.

Quick tip: Pray for God to help you become more physically attracted to your husband.

J from Hot, Holy and Humorous

Sex Savvy Wife
J. Parker is also the author of Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives. She writes the Hot, Holy & Humorous blog, where she uses a biblical perspective and blunt sense of humor to foster Christian sexuality in marriage.

 

Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in MarriageSheila says:

J writes so well and so REAL about sex. If you’ve always struggled to make sex intimate, and not just physical, why not embark on a journey with J and work through her book Intimacy Revealed? It’s one devotional a week–one thought to chew on and pray about all week–so that by the end of the year you’ll feel more confident, more excited, and more in awe of how God created sex to be.

From marriage-specific scriptures to biblical principles, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage guides Christian wives through weekly devotions that shed light on God’s gift of marital sex.

Top 10 Sex and Marriage Red Flags You Shouldn’t Ignore

Marriage Red Flags: Signs that something is wrong with your marriage--or your sex life

Marriage red flags–all of us have marriage issues, but how do you know if an issue crosses the line into dangerously weird territory?

Top 10 Marriage Red Flags
I receive many emails from women in crisis, and today, on Top 10 Tuesday, I thought I’d share 10 marriage and sex red flags that really shouldn’t be ignored.

Often we don’t realize when something is off, because we’re new at this whole marriage thing, and most of us don’t share personal and intimate details with our friends. So how can you know if something that worries you is actually a red flag for something quite serious?

What is a Sex or Marriage Red Flag?

It means that this is a situation which will not get better by you being nicer, by you being more understanding, by you trying to talk it through with him, or by you being more patient.

This is something which is a serious issue that will likely require a third party, like a trained counselor or a pastor, to help you.

If you ignore it, your marriage will only get worse, and your husband will only fall deeper and deeper into sin or more and more away from God and his family (depending on what the issue is).

In this post, I’m not talking about abuse–though this, too, will not get better on their own and will need a third party. Here’s a post specifically for information on emotionally destructive relationships. I want to talk more about sexual red flags in marriage.

These problems represent an issue that your husband has–not something that you have caused, and so you cannot make it better. You can, however, make it more likely that he will get the help he needs by taking it seriously. And that is the most loving thing you can do.

For information on how to involve a third party, read my post on being a spouse instead of an enabler, or check out the book Boundaries in Marriage.

My heart aches for women in these situations, because they often are so taken back with surprise that their husbands are acting this way, and they truly don’t know what to do. I’m sorry that some of these seem so extreme, but I’ve had multiple emails about each of these types of situations, and I know that there are women dealing with these things. So let’s get it all out in the open today!

Here are 10 Sex and Marriage Red Flags that shouldn’t be ignored:

1. If your husband says he enjoys sex, but he never wants to make love–Red Flag!

Men, in general, have a higher sex drive than women do. That doesn’t mean that if you have a higher sex drive than your husband that there is necessarily something wrong with him.

But if your husband never wants to make love, even though he says he enjoys it, then that is a red flag. Even if his sex drive is lower than yours, he should want to make love at least sometimes. Here’s a more in-depth series on what to do if your husband doesn’t want sex–and when this really is a red flag.

2. If your husband considers lack of sex to be a spiritual virtue–Red Flag!

One wife of a busy, hardworking pastor sent this in:

 About two months ago I was really feeling the abandonment and disconnect from my husband due to the demands of ministry. I was reading your blog and saw a comment where a woman stated that she never lets her and husband go more than two nights in a row without making love. I thought: how genius! Maybe this will help us stay connected even with his crazy schedule. This went on for a few weeks, then all of a sudden he started refusing. He would leave me laying in bed naked and alone. Again, confused and rejected, I voiced my concerns. He said, we’ve had sex more this month than we’ve had our whole marriage. He proceeded to tell me that our marriage is not based on sex but God. And he felt like I was trying to fill a void of rejection by having sex all the time instead of letting God heal me.

This marriage was already distant because this husband (and father!) was spending most of his time and energy away from the family. When the wife tried to bridge the gap with sex, he told her that she should rely on God instead (presumably like he does).

We do need to rely on God, but we also were created for intimacy with our spouses. When someone consistently rejects sex, while also rejecting an emotional relationship with their spouse, they are likely running from intimacy in general. In this man’s case, he may be lacking intimacy with God, too, thinking that activity for God is the equivalent of intimacy with God. It’s not.

He likely needs a counselor or mentor to sit down with him and talk through his priorities–and also a counselor who can walk him through why he’s running from intimacy and believes that self-sufficiency is the highest good. This attitude will make him an ineffective father and husband, but it will also ultimately make him an ineffective pastor.

3. If your husband has never been able to “complete the deed”, especially if he’s young–Red Flag!

I remember one woman who wrote me who married when she and her husband were quite naive and ignorant about how sex worked. She told me that she didn’t think she had ever had sex, and didn’t understand how it even happened.

After more questions, it turned out that her husband had never had an erection.

Young men should have no problem maintaining an erection. If he is unable to with you, then he has either major sexual issues or major psychological issues. Or, alternatively, he may have trained himself through masturbation to only respond to direct stimulation, as in this case:

My son-in-law has been unable to fully complete sexually. After a year and a half of marriage, during which they’ve never managed to “finish”, my daughter came to find out that he does masturbate quite a bit, and had looked at porn a lot. So my daughter has blocked the internet sites that she can and he is very limited to the time he is on the computer. He has been attending an accountability class at a Church that they are attending. He tried going without masturbating for 30 days and he thought things might have seemed better, but didn’t last long.  Oh, I know he was abused as a little boy by his older brother. Inappropriate touching and sodomy that she knows of. He doesn’t want to talk about that.

He asked and asked about seeing a urologist. Basically, my daughter came away thinking because there doesn’t seem to be a problem. He can ejaculate, therefore the urologists says everything is working fine. Could he have masturbated so long that he doesn’t get the same feeling inside her?

Masturbation could definitely be contributing to the problem–but so, likely, is the abuse that he won’t talk about it. Insisting that he go for counseling and get into a recovery group is so important. And you can retrain yourself to be aroused by a person, but it takes a while.

That brings us to this one:

4. If your husband chooses masturbation over intercourse–Red Flag!

I’ve had several women saying that they have been going for months without sex–but then one woman walked in on her husband masturbating in the shower. He says he does it every day, and suggests she does it, too, she they don’t have to be bothered with sex.

Solo masturbation is selfish and steals intimacy. If someone chooses masturbation over sex consistently, they likely have withdrawn in other ways and have stunted their emotional development, because they’re becoming self focused rather than relationship focused.

I speak more about masturbation in marriage here.

5. If your husband withdraws after making love–Red Flag!

Making love should bring you closer together. When you’re making love, you produce the “bonding” hormone oxytocin which helps you feel more affectionate. If, after making love, he becomes angry, distant, or disconnected, that’s likely a signal that he is fighting some sexual or psychological issues that need to be dealt with.

The next three sex red flags are quite common today, and often result from an addiction to pornography:

6. If your husband refuses to share passwords, let you see his phone, or let you on his computer–Red Flag!

A marriage should have complete trust and openness. If he is adamant that his phone and computer are private, that is practically a guarantee that he is doing something he should not do. If you ask him, he may end up attacking you: “don’t you trust me? Are you that insecure?”

I have never known a marriage where a husband or wife refuses access to their phones who isn’t also either texting inappropriately or watching porn. Never.

If he refuses to let you see things, that’s a definite sign there’s something wrong. One more tip: If you do find something on his phone or computer, take a screen shot or a picture with your phone, so that it can’t be denied later. Then insist on talking with a counselor about it.

7. If your husband is not interested in pleasing you, and seems almost disconnected during sex–Red Flag!

If your husband becomes almost a robot in bed, closing his eyes and refusing to talk to you, then he’s disconnecting, perhaps because he can’t become aroused without picturing something else–or someone else–in his head. If he were to talk to you, it would break the fantasy. If sex is impersonal, there’s something wrong.

Note: this may not be a huge sin issue. If a guy grew up masturbating to porn, but doesn’t watch porn anymore, he could simply be having a hard time getting aroused now because he’s trained his sexual response wrong (that’s one of the side effects of porn!). It doesn’t mean he’s watching porn now (though he could be). Talk to him about it and try to work through it together, though an accountability group or counselor may be necessary.

8. If your husband is not interested in intercourse, but only wants other sexual acts–Red Flag!

Porn depicts sexual acts that are more degrading, and thus often more “photograph worthy”, then simply making love. Add that to a porn habit which is self-focused with masturbation, and many men are not interested in actual sex because it requires mutuality. If your husband prefers other sexual acts (or consistently “degrading” things) to intercourse, he likely has a problem with porn.

Note: if your husband simply wants some variation in bed, there’s nothing wrong with that! But if a man only wants oral sex–red flag!

Finally, the last two red flags represent a man with a seriously disturbed sexuality, which really does need a counselor (and unfortunately I’ve had several of these types, too):

9. If your husband has to role play himself or get you to role play to become aroused–Red Flag!

The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual Thoughts If sex has to be rough, or if he has to pretend to be very young, or that you are very young–or any variation on this sort of thing–that’s a danger sign. Many couples like to role play; but if the role play is necessary to his arousal, then there is something at work that really does need to be dealt with, as Shannon Ethridge talks about in The Fantasy Fallacy.

10. If your husband wears strange clothing in private–Red Flag!

One reader wrote in with this story:

I have a friend who basically walks on eggshells whenever her husband is around, so as not to disrupt his delicate moods. Yet then he expects her to want to have sex more! She does not keep sex from him, she tries her best even though her emotional needs aren’t being met, yet SHE is the one who has to initiate if they do have sex. Any time she tries to talk to him about their marriage, he ends up crying, and so she never really says exactly what she feels because she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings. Lately he’s done some weird things, such as he got a thong and began wearing it to bed. No explanation, no asking her what she thought about it. She asked him why and he said “I thought you might like it.” She told him it was a big turn-off for her, yet a month later he ordered 3 more on-line.

I can imagine how bewildered this wife is. She’s trying to have a good marriage, to be good to him, to be sexually available–but he’s crying, moody, rejecting her, and now wearing lingerie!

If a man starts wearing odd clothing, especially in bed, this is a sign of a serious psychological issue that needs to be dealt with.

I’m sorry to be so graphic or to talk about such distasteful things today.

I know that this is not what the vast majority of you deal with. But what scares me when I see some of these emails is that the wives don’t seem to realize how serious many of these things are, because it’s their “normal”. So I want to say, loudly and clearly, these things are NOT normal. They ARE red flags. And you really, really do need to get help, for the sake of his own spiritual growth, and that of your relationship.

Good Girls Guide My SiteIf you want to see what normal sex is, and what God created sex to be, my book The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex explains it all, and it may help you put words to what you instinctively feel is wrong.

My sympathy for any of you who are walking through this.

Please know that God is big enough to get you through–and your husband is never so messed up that God cannot redeem him and redeem your marriage. He may not choose to do so–we all have free will to reject God’s help. But God can do amazing things when we let Him, and I pray that this will be evident in your marriages!

 

 

Reader Question: Sleeping in Separate Rooms When Married

Sleeping in Separate Rooms: why we need to be careful we don't drift!
What happens when couples start sleeping in separate rooms? Is it that big a deal?

It’s Monday, the day that I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it.

One reader recently wrote:

Personally at the moment I am not sleeping with my husband as I feel estranged from him due to porn abuse, his alarm waking me up in the morning because he ‘snoozes’ it for an hour and he snores which drives me crazy so I don’t sleep, get tired and irritable and this exacerbates an already fragile situation, so I’ve removed myself to the spare room and far from missing sleeping next to my husband I now don’t want to go back to sharing a bed (if things improve between us) as I love having my own space and a good night’s sleep. Is this wrong?

I used to love sleeping together as I found it a special thing that you only do when you’re married and share that really special space and time together so I feel very conflicted now.

I was shocked a while ago to learn that my in-laws have separate rooms and I was really sad for them but maybe this is normal?

And finally, I was talking to a married friend with 2 young children, her husband sleeps in their spare room as her children often end up sharing the bed with her so she can feed them so they don’t cry and wake her husband up in the night. I also felt really sad about this but I don’t really know why.

Can you offer some wisdom on whether sharing a bed is important or not?!

Okay, let’s try to flesh this out a little bit.

Why is the couple sleeping in separate rooms?

Sometimes you really don’t have a choice. If one spouse snores a ton and keeps the other awake (or causes them not to sleep well), then for health reasons they may need to sleep in separate beds. (Here’s a website with some info on snoring solutions, to see if that may solve the problem). When my husband was on call and would repeatedly be paged at night and have to make phone calls, we sometimes would sleep in separate rooms on those nights so that he didn’t disturb me.

Is it Okay to Sleep in Separate Bedrooms? How to Stay Intimate if You Can't Sleep TogetherI’ve written before on couples sleeping in separate beds when the issue is something like that–along with some thoughts on how to maintain intimacy even if you have to part at night. I think it’s an important one to read!

When you have to sleep in a separate room from your husband

But when it’s not an issue about quality of sleep that can’t be helped, and there’s something else at play, then we really need to look at the underlying reason.

Sleeping in Separate Rooms to run away from intimacy is dangerous

It’s really quite simple: If you’re sleeping in separate rooms because you feel distant,  you will only increase the distance.

This woman is having some marriage problems–her husband has been using porn–and so she feels distant. Add to that the difficulties with alarms and snoring, and she likes being in a separate room better.

Now, the snoring and alarms may legitimately drive you away, but be very careful that if you do sleep in a separate room you do it well–turning in together, snuggling together, reading a bit together before you separate into separate rooms (as I said in my post on separate bedrooms).

But let’s say that the issue isn’t snoring or alarms. It’s really only the porn use. Then is it okay to separate?

I’d say yes if he is unrepentant and unwilling to get help or accountability (but I’d also say that you should take further steps to mend the situation, by talking to a counselor, having an intervention, or drawing very clear boundaries. Just running away won’t help it). You can see more about that in this post on not being an enabler of sin in your marriage.

What if he’s trying to stop the porn, he does have accountability–and you’re still hurt. Then what?

I can understand wanting to sleep in a separate room the night you found out. But be careful of continuing that separation.

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big DifferenceThis month we’re talking about good marriage habits as part of our Ultimate Marriage Reading Challenge, and I’ve asked you all to read The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages. And one of the habits that Shaunti found in her research was this:

When [happy couples] are in a season of being at odds with each other–when they are experiencing friction or hurt feelings–they solve it by spending more time together instead of less… When we have hurt feelings, anger, or discord, the last thing we may want is to be with our spouses. But ultimately, it appears that that is what we need most.

Think about that for a moment. When you’re hurt, your instinct is to retreat–to head to that separate bedroom where you can be alone with your thoughts and pour out your brokenheartedness to God and nurse your hurts. But that’s exactly what your marriage doesn’t need. What helps is if you still act like a team–act like two people who believe, “we will get through this–together.”

Be careful of letting children kick one of you to a different bedroom

Sex After Kids: Don't put your marriage on the backburner once kids come, because now other people are counting on you to make it work!
I see this pattern so often in marriage. Both of you are sleep deprived, and you think, “at least he should be able to get some sleep. If he goes to a different room, at least he’ll sleep.”

You think you’re being nice.

And for the first few weeks of a baby’s life that may have its merits.

But to continue it long term is really dangerous. We’ve already talked last week about how hormones when you’re nursing often cause many of us to lose our libidos. Add sleep deprivation, and many of us enter survival mode, just trying to get through. And so we push our husbands away, devote ourselves entirely to the babies, because we figure, “he’ll still be here later. It’s the baby who really needs me.”

What the baby needs is for his or her parents to be rock solid.

Do not neglect your marriage. We think that it’s natural to stay together, so we shouldn’t have to work at it. But that’s wrong! It’s natural to drift apart; staying together takes work. If you don’t put in the work, you and your husband will drift.

You need time alone to be intimate–and that usually means the same bedroom

And I don’t mean just sex when I say intimate. I mean talking quietly while lying in bed. I mean cuddling while you fall asleep. I mean putting your hand on his arm and praying for him before you drift off. I mean having him kiss you goodbye if he leaves in the morning while you’re still asleep (or if you leave).

If you start sleeping in separate beds because of convenience, it’s easy to stay there. And we don’t always realize what we’re missing until months or years have gone by and we’re just not as close anymore.

So as I said, sometimes a separate bedroom is necessary because of physical difficulties sleeping together. But if you do go that route, do it deliberately well. Still cuddle together at night. Still spend time together before you separate. Don’t just drift. That’s dangerous; and our reader instinctively senses this. Stay together. Truly.

What do you think? Have you had to sleep in separate rooms? How did you stay close?

Top 10 Effects of a Sexual Drought

I recently read an amazing post on Julie Sibert’s blog Intimacy in Marriage about the effects of a sexual drought on your marriage, and I asked if I could reprint it here. So today, for Top 10 Tuesday, we have a sober warning from Julie:

Lack of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage and Its Effects
Well.

Some marriages go decades without sex, so the question of “can” doesn’t really get at the heart of the matter.

A better question is, “What happens when a marriage goes a long time without sex… for no justifiable reason?”

I always have to add that disclaimer in there, because there are some marriages plagued by chronic illnesses and injuries that make any kind of sexual intimacy impossible.

But most marriages?  Yeah, in most marriages, sex IS an option.

My guess is if you are reading this right now, sex IS an option in your marriage — yet it never or rarely occurs.

What does happen when a marriage goes a long time — maybe even years or decades — without sex?

Here are 10 things I think can happen (in no particular order).

Ongoing lack of sexual intimacy in a marriage…

1.  Stirs resentment.

Sex is never just about sex.  It’s about soul mingling, which is a vital aspect of marriage that is found in no other human relationship.  When I wrote the post “I like him better after we have sex,” I meant it.

Consistent and mutually-enjoyable sexual intimacy in a marriage equips us to extend grace, to be kinder toward one another, to do life together.

So it’s no wonder, that when you take sex out, resentment is eager to arrive on the scene.

2.  Fosters distance.

I think we intuitively recognize when there is distance between us and our spouse.  Distance is different than resentment, but still equally damaging.

Sex is a vivid reminder in a marriage that we are “in this together.”  It’s not surprising that when couples report going long stretches without making love, they feel “distant” from one another.

And that distance begins to chip away at all the things that give marriage richness and strength — vulnerability, friendship, shared joys, common ground.

3.  Reduces your marriage to roommate status.

Sure, the two of you pay the bills and run the house. You share the chores. You raise the kids.  You mow the lawn. You decorate the Christmas tree.  And you run the carpool.

BUT… without physical and emotional intimacy… all of that roommatish stuff barely qualifies as a high and holy definition of marriage.

I would be a wealthy woman if I had a dollar every time I heard someone express to me that their marriage exists, but it never thrives — in large part because of the lack of sex.

Roommate status in a marriage sucks.  It just does.

4.  Dishonors God.

God designed marriage and sex — and He designed them to go together.

He implores husbands and wives to make love often. He places a fundamental command on sex being exclusive to marriage.  He created women and men both to be able to experience orgasm.

Sex is God’s deal — His arena — in a very big way.

So, suffice to say, when we marry, we are saying “yes” to sex being part of that covenant.  We are saying “yes” to God.   Take sex out of the covenant? How can we think that doesn’t dishonor Him?

5.  Makes it easier to rationalize infidelity.

If we tried to count the number of Christian men and women who want to step out on their sexually unavailable spouse, we would be counting for awhile.

And that’s just counting the ones who want to, but don’t.

Let’s not even start counting the ones who actually do give into that temptation.

I’ve never been a fan of the phrase “affair proof” your marriage, because a spouse could go above and beyond their responsibility in the marriage, including being sexually available — and their spouse could still choose to cheat.

But I do think there are ways we can guard our marriages. Making love is one of those ways.  When sex is non-existent, the spouse who hungers for it may be more tempted to loosen the reins on their marriage vows.

To not see some cause and effect in that whole scenario is careless.

Yes, adultery is a sin and there is no way to rationalize it.

But listen to the raw feelings of refused spouses, and it’s not too hard to see how they convince themselves that sexual indiscretion doesn’t matter at this point.

6.  Sets a horrible example for kids.

Don’t kid yourself on this one (no pun intended).  Your kids are learning about marriage from watching you.   You may say, “Well, they don’t know anything about our sexual intimacy.”

You’re right that they aren’t privy to the details of what happens behind your closed bedroom door, but I guarantee you this.   If nothing is happening behind that bedroom door, the collateral damage from that spills out into the rest of your life — you know, the life where your kids are present and paying attention.

See points 1, 2 and 3 for further insight.

7.  Invites the enemy into your home and bedroom.

Satan is all about division, and he doesn’t really care how he goes about doing it.  He is crafty and clever and will work with what we hand him.

When you willingly decide to take sex out of the marriage, the enemy is delighted.  Why?   Because he knows that anything designed by God — in this case, sex — is powerful. And holy. And worthy.

When a married couple stops having sex, Satan has gained a huge foothold.  Division is so much easier when unity is no longer mutually valued.

8.  Increases reliance upon masturbation as the only form of sexual fulfillment.

I don’t think masturbation in marriage is always a bad thing, and I’ve blogged about that here and here.

BUT…  if it is happening often and only because someone’s spouse has arbitrarily removed sex from the marriage, then the negative impact starts to add up quickly.

When a husband and wife could be having sex, but aren’t — and one or both of them resort to masturbation — are we really that surprised?

If anything, it just confirms the power of sexual desire.

Even more heartbreaking is when the refusing spouse gives “permission” or “encouragement” to their spouse to “just take care of things themselves.”

How can we possibly think that’s God vision (or even your vision) for sex in a marriage?

9.  Makes pornography look more enticing.

No, I am not justifying any sin, including the sin of pornography.

But we are a naive people if we believe for one moment that pornography doesn’t look more alluring to some people who are consistently sexually rejected within their marriage.

I know that pornography addiction is complex.  I also know that I hear from many people who struggle greatly with pornography and are trying to stop looking at it.  To feel as if there is no other option but pornography only compounds the problem.

Many couples, usually through the assistance of counselors and ministries, have overcome the betrayal of pornography. Without a doubt, a husband and wife eventually resuming healthy and active sexual intimacy is a part of that healing.

Again.  A lot of this goes back to, “What are we doing to guard our marriage and our hearts?”

10. Damages your ability to serve in the body of Christ.

If you are gung ho about serving in countless ways at your church — yet you know you are blatantly refusing your spouse sexually — then your Christian witness is hampered.  I have no doubt about that.

There’s nothing wrong with using your talents and heart to serve the Lord outside your home, but if you are doing it at the expense of priorities in your home and inyour marriage, then I encourage you to step back.

Take a good hard look. Be humble. And admit that this may be a blind spot for you.

The Lord is willing to meet you in that place of struggle — and in all the others I’ve listed to this point.

How long can a marriage go without sex?

Well. Like I already said…  I don’t think that question really gets at the heart of the matter.

Do you?

For more reading on this, check out one of my favorite posts: Extraordinary Sex in Your Ordinary Life.

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

Julie SibertJulie 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 who kind of wants to chew up the kitchen floor.

 

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Top 10 Ways to Prepare for the Empty Nest

Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Empty Nest
Today Gay Christmus, from Calm, Healthy, Sexy, joins us to talk about preparing for the empty nest! Considering my youngest is leaving this summer, I’m eager to hear what she has to say.

Is your daily schedule packed with homework, soccer games, dance recitals, and Scout meetings, not to mention work, church, and community commitments?  Do you feel like a juggler most days, just trying to keep all of your balls in the air?  If so, planning for the “empty nest,” the time when your children will be out on their own, is probably the farthest thing from your mind.  And no wonder – it’s hard to think about the future when you’re just trying to get through each day.

I want to encourage you, though, that now is the time to think about and prepare for empty nest.  Because time flies, and that day “down the road” is going to arrive sooner than you think.  I know a bit about this, because my husband and I have been moving toward the empty nest for a couple of years.  Our older son has graduated from college and is living with a friend, and our younger son is living at home while attending college.  They’re both doing their own thing – even though one still sleeps (and sometimes eats!) at our house – and my husband and I are essentially doing our own thing too.

We’ve been anticipating this for a number of years.  I can’t say we’re fully prepared, but we’ve been aware of it and wanted to know that we could enjoy life together when soccer and basketball and school activities came to an end.  So I want to share with you 10 things we’ve attempted to do (some well, some not so well) to get ready for this new phase of our lives.  If your children are in elementary school or older, I encourage you begin incorporating these things into your marriage and family life too.  On the day when your youngest child heads off to college or moves into an apartment, you’ll be glad you did!

1.  Pray together.

Establish your faith as the foundation of your marriage and family by praying together regularly.  This doesn’t have to be complicated or burdensome; just spend a few minutes together each day thanking God for your blessings and asking for His help with your concerns and problems.

2.  Orient your family around your marriage.

Your children are important, and their needs and activities require time and attention.  But those needs and activities shouldn’t become the “sun” around which your family revolves.  Placing your marriage at the center of your family’s life helps keep things in perspective when your children are young and eases the transition into the time when it’s just the two of you.  It also reminds your children from an early age that the universe doesn’t revolve around them!

3.  Talk about the future.

The elementary school years are not too early to begin talking about life and marriage after the child-intensive years.  Because by the time your children get to high school, they’ll begin focusing more on their friends and outside interests and less on the family.  So enjoy the elementary and middle school years and all the activities they entail, but spend time talking with your husband about the future too.  It’s never too soon to dream about the life you’ll enjoy together when it’s just the two of you.

4.  Take care of your health.

When you reach the empty nest years, you want to be able to enjoy them.  Which means that you want to be strong, healthy and fit, and don’t want to be slowed down by health problems.  Most of the health problems that begin to affect people in their 40s and 50s – diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems – are preventable.  And it’s never too early to begin working to prevent them.  So start now by eating well, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and generally taking care of yourself.  And encourage your husband to do the same.  Those simple activities can help ensure that your empty nest years are healthy and active.

5.  Begin developing interests you can enjoy together.

You don’t want to deliver your youngest child to college, only to discover that you and your husband no longer have any interests in common.  So even though it’s difficult to find time for adult activities during the child-raising years, make the time to develop at least one activity that isn’t focused on your children.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; Sheila has mentioned that she and her husband enjoy bird watching, and my husband and I have taken up bike riding.

6.  Develop friendships and a social life beyond your children’s sports and activities.

When our younger son finished his final season of high school basketball, I (somewhat) jokingly asked my husband, “What are we going to do for a social life in the winter?” Because for many years, our social life from November through February revolved around basketball.  It’s natural for that to happen, because basketball (or soccer or dance or Scouts) takes up a lot of time.  But if you aren’t intentional about developing friendships or a social life beyond those activities, you may experience quite a “social shock” when they end.  So spend some time and energy developing friendships in your church, neighborhood, or other social circles too.

7.  Prioritize sex and intimacy in your marriage.

During the child-intensive years, it’s tempting to let sex and intimacy fall by the wayside.  It’s so easy to think, “I’m tired, I’m busy, the kids are sucking up all of my energy, I just don’t feel in the mood.”  Some or all of those things are probably true, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you or your marriage.  Sex holds the two of you together in the hard times and creates joy in the good times.  So don’t let it slide.  Instead, nurture it and pursue it.  Deep intimacy and an enjoyable sex life will pay you back in spades, both now and in the empty nest years.

8.  Find ways to serve together.

It’s easy to be so focused on our family’s schedule, activities, and commitments that we forget about real needs that exist right in our own communities and around the world.  But it’s important to recognize those needs, both to keep our own problems in perspective and to find ways to serve others.  After all, crazy soccer and ballet schedules don’t seem so overwhelming when we remember that people are hungry or lonely or homeless.  So look for ways to serve others, as a couple or a family.  It will help keep things in perspective now and create an interest you and your husband can continue to develop as your children get older.

9.  Manage your finances.

The earlier in your marriage you begin to control your finances, the better.  Debt, lack of savings, and living beyond your means take a toll at every stage of life, but the older you get the harder it is to recover from financial mismanagement.  Plus, when you finally have extended time to have fun with your husband, you want to have a little bit of money on hand to do it!  So start now to eliminate debt, control spending, and/or bring in some additional income.  My husband and I didn’t start working on this early enough in our marriage, so we’re having to work harder on it now.

10.  Develop the fun side of your marriage.

Sometimes marriage becomes just a little bit tedious, doesn’t it?  It’s all work and no play, and suddenly no one is having very much fun!  So don’t let your long list of “have to” items suck all the fun out of your marriage.  Set a goal of doing something fun together at least once a week.  More often is better, but once a week is a good place to start.  It doesn’t have to be a “date,” just something both of you consider fun and relaxing – a walk after dinner, a bike ride, an outing to get a cup of coffee, or time to watch a funny movie.  You don’t want to arrive at the empty nest years and find that you don’t know how to have fun together anymore.

Whatever the age of your children or stage of your marriage, it’s never too early to begin thinking about the empty nest years.  And it’s never too late either.  If your children are in high school and you haven’t given it much thought, start now!  Talk with your husband, begin making plans, develop a couple of shared interests, and work on enjoying life together!

 

Gaye Groover ChristmusGaye Groover Christmus is a wife and mom to two almost-grown sons.  In her “day job” she works as a writer and editor in a health field.  Her passion, though, is encouraging married women to slow down, live with vitality and energy, and create joy and intimacy in their marriages.  She believes that small steps can lead to big changes, and that women armed with knowledge and a plan can transform their hurried, hectic lives.  Gaye blogs at CalmHealthySexy.  She’d love to send you her ebook, 17 Ways to Live Calmer, Healthier and Sexier – Starting Today – as a gift when you subscribe to the blog.

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Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

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Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

Rebuilding Trust After a Porn Addiction

I get a lot of reader’s questions like this one:

I found out about my husband of 5 years had been addicted to porn and caught him by innocently searching through his photos on his phone while nursing my son in bed one morning.  I regularly asked to use his phone, so my looking through it was nothing unusual at all. The difference this time is he forgot to hide his stuff apparently this time. We have had MANY hard conversations since then. He’s been getting help, hasn’t looked at it since July (when I caught him) and has been genuinely turning his life around and back to the Lord.  Here’s my issue.  I still don’t trust him yet. I’ve forgiven him but trusting him again is something that takes a lot of work and time. We aren’t at that point yet. Is it possible to respect him without trust?  I do try but he doesn’t feel it anymore. I know it’s incredibly important to show respect and even biblical. I guess maybe I don’t know what respect truly is? I’m being the best I know how to be while feeling so broken but it doesn’t seem enough. Please help, I’m so confused.

And here is one woman’s answer to rebuilding trust after a porn addiction…welcome Jen Ferguson from Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood

I was in my bed sobbing uncontrollably.  The revelation hit me in the gut and never have I felt so alone as I did in that moment. The reality of my life hit me: I cannot trust anyone not to let me down.

Thankfully, with the new morning came new light into my darkness: No one is infallible. Everyone makes mistakes, including me. People will fail me, but this does not make all relationships destined for failure.

That wisdom right there seemed to right my sinking ship. Suddenly, I had gone from shipwrecked to being fortified with a grace I hadn’t known I was withholding from people in my life, primarily from my husband. For years we had battled together against his porn addictionNever did I consider divorce, but looking back at it, never did I consider living into the fullness of marriage again, either. For years I could not bear to think about trusting Craig again.

Could I ever stop my suspicions he would one day return to porn?  Would I ever be able to talk to him about his addiction without accusation and fear?  The truth was, I could give him my body in the bedroom, but could I ever truly again give him my heart?

Realizing my own fallibilities was the first step in helping me to rebuild trust in my husband. How many times had I hurt him over and over in the same manner?  I was not a white lamb in this relationship. My blemishes, though different than his, were still sins for which I needed forgiveness and grace. It was me that was placing his sin on a grander scale than my own. This was certainly not how God saw it.  Sin is sin.

Rebuilding trust was a dual effort for us. Yes, he had betrayed me by using pornography and needed to show me that he was actively pursing a life without it. But, truthfully, I had lost some of his trust, too. When I first discovered his porn addiction, I went into “control” mode. I watched over his every move. I accused him before listening to him. I became a parent instead of a spouse. I let my anger rule my words.  We both had to come to a place of acknowledging our own needs for forgiveness and recognize our marriage wouldn’t thrive without a foundation of trust.

Four Steps to Go from Ruin to Reunion

1. He communicates with me and I listen.

One of Craig’s major triggers that would propel him into his porn addiction cycle was stress.  When things felt too hard or too much, when he felt as though he was at risk for failing or rejection, he would shut me out and get lost in the world of porn for release and escape.  Before he really became invested in freedom, I would ask him questions, knowing something was wrong, and he would simply give me a pat answer like “things are busy at work.”  Now, he knows I know when something is bothering him and he is willing to sit down with me and be real and honest with what is happening and how he is responding to those situations.

2.  I respond with wisdom and he listens. 

One day, Craig’s friend invited him over to watch the TV show, Game of Thrones. I happened to see part of one episode the previous season and I knew there was nudity in it.  When I saw the invitation on Craig’s computer, my first reaction (that thankfully, I kept in my head) was “No! You can’t do that! It’s not good for you!”  If I had said that, I would have regressed back into my fear-based, parenting-like behavior, where he felt disrespected.  Instead, I simply told him how I thought the show might trigger him back into porn and asked him to pray about whether or not he should view the show. He ended up not going, not because I demanded him to stay home, but because God led him to the conclusion that watching nudity on TV would not be conducive to his walk toward freedom. He felt respected by the fact that I asked him to fully consider the ramifications and seek God instead of shouting at him about what he should or shouldn’t do.

3.  He accepts accountability.

I know the password to all of Craig’s electronic devices and have permission at any time to view anything on them. There is a password on our cable account that restricts adult entertainment access and MA-rated television shows and movies that only I have (which he asked me to put on). He has a regular group of friends he can count on to pray for him and from whom he seeks counsel. All of these things give me tangible ways to see that he is trying to keep himself safe from things that could easily ensnare him.

4. We forgive each other continually.

We must make it a practice to forgive and extend grace. We will both mess up in a variety of ways, but instead of using these mistakes as ammunition against each other to try to prove that we are not trustworthy, we choose to use them so to practice the character of Jesus, who always extends forgiveness.

Rebuilding trust does not happen overnight and it can feel like an impossible goal, but with God, anything is possible. Trust is a crucial piece to your marriage and it will not thrive without it. God knows this and He will actively help you rebuild it. You’re not in it alone.

 

Jen FergusonJen Ferguson is passionate about Jesus, her husband, and her two girls. She is the facilitator of The Soli Deo Gloria Sisterhood and loves to encourage women to bring their true selves out into the light.  She is the co-author of Pure Eyes, Clean Heart: A Couple’s Journey to Freedom from Pornography.  

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! Have some marriage advice? Leave a comment, or link up a URL of your own Wifey Wednesday marriage post in the linky below!

This Wifey Wednesday we talk about how to rebuild when he’s the one who has sinned sexually. Next Wednesday we’ll look at how to rebuild trust when it’s been you–especially if you’ve been withholding sex, and now you want to change but your husband doesn’t trust you yet.



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Learn to talk more, flirt more, and even explore more! You'll work on how to connect emotionally, spiritually, AND physically.

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Reader Question: Shouldn’t Sex Involve Intercourse?

Reader Question of the Week
Should sex involve intercourse?

Every Monday I like to post a question from a reader and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is a thorny issue: what if your husband wants things OTHER than intercourse all the time?

My husband often prefers us to finish individually, without intercourse. He thoroughly enjoys giving and receiving. I told him about that denying the spiritual connection and he said that it is completely the same for him however it happens. He feels totally connected to me whether we have sex or not. It doesn’t feel as intimate to me and I would prefer it not be 50/50. Should I be feeling this connection without sex as well?

My second question I’m embarrassed to ask. Often my husband wants me to do things I don’t care for. It’s not painful, or degrading, I just don’t like it and it feels awkward. It is definitely something that only makes him feel good. This is how he wants to finish more than half the time. I feel like I am being selfish in not wanting to give my husband what makes him feel good and enjoy my body, however, I don’t enjoy it at all. He’s so happy and appreciative afterward that I don’t want to deprive him of something he wants or make him feel guilty for wanting something he can’t ask for. I’m afraid of continuing it and losing all the progress I have made because I’ll start to resent “sexy time” knowing there’s a good chance he will ask and it will become a chore I try to distract myself from. I don’t want to be selfish, my husband has been so supportive and loving through all the rejection and crying over the last 2 years, I’m just not sure if I can ever enjoy it. Should I keep trying to make my husband happy?

Wow! Tough issues.

Let’s try to deal with some of them individually.

Sex Needs Intercourse: If your husband avoids making love, there may be a problem.

Intercourse is Uniquely Intimate

When you have intercourse (forgive me for using the technical term in this post instead of ‘making love’, but I want to be really technical here so everyone knows what I’m talking about), you’re both receiving stimulation and pleasure from the same act. You are both experiencing something at the same time. That’s part of what makes it so intimate. When you are just stimulating each other in other ways (orally or manually, for instance), you may do so simultaneously, but you aren’t actually experiencing it together. You’re both experiencing two different actions.

There’s also something else about intercourse: the man actually ENTERS the woman. That makes it highly intimate, too. You’re actually joined. There’s a vulnerability there that isn’t present in the same way with other acts (other acts may be physically vulnerable, but it really isn’t the same thing). With intercourse we’re almost laid bare physically and emotionally.

If someone is running away from intercourse then they’re also running away from intimacy, and likely don’t even understand what I’m talking about.

Is there a Place for Other Sexual Acts?

Absolutely! They can be great for foreplay (and are often necessary to get a woman aroused enough to feel pleasure from intercourse). Also, as I’ve talked about before, there are ways to be really intimate there if health problems make intercourse impossible or difficult.

However, barring these health issues, if someone prefers other sexual acts to intercourse, then it’s almost like they’re saying (and forgive me for being graphic), “let me use your body to masturbate with.” They want a type of sexual release where they’re focusing ONLY on what they’re feeling, not on how the other person feels, and it’s a very self-centered act when it’s used on its own.

Oral sex or mutual masturbation can ENHANCE intercourse; they should never REPLACE it.

Why Would Someone Not Want Intercourse?

Essentially her husband is saying, “I prefer my sexual experiences to be focused on myself rather than on us together.” He may not consciously think that or say that, but that is what his actions are showing. So why would someone get to this point?

Someone who has been really involved with masturbation growing up rewires sexual arousal and response so that it’s a solo-based thing, not focused on relationship. And let’s face it–the feeling is often much more intense through oral or manual stimulation. Intercourse is great, but it often takes longer and you have to concentrate on another person. When you’re used to sex being about nothing more than thinking about yourself, then that can seem like a huge hassle. Who would want to do that?

This also represents a stunted sexual maturation, where someone is literally “stuck” or fixated on early teen sexual development. It’s like they never matured. There could be psychological reasons for this if it’s really an ingrained thing from some sort of brokenness or abuse in their past, but more likely it’s due to a masturbation habit that formed right when the sexual feelings did, and they never grew beyond that.

Could There Be Other Things Going On?

Absolutely, and here are just a few to look out for:

He could have sexual dysfunction

Perhaps in the past he’s tried intercourse and it hasn’t worked very well, or he’s become really nervous that it won’t work. So he’d rather try something that doesn’t require work or potential performance issues.

I’ve written a series on sexual dysfunction here.

He could have a porn addiction

One of the main effects of porn is that it makes intercourse far less intimate and far less desirable. Because most arousal is now dependent on these images in your head, people prefer sex that doesn’t require thought and allows them to have these images pass through their head. Intercourse can be a distraction.

He could have abuse issues in his past

Has he been abused in some way that has made him fear sex or fear his sexuality or sexual orientation? That’s another thing that needs to be considered.

So What Do I Do if My Husband Avoids Intercourse?

Unfortunately there isn’t a magic wand you can wave. The only thing you can do is talk openly. Talk about some of the points I’ve already raised–that intercourse is intimate because it’s both of you experiencing something together. It requires concentrating on each other, not just being self-focused. It feels wonderful. And it should not be avoided.

And then I’d say something like this: I’m not saying that we won’t do other things. What I am saying is that I no longer want to finish that way. I would like us to experience something together.

31 Days to Great SexIf you need a roadmap to follow, 31 Days to Great Sex is a wonderful one. It helps you work through building intimacy towards intercourse slowly, and helps you learn to enjoy each other’s bodies in the context of a really intimate relationship. And it’s a lot of fun! If you want a way to address this but you’re not sure how to have a “big” conversation about it, this book may help you have that conversation in dribs and drabs over the course of the month so that you start to understand better how each other thinks about sex and what sex was supposed to be. I really recommend giving it a try!

Work on Intimacy

It does sound your husband is stunted at an immature stage of sexual development. So what do you do to help him play “catch up” or to understand what sex should be? Work on intimacy in other ways. Take baths naked together. Pray with your husband. Work on your friendship and spend time together. Do a lot of massage where you touch each other and talk to each other.

And understand that it may take time for him to start appreciating intercourse when he’s used to other things. It won’t be instantaneous, and you need to leave him time for growth. But if you work on feeling intimate in other ways, often the libido for intimacy during sex does return.

What About the Sexual Acts He Wants Me to Do that I Don’t Like?

You can always compromise–say that one night a month is “his” night where you get to do whatever he wants, and then one night a month is your night where you do whatever you want.

But these are “special” nights, and they don’t replace your normal sex life together. If he says, “fine, I don’t want anything except my night” then you do have a problem.

Where To Go If He Still Refuses Intercourse

If he won’t agree to have intercourse, won’t talk about it, and thinks that you’re wrong, then it may be time to bring in a counselor and ask him to go see one with you. He does have issues that are harming his ability to be intimate with you, and if he can’t be intimate with his wife, it’s also very likely that he can’t really be intimate with God. When we hide from intimacy sexually we’re also usually hiding spiritually, too. This isn’t good for him, and to enable him to go on like this does him no favours. Sometimes you have to draw a huge line in the sand and say, “I love you too much to let you keep going down this road.”

I hope that helps. I get this question quite often, so many women are dealing with it, and you’re not alone. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever dealt with this, or if you’ve found other things that help your husband understand real intimacy.