On Sexual Double Lives, Josh Duggar, and Peace

Josh Duggar and Finding Peace

News broke Wednesday that Josh Duggar had been using the Ashley Madison adultery site to cheat on his wife. Yesterday Josh confessed, taking full responsibility and apologizing.

I found myself so happy reading it. Sad at what that family is going through, yes. But happy because he is taking ownership, and that means that now, in the midst of this mess, even though it doesn’t look like it–that family is closer to peace and redemption and healing than they have been in years.

The mess is so much better than the picture of perfection, because the mess is honest.

On Fridays I usually do a weekly roundup, and I have a lot to talk about this week–my new book was released; I’ve got some hilarious videos of my daughters post-wisdom teeth surgery; and more. But this is important, and needs to be addressed.

How Does a Sexual Double Life Start?

Josh Duggar has been leading a sexual double life. He admitted to being addicted to porn; he admitted to infidelity; and we know that he admitted to molesting his sisters.

I wrote a while back that I believed that the Duggar parents had not handled that molestation well. I had a lot of pushback–“But they’re such a good family, and everyone was healed!”

In many families, though, especially those brought up with extremely conservative sexuality, true healing is swept under the rug in favour of looking like we have it all together. And that’s what I was afraid was going on.

Picture a 14-year-old in a hyper-conservative family. He’s experiencing sexual feelings. He doesn’t know what to do with them. He can’t talk to his parents. And he starts acting out.

He’s punished–but no one deals with the sexual feelings that started this. He’s told those feelings are “only for marriage”. And so he sees sexual feelings as sinful, because people haven’t helped him sort out the good from the bad.

But those sexual feelings are affected in another way: young people are told “sex when you’re married is beautiful,” but they’re also told that kissing is bad and hand holding is bad. And so touch, affection, exploration of any kind is seen as the enemy. This does not magically change once one is married. Passion–that feeling of being “out of control”–has been the enemy for so long that sex in marriage is seen as something which must be clinical to be sacred.

I am not saying that everyone who grows up like this experiences this–not at all!

But many do. Sexual passion is scary, and when we try to bury it, we can easily warp godly sexuality. Godly sexuality is not “controlled”.

But these young people get married, thinking that marriage will control the “lust”–those strong sexual feelings. But it doesn’t, because in their minds, sex in marriage must be entirely about love and never about want.

Where does the want go? It gets buried.

  • In some marriages, a spouse becomes a control freak about everything, not just sex, because these feelings are so powerful they must be kept under wraps. That means working hard to silence your inner adventure-seeker, and it ends up silencing your true self.
  • In other marriages, a spouse splits into two: one half is pure and chaste and unadventurous in the bedroom; the other half is looking at the most outrageous pornography or searching out something daring online.

Denying sexual feelings is very common. I get letters from young people who grew up in families like that, and now they’re married and they are LOST.

There is far too much emphasis in some schools of Christian thought on trying to control someone’s sexuality, as if it is a threat.

To give an example, there is absolutely nothing wrong with an adult deciding, “I am going to save my first kiss until marriage, and I am not going to have any physical contact until I am engaged.” God will ask different things of different people. To walk in obedience to what God is telling you is wonderful.

There is, however, a LOT wrong with a parent telling an adult child “this is what you are going to do.” That is a parent controlling an adult child’s sexuality, and it is wrong. It treats sexuality as an enemy, and it treats the adult child as a child.

We aren’t to control our sexuality; we’re to channel it. To channel it is to acknowledge it, to feel it, to name it, but then, at the same time, to say, “this isn’t for me to explore right now. So God, help me take all of this energy and put it somewhere else, to good use.

Being a PeaceKEEPER Rather Than a PeaceMAKER

And now I want to get to the heart of my message.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThought #6 in my new book that launched this week, 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, is asking us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers.

What’s the difference? A peacekeeper’s job is to keep the warring factions on their own side of the line. It’s to keep hostilities under wraps–simmering, but not erupting. A peacekeeper doesn’t deal with the root issues; a peacekeeper only deals with the expression of those issues, the fighting. A peacekeeper doesn’t solve anything.

A peacemaker, on the other hand, tries to bring the two sides together so that instead of being on opposing sides of the line, they can join each other on the same side. Instead of shaking fists they embrace. They become as one.

And Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Being a Peacemaker, not a Peacekeeper

I believe the Christian church spends far too much time keeping peace, and not enough time making it.

Peacemaking Parents & Children’s Sexuality

Josh Duggar, and so many of my readers’ husbands, led a double life. He had two halves of himself that were at war with each other. I believe that Josh was likely heartbroken, mortified, and horribly ashamed not just when the news broke but for years. He likely hated himself and what he was doing. But he couldn’t stop.

We don’t want that for our kids.

As parents, we can be peacemakers hopefully by preventing the sexual splitting. We can call out what is holy and help our children name, admit, and deal with what is not. When a child cannot talk about struggles, a parent is being a peacekeeper.  A peacekeeping parent says:

  • Good girls don’t touch themselves there.
  • God doesn’t want you thinking about sex. That’s only for marriage.
  • If you love God, He’ll take away your temptations and struggles. Just lean on Him more.
  • We don’t do that sort of thing in our family.

A peacemaker has open conversations.

Peacemaking and Sexuality in Marriage

But now let’s turn to what so many of you are facing: what do you do when  you’re married to a Josh (and even overnight, I had three more comments on older posts from people in just that situation. “I just found porn on my husband’s computer…”)

Dear, dear heartbroken woman: how I wish I could give you a hug.

But please listen to me. Please hear me today.

If your husband has admitted to cheating, to using porn, to texting with someone: you are closer to healing right now than you were two weeks ago when you thought everything was fine.

You are closer to God right now, in this mess, than you were when everything looked perfect.

God is in the mess, because Jesus is in the peacemaking business.

So many of the comments I get are like this: “I discovered this by accident. Do I confront my husband or do I let it go?”

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.

Does that sound like a God who prefers things to look perfect, while sin festers underneath? Or does that sound like a God who is fully prepared to deal with the mess, because mess is better than dishonesty?

When your life blows up, don’t fall back on these typical “peacekeeping” reactions:

We just need to get past this and forgive.

You cannot forgive until you shine a light on the hurts and understand the gravity of what you have suffered. A rush to tell someone to forgive, or to take them through a forgiveness process, doesn’t do the hard but necessary work of the Spirit. And indeed, this was my main criticism of the original Duggar scandal; they made the girls forgive and they forgave Josh too early. The focus was on the forgiveness, and not on naming the hurt.

Let’s keep this just between us. Other people don’t need to know.

True repentance is humble. It does not worry about reputation; it worries about whether or not one is right with Jesus. True repentance asks for accountability. One does not have to confess to EVERYONE, but one does have to confess to a few people–and also give the wounded spouse someone to talk to.

Let’s just get back to normal.

You can’t go backwards. But even more importantly: you don’t want to go backwards. As comfortable as it felt, it was built on sand. Your “normal” won’t be your normal again. But that doesn’t mean that your normal won’t be something better. Let Jesus in to the healing process. You may find life messier. It will be more honest, which may initially cause more conflict. But in the end you will find that you are finally at peace, because you don’t have to hide those scary thoughts or suspicions.

And so, dear readers, I am glad Josh is in his mess.

I am sorry that Anna is. But they are now finally on the road to real peace. And for all of you who are walking in similar stories–peace is there, in the person of Jesus who so wants to redeem the two halves of your husband, and the two halves of your marriage, and make them one again. He can do it, if you both allow true honesty and true humility. That’s how we make peace. And you are never, ever alone as you seek it.

Wifey Wednesday: When “Just Do It!” Is Bad Advice

Just Have Sex won't cure all marriage problems--and isn't always good advice

Y’all know that I believe having lots of sex in marriage is a great thing.

(It just felt right to begin that sentence with y’all, even to this Canadian. :) )

But that doesn’t mean that having sex is always the right thing to do. And it certainly doesn’t mean that having sex will fix all marriage problems.

I’m so excited that in just six days my new book, 9 Thoughts That Will Change Your Marriage, will start to appear on shelves! Yay! And for the last week or so we’ve been talking about what some of those thoughts are.

We talked about:

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentThought #5: I’m not in competition with my husband! Submission isn’t about who gets to make all the decisions; it’s about servanthood. And sometimes the best way to serve your husband is to say, “no”!

Thought #3: My Husband Can’t Make Happy. Ultimately our happiness is our hands.

And today I want to talk about Thought #8: Making Love is not the same thing as Having Sex.

Here’s part of what I wrote in the book, talking about the advice that the church seems to be giving to “just have sex!”:

Book series have been written about the battles that men face with sexual temptation, and wives are told that they can help men defeat these temptations by having sex more often. Some pastors challenge couples to have sex every day (in some cases for a week, and in some cases, for a month) to reap the benefits in their marriage. (my 31 Days to Great Sex book isn’t sex-every-day-for-a-month; it’s let’s start talking, let’s start exploring, let’s start being more affectionate and being more open–and THEN let’s rock each other’s world!)

I have sympathy with this “just do it” approach. On a spiritual level, every time you make love, you reaffirm your relationship and you feel more committed. And from a practical standpoint, libido in women is largely a use-it-or-lose-it phenomenon. When we make love more frequently, our bodies tend to respond more easily, and we’ll find that our libidos increase. When women make love less frequently, our bodies often shut down and our desire for sex diminishes.

Also, remember my story of “sex flowers”? My husband felt close to me after sex, and so he brought me flowers. That’s how God designed us. When we experience sexual release, we release the bonding hormone oxytocin, which helps us feel closer to each other. When we’re having sex with relative frequency, we tend to feel more positively toward each other, and we tend to find it easier to let go of small issues in the marriage.

These are all good things, yet simply having more sex will not make everything automatically better. Our religious “just do it” pat answer seems too much like a mirror image of our culture’s attitude toward sex: both ignore the fact that sex is more than genitalia. It isn’t a cure-all for every-thing, and too often it’s portrayed as such. That cheapens sex too.

Making love—experiencing genuine intimacy through sex—is truly beautiful. But too many couples haven’t experienced that because they’ve bought into this “sex is only about genitalia,” sometimes without even realizing it.

This “just do it” approach too often reinforces the idea that sex is mostly for men, anyway–and “obligation sex” is never sexy for women. Talking about the benefits of sex is a far healthier approach!

But the real issue, I think, is that we’ve forgotten that God created sex to unite us in three ways: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. If we stress only the physical side of sex, we can actually harm the other two aspects of intimacy. And sometimes we can do great damage to the hearts of those involved.

I’m not saying that quickies are bad or that sex can never just be to “have fun”! Not at all. But when other factors are involved that are affecting our intimacy, using sex cheaply can drive us apart.

Here are three examples of when “just do it!” is the wrong approach:

1. Just Having Sex won’t cure sin–and can even reinforce it

If a husband (or a wife) is using pornography; if a husband is sexting other women (believe me, I get lots of emails about it); if a spouse wants to pursue something really deviant (like involving a third party or something), then having sex isn’t going to cure any of those things.

I’ve had so many commenters (mostly men) on this blog saying that if their wives would just have sex with them they wouldn’t use porn. And yes, having frequent sex can diminish the temptation for these things to a certain extent. But it won’t cure all temptation, and if the addiction gets to a certain point it won’t help the temptation at all. It will just reinforce it.

Here’s what I mean: porn trains the brain so that what is arousing is an image, rather than a person.

If a single guy has been using porn for years and then marries, the problem is that he’s trained his body to respond to porn, not to his wife. And it really doesn’t matter what his wife does, the pull to porn will still be there because the problem is not his wife. The problem is in his brain. It is possible to retrain your brain, but he has to get real about the problem, pray, and find someone to hold him accountable. (and he should be willing to use Covenant Eyes or something to give him accountability online. If he’s not, he doesn’t really want to get better).

Now, in some marriages, the porn problem only STARTS after sexual refusal, and in those cases, then, yes, having more sex may reduce the temptation. But if the porn use predates the marriage (which, for most new couples today, it usually does), then the situation is completely different.

Here’s another problem: If a guy (or a woman) uses porn to get aroused, and then wants sex, he’s using his spouse as an object. There’s nothing about real intimacy there. (The same would go for shows like Game of Thrones, by the way). And if he wants to act out something he’s seen, then again, sex is not about intimacy. If a woman gives in and allows her husband to treat her this way, she will be part of the train-your-brain-to-respond-to-porn chemical reaction that’s going on, because she’s reinforcing the fantasy and the use of porn to get aroused before sexual release.

If there’s major sin in the marriage, then the sin needs to be dealt with BEFORE you bring sex back. This doesn’t mean you never have sex until he’s cured of the porn; I can’t give blanket statements like that because I do think every relationship is different. But he must be trying to give up the porn; have an accountability partner; and working towards real intimacy. Yes, he will slip up occasionally, and be his ally when he does. But if he won’t get rid of the porn, having sex won’t help.

And the more women are told they should “Just have sex”, the more they will feel used, like objects. And that reinforces a very negative view of sex for her, and wrecks the ability for sex to be something that brings her closer to her husband, too.

Treat her well--don't just use her body. Make her feel great, too!

2. Just Having Sex Can’t Rebuild Trust

Let’s leave the porn for a minute; here’s another scenario: one of  you has had an affair, and you’re trying to rebuild your marriage.

In this case, “just have sex” can hurt your recovery.

Why?

Because having sex does reinforce an intimacy, and it does make you feel closer. That, in turn, can mask a problem.

This works to our advantage in healthy marriages; the more we have sex, the less little things that he does bother her, and vice versa.

But it can be harmful when trust is being rebuilt, because it can allow us to ignore big issues or to paper over things that really do need to be addressed. If something needs to be healed in your marriage, heal it, don’t rush the process by jumping into bed.

Again, this doesn’t apply to every problem. After all, make up sex is a real thing, and often making love helps us resolve conflict! But if it’s something huge, it shouldn’t be rushed, and that’s where counsellors should likely be involved.

3. When Sex Itself Hurts, Just Having Sex Can Damage Your Heart

I’ve written before about how when we first married I suffered from vaginismus, a condition where sex is extremely painful because you’re just too tight. (I share the whole story in The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex).

I was so devastated and upset, because I knew how important sex was to my husband, and I didn’t want to feel like a failure. So instead of saying, “let’s just take things really slowly and figure out what’s going on”, I just bowled through despite the pain.

That was the wrong thing to do. It reinforced in my brain that sex was awful. It made me feel used (even though I was the one that told my husband we should). It made me start to get mad at God (why would He make something that hurt me so much be so necessary for Keith to feel loved?)

And I healed from the ordeal physically much quicker than I did emotionally.

Since then God’s given me the opportunity to speak into so many women’s lives who have been going through this, and they all share the same emotional scars: “why is something that hurts me so much so necessary in our marriage?”

In retrospect, both Keith and I know that if we had taken time to explore sexually without intercourse, and then worked on my issues, it would have been a healthier course of action.

But what if that’s not your problem? What if you suffer from chronic pain, or have other reasons that sex hurts?

We have to find ways to be sexual that are mutual–even when intercourse is painful. If we reinforce intercourse above all else, then we can kill the sexual confidence and libido of the person with pain, and we can really harm that spouse’s heart. I’ve got other posts on what to do when intercourse isn’t possible.

I’m not trying to tell people that they can get out of having sex.

Indeed, I have a series on what “do not deprive“, in 1 Corinthians 7, means.

But I do believe that we should be encouraging couples to make love, not just have sex. We need to be encouraging an intimacy that builds up, not one that tears down. We need to be encouraging two people feeling like one, not one person feeling used. We need to be teaching mutuality, not selfishness.

If you’re in a marriage where you wonder if you fit one of these categories, I really encourage you to seek out a third party and get some help. Don’t walk through this alone, and don’t arbitrarily say, “we don’t have to have sex because I read it on a blog!” I’m saying–get some help. Seek some wise counsel. Pray.

And let’s see the beauty in making love again, rather than the starkness that just having sex can bring to a marriage. By stressing the physical over all else, we deny the beauty of what God created.

Great sex is wonderful. Most of this blog is dedicated to helping you all have great sex! But you can’t have great sex without intimacy, and sometimes you’ve got to deal with that first.

Maybe you aren’t dealing with any of these big problems, but you still don’t necessarily feel that intimacy when you have sex. You can’t quite figure out what “making love” means. Then 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage can help you see how the way you see sex can be holding you back–and open the door to a wonderful and abundant new marriage!

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentNine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage will start shipping August 18–but you can pre-order it now! And everyone who preorders, or who orders it on August 18, will be able to get a whole bunch of free downloadable goodies during all my parties I’m planning for August 18! Just keep watching this blog, or stay in touch through my newsletter so you don’t miss your chance to get your goodies, and come to a bunch of fun parties on the day!

And if you’re in North America, Amazon has the pre-order price at 52% off! It’s only $7.42. So get it today!

Button Order the Book

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow, what advice do you have for us today? Link up a marriage post in today’s Wifey Wednesday link up party! But be sure to link back here so other people can see these great marriage posts.



Wifey Wednesday: The Lovemaking Full Meal Deal

Please welcome guest posters, Dr. Dan and Linda Wilson, the authors of Lovemaking: 10 Secrets to Extravant Intimacy in Marriage–a book I was happy to read before it was published and endorse. Today they are sharing a new way of looking at making intimacy special with your spouse!

Lovemaking - The Full Meal Deal

Did you know that your sense of taste changes over the years? Sexual desires and appetites have seasons as well. How hungry are you?

Appetizers

“At our door is every delicacy, both new and old, that I have stored up for you, my lover.” ~ Song of Solomon 7:13

Early in marriage many couples are ravenous for sex. It’s like a three course meal that begins with a large plate of savory, mouth-watering appetizers. You are famished and ready to devour everything you can get your hands on. In the initial phase of active sexuality, large volumes of energetic lovemaking just might be more appealing than a tiny taste of extreme ecstasy.

We like to refer to this honeymoon phase of sex as the appeteasers. When really hungry, eating an occasional small morsel can be almost maddening. We are hungry! Bring out a huge platter of appeteasers, and let’s snack on them all day and into the night.

The first honeymoon months of sexual encounter are passionate, producing memories that the newlyweds will remember for a lifetime. But let’s be honest. High-level, almost starving desire combined with immaturity and inexperience often produces some awkward, even hilarious intimate experiences. Being desperately hungry can sometimes result in disappointing outcomes.

For instance, it might not take long to discover that one (often, but not always the man) will have a heftier appetite, a higher sex drive than the other. Inequality of libido is nearly universal—so common that it is considered to be normal. What initially seems to be a frustrating challenge is actually a wonderful opportunity. Learning to adjust to each other’s needs for higher or lower frequency is one way of expressing agape, selfless love. Paul’s instruction to “Submit one to another” (Ephesians 5:21) is wise council for lovers of any age. Remember, submission is a two-way street.

Dramatic shifts in libido can occur during this appetizer phase of marriage. For instance, the two of you might be getting really good at sex when the color bar on the pregnancy test strip changes. Oh my! Does a positive pregnancy test require a nine-month fast from sex? No! It might be time to expand your palate, but the appetizers are still quite yummy.

Entrees

“Let my lover come into his garden and taste its choice fruits.” ~ Song of Solomon 4:16

After delighting in many scrumptious appetizers during the early years, our middle years of marriage are a great time to focus on enjoying the entrees. We get to experiment with some new spices. Who wants meatloaf every Monday when the gourmet menu is available?

The children are older. Our work schedules become more predictable. In these sexually savory middle years we find more time and energy for romance. Are you taste-testing some delectable dishes that arouse your senses in wonderful ways? In fact, do not be surprised when asked if you are on your honeymoon after being married for twenty-two years.

By adapting to changing appetites through the years, you demonstrate love, faithfulness, and sensitivity to one another. Trust and security invite both of you to eat, enjoy, and be satisfyingly filled. This season of life can offer many evenings of fine dining. But why limit this pleasure to evenings? Afternoon snacks are delightful. Breakfast in bed is a refreshing way to start the day. Variety really does add spice to life.

The middle years are a great time to experiment with new cuisines as you share a delicious date night dinner. Take time to enhance your dining experience by lighting a romance candle and dressing the table with beautiful flowers. Try a new perfume. Wear a pretty negligee while listening to love songs on the play list.
There is now time to savor each bite as you encounter new exotic cuisines.

Sex might take a little longer than in the newlywed years, but it is oh so delicious. And, your palate has become more refined. You have figured out which herb goes best with which food, and have discovered that more is not necessarily better. It is still great fun to experiment with different flavors. But we know what we like and thoroughly enjoy every exquisite bite.

Desserts

“His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this is my friend.” ~ Song of Solomon 5:16

And who does not want dessert? As you honeymoon into the later decades of marriage, you get to enjoy the sweetest of treats. This mature phase of life is an opportunity for you and your mate to share the intense richness of love that is ripened on the vine of life together.

As you advance in age, health issues may appear that block sweet methods of lovemaking from the past. Joints are stiffer, backs seem weaker, and energy is often lower than before. Yet the need to be emotionally and physically touched in intimate ways remains. The desire to be loved and to love is a constant that never fades.

At the wedding feast in Cana, the party had been going on for days when Jesus changed water into wine. The master of the wedding banquet said that the choicest wine had been reserved until the final course of the feast (John 2). Isn’t that like God to save the best until last?

The Spirit refines skills in lovemaking throughout the years. Happily married people in their later decades are often the most satisfied lovers. Laughingly we say that there will need to be a lock on our door if we move into a nursing home for the elderly. Delectable dessert will still be on the menu.

One bite of divine dark chocolate is more satisfying than a bag of inferior candies. As you adapt to physical changes and health challenges, your sexual sense of taste might change once again, becoming even more refined.

Full Meal Deal

Appetizers, entrees, and desserts are yummy treats that fill your life with delight.  Throughout your married life you will want it all—the full meal deal. Each course demonstrates your love sexually to your mate. Both giving and receiving pleasure is delectable. Every anniversary is to be celebrated—possibly over a nice, long dinner as you fondly remember favorite meals from the past, and dream of delicious dishes you want to try. Wouldn’t this be a great day to devour some French silk pie?

 

Dan Linda WilsonLovemaking: 10 Secrets to Extravagant Intimacy in MarriageDr. Dan and Linda Wilson are marriage missionaries. They delight in traveling around the world blessing marriages and sharing about Jesus. Dan and Linda are cofounders of Supernatural Marriage & Missions, and have written several books including Lovemaking: 10 Secrets to Extravagant Intimacy in Marriage. You can follow them at www.supernaturalmarriage.org and www.facebook.com/supernaturalmarriage.

 

 

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow, what advice do you have for us today? Leave the URL of your marriage post (please, only marriage, no cooking) in the linky below. And then be sure to link back here so other people can read these great posts!



The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

5 Quick Marriage Reader Questions

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

So here we go:

1. What is your opinion on bikinis?

A reader writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. What Do You Do When Sex is Painful?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, what about your relationships with your husbands?

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

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

3. My Husband Acts Like He’s Single

Here’s a sad one:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. My Husband Doesn’t Turn Me On Anymore

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

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

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

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

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

5. Just Plain Major Mess

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

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

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

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

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

What can I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tons of Links to Articles Addressing Common Marriage Questions

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

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

 

Wifey Wednesday: My Virgin Wedding Night

This week we’re doing a mini-series on preparing for the wedding night–and the honeymoon! Our culture talks like being a virgin on your wedding night can be so awkward–and even so shaming. Today Mercy McCulloch Hasselbad joins us to tell her story about her wedding night (as a virgin)–and how they got comfortable with one another.

My readers run the gamut from very conservative households to very laid back ones. And sometimes most of the information seems to apply more to the laid back ones. So today I thought I’d share this great personal story from another point of view–showing that no matter what type of household you grow up in, sex can be a beautiful experience of discovery for you.

Here’s Mercy:

My Virgin Wedding NightMy husband and I never even kissed before our wedding day. We had been very careful, and we were really shy about sex and our bodies. So, when we got married, getting comfortable with each other was HUGE. We didn’t even sleep the first few weeks, because it was so strange having somebody else in our bed. But, even with all the awkwardness, it’s a time I look back to very lovingly. It was such an amazing time. If I could travel back and help my about-to-be-married or just-married self, here’s what I would say.

Relax on Your Wedding Night!

As you go into your wedding, communication is so important. Because of all the craziness around our wedding (we were moving to Asia 3 days after our wedding), we agreed that sex might not happen for awhile, and that was okay. We would figure it out eventually. Make sure you know what your spouse is expecting or dreaming about! You won’t always be on the same page, and it’s a lot of stress if you’re expecting to have to perform for the first time after wedding craziness, and your husband is, too, but neither of you really wants to try.

Our wedding night, we didn’t sleep at all. But not because we were all over each other. It was just so weird having someone, especially someone I loved so much, in the bed with me. We were trying to sleep, because we were flying out to a short honeymoon in Disneyland the morning after. But we were both so wound up we didn’t sleep, even though we were so tired.

Encouragement–It’s Okay to Go Slow!

Eventually, we both resigned to the fact we weren’t going to sleep, drank some water, and I offered to let him see me in my underwear for the first time. He told me how amazingly beautiful he thought I was. That expression was vital. It gave me the confidence to show him more of me.

Be encouraging and affirming towards your new spouse. Usually, this comes naturally, because it’s so exciting and new to be married. But it’s so important that I couldn’t leave it out. Being vulnerable with another person is scary! But if the other person applauds and adores your every step, it becomes really easy to give them everything.

Pay Attention!

Along with communication, it’s so important to pay attention and be encouraging to your new spouse. My husband had always dreamed of helping his new wife out of her wedding dress. But it was something he had never communicated, and I was so nervous and self-conscious that I made him turn away while I changed into my PJs. Later, he told me this dream, and I felt really bad. Awkward things will happen and you will hurt each other, but when you’re married, those just become something to smile about. But pay attention and communicate!! That’s the only way you help each other have the wedding and honeymoon of their dreams.

Reveling in All of the “Firsts” on your Honeymoon

We went to Disneyland for our honeymoon. It was so sweet and fun. But neither of us were sleeping very well. It’s just weird sleeping in the same bed with someone if you’ve never done it before. But don’t stress about it! It will become so natural that you can’t sleep without your spouse!

The first time we were naked with each other, it was with all the lights off. I asked if he wanted to jump in the shower with me. We didn’t touch each other. Just the thought of each other there, even without seeing it, was very intense and exciting and enough.

Slowly, we got more comfortable with each other. I wouldn’t trade that time for the world. We went through hundreds of “first times” together, and it was just us to share them. We were completely vulnerable and special to each other. It was a slow revealing of things and thoughts and desires that we’d never touched before. It was intense and exciting and like Christmas every day.

Dispelling Hollywood’s Version of Sex

As with a lot of things Hollywood portrays, their perfect, rehearsed, smooth version of sex isn’t realistic, especially the first few dozen times. You can hurt each other, you won’t always complete it, and it will feel really weird the first few times. This is the perfect time to work on communication and forgiveness, though. Talk to each other. Figure out what’s going on, tell each other what feels good and if something hurts.

I was really awkward the first few times, because it did hurt at first. I would describe how it felt and hurt and that didn’t help my husband, ha ha. We waited a week or two before even trying it, though. We didn’t do it right away.

But it gets better, especially when you learn from each other and figure out what turns each other on. And eventually, you have better-than-Hollywood sex, and it’s super awesome almost every time. But, especially at first, take it easy. Don’t expect amazing things or for your new spouse to read your mind. Pay attention to each other. Learn from each other. Don’t be selfish, but also don’t be afraid to let your spouse know what’s turning you on.

I read a blog awhile ago where a woman bemoaned the fact that she had waited until her wedding night to have sex. She said she felt so guilty and it was so awkward. And, in one way, she was right. It is awkward, at first.

But I wouldn’t trade those awkward firsts for being the best sex goddess in the world. Those awkward firsts are something that only me and my husband share. Those accomplishments and learning together were like the infancy of our physical relationship. We are almost 2 years married now, and we laugh tenderly when we talk about our first time trying to have sex and the awkward things we said and tried to do.

So, if you’re getting married soon or just got married and are wondering what is going on, just relax. Communicate. Pay attention. Forgive. Marriage is a learning process, and sex is a part of that. It’s okay to be awkward. It’s okay to fall on your face. It’s your husband, somebody you’ll be with forever. One day, you’ll look back on the awkward times and smile, and a part of you will wish you could re-live it.

ONGL1568Mercy McCulloch Hasselblad is an author and artist originally from Idaho. She has a deep love for the beauty of God’s nature and light, for sharing the peace of God, and for her husband. She and Matt currently live as missionaries overseas. She just finished a children’s book, The Artist and the Clay, about how God created each of us for a purpose. She blogs over at mercymhass.wordpress.com.

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsNow, what advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of your marriage post in the linky below! And be sure to link back here so other people can read these great marriage posts.

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

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

Find out more here.




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 SexHere 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!

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

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

Find out more here.


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 HoneymoonEvery 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.

31 Days to Great Sex
31 Days to Great Sex is here (only $4.99!) It's the best $5 you'll ever spend on your marriage!

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

Find out more here.




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 HumorousSex Savvy WifeJ. 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 FlagsI 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!