5 Ways to Defeat Insecurity in the Bedroom

How to Feel More Confident in the BedroomYou want a great sex life–but what do you if you’re still really shy being naked, or trying anything rather adventurous?

Many of us get into a “safe” rut in bed. We make love in one position which lets us feel intimate, but doesn’t allow for much exploring. Our hands don’t wander. The lights aren’t on. We just do the deed and we’re done!

But what if you want more? What if you want to experience real freedom with your husband, and feel even more intimate? Well, you’ve got to get over some of the roadblocks that can make you insecure! So let’s look at five common reasons that many of us would rather keep his face up near our face, and stop his hands from going too far:

1. What About Fat Rolls?

You secretly hate your body, and you’re pretty sure he must feel the same way. When you bend over you seem to have three stomachs. You have cellulite everywhere–even places that aren’t supposed to have cellulite. How could he possibly want to explore THAT when you’d rather not even look in the mirror?

Over and over again men tell me in surveys that the sexiest thing about a woman is not her body; it’s her confidence! A woman who jumps in is incredibly exciting. On the other hand, if you dive under the covers and try to keep things short and simple, he’s going to think you’re not really into it, even if you are. And that’s not sexy.

You need to realize the power that you do have–because when we see how powerful we really are in bed, our confidence can return! If you understand how wild you can really drive your husband, then maybe your fat rolls won’t seem so significant.

Solution: Play the timer game. Set it for 10 minutes and just explore his body without letting him move. See the effect you can have on him! If you’re really ambitious, reverse roles and see how excited he can get just exploring you.

2. What About the Smell?

Here’s another reason we often don’t like to encourage our guys to “explore” much–we’re actually self-conscious about what we smell like “down there.” I mean, let’s face it–we can’t honestly tell by ourselves. And what if you’ve just had your period, and you’re still spotting a little? Or what if you really DO smell?

It is a little bit different–a guy’s genitals are right there, on the outside. They’re easily cleaned. But us? Nope. It’s all kind of wet and potentially messy.

So here’s the thing–if this is a problem for you and is wrecking your confidence because you’re just not sure, and you’re worried that he’s just humoring you but doesn’t really like exploring “down there”–then do something! I was asked by BlogHer to take a look at Stay Fresh Gel from Monistat® Complete Care™. Monistat® now offers products beyond yeast infection treatment with the Complete Care™ line. Here’s what it DOESN’T do: it doesn’t mask odor by using a fragrance. In fact, it’s fragrance-free and paraben-free! It doesn’t try to mask anything at all–it helps eliminate odor by restoring feminine freshness and balance. See, the vagina is actually a self-cleaning thing (or at least the inside is; the outside still needs lots of attention!). But sometimes we throw off that balance with things we eat, exercise, sex, or even soaps we use. This helps to restore the proper pH and get you back to normal. And for the one in three women who really do have feminine odor, this helps keep you fresh for up to 3 days with one application.

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3. What About all that Hair?

Here’s another thing that makes us insecure: pubic hair. Why would he want to explore if there’s so much in the way? And the one place we want him to find the most is often hidden underneath quite a bit.

Certainly you can do a full wax, but I’m not a fan for three reasons: First, when hair starts to grow back it can be really itchy. Second, when you wax the hair often has a harder time growing back through the skin and you can end up with ingrown hairs. Not fun. And third, the whole Brazilian wax thing has become popular largely because porn has made it “normal”. That scares me–it’s like it’s trying to get women to look like pre-pubescent girls.

Solution: I like Shannon Ethridge’s tip in The Passion Principles: Simply stand above the toilet with some scissors and clip the hair short. No itch, no fuss, and no mess.

4. What If I Don’t Know What To Do?

You like the thought of exploring more and not just sticking to one routine when you make love, but what if you’re honestly at a loss about what to do? How do you initiate something new? And what in the world do you really want to do?

Sometimes the easiest way to explore more is to think of it as play–not something that needs to be sustained through the whole time (you can honestly get back to your tried and true position), but maybe you start a different way each time.

Solution: Have each of you write down 5 ways that you’d like to make love or 5 things you’d like to do before the “main event.” Put them in a bag. Then each time you make love, pull out a suggestion and start that way! You can always finish another way, after all. But this way there’s no pressure on you to suggest something. You’re just doing what the paper says.

5. What If He Doesn’t Make Me Feel Good?

You’d love to explore, but every time he touches you your head immediately goes to creating a shopping list, because quite frankly it doesn’t feel that good.

We aren’t born knowing how to please the opposite sex. And everybody likes different things! So you have to teach him. I don’t mean correct him or criticize him; but you do have to show him what you like.

Solution: Play the Teacher! One night for 15 minutes you just get to teach and correct him all you like. Even boss him around! Then the next night reverse roles. You may just learn a lot about each other!

Ladies, so many of us lack confidence.

We’re worried about what he’ll think about our bodies. We’re worried we’re secretly gross. We’re worried we’re not that exciting. Stop worrying and just do something about it! Confidence is sexy, and so if you need something to boost your confidence, try one (or all!) of these suggestions.

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Sex or Marriage Red Flag?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That brings us to this one:

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

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

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

I speak more about masturbation in marriage here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One reader wrote in with this story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

How to Track Your Hormones–and Your Libido!

Tracking Your Hormones and Your Libido--apps and printables

We’ve been talking this week about hormones and libido–how hormones can wreak havoc with our sexual arousal, and what we can do to be more aware, and to compensate when our hormones aren’t cooperating (like when we’re breastfeeding, pregnant, etc.).

Today I want to cap off our series by talking about tracking your hormones–and thus tracking your libido. And here’s why it matters. See if you can relate to this:

Sarah knows it’s been about a week since she and her husband Brian last made love. “He’s due,” she smiles ruefully to herself. But she doesn’t feel much like it today. In fact, she doesn’t feel much like anything today. Everybody’s been bugging her–she lost her temper when the kids didn’t come to dinner because they were playing a video game; the kitchen was a mess and she couldn’t stand that it was always her job; and she cannot find her favorite necklace.

She tries to put all that behind her as she slowly gets into her flannel pyjamas. Sure, Brian might want her to wear something else, but it’s still cold! And these are comfy.

As they climb into bed he turns towards her and starts playing with her hair. She sighs and decides to start kissing him. He begins touching her, and she feels nothing. Absolutely nothing. She tries to concentrate on what he’s doing but it doesn’t even feel good. Last week she was over the moon, but tonight he’s doing everything wrong.

When they start making love she doesn’t even feel aroused. She thinks to herself, “I hope he gets it over with quickly.” But he’s taking longer because he knows she isn’t in to it. And by the time he finishes they’re both just awkward with each other. “I don’t want you to do that if you’re not into it,” Brian says. “It’s humiliating.”

That makes Sarah fume. Look at all she does for him! He wanted it and she went through all that when she just wanted to go to sleep–and now he’s mad at her? What about him? He can’t even figure out how to make her feel good!

And they both go to sleep in a huff–with Sarah deciding that sex won’t happen for a long time now.

Okay, here’s the situation: a week ago she and Brian had a great time! And now they’re both tense and mad at each other–and Sarah’s been tense all day.

Maybe it’s just hormones! Maybe, like this chart I first showed you on Tuesday, Sarah’s simply in the red zone:

Hormones and Libido: Top 10 Ways Women's Hormones Affect Libido and Arousal throughout the Menstrual Cycle

What would happen if both Sarah and Brian realized that before they started to make love?

What if Sarah could have said, “You know what, hon, it may not happen for me tonight. But I’d love to feel relaxed, and I’d love to help you feel relaxed. Could we start with a massage, and then I’ll show you a really good time?” And he could give her a massage, and then she could take the lead (maybe by getting on top) and make sex go quickly because it’s not about getting her aroused?

Of course, there’s no problem trying to get aroused when you’re in the red zone! Absolutely not. But if you find yourself living out Sarah’s scenario frequently, then maybe your sexual enjoyment really is affected by hormones. And if you could track that, and realize it, you’d likely be far less likely to get upset at each other when things just didn’t work one night.

So here’s my Tracking Your Hormones plan:

Print out this free hormone and Libido tracker from To Love, Honor and Vacuum
Download my Hormone and Arousal Printable

I’ve got a fun printable where you can track your cycle along with your mood and your sexual responsiveness.

Here’s how to use it:

Keep track of all of this for at least a month, but even better, for three months to get a real sense of your patterns.

I’ve got it charted for 35 days, but Day 1 is ALWAYS the first day of your period. So if your cycle is 27 days long, you’ll never get to day 35.

Every morning record your mood and your sexual responsiveness for the day before. Make sure you check off if you had any “sex dreams”, because those tend to coincide with the times that your body is in “peak” mode.

After doing this for a time, hopefully you’ll see a pattern. You may know that you’re raring to go on Days 10-14, but Days 15-20 are awful for you.

That’s great to know for planning vacations, getaways, even date nights! And it’s nice to know just for everyday life, too.

Download your libido tracker here.

A Comparison of PinkPad and iPeriod Apps

Many apps also chart your period and other cycle symptoms, and I thought I’d review two today!

Now, in a way I’m comparing apples to oranges because I’ve got the free version of PinkPad and the paid ($1.99) version of iPeriod. But I wanted to take a look at how much better a paid version was, and I wanted to look at two different companies. So I hope you’ll forgive me!

I was looking for an app that would let me:

  • Chart when my period was coming
  • Chart my mood so that it was easily visible on the calendar
  • Chart my libido so that it was easily visible
  • Keep track of when we had sex
  • Keep track of when I had an orgasm
  • Keep track of other symptoms of your cycle
  • Keep track of my weight
  • Keep track of my fertility (not really relevant for me since we’ve had a vasectomy, but I know relevant to many of my readers!)

Here’s what I found. I’ll talk about each app on its own first and then give you a chart so you can see at a glance.

By the way, the info for the week I entered was fictitious. I was just trying to enter as much as I could to see what it looked like on the calendar. So this is all HYPOTHETICAL. (I love you guys, but I only want you to know so much about me. Not TMI).

Tracking your Hormones and Tracking Your Libido with PinkPad

It’s easy with PinkPad to chart your periods. On the main screen you just enter if your flow has started, how heavy it is, or whether you’re just spotting.

PinkPad Period Tracker

And then on the calendar you can see at a glance when your period was and how heavy it was when:

PinkPadPeriod

The app also shows you using dots when your next period is expected–and it sends notifications to warn you when your period is due and when you are ovulating.

PinkPad Calendar

You can also enter your basal body temperature if you want to track fertility, but that’s all you can do.

What about your mood? You can check off how you’re feeling that day:

PinkPadMood

You can’t chart your libido at all, though. The only thing you can do is choose “flirty” under mood and let that mean “I was in the mood” on that day.

You can keep track of when you have sex–you just tick off the “intimate” box on the home page, and it shows up as a heart on the month at a glance calendar. The problem is that if you other things noted for that day, the notification goes on TOP of the heart, so you can’t actually see at a glance when you’ve had sex. For instance, I entered sex for the 31st, the 3rd, and the 7th, but you only see it easily on the 7th, because the 31st and the 3rd have other information as well:

PinkPad Calendar

You can’t keep track of when you reach orgasm at all.

You can also keep track of other symptoms, like headaches and backaches, but the screen is kind of dark (I’ve got headache checked off here but it’s hard to tell):

PinkPadSymptoms

These symptoms don’t show up on the calendar, but you do get a little symbol telling you there’s more info on that particular day.

You can enter your weight as well, but you can’t create a graph from it.

Tracking Your Libido and Tracking Your Hormones with iPeriod

Just like PinkPad, it’s really easy to enter your period:

iPeriodPeriod

On the calendar at a glance, it shows you when your period is expected, too, and it sends you notifications at your choice about ovulation/when you’re due.

iPeriod tracks your fertility really well. You can enter Basal Body Temperature every morning (it jumps by about half a degree when you ovulate), and you can track other signs of ovulation, like cervical mucus.

iPeriodFertility

And you can keep track of all kinds of sex stuff! Like with PinkPad, you can enter when you had sex (just check off Love Connection).

iPeriodLove

And then you can see at a glance how many times you’ve had sex this month (the heart is always there!)

iPeriodCalendar

(So you see here that the 31st, 3rd, and 7th all have hearts).

You can also enter orgasm as a custom field (you get up to four). I chose the green upper left corner one. So if you look at the calendar above, you can see that this theoretical person had an orgasm on the 31st and 7th but not the 3rd.

You can enter your moods (the first one you enter is the emoticon for the day, but you can choose more than one).

iPeriodMoods

You can also enter your weight everyday, and see a graph of your weight:

iPeriodGraph

You can keep track of the days on which you exercise.

You can enter any symptoms–and this is cool, because it lets you rate your libido (unlike PinkPad):

iPeriodSymptoms

I wish you could do a graph of your libido or see it at a glance on the calendar, but you can’t. To cheat you can choose the frisky emoticon when you’re feeling “in the mood” and at least you’ll see the days when you’re really high.

When you click on a particular day on the calendar, you see all the graphics for that day, but also the extra notes.

iPeriodCalendar

Here’s a Graph Comparing iPeriod and PinkPad:

Comparison of iPeriod and PinkPad to chart love life

My conclusion: iPeriod is the better app for tracking your love life and hormones

I’ve been using PinkPad for a long time, and really liked it. But after trying iPeriod, I totally think the $1.99 is worth it, especially because what I really want to track is libido. I love the fact that iPeriod has four user defined settings that show up on the calendar at a glance, and I can think of all kinds of things you could use that for other than just tracking orgasm.

You could even track whether you cheated at an eating plan, or whether you went out to eat at a restaurant, to see how that affected your mood or weight on subsequent days.

So I’d say get iPeriod. It looks like a lot of fun, and it’s what I’ll be using from now on!

Do you use a different period cycle tracker app? How does it relate? Can it track libido? Let us know in the comments!

Other posts in this series:

Top 10 Ways Hormones Affect Libido

Libido and Hormones when you’re breastfeeding/nursing etc.

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: on Pregnancy, Breastfeeding, Menopause, and Hormones!

Keeping Sex Alive when breastfeeding, pregnancy, or menopause plays havoc with your hormones

It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! And today I want to continue our discussion about hormones, looking at women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or going through menopause.

Top 10 Ways Hormones Affect Libido
We started talking yesterday about hormones and libido–and specifically how libido is affected throughout the menstrual cycle.

But what if you’re not having a menstrual cycle–because you’re in menopause, you’re pregnant, or you’re breastfeeding?

So today, let’s look at how to boost libido and make sex seem like an attractive option, even when your body seems to have turned itself off.

How Arousal Works Physiologically

Arousal = Hormones + Blood Flow

Obviously there’s a lot more to it than that (there’s also emotional and spiritual intimacy, mood, etc.), but the physiological keys are hormones and blood flow.

Estrogen helps regulate the female cycle, and causes the uterine wall to thicken (which also causes more arousal). Our ovaries also produce testosterone (which builds arousal), and testosterone helps us produce more estrogen. And then there’s progesterone, whose role isn’t entirely clear in arousal (they’re still debating it).

But in general, when hormone levels are high and when we get increased blood flow to the genitals, we tend to have an easier time getting aroused.

So what does that mean for pregnancy?

For some women, the first trimester actually gets them aroused because there’s so much blood flow going to the breasts and genitals. For most of us, though, the extreme fatigue and nausea cancels all of that out! In the second semester many women start to feel their libidos come back–and they often come back with a vengeance! And then in the third tremester things get difficult again just because you’re so big and you’re not getting much sleep.

What about breastfeeding?

breastfeeding, at least in the initial stages if you are breastfeeding without supplements, chances are you won’t ovulate for several months (and sometimes up to 9 months). During those months you won’t get the boost that comes from testosterone–and you get a boost in the prolactin hormone which tends to decrease sex drive. Plus you’re exhausted from lack of sleep.

And menopause?

During menopause you stop producing very much estrogen and testosterone, which decreases libido. Plus your uterine wall becomes much thinner (less blood flow) which also decreases arousal. And lubrication becomes more difficult.

Our Most Important Sex Drive is Our Brain

All that being said–our most important sex drive is indeed our brain. Studies have shown that some women can even “think” themselves to orgasm–without any physical stimualtion at all. So it certainly is possible to “think” oneself to arousal–it can just be very, very difficult when you feel like everything has gone numb from the waist down.

And I don’t think it’s something you just do, out of the blue. You can’t go from 0 to 60 in 5 minutes. But if you make it a habit to try to get in touch with your body more regularly, then it’s can be easier.

Sex and Hormones: When Pregnancy, Nursing, or Menopause Kill Your Libido (thoughts on what to do to stay intimate!)
I’ve got more articles on how to engage the brain and feel sexy even when your hormones are out of whack.

Daily Habits to Help Make Arousal More Likely

Stretch

Feel your body! Seriously. Start a stretching routine that you do in the morning and in the evening. Do it with your children (if you have young ones!). Do yoga with babies. The more you actually FEEL your body, even in a non-sexual way, the more it will be easier to get your body engaged.

Massage

Make massage a huge part of your life. Explain to your husband that you want to start feeling more aroused, but you need that time to just relax and concentrate on your body. Take 15 minutes a night, at least, to talk and to have him rub your body. Need to learn how? Check out the Couples Massage video program here.

Baths with Bath Oil

Take a hot bath every night with bath oil that smells luxurious. Have your husband put the kids in bed or read them a story. Make sure you use a romantic smelling bath oil to activate the senses!

Nap

If you can, grab nap during the day, especially if you have young children. Every few weeks, if need be, hire a baby-sitter so you can have a 3-hour long nap one afternoon.

Snuggle

Spend time just snuggling with your husband in the evening. If you have a young baby that doesn’t sleep much, maybe snuggle while you’re holding the baby–and then watch netflix. But physically connect while you talk, watch a movie, or have some downtime.

Snuggle with your husband--it's a great marriage habit!

Eat Well

Seriously. Stay away from too many breads and refined starches, and eat foods with healthy fats that help the body produce estrogen or that help the body with blood flow to the genitals! Some of the best foods: bananas, avocados, almonds, basil, and honey–seriously, try honey. It helps in the production of estrogen. Just put it in your tea instead of sugar.

If you do all that you’ll be paying more attention to your body, which will make it easier for your brain to engage and help your arousal. And you’ll be feeling more energetic and closer to your husband! But there still be more things you need:

Use Some Lubrication!

Sometimes we all need help from a tube! One of the effects of not menstruating is that there’s little blood flow to the genitals–which means we have a harder time with lubrication. But this is such an easy fix! And if you’re well lubricated to start with, it’s much easier to get aroused. It actually helps jumpstart the whole process.

Nature's Way Extra Virgin Organic Coconut Oil, 16 oz.Coconut Oil

Many of my readers swear by coconut oil. It’s all natural–no chemicals. It is a solid at room temperature (up to about 76 degrees), but then it turns into a liquid above that, so when it is rubbed on body parts it will become “oily”. And it’s edible, too! (enough said).

KY Yours and Mine Personal Lubricant

KY Yours and Mine Sex Lube[HIS & HER] Dual lubricant Packaging : Size 3 Oz.Remember KY Jelly–the kind that felt like Vaseline, and was kind of gross?

This is a new generation of lubricant! And they sent me their “Yours” and “Mine” lube to try. They’re different formulations–warming for her, and cool and tinging for him. And when you put them together–it’s really tingly! And kinda fun.

Seriously, if you’ve felt “nothing” from the waist down for a while, this can help you feel something again!

Consider Hormone Replacement and Supplements

I’m not a doctor, and I do believe that if you take any kind of supplements you really should talk to your doctor about them first. That being said, I’m a big believer in hormone replacement therapy if it’s not contraindicated because of cancer risks or something. But I’ve known so many women who tried different things for years after menopause to no avail before finding the right formula–and suddenly they could sleep and they felt alive again! But for many women it meant trying many different things. So don’t give up, and keep trying!

When you’re pregnant and breastfeeding you should NOT be taking any kind of hormonal replacement or supplement.

GNC Womens ArginMax 90 Capsules Single & Multi Packs (Two Bottles each of 90 Capsules)
That being said, if you’re just going through perimenopause or you have low sex drive, ArginMax sent me a bunch of samples of their supplements which look interesting. For women, the supplement includes L-arginine, damiana, ginseng, and ginkgo biloba, which have all been known to enhance sexual enjoyment. The male version contains similar things, with different kinds of ginseng and no damiana. Then they both have other vitamins and minerals, too, making this a complete vitamin health supplement that ALSO helps with sexual enjoyment and arousal.

You can see ArginMax for men here, and ArginMax for women here. I do think these could help, because I have read that all of these ingredients are tied to sexual arousal and enjoyment.

And again–if you do decide to take a supplement, please show it to your doctor!

Ultimately Sex is Difficult when Arousal is Low–But It’s Up to You

Here’s the truth: If you’re running around caring for everyone but yourself, and feeling nothing sexually, and you’re just waiting for your sex drive to return, chances are nothing much will happen.

Your sex drive won’t come back unless you chase it.

Unless you make it a priority to think about sex in a positive way, to FEEL and experience your body, to think positively about your husband, to cuddle, to prioritize the relationship–nothing will happen.

I get so many letters from women saying that “after the baby came, we basically had sex maybe 10 times in the next two years”. (Here’s one woman’s story of what happened when she stopped having sex after the babies).

What kind of life do you want? A great, solid marriage where you have fun and feel rejuvenated, or a relationship where you become like roommates?

No, it’s not easy. Yes, you’re exhausted. No, you don’t feel much of anything. Yes, it’s hard to get “in the mood”.

But you can do it–or you can at least make sex enjoyable, even if you don’t always reach orgasm. You can enjoy being close. You can enjoy feeling your body. You can enjoy feeling relaxed.

So what will you choose? It’s a whole lot better to choose to engage sexually than to try to do this:

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage posts

Other posts in this series:

Top 10 Ways Hormones Affect Libido

How to Track Your Hormones (and your libido!)

Let me know in the comments–how did you bring your sex drive back? Or are you walking through this right now? What do you find helps?

And if you’re a blogger, now it’s your turn to leave the link to the URL of a marriage post in the linky below! But 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.

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Top 10 Effects of a Sexual Drought

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

Lack of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage and Its Effects
Well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ongoing lack of sexual intimacy in a marriage…

1.  Stirs resentment.

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

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

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

2.  Fosters distance.

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

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

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

3.  Reduces your marriage to roommate status.

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

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

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

Roommate status in a marriage sucks.  It just does.

4.  Dishonors God.

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

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

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

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

5.  Makes it easier to rationalize infidelity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.  Sets a horrible example for kids.

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

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

See points 1, 2 and 3 for further insight.

7.  Invites the enemy into your home and bedroom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9.  Makes pornography look more enticing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long can a marriage go without sex?

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

Do you?

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

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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

 

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: Rebuilding Your Sex Life After Years of Refusing Sex

Husband saying no to sex: when you finally want to say YES, and now he's saying NO
Most of you who read this blog regularly are here because you want to make your marriage better.

Some of you may be in a great stage of marriage and just want to make sure it stays that way, but if you look at the search terms by which people end up on this blog, it’s often because you readers are lonely and frustrated.

You’ve been struggling to feel connected, or perhaps sex isn’t going well. You feel distant, and you don’t want to be like that anymore.

And so you try to change things–which means, of course, changing yourself and how you react to your spouse (since you can’t change anyone except yourself).

But what do you do if you were the one who was holding back in the marriage, and now you ARE changing, but your husband doesn’t trust you?

I had a letter from a low libido wife recently which said this:

My husband finds our lack of sex particularly hurtful. When this comes up, I often rush to read a book or post about sex, to try and fix the issue, but this would only ever work “for next time”. A sincere “sorry, (insert attempt at explanation), I’ll try harder from now on” just doesn’t cut it – my husband is hurt and I can’t fix it. What do I do to show him I’m serious?

This scenario applies to many different marriage scenarios–you’ve been distant and you’ve been hurting each other, and now you want to change the dynamic. But your husband isn’t buying it quite yet. What do you do?

Please note: I’m not talking in this blog post to women whose husbands have ALWAYS had low libidos. If that’s the case, this series on why your husband doesn’t want to make love is likely more applicable. But if your husband used to have a high libido, and now he’s turning you down–read on.

Live out the change–Initiate sex

Keep living out the change. If the problem is that you’ve had a low libido and you’ve been refusing sex, then initiate sex. Buy some lingerie. Talk to him about it.

Here’s a scenario I see quite frequently: she is a low libido spouse and so she refuses him. He spends several months, or years, asking, or even begging for sex until he gets so discouraged that he just turns his libido off. He decides that he really doesn’t want anything to do with her sexually.

So he stops asking.

Eventually she realizes that he’s no longer pursuing her, and she starts to panic. She does a 180 and realizes she doesn’t actually want a sexless marriage. So her libido comes back and she starts pursuing him–but by now he’s turned himself off. He doesn’t want to be hurt, and he almost likes the fact that he can hurt her back.

And he doesn’t want to go through all the hassle again of being vulnerable to someone when that just hurt him. So he’d rather stay that way.

So what do you do? You keep at it. You have an open conversation with him where you admit all of your faults–without blaming him. Even if his behaviour was part of what gave you a low libido, you own what you did. In the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, you take the log out of your own eye (you deal with your own issues first) (Matthew 7:3-5).

How to Initiate Sex with Your Husband--witout feeling awkward
You tell him that you realize what you did to him, and you’re sincerely sorry. And now you’d like to rebuild your sex life. And keep initiating. If you’re not sure how to initiate sex, I’ve got a great post with 10 tips right here!

You can even ask if he’d be willing to schedule sex, so that you can show that you’re serious. You can pick 2 or 3 nights a week where you’d like to make love, and pencil it in. And you can tell him that you promise you’ll only cancel on him once a month at the most–unless you’re genuinely ill with a fever or something.

He still may not be appreciative. He still may withdraw. Or, when you do make love, you may find it supremely unsatisfying because he’s only interested in pleasing himself (he may seem almost angry), and so you don’t get much pleasure from it.

Give him time to be angry and to see that you’re serious. It takes a lot for a guy to break down a wall that he’s built, especially if he’s built it out of self-preservation.

Don’t withdraw or sulk if he now refuses sex

What if you’re hurt? What if you feel lonelier than you’ve ever felt in your life because he’s rejecting you (or being selfish in bed)? How can you deal with these feelings?

My suggestion: don’t withdraw from him and don’t sulk. Say to him, “I’m feeling really lonely and discouraged right now, but I want you to know that whatever you do, I’m not going to give up on this. I want our marriage strong and I want to have a great sex life, and I’m going to hang in there even if you don’t feel loving towards me right now.”

Acknowledge how you feel, but don’t withdraw. And remember: this process may take months–or even years. Changing the dynamic in marriage doesn’t always happen immediately.

Go to God for your emotional needs if you feel rejected sexually and emotionally

And in those lonely days, draw as close to God as you can. Pray blessing over your husband, very specifically, in every area of his life. The more you pray about these specific things, the more your mind gets turned to what God is doing in his life, instead of what your husband is doing to hurt you.

Go to battle for your marriage, and your husband, by praying blessing over him, and by praying for your marriage. And spend some time everyday just in prayer and in reading Scripture, listening to worship CDs, or anything that gets your eyes on God. Keep your eyes there and you’ll find that you’re better able to withstand rejection from your husband.

Push through the tension and LOVE him–with or without sex

It will feel tense when he’s testing you. You will be tempted to lash out. Don’t. Learn to love him despite his actions. And don’t just initiate sex–initiate other things that make him feel loved. Study his love language and live it out. Make your husband your special project where you can think and pray about how to make his life better. Maybe it’s helping him organize a work project, or organize the garage, or complete an application for a job or internship he’s been wanting. Maybe it’s encouraging him to pursue a dream. I don’t know–but become a student of your husband and find practical ways to support him even outside the bedroom.

If you haven’t been connecting sexually for a long time, chances are he has not felt connected to you hardly at all for that whole length of time. It will take some serious effort for him to allow himself to trust you and become vulnerable with you again–and that vulnerability is necessary for real intimacy.

Don’t rush the process of reconciling sexually

Let him go through the needed emotional steps. And you need to go through it too–to understand what he felt, to figure out how to love him, to figure out how to go to God with your issues.

So pray for strength and grace for yourself, and remember: When your heart’s desire is to act like Christ and love someone unconditionally, God gives you that strength when you seek it. That is a wonderful desire and a wonderful prayer. But it can’t be a manipulative one–see what I’m doing? Now I’m being amazing to him, so he really should change!

No, you’re amazing to him because it’s the right thing to do.

And usually, the more we do that, the more we change the dynamic and the relationship does change. But even if it doesn’t right away, and even if change takes time, you are still doing the right thing. And as you do that, you’ll feel closer to God and Jesus will become more real to you. Cling to that in this time. Marvel at it. And you may just find that you aren’t as lonely as  you thought you’d be.

WifeyWednesday175Now, what advice do you have for us today? Leave a comment, or link up the URL of your own Wifey Wednesday blog post in the linky below!

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Top 10 Ways to Relax More in the Bedroom

10 Ways to help you Relax During Sex!

It’s that time–you and your husband are ready to get it on! But there’s a problem. While you like sex, you’re awfully shy. You pull the sheets up to your chin, turn the light out, and your heart starts pounding–just not from arousal. What’s he thinking? What are YOU thinking? You just can’t relax during sex.

It’s a common problem. So I decided to ask Julie, the awesome blogger at Intimacy in Marriage and the author of Pursuit of Passion to come up with 10 great tips on how to relax during sex.

Here’s Julie:

For something that is made to look so easy in romantic comedy movies, sex in real life often is cumbersome and stressful.
Do you struggle relaxing during sex? If so, you are not alone.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten ways to relax more during sex
Ask yourself these ten questions:

1. “Can I just not relax during sex or can I not relax during the rest of my life too?”

If relaxing during sex is difficult, possibly you have a hard time relaxing in general.

In our chaotic culture with endless details to corral, you wouldn’t be the first person to plead “stress” as an intimacy killer.

There are groceries to buy, bosses to please, permission slips to sign, appointments to set, lunches to pack, diapers to change, laundry to fold. The list really is endless. You run through a demanding day (or sometimes crawl, depending on how much caffeine you’ve had), and at the end of it, you find it tediously hard to shut the list off.

The list follows you everywhere.

Into the bathroom. In the car. It even crawls in bed with you, totally insensitive to the grip it has on your mind when you try to make love.

Take a good hard look at your life. Where do you need healthier boundaries? Where do you need more realistic expectations about what you can accomplish on any given day?

It’s okay to just let go a little and be at peace with a messy imperfect life (which, ironically, is what everyone else is living as well, despite what you’ve maybe told yourself).

2. “Is our bedroom too hot or too cold?”

We all think we can rationalize this away. The room is too cold or too hot and you figure that once sex gets going, you will forget how distracted you are by being too hot. Or too cold.

A better approach is to fix the temperature problem before foreplay even starts.

3. “Would a shower help me to relax?”

I’m a big fan of the hot shower or hot bath before sex. It gives you a few moments to wash the day away (figuratively and literally, especially if you’ve had newborns and toddlers pawing at you all day).

And it also allows you to come to bed clean.

Not surprising, a concern about cleanliness can cause some people to be anxious about sex, especially if oral sex will be part of the encounter.   A hot shower or bath can help ease these concerns and help you relax.

Maybe suggest that you and your spouse shower together. This can be a great precursor to fabulous sex. I’m speaking from experience on this one!

4. “Have I become too indifferent about my own sexual pleasure?”

Women have become masters at disregarding their own sexual pleasure, even going so far as faking orgasm just to end the entire encounter sooner. The irony is that if you are stressed, you likely need orgasm more, not less.

Your sexual pleasure matters. Do you struggle having an orgasm? Many women do. This is such a hot topic that I compiled an entire page of posts on it. Check out The Orgasm Page on my site.

5. “Do I just need to live in the moment?”

Sometimes we can “over-think” sex. It’s hard to relax while we’re making love if we are also worrying about body image or wondering if we are “doing everything right.”

Stop over-thinking and allow yourself to live in the moment. Sexual intimacy with your spouse should be a place of uninhibited fun and connection, where you can let go of your insecurities and just live.

6. “Do I need more foreplay to relax?”

I can’t answer how much foreplay you need, but generally speaking, women need more than men.

Teach your spouse what is arousing for you. Caressing? Kissing? Backrubs? Oral sex? The more you allow yourself to be aroused, the less likely you are to be stressed and nervous about sex.

Stop seeing foreplay as “an extra” if there is time. Instead, embrace it as a vital and enticing aspect of lovemaking

7. “Have I flirted with and affirmed my spouse throughout the day?”

This is an easy one for newlyweds (generally speaking). But for people who’ve been married awhile or who are in the throes of parenting little creatures?

Yeah. Takes a bit more effort to think sexy thoughts and say sexy things to one another. But there is a lot of truth behind that saying “sex begins in the kitchen.” I would add that a positive attitude about sex begins in the kitchen early in the day and must be sustained throughout the day.

A kind word. A tender text. A suggestive whisper. A discreet sexual touch. A lingering kiss. All are great aphrodisiacs if you start pursuing them as such.

8. “Have I considered what sex does for my marriage outside the bedroom?”

We often accuse men of compartmentalizing sex (and really everything in their lives). But women sometimes do it as well.

Some women see sex as nothing more than a task to check off their list and forget about until next time. But the positive benefits of nurtured sexual intimacy reach far beyond your marriage bed.

When you look at sex this way, it’s easier to relax about it, even intentionally go after it.

 9. “What’s the worst that could happen if the kids hear us?”

A big reason women have a hard time relaxing during sex is they are consumed with thoughts of the kids hearing them.

Consider this, though. If your children are young (under age 8), they are likely fast asleep. If they are older (over age 12), and they happen to hear you, they already know what you are doing and really don’t want to confront you about it.

And if they fall in-between 8-12? They are at an ideal age to be reassured that mom and dad are fine and it’s important they spend some private time together.

Instead of worrying so much about the kids hearing you, buy a lock for your bedroom door and turn on some light music. And remind yourself that the best thing for those kiddos is a mama and daddy in love. Sex is part of marriage.

Certainly your kids shouldn’t be privy to the details of your sexual intimacy, but you’re not doing them any favors by trying to give the impression that sex never happens.

10. “Do I really just need to connect first with my spouse?”

Marriage is hard. I know few people who think it isn’t. That being the case, there is a lot to be said for connecting with your spouse before you scamper beneath the sheets.

My husband and I have become more discerning about our genuine need to spend even 20 minutes at the end of the evening simply talking. That connection sets the tone for anything that might happen once our clothes come off.

Put the kids to bed. Turn off the TV. Sit close to each other. And just talk. You might be surprised at how relaxing it is. And how arousing it is.

When you consider these top 10 ways to relax during sex, which ones are you willing to try?

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

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The Myth of Sexual Incompatibility

The Myth of Sexual Incompatibility: most problems can be solved!
I’m a columnist for Canada’s Faith Today magazine, the magazine for the evangelical Christian community. And in this month’s issue I’m talking about the myth of sexual incompatibility! I’ve written before about how Christians can’t be sexually incompatible, but I thought I’d sum it up in this column.

The evangelical church has found sex.

After years of being rightfully accused of prudery, many Christians have done a 180, deciding that the best form of evangelism is showing the world just how much we get it on. In July 2013, Pastor Joe Nelms of Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee started a firestorm when, in his opening prayer at a NASCAR race, he thanked God for his “smokin’ hot wife”. Disgraced megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll was renowned for riddling his sermons with sexual innuendos. Closer to home, Christians are hosting “Passion Parties“, just like Tupperware parties, except without as much plastic, where women can shop for lingerie, sex toys, and lubricants in their own homes, with friends.

The message: sex in marriage is awesome!

But is it? This sexual evangelism caused Rachel Pietka to pen an opinion post for Relevant Magazine saying that “Christians Aren’t Called to Have Amazing Sex.” After all, if we aren’t supposed to have sex until we’re married, there’s no way to find out if you’re sexually incompatible. Obviously, then, God never meant for amazing sex to be a staple of a good Christian marriage.

And so here I find myself in this messy middle, wondering when the church will get our act together to properly evangelize about healthy sexuality.

Good Girls Guide My SiteLet’s go back to first principles. God made sex to unite us in three ways: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yes, we feel a physical rush, but sex is also designed to make us feel like one–the mystery of “knowing” each other, as the Hebrew word used for the sexual union suggests. This spiritual intimacy then feeds the physical side. That’s why many studies–including my own that I conducted for The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex–show that married Christians enjoy sex more. Commitment is a powerful aphrodisiac!

But our culture doesn’t understand that because it has divorced sex from marriage, and then all that’s left is genitalia. It becomes crude and ugly.

And yet the “sexually incompatible” camp pigeonholes sex as well.

If we’re capable of being sexually incompatible, then our sexuality must be something static. She by herself is a static sexual being, and he by himself is a static sexual being, and the two may not match. Not true. God designed sex to be a relational thing. And because sex is far more than physical, as we open up to each other by becoming more vulnerable, more giving, and more trusting, sex will change.

That’s why I hate the phrase “sexually incompatible”. You’re not incompatible; you just have things you need to work out. If one spouse wants to make love much more than another, and this causes hurt, it’s sin, because one (or both) are not loving each other as Christ did. If one is being selfish in bed, demanding unreasonable things, or refusing to learn how to pleasure the other, it’s sin. When physical problems come, and one spouse doesn’t make allowance, it’s sin. If the spouse experiencing difficulties won’t get help, it’s sin, too. If one is using porn or erotica to get aroused, it’s sin. If one is feeling ashamed of sex, that, too, is sin, though it may not be theirs. Perhaps they grew up in a house where their parents made them feel ashamed of the fact that they were sexual, and now they need healing. Or perhaps they were abused (someone else’s sin) and that, too, has impacted their ability to enjoy sex.

Just like in every other area of our lives, our problems with sex stem from either from our own sin (selfishness) or from being
sinned against (brokenness). And so we need to go to God for healing and restoration.

God promised that we could have amazing sex; He never promised that we would.

In the same way that we can’t live a holy life without surrendering more and more to God, we can’t have great sex without surrendering more and more of ourselves to God and to each other. Sex isn’t something that’s static; sex is a journey that married people take as we grow closer to each other and closer to our Maker.

So it’s time to stop seeing sex like the world does–as something only physical–and start remembering that real passion and intimacy come from a true spiritual connection. As we grow more and more like Christ, we’ll feel that passion more and more, and we will have amazing sex. But I still don’t think we should announce that at NASCAR races.

The newest issue of Faith Today has tons of great articles, including an expose on missing aboriginal women; a Q&A with the director of International Justice Mission, which frees child sex slaves (a ministry near and dear to my heart, that our family has recently started supporting); an in-depth examination of the euthanasia debate; and a look at how churches can agree to disagree–graciously. Plus tons of news about Kingdom Matters in Canada!

Check it out here.

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: Is Make Up Sex Real?

Make Up Sex: It's real and it can make your marriage great!
It’s Wednesday, the day when we always talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can link up your own posts below. Today I want to tackle make up sex: is it real? Is it helpful? Does it actually make us feel closer?

A reader sent me this letter:

Lately things have been a bit tense in our marriage. (My husband feels like things are fine, but from my perspective, there is a lingering tension).  I feel like we are just snapping at each other a lot and, to be honest, I’m finding it hard to find things I “like” about my husband at the moment.

Sex has always been pretty amazing for us, which is a blessing. We don’t have it quite as often as we used to, but it is still very good when we do – physically speaking. I find when we have sex, though, it makes the tension melt away completely for a day or two. We’re all lovey-dovey again – making jokes all the time and getting on like a house on fire.

But I kind of feel like it is just blinding us with passion, so that we forget about the issues that we still need to work on. But the issues are still there!

I talked to my husband about this and he said perhaps it is just God’s good design for sex – that it makes the issues go away, and that we should therefore just keep having sex more often as a way to deal with the tension.

However, I feel that we still need to get to the bottom of why there is tension in our relationship. And I am beginning to find it harder and harder to “get into it”, emotionally speaking, when we have sex. What do you think? Do we just need to keep our “love tanks” filled up? Or should we try to sort through the deeper issues before we keep jumping into bed?

Great question! And what the reader notes is so common: sex makes us feel closer! That’s the upside. But can there be a downside to it, too? Well, let’s take a look at this in more detail:

Why Make Up Sex Works

Sex is fun! Sex makes you feel close because you literally are close–you’re naked together, you’re spending time together, you’re experiencing something intense and personal together. And when you do experience that arousal and orgasm, you produce the “bonding hormone”, oxytocin, which also makes you feel more intimate.

That’s why sex can often “cover a multitude of sins”. In my marriage, when we’re making love frequently and feel close, the fact that Keith occasionally bites his nails doesn’t bother me in the least. When we’re going through a dry spell, though, it bugs me to no end. It’s one little thing, but if we have sex, my bug-o-meter goes down.

Frequent sex, then, often helps us to feel significantly less ticked off about little things our spouses do, and even helps us to work through bigger issues because we’ve got this foundation of feeling lovely about each other.

Why Make Up Sex is Exciting!

Here’s the thing–what makes sex so intense is when we feel even more vulnerable and even more personal. That’s when our souls are really bared.

While this is certainly possible in our day-to-day lives, when we just talk to each other and share deep and intense things, one of the most frequent times it happens is after an argument. We’ve felt angry which means that we’ve felt hurt. We’ve expressed that hurt. We’ve been honest (sometimes brutally so). And once you’ve come to an agreement again after that intense time of honesty and vulnerability and intense feelings, then the sex is likely to be even more intense, too.

As I talk about frequently, sex is so much more than physical. When we’re feeling emotionally connected (and especially emotionally raw and vulnerable), then that sense of intimacy will be heightened, which will also heighten your libido and make sex even hotter! So, yes, that make up sex thing is absolutely real.

The Downside to Make Up Sex

However, our reader brings out an interesting point. It is possible to let the intimate aspects of sex cover over too MUCH. Instead of just covering up for the little things that bug us, or instead of just helping us heal from arguments more quickly, sometimes sex can be used to help us avoid dealing with difficult things altogether.

One of my close friends, who divorced her husband after he cheated on her, and is now remarried, told me that one area that she and her ex-husband always united on was sex. The sex was always great–it was everything else that was lousy. But because those other things were hard to talk about, they’d often end up in bed as a default, and avoid those heavy conversations.

Now, I don’t know that all couples go through this, because most of my readers have found that when other aspects of their relationships are going poorly the last thing they want to do is to make love. But certainly some people, like this reader and like my friend, fall into this category. What do you do then? Do you have to stop having sex so that you can actually talk? No, I don’t think so. I just think you need to be more purposeful about having those conversations.

How to Use Make Up Sex to Your Advantage in Your Marriage

So let’s sum up.

Schedule time to check in with each other–without sex!

Whether it’s going for a walk every night after dinner to talk, or spending every Sunday night asking, “what’s going on in your life? How are we doing?”, or something, make sure that you have regular, scheduled time to talk. One of the characteristics of happy couples that Shaunti Feldhahn found in her research was that when they were going through difficulties, they spent more time together, not less. Sometimes when there’s tension in the marriage we’re tempted to spend more time with the kids, or get busier with other activities. Stop. Connect regularly and actually talk.

If you make love after those sessions, that’s fine. But the purpose is to talk, not just to have sex. If you have certain questions that you always ask each other during these sessions it will likely be easier. Try these:

  • Have you felt loved this week by me? Why or why not?
  • What’s one thing I can do in the coming week to make you feel more loved?
  • How can I support you in the things on your plate in the week ahead?

Ask those three questions to each other every week, and it’s less likely that you’ll have issues festering.

After an intense personal conversation, or a disagreement, make love

Then, after these intense conversations, or after arguments, make love. Make use of those bonding hormones! It will help you to get over the awkwardness or anger faster, and help you feel on the same page again.

Make sex regular

The more you make love, the more those little things won’t bug you. So make sex a frequent thing in your marriage–while you’re still checking in regularly–and you’ll find things are much more like smooth sailing!

WifeyWednesday175Now it’s your turn! What advice do you have for us today? Link up the URL of your marriage post in the Linky below. And be sure to share this post on your blog so other people can come back here and find other great posts.

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Reader Question: My Husband is Too Tired for Sex

Reader Question of the Week: We're too tired for sex!
Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today’s is one that lots of people struggle with: what do we do if we’re just too tired for sex?

What advice do you offer women who are married to men who are a little older and say they have the desire to have sex but just don’t feel up to it? I’m 36, hubby is 56. I have lupus, he has injuries from the war in Iraq. Neither one of us are rock stars. But I married a sex crazed man four years ago and now I’m doing good if we have sex once a month. It’s hard not to take it personally. When I try talking to him about it I see the hurt in his eyes, like he feels he’s letting me down. How do I accept that this is just the way it is? How do I protect my heart and mind?

Okay, ladies, it’s time for a bit of a pep talk today!

Maybe I’m just in an energetic mood because I finally finished all the major revisions for my new book (9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage) and got it off to the publishers, and I feel like I have my life back, but let’s think positively today! I’m going to comment on the general issue of feeling too tired for sex, and not on this particular letter writer’s issue, because I really don’t know what his health condition is. So let’s think of some general principles:

Too Tired for Sex? How to find energy again in your marriage!

Live out your priorities–If you’re too tired for sex, are you too tired for everything else too?

I’m not trying to diminish the reality of being exhausted. I know many people are–especially when we’re getting little sleep because of shift work or because we’re in school studying for exams or because we’re pregnant. And when it’s a short term thing–like exams or pregnancy–grace should abound.

But look long-term for a moment. If sex is a priority (and it should be), then make sure you prioritize it! Don’t make it come last. If you have health issues, then you are only going to have energy for certain things. Make sure sex is one of them. Don’t overcommit yourselves to stuff. Don’t have all kinds of energy to clean the house or work on a hobby, and then collapse into bed. Make sex one of the first things on your list–not just something you do at the end of the day “if” you have energy left.

I’ve written in previous posts about how scheduling sex can work for some people, and in this case it may be a very good idea. If you know, we’re going to make love Tuesday night, then you can make sure that Tuesday you get ready! You don’t play video games until 1 in the morning. You don’t work late if you don’t have to. You get ready for sex!

Read it here: Scheduling Sex

Wasting time makes you more tired

Here’s another truth: when we’re tired, we tend to gravitate towards inactive things, like watching TV or surfing the internet. These activities, however, SAP your energy. They don’t preserve it.

That’s true for several reasons, but here are just a few: we know that these things don’t actually add tremendously to our lives, in the same way that talking to a friend, doing a hobby, journaling, or taking a walk do. And because of that, they tend to sap our souls. There’s nothing wrong with them in moderation (and I knit now when I watch netflix, which turns it into a hobby!), but have you ever spent an entire day watching TV and then at the end of the day thought, “where did today go?” It’s depressing because that’s time you can never get back. And if you have tendencies towards depression already, screens tend to make it worse, while fresh air tends to make it better.

God created us for a purpose, and when we spend too much time on activities with no lasting value, we hurt our own souls (and we contribute to mental  health issues, which is often a reason that we feel too tired for sex).

Dayspring Purpose Mug

Also, when we’re tired and in pain, sitting in one place for prolonged periods of time tends to reinforce that pain and that exhaustion. I have a friend who suffers from circulation issues due to severe burns she suffered as a child and rheumatoid arthritis (and she’s relatively young)! She recently got one of those pedometers that counts the number of steps you take a day. Her average is 16,000–and she doesn’t really go for walks. She’s just always on her feet at home. I took her out to dinner last Saturday for her birthday, and we sat at the restaurant and talked for a while. It was much longer than she usually lets herself sit down. When we got ready to go, she was really stiff.

“That’s why I don’t let myself watch TV,” she said. “If I were to sit and watch a movie, I’m done for. I have to keep moving.”

Of course this depends on the severity of the problem, but in the vast majority of medical issues, moving helps, and sitting in one place hinders. Another friend of mine with fibromyalgia qualified as a life guard when she was 50 and now teaches Aquafit. If she doesn’t swim, her body stiffens up too much. Of course it’s hard to get the motivation to move when you’re in pain, but ultimately it can help get that pain under control.

Again, it depends on the condition (certain back issues, for instance, make any movement too difficult). But sitting in one place watching a screen is rarely a good idea.

Do you get enough rest?

The average person needs eight hours of sleep a night. Certain chronic pain conditions, of course, make it difficult to get a full night’s sleep.

However, most people just don’t sleep enough today because of screens. We get watching a show and we stay up later than we intended. Or we stay up until we fall asleep on the couch. That increases our chances of depression and makes our sleep far worse. If you want to sleep well, turn off the screen at least 45 minutes before you intend to hit the pillow.

If you want to make sex a priority, set a bedtime when the screens go off! Head to bed at 10 and just talk with each other. Give each other a massage before bed.

Read it here: Adults Need Bedtimes, Too!

Make sex happen

As we get older our bodies fall apart, and some of us will have conditions that will cause that to happen more rapidly. It isn’t fair–but it’s life.

The question is: what will you do about it? And likely there is so much more that you can do than you think!

Talk to your spouse and say, “I want us to have as much fun as possible, and to have as much energy as possible!” And sex, of course, increases your energy levels because it releases good hormones, relaxes you, and helps the quality of your sleep.

Many of us have bodies that are falling apart because we just aren’t treating them well. We live far too sedentary lives, we don’t feed them well, and we don’t rest enough.

So schedule sex. Turn off the screens. Move as much as you can. Go to bed at a decent hour. Give LOTS of massages. This won’t work for all health conditions–I’ve written before about what to do if health issues make intercourse impossible. But I think many of us are settling for crumbs in life when we can still have so much more! Sometimes we get into these bad habits because it’s just so easy. We’re tired at the end of the day, so sitting in front of  a screen seems enticing. But it won’t really help in the long run.

Ask yourself: is the way I’m living my life sapping my physical and emotional energy, or giving me more? If it’s sapping it, do a re-examination. Sometimes it just takes a few tweaks for you to find you have your life back!

Let us know: what have you found? Have you had something in your life that sapped your energy and made you too tired for sex? How did you get rid of it? Or did you find another way to boost your energy? Leave us a comment and tell us!