Do you find that you can’t get in the mood and can’t get mentally ready for sex because you dread it?
For the next few days we’re talking on the blog about how to embrace your sexuality, and I want to start with this reader question from a woman who finds that she dreads sex because she hates her body. She writes:
What do you do when you don’t want to be intimate with your husband because you are ashamed of your body? I struggle with self esteem issues that cripple my ability to be intimate. The thought of what my husband is feeling or seeing takes all sex drive away from me. My body turns me off and I cannot bear to be seen or touched. Our children are 7 and 9 and we both work, the kids are in activities everyday. So between work, school drop off, housework, cooking, shuttling to activities, groceries, etc, I’m exhausted and can barely shower/ shave. I’ve found it very important that I look and feel as sexy as possible in order to feel intimate and I just haven’t been able to make it happen. Spontaneous sex is horrifying – I probably need to shave, touch up makeup, spritz some perfume, and have something other than leggings and a big shirt on. I feel bad turning my husband down for sex but I’m just too embarrassed of what I’ve tuned into. I want to be a fulfilling wife and have a full filling marriage – I want to want sex , but it just isn’t there. I feel he deserves better but I can’t get over this hump of awkwardness and shame over my physical self. Any tips for rediscovering that intimacy and getting over busy issues?
Sometimes I read letters and they really grieve me, because all I can see is how much we women are sabotaging our own happiness. It’s not that we’re doing it deliberately. But we aren’t fighting hard enough for what we know is right and what we know is God’s best for us.
And that’s what it needs to be–a fight.
I don’t mean to be harsh with this woman. I know she’s hurting. But here’s the simple truth: the reason that she is hurting is because she is listening to voices in her head that are wrong, and because she is allowing shame into her life. And nothing, absolutely nothing, can fix that except for her. The answer lies with her.
That’s what the apostle Paul said, too, when he wrote this in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5:
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
She needs to start treating her self-defeating attitude and her self-defeating actions like a war that she is fighting. When a thought comes into her head that makes sex seem awful or her body seem ugly, she has to fight, because she is in a war, on several fronts:
War #1: She Is Being Told Her Body is Inadequate
First, our culture is at war with her, telling her that she’s too fat and that she’s undesirable, because our culture has made sex only about the body, rather that about intimacy. So you can’t have sex unless you’re a certain size.
But let’s remember why our culture preaches that! As I share in my Girl Talk, the talk I give for women in churches about sex and marriage, God designed sex to be intimate in three ways: physically, spiritually, and emotionally. But when you take sex outside of marriage, the physical is all you have left. That makes “being sexy” far more important than it ever used to be, and leads to really ridiculous standards of beauty, the ones that we see on magazine covers in the checkout lines. When sex is only physical, it becomes very shallow.
Most women who feel inadequate and feel ugly have husbands who would love to see their wives naked more. But the shame that we women feel means that we don’t let our men see us naked. We deprive them of what they want, and we deprive ourselves of the joy that God designed us to take in our physical bodies.
So let me ask you a question: To whom are you giving the power to define your body’s worth? Is it our culture, which has corrupted sex and made it shallow, or is it God, who made you in His image and made sex to be so much more than that?
And if you want to let God define your beauty, then you have to fight the negative self-talk! When you get a thought about how ugly you are, you have to replace it with how God feels about you. You have to fight! God wants you to win this fight, but He doesn’t fight it for you. He asks you to enter the battle.
War #2: She’s Surrendering to Our Culture
There’s another war going on here, though. It’s not just that our culture is defining her beauty; it’s that she’s fighting a mental war with herself about her worth. And she’s surrendering in that war.
Our culture tells her she doesn’t measure up. And so what does she do? She stops showering. She stops shaving. She never puts on makeup. She goes around the house in leggings and a big shirt.
Now, stop it! Ladies, comfort and lack of time is nothing but an excuse. It takes no more time to put on a well-fitting pair of jeans and a nice top as it does to put on leggings and a baggy t-shirt. Lack of time is not the problem. So stop using that as an excuse!
As I showed in my Fight the Frump series, I can get dressed, with makeup on, in under five minutes. That’s it. And I can shower and shave in under 5 minutes, too. There simply are not excuses for this.
The problem is not lack of time. The problem is lack of will. She has surrendered because she is allowing our culture to dictate her worth.
War #3: She’s Not Fighting for Her Priorities
She says that what she wants is a fulfilling marriage and to be a fulfilling wife. But is that true? She has her kids in activities every night. She’s overwhelmed by housework and paid work. And I can guarantee that she’s stressed to the max, which likely means that her kids and her husband are pretty stressed, too. Her family life must be running on max all the time.
So let’s just ask a question.
What would her life look like if she lived out her priorities–if she truly lived out wanting a fulfilling marriage?
- She might cut down on kids’ activities so they could spend more time at home enjoying being a family, and feeling less stress.
- This would likely significantly reduce their expenses (both on kids’ activities and on gas money to chauffeur them everywhere), which may allow them to deal with any debt they may have, or may even allow her or him to cut back on some hours at work
- They could eat dinner more as a family and likely feel more connected, which would reduce the tension level and help her laugh more with her husband
- She could have a conversation with her kids and her husband about sharing the load with housework, so that she wasn’t doing all the housework. That way she’d have more energy for relationship (and even for sex)!
- Because she wasn’t as stressed, she could spend more time in the shower and she would feel better about herself, which would likely result in her choosing clothes that were more flattering.
If your priority is having a great marriage, then make sure how you spend your time and money reflects that!
Let me say this again: the only solution to feeling badly about your body is to stop feeling badly about your body because you tell yourself positive messages AND you start treating yourself well.
We treat ourselves the way we think we deserve. What does she think she’s worth? Nothing. Her kids and her household get all of her attention and time, and she gets nothing. And then, because she feels horrible about that, her husband gets nothing, too.
It comes down to a choice: Do you want our culture to determine how you feel about yourself and what your priorities should be, or do you want to decide for yourself, based on what you know is God’s best?
You’ve got to make that choice. And you’ve got to enter that battle!
And if you want help, I’m here. I created the Boost Your Libido course to help women get out of this rut and stop letting our culture determine how we should feel about ourselves and how we should spend our time.
It’s a 10-video course, with fun assignments, that build on each other so you see an immediate difference! In fact, after just the first video, one woman wrote this to me:
I just watched the first module video… tears flooding down my face – “There is nothing wrong with me!” I want to scream it out loud! Excited and a bit nervous to continue. But determined for my husband, myself and our marriage.
And the course addresses things like body image, busy-ness, and lack of a sex drive. And it gives you a game plan so that you can move ahead and actually start to live out your real priorities.
If what you truly want is a fulfilling sex life and a fulfilling marriage, then do something about it.
I know that’s scary. In many ways it’s easier to stay in the rut, because you’re used to it. You spend so much time worrying about other people that you don’t have time to think about how awful you feel about yourself.
But that is no way to live a life, and it’s certainly not the path to a fulfilling marriage. I think this is. And I hope it helps!
Let me know in the comments: Does bad body image make you dread sex? Do you have a hard time getting mentally ready because of what you feel you need to do first? Let’s talk!
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.