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Recently I received an email from a reader who was in a bit of a sexual slump in her marriage.
She was wondering if she should wait until she felt like having sex before trying to turn the trend around -- or should she simply have sex with her husband and hope the feeling of desire would catch up to the action.
Many couples don't have huge ominous issues sabotaging their sexual intimacy. Instead, they have what I call the "perfect storm" of circumstances that make sex lackadaisical at best and non-existent at worst -- low sex drive by one or both spouses, young children, the wife not experiencing orgasm, and life in general feeling ho-hum and exhausting
With a backdrop like this, is it any wonder that sex begins to feel like a chore? Just one more "thing" to check off an ever-increasing "to-do" list.
Fake it till you make it or wait for desire to come?
You may be surprised that my answer is neither.
Having sex and simply hoping that desire will catch up could result in the situation actually getting worse. Here's why -- the spouse who is just going through the motions may end up resenting the other spouse. Or she or he may turn their frustration on sex itself. Sex becomes the enemy, despised by the person who has no desire to be there.
Keep in mind... I'm not talking about the occasional sexual encounter where you maybe don't really feel like having sex, but you do it anyway because you know it is important to your spouse. We all have moments like these where the very best thing to do is offer your body to your spouse or genuinely receive their initiation.
I am talking about consistently just going through the motions and hoping desire will kick into gear. Probably isn't going to be the golden solution one would hope it to be.
So what about waiting until desire comes?
This theory would say that once desire is on the scene, this is a "sign" that it's time to kick things up a notch and follow the yellow brick road to actually having sex. Well, I'm not too crazy about this waiting game either as a sure-fire way to nurture sexual intimacy.
Here's the problem -- you could end up waiting indefinitely, which obviously isn't good for your marriage.
There could many different reasons desire is low, including physical reasons, which typically won't rectify themselves magically on their own. There also may be relational issues that aren't initially easy to recognize, but again... these aren't going to improve all on their own.
My mantra has always been that unhealthy patterns are usually unintentional, whereas healthy patterns are usually intentionally.
Once a couple falls into a pattern of little or no sex, the scenario is likely to remain stuck there -- unless one or both spouses begin to walk in a better direction of nurtured intimacy.
So, if I don't think the "faking" or "waiting" methods are effective, do I have any suggestions as to what can help? Yes!
3 Ways To Turn Around a Sexual Slump
1. Have an honest discussion with your clothes on. Find even 30 minutes free of other distractions to sit down with your spouse and start shedding light. Need some conversations starters, try one of these:
"We don't really have sex much and I want this to look different. What can we do to turn that around?"
"I miss you. I miss being close to you. I miss making love to you."
"I know I haven't been very sexually available to you. I don't have all the answers, but can we together start to make sex a better part of our marriage."
The key with a vulnerable conversation like this is tone, motive and a shared sense of safety. You may even have to say, "I don't want us to fight. I want us to really hear each other. Please say whatever you feel and I promise not to judge you. I want us to talk without fear of rejection."
2. Take responsibility for your own physical or emotional issues.
Doctors get the fancy degrees for a reason -- the vast majority of them genuinely want to help people. So, if you are unsure why your sex drive has taken a dive, go to your doctor to explore a physical explanation. Some medications and physical conditions can negatively impact sex drive.
Certainly don't "self diagnose" or stop taking your prescribed medication without first seeing your doctor. Tell your doctor what you are experiencing and that you want to talk about possible solutions. Is this too embarrassing? Well, a strained marriage is worse than embarrassing -- it ultimately becomes heartbreaking. Too much damaged collateral to really count, so it's wise to raise your tolerance for embarrassment when it comes to talking to your doctor. If the doctor doesn't listen or ignores your pleas for help, find a different doctor.
Just like physical reasons, emotional reasons also can sabotage intimacy. For example, if you have past sexual abuse from which you have not healed, please consider contacting the RAINN organization, Committed to Freedom, and/or local Christian counseling. Or if you have other issues going on in your marriage, be proactive and take baby steps to start improving those challenges.
Also, if you are struggling with thinking God can't forgive you for past promiscuity, read what I have to say about that here. Your past sexual sin is not beyond the reach of Jesus. And it does not have to be an insurmountable barrier when it comes to great sex with the man you married.
3. Start viewing sex for how it benefits you rather than depletes you.
Can't think of any benefits? Here are some to ponder: It helps protect your marriage. It reminds your husband (and you) that you took your vows seriously. It is one of the best ways to worship God. It can help you relax (orgasm and genuine intimate contact release endorphins, which are a boost to your general well-being). It can be fun. (Hey...sexual playfulness with your spouse is some of the best and cheapest entertainment around!).
If you see sex only as a chore -- if you've locked that mindset in to place -- then that becomes the path your body will walk. Peel back the layers on that mindset to start to embrace a healthier viewpoint of nurtured sexual intimacy.
Don't "fake it till you make it" or "wait for desire." There are better paths available to you.
Get your courage on, okay? Start changing unhealthy patterns in your marriage, even if they seem like "no big deal" right now.
Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage.