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Not long ago, I asked for readers' stories with regard to struggles in sexual intimacy and how couples have found a path to healing.
Today's story comes from a reader named Bob. I appreciate his vulnerability and transparency.
It takes courage to share so openly. With that in mind, please read with a compassionate heart. Possibly you'll see glimpses of your own marriage in his story.
(Be sure to read all the way through, as Bob shares a powerful declaration he sent to his wife).
My wife and I grew up in Christian homes with Christian parents and went to church our whole lives. I was born-again at the age of five and my wife was born-again at the age of four.
I don't remember ever actually hearing the following things directly or specifically, so I must have picked up on them from attitudes I was around when I was a kid:
I remember believing from an early age that girls didn't like sex, that masturbation was a sin, and sex was only for married people. One of out three, in this case, was VERY bad.
Being a growing boy with active hormones, I got into masturbation very early in my pubescent life. I was very sheltered and introverted, so I didn't know much about sex other than it felt good to have orgasms.
I felt ashamed when I did it and I believe that actually led to an eventual downward spiral of getting into pornography and other sexual addictions. I had very little in the way of useful, scriptural information related to sex other than "don't do it until you're married."
My masturbation habit, and eventually my porn habit, continued even after I got married, even though I thought they would magically go away once I was married.
Several years into marriage, my wife found out about both habits and felt, understandably, betrayed.
I would always feel horrible after I would complete a cycle of the habit, but would eventually get over that feeling and be drawn back into it and do it all over again, believing the lie over and over and feeling trapped. I would pray and ask forgiveness for my actions, knowing that God would forgive. I would ask Him to take it from me, to help me stop, but it didn't happen.
I became very good at hiding my secret.
We continued to have a good sex life, but because of the betrayal my wife felt, it had a negative influence on our marriage bed. If I would bring up new things to try or do, they would get shot down, because she would fear that it was something I saw in pornography and wanted to emulate it. She understandably felt that she could never measure up to that, so she shied away from anything other than what we already did.
This caused me (self-inflicted) pain, but I didn't know any better at the time so I would go back to what I knew -- the lie and deception.
The whole time I was going through this cycle, my wife was unaware mostly (except for the times I was caught and confessed), but I know she knew something was wrong in our sexual life.
She would say to me that she "knows" she doesn't satisfy me sexually and had said that she thought she was "broken" because of that.
Due to my fear of really opening up to my wife and telling her all that was going on (based, in part, on her reactions when I had been caught and mostly on the deception I was believing), we just kept going in this cycle.
God, however, is infinitely merciful and gracious.
During those cycles I would go through, I would always pray and ask forgiveness and for help. I was genuinely wanting out but I felt trapped.
God helped me learn what I truly needed, although it took me years to learn what He was showing me.
Many times I would ask him what the root of the pull was for me, because I knew that what I was doing wasn't my problem, it was my illegitimate answer to a legitimate need in my life.
I just didn't have the faith to allow God to have it met correctly and I had messed around with this other stuff so long I was unable to see anything clearly in this area.
I finally completely submitted every area of my life to God starting about two years ago.
It's been an intensive time of mind renewal and learning about what God really has to say about my life in His word and about sex.
Thanks in no small part to this blog (your blog Julie!) and christiannymphos.org, I really got a revelation about what was acceptable and even encouraged by God in the marriage bed.
Not to say I (and our marriage bed) didn't still struggle during these past two years, but I knew I had the victory and could see light at the end of the tunnel for myself and for my marriage.
So, recently I mustered up the courage to truly open up to my wife about my masturbation. While I knew it wasn't a sin, not telling her it was going on was not good.
I would masturbate because I have a higher drive than she does. I've been away from home on an eight-month contract (five months in) and I finally told her what she pretty much already knew, but it was the elephant in the room.
Ever since then we have entered into a new place where we have the beginnings of an open dialogue and a freedom and safety in that communication.
The finishing touch that has really transformed me was reading about giving my body as a gift to my wife according to the scripture in I Cor 7:4. I read about that in the book Intimacy Ignited and it struck a chord in me.
The very next morning God woke me up and had me compose an email to my wife detailing the important parts of my body and how I gave them all over to her. When I did that it was like God flipped a switch in me.
I began to see everything differently.
Things that used to have a draw to me no longer had that draw. It was like I had on a fiery-dart proof suit where sexual temptation was concerned. Obeying God's Word has it's rewards!
Here is what I sent to my wife:
I present to you your wedding gift from me. Something I should have given a long time ago and never taken back. My whole body is yours for you to have authority over and do with as it pleases you.
I give you my eyes that they may forevermore look longingly at you and you only,
that they may be forever captivated by your beauty and feminine charms,
that they may always be on the lookout for dangers to protect you from,
that they may be watchful over our children to keep them safe and loved as well.
I give you my ears that they may always hear the true meaning of what you are saying,
that they will intently listen to our children as they excitedly share their day and what they've learned,
that they will be open to hear things that are not right and quickly send the rest of my body to correct,
that they will quickly shut when the words of another try to draw me away,
that they will be a source of comfort, hearing all that you have to say with understanding and trust.
I give you my nose that it may be filled with the sweet fragrance that is uniquely you,
that it may love and recognize and be captivated by your unique scent alone,
that it may despise the scent of other women who may try to gain its attention.
I give you my lips that they may speak those special words of love to you and you only,
that they may only ever let pass words of encouragement, words in due season,
that they may say to you what you need to hear when you need to hear it,
that they may say to you what you want to hear when you want to hear it,
that they may forever only be yearning to touch your lips, to feel their sweet softness pressed against,
that they may bring you all the pleasures you desire,
that they may speak the word of God with boldness as the priest of our home, providing shelter and cover over all.
I give you my shoulders and chest to be a rock on which you can depend,
that they may be there to lean on and cry against,
that they may be there to provide strength and rest,
that they may be a shield against those who would try to shake you,
that they would offer comfort, peace, and security to you and our babies.
I give you my arms to be your strength,
that they may hold you tight when things are unsure,
that they may push back against all that tries to press against,
that they may hold you up when you feel you can't go on,
that they may bring you love with a warm embrace whenever you may desire it,
that they may be a circling shield around our family to keep us all safe and warm and loved.
I give you my hands...hands which are anointed by God for your use,
that they may always seek to bring you relaxation and peace,
that they may always have a tender touch, strong and firm but gentle and loving,
that they may bring you many hours of pleasure...doing whatever you may desire of them,
that they may build our home to be a sanctuary of peace and harmony,
that they may stain decks and repair door knobs and keep the grass at bay,
that they may keep the cars clean and the dishes done and the table clear,
that they may minister love and peace to our children, giving them hope and filling them with confidence
that they may ever be at your command, waiting to fulfill your every wish.
I give you my tummy, one that will only ever contain butterflies for you,
that it may flip and flop and be forever filled with desire for you, yearning always to be close to you only,
that it may continue to bring you warmth and comfort and pleasure,
that out of it will flow the rivers of living water that will give refreshment to you first, and then our children and those to whom I minister.
I give you my penis for your exclusive use,
that it will always be kept for you and you only,
that it will always be ready for you to give you the soul connection you desire with me,
that it will lead the charge of the waves of pleasure that ever stand ready to wash over you in the years to come,
that it will wait patiently for your attention, and attention from another or myself it will never receive again,
that it will always bring you comfort and rest, pleasure and satisfaction, connection with me and warmth from being spent by you alone.
I give you my legs that they may lead the way for our family,
that they will stand strong and tall, ready to run to you when you call,
that they will show the way to go and our children will follow and be blessed,
that they will shake with pleasure from your touch alone,
that they will be a place of comfort where you and our children may sit and feel love and acceptance.
I give you my feet that they may carry your gift with honor and privilege,
that they may be swift to always find their way to the place where you need and want them most,
that they may be strong and tireless to press forward and give my whole body in service to you,
that they may be a firm foundation so my body may be a living sacrifice to God and be kept and desired by you.
My body is yours alone, you have the authority over it and I give it to you now, irrevocably under your command until death do we part. (I Cor 7:4)
I thank Bob for his willingness to share his story. If you have a story to share, don't hesitate to contact me.
And if you think Bob's story will resonate with others, please share this post through email and social networks. Let us never give up encouraging one another.