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Seriously, woman-to-woman, I'm asking.
What is messed up about your sex life?
If your answer is nothing -- if you and your husband love and savor sex -- then this post probably will not resonate with you.
But if you are like many of the wives -- and husbands -- I hear from, the sexual intimacy in your marriage is a source of contention, maybe even a battle ground strewn with misunderstandings, unspoken resentment and unmet desires.
I don't have easy answers. (Sorry. Wish I did).
What I lack in quick fixes, though, I make up for in a deep-seated passion of wanting to speak hope and encouragement into broken desperate places.
I lost my naivety long ago about the complexity of what can go wrong sexually in a marriage.
Nothing on the spectrum really surprises me anymore. What I have not lost, though, is my hope that God is indeed a restorative and redemptive God and that whatever is messed up about your sex life, He wants to come along side you in that -- to comfort, to clarify, to consecrate.
When you stare directly into the question, "What is messed up about your sex life?", where do you arrive?
Recently during a sermon, I heard a pastor boldly ask, "Are you a participant in the truth? Are you a participant in the truth of the Gospel? Are you are participant in the truth of God's Word?"
For those of you whose sexual intimacy is a source of pain in your marriage, rather than a source of oneness and Holy goodness, I wonder if the questions are all connected.
The answer to "What is messed up about your sex life?" likely is found within the answer to "Are you a participant in the truth of God's Word?"
It's one thing to stand at an altar and vow that you do indeed agree with the truth of God's Word that your body is now not your own. At least, in a rhetorical sort of way, anyone really can stand and agree with that truth.
It's another thing to be a regular participant in that truth -- year after year -- long after the wedding pictures have lost their glow.
Lest you think I sound all preachy and condescending, I beg of you to hear my heart.
See, I've lived both sides.
I've lived the marriage of being careless with sex, of thinking that there would always be "someday" down the road to pay close attention to sexual intimacy. To be brutally honest, I spent more time than I care to admit thinking that sex didn't even really matter.
I now live within a marriage where I see first hand the enormous positive impact of sex -- and not just sex for sex's sake, but vulnerable and enjoyable and soul-drenching sex with the man I married.
But hey, I'm not blind to the realities out there on the marital landscape. I know that there are plenty of people who marry, not realizing in that moment that they not only are agreeing to sex, but they also are agreeing that if sex becomes a struggle, they will do what they can to figure that out.
Does that make sense?
When you stood before the judge, pastor or priest, you committed to looking closely at the difficulties that may arise in your marriage. (I know the variety of difficulties is vast, but I blog about sex, so that's where my line of sight usually is drawn).
For a lot of couples, sex is indeed a big difficulty.
If that describes you, what is messed up about your sex life? Do you know -- do you really know -- and, more importantly, are you willing to do what you can to bring about positive change?
Do you simply have no desire for sex?
Lack of desire happens for a whole slew of reasons, whether they be physical, emotional, relational and so forth. If that describes you, don't get stuck there. Be a participant in the truth that God designed sex to be mutually beneficial for a husband, a wife and their marriage as a whole. So if you have no desire, is it not worth it to figure out why you have no desire -- and then go about rectifying that low desire? Visit a physician. Visit a counselor. Read a book. Do something.
Are you punishing him?
Withholding sex is one of the easiest ways to punish a spouse -- because it is the one thing that your husband truly can't go get someplace else (assuming he will be faithful).
But withholding sex has tragic consequences. Grown up marriage requires us to do the courageous grown up thing -- if he has wronged you or disappointed you, be a participant in the truth and shed light on what you are feeling. Seek a way to extend grace, to grow in better communication and to re-connect with the man you love.
Is your husband committing adultery?
If your husband is engaging in illicit behavior, such as adultery or pornography, then understandably this is taking a huge toll on your sexual intimacy. You are wise to set boundaries and to refuse to put yourself at risk.
You are wise to do all you can to encourage him toward health and healing.
I would add, though, that you are equally wise to get support for yourself. Be a participant in the truth and press into the Lord and safe people. Seek a Godly perspective on how to navigate when sexual intimacy and trust are suffering under the weight of tremendous betrayal.
Do you struggle with body image?
I get that nearly everything in our media sabotages our ability as women to gain an accurate perspective on beauty.
I don't take this lightly. Entire industries (from skin care to exercise videos to fashion) are built around this idea that we can somehow negate the toll that time and life take on a woman's body and looks.
But can you instead be a participant in the truth about how God sees you? Additionally, nearly all husbands admit that they are not nearly as hung up on what their wives see as physical shortcomings.
I wish society and media would get it right.
But we can't allow our marriages to suffer while we wait for that moment when the world out there gets a better grasp on what beauty really is.
Do you have past issues from which you have not healed?
There are some things that are so destructive to a right and Godly perspective on sexual intimacy.
Possibly the most horrendous is sexual abuse, which so many men and women have experienced at the hands of others, maybe even the hands of people who they once trusted. The tragedy in all of this is huge. What adds to it, though, is what happens within a marriage where spouses who have experienced abuse are never able to embrace a good perspective on marital sexual intimacy.
Be a participant of the truth and seek the professional help and healing you and your marriage need. Too much is at stake.
Another past issue that can thwart sexual intimacy in a marriage is past promiscuity. I hear from married Christians who truly believe their sex life is so horrible because they are being punished by God for past promiscuity. Be a participant of the truth and accept that there is no sin beyond the reach of Jesus' blood-stained hands. Not one sin.
Do you live as if there will be plenty of time later to nurture your sex life?
This is possibly the biggest culprit in so many marriages.
Life gets busy and full. Kids come on the scene and literally commandeer their parents' time and energy -- and their marriage.
Be a participant in the truth and recognize that there may not be time later -- and even if there is, what kind of marriage are you going to have when you arrive there?
I've long believed that the most stable and enriching gift married people can give their kids is a healthy marriage. And call me crazy, but I don't think a healthy marriage can exist as God intended it without nurtured sexual intimacy (barring, of course, situations where sexual intimacy is not possible, such as prolonged physical ailments or separation due to military deployment).
For the vast majority of us, making love to our spouse is one of the best decisions we can make for our family's well-being.
I know that many of you reading this have indeed gone above and beyond in trying to instill healthier sexual intimacy in your marriage -- to no avail, because the other person you need participating in that truth, your spouse, is unwilling.
My heart breaks for you.
I don't want to minimize your pain. And I cling to the truth that God sees every tear and some day your spouse will have to give an account for their careless actions.
But for those of you who are reading this and know not only what is messed up about your sex life, but also that you could be doing something to make it better, what is stopping you?
Do all you can to be a participant in the truth.
Do you like this blog? You can vote for Intimacy in Marriage in Stu Gray’s annual Top 10 Marriage Blog competition! I’ll receive your praise with grace and humble appreciation.
Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert, Intimacy in Marriage.