Sorrowful couple after having an argument
August 6th, 2015 by Julie Sibert

… show up?

Do you make your body available, but never your heart and soul?

While "lack of sex" is a common storyline that sadly shows up in many marriages, equally discouraging is accommodation sex -- whereby one spouse merely goes through the motions, but never really shows up.

We can try to argue it otherwise (and trust me, many people have), but God truly designed sex to be a profound encounter between a husband and wife.

A oneness.

A reaffirmation of what is good and holy and right in the covenant of marriage.

A physical playing out of marriage vows.

It's no wonder that we intuitively and quickly recognize when such experience is reduced to nothing more than duty or "going through the motions."

We know when our spouse is begrudgingly doing something, rather than vulnerably offering their whole self.

I've heard from some people (mostly husbands, but some wives as well) who say they can't decide which would be worse -- no sex at all or sex that is done only out of obligation.

Ask yourself these questions:

Has accommodation sex become the standard in my marriage?

Is it the pattern from which we never deviate?

Does it define all (or nearly all) of the sexual encounters between me and my spouse?

Why is accommodation sex so devastating? If you are the one going through the motions, you may actually be asking this question with contempt, rather than contemplation.

Many wives have argued, "He is getting what he wants -- sex. What does it matter if I'm really into it or not?  Why is he disappointed? He got what he wanted! He got his release."

Well, that's not what he truly wanted.

He wanted the woman he married to desire him sexually.

He wanted the woman he loves and does life with to value sex not simply for the physical release, but for the indescribable connection it creates.

He wanted his wife to crave his touch and his mouth and his body.

He wanted her to show up.  Really show up.

The good news is that if accommodation sex is all that you have ever offered, you don't have to stay stuck in that pattern.

Change is hard and awkward and sometimes overwhelming. I get that.  But it is possible.

And if it is the kind of change that can strengthen your marriage, why wouldn't you walk in the direction of change?

Not sure where to start?  How about getting real with your spouse about wanting sex to look different in your marriage.   How about a humble, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I've treated sex as duty rather than a gift."

Maybe the hardest part will be digging into why you feel the way you do about sex.  As bewildering and overwhelming as that can be, it is so worth the heart work.  You're worth it.  Your marriage is worth it.

Sure, you could just sit back and hope things will improve on their own.  But why gamble with something as precious as the relationship with the person you fell in love with and married?

For more reading along these lines, check out Why the Excuse "Sex Isn't a Need" Doesn't Hold Water.

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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Posted in marriage problems, sex, sexual intimacy, sexual intimacy struggles, sexual struggles, Uncategorized Tagged with: , ,

July 8th, 2015 by Julie Sibert

 

As part of my ongoing guest blog series on things that destroy sex in marriage and what we can do about those things, I today welcome Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife.

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past." -- Isaiah 43:18

When I married my husband, I brought a fair amount of baggage to our marriage bed.

Quite a lot it involved my sexual past – both with my husband and before I met him.

sexual pastInstead of enjoying marital intimacy with my husband, my marriage bed overflowed with stuff that got in the way:

Guilt and shame.

I felt so guilty and ashamed of the sex I’d had before marriage. These feelings made me feel unworthy of joyful sexual intimacy, so I avoided anything what would give me what I was convinced I didn’t deserve.

Negative views about sex.

Sex is for the man. Sex is something you need to keep secret and that you rush to finish. Sex was my only source of power or value to men. The only way to keep a boyfriend was to give him what he wanted sexually. All of these negative views were taking a toll on my intimacy with my husband.

Negative views about my husband.

As the man who wanted to have sex with me for the rest of our lives, my husband bore the burden of the lessons I'd learned about men. I thought he cared only about his own pleasure and not about my whole self or about my sexual pleasure. I thought he valued me only for sex.

Sadly, I am not alone.

A survey I conducted about the effect of premarital sex on women's marriages showed that two-thirds of the respondents thought their marriages had been negatively affected. This was the case even when the woman's only premarital sexual partner was the man she married.

The premarital sexual luggage is pretty full and includes the following:

  • The feeling that sex is dirty or bad
  • Expectations of husband based on previous partners
  • False perception of what intimacy is
  • The belief that sex is only for the man
  • A connection between sexual sensations and guilt or shame
  • The inability to trust husband because he pushed boundaries before marriage
  • Spiritual and emotional attachment to previous partners, leaving less left for husband
  • Not understanding that sex is a gift from God
  • Unwanted memories during some sexual acts

Many Christian wives have found that their premarital sexual activity follows them into the marital bedroom:

  • Sex feels wrong, so we avoid it.
  • We are unwilling to express our own sexual desires.
  • We dismiss a husband's sexual desire for us.
  • We are unable to embrace the role of sex in marriage and to address problems as they arise.

Fortunately, there is hope for moving past your past!

If your sexual past has overwhelmed your marriage bed, work to loosen the chains holding back your growth.

Focus on the truth.

Read what the bible says about marriage and intimacy. Especially read Song of Songs. Read Christian blogs about marriage and sex. Do a bible study about marital intimacy. Rebuild your beliefs based on truth, replacing the negative lessons that grew out of premarital sexual activity.

Some wonderful resources are Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage, Passion Pursuit: What Kind of Love Are You Making?, and Intimacy Ignited.

Get support.

Talk with your pastor or a counselor if you're struggling to deal with your feelings and beliefs about your premarital sexual activity. If your sexual past includes trauma such as childhood sexual abuse or rape, this support is especially helpful.

Talk with close Christian girlfriends who will listen and give you a hug.

Communicate with your husband.

Share your struggles with him. Ask for his prayer. Read, study, and pray together. (Not only can this help your sexual intimacy, it can also strengthen your non-sexual intimacy.)

If you haven't been truthful with your husband about your sexual past, perhaps now is the time. If your personal sexual history is affecting your husband's sex life, he deserves to know.

Invite god into the healing of your marriage bed.

Repent and seek God's forgiveness—and accept that forgiveness. You are a new creation in Christ. Spend time in prayer specifically for your sex intimacy. God designed sex and wants you to enjoy sex with your husband—so ask Him to work on your heart.

When you bring sexual baggage in your marriage, letting it clutter up your marriage bed can destroy your sex life.

You cannot change the past, but you can loosen the chains it has cast on you.

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." -- Ephesians 4:22-24

Be sure to check out the other posts in this series at this page!

Chris TaylorChris Taylor has been married to her husband Doug for 24 years. They live in southeastern Wisconsin and have three adult kids who are in various stages of leaving the nest. After a fulfilling career in higher education, Chris now writes at The Forgiven Wife, where she encourages women to tend to the sexual intimacy in their marriages. She draws on her own journey of healing to walk alongside other women trying to embrace full intimacy in their marriages. Chris thrives on coffee, knitting, and chocolate; the order of importance varies depending on the day. You can find her on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

 

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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Posted in marriage problems, sexual intimacy, sexual intimacy struggles, sexual struggles, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

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June 22nd, 2015 by JulieSibert

Awhile back I received an email from a reader, sharing that her husband doesn't find her sexy (and has actually said this to her, even though he says he does love her and thinks she is pretty -- just not sexy).

What's a wife to do with that?  What would you do with that?

I think this is what I would do...

1. Ask myself, "Does he understand the depth of pain such a statement causes me?"

I know it sounds like I'm just giving the husband the benefit of the doubt, and maybe I am, but I just have to wonder if he genuinely understands how hurtful he's being for even implying such a thing -- that he doesn't find his wife sexy.

If by all other accounts he is a fairly decent guy, then it's possible he has a blindspot in this one area about his words with regard to her sexiness.

So, that being the case, it's worthy of the question -- or rather, a statement -- to him in a clear, yet loving tone.  "When you say I am not sexy, it hurts me and makes me doubt your desire for me."

My hope would be such a statement would be a springboard into more conversation about ways to mutually build desire, affirmation, arousal and intimacy -- rather than chip away at it.

2. If I tried to generate conversation and share what hurts me, and he still downplays my pain, I would suggest counseling.

Yeah, I know.  Counseling seems to be the fall-back advice bloggers dole out.  But that's because a lot of marriages could be (and are) helped by it.

There is a reason professional marriage counseling is a huge field of practice. Counselors are schooled (literally and practically) in the idiosyncrasies of marriage. Because they are removed from the situation, they are able to see things that the couple likely can't see.

If your spouse won't go to counseling with you, go on your own.  It will give you a safe sounding board, help you gain ideas on how to address the situation, and demonstrate to your spouse that you are serious about doing what you can to strengthen the marriage.

3. I would dig into God's Word.

When we are feeling "less than" -- for whatever reason, be it at the words of another person or our own self-defeating chatter in our heart and mind -- the best way to get our feet on solid ground is God's truth.

God says you are enough -- that you are beautiful in His sight.  That's not cliche. That's love incarnate.  That's blood poured out. For you.

Any time is a good time to seek Him, but especially when we need to re-align our identity and worth with His truth.  He is faithful in lovingly affirming us and providing Holy Spirit heart conviction where needed.

4.  I would be accountable for me, rather than try to change him.

This is a tough one.  When all is said and done at the end of the day, we land at the reality once again that we can't change someone else.

We can try to influence and facilitate healthiness, but we can't make someone change.

That's true whether we are talking about health physically, emotionally, relationally or spiritually.

One thing we can always control, though, is our own attitude and approach.

There have been moments I have been really angry and disappointed with my husband (and him with me)  No, he has never said I wasn't sexy.  But we have been careless with each other's feelings in other ways.

And when I feel most hurt by him and when our conversation comes to a roadblock, I have learned to step back and take a deep breath.

Ultimately, as husbands and wives, we each will have to give account to the Lord for the ways we have treated each other.

If your husband thinks you are not sexy, speaks that out loud to you (or implies it) and fails to respond humbly when you point out your hurt, then such carelessness is ultimately his to own -- even if he won't own it this side of Heaven.

5.  I would lean on safe female confidantes.

I know there are some people who say you should never talk to your friends about your marriage struggles.  I'm just not one of those people.

I do think you need wise discretion about these conversations.  We all need safe havens where we can be real about the depth of our pain.

Just make sure those safe havens are other Christian women who will listen, pray with you and for your marriage, not bash your husband, and continue to point you to the truths of God's Word.

I know what it is like to occasionally feel alone in the frustrations of marriage. It is why I rely upon a few women friends who will let me be raw and real about my disappointment -- and at the same time remind me of the sanctity of my covenant with the man I married.

If you are like the reader who emailed me -- and your husband doesn't find you sexy -- that grieves my heart.  I am sad with you.

And while this post may spur in you ideas to reflect upon, in no way do I want to minimize your pain.  As wives, who among us doesn't deep down desire to be desired by the man we married?

It's such a reasonable and authentic desire.

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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April 1st, 2015 by JulieSibert

 

If there is one thing I have learned in all the years of speaking and writing about sex, it is that sexual struggles in marriage are often painfully complex.

Or simple.

Sometimes the reasons are painfully simple and easy to overcome.

Wherever you fall on that spectrum with sexual intimacy struggles in your marriage, consider the below 10 ideas on what you may need to do.

Do any of these cause your heart to pause? If so, my guess is that is where you will find profound answers.

If sex is a struggle in your marriage, you may need to...

1.  Finally deal with past issues you've been avoiding.

I know full well that some of you reading this suffered greatly at the hands of others who sexually abused you in your past.

Or possibly abuse wasn't your pain, but rather your pain came from your own choices of sexual promiscuity. Too many lovers for all the wrong reasons.

Or maybe just one lover, but you have difficulty moving past that you lost your virginity before your wedding day.

Or maybe you are struggling with regrets and grief about a past unplanned pregnancy.

I don't know your story of past sexual pain, but I do know God wants to speak into that pain with healing and compassion and grace.

He hungers for you to not allow that past pain to destroy sex in its right and holy context of your marriage.

It is heartbreaking that you have suffered, but it is equally heartbreaking if such devastation is still laying claim to your heart and bed -- wreaking havoc on the sexual oneness you could be having with the person you love.

2. Stop believing lies about sex in marriage.

Did you ever hear things when you were growing like "sex is wrong" or "sex is gross" or "sex is bad" or "sex is just for making babies" ?

For so many Christian women, going from maintaining sexual purity in singleness to pursuing sexual passion in marriage is just too big of a leap.

All they ever heard was they should say "no" to sex and now they are in a situation where God (and their husband) wants to hear an enthusiastic "yes" to sex.

If you are struggling seeing sex as good because all you ever heard was that it was bad, then I encourage you to dig into God's Word and heart, as well as other helpful Christian resources, to help you embrace a more truthful perspective on sex.

3. Acknowledge that your orgasm matters.

God designed orgasm for both husbands and wives.  The clitoris serves no other purpose than your sexual pleasure.  None.

And yet, so many wives downplay or disregard all together the importance of their climax.

Do you see value in your sexual pleasure?  If you don't, you probably aren't overly enthusiastic about sex. Ever.

If you struggle having an orgasm, consider checking out this page on my site where I have numerous blog posts specifically about orgasm.

Suffice to say, your sexual pleasure matters to building healthy sexual intimacy in your marriage.

4. Say "no" to some of the things depleting your energy for sex.

You can't do it all.  You are not an endless reservoir of energy.  Are you giving all the energy you have to everything but your marriage?

Hey, I'm not saying prioritizing is easy.  But it is worthwhile, especially when the health of your marriage is at stake.

Don't commit to quite so many volunteer opportunities.  Have more reasonable expectations about how clean and organized your house really needs to be.

At some point, you have to put your marriage near the top of the list, rather than consistently on the bottom of it.  Say "no" once in awhile (maybe even often) to the things that are overcrowding your schedule.

Check out this post I wrote on margin.

5. Plan sexual intimacy with your spouse.

Don't like the idea of "planned" or "scheduled" intimacy?  Think it will rob you of the spontaneity of the moment?

You gotta get over that.

Spontaneity is not the hallmark of amazing sex.  Intention is the hallmark of amazing sex.

For most married couples who have healthy sexual intimacy, their sexual encounters are a good mix of "planned" and "spontaneous."

There is nothing wrong with you and your husband intentionally blocking out some calendar space so you can have sex.

Put those kids to bed early and go make love to your husband.  Everyone will be happier in the morning.

6. Ask for what you need sexually.

Do you need more foreplay?  Do you need more kissing?  Do you need a back rub?  Do you need more caressing?  Do you need his hands and mouth as much as you need the rest of his body?

What do you need sexually?

Don't make him guess.  Don't assume he knows.  Ask for what you need sexually.

And while you're at it, ask him what he needs as well.

7. Stop making your kids the number one priority in your house.

There is a quote hanging on my fridge that says, "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." (Theodore Hesburgh)

If I could, I would add to the quote that the most important thing a mother can do for her children is love their father.

I know a quote on a fridge doesn't wrap everything up in a bow.  Life is messy, and it is especially messy when you are coordinating it with another person.

BUT.  In too many homes, when children arrive on the scene, sex takes a hike. It becomes an occasional "luxury" at best, and an outright forgotten privilege at worse.

Those kiddos you are pouring every ounce into? Well, they need a mama and daddy in love way more than they need homemade snacks for every school gathering or gleaming white baseball pants for every game.

Be intentional about nurturing your marriage and your sexual intimacy. You'll be giving those kids a foundation that is difficult to replicate any other way.

8. Visit a doctor and/or counselor.

Some sexual struggles are indeed physical issues that a health care professional can help you navigate and sometimes even eliminate.

And in the same regard, a professional counselor can play a vital role in your mental wellbeing and outlook.

If health struggles (mental or physical) are sabotaging your sexual intimacy, be proactive and do what you can to tame or alleviate those struggles.

9. Be willing to add some variety to your sexual intimacy.

I am not saying you need to succumb to sexual demands that fall outside God's boundaries for healthy intimacy.

What I am saying is that God does give you and your husband a lot of freedom within the exclusivity of your sexual relationship to thoroughly enjoy sex.  Maybe try some different positions or techniques or touches.

If you find you and your husband are struggling sexually, it could be because your sexual encounters always look the same.  Add some variety.  Pursue each other in new ways.

10. Strengthen your friendship with your spouse.

I write and read a lot about sex, and people are curious what I think is the "secret" to amazing sex in a marriage.

They tend to be surprised when I say "a strong friendship."

It's true, though.  Authentic friendship trumps just about everything else when it comes to building passion with the person you married.

But authentic friendship doesn't happen on its own.  You have to head in that direction.

How you spend time together and treat each other when your clothes are on will reveal a lot about what is going to happen when the clothes come off.

Sexual struggles do not have to have the final say in your marital intimacy.  

More often than not, couples can overcome their sexual struggles.  You will have to DO something though.

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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Posted in authentic, marriage problems, sex, sexual intimacy, sexual intimacy struggles, sexual struggles, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,

March 30th, 2015 by JulieSibert

 

No one stands at the altar and imagines a day when they stop making love to their spouse.

Some stand at that altar with eager enthusiasm about sex.  Some stand there nervous about it, but still excited about the possibilities.

And some stand there with curiosity and questions, wondering what sex will be like in their marriage.

But no one stands there thinking sex will not be part of the endeavor.

Do you remember your wedding day?  Do you remember what you thought about sex?

No matter what was going through your heart and mind on that day with regard to sex, my guess is you still knew that it was important.   Sex was a given, so to speak -- a vital expression of covenant love meant for you and your spouse exclusively.

I think sexual intimacy is one of the most difficult things for a couple to navigate over the course of their marriage -- particularly if they do not have good communication about their sexual needs, desires and expectations. (Seriously, even when they do have good communication about those things, it still can be hard).

Sex might even be the most difficult thing for a married couple to navigate (if my email in-box, comment stream and conversations tell me anything).

Has sex faded out of your marriage?

If so, I doubt that was a conscious decision on anyone's part.  Unhealthy patterns are usually unintentional.  We drift into them, distracted by the relentless details and busyness of life.

Colicky babies.  Little league schedules. Christmas preparations. Teenagers' activities. Work demands. Volunteer projects that should have received our "no." House repairs. Car repairs. Financial pressures.

Let's face it -- a lot of life starts happening after you unwrap the wedding gifts, cash the checks, put away the dress, return the tux and get down to the high and holy calling of being married.

Life gets messy.  And, sooner or later, hard -- emotionally, spiritually, physically.

Before long, you find that joys and smiles mingle casually with heartaches and disappointments, as if they are all dinner guests that come and go at random.

This is marriage.

And as much as you thought you were prepared for what makes it beautiful and worthy -- and what makes it painstaking and treacherous -- you weren't.

That's not a character flaw on your part.  It means you are human.  And so is your spouse.

Has sex faded out of your marriage?

If so, I am going to bet that one of you is in pain over that rejection.  Maybe both of you, but more often than not, when lack of sexual intimacy is an issue, it is a more prevalent issue for one spouse.

I wish I had easy answers (God how I wish that).  But sexual intimacy struggles are often painfully unique, and I don't know your story.

You may have huge hurts and betrayals you are trying to sort out.  You may have a past that is filled with sexual abuse or sexual lies or skewed messages about sex and marriage.  You may struggle with enjoying sexual pleasure and seeing the value in sex beyond the act itself.

You may have simply gotten lackadaisical about taking care of this aspect of your marriage, because you were always banking on there being plenty of time "someday."

Someday after the kids are raised.  Someday after the house is paid off.  Someday after the job isn't so demanding.  Someday.

I don't know your story.

What I do know is that sex is part of marriage.

And more often than not, when a couple could be nurturing their intimacy, but isn't, there is a toll.

Maybe that toll shows up as distance between the two of you or a lack of transparency or a sense that you are really more like roommates or a hunger to be with someone else.

If you know sex has faded out of your marriage, what will it take for you to stop pretending "this is just what happens in marriage" or "we'll figure this out someday"?

No one stands at the altar and imagines a day when they stop making love to their spouse.

No one.

Has sex faded out of your marriage?

Can you get humble and real about that?  And then do something about it?  The elusive "someday" never comes on its own.

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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March 10th, 2015 by JulieSibert

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Are you thinking of leaving your sexless marriage?

You are not alone, even among Christians.

Some of you won't do it, but the thought still hangs out there.

Should have…  could have…  would have...

… echoes of regret over years invested in a relationship that is starved of the very sexual intimacy that is a hallmark exclusive to marriage.

The one place sex should happen often is commonly the place it happens least -- or not at all.

I hear from men and women in sexless marriages, and many of them are hungry for a way out.

Their pleas generally look like this...

"I am going to leave after our youngest graduates from high school."

"There is someone at work who actually wants me, and I can't even get that kind of attention from the person I married."

"I'm so done."

"My wife thinks there is nothing wrong with our marriage, but she has no idea."

"My husband never wants to make love to me, even though I constantly show him I want to be with him sexually."

"Our friends and family think we have a great marriage.  If they only knew."

"I stopped sleeping in our bed because it was too difficult to be that close to the one person who could give me sex but won't."

"I can count on one hand the number of times we've had sex in the last decade."

"I figure I'll just get a divorce and ask for forgiveness later."

This is a searingly painful topic to address, and no matter what I say, there are no real winners.

Are you thinking of leaving your sexless marriage?

Before you do that, I encourage you to look at your situation and ask yourself these 10 questions:

1. Is your marriage truly "sexless"?

I imagine this question stings a bit, because you wouldn't even be entertaining a post like this if you didn't feel discouraged -- maybe even desperate -- about sex and your marriage.

If you and your spouse are struggling with whether once a week or once a month is enough sex, then I think you may have a frequency battle -- rather than a sexless marriage battle.

Many marriages face disagreements about sexual frequency. Many.

I'm not minimizing the frustrations with frequency battles.  They are real and mighty and present in countless marriages.  But having sex once a month when you really want it 2 times a week can hardly be considered a "sexless" marriage.

When I say "sexless," I mean outright refusal for months and years on end, with no willingness from the refusing spouse to address the matter or make healthy changes. One person has arbitrarily taken sex out of the marriage and even gone so far as to try to make the refused spouse feel guilty or selfish for even wanting sex in the first place.

I couldn't put a number on what counts as sexless, but I implore you to discern if what is going on in your marriage is a frequency disagreement or a barren wasteland of no sex at all.

2.  Is the refusing spouse struggling with depression or other mental health issues?

Depression (and a host of other mental health struggles) are real.  When they take a toll on a person's ability to function and interact in healthy ways in their relationships, then the person needs help.

There is no shame in mental illness or in getting help for it (sadly, our society and the church have not always acknowledged mental health struggles as authentic or as serious as they actually are).

If a refusing spouse is mentally sick, you as their spouse owe it to them to do a courageous thing -- strongly advise them to see someone (a doctor, a counselor, etc.) who can help equip them to better function in life.  If they are hesitant about that, offer to go with them or to help make the appointment.  Emphasize that you love them and want to support them in not just coping, but in thriving.

A married couple committed to working closely with doctors and counselors can nurture intimacy amidst such struggles, so that the relationship is not irretrievably damaged.

3. Is the refusing spouse physically unable to do anything sexual?

I know this should go without saying, but if your spouse is permanently injured or suffering from chronic illness that makes sexual activity impossible or extremely limited, then I really don't think you can classify your marriage as "sexless" in the truest sense.

I'm not saying your road isn't excruciatingly challenging.  But the words "in sickness and in health" have got to stand for something.

I remember a man I knew whose wife was dying of cancer.  He shared with me that she had admitted to him that it grieved her greatly that she couldn't be available to him sexually.  You know what he did? He reassured her and loved her and lived his vows until the day she died.

Though challenging, it also can be extremely rewarding and edifying to stand by a spouse who would have sex if they could. But they can't.  Sometimes couples in such situations demonstrate a better understanding of authentic intimacy than couples who have not faced such challenges.

4.  Have you really exhausted every attempt to make your frustrations and pain known?

A sexless marriage usually doesn't happen over a short period of time.  It is the result of an unhealthy pattern perpetuated long enough that it has become the "normal" in the marriage.

If the lack of sexual intimacy in your marriage has persisted, don't assume that "hinting" or being passive aggressive or yelling is going to enlighten your spouse to make different choices.  If anything, that approach will likely just get you more of what you have been getting -- no sex.

You have to make your concerns and needs and pain and frustration known.  One way to think of it is this: "What do I need to say to my spouse so that there is absolutely no doubt that they know I am hurt and our marriage is suffering from the lack of sexual intimacy?"

Answering that question probably means you're going to have to be brutally honest.  Speak in the I.  Speak your pain verbally and write it all down as well. Do it with firmness, but not harshness.  Let your pain show.

Risky?  Hell yes.

BUT it's also risky to try to sustain a facade of marital harmony.  At some point, you have to lay all your cards on the table and let the pieces fall where they may.

After making your pain known, express that you want things to get better and you want the two of you to work on that together, no matter what it takes.  Counseling (individual and as a couple).  Marriage seminars.  Exploring physical reasons (such as hormonal imbalances) for diminished sex drive.  Reading marriage books together. Making changes in your schedule so you can spend more time together.

Whatever it takes.

If your spouse won't go with you to counseling, go on your own.  Not only will you gain valuable insights from someone trained in helping marriages, you also will demonstrate to your spouse that you are committed to exhausting all possible avenues to make the marriage stronger.

5.  Is the marriage trying to heal from a deep betrayal?

If one or both people in a marriage are actively in the process of healing from a past pain, particularly past sexual abuse and/or adultery or porn addiction, then I personally think it's understandable that sexual intimacy may be slowed or delayed in the midst of such journey.

Key is that both people are committed to the marriage being healed.

Hopefully, if you find yourself in this situation, you and your spouse see the value in resuming sexual intimacy within a reasonable amount of time.  This is a realistic expectation, because sex is part of marriage.   If the betrayed spouse has decided sex will never happen again, I question whether that person is genuinely committed to the marriage being healed.

6.  Have you looked closely at your own heart and asked the Lord to reveal where you have been careless with the marriage?

Do I think it is okay for a spouse to indefinitely withhold sex?  No.  In the same regard, though, I think we each individually carry a responsibility for the relationship.  God even goes so far as to outline the responsibilities of a wife and a husband in His Word.

Are you at peace with God that you truly are doing what He has called you to do in your role in the marriage?  If not, I urge you to humble yourself before the Lord and seek first His commands instead of pouring so much energy into what you hate about your marriage.

7. Have you sought the counsel of other mature Christians?

Bailing on a marriage, for any reason, is a big deal.  Our society makes it out to seem like it really isn't, but practical experience and a boatload of research and buckets of tears tell us otherwise.

When two people are knit together in what they thought was a "forever" commitment, especially a covenant commitment of marriage, and then the bond is dissolved, the fallout is often tragic.

Before you leave, take your pain and frustration to 2-3 mature Christians you trust.  Men should confide in men, and women in women.  Choose mature Christians who will listen non-judgmentally, pray with you and for your marriage, not bash your spouse, study God's Word with you and keep all conversations in confidence.

Be specific and transparent with these mature Christians about what is happening in your marriage.  "We haven't had sex in three years and this is the pain it has caused me.  I'm not sure I want to be married anymore."

Ask those Christians to pray for you, with you and for your marriage.

These kind of relationships are priceless when you are contemplating the state of your marriage, especially if you are thinking of ending it.  They can often offer a more objective view and suggestions that you had not considered because of your deep pain.

8. Have you prayed?

Here's the thing. I can't answer the question for you of whether you should leave your sexless marriage.  That is something you and God have to wrestle about.

Ending a marriage is not a light decision at all.  As such, I would encourage you to spend tremendous time and vulnerability pressing into the heart of God and His Word.   I'm talking about your personal time with the Lord, not the time you spend at church or in your group Bible study.

9. Have you followed biblical teaching and confronted your spouse about his or her sin of sexual refusal?

1 Corinthians 7 is clear.   God tells husbands and wives:  Do not withhold your body from your spouse.  If your spouse is withholding their body from you sexually and you have tried to address this with them privately to no avail, I do think you are  biblically supported in going to your spouse with at least a couple other mature Christians and shedding light on the sin.

Is this easy?  Well, of course not.  Rarely are accountability issues easy.  They are wrought with our human nature to defend and justify, rather than walk in humility and welcome the opportunity for repentance.  But if you are at a point of ending your marriage, then first follow the biblical model of accountability.

10.  Have you made it clear to your spouse that you are thinking about divorce?

If you have made repeated attempts to address the issue in a variety of ways and your spouse has not responded, and you are thinking divorce is where you are headed, you should tell your spouse this.

Don't dance around it.  Don't say it in a tone that is threatening, but rather in a humble tone that expresses your deep pain.  Clearly express and outline your repeated attempts for the two of you to address and heal this area of sexual intimacy in your marriage.

And if you are feeling things are at a breaking point, don't rule out first legally separating.  Sometimes this distance can be a catalyst toward incredible healing and restoration within the relationship.

Are you thinking of leaving your sexless marriage?

It's abundantly clear in God's Word that He fully intended and designed marriage to include sex.  It is a "given" in His commands and Word that husbands and wives, as long as they are able, should not only have sex, but have it often.

Any believing Christian who would try to argue otherwise is clearly walking outside of God's will.  While each marriage is unique, I do think that a refusing spouse who has consistently withheld sexual intimacy from their spouse for no justifiable reason has in a sense already left the marriage.  Is divorce always the right choice in those circumstances?

Honestly, I'm not sure.

What I do know is the above questions will help you dig deeper.  And I do know that God is a faithful God, well aware of your pain and heartache and deep need for reliance upon Him.

Are you thinking of leaving your sexless marriage?

What are you going to do with those thoughts?

Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

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December 5th, 2014 by JulieSibert

 

It wasn't until he stopped initiating that it occurred to her something could be wrong.

And it wasn't that she was necessarily concerned he was "getting it elsewhere" (although, she knew that wasn't such a far-fetched possibility, if statistics told her anything.)

Even so, him no longer initiating sex did have her thinking.  Wondering if indeed her marriage was what she had always envisioned a marriage to be.

Wondering if it was what he envisioned it would be.

Anyway. He had stopped initiating sex with her.

And now she began to recall all those times she avoided sex.  Came up with excuses as to why they couldn't make love.  Made him feel guilty for even attempting.

All those times she pulled away from his touch when he crawled in bed. And the times she even snapped at him when he wanted to get in the shower with her.  Convinced herself that he was selfish and insensitive for ever wanting it in the first place.

And what about those times she was too tired for sex?  Yes, there were times she was exhausted. No doubt about it.

But she was often plenty awake to tend to the kids' needs, church activities and her favorite TV shows.  She vaguely remembers him pointing that out.  Something about him always being last (or never) on her "list."

Yes, him not initiating anymore really had her thinking now.

She almost cried when she considered the irony.

Him no longer initiating meant she had arrived at what she implied she wanted -- no more sex.  But she felt anything but victorious.

She felt empty.

There was a chasm between them that she couldn't quite name. Couldn't quite put her finger on.  But it stirred just beneath the surface nonetheless.

They did life.  They exchanged pleasantries. They moved through their own agendas and managed to keep things functioning.

Kids got fed.  Bills got paid. Birthdays got planned.  Lawns got mowed.

If there was tension -- and in moments of brutal honesty, she could not deny there was -- she simply rationalized it away.

"We're tired."

"We're busy."

"This is what happens to all married couples."

It had been a long time -- a long time since he last initiated.  So long that she couldn't recall with any clarity the last time they made love.   It was hazy at best.  And "going through the motions" for sure.

She recalled feeling relieved at first when he stopped initiating. She finally could stop feeling anxious about sex.

But now.  Now she started to wonder.

Did she have a hand in the collateral damage in their relationship?  Were they really as close as everyone else viewed them to be?

It felt like forever since they had done anything alone together.

He stopped initiating sex. And in a way, they both stopped initiating everything.

He stopped initiating sex.

And now? She felt anything but victorious.

Copyright 2014, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

Click on the below image for more about my book:

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Posted in marriage problems, sexual intimacy struggles, sexual struggles, Uncategorized Tagged with: , , , ,

October 14th, 2014 by JulieSibert

 

sex-in-marriageDo you wait until you are "in the mood" to have sex?

Are you doing a lot of waiting and very little lovemaking?

Being in the mood to have sex is not the best way to sustain intimacy in your marriage.

It's just not.  It's a crappy gauge.

And if you are never or rarely in the mood, then pretending that this is "just how it is" probably isn't helping things either.

Yes, I know.  There is more to marriage than sex (a friend reminded me of that recently.  Not that I needed reminded. I am, after all, married, so of course I know there's a lot more going on than sex).

BUT, if a husband and wife really could be having sex on a fairly regular basis and they aren't, then how can we possibly argue that the relationship is all it could be?

God wants married couples having sex -- not because He is a tyrant who just doles out commands haphazardly.  Nope.

Rather because He is a love-filled "for you!" Creator who knew that marriage is hard -- and that a husband and wife would need powerful ways to stay connected emotionally, spiritually, physically.

And because He is the designer of marriage, offering it as a covenant relationship with unique responsibilities and privileges (sex being both a responsibility and a privilege).

"But what if my marriage sucks, Julie?  What if I really am never in the mood because we have bigger deeper issues?!  What then?  What do you say to me then?"

"Or what if I really do want to want to have sex, but I simply have no desire?"

As for the marriage struggles, I would say that I'm genuinely sorry for your pain. As someone who has suffered the pain of divorce, I know painful marital discord in the worst way.  And though my current marriage is much healthier and stronger, we still experience hard stuff in our marriage.

As for low desire, I would say to first look at why you think that low desire might be there.  If it is because everything else in your life is getting first dibs on you always and you are exhausted and spent, then it likely is time to re-evaluate what balance means.

If your low desire is due more to a physiological reason, talk to your health care professional.  (I recently watched a webinar on low sexual desire in women and I am hopeful that the FDA is moving closer to approving more medications for treatment of low sexual desire in women).

If you are on hormonal birth control, talk to your health care provider about possible negative side effects this could be having on your sexual desire.

Regardless of the reason behind you not being in the mood, I offer this:  Unless you are in a physically or emotionally abusive relationship, you need to do what you can to strengthen your marriage.

I don't know what that looks like in your unique situation.

I don't know if that means addressing difficult issues in your relationship, talking to your doctor, setting priorities better or re-evaluating wrong or vague messages you've heard about sexual intimacy in marriage.

I do know this though.  If you are choosing to coast through marriage with little or no sex, you are robbing yourself and your spouse of something profound.

What could you do today to start to turn that cycle around?

Be brave.  Be honest. Be real about what needs to change for the better in your marriage.  And then do your part to work on that.

Just don't rely on "being in the mood."

Copyright 2014, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

Click on the below image for more about my book:

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Posted in marriage problems, sexual intimacy struggles, sexual struggles, Uncategorized Tagged with: ,

October 3rd, 2014 by JulieSibert

 

Ok, I have met a few people who think marriage is easy.

But those conversations are rare.  Count-on-one-hand-and-still-have-fingers-left rare.

Most people I meet who are willing to get vulnerable reveal something that tends to be more universal than unique -- marriage is hard.

Worth it, yes.  Rich with possibilities, yes.  Designed by the Creator of the universe, yes.

But easy?   Uh. No.

My beloved and I have been in a hard season in our marriage as of late.  Certainly not insurmountable, but difficult and discouraging and "in-the-trenches" messy.  We're persevering, learning, coming out of it more aware, and -- in many ways -- deeper in love.

For that I am humbly and eternally grateful.

Some things -- ok, many things -- if they are not destroyed by fire, are refined.  No place is this more true than marriage.

In this journey, I offer you three things to ponder:

1. Do the hard things of life draw you together or drive you apart?

It really isn't a question of if life is going to throw you curveballs.  It's only a matter of when.  And sometimes it's not even curveballs.  Sometimes it's just life.

Whiney kids. Dwindling bank accounts. Rising expenses. Fast-growing lawns. Messy bathrooms. Demanding jobs. Endless laundry. Rogue calendars.

You. Get. The. Point.

Exhausting.

In the hard things we've navigated lately, I'm increasingly aware of how better he and I do when the messiness doesn't derail us.  I wish I could say we are never derailed, retreating to our own corners.

But we are growing in our ability to stand back and take note and be wise in the face of adversity.

So pay close attention to what happens when life gets messy and hard, thus making your marriage messy and hard.

Can you find a a way to inch toward each other instead of run in opposite directions?

2. Are you willing to put in the extra effort to fight for you marriage?

When marriage is cruising along, it's effortless to take things for granted.  But when emotions are frazzled and miscommunication is staking ground in our hearts and home, our self-preservation mode (fueled by lies from Satan) compels us to do only the bare minimum...

Go through the motions.  Be civil, but not humble. Be present, but not really available.

Well, that is a crappy approach to building anything that will endure.

Sometimes, we have to resist our natural tendency to coast.  I've long believed that if unhealthy patterns (which are usually unintentional) go on long enough, they will become your normal.  Who wants an unhealthy normal?  Not. Me.

Putting in the extra effort -- however that looks in your situation -- is an intentional healthy God-honoring choice.

And more often than not, it's hard to do.  Sorry.  That's the truth.  But on the other side of continually choosing to fight for your marriage, what you'll likely end up with is a marriage -- a strong covenant commitment that is safe haven.

3. What happens to your sexual intimacy in a hard season?

I love sex.  I mean, really love it.  And while all the physical pleasure aspects are awesome (hallelujah), I also am deeply turned on by the emotional connection to the man I married when we make love.

And I know what that connection does to our relationship -- how it helps us extend grace.  And who doesn't need more grace during a hard season of marriage?

I know it comes as no surprise, but discord and division are not stellar aphrodisiacs.  In fact, discord and division are horrible bedfellows to endearment and passion.

So what do you do in a hard season?

I know that some serious marriage problems are full of excruciating wounds. Sexual intimacy takes time to restore.  If you are in one of those places (such as trying to heal from adultery or other deep betrayal), I encourage you to work with a professional counselor.  And I encourage you to not take sex off the table indefinitely.

I believe, though, for most couples in run-of-the-mill hard seasons of marriage, sex still needs to be in the mix.

I know.  I make it sound simple. Probably won't be.

But here's the cold truth: Satan is already trying to sabotage your relationship.  When you stop having sex -- which neither of you can biblically go get elsewhere -- you unwittingly become a partner in Satan's schemes.  You compound problems rather than relieve them.

My last piece of wisdom?  Pray for your marriage.

I didn't save it for last because it's least important. I saved it for last because it is most important and I want you to remember it.

God will always be in the business of meeting you in your deepest heartache.  Yes, He already knows what is going on in your marriage. But He still longs for you to come to Him -- raw and real -- and talk to Him about it.

Marriage is easy. Said no one ever.

Copyright 2014, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

Click on the below image for more about my book:

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May 20th, 2014 by JulieSibert

I realize some husbands are insensitive and walking way outside God's lines with some of their sexual requests.  And that's just plain wrong.

So if you are reading this and you're that guy… stop it. Stop being careless with your marriage.

I also know, though, that there are many husbands who really are good guys.  And they want godly sexual intimacy with their wives.

And that is a good thing.

Yet, some wives don't see it as a good thing that their husbands desire sex.

So these husbands who would be demonized for considering porn or an affair are equally demonized for wanting sex in its right context.

Either way, they are… well… you get the idea.

I'm simply trying to point out an irony that seems to be carelessly overlooked in too many Christian circles.

In no way am I saying pornography or infidelity is justified, so hear me out. I'm a Christian woman who writes and speaks about sex, so in my neck of the woods, I am well aware of the devastation and sinfulness that is inherent with porn and infidelity.

I recognize the pain. The work of the enemy in it all.  The deep wounds and scars that betrayal leaves in its wake.

Horrendous pain all the way around is certainly the calling card of confessed or discovered sexual sin, as those who have lived it will attest to.

All things considered, it really should come as no surprise why I'm so passionate about the need for nurtured sexual intimacy in marriage.  I am compelled to point out difficult ironies because I care about your marriage.

Too often when a man seeks sex with his wife -- or tries to point out that sex is an issue in the marriage -- there is not enough credence given to his voice.

He is downplayed.  Ignored.  Or worse, ridiculed. He is made to feel ashamed for his healthy sexual desire.

Yet, he is speaking about something and desiring something that is completely biblical and expected of him as a husband.

He is not being unreasonable because he wants sex on a somewhat regular basis with the one person God has told him to have sex with.

In general, as the church -- the body of believers -- we have become experts at vilifying pornography and infidelity with the loudest of voices.

And, at the same time, we generally have been hauntingly silent when it comes to speaking positively, specifically and frequently about the need for and value of nurtured sexual intimacy in marriage.

And we are fooling ourselves if we think promiscuity, pornography, infidelity, sexual abuse and sex trafficking are the only sexual matters that grieve God's heart.

He is grieved also when a husband and wife are not mutually enjoying, pursuing and holding in high regard His gift of sexual intimacy.

3 Things Your Husband Wants in Bed?

Well, most the husbands who reach out to me in desperation for advice do deeply love their wives. And they would give these answers to the above question...

1. He wants a wife who wants him sexually.

Yes, I get that you think he is a good provider.  And a good father.  And you maybe even consider him a really good friend -- your partner in this thing called life.

But he also needs to know you desire him sexually.

We as wives really can't comprehend how much a husband feels validated if his wife desires him sexually (unless you study this sort of thing and/or are paying attention in your marriage).

It's hard for us to understand, because most wives would say they feel validated when their husband is nice to them, shows them compassion, listens attentively.

One way is not right and the other way wrong.  Both ways are right.  Just because what helps him feel respected and validated is different than yours, doesn't mean his way isn't worth your attention.

He wants you to want him sexually.

2. He wants a wife who shows up.

If your husband is like most, he doesn't want a wife who simply goes through the motions.

To make your body available -- yet withhold your heart, enthusiasm and attention -- is almost as painful as if you didn't even offer your body.  At least that's what the guys tell me.

And this isn't about trying to create the perfect sexual adventure or pick out the sexiest lingerie.  Nope.  It's about you being you and looking forward to making love to your husband.

3. He wants a wife who enjoys sexual pleasure.

This is the crux of many sexual struggles -- the wife is not experiencing orgasm and/or she is indifferent about climaxing.

God designed orgasm for both a husband and a wife, and the reality we have to navigate is that a wife getting there is usually more complex than a man getting there.

BUT -- and here's the tipping point to it all -- a wife getting there is possible.  With some vulnerable communication, a willingness to spend more time on foreplay and a devotion to understanding the wife's body.

She needs to help him understand what is arousing for her.  He needs to be willing to let her show him and teach him.

Honestly, one reason I like sex so much is because I like orgasm so much.  And I like it with the man I married, who appreciates my sexual pleasure as much as his own.

With everything in me, I believe most sexual struggles in marriages not only can be healed, but also can be redeemed and made into something amazing.

I'm exhausted with people trying to tell me that sex doesn't matter in a marriage.   Too many broken marriages and distraught emails -- not to mention the Bible and the entire industry of marriage counseling -- tell me otherwise.

Common sense tells me otherwise.

We need to listen to common sense, God's Word, our spouse's heart cry, and to the truth that is revealed in a marriage bed when sex rarely or never happens.

The truth begs us to change unhealthy patterns.

Do you know what your husband wants in bed?

Copyright 2014, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.

Click on the below image for more about the book:

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