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Occasionally, I hear from women who have struggled tremendously with vaginismus, a condition that causes the vagina to tighten, making sexual intercourse extremely painful.
So you can imagine how grateful I was to open up my email and see an alert about a new post from my fellow writer and pal Sheila Gregoire.
Sheila recently did a series on vaginismus, and highly recommend you read the series!
Profound and needed information in these posts. (I included the links further down, so keep scrolling).
Not only did Sheila suffer from this condition early in her marriage, she also has heard from countless other women.
Some of these women are bravely sharing their stories in an effort to shed more light.
Even if you have never suffered from vaginismus, reading the posts could help us all build good empathy for women who do.
Copyright 2016, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
Who among us hasn't found ourselves multi-tasking -- during sex!
The number of details flowing through our brains can be downright distracting, especially during intimacy!
Sheila's post is part of my ongoing guest blog series on things that destroy sex in marriage.
Things are getting nice and steamy when suddenly, out of nowhere, the thought pops into your head: "I think we're out of vacuum bags."
And then you start wondering what else you need at the store.
Most of us women are by our very nature multi-taskers, probably more so by necessity than by choice.
At any given time, a woman must mentally and sometimes physically keep tabs on a barrage of specifics.
You could be making the grocery list AND preparing a proposal for work AND checking on the child’s homework. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in your world.
Now, to be fair to the men, I think they too juggle quite a few details. It seems, though, the tasks many women must focus upon have daily urgency, especially if you are in charge of the calendar and anything associated with the children.
It’s just hard to step back from a relentless “to do” list and gain perspective, because honestly, sex feels like one more thing on the list.
It’s not that you don’t want to offer your body and your undivided heart and mind. It just feels impossible to give him the whole package on any given day.
If that describes how you feel, what can you do to stop the negative impact multi-tasking is having on sex in your marriage?
Nothing will dig you deeper into a hole than denial. We like to tell ourselves we can do it all well, but truth is that some things suffer.
You have to start counting the costs. Maybe instead of juggling so many balls, let a few fall – the ones that don’t have big consequences.
The health of your marriage is vital, so that’s one you don’t want to leave to chance.
Take an honest look at what you have expected from yourself as a mother, homemaker, volunteer and employee. If you have set the bar unreasonably high (maybe even bordering on perfection) in some of those areas, decide to give on a few things.
The energy and focus you will have for intimacy with your husband is worth it.
You may think I’m going to say get him more involved in wrangling some of those details, so they are on his plate and not yours. Well, that’s not a bad idea, but that’s not exactly where I’m going.
What I really mean by “enlist” his help is be frank with him about what you need to de-program and reset your mind for getting busy beneath the sheets.
If you know that a hot shower or a hot bath will relax you, then tell him that’s what you need – and ask him to help you make room for that.
If you need more foreplay to redirect your mind toward sex, then tell him you need more foreplay.
If you need to go for a walk after dinner so you can just vent all the things that are on your mind and get them out, then tell him! I explain it to my husband like this:
"Inside my head are all of these different pinballs, just like on a pinball machine, going back and forth, rattling around in my brain. If I'm going to be able to enjoy sex tonight, I've got to get those pinballs out first!"
So now we go for "pinball" walks, and it helps me get my head in the game immensely!
Sure, your brain's default is to multitask. But that doesn't mean it HAS to multitask. You just have to fight back!
And the way to do that is to get out of your brain and start focusing on your body. When you're making love, ask yourself, "What feels good right now?" Or "Where do I want him to touch right now?"
That may sound clinical, but here's what often happens to us women:
We start making love, and nothing feels that great because we're thinking of a thousand different things. We figure that if our husbands do just the right thing and are perfect lovers, they'll get us out of our heads and they'll make us feel good. So until we feel good, we'll just make a grocery list.
But your body can't feel good -- no matter what your husband does -- until you concentrate on it, because our sex drives are almost entirely in our brains. If our brains aren't engaged, our bodies won't follow.
So the answer is not for our husbands to be perfect lovers (though that can't hurt!); it's for us to fight against the grocery list and start thinking about our bodies.
That gets our brains thinking below our necks, and helps our bodies to engage. When you ask yourself, "What feels good right now?", you may just realize that something does!
And then you can go with that feeling.
Oh, and if you do figure out that something wants to be touched -- tell him!
One last thing: as busy as we are as wives and mothers and workers, sometimes we think that sex is “just for him.” As long as you show up, all is good, right? Wrong.
Sex is for you too. And beyond the obvious benefit of strengthening your marriage, it also has other awesome effects.
It helps relieve stress, contributes to your general sense of well-being, and releases healthy endorphins into your system.
And besides all that -- it helps you sleep! How many times did I say, "Not tonight, honey. I'm just exhausted," only to lie there and toss and turn because I know I've disappointed him, I'm ticked because he's ticked, and we're both not sleeping?!
But when we have sex, I sleep like a rock! So now when I'm tired I say, "Come put me to sleep, baby!"
Plain and simple, nurtured sexual intimacy can help you have a better outlook on your crazy busy life. Sex isn’t just good for your marriage. It’s good for you. And you’re worth that kind of investment.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex and 31 Days to Great Sex. She blogs everyday at ToLoveHonorandVacuum.com. Come on over and get her free ebook, 36 Ways to Bring Sexy Back to Your Marriage!
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
The eBook is all about nurturing sex in marriage, so you know I am a fan.
Sheila and I are very like-minded on this TRUTH that married couples should be enjoying and speaking positively about SEX.
Can you imagine if she and I and a few of our fellow marriage blogger gals could sit on a beach some day and just come up with idea after idea on how to help marriages sexually?!
Sounds like a dreamy vacation to me.
In the meantime, Sheila has written this fabulous eBook on 31 Days to Great Sex.
It's only $4.99 people. That's like what you would spend on a Venti latte at Starbucks!
I receive $2.50 of each copy sold from this post here, so maybe I'll be buying a cup of coffee or tea for my Beloved -- but, more importantly, the more copies sold, the more marriages nurtured.
Your marriage is worth at least what you spend on a cup of good coffee, right?!
Of course it is! Honestly, even if you don't feel that way right now, the truth is that your marriage is worth investing in.
I asked Sheila to share a little about this book and her passion for the topic. (A bonus for you... You get to hear someone else talk besides me. She's a Christian wife who values sex, so she's a lot like me. Only more published. And doesn't live in Nebraska.)
Simply make a comment on this post about WHY it is so important for Christians to speak in favor of nurtured passionate sexual intimacy in marriage. At 9 p.m. (CST) Saturday, Nov. 24, I will randomly draw a number and whatever comment matches up with that number will be the winner. *** UPDATE *** Winner of the book in the random drawing was commenter #12... Heather Ratliff! Congrats Heather!
Now back to Sheila... here are my questions and her responses:
What would you say to a wife who has the perspective that sex is just for her husband…that it's not really something vital to her as well?
Many, many women feel like that. I know I did when I was first married. Sex was uncomfortable for me, and the more he wanted sex, the more I felt he didn't really care about me or love me.
But I kept seeing and hearing all these women talk about sex as if it were a good thing. And I thought: why is it that they enjoy it and I don't? How come I'm losing out?
And that's what it is. Losing out. God promised us an abundant life, and that includes an abundant marriage in the bedroom. If your husband doesn't have that, you're not just shortchanging him; you're shortchanging yourself.
You were created for pleasure. You have a body part (the clitoris) whose only purpose is to make you feel wonderful! Not even men have that. For them every body part is dual purpose.
And sex wasn't just designed to make you feel physically rapturous; it also makes us feel intimate with our husbands. It makes us feel close. It makes us laugh. It even helps us to sleep better!
So if you're just too exhausted for sex; if you're sick of him pestering you; if you can't figure out what all the fuss is about; take a deep breath and tell yourself: "I may not understand how great sex is right now, but I know that God meant for it to be great. And I'm not going to stop until I figure out how that's actually possible!" Because it is, ladies. Don't lose out on it.
What would surprise my readers about your book 31 Days to Great Sex?
A lot of it doesn't take place in the bedroom! Sure there are quite a few challenges on how to make sex feel great. But when sex has become blah, the answer usually isn't in the bedroom--or in a sex toy shop.
The answer usually comes through more communication, through more emotional vulnerability, even just through more shared laughter! What I keep hearing over and over from readers is, "You finally helped us TALK about all of this stuff!" So yes, there are plenty of steamy days.
But what really helps couples, I think, is the time dedicated to making this area of your life much richer.
If you had one sentence to tell my readers what sex means to a marriage, what would that sentence say?
Billions of people have had sex; I'm not sure how many have actually made love. I hope through this 31 Days to show people how amazing--physically, emotionally, and spiritually--making love can be. (Oops, that's 2!)
Invest in yourself and in your marriage. It's only $4.99. You never know... it could be one of the best investments you've made in your marriage in a long time...
Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
Posted in authentic, body image, intimacy, marriage problems, passion, sex, sexual intimacy, sexual intimacy struggles, sexual struggles, Uncategorized Tagged with: sexual intimacy in marriage, sheila gregoire
Good girls do have the best sex!
Want to know more?
I'm so glad Sheila, such a genuine voice on this topic, has put her insights to paper with this new book.
And I'm giving a copy away! (A shout out to Sheila's publicist Jennifer for thinking of you, my readers, and sending me a giveaway copy.)
Below is a question and answer session I did with Sheila about the book.
My questions are in bold blue, and Sheila's answers follow.
At the end I'll tell you how you can have a chance to win the copy Jennifer sent me.
I genuinely think you'll appreciate Sheila, a woman who feels like a friend -- someone who wouldn't care if your house was messy and would sit down at your kitchen table, enjoy a hot cup of coffee and REALLY talk about sex. Is it no wonder I like this woman?
There are increasingly a number of Christian books on sexual intimacy in marriage. What are a few ways your book stands apart?
Before I was married someone gave me a book about sex in marriage. I read it in the bathtub, and it made me so mad I held it under the water until it drowned.
And then I dumped it in the garbage.
Why did I feel so homicidal towards a book?
It was all about how to make your wedding night work like clockwork, explaining what to do so that you'd have an orgasm. And it felt so choreographed. It was so much pressure!
I was young, inexperienced, and scared. I wanted some reassurance that sex was nothing to be scared about, and that I could relax and things would work out. Instead I felt like I was going to have to write a test afterwards to make sure I got everything right.
By the way, the book didn't work. My wedding night was lousy!
But I've been married for 20 years now, and what I've found is that sex gets so much better. And one of the things that makes sex so stupendous is that it's not just physical--it's also emotional and spiritual, too.
It's deeply intimate. That's what I wanted to understand.
In the early years of my marriage when things weren't working like clockwork, I yearned for a big sister who I could sit down with and ask real questions. But I didn't have a big sister. And it seems like most of the books written about sex for Christians were either written by couples or were written by men.
I thought it was about time that a woman wrote a book that told it like it is.
And so I've tried to write a "chatty" book that talks about sex from a woman's perspective, and lets it all hang out!
Never fear, though. I don't pressure anyone to achieve some magical high or else they feel like they've "failed." Instead, I try to present sex as a journey.
Don't judge it by every single encounter. You have a lifetime to grow together! So relax, have fun, and get to know each other in a whole new way.
One thing that's interesting about the research I did for my book: I asked people to rate their wedding nights in terms of how good the sex was. And then I asked them to rate their sex lives now. And having a lousy wedding night made absolutely no difference--absolutely none--on the quality of the sex people enjoy now.
So the message that my book gives women is "relax! Let what happens, happen. The amazing thing is that now you get to know each other in every way--physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So revel in that--not in whether or not you can try every position and achieve simultaneous orgasms in your first year together."
What do you most enjoy about speaking and writing about sex?
This may sound weird, but I know you'll understand this, Julie. I like saying the stuff that everybody else is too scared to say.
My husband and I speak at marriage conferences, and we always do the "sex" talk. And I have these comedy routines I do about what often runs through a women's brain while she's making love. And everybody roars with laughter, because we all know it, but no one talks about it.
Or else everyone's scared to talk about the things that people are actually thinking about and wondering about, like sex toys, or oral sex, or different positions, or why can't I orgasm? It doesn't bother me to say those words out loud (though I admit it took a little bit of practice when I started).
But I find the reception is one of overwhelming relief. We have this idea that everyone in the church is such a prude that they'll wilt if they hear the word "clitoris."
But it's not true.
Christians may be private, but we're not prudes. And most Christians crave real information about sex that isn't tainted by our culture's warped view of what's okay. I love filling that role.
Why do you personally think Christian married couples should be the biggest advocates for sex? How can we do more to ensure upcoming generations better appreciate and nurture sex in their marriages than possibly previous generations have?
Christian married couples have the best sex!
The tagline for my book, The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, is "and you thought bad girls had more fun."
We have this warped idea that the Kim Kardashians of the world are the ones enjoying sex the most, but according to my survey (which confirms what others have said), it's actually the church secretary who lives down the street, puttering in her garden, who may be carrying an extra forty pounds, but she's been married to the same guy for 22 years.
When we listen to God's design for sex, we have amazing sex.
And I think the primary reason is because we know it's not just physical. An orgasm is great; but to make an orgasm really intense doesn't involve something with batteries.
It just involves understanding that sex also unites you spiritually and emotionally, and when you feel that deep, intimate oneness with another person, there's nothing else like it.
The reason our culture has such problems with sex, and why they're always trying to push the envelope, is because all they have is the physical. Take sex out of the context of a committed relationship, and it becomes only about the body.
But it's so much more than that. They've made it so shallow, and because of that they've wrecked it for so many people.
We need to be telling people, "You want to have great sex? Wait for marriage, and then have lots of it!" That's the recipe for an amazing sex life.
THANK YOU Sheila for your wisdom and willingness to walk where God has called you in speaking up and writing about sex.
I encourage wives to glean from this book and recognize how you can embrace all that sexual intimacy can mean for you and your marriage.
Want a chance to win the free copy?!
Simply comment on this post by answering this question: "Why is it so important for Christians to become the BEST advocates for nurtured sexual intimacy in marriage?"
(I moderate my comments, so if it doesn't show up right away, please be patient). Be sure to leave a legitimate email address -- it won't publish publically, but I'll have to have a way to reach you if you win.
At 9 p.m. Central time on Wednesday, March 14, I'll randomly pick a number from the number of comments I receive on the post. The comment that lines up with the number I pick is the winner! **** UPDATE: Winner of the drawing for the free book was Darcy! Thank you for all the comments below... please read them and share them!
To buy the book, visit The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex (aff. link).
Thanks again Sheila!
Copyright 2012, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
Lately I've been a little self-absorbed.
See, I have a broken finger (long story) with some slight tendon damage thrown in as well.
Saving grace is it is on my non-dominant hand. Still annoying though.
See what I mean?! I'm self-absorbed.
So imagine my relief when I still managed to stumble upon this phenomenal conversation author and speaker Sheila Gregoire generated about birth control on her blog.
(Both posts are DEFINITELY worth the read, so check them out).
I gotta give Sheila a shout out on this, because it is a topic that in particular impacts women -- and can be a monumental issue in marriage. (See why her posts resonated with me?! Women. Sex. Marriage. I'm all ears for discussions like this).
Whether we admit it or not, decisions about birth control (or lack thereof) are made in marriage -- at least in marriages where the possibility of conception exists. Couples make those decisions either consciously or sub-consciously -- with information or without.
Not surprisingly, many Christians don't like to discuss birth control, what with all the theologies, opinions, facts and occasional news stories intermingling.
I think I have mentioned birth control in only one of my previous posts. Lord knows, though, I have more than some passing thoughts on it.
For one, there was that mild stroke I had when I was 19 (On the pill. Not married. First sexual experience.)
Yes, a mild stroke. Experienced by little ol' me.
Not fun I might add.
Granted, I can point to a few other things that likely contributed to the stroke, but hey... in hindsight it's hard to not wonder about the fine print I did not read on the birth control package.
And, of course, I can't forget that being on the pill absolutely killed my sex drive in my first marriage. I had no idea some forms of hormonal birth control had that potential side effect. Ahhh... the infamous, "I wish I'd known then what I know now." My poor first husband. I've actually apologized to him for this.
Sheila also mentioned that it took a toll on her libido, and I've heard this echoed by other women as well.
If you are using hormonal birth control, don't think I'm trying to alienate you. I'm simply speaking out of my own story, because... well... that's the only story I've got.
What is so fabulous about Sheila's discussion on birth control is that it sheds light on valid aspects of which so many couples are either unaware or think aren't affecting their sexual intimacy.
I'm not a medical doctor (I don't know any marriage bloggers who are). Suffice to say, many of us are simply trying to encourage couples to address issues that are important to marriage. If you have questions about various forms of birth control, by all means, please talk to your doctor.
And I'm not a theologian, but I am well aware there are strong opinions among Christians about various forms of birth control, including whether it should even be used.
I blog about sex. One can't write too long on the topic of sex without a variety of information flying her way about condoms, the ethics of hormonal birth control, and the question of whether the pull-out method works.
It doesn't, by the way. At least not with any predictable accuracy.
Plenty of "pull-out" babies out there, wondering why their bedroom looks strikingly similar to their mom's home office.
Anyway, I digress.
I just really wanted to take the time to say I so admire Sheila's heart to encourage couples to really talk and seek information and make wise decisions.
I echo her sentiments.
Maybe I'm just a lazy blogger, seeing how I'm simply pointing you to her in-depth posts instead of writing a few of my own on this topic.
She's just so dang good, though. I'm not overly confident I could expand any further on what she and her commenters have said.
Plus I've got this painful finger to tend to.
I keep telling my friends that I'm just not too thrilled with any sort of pain that doesn't result in someone handing me a baby at the end and saying "Congratulations!"
How funny is that -- I just wrapped up my blog about birth control by talking about giving birth.
I know. My comedic irony is freaking you out.
Anyway, go read Sheila's posts and chime in.
More importantly, if you haven't already, have an open discussion with your spouse about birth control -- especially if it has been a topic causing tension in your sexual intimacy.
You do not want to find yourself someday thinking, "I wish I'd known then what I know now."
Copyright 2011, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
Too many couples are sacrificing their sexual intimacy.
Well, today in our on-going "altar" series, we have author and speaker Sheila Gregoire digging into another altar -- Lack of Pleasure.
Is sex not pleasurable for you? Instead of figuring that out, would you rather not have sex at all or do you just go through the motions?
Glean from Sheila's wisdom on this topic. Her insights could compel you to pull your sexual intimacy off this "altar" and start enjoying sex with the man you married.
Ever notice how everybody in the whole wide world absolutely loves sex?
At least, that's what magazine covers blare at us in the checkout line, and movies and television convince us of. People are attracted to each other, they fall into bed, and everything works just beautifully.
Let's get a reality check here -- and some hope for the future. For many women, sex does not feel very good at the beginning of their marriages. In fact, based on the surveys I did for my upcoming book, The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex, it looks like most women have rather ho hum sex in their first few years of marriage.
They don't reach orgasm.
They just don't like it that much.
That's because, as much as we may talk about sex being "totally natural," we don't just figure out how to do it easily. So many things are tied up in sex that making it work perfectly isn't simple.
You have to feel safe. You have to feel relaxed. You have to feel willing and not ashamed. And besides all these emotional challenges, you also just simply have to learn to do it right.
And that takes time.
Men and women, for instance, like to be touched in entirely different ways. Men like it a little bit rougher and harder, while women like it a little bit gentler. If he were to touch you on your clitoris, for instance, the same way he would want to be touched on his penis, more than likely it wouldn't feel good; it would feel very uncomfortable. Whereas if you were to touch him the way you like to be touched, he would interpret it more like teasing.
I think that's why many couples get off to a bad start, and then many women just assume, "Oh well, sex isn't for me. It just will never feel all that good."
Perhaps your first sexual experience was before you were married, and it was rather hurried. You didn't have time to get that aroused. Or perhaps your first time was on your wedding night, when he was also in a hurry, and neither of you took time to figure out what you wanted.
He didn't seem to be into "foreplay," and you didn't ask, and so you settled into a routine where, when you do make love, he has an orgasm rather quickly, and you start dreaming about paint colors or grocery lists.
It does not have to be that way!
Most guys don't take a lot of time at foreplay, but that's often out of ignorance, not spite. We assume that it's because they don't want to, but it's usually because they don't understand.
And we give up on the idea of ever actually experiencing sex as a good thing, and so sex becomes rather low on our priority list (or else a source of great resentment).
No one wants to live that way. That's cheating yourself out of something God created you for! So here's how to get out of this trap:
You need a reset button.
If you are going to have a good time in the bedroom, you are going to have to be an active participant.
Tell him what you want! He wants to make you feel good; for most men, that's the ultimate prize. When they know that they can make you feel good, they feel like real men. They feel wanted and desired. So he wants it to work, even if he's rushing through it. He just doesn't get it.
But maybe you don't know what you want, and you don't know what to tell him. Here's a good way to figure it out: suggest that you play a game where all you do is touch for 15 minutes. Just have him touch you, and when he does something right, let him know. When it's not quite right, move his hand or lead him to some place better.
You don't even need to use words if you don't want to. But show him what feels good, and in the process you'll probably learn yourself!
Then change places and touch him. Make a rule that he's not allowed to do anything except experience it, so that you can enjoy the wonder of your effect on his body. And keep playing this game, repeatedly, where he just figures out how to touch you and you figure out how to touch him.
Once you're comfortable touching each other, see if you can let go and have him bring you to orgasm some way (either with his mouth or with his hands).
Pay special attention to your arousal level, labelling it between a 1 and a 10 (with 10 being orgasm). Think of 9 as the point at which, if he stopped, you would literally burst into tears. Learn how your body feels and reacts. And once you get used to what a 9 feels like, then get to a 9 and start intercourse at that point.
Of course, to do this, you'll have to carve out time away from the kids when you can relax.
Turn off the phones.
Light some candles.
Have a bath together, or start with a massage.
If he understands that "tonight's about one long sex session," he'll be far more likely to want to do the massage -- and then you'll be far more likely to relax, so that you're able to experience more pleasure.
If you've been making love, with him hurrying along after foreplay that isn't that great, then change things up!
Teach him to touch you. Learn what your body likes. And you just may find that sex isn't just for him; it's totally for you, too!
Sheila Wray Gregoire is a speaker and an author of five books, including the upcoming "The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex" with Zondervan, available February 2012. She blogs at To Love, Honor and Vacuum. You can find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sheila.gregoire.books.
Don't miss the other posts in this on-going series! Sign up with the RSS-thingy so you can catch what other great marriage bloggers will be saying about the Altars We Sacrifice Sexual Intimacy On.