Sex and Marriage: I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know


sexual-intimacy-and-marriageSometimes people wonder why I’m so passionate about this topic of sexual intimacy in marriage.

They think my confidence in speaking openly and authentically about sex has always been there.

With ease I transition between talking about orgasm and talking about the errands I need to run… talking about sexual positions and talking about my rogue calendar.

Here’s the deal though.

The vulnerable no holds barred deal.

I write and speak about sex because years ago — what feels like a lifetime ago — I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I was a young woman in a new marriage.  Any sex I had before that marriage was in the wrong context. For the wrong reasons. With the wrong men.

And here I was, a new wife, trying (or more often, not trying) to have sex in the right context.

And I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I didn’t know that authentic sexual intimacy was vital to the strength of our marriage — any marriage, really.  I didn’t know that it had to be nurtured.

I didn’t know that my then husband and I had to figure out a way to talk about it, instead of rest in the assumptions that our sexual struggles would “work themselves out.”

That’s what I vividly remember telling myself.

Someday we’ll figure this out.  Someday this won’t be so difficult.”

Compounding the issue was that I was on hormonal birth control (the pill). And I had no clue it was sabotaging my sex drive, leveling out the natural peaks of desire that God designed into the physiology of a woman’s cycle.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

That marriage ended nearly 8 years later for a variety of reasons. But I couldn’t escape the truth that my indifferences about our sexual challenges didn’t exactly have to claw their way to the top of the reason list.

Our lack of nurtured sexual intimacy easily could have been the not-so-subtle theme of our marriage and our divorce.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

It wasn’t until after I was drowning in the pain of that divorce that I started to discover what I didn’t know.   I took an honest look at those sexual struggles, held them up against God’s heart and design of sex, and had my come to Jesus moment.

I humbled myself.

Dug into God’s Word.

Asked God for forgiveness for my lack of sexual availability.  Even eventually, years later, asked for my ex-husband’s forgiveness for the way I had been so careless with sex in our marriage.

I knew that if and when I ever re-married, I would be more intentional about this area of sex.  I would not wait for “someday” to address challenges. I would not be lackadaisical about what being a lover meant not only to a marriage, but what it meant to me.  And what it meant to any man I would be fortunate enough to call my husband.

When I did remarry, I gratefully discovered that I genuinely could learn and grow from what I didn’t know all those years before.

All of that probably would have been enough redemption, right?  To learn from my past mistakes and use them to transform my current relationship.

Well, God (being Who he is and all) had additional vision for how I was to use my experience of “not knowing what I didn’t know.”

In vulnerable and heart-wrenching conversations with other women who were facing their own sexual struggles in their marriages, I discovered that more light — Godly light — needed to fall upon this whole topic of sex and marriage.

So when it appears I speak with such ease and confidence about sexual intimacy in marriage, please know that I fought hard for that confidence.

I fought through my self doubt.  I fought through the skeptic looks I would get when I said, “I started a blog. About sex. In marriage.”

And with each opportunity to speak or opportunity to write, I heard more gut-level pain from women — and honestly, more often from men — about the sexual apathy and devastation going on behind closed doors in countless Christian marriages.

I knew full well what I didn’t know so many years ago.  And I wanted to do my part to see something made better — to obey the calling on my heart — to shed more light into dark places.

I speak about sexual intimacy in marriage with less trepidation now.  Less inhibition about what people will think.

I listen respectfully to the naysayers that such a topic is “private” and “off limits” and “not the type of thing Christians should be discussing.”   But I don’t let any of that slow me down.

I know anyone’s discomfort with the topic is often born out of their own sexual devastation, pain and unresolved struggles.

And. That. Breaks. My. Heart.

So if you wonder why I’m so passionate about sexual intimacy in marriage, it’s because I want to see broken hearts healed.

And sexually broken marriages redeemed.

I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

But I do now.

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Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

Never want to miss one of my posts?  Subscribe via email on this page.  And be sure to join my more than 9,000 followers on my Facebook page and 10,000 followers on Twitter.

32 thoughts on “Sex and Marriage: I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know

  1. southern gent says:

    Thank you Julie for your openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is so evident from your website.

  2. CSL says:

    Your “we’ll figure it out someday” triggered a song that’s got good advice:

    Well, I’m here to tell you now, each and every mother’s son,
    That you better learn it fast, you better learn it young,
    ‘Cause someday never comes.
    ~ “Someday Never Comes, CCR

  3. J says:

    The phrase “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” can be used so many ways.

    I’m the often refused high drive spouse. I save myself for my wife, she had not…

    For me, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” has lead me to this point of having caused some pain, and coming to a point that a couple years ago would be laughable to me.

    I didn’t know:
    -What sexual refusal/rejection was
    -i didn’t know how it could and would impact me
    -i didn’t know it would be so hard to have sex in marriage
    -i didn’t know my reaction to it would be so “out of character”.
    -i didn’t know how casual porn use could be so harmful, and where it can take you
    – I didn’t know how it all combined could break down your faith and your morals…

    I would have never guessed i’d be where I am today…I have to rebuild trust, I have to rebuild myself, and how I think of myself…

    I honestly have thought a lot lately that…”I didn’t know what I didn’t know”

  4. Sarah says:

    I have been married 10 years. My formerly happy and loving husband is a shadow. Only this week did I learn that sex means more to him than watching a movie or going out to dinner. To me, it’s a mildly entertaining thing to do if you can’t find another better way of being together. I always thought any two people can hook up and have sex. Love really has nothing to do with it. I never realized that wasn’t true for him. He’s a good, hard working Christian man. And I have gutted and destroyed him. He’s faithful and kind, but we are more roommates than anything else. After reading your site, I asked him one afternoon and threw my heart into it. He nearly cried afterwards telling me, “What’s wrong with you? It’s almost like you really love me.”

    The fault is mine, but I still feel so angry at my family and my church. Why didn’t anyone ever explain this to me? I feel totally defeated. All these years of late nights, nursing, pregnancy, ironing, cooking, homeschooling, living self-sacrificially to be a wife and mother- to wake up one day and understand “It’s all been pointless. The man I’m desperately in love with is desperately unhappy – and it’s almost all my fault.” I wish he would have married someone else. Maybe he would have been happy.

  5. SRM says:

    Oh Sarah, don’t give up. You might be so surprised how your husband reacts if you truly want to make it better, be truly involved in loving your husband. Be honest with him and show up for sex. He may just heal quicker than you think. You are going to need to stretch beyond where you have been, embrace your new energy for sex.

  6. Kevin says:

    Thank you for putting yourself out there. “You didn’t know what you didn’t know”. I think that can mean so many different things, to so many different people who are willing to read this. I am the high drive husband. I am trying to understand my no drive wife. Yes, the lack of intimacy can devastate a marriage. Yes, I believe we can all change and grow. Yes, I also believe that putting off until “someday” is wishing life away. For whatever the reasons for being closed off, the result is not really living, it is surviving.
    For Sarah, please don’t wish your husband would marry someone else. He married you. If you are truly at the point where you wish for something different, I congratulate you. Go for it, and don’t let your fear hold you back. Whatever reasons you have, if you decide to face them and the fear that goes along with it, perhaps sharing the journey you take with your husband (as hard as that may be) may make all the difference in the world. I believe God meant for you two to lean on each other when time get the toughest. If he is anything like me, your sharing what is going on with you, and where you really want to be as you work towards that, with him, will go a long way.
    We are not living in a marriage friendly world, and dark forces would love nothing better than to tear down those who wish to follow God’s word, and tear apart the marriages they are in, one bit at a time.
    Fight the good fight, do it standing with your spouse. It can be done.
    God bless all.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I would also offer my own example. Married many years, both of us virgins. My wife had and continues to have much shame involved in anything sexual. It’s fine if it’s for me, as long as I just do the deed. (Ask, and ask at the right time.) Her involvement sometimes involves a finish for her, but I think she considers that ok only because I enjoyed myself.

    Believe me, guys can tell if a woman is doing it to fulfill the contract, or if she is doing it because she needs (or maybe allows herself to need) sexual expression in her marriage.

    I’m not blaming her totally. Those values are caught as much as taught, and the damage is done by 12, I’d say. By your teens all of that attitude is set.

    Prayer may help. I think it is necessary for the high desire spouse as much as the low desire spouse. You both need to pray about it, meet in the middle. Bottom line is, you can’t make someone have desire any more than you can make them love collecting stamps.

    Mrs. Siebert also mentioned a hormone driven birth control solution as being a causal factor in the natural desire cycle of a woman. My wife also was on this, and it caused her endometriosis (The uterus doesn’t completely slough off the tissue during menstruation.) We were told that she needed a “d and c” and then, if we wanted children (which we did), we needed to have them.

    We did and the problems returned, which resulted in a hysterectomy. Now, the hormones, REALLY don’t work. Couple that with a dose of antidepressants, and you really have a desire problem. Again, you can’t manufacture it.

    But I will tell you this. I have about 10 memories in my marriage of 40+ years where her desire matched mine, and we were very passionate with each other. I loved the lady’s comment above where she recounted such an experience and he said, “It’s almost like you really love me!” She was completely taken aback, but I know just what she’s talking about.

    Marriage will never be what it should be without figuring sex out for both people. Many survive, and they are probably counted “good marriages” but it really isn’t the total package.

  8. B says:

    Dear Sarah, your comment made me feel so sad for you. I’m a woman. I’m so sorry you never knew the grand expression of love sex can be between a husband and a wife. But it’s never too late! You can change. You can learn to love and enjoy sex with your husband. I am sure your husband loves you, and will forgive you, and will be thrilled to work on intimacy with you. Communicate. Pray. It can and will get better.

    I’ve had the opposite problem in my marriage. My love language is physical touch, and I love sex with my husband and it makes me feel loved, protected, and even worthy. I’m the higher drive spouse, and as a woman, that’s a tough spot to be in. Not only have I suffered with the pain of any higher drive spouse, but being the woman makes me feel like a giant loser. Like I’m not attractive or good enough, if my husband doesn’t crave sex with me the way I crave him. Society tells us that men crave sex and women tolerate it. This is NOT true. Not in every case. I tell you this because I want you to know I was hopeless. Hurt and hopeless. Even though our situations are different, I, like you, felt my husband should have married someone else, and then he would have been happier. I was so, so sad. Like your husband, I lost my happiness and became a shadow of my former self. And like you, my husband felt like it was his fault. (But it wasn’t a “him” or “me” thing – but an “us” thing.) Just like I felt like an inadequate woman, he felt like an inadequate man. We suffered for years in either silence or angry misunderstandings. Don’t make the mistakes we made. Talk. Work together. You can heal.

    I’m just over 40 and have been married over 20 years. My husband and I have just finally begun to communicate and work more on intimacy. It’s never too late! You are over ten years ahead of us. Praise God this became clear to you so soon! I’m pleased to tell you my husband and I are healing and our intimacy is improving a lot. It’s taken a lot of work on both our parts. A lot of prayer and a lot of communication. A lot of time. But healing is possible. I am praying for you and your husband. By the way, no one ever explained any of this to me either. I thank God for Julie and bloggers like her who are willing to talk about these issues. Don’t be angry, it won’t help. Talk to your husband. Grow together. Your love will deepen and grow as you walk through this together.

  9. Anonymous says:

    From Anonymous again,

    I didn’t mean to imply that this is a “female problem”, because I know that there are lots of low drive men out there too. It is not just a problem of high drive men and low drive women. It can easily be reversed. Now, that I have a low testosterone problem and an ED problem, the relief my wife feels is almost palpable, and my sadness is hidden better. It is a marriage problem, not a female or a male problem, but hormones are very complex. I am fighting it every step of the way, but not with a partner. Like I say, she is delighted in my reduced desire and E.D.

  10. Robert says:

    Sarah – please do NOT give up. Marriages can teeter on edge of the cliff and recover. You love this guy and he loves you. There will be work to do, healing to done, fences to be mended – for both of you. But do not give up. As a very young man, my pastor told my soon to be bride and I that the secret to marriage was simple – never give up.

    Good luck.

  11. Sarah says:

    Thank you for the encouragement. He’s mad at me and refusing me which he’s never done before. I must have hurt him somehow. He’s snapping if I touch him and for the first time ever barked at me to stop lying when I said that I loved him. I’ve never struggled with my temper or saying things I regret, but I am being sure to only respond kindly or say nothing which is making him more mad. He wants me to leave him alone and told me I’m impossible to understand. The feeling is mutual. I think I really messed things up by asking him over and over. I am honoring his request and leaving him alone now. Anyway, I guess we go back to how we were. Sorry for rambling. Just thought I’d tell you since people replied.

  12. B says:

    Ok Sarah, please listen to me. This can get better. Start by praying and keep praying. Your story sounds so similar to mine, in reverse, if that makes sense. I’m the wife “B” who commented above. I felt (and still struggle with) the feelings your husband is dealing with right now. He is confused. Yes, you probably did hurt him. My husband hurt me deeply. In order to protect myself, I built a wall. I stopped initiating sex (and almost all of the initiating had been done by me.) I distanced myself from him to protect my own heart. I stopped believing that he loved me or that he was the least bit interested in me. After all, what husband isn’t intersted in sex with the wife he claims to love, especially if she’s really into sex with him? (When so many married men claim they’d love it if their wives were just a little interested in sex). So I figured he found me 100% repulsive. Therefore, if he tried to be affectionate in any way, I pushed back. It got so bad, and I believed so strongly that he didn’t love me and that he found me repulsive, that I didn’t want him to love me. It got pretty bad.
    When he finally understood how his actions (especially his workaholicsm, and his frustrations with extended family issues and work issues) had gotten in the way, messed with his sex drive, and he had just pushed me away – things started to improve. When he realized how deeply he had hurt me, a tiny light began to shine in our relationship. But by then my “brick wall” was so thick he had to work slowly at tearing it down. Thankfully he didn’t give up. He committed our marriage to prayer. He tried communicating more clearly, and forcing me to do the same. He had to rebuild my trust, and he is still working to convince me that he does indeed love me AND he is interested in me sexually, the way a husband should be.

    Sexual refusal by your spouse is one of the most painful things a person can live through. Having to lay in bed at night, so close to the person you love so intensely and desire so strongly, only to be refused or pushed away, or told “I don’t feel well” (repeatedly) is incredibly painful. The spouse doing the refusing often doesn’t realize how much pain they are causing. They may very well love their spouse, but they are killing his or her spirit. I felt like my husbands lack of interest was draining the life out of me. The refuser often has no clue why it’s such a “big deal.” So it is understandable that when, by God’s grace, the lower drive spouse begins to understand the higher drive spouse’s feelings, the higher drive spouse is still hurting, suspicious, and leery. At least I was.

    It sounds like this is all new to you. I mean, you are just discovering what your lower sex drive has been doing to your husband. Give him time. I can not stress this enough – communicate, and PRAY. Be patient. My husband had to be very patient with me.

    We are not “healed”. My drive is still much higher than his. I still believe I love him more than he loves me. I also believe I desire him more than he desires me. He tries to tell me otherwise, but my wall, while crumbling, is still there. But we are working through our issues together, and you can, too. Don’t give up. Keep loving your husband. Get counseling if you feel it will help. And pray.

  13. Reba says:

    @ Sarah I am no expert but I have been reading this and similar sites for a couple of years now. I wonder if your husband might be struggling with the knowledge that you two could have been having wonderful sex all these years. If as you say, one day you just decided to “throw yourself into it,” he may feel hurt that you never did so before, and he is grieving that loss. And perhaps wondering which you is the real you. If the woman who “threw herself into it” is the real you, why has she been hiding all these years? He may feel more vulnerable now than ever before, because now he does not know what to expect. Does he dare believe this could be the norm and not a fluke? It will take time and patience to earn his trust.

  14. John Q says:

    First of all, kudos to you for trying to turn things around; hang in there.
    I’m trying to put myself in your husband’s shoes, to offer up some sort of insight, so please bear with me. I’m offering up an opinion and I don’t intend to make you or anyone else feel bad or to shame you in any way. His views may or may not match mine, but here goes:
    Your husband feels betrayed; for 10 years his “sure thing” offered excuses, shifted blame, belittled him, and regularly denied his attempts to connect with his bride. During that time, he wasn’t fully loved by you and was denied the opportunity to fully express his love for you. This has been confusing and devastating to your husband.

    Now, seemingly at the flip of a switch, you’ve realized what you’ve done all these years and want to make it right – you want to correct the course and start living happily ever after. You’ve proposed a new ‘normal’.

    Depending on how much refusing and gatekeeping you’ve done in the past 10 years, he could see this as a passing fad or even some sinister attempt to hurt him again. It probably seems impossible to you that he could even think you would ever deliberately hurt him, but after 10 years it would be difficult for him to draw any other conclusions. Remember that, in his eyes, you’ve controlled sex for so long, this may be another way for you to continue controlling it.

    My advice to you would be to remain consistent with the new you; be available to him and do initiate, but also make it easy for him to initiate. He does need to know that he can initiate and not be shot down. He needs the confidence of being a man, your man, again. Ask for his opinion, notice the little things he does, and thank him. Flirt with him, keep eye contact when you touch his arm as you walk by. But also realize you may need to woo your husband all over again – and it may take some time.

    Good luck, I’ll be praying for you both.

  15. CV says:

    @Reba & @JohnQ –> @Sarah —- I agree with these responses. Take the time to wait and be genuinely open and humbly patient. Even if these are not his exact feelings, they resonate because this is so common (it seems).

  16. e2 says:


    Let me offer another man’s insight. If you’ve just gone from being sexually distant to immediately interested without explaining why to your husband, my guess is that he’s confused and very afraid. If you haven’t already done so, try to sit down and talk to him about the things you’ve discovered. Explain to him why you’re suddenly wanting sex when in the past you didn’t. You say the fault is yours. This may mean you need to verbally and directly ask his forgiveness. I think this is a time when talking is more important than your actions.

    It’s also *extremely important* that your renewed interest is for your pleasure more than his. I know it may make no sense to you, but if he feels that you’re just trying to meet his masculine need for sex, he’s probably going to feel like “don’t do me any favors.” He needs to know that you *want* him, meaning you want him to make love to you. I would bet that, in his mind, your pleasure and sincere desire for pleasure are much more important to him than his own.

  17. Reba says:

    @e2 “It’s also *extremely important* that your renewed interest is for your pleasure more than his.” This might be a tall order for someone just beginning to heal a sexless marriage. If my husband had imposed this prerequisite, we might not have stayed together.

    Maybe you are saying that sexual pleasure makes a husband feel loved, respected and secure ONLY when it does the same for his wife. For a wife who associates sex with emotional pain and trauma, there lies ahead a difficult journey. She needs her husband to walk with her.

  18. L.A Randle says:

    The topic of sex is one of importance on my site. I enjoyed reading this article. It’s a topic that many women have issues either talking about or performing when it comes to their man.

    There are so many people who believe that sex isn’t the most important thing in a relationship. And for most women, it isn’t. But I do find that most of those women who find sex boring or a chore, are usually with a man who doesn’t know how to perform in the bed.

    But what I learned over time is that it’s not about the act of having sex, it’s about the intimacy.

    It’s about reconnecting with the person you fell in love with and decided to spend the rest of your life with. Being intimate with your partner shouldn’t be a chore, it should be spicy and fun, and it should rejuvenate your soul

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  20. e2 says:


    Thank you for clarifying my post. I didn’t sense that Sarah was under the influence of sexual trauma or pain. Also, I was projecting my own difficulties onto her marriage. I could see myself in her husband’s response. I get very frustrated when my wife is willing to “do” me but has very little interest in me making love to her.

  21. Reba says:

    @e2 And I was projecting my own issues. Almost three years into the healing process, I still cannot honestly say I want my husband to make love to me. (That definition of “wanting him” made me take notice.)

  22. e2 says:

    @L.A. wrote, “But I do find that most of those women who find sex boring or a chore, are usually with a man who doesn’t know how to perform in the bed.”

    Oh, L.A., if only it were that simple. Such broad brush statements are hardly helpful. Those of us with low-drive spouses (whether male or female) have found ourselves trying absolutely everything imaginable to awaken desire in our spouses. I know I have, and my wife has tried to reassure me many times that her low libido has nothing to do with me. After many years of self-doubt, I’m starting to believe her.

    People are different. People have different love languages. Different backgrounds which developed those languages. Different ways of expressing their desires. Different sexual tastes. And on it goes. It won’t do to say that we’re all some homogeneous race of sexual beings who should all enjoy sex in the same way and if we don’t, it’s because our partner “doesn’t know how to perform in bed.”

    But, your comment has helped me realize how many times I, myself, have said unhelpful things on this forum.

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  30. Fiona says:

    But you must accept that mamy people want to keep their sex lives private and not assume things about people who don’t want to discuss it with you. I hope you have never made anyone feel that they have to justify to you why they wish to keep the subject of sex between God, themselves and their spouse.

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