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Recently, I did a post that explored the question, “Is Your Spouse Indifferent to the Sexual Struggles in Your Marriage?”
One thing I mentioned near the end of the post was the need to start valuing yourself enough to not continue to get caught up in the sexual indifference perpetuated by your spouse.
A reader emailed me asking me what I meant by that. I am humbly grateful he asked me to elaborate, because I definitely think it’s worth addressing.
Many of the sexual struggles I hear about are along the lines of one spouse wanting more nurtured intimacy and the other spouse being indifferent to it. It’s not that the marriage is sexless, although lack of agreement on frequency is nearly always in the mix.
These are not marriages on the brink of divorce necessarily. In fact, most people I hear from concerned about the lackluster intimacy in their relationship have little to no interest in ending the marriage.
The couple is still doing the daily routines of marriage and tasks of running a household—kids, bills, jobs, grocery shopping, birthday parties, errands, and so forth. But sex is rarely a high priority for one spouse, leaving the sexually neglected spouse hungering for authentic intimacy. Sex happens enough that it’s not a sexless marriage, but only one person sees the importance pf sexual intimacy.
So what does good self care look like if your spouse is indifferent to sex, especially if you have lovingly and clearly pointed out your concerns, to no avail?
Some people are surprised I don’t first say “pray and lean more on God.” It’s not that prayer and strengthening your relationship with God are not vitally important, because they are (that point is coming up).
It’s just that I believe when we start taking better care of our body, we manage stress better, think clearer, have a better outlook on life and have more reserve emotionally and spiritually. Sometimes improving our physical health can be the kick start to tapping into other healthy coping skills as well, like prayer and growing closer to God.
You don’t have to join a gym or start some elaborate work-out routine. You don’t have to buy one of those elaborate activity trackers you strap to your wrist.
All you really have to do is incrementally move in the direction of improved physical health. Obviously, consult with your health care provider before making big changes or if you have pre-existing ailments or injuries, but generally speaking, we can choose each day to do something that is good for us physically.
Here are some ideas to improve your physical health:
Go on a 20-minute walk a couple times a week
Spend 10 minutes each morning and each night stretching
Learn some deep breathing exercises
Swim, bike or take up a recreational sport, if you have access to places and equipment
Start doing 5 push-ups and 5 sit ups a day, and then increase a little at a time
Lift hand weights (you can even do this while watching TV if TV is part of your daily routine)
Watch less TV and get outside more
Listen to classical or relaxation music in your car instead of politics, news or sports
Cut down on soda if you are a soda drinker
Drink way more water
Eat less processed foods. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Watch your portion control.
Cut down on processed sugar (such as cookies, candy, etc.)
I imagine you could come up with other ideas, but whatever you do, just stop taking your physical health for granted. Pour into it. It’s a great way to value yourself. And do it even if your spouse mocks you or downplays your efforts to get healthier.
Your body is worth taking care of physically.
Along these lines, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the perils of relying on alcohol to cope. When we are discouraged about anything in life, including sexual intimacy struggles, it can be tempting to reach for alcohol as a coping skill.
The risk, of course, is that we can begin to think this is what we have to do to numb our pain. My experience has been that alcohol never lives up to the salve we believe it will be. Just keep that in mind.
When sex is a struggle in a marriage, there are usually patterns and triggers that are playing on a loop regarding those struggles.
For example, maybe you are always the one who initiates, thus always in the position of either being rejected or accepted. It’s a hard cycle, and it becomes a hurtful trigger. In this scenario, the initiating spouse feels anxious and hesitant to initiate, rather than confident and eager.
So change the pattern. One suggestion is you say to your spouse, “I want us to share initiation of sex. Right now, because I am the only one who initiates and because you often reject me, I feel unsure. So I will still initiate occasionally, but not as much as I have been. I want you to initiate as well.”
No, there is no guarantee of what your spouse will say or if they will step up and start paying closer attention to sex in the marriage. You can’t control your spouse. But you can value yourself enough to minimize the impact the negative triggers have on you.
That’s just one trigger. I’m sure if we sat down and talked with a room full of sexually-neglected spouses, we would come up with a whole list of triggers. You get the idea, though, right? Recognize what makes you feel the most discouraged and insecure about sex in your marriage and see if you can change up the patterns that have led to those feelings.
Sadly, I think this point may sound exceedingly cliché. I’m sorry if it comes across that way, because there is nothing trite about our deep need for reliance on God. I need Him. You need Him. We all need Him.
When we are facing grueling circumstances in life, we are wise to cry out to God, because He truly is the only one who understands the extent of our pain. We forget that, I know. When we are in the long-suffering and the discouragement that feels like a dark tunnel with no end in site, we are so spent. It’s hard to cry out to God.
But I encourage you to cry out to Him. Value yourself enough to cry out to Him.
I’ve actually had to do this a lot lately because of a horribly difficult situation in our life and marriage right now. It doesn’t have to do with sex, but there certainly has been a toll on our sexual intimacy.
I guess I’m just sharing that if it weren’t for leaning into God with my sadness and frustration, I’d be doing far worse than I am doing. So take that as personal testament that you have worth and God knows it.
And I have a 5 video series available on building better sex in your marriage. Great way to invest in your marriage! You can find out all about it at this link: Better Sex in Your Christian Marriage.
Copyright 2020, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.