Help for Husbands Stranded in the Sexual Desert
by Mark Chamberlain
Aaron was crying, too, as he drew Katy close to him and held her. Then he looked her in the eyes and said, “I hope that in time you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me for how immature I was back then. I’m sorry that my eagerness and sense of entitlement wounded you so deeply. I was wrapped up in what I wanted and thought I “deserved.”
LAURA’S NOTE: After some talk of the interesting discussion going on here in the Open Forum Discussion of this blog regarding husbands who find themselves in a sexual desert in their marriages, my good friend and fellow author, Mark Chamberlain, penned some suggestions below that may be of benefit to the many couples who long to find greater intimate and sexual fulfillment in their marriages. Here is an overview of his suggestions:
- Stop fanning the flames of frustration
- Replace certainty with curiosity
- Consider how you might unintentionally be making things worse
- Listen to and address your spouse’s concerns
- Reawaken gratitude and positive perceptions
- Build the foundations that support sexual intimacy
- Identify and address any effects of trauma
- Identify and address hormonal contributions
Many and varied are the challenges that can prevent couples from enjoying a mutually fulfilling sexual relationship. Each marital union has a one-of-a-kind personality, owing to the individuality of each spouse and complicated further by the interplay when they come together. Because of unique histories, tastes, and idiosyncrasies, each marriage is a chemical combination heretofore untried–an experiment in the truest sense of the word.
While this kind of dynamism adds to the mystery and beauty of marriage, it can also give rise to differences of opinion, misunderstandings, and hurt feelings. Too often, wounds fester instead of fade. Couples end up stuck in a negative cycle, each partner unintentionally performing his or her own steps in an unfulfilling but persistent dance. Some couples spend years of their lives stuck in ruts of bitterness or silent frustration.
Effects of Mutual Respect
Couples in which both spouses are highly satisfied with their sex lives have some of the same differences dissatisfied couples have. Instead of considering themselves incompatible sexually, they respect each other’s attitude and approach to sex. Their differences are treated as complimentary rather than competitive in nature.
The less interested spouse (more commonly the wife) is able to take her husband’s greater intensity as a compliment and an honor to her attractiveness. She can say no at times to his advances without degrading him or his spirituality in her own mind.
Her husband is able to take no for an answer and continue to treat her lovingly and affectionately. He sees her sexual sharing as a prize he is willing to pursue patiently. He exercises the kind of self-restraint that permits him to view the delaying of his gratification in this area of life as a worthy endeavor, not a frustration that just shouldn’t be occurring.
When spouses show the utmost mutual respect, they don’t demonize each other for their differences. She doesn’t see him as perverted because he’s more sexually-oriented. If she’s not interested in sex, she is conscientious about staying connected in other ways that are meaningful to him.
He doesn’t see her as frigid or blame her for his own sexual temptation or inappropriate thoughts or behavior. Rather than view their drier times as impositions, he takes them as opportunities to exercise his creativity to show affection, love, and esteem in other ways. He willingly takes advantage of the opportunity to practice and perfect his mastery of self.
Of course, I’ve just described an ideal that even the well-adjusted couples may waver from at times. However, too many good and well-intentioned individuals find that their relationship is far from this ideal.
Fortunately, if this is the case for you, there are some things you can do to reverse negative patterns and help awaken—or reawaken—your spouse’s sexual desire.
- Stop fanning the flames of frustration
- Replace certainty with curiosity
- Consider how you might unintentionally be making things worse
- Listen to and address your spouse’s concerns
- Reawaken gratitude and positive perceptions
- Build the foundations that support sexual intimacy
- Identify and address any effects of trauma
- Identify and address hormonal contributions
Stop Fanning the Flames of Frustration
A husband’s sexual frustration may be understandable, but for the sake of the future of the marital relationship it needs to be contained and reversed. Husbands must stop justifying their negative internal and external reactions. Husbands may feel like they “have the right” to continue to be frustrated, but it’s sort of like having the right to take out a pistol and shoot yourself in the foot. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
It’s important to interrupt overt and unseen frustration reactions. Whether you realize it or not, whether they seem to or not, whether it feels like you’re keeping your feelings to yourself or not, such reactions are toxic and inevitably infect the relationship. When a woman senses that her husband is frustrated, and then on top of that feels like she’s being blamed for it, her instinct is usually to draw away from him rather than to draw nearer to him.
It may seem to her that the only way out from under the blame that he is heaping upon her “unjustly” is to see him as the source of the problem. She becomes motivated to see him as being in the wrong—or perhaps even flawed as a person, and may “build a case” for that in her mind. This is the death knell of her intimate desire. She may feel compelled to view him, his expectations, and his very sexuality as distasteful, off-base–even extreme.
Replace Certainty with Curiosity
Confidence in your negative assessment of your spouse is the enemy of curiosity. Once we think we see “how things really are” and conclude that that’s exactly how they’re going to stay, we close ourselves off to understanding and growth. We no longer remain open to discovery and learning.
Unfortunately, at this point, the genuine reasons behind our spouse’s reactions can’t get through the wall of our certainty. Our spouse usually has very good reasons for responding the way they do, but we’ll never discover those reasons unless we humble ourselves enough to admit that perhaps we don’t know what’s behind their reaction.
A more helpful approach is to assume that there are good, reasonable explanations as to why your spouse shuts down sexually. Assume that, if you could fully empathize with your spouse, experience her life the way she has, you would be responding exactly the way she does.
Assume that what she wants and needs feels just as important to her as what you want and need is to you. Assume that she may feel just as hopeless of attaining it, and that it causes her just as much distress as you feel over what you’re missing in the relationship.
Consider How You Might Unintentionally be Making Things Worse
Unfortunately, the way we instinctively react when things don’t go the way we want them to may exacerbate the very situation we find troubling. For instance, a husband who feels deprived sexually may begin to see his wife as asexual. When he feels frustrated by her unresponsiveness he may pull back from her emotionally. As a result, she may feel cut off, judged, and reticent to express any kind of physical affection out of fear that “it’s never enough for him.”
Keep in mind, as well, that the emotional connection between a husband and wife is what usually feeds female sexual desire.
She may also see her husband as oversexed and may even questions his righteousness. The more bothered she is by his actions and words, the more reactive she is in response. His “pathology” seems to grow in the same proportion as her concern over it. At the same time, her “pathology” (in his eyes) seems to grow in proportion to how threatening it feels to him.
Indeed, the proportions of each spouse’s “pathology” do tend to match, since they’re both contributing to the dynamics that are bringing about the very reaction in the other that they don’t want. Each partner’s role in the downward spiral is unintentional and often subconscious. In fact, couples are expert at seeing the other person’s role in a problem clearly, while being woefully inept at identifying their own.
The problem between them was clearly evident two years into Ivan and Clara’s marriage. When he climbed into bed, he often rolled toward her side of the bed and put his hand on her waist or hip. Over the months, Clara had become wary of any kind of touch. She felt that if she responded favorably, Ivan would almost always push for more.
When she wasn’t in the mood for lovemaking, it seemed to her that she had to lie very still so that he didn’t mistake her movement for responsiveness to an implied invitation. When Clara lied very still or seemed to be asleep, Ivan worried that perhaps his bid for her attention hadn’t gotten through. He’d start to caress her or ask if she was still awake.
By the time they’d been together four years, they were stuck in a tug-of-war that neither of them would have predicted during their courtship. Clara always dressed out of Ivan’s sight because she knew that her unclothed body turned him on.
She was very gun-shy about getting him excited, not because she didn’t like sex but because she didn’t like the way their interactions went when he was pushy or pouty—the only two modes he seemed capable of these days once the topic of sex came up.
Ivan was so hungry for affection that he felt desperate. He was on the lookout for any indication from Clara that today might be one of those extremely rare days in which she might be interested.
One morning, he was still in their bedroom when he heard her turn off the shower. He should have been out the door and headed to work by then, and usually would have been. However, he just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to at least try to spark something that might turn into something more.
He walked into the bathroom. As he opened the medicine cabinet to grab his toothbrush (which was still wet from 20 minutes earlier), he looked in the mirror at Carla. “You are very sexy,” he said with a smile. Carla sighed, seemed to roll her eyes, and quickly covered herself with her bathrobe. Ivan quickly re-brushed his teeth and left, feeling more hopeless than ever.
Listen to and Address Your Spouse’s Concerns
In a tender moment with her husband Aaron, Katy admitted that the entire arena of sexuality had come to feel like an unfair playing field. How could she enter into that realm with him without feeling intimidated.
She knew that he had been disappointed early in their marriage because she’d had more reserved sensibilities about sex. With tears welling up in her eyes she admitted how painful it had been to realize that he wished he had married a girl more “like that”—meaning more sexually daring and provocative.
She felt that he would rather be married someone else. At first, Aaron couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He remembered expressing to her some of his disappointment in how their love life was going, but he had no idea that it had affected her so deeply.
Yet here Katy was, describing how heartbreaking it had been to discover that she was a disappointment to him in this most intimate area of life. He had assumed that she didn’t care about sex. He wondered now if at some point she had concluded that she couldn’t afford to keep caring, when she felt like such a failure.
Aaron was crying, too, as he drew her close to him and held her. Then he looked her in the eyes and said, “I hope that in time you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me for how immature I was back then. I’m sorry that my eagerness and sense of entitlement wounded you so deeply. I was wrapped up in what I wanted and thought I “deserved”—consumed with what I thought marriage was all about.
I was selfishly disappointment that you weren’t more into sex, but I’ve never wanted to be married to anyone other than you. Over the years I’ve only developed a greater love and deeper bond to you. Despite everything, I’ve become ever more committed to you—to us.”
After wiping away some of Katy’s tears, Aaron continued, “I wish we could go back and start over in this one area of our relationship. I’d be so much more patient and tender with you. I wish I could prove to you that it’s okay for you to be exactly who you are sexually. If that’s ‘nervous’ for now, I want to be with a nervous Katy; if that’s ‘timid,’ then I want to be with a timid Katy. I don’t want anything more than being with you exactly as you are.”
This is the kind of heart-to-heart clarification and discovery process that can help couples remove old impediments, clarify misunderstandings, heal emotional injuries, and close the distance that has left each of them feeling separate and alone. Things aren’t going to be resolved for Aaron and Katy overnight, but interactions like these can at least get the momentum going in the right direction.
Reawaken Gratitude and Positive Perceptions
So how do you reverse the cycle and start a new one, if conflict or stagnation has been the norm? Instead of focusing on what’s missing, you can start paying more attention to what is available. Often, even when important relationship elements are missing, there remains an abundance of ways to connect.
Keep track of what you enjoy about each other. Rehearse in your mind those things that you appreciate in your spouse and think about them when you’re not together. You may even choose to write them in a journal or keep some other record. As your list of positives lengthens, your attitude toward your spouse will soften.
For years Greg and Jodi had been living more like roommates than a married couple. Early on, they struggled bitterly over sex. As their intimate relationship deteriorated to nonexistent, their friendship seemed to die with it.
When Jodi decided to start doing graphic design work again for online clients, Greg could have continued to keep his distance. However, he could see how excited she was and it made him miss being more a part of her life.
He made a point of going to find her at the end of the day when he got home from work, wherever she was in the house, and check in with her about her day. She would excitedly show him projects she was working on. She’d ask his opinion of design options and sought his guidance on financial decisions or with legal considerations.
Later, after their entire marriage had gotten back on track, both Greg and Jodi looked back to that time as a key turning point. When asked about what had made the difference, Jodi responded that each of them had somehow been able to make a fresh start. They both tried to interact in positive ways and didn’t let themselves get emotionally swamped by resentments over the past.
Build the Foundations that Support Sexual Intimacy
If you remained chaste while dating, chances are you didn’t feel miserable and deprived all the time. You enjoyed hand holding, being physically near each other, the scent of her perfume, or the way she looked at you in those moments when you felt close to each other. Those bridges of connection may not have seen much traffic recently, but that doesn’t mean they no longer exist.
Take time to kiss her before you part in the morning, to touch her on the shoulder or hug her when you arrive home at the end of the day. Take a half-step into her personal space when you’re talking about something important. Hold her gaze more often when you’re conversing.
Some couples find that it’s helpful to temporarily remove sexual intercourse as a consideration and go back to the kind of intimacy they shared when they were first dating.
Wanda remembered that she and Ken had plenty of desire for each other before they got married. They kept their relationship in-bounds according to their religious beliefs, but they felt a building sense of yearning for each other.
Since then, things had deteriorated to the point that they felt very little spark for each other, so she suggested that they go back to doing what they were doing when their passions were at their hottest.
They decided to take sexual intercourse out of the equation for a time. They spent more time gazing into each other’s eyes. They kissed and kissed and kissed, rediscovering the art of light, tender kisses and “all-out making-out.”
In fact, now that they kissed more and could be physical in ways that they had tried to avoid when they were dating, they stumbled upon some things that were quite titillating and erotic. They went on more dates. And they were excited to see each other at the end of the day.
They more thoroughly enjoyed the time they spent together and longed for more. They didn’t rush their way back to intercourse, but built toward it incrementally, as they came to cherish each other more and more. As a result, sex became more meaningful, more charged with emotion. It became a way to convey caring and feel closer to each other.
Identify and Address the Effects of Trauma
Olivia remembered being warned that her relationship with her husband might be affected by the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child. However, when things seemed to be going fine seven years into their marriage, she figured she had dodged that bullet because Trent was such a great guy and she trusted him so much.
It wasn’t that big a deal to her that she had never experienced an orgasm—or at least she didn’t think she had. And Trent didn’t seem to mind that it usually required quite a bit of advance notice for them to have a successful intimate experience. Katy didn’t know that many women didn’t have it as hard in “working themselves up for” and prepare themselves mentally for lovemaking the way she did.
It was Trent’s concern that finally convinced Olivia to seek treatment. Over a three month period, she talked with a counselor about the abuse she had suffered and some of things that had long troubled her about it. She had been molested by a brother who was three years her senior. He came into her room at night and touched her genitals while she pretended to be asleep.
This went on over a two-year period, and toward the end he began to get more aggressive. It was then that Olivia knew she had to build up the courage tell her parents. Sitting at the kitchen table and telling them that night was the hardest thing she had ever done. The abuse stopped immediately and her brother was required to leave the family home for a time and get treatment.
The counselor asked Olivia to describe the abuse she had suffered. It was the first time she had talked out loud about some of the things that had happened. The counselor listened and asked questions. At the end of the second session, he said, “It can be important to get these things out in the open. It is a shame that all of that happened to you, a real shame. However, those events, those acts, are not yours to be ashamed of.”
Perpetrators commit destructive acts in a shameless way. Sometimes victims, sensing the vile nature of the behavior, end up taking on the shame that should belong to the perpetrator. It feels as though someone needs to feel guilty about what happened. And if the perpetrator is not taking responsibility or feeling an appropriate sense of shame, the victim becomes a scapegoat for all those bad feelings.
Throughout the following week, Olivia had a flood of memories of events and the guilt and shame she had felt over them. Feelings, she could now see, that had been displaced from where they really belonged. She had felt ashamed of the bodily maturational changes that had seemed to attract her brother, ashamed that some of the things he did had felt good to her, and embarrassed that she had not opened up to her parents sooner.
She felt ashamed that she “let it go on” for almost two years before putting a stop to it. She felt guilt over the anguish and distress the revelation had caused her parents, guilt that her brother had had to leave the home, shame over experimenting with masturbation and succumbing regularly to that habit during her teens and early twenties at times of stress, and even guilt over the money her parents had spent on her brother’s treatment, which meant that her family kept driving their old car because they couldn’t purchase the van they’d been saving for.
It felt good to Olivia to unload these feelings of guilt and shame during her counseling sessions. She was also able to cleanse her soul by writing these things in a notebook between sessions. She started to feel lighter and more carefree in her everyday life.
A month and a half into counseling, Olivia began to focus on the impact the abuse may have had on her sex life with her husband. Although she felt secure with Trent, she did not feel completely safe and comfortable when they began to interact sexually. She realized that her feelings would shut down when things started to get sexual.
She noticed herself beginning to feel detached and disconnected. This was the survival reaction that had enabled her to endure and survive the ongoing molestation when she was younger, but now it was disconnecting her from her emotions and awareness of her body and bodily sensations.
That natural protective reaction was actually keeping her from being able to engage and interact in a sexually intimate way with her husband.
Olivia learned a simple breathing technique to help her relax, as well as some meditation skills to help her “stay in the here and now” when she and her husband were making love. This kept her from escalating into a busy-minded pattern of worry, fear, or embarrassment. She became more and more able to enjoy the experience and at times even “lose herself” in the pleasure she was beginning to feel.
When anxieties would arise or she found herself getting distracted, she’d take some nice, full breaths and focus again on whatever bodily sensations were occurring.
Olivia felt that counseling had not only helped her climb out of the emotional valley she’d been in as a result of the abuse, but was helping her and Trent climb to even greater heights as a married couple.
[LAURA’S NOTE: Many husbands make an automatic assumption that if their wives are not into sex like they are, then they must have been sexually abused. This is simply not an accurate assumption for many women. Effects of the “Good Girl Syndrome” (And They Were Not Ashamed, Chapter 1), relationship issues, physiological issues, and a plethora of psychological (mental/emotional) issues are enough to bring about an inhibited response without the added effects of sexual abuse.]
Identify and Address Hormonal Contributions
It’s not uncommon for women to have a low libido even if they don’t have any of the concerns described above. On average, men have 10-20 times more testosterone than women. This difference helps account for the desire gap that seems evident in many marriages.
Some women have testosterone levels that are low even when compared to other women. They may have little or no desire for sex. Shifts in estrogen, progesterone, and other hormones that occur with the menstrual cycle and with aging may also interfere with sexual desire.
Hormonal factors are best addressed with the help of a physician. Some women have benefited from taking testosterone or using testosterone cream. Others who have sought help for diminished sexual desire have discovered other hormonal concerns, such as problems with thyroid production.
If your wife is affected hormonally and by some of the emotional and relationship factors listed earlier, the process of developing a more satisfying sexual relationship may be all the more challenging. Nevertheless, rich rewards await those couples who succeed, and they will taste even sweeter given the effort and patience that went into their attainment.
[LAURA’S NOTE: Keep in mind that research has shown that approximately 75 percent of sexual dysfunctions have a psychological rather than a physiological origin. A friend who has a thriving medical practice as an OBGyn sees many couples with sexual concerns. He too supports the notion that most sexual issues are not medically or physiologically based. He fears that many husbands (and wives) are quick to jump on something like a pill or a patch that seems like an easy fix, instead of doing the more difficult and often necessary work of identifying and addressing underlying relational or psychological issues.]
Mark Chamberlain is a psychologist specializing in the treatment of sexual issues and addictions. He received his Ph.D. from Brigham Young University. Before beginning his private practice he worked at Utah Youth Village, McKay-Dee Hospital’s drug and alcohol treatment program, and taught psychology at Brigham Young University-Idaho. He has served on the boards of trustees for a domestic violence shelter, the Association of Mormon Counselors and Psychotherapists, and Evergreen International. Over the last several years he has travelled throughout the United States providing continuing education training for therapists on treating pornography addiction and other sexual problems. Mark is the author or coauthor of several books including Willpower Is Not Enough: Why We Don’t Succeed at Change, Wanting More: The Challenge of Enjoyment in the Age of Addiction, and Confronting Pornography. He and his wife, Jenny, are the parents of seven children.
I suppose this article could also be titled: “Help for Wives Stranded in the Emotional Desert”
I just read and studied this article; it has provided a lot of insight I need to work on in perceiving our marriage.
I guess the overall message of this article is to take and love your spouse how they are and adjust your needs and be gratiful — I believe in this for the most part but not full-heartedly. I believe we should not only take our spouse the way they are, but we should also seek to understand one another and seek to change to meet the needs of our spouse.
Perhaps I have a critical flaw, but I have a hard time feeling loved, wanted, cared for, needed if my wife does not show desire to for sexual intimacy. I continue to try for years to have charity. Perhaps I married with the flawed expectation that my wife would want me sexually.
How rejected but gratiful does a wife feel when her husband does not show desire to talk with her?
A challenge with sexual intimacy is that a couple can not know before marriage their sexual “compatibility” but they can get a good idea of their emotional and spiritual compatibility before marriage. Part of the reason I married was to feel needed, wanted, desired sexually by my wife — is this selfish?
I believe a husband and a wife should not just take each other as they are, but they should seek to change themselves individually to become one. Individually they change to better meet their spouses needs and wants.
For instance, just as a husband needs to stretch to desire the same emotional intimacy as his wife needs and wants, a wife should stretch herself to develop the same sexual intimacy needs and wants as her husband — “happiness”, “success”, “bliss” in the marriage is the result of the process not necessarily the attainment.
A challenge is how to communicate with your spouse your needs and wants (when is selfishness righteous?) while still expressing gratitude and “I love you just the way you are.” I think we have a duty as a spouse to know how we can better be one with our spouse; we have a duty to know how we can better meet the needs and wants of our spouse without becoming offended.
I have printed this article and I will continue to study it.
Thank you Dr. Chamberlain and Laura for this article.
Excellent article. Since it was such an interesting read for me, I thought that I would share parts of this post that impressed me. After each quote, I’ll include my initial emotional reaction.
“She can say no at times to his advances without degrading him or his spirituality in her own mind.”
“Rather than view their drier times as impositions, he takes them as opportunities to exercise his creativity to show affection, love, and esteem in other ways. He willingly takes advantage of the opportunity to practice and perfect his mastery of self.”
So the answer to a better sex life is not better sex, but for her to be nicer in the way she rejects him and for him to be happy about less sex?!?
“Husbands may feel like they “have the right” to continue to be frustrated, but it’s sort of like having the right to take out a pistol and shoot yourself in the foot. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”
Oh, but it feels so good! Can’t I just shoot myself in the foot a little? It’s much easier to explain why I stumble if there is a whole in my foot. Otherwise, I’m forced to to look at my own poor walking skills. I need a scapegoat.
“Replace Certainty with Curiosity”
Sure, sure. I agree with this for everyone else, but my case is unique. I’m special. I have a perfect understanding of my wife and am “certain” that I would never be as irrational, uncaring, cold, and judgmental as she is.
(In spite of the current sarcasm, my initial knee-jerk reaction was sadly similar to this)
“When he feels frustrated by her unresponsiveness he may pull back from her emotionally. As a result, she may feel cut off, judged, and reticent to express any kind of physical affection out of fear that “it’s never enough for him.””
I have found the opposite to be true. When we are close and intimacy is building she feels her identity threatened and starts to push me away. If I withdraw emotionally, her fear of abandonment kicks in and she starts to draw me in again with loving words and actions.
Aaron and Katy’s story
So let’s see if I’ve understood the sequence of events:
1. Katy continually rejected Aaron, and showed a lack of concern for his needs.
2. Aaron feels rejected and lonely. He expresses his frustration.
3. Katy complains about his poor reaction to her selfish behavior.
4. Aaron apologizes and tells Katy that he was wrong to express his desires, to assume that she would give them some kind of consideration, and that whatever level of affection she is willing to bestow upon him, he is okay with that.
“Instead of focusing on what’s missing, you can start paying more attention to what is available.”
True. If you cannot have fillet mignon, you can either eat the Raman Noodles or starve.
“Some couples find that it’s helpful to temporarily remove sexual intercourse as a consideration and go back to the kind of intimacy they shared when they were first dating.”
We have successfully removed sexual intercourse as a consideration, but she doesn’t want other forms of affection. She says my kisses are disgusting. It irritates her when I sit too close.
“LAURA’S NOTE: Many husbands make an automatic assumption that if their wives are not into sex like they are, then they must have been sexually abused.”
My wife has said “I wonder if I was sexually abused as a child. It would explain a lot.” Husbands are not the only ones with these thoughts.
I learned a lot from this post. I learned that I am basically a … what’s the word … a JERK! My first reaction to many pointers was selfish and elitist. My gut reaction is usually the opposite of what it should be. I have not put off the natural man and become a saint. I am an enemy to God. You may not believe it after reading my reactions here, but I am getting better. I have been much better over the past 6 months at loving unconditionally. My initial reaction is still bad, but I am getting better at curtailing it and acting on better counsel. Just imagine what a horrible person I was before!
Although I would have felt happy and vindicated by a post that simply said “wives, love your husbands!” I recognize that Dr. Chamberlain has it correct here. I am convinced that these principles are the best way to improve a marriage, and also the best way to find peace during the difficult times. This is what I have been trying to do for some time. I have a long way to go, but have seen positive results already. I will read and re-read this article. Thank you.
“Some couples find that it’s helpful to temporarily remove sexual intercourse as a consideration and go back to the kind of intimacy they shared when they were first dating.”
For some of us, the “removing” part has essentially been mastered but most often not by our choice. The more difficult part is focusing on other ways to give and to receive love.
It would also be an interesting experiment to “add back” more sexual activity and to see what impact that had on morale. But, for many of us this isn’t an option either.
I did appreciate this article and found it to be very helpful. There is much to consider here.
I recently read again about Gottman’s “bidding” principle and think it offers a good approach for those of us struggling with intimacy. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, google “Gottman bidding” and read about it from his site.
Those of us in the dry desert tend to think of only the one thing that we don’t have: a nice, cold glass of water. We don’t see the beautiful sky, the pretty flowers, or anything else.
Maybe it would help some if we were a little more creative. Can we find connection through watching a show together, through reminiscing about the past, or through laughing together about something? Find ways to “bid” for connection that allows your spouse to “turn toward” you instead of away from you. Recognize your spouse’s bids for connection and respond positively- turn toward him/her. Appreciate your spouse’s positive responses to you.
Just a few ideas. The hard part for me is actually changing negative ways of thinking/feeling that have become such a habit and replacing them with new and better ways to think. I never imagined that marriage could be this challenging, but perhaps where the challenge is greatest the potential rewards are that much sweeter.
“Those of us in the dry desert tend to think of only the one thing that we don’t have: a nice, cold glass of water. We don’t see the beautiful sky, the pretty flowers, or anything else.”
I thought that you said this so appropriately.
“Maybe it would help some if we were a little more creative. Can we find connection through watching a show together, through reminiscing about the past, or through laughing together about something? Find ways to “bid” for connection that allows your spouse to “turn toward” you instead of away from you. Recognize your spouse’s bids for connection and respond positively- turn toward him/her. Appreciate your spouse’s positive responses to you.”
JustMe, coming from my “non-professional” :)self that has only experienced the therapy and not given it…Whenever I was given counsel from a professional or Dr. I always felt a responsibility to pray about their counsel. I am sure that you may have done this already…but one particular counseling session, the therapist wanted me to do some kind of affirmations and other things without sharing my thoughts or myself with my husband.
When I went home and prayed about it, I felt that I should ask for a priesthood blessing and talk to my husband about the session. In doing so, we were able to work through my issues in depth (equivilent to 2 months of therapy). We did more positive things that brought us closer together, rather than the advice given (which could have tore us apart or not helped me much).
I have had other very good and positive experiences with therapy that helped me a lot, so I am not saying that counseling is bad, because I believe there is a need.
Now, I know I will criticized for what I write, I just totally believe in the healing atonement, that was one of those times.
JustMe, I like that you are becoming more positive about your thoughts and feelings. I bet it is really hard to do, but so worth it.
As a woman I kind of felt like alot of this hit the nail on the head.
Sir John, I’m sorry this part of life just stinks for you. I really do. Please don’t see this as an attack on you, but just some of my thoughts to give you a female perspective.
For me and maybe women in general, we tend to take most things personally. If my husband said, “I think our love life is a little disappointing”, I would take it to mean that I’m disappointing to him. I’m not a man and don’t know any other way to take it unless he clarifies what he means (but you still are on sensitive ground)
I don’t think she was complaining “about his poor reaction to her selfish behavior”. She was trying to be open and honest about what her inhibitions are. I think there is a little bit of “selfishness” (for lack of a better word) on both parts, because both parties didn’t try to communicate in the first place and try to see the spouses POV.
““She can say no at times to his advances without degrading him or his spirituality in her own mind.”
“Rather than view their drier times as impositions, he takes them as opportunities to exercise his creativity to show affection, love, and esteem in other ways. He willingly takes advantage of the opportunity to practice and perfect his mastery of self.”
So the answer to a better sex life is not better sex, but for her to be nicer in the way she rejects him and for him to be happy about less sex?!?”
If I don’t feel loved even in the dry times then I feel that the only reason he wants me is for sex. I think alot of women don’t even know what sex means to men. Why they need it. I don’t. That’s were the “big, selfish JERK” part comes in. If I knew why sex was so important to men, maybe I could empathize more with my husband and see why he asks for it so much. The male mind is a mystery to me. There is good info in the article and on this site that has given me a look into the internal workings of the male brain, but I have yet to uncover why sex is so important to men!!! Everywhere talks about men needing it, but WHY?!?!? Just a little perplexed here…
Please don’t hesitate to express your opinions for fear of offending me. I agree with you 100 percent. I understand that my initial gut reactions are way off base and unfair. I recognize that my selfish attitudes contributed to my current marital troubles. I have been trying to practice the points illustrated in this article for about 6 months now. It was frustrating for me to analyze my initial reactions to this article and see how far I have to go. I have been much better about not acting on these selfish impulses.
I will try to describe to you what sex means to men. Understand that we are generalizing here and that when I say “men” I mean “man” and specifically this man. Everyone is unique and has their own personality, quirks, problems, and struggles. However the typical stereotype of “Man is sex crazed and Woman just wants to talk” seems to hold true better than most stereotypes. So here it goes.
First of all men want an emotional connection too. It’s not just the threat of eternal damnation that keeps men from gratifying themselves with anything that moves. It’s the desire for an emotional connection with someone they love. As evidence, witness the men on this forum who are committed to their wives regardless of whether their needs are being met.
Men approach intimacy from the opposite side. Complete intimacy has many facets: physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual. There are others I am sure. It seems the two most important in most marriages are physical and emotional. This is probably due to the fact that most people are pretty good about marrying someone who is spiritually and intellectually compatible and often this does not change with time. When it does (one spouse switches religions, for example) it can cause strife. So we’ll focus on emotional and physical. Each aspect of intimacy affects the others. It’s impossible to have complete emotional intimacy if you are at odds about religious matters. The same is true for emotional and physical. You cannot experience the ultimate of physical intimacy if you are not emotionally intimate. It feels empty and even perverse. What should be hallow becomes hollow. Same goes for emotional intimacy. You cannot say that you are emotionally intimate with your spouse if you refuse to consider their sexual needs. Attempts to be emotionally intimate will be hypocritical, a shallow mockery of true intimacy. Both are equally important.
When problems occur in any aspect of intimacy, they often affect other areas so quickly that it is sometimes difficult to determine exactly where the problem started. The wife who may focus on emotional intimacy may say, “We are struggling emotionally and cannot be physically intimate until our emotional problems are resolved.” The husband who focuses on physical intimacy may say, “We are having problems with physical intimacy and cannot be emotionally intimate until it is resolved.” The man who is desperate for complete intimacy with his wife will try to get there by improving physical intimacy. The woman who is desperate for complete intimacy with her husband will try to get there by improving the emotional intimacy.
We could try to augur which side of the coin is more important. Which comes first. Who is correct in their assessment. If we do, each gender will arrive at their preconceived notion, for there’s plenty of evidence to support each side. Both physical and emotional intimacy are given of God and are equally important. You cannot pickup the coin without picking up both sides.
If both people are rigid and set in their opinion than we are at an impasse. Neither is willing to yield and no progress can be made. If one is willing to make efforts in either aspect than all aspects of intimacy improve. That is the good news. Most of the time it only takes an attitude adjustment from one person to make things better in all aspects of intimacy.
There are times when one or the other spouse has more dangerous attitudes. If the husband refuses emotional intimacy regardless of the quality of the physical intimacy, their marriage will always have problems regardless of the wife’s efforts. If the wife has negative attitudes towards physical intimacy regardless of the quality of the emotional intimacy the marriage will always have problems regardless of the husbands efforts. These situations are not a one person fix. Both have to be willing to change.
I know that I have not arrived at your question yet. Essentially you have asked, “why do men focus on the physical side of intimacy?” We have to agree before we can move on that neither position is wrong, that both the male and the female position have equal validity. If we don’t agree on this point than we cannot move forward for the following reasons. If the wife sees the husband as either wrong or foolish or less sophisticated for his focus on the physical, than she will approach the question of “why” with the intent to correct his flaw. She will try to convince him to see things her way. This can only lead to hurt feelings and greater problems. If the husband sees his wife as unique, valid, and special for her focus on the emotional than he will approach the question of why not like a critic but more like a lover of art. He will try to understand the beautiful sculpture that is his wife. And even though he may not be able to understand her completely, he will admire and respect her because of her differences and mystery. The same is true if you turn each of these statements 180 degrees. The wife’s attempt to understand her husbands focus on the physical will lead her to explore and appreciate the physical and the marriage will improve. The wife exploring the physical and the husband exploring the emotional, both are edified and each are fulfilled. Both respect and admire each other and are drawn together.
Ok so that was long winded. Sorry about that. On to the reasons why. The complete answer is I don’t know, other than that is the way God made us. The incomplete and long answer is that it has much to do with what happens to a man during and after sex. This is extremely difficult to describe and even harder to understand unless you experience it in the same way. Perhaps you’ll pardon me if I continue to talk about “a man” or “men” here instead of “I” and “me”. These feelings and emotions are so deeply personal and even spiritual, it seems less vulgar to publish them on the internet if I use less personal pronouns.
When a man feels the desire for sex there is a sense of anticipation, even anxiety or tension. It is often felt as a tightness in the chest and even some pressure in the head. This is difficult to describe because when I put it in words it sounds unpleasant but it is not. If it continued indefinitely and without a pleasant climax, I am sure it would lead to a headache and be quite annoying and unpleasant. But it’s not. These physical sensations are accompanied by an emotional headiness, he feels bound and sealed to a wonderful future and a lack of will to fight it. The outside world begins to fade and have less affect on his senses. All his senses begin to intensify, sharpen and focus on his wife. Each impulse from his senses intensify the emotional and physical sensations. The smell of her perfume becomes very strong and intoxicating. He is convinced that he could detect it from the other side of the earth and diluted by a thousand winds. His vision feels like it is much more acute. Every feature on his wife contains a thousand beauties to hold his gaze. It feels to him that he cannot physically turn his eyes away. Even if he could what reason would there be? If he catches her eyes and holds them for but a moment, a feeling of weightlessness comes over him and he feels like he is growing small and moving towards those beautiful pools. Her eyes grow larger and larger in the intensity of his focus until they seem to be the entire world, a world where there is only peace and comfort. Each sense bleeds over into the others. When he looks at her cheeks, he can feel them against his fingers. When he looks at her lips, he can feel them against his. He is convinced that he can feel it, but he discovers that he is wrong, for the powerful sensation of the actual touch is almost enough to overwhelm his faculties. It seems that he is supported only by the excitement and tension that he feels. The excitement continues to grow until he knows that his only desire is to be one with her, to be inside her. The senses continue to sharpen and focus. The emotions continue to build beyond what he thought he could bear. By the time of climax, he is unconscious of an external world, he is only aware of the one person who used to be two.
There is much more that I should say here if you are to get a complete picture of what sex means to a man, however I think we are getting dangerously close to pornography as it is. Suffice to say that the feelings and emotions build beyond imagination.
And then in a matter of seconds, the feeling changes 180 degrees. What was the most beautiful exhilaration becomes the most consuming peace. The tension melts almost instantaneously. It would be difficult for him to remember any troubles or cares of the world. All is right, all is peace. Every muscle relaxes and he lies next to the keeper of his heart. She has the power to take him beyond the veil to taste of a heavenly pleasure beyond this world. Peace and calm as deep as any ocean envelop him. Sleep comes easily and is often difficult to hold back. To sleep with her in his arms is the greatest peace attainable on this earth. The affects of this experience last through the night and into the morning, when he wakens to see her lying next to him and comes to know the impossible: that it was not a dream. Such pleasure, such happiness is possible and she has given it to him. She is now the focus of his existence. He would give his life to keep her from care. His senses are still acute. The morning sun is brighter than he remembered. He cannot recall seeing a sky that blue before. Or, has the rain always smelled so new and fresh? It cannot be, this is a sudden change that has come over the entire world. Each detail is improved and perfected for he is complete and whole. He marvels at the change that has come over him. He feels that his heart is no longer his own but lives within her. He fancies that if he strays too far from her side, its life supporting power will attenuate and he will die. Here is beauty beyond imagination. Here is the embodiment of all that is good and wholesome and desirable. Here is the pinnacle of all God’s creations, and she, in her mercy, has given herself to him.
This isn’t a topic that is described very often, at least not in polite company, so I may be alone in my experiences, I don’t know. However, I somehow suspect that many men who read this will agree. I believe that there are women out there who will agree also. There are, I am sure, many women who will read it and say, “Huh? What is he talking about?” That’s okay. It’s not so important that we learn why our spouse likes something, although that can be fun. It is more important that we learn what they like and seek to please them.
I should say that while I was considering your question and writing an answer, JustMe posted his. I’ll second what he has said. There is no negative to sex and numerous positives. Perhaps the most important one is that most men will never feel closer (more intimate) to their wives than when they are actually inside of her sharing the most powerful expression of love, passion, openness and oneness available to mortals.
Now it’s your turn. Why do women focus on emotional intimacy? The feminine mind is even more of a clichéd mystery to men than man’s is to women. Help us out.
Sir John…and you say that you are not a writer?! You would do the world a favor by writing the world’s first book with your positive twist to this negative topic! Start with this entry. (You don’t have to publish it now, just write). I think that one day, your wife will read that and blush…hopefully she will understand how much she means to you. Your entry also helped me to understand why you are still faithful to your wife, despite your rotten circumstances…very admirable.
Oh how I wish that many women understood that despite their personal feelings of inadequacies, that in that moment with her husband, she can be 250 lbs with yellow teeth, but be the one person he desires most! I think that many women have been brain washed with body image issues crossing over into the good girl syndrome.
“Why do women focus on emotional intimacy?” Here’s my thoughts, even though you asked kdj.
God made us that way…imagine that. 🙂 I think that with every woman it varies, but it is generally the same. In my own life, I can see that when the emotional connection is there, the physical becomes the icing on the cake.
Amazingly the term “Making Love,” really is just that! We bridle our passions, either physical or emotional, to love and care for the other person.
In many ways, men and women are the same…we need that emotional and physical release, in marriage. In her book, Laura talks about how she personally suffered from depression and anxiety…from that missing ingredient, sexual fullfillment.
In my own personal journey, I learned many things. As I accepted myself as a sexual person and God made me that way on purpose…I like sex. In fact I crave and love it, and I am a “good girl”.
Thank you for your positive review of chapter 1 of my upcoming book! 😉 (JK. I am not convinced that this would be a good idea.)
I know that personal feelings of inadequacy play a large role in my wife’s life (and by extension my own). Why is it that the husbands compliments and reassurances mean so little to a wife? A stranger’s, however, can turn her frown upside-down.
“We bridle our passions, either physical or emotional, to love and care for the other person.”
I like that. I am convinced that bridled passions are required in order to allow the other spouse time and space to expand their love-making vocabulary. Wives do better with physical intimacy if not pressured to perform. Husbands do better with emotional intimacy if not nagged to do the dishes or forced to talk when it is uncomfortable. The balance is tricky to find however. If left completely alone, many wives would, by nature, give up sex altogether and many husbands would never help around the house and only communicate with single syllable thoughts. How do you let your spouse know what is important to you without applying any pressure?
I am so glad that you finally came to your senses and started your first chapter–almost. LOL.
“Why is it that the husband’s compliments and reassurances mean so little to a wife? A stranger’s, however, can turn her frown upside-down.”
I don’t know. 🙂 All I can say is that my husband had this same discussion with me for a time. Here’s my loooong winded version…ha ha
Honestly, I had a “well-duh” experience (probably due to my husband’s prayers for me): He came to me sweetly, and told me that he had something important that he really needed to discuss with me when he could have my undivided attention, letting me know that I should not worry about it, but to clear my schedule for him (no phone’s, kids, distractions, etc.). The time came. I sat on the couch, a little nervous. He grabbed a chair and sat right in front of me, knee to knee or something like that. He picked up and lovingly held my hands, and looked into my eyes. He took a deep breath.
Peacefully, with all of the tenderness in his soul, he shared with me how much he loved me and gave me detailed and specific examples of things that he loved and appreciated about me. Obviously he had previously contemplated about me because he went on for several minutes! His eyes were tranquilly clear, and somehow I could feel the love he was expressing. I got a lump in my throat. At the time, I did not like myself much, so I guess I kind of wanted to run. My hands were cold. I know I was fidgety. He gently asked me to look at him. He then told me that he understood that I wasn’t perfect, and vaguely mentioned a few of the inadequacies about myself that I felt and had expressed to him at times (like my messy house, wrinkly shirts at church, my weight, for starters).
He paused for a few moments. Still holding my hands, he quietly shared that it was hurtful to him that I would ignore his compliments to me. He led me to our hallway mirror. He stood behind me and put his arms around me and set his chin gently on my right shoulder. Looking into the mirror at my eyes, he slowly said something like:
“Maybe to the world, you are just another women, but to me, YOU are EVERYTHING. The fact is…I love you. I care about you. I am here for you day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. I want to spend time with you. Believe it or not, I like you. I fix and do things for you when I could be off somewhere doing who knows what, but I am not, because I would rather make you happy. I am here when you need me. I go to work each and every day thinking ONLY about you. We share children together that look like us. If I had to do it all over, I would still choose you again. All of this, when I know your problems and your weaknesses, I stand by you. My loyalty and commitment should be an indication that I know you better than anyone, next to God. You are my best friend.” Then turning to face me, he smiled. “My compliments are sincere. Please do not ignore my thoughts and feelings for you, I love the real you.” Then he gave me a big long hug and a gentle kiss on the forehead.
Sadly, it still took me a while before I caught on, but this moment in time stands out as a moment of truth. The funny thing is, that when those thoughts creep in while I am standing at the mirror, I remember his words to me or the feeling that those negative things that I think about myself don’t matter to him. So I try not to put stock into it.
(While writing this, I am reminded of what a ridiculously patient and fabulous man I am so delighted to be married to–Love ya honey!)
“…many husbands would never help around the house and only communicate with single syllable thoughts. How do you let your spouse know what is important to you without applying any pressure?”
RLOL…single syllable thoughts…ha ha funny. 🙂 I think your question about ‘HOW to let your spouse know what is important to you without pressure’ is individualized. I guess it depends on personalities. You probably know your own spouse better than anyone, except God. I think everyone faces situations where we need to express something that is sensitive, and we aren’t quite sure the best way to approach it. Everyone agreed? When it is important enough, I personally make it a matter of earnest prayer. I think about what it is that I want to express. I think about why I want to express it. What do want to have happen? Do I have a reasonable expectation? Should there even be an expectation? What will I do with a negative outcome? Well, you get the idea anyway. Honestly, Heavenly Father knows how to help us help ourselves. He can teach us how to communicate and love, better than anything or anyone. He understands you and your wife, and speaks your languages. At times I have asked for this kind of guidance. I have a haunch that if you humbly ask God, he will teach you the language you need.
Sorry for the long entry, I really didn’t intend to share so much. I guess I am just full of it. LOL. 😉
That is a powerful story. I’m impressed.
“Sadly, it still took me a while before I caught on…”
After that beautiful, heartfelt plea?! We are battling some powerful forces here!
“Should there even be an expectation?”
These are wise questions to answer before getting into any discussion.
“After that beautiful, heartfelt plea?! We are battling some powerful forces here!”
Don’t hate me. 😉 I know. I feel absolutely terrible about it now. I had no idea what I was doing. Hating me was really selfish. When I think about all of the times that my husband has had to be patient with me, and knowing that he was (and is)…has only helped me to recognize how wonderful he really is. I know that I am totally blessed to still have him.
I cannot thank Heavenly Father enough for teaching me how to change and grow…and helping me to learn to love and take care of my amazing husband. (I am still learning).
Don’t get me wrong. It was not intended as a criticism of you. I have seen the pain that this issue causes the wife also. I am sure that you were not happy with the situation. I was impressed with how powerful this specific temptation is. I am also impressed with your strength of will to overcome. It’s very inspiring. Keep sharing.
You’ve touched on an important point. I know this is discussed a lot, but the application of it seems to be very difficult for many people. Hating yourself is not the same thing as humility. It is actually selfishness, as you said. When we spend so much time hating ourselves there is not much time or energy left for loving others.
No offense taken. Thus the: 😉 I was not very nice, but I am glad that I worked through the pain.
“When we spend so much time hating ourselves there is not much time or energy left for loving others.”
You are very wise. I am wondering if one of the reasons that so many of you husbands in the sexual desert are actually feeling peace is that you are focusing less on yourself?
How is this peace possible day after day?
“I’m wondering if one of the reasons that so many of you husbands in the sexual desert are actually feeling peace is that you are focus less on yourself?”
Yes. That’s a big part of it, but not all.
“How is this peace possible day after day?”
It’s not easy. In fact I would say that it’s impossible. That means that when it occurs it’s a miracle through the power of the atonement. It takes constant effort to qualify for these blessings.
SirJohn, SSM, at one point I had some real problems accepting the Atonement for myself, feeling worthy of His love for me, and I think it ties very well into what SimplySweet said, in Revelations John referred to the Adversary as the Accuser, I hadn’t thought about it until I was going through one of Pres. Kimball’s books and saw it mentioned. hE really is our accuser, and he does everything in his power to accuse us and make us feel inadequate and unworthy in any way we can, attacking and tearing down our strengths, as well as our weaknesses to degrade us in any way he can.
You almost come to expect insincere affirmation from your spouse, because it’s expected. The fact that it is expected does not in any way lessen the sincerity.
First of all, I’m really impressed and appreciative of all the comments here. Everyone has been very thoughtful and, I believe, helpful to fellow readers.
I heartily agree with what one of you have said about the fact that most people unfortunately will not get professional help, and so the only sex therapy they may ever get is what they read on a blog or article (or book), or from talking to a friend.
Each of you here have the power to be an influence for good to those around you when it comes to the sexual relationship in marriage.
I think the power of comments that are shared here is significantly multiplied by the many people who are looking for some kind of help. I so appreciate peoples’ willingness to share their heart and souls through this honest and open exchange of ideas.
Sir John, I am very impressed with this particular post that describes a man’s perspective on the meaning of sex. I’m sure there are many that agree with it. I would be interested to know if those who are not “stranded in the sexual desert” feel the same.
You give a pretty powerful description of the meaning of sex for a man. Does that hold true for those who do not fortunately find themselves in a state of sexual starvation? I welcome anyone’s thoughts on that.
It seems that an ongoing theme I see for us all is that both husbands and wives must overcome the “natural man” within us. I hope we can all keep in mind that if only one of you in your marriage is here seeking something better, then the weight of change or marital improvement lies primarily with you.
You can’t change your spouse directly. And it wastes time and energy wishing “THEY” would get their act together. You can only change you. Yes, it is ideal if both are working on it. But often that’s just not the case. So the lion share of hope lies with you who are here–to make needed personal changes (as many of you have already well shown) to improve the dynamics of your marriages.
I believe you all are making a difference not only in your own lives, but also for those who may find your comments and are seeking God’s designs for the sexual relationship in marriage. Thank you. Thank you all!
Thank you for your comments, they are encouraging:
“I think the power of comments that are shared here is significantly multiplied by the many people who are looking for some kind of help. I so appreciate peoples’ willingness to share their heart and souls through this honest and open exchange of ideas.”
I know from my own experience (and website trackers) that I will get 850 hits, and 1 comment. With those 850 hits I may get 3 emails, and a few others in person. People may not take the time to contribute…but they read it!
I am encouraged that people have a positive place to share personal feelings in a non-threatening way.
Sir John, I am touched by your descriptions. As a woman, it has enlightened my understanding. The description was beautiful, not pornographic by any means.
The description gave me hope, and an idea of what to look for in my own feelings.
Thank you for your response. I am glad that you felt enlightened. The experience of physical intimacy with the one person you are bound to for all eternity is such a sublimely transcendent, soul completing, and completely unique experience that I doubt if it’s possible to put it accurately into words. If you have gained a greater appreciation of it’s beauty and importance in the marital relationship, than I know I was headed in the right direction at least.
May God’s strength and wisdom attend you in your struggles to strengthen the most important relationship of all eternity!
I am glad that you are asking why sex is so important to men. My impression, based on my limited experience, is that many women don’t ask this question. I can’t speak for all men, and although I normally refrain from speaking in specifics here, I will tell you why this is important to me. I think at least some if not most of what I say will be true for at least some if not most men, and I look forward to other responses to this excellent question.
1. (in no particular order) Sex is one of the few things that separates the marriage relationship from any other relationship.
2. The sexual drive is God given.
3. Physical intimacy can create a bond between spouses that cannot be created in any other way.
4. Sex can be the primary means that a man feels loved and cared for.
5. Sex can be the primary means that a man wishes to express his love to his wife.
6. To a man, sex communicates that he and the marriage relationship are important and valued.
7. Sex can boost a man’s confidence.
8. Sex can be a stress reliever for a man. It can help a man regain the perspective of what is important.
9. Sex can be energizing and vitalizing physically and emotionally.
10. Sex can be fun.
I could probably continue but should also try to get some work done. I should point out that many women also enjoy these and probably other benefits of healthy sexuality.
To me, with the overwhelming benefits that sex offers, the question becomes, “Why not have sex?” If you could do any one thing that offered all of this and more, wouldn’t you do it in a heartbeat?
Perhaps you can shed some light on why sex is not important. That could provide some valuable insight.
In reading all 10 of your list, I think that it is the same for women. I chime in your chorus for married couples, “Why not have sex?”
As far as your question, “why sex is not important?” I have been in those shoes where it wasn’t. I think it is different with many women, but for me…
When I “finished” most of my therapy, I still had feelings of sex being something that only “bad girls” did (even though I was married). In my mind I knew that it was okay, but I still felt guilty in some ways. Then after having had 6 kids, I took one look at my body, and cringed. How could anyone be attracted to me? So I really wanted to ignore the whole thing. I couldn’t lose weight overnight or erase the way I felt. I had felt like sex was just another thing on my “to-do list”…something I did to keep my husband from being too grumpy. Yet at that time, he had to have done all my honey-do’s, read to the kids, done the dishes, or something to “take care of me”…along with the stars aligning. (Not really, but I am sure it felt that way!) Then he would have to somehow magically notice that I was in a good mood, and initiate his own desires.
After reading the first three chapters of Laura’s book, my eyes were opened. I read and I did the homework. It was hard, and in some ways harder than some of the therapy I had done. I was on my own. I prayed a lot. I had to consiously decide that the gift from God to be ONE with my husband, truly was a gift for me too.
I really do not know your story or why you are in the circumstance that you are in…but I hope that you never give up.
I think everyone has given some great input. Thanks for your responses!
Sir John, I think if every woman knew that this is what her husband felt like, then there would be less sexual problems in marriage. That is pretty much exactly what I was looking for. You connected with the emotional side of what men feel when they want to be intimate with their wife…women can relate. I think for me, without knowing that, it only seems like some bodily gratification thing that may or may not have something to do with the love he feels for me.
“You cannot experience the ultimate of physical intimacy if you are not emotionally intimate. It feels empty and even perverse.”
Generally speaking, sex for women is
1. not the biggest priority in marriage
2. not the primary mode of showing that they love their husband
And most importantly…
3. not the primary mode for feeling loved by their husbands.
Emotions “run the roost” so to speak and without the emotional side or love that is felt for her, this statement above is exactly right. It feels carnal, like he just wants body gratification. If it is not the primary mode for women to feel love and show love, then you might be able to see why sex isn’t a top priority. It is just another thing to do.
“To me, with the overwhelming benefits that sex offers, the question becomes, “Why not have sex?” If you could do any one thing that offered all of this and more, wouldn’t you do it in a heartbeat?”
In a woman’s perspective, it’s called emotional bonding/intimacy. ? It’s not that sex is not important, it’s that it is a different priority because that’s not how we feel loved primarily.
“It’s not so important that we learn why our spouse likes something, although that can be fun. It is more important that we learn what they like and seek to please them.”
On the contrary, where marriages are struggling because of intimacy reasons, I think it is very important to learn why your spouse likes it. Primarily because I think a lot of women have felt like I do: that men want sex for body gratification. Women want to know what men are feeling (yes that dirty word again 😉 when they are being petitioned over and over for sex. Literature out there says that men physically need sex (and women should give it to them) and that it is how they show love, but no place, that I have found, has explained it like you have. You said yourself that it isn’t a topic that is described very often.
How could I be true to myself if I felt that trying to please my husband sexually was carnal and just fulfilling his fantasies, only because I didn’t see the love in it on his side? If women really knew what drives their husband just like you showed, it would make a big difference in how they view it and how they view their husbands. It has made a difference for me. I think this really is key. Knowing that my husband looks at me that way makes physical intimacy feel like it’s right in marriage and ordained of God and it does make me want him more.
“Why do women focus on emotional intimacy?”
The complete answer is I don’t know, other than that is the way God made us. 🙂 To me it just makes sense. However, it doesn’t to you or else you wouldn’t ask. The answer is multi-faceted and not going to be complete. I won’t guarantee that it will make sense to you. But here I go. I will speak generally, but these are my personal feelings which I believe represents a majority of women.
Women feel love by mostly by non-sexual gestures. Helping with the chores, flowers, dates that he plans, a surprise just for her, a note, touching her hand as he passes by her, the words ‘I love you’,….basically love shown outside of the bedroom that lets her know that he is thinking about her. If she knows that her husband loves her and feels that from him in non-sexual gestures and that it is not conditioned on having sex, then she feels that love for him and is willing to give her body to him….because he is emotionally committed to her. These non-sexual gestures are big turn-ons. Women are insecure about themselves and need to feel validated for who they are, not what they think their husbands want (i.e. a sex godess). If I connect with my husband emotionally, then I feel validated. If my husband has not showed me he loves me outside of the bedroom, then I don’t feel that I can share myself with him. I really think more women need to understand what you have described. They would feel more validated every time he made a move and would take it as a compliment.
Maybe this didn’t answer your question or you already knew much of this stuff. I don’t know how to explain things very well. A lot of this probably sounds redundant. Sorry….I hope it sheds a little light on the subject.
It sounds like you struggle with what Laura calls the “good girl syndrome.” Many of your comments here seem to indicate that you feel a need to make sure whether sex with your spouse is “carnal” or satisfying a “bodily gratification.” Obviously there is a huge aspect to bodily gratification in sex, but that does not make it evil or something to avoid. The fact that your husband wants to share that wonderful bodily gratification with you and no one else should be a tremendous compliment! I can certainly understand, however, how it would not feel right if you are not close emotionally.
You are right that it is important for us to understand the reasons why our spouse likes something. I was wrong about that. I still contend that we should not wait until we understand completely before we seek to satisfy our spouses desires.
“Knowing that my husband looks at me that way makes physical intimacy feel like it’s right in marriage and ordained of God and it does make me want him more.”
I am thrilled that you feel that way! I get the feeling that you may still feel a little uncomfortable expressing those desires to him. It may help if you you make the conscious decision before hand to push forward in spite of the negative feelings or doubts that will come. Don’t back down! Express your love!
I second kdj about: “If she knows that her husband loves her and feels that from him in non-sexual gestures and that it is not conditioned on having sex, then she feels that love for him and is willing to give her body to him….because he is emotionally committed to her. These non-sexual gestures are big turn-ons.” Thus the book, “Porn for Women,” which is full of pictures of men doing household chores, such as vacuuming, dishes, and even offering to wake up at 2 am to feed the baby…because the honey-do’s are aphrodisiacs!
She (kdj) describes what is generally true about non-sexual gestures. Yet this can change for many women…like when my husband explained to me something similar to what Sir John wrote about his wife. When I finally realized what he felt, I saw him differently. Men are emotional in their own way (I think). I also changed (not suddenly) when I understood the way that my husband showed love with affection, words, and with physical intimacy. He told me over and over and sometimes I have him tell me again, even when I know…it’s just nice to hear. 🙂
So I guess I disagree a little bit with the generals of women…because I know that maybe in the beginning of marriage, or after the first child, sex may not be a priority for some…but perhaps over time (or with experience, age, years married, etc.) it can become her priority. I think women are less vocal about it because women are labeled “sluty” or “easy” if they like it…which is not what a “good girl” wants to be called. I think we are conditioned that way, and often taught that “it’s not okay to like sex too much”. Or maybe that is just me.
**Are there any other female’s out there that were taught that too?
I think that this type of conditioning contributes to “Husbands Stranded in the Sexual Dessert”.
I have been curious, but not dared to ask any of you husbands:
*Do you have children?
*How do you show your children that you love your wives?
*Does you or your wife show other non-sexual touch, like hold your hand, touch your arm or shoulder, etc?
*Do you date regularly? (I already asked Sir John)
*Does your wife have other women or family they talk to about intimacy or your marriage?
Answer only if you are comfortable…I am just curious.
In answer to your questions:
*Do you have children?
Yes. One of each.
*How do you show your children that you love your wives?
Treat her with respect. Help with household chores. Encourage her to pursue her interests. Encourage her to go out with friends. Compliments, gratitude, telling her I love her in front of the kids. Spend time together. When she is in an agreeable mood, we hold hands, kiss, and hug, in front of the kids.
*Do you or your wife show other non-sexual touch?
When she is in an agreeable mood we both do.
*Does your wife have other women or family they talk to about intimacy or your marriage?
None that I am aware of. She does not like to talk about intimacy with me. I don’t think she talks about it with others. Some times when she has been with friends, she will come home and tell me how grateful she is to have such a wonderful husband. I ask her why and she tells me that the other wives have this or that problem with their husbands. I don’t know if she reciprocates and describes my faults or not.
To summarize, it seems (generalizing here) that men, at least in part, desire sex as a way to receive validation, and women sometimes need validation before desiring sex.
Or, put another way: women need emotional closeness before sex is desirable while men desire sex as a means to obtain greater emotional closeness.
So, how is this dilemma resolved? As long as both husband and wife are making an effort to understand and meet each other’s needs, there is no issue. But, this is easier said than done….
Let’s see if I can come up with a complimentary answer to SirJohn’s excellent response. There are times when I simply don’t feel attractive, I get self conscious about my weight, my receding, graying hair (I’m not yet 30 and very definitely graying), my teeth, my calloused feet, the way my glasses look, etc. Any number of the nit-picky things women can find to feel self-conscious about, are not exclusive to them. Sometimes I have a bad day, and come home feeling about two inches tall, sometimes I’m just not feeling loved, or even worth loving.
Having someone show love can go a long way towards making all the negativity go away. The reason I feel that way may not go away, I can’t magically drop a couple of pant sizes, and I may not be able to afford braces for myself when there are so many other real and pressing needs, but none of that matters when you are in the embrace of a woman who desperately cares for you, and is willing to give herself wholly and completely, body, mind, and soul, to you for a few moments. As SirJohn said, everything else, everything fades, disappears and the only care remaining is to match the love in her eyes, the sound of her breath in time with your own, her caress, passion, and yearning to make the experience as wonderful for her as it is for me. There is nothing casual about a true lovemaking experience, it is an impossibly rare moment in time when all that you are and all that you have to offer is hers unconditionally. While I may be clumsy with words, or unable to express the deeply held emotions I tightly reign in, in that moment my soul is bare, naked, and everything I am, or will be is open and undisguised, bare, and vulnerable. It is a uniquely honest experience that I have never seen duplicated.
I apologize if it sounds melodramatic, or cliché, but cest la vie.
Very well said.
Anyone can have the experience on their own, and try to have the experience outside of marriage…but it will be empty. Carnal.
“There is nothing casual about a true lovemaking experience, it is an impossibly rare moment in time when all that you are and all that you have to offer is hers unconditionally.”
I agree with what you have said:
“So I guess I disagree a little bit with the generals of women…because I know that maybe in the beginning of marriage, or after the first child, sex may not be a priority for some…but perhaps over time (or with experience, age, years married, etc.) it can become her priority.”
The point I was trying to make is that sex is not a priority when she doesn’t understand what her husband feels about it. That’s why I said, “I really think more women need to understand what you have described. They would feel more validated every time he made a move and would take it as a compliment.”
Understanding this makes it a bigger priority because she understands it, where before she didn’t understand her husbands need for it.
Just me, I agree that both need to be willing to understand eachother better. But if the wife doesn’t see that they have intimacy issues then she would feel put upon again if her husband tried to talk to her about it. I think being able to talk together openly about sex in general is a way to bridge the gap to being able to open up to more personal feelings about the subject. Definately easier said than done….but I can see progress in myself by just learning what my husband feels toward me.
kdj, Okay, I see…I missed that line…we were saying the same thing–only differently. So we agree here.
I am glad Laura shared this great article. I think it is very good and insightful.
I can’t say that I am in a “Sexual Desert” where the rain almost never comes, but I am in a 20+ year relationship that does not come close to quenching my thirst. I would have to say that in addition to the “thirst” itself, the pain that comes from feeling that my spouse does not really care about my thirst is possibly the more significant issue as time has gone on. Over the years I have tried to communicate my feelings, but feel that this was always met with a very defensive response. Over the last 15+ years I have been on a quest to figure out how to make my marriage a great one. From my perspective our marriage is GREAT outside of the area of intimacy – with maybe some issues with communication (mainly around intimacy). I read several books that gave the standard, “men want sexual intimacy and women want emotional intimacy” and the suggestions on how a husband can improve things.
The pattern that I went through several years was me trying my absolute best to do all the things a great husband should do. I would help with the dishes, etc. and I even made sure I changed any of the dirty diapers of my 4 kids when I was home. I received LOTS of feedback from many people on “what a great husband” I was – which was hard to smile and take the complement when I wanted to break down and cry. Out of all my efforts I would have to say not a single one ever generated what I would consider a positive response. In fact many times I was asked to stop, such as when I would cut a rose each morning from our rose bush and write a short love note and leave it for her when she woke up. I would keep trying harder and harder until I was just exhausted and heartbroken. It made me feel like I was very undesirable and there was nothing I could do to make myself attractive to my wife.
I prayed for years for her to change, then for my feelings to change, and then eventually for “help me know what to even pray for because I don’t know what to pray for.” I even somewhat seriously considered looking into castration to remove the conflict and stress. I have seen others post that they also have thought about this.
I finally found Luara’s book and it was the best LDS book on this subject by far. I listened to the CD version within less than 2 days and shortly after I bought the book. It was a big step in making me realize that I was not some lustful creature that couldn’t control my sinful urges. God has a purpose for this. I didn’t start my marriage with these feelings. I would say that before marriage the hardest thing in my life was keeping myself morally pure. I made it through by reminding myself that “one day you will be married and these urges will have a place.” Although I am very active member of the church and even most LDS folks would consider me someone that tries hard to live the commandments, my wife is MUCH more spiritual. What I have to work hard at to get, she seems to just do naturally. She does not seem to have an inclination to sin.
Even after reading Laura’s book, I can’t say I reached any level of peace. I had hope. Hope that if my wife could read this and have a better understanding that we could move forward. It didn’t seem to work. She didn’t want to read a “sex book”. In fact we couldn’t even finish “the 5 love languages.”
I remember sitting in church and seeing other couples where the wife would actually put their arm around their husband and snuggle up to him. Several times I was crying when seeing this and knowing that my wife had only put her arm around me once in over 10 years.
About a year ago I was nearly obsessed and consumed with intimacy issue and the feeling that my wife didn’t love me enough to even TRY to work on our relationship. I was at the point where it was affecting my work and I think technically I was depressed (either “clinical” or “situational”). After breaking down in tears in front of her (which I had never done) she finally agreed to go to counseling – quite reluctantly and embarrassed. The counselor walked through many of the relationship improvement techniques that I have read about in many books. After many sessions I still have not heard her say much of anything that I need to improve on – maybe other than “not pressuring to have sex.” I don’t actually understand that as I felt I was much more likely a martyr and didn’t express my desires as much as I should have. My personality type does not like to “push” others to do things they don’t want to do (I have a hard time delegating). I don’t really recall ever saying anything like “I would really like to make love tonight.” The counselor did feel that she might be depressed. She has tried anti-depressants and even hormone treatments. In this year of counseling our intimacy has gone considerably downhill.
I recently had my dad pass away. Other than my wife and kids he was the closest person to me and we have been good friends. I miss him dearly, but I have to say that his passing hurt much less than the turmoil that this part of my relationship has created.
Why I tell you all of this? It is not just to vent – I got most of that out of my system a few months back. Plus someone online agreeing with me may make me fell a tad bit better, but in the end it does not change the issue in our relationship. In fact it might just make me more sure that “I am right and my wife is in the wrong.” I want to explain where I am coming from and I want to describe a change that has come over me and hope others can get there also. I must say that at this time my love had only grown for my wife. I love her more than when we married and I love her more now than I did a year ago. I want to be with her more than anything.
I read Laura’s article “How Do I Get My Spouse to Change?!” (http://www.ldsmag.com/familyconnections/051128change.html) several times. I also read “Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage” by H. Wallace Goddard. I also started praying with more intensity and really being good at reading my scriptures. I remember asking that the Lord help me. I took a road trip and I listened to a past general conference. I was really struck by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin’s comments where he said, “Put your trust in the Lord, do your best, leave the rest to him.” I thought of that over and over. I wrote that down and put it in my sink drawer to see every day. I also wrote “IWBTBHITW, NMHSR” which was my abbreviation for “I will be the best husband in the world, no matter how she responds.” After years of trying my hardest to do my best, I finally realized that more of the same was probably not going to change things. As Dr. Phil would say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” I really felt like I had to just let go of it. This was out of my hands and it must be something that the Lord wants me to learn from it.
A few weeks went by and I was in church and saw a couple a few rows ahead just nudged up against each other. It made me feel warm inside and was great to see. I suddenly thought, “hey – that does not break my heart to see that!” I started realizing that my perspective had changed. For the first time in decades I actually felt mostly at peace about this subject. I even gave my wife a really nice present and there was no “rain” that came because of that – but it didn’t cut me to the core like it would have in the past. It has been about 6 weeks now since this change has come upon me. I can’t say that I feel no pain, but I can distance myself from it and objectively look at it more than I could before.
At some level I do really hope that someday things will improve, but I have concluded that maybe it won’t. I still can’t understand why she does (or can’t) return love in a way that makes me feel loved. I just need to look past that and love her. I feel that my “test” in life may be to make her feel loved – even if she does not fully reciprocate.
I know this was long-winded. I hope it can help someone else come to some peace. I would mention that it has taken years for me to get to this place. It is nice to finally be here.
Amazing. Reading your post was like looking in the mirror. It sounds virtually identical to my experience. I agree that the hardest part is not the absence of sex, but the knowledge that she does not care about my needs. I have struggled also with seeing loving wives and feeling that longing well up inside of me. It can be very difficult. My father passed away not to long ago also. I agree that the sorrow over losing someone you love is not as acute as the daily pain of living with someone who does not care about your needs.
I agree with you about the need to leave it up to the Lord and focus on your spiritual development. Sometimes when there is something so significant lacking in our lives, we focus on that one thing to the neglect of other aspects of our lives. There is nothing that we can do to change our situation. It sounds like you have tried all the textbook answers, without affect. In the end, my wife must feel at least a little desire for me, or nothing will ever change. This is something that I have no control over. The only thing I can control is my behavior towards her. Letting go and recognizing that it is not a result of some extraordinary failing on my part is a substantial part of healing. This is not entirely possible without the Lord. I too have been surprised at the sudden peace I have felt about this topic. There is still the longing and the unfulfilled desires, but there is also peace.
JustGettingBy and Sir John,
I find it fabulous that you love your wife.
I am blown away by your ability to feel peace.
What a blessing to know and feel Heavenly Father working in your lives.
I have to wonder… The thoughts that this is your particular cross to bear in this life troubles me… http://scriptures.lds.org/en/alma/34/34#34
Alma 34:34 is rather clear: that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
This particular trial will not magically go away nor necessarily become easier to bear on the other side of the veil. Your wife will still be your wife, with the same spirit she now possesses…
Morguerat, I often have the exact question that you raised here: will our relationships differ significantly in the next life than they are now?
On one hand we have the scripture that you cite- this leads one to believe that our relationships will not change significantly. On the other hand, our lives are full of limitations now- we have imperfect bodies (and minds) and our understanding is incomplete. These hinder our relationships now but perhaps much less so in the next life.
I hope others will comment and shed light on this….
*nods* There’s also the passage in the D&C about how the relationships we have now will be the same as we will have in the eternities.
While chemical imbalances or physical handicaps will not be in existence, What roles do they play on the spirit we will carry on with us, I can’t answer that…
Also, on the other side, there is still the choice to remain together or not that each couple will have to make individually or separately, to honor the covenants made and continue on, or reject them and experience an end to progression.
Morguerat and JustMe,
I have actually given this topic considerable thought for several months and have some definite opinions. There are scriptures which, at first blush, seem to give opposing information. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
1. Our desires and thought patterns will not change simply because of death. This is what I believe “The same spirit will have power to possess…” means.
2. The fact that we can change our desires and thoughts will not change either. That repentance is possible after death is attested to by the work for the dead, “else why are they then baptized for the dead…” There is some indication that certain habits will be harder to break, but still not impossible.
3. I personally believe that some problems may be easier to correct due to shifted perspective on the other side of the veil. I think there are some things about which we will say, “Oh yea, why didn’t I see it like that on Earth? I better work on changing my attitudes about that.” Actually changing the attitudes may be more difficult, especially with sex. How do you change your attitudes about sex if you don’t have a body? But it’s still not impossible.
4. No blessings will be withheld those who endure to the end. If we do the best that we can in this life, I am confident that we will be provide time and space to continue on to perfection and exaltation. Once heaven is attained, it will be, well… Heavenly! Guaranteed. We will find nothing lacking. Our joy will be complete. So, what happens if one spouse repents, progresses and is worthy of exaltation and the other does not and is not? We know that we can’t be exalted alone. I assume that the righteous spouse will be provided a second opportunity for a celestial marriage with someone else.
5. I am afraid that we often minimize the power of the saving ordinances. These are not trivial. They are eternal and binding on earth as well as in heaven. They will not be discarded for mistakes. I personally believe that you must willfully go against the commandments of God, and continue down that path, to invalidate them. For me that means that if my marriage struggles because of my (or her) weakness, mis-education, or even psychological damage due to prior experiences, the promises extended to us in the temple will all still be fulfilled. Time will be granted to us either in this life, or in the next to work through these issues prior to the final judgement, as long as that is still our desire. The saving ordinances are there to help us overcome these challenges, not to condemn us because of them. Christ is mighty to save. Have faith. Believe. It is a trick of the devil to convince us to throw our hands up at each difficulty and say, “That’s it. I’ve done it now. There is no hope for me. No sense in trying any longer.” It is difficult, even impossible, to comprehend the magnitude and power of Christ’s atonement and Satan plays on this incessantly. I believe that those who have received the ordinances in the temple and then find that they ultimately do not qualify for exaltation will be very few, and will not come from your garden variety, working, struggling Mormon.
What do others think?
“4. No blessings will be withheld those who endure to the end.”
HF won’t withhold the blessings, no, but you are dealing with your spouse withholding the blessings, not Him.
Still, I appreciate the response, and if there’s a marriage counselor that can help you correct any shortcoming, it is Him. 🙂
Morguerat and Sir John,
Having experienced divorce and re-marriage, I “get” #4
“4. No blessings will be withheld those who endure to the end.”
I endured a lot, and still had to overcome it…yet that blessing came with a lot of work, and keeping an open mind and soft heart. Just later than expected.
“HF won’t withhold the blessings, no, but you are dealing with your spouse withholding the blessings, not Him.”
Perhaps that is true, but Sir John should not give up. His wife still loves him and is doing the best she can for now (at least that is what you said, Sir John, right?). Heavenly Father has shared the peace despite the circumstances.
I still firmly contend that all will be made right in the end. Not immediately after death, but in the end. If someone qualifies for exaltation they will have all these blessings and more. If their mortal spouse is so selfish that they refuse to repent, and will never be loving and giving, than I don’t think that they would qualify for exaltation and the righteous spouse would be exalted with another instead. But I think this would be extremely rare. I have full confidence that my wife (and the vast majority of spouses) loves me and desires exaltation herself. She will be provided with the time and space necessary to get there. I certainly hope that she is allowed this time, because if she’s not than no one will be and I have many things myself that I need to correct or I’m going to hell anyway. I know there’s no intimacy there, only the unfulfilled longing. The fact that she struggles with this aspect of life now and for who knows how long after this life is trivial when you consider the eternities. Just my opinion.
Not that you asked, but I agree with Sir John.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently divorced, so in many ways I’m speaking from reflections, good and bad, but I also have a friend who has been going through the desert for years. He can barely get his wife away from webkinz world to spend time with her family, let alone spend time with him (to say nothing of physical intimacy), and in fact, last year when we had a lesson in elders quorum about the dangers of lust, he got upset (I hope in my previous posting I relayed as well as SirJohn that lovemaking is NOT lust), and argued about the need for passion, which the teacher agreed to. But he knew, and was correct, that as soon as he tried to hug his wife (who had the same lesson in RS), she rebuffed his “lustful” advances citing the lesson in church.
In time, maybe not in this life, but eventually, I hope and pray that they will come to a peace. It pains me because I know how much he loves her with all of his heart and soul, and could care less about “sex”, he would settle for a glance, or lingering handhold that expresses any love at all.
Why do I care? When my life was crumbling, and I lost my children, wife, home, and any stability I had was gone… I saw the love they had for each other, not even consciously shown, just a lingering glance, a look in the eyes, or a smile, a hand on a shoulder. And it was all the more painfully apparent what had been missing in mine for years, but I had hope.
Morguerat, that was touching. I am sorry for your loss. To me divorce is a lot like grieving a death only it is very much alive.
Have you told your friend about this blog? Has his wife had the opportunity to read Laura’s perspective?
I see women and men change all of the time. I have seen attitudes change from people on this blog.
Maybe I am way out of line, But with your perspective as a divorcee…you have an amazing opportunity to be a marriage advocate by encouraging others to work hard at marriage.
Re: “there will be no intimacy there”
But, after the resurrection and for the rest of eternity, we will have perfect, glorified, physical bodies, right? And if we are exalted, we will have eternal increase. I am revealing my ignorance here and perhaps someone else can clarify, but I always assumed that our sexuality would continue after resurrection….
My apologies. That was confusing. I was trying to say that there would be no intimacy in hell. Let me try that logic again.
If my wife is not permitted to change after death, than nobody would be. If no one is permitted to change than I will not be able to. If I am not permitted to change after death than I am going to hell, because I am not a perfect person. If I go to hell then intimacy with my wife is a non issue because there will be no intimacy in hell anyway.
As you pointed out, intimacy is one of the primary differences between exaltation and everything less. Those who are exalted have it, those who are not don’t.
SSM, I showed him this blog last night, and bookmarked it, I don’t know if he will get to read it, or get her to read it.
And while my loss was painful, I was able to come through it far better, and stronger than I ever could have been with my ex, I’ve got a great job now (I loved the one I had before, and still miss it, but now I can better provide for my children, of whom I have custody)
Sounds like you are doing what you can. I hope that your friend finds a place here. Perhaps if your friend reads the book and/or listens to CD’s his wife may be curious about it. I know we can’t change anyone else, but we can change ourselves.
Having an open heart and mind and leaving room for change and love is really important, at least it has been to me.
“I think it has been taught by some that as we lay our bodies down, they will so rise again in the resurrection with all the impediments and imperfections that they had here; and that if a wife does not love her husband in this state she cannot love him in the next. This is not so. Those who attain to the blessing of the first or celestial resurrection will be pure and holy, and perfect in body. Every man and woman that reaches to this unspeakable attainment will be as beautiful as the angels that surround the throne of God. If you can, by faithfulness in this life, obtain the right to come up in the morning of the resurrection, you need entertain no fears that the wife will be dissatisfied with her husband, or the husband with the wife; for those of the first resurrection will be free from sin and from the consequences and power of sin. This body ‘is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.’ ‘And, as we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.'” (Brigham Young; October 6, 1862; Journal of Discourses, Volume 10; “Future State of Existence”)
I struggle to reconcile these statements from Brigham Young with Book of Mormon teachings about the resurrection that “…that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”
What thoughts does anyone else have on this?
There are a lot of statements by Brother Brigham that are no longer taught as doctrine, asking too much about some can be grounds for disciplinary action (Avenging Angels, Adam-God, etc) some are simply outdated opinions, “if you’re 25 and not married you’re a menace to society” – definitely not helpful to YSA’s.
He was a prophet, and he was needed to do the work he did, but as the church is pretty clear:
“Lu Dalton, writing in the Church’s periodical for women, explained:
We consider God, and him alone, infallible; therefore his revealed word to us cannot be doubted, though we may be in doubt some times about the knowledge which we obtain from human sources, and occasionally be obliged to admit that something which we had considered to be a fact, was really only a theory.”
As such, with anything not appended with “…Thus sayeth the Lord” must be meditated on, and tested in the same ways as any other doctrinal question, by the prayer and study of the person searching for the answer. You can seek the advice of priesthood leaders, as part of their calling is to administer to the congregation they have responsibility over.
I would offer this though, I’ve mentioned my friend who said when we leave the mortal coil Jesus will walk by us in our cages, as we rattle the bars and plead to be let free. He will simply say “look around” and we’ll see that the bars that look so formidible, are only in front of us, we can walk around behind, or to either side. We are only caged so long as we hold onto our sins (the bars). But that analogy holds for all of our experiences.
We will experience it, and then, when it’s appropriate we can put it down. It will remain a tool for us, and stay in our memory, but the frustrations, inadequacies, and binding that it currently causes us will be nothing more than a memory that we can set down when we’re ready to move on to the next state.
I think it’s a good way to reconcile the same spirit doctrine with putting away the flaws and frailties of the flesh as we become perfected. We won’t lose the good things that make us perfect, just as we don’t lose the memories of the sins we’ve committed, but we won’t be chained by them all the time, we will be free to examine and use them with a greater knowledge and understanding than we are now capable of.
Morguerat- very interesting comment, thank you. I will have to give that more thought.
I don’t like to make generalizations but believe that too many LDS couples believe that being sealed in the temple somehow guarantees that their union will automatically continue after this life. As with any covenant, the promised blessings are contingent on our faithfulness.
Additionally, we are taught that this life is our time of probation. So although God is merciful and we may have the opportunity to make ammends in the next life for our ommissions, I believe we are much better off by being more diligent now.
Prepare yourself…I am long-winded today. LOL 🙂
“Alma 34:34 is rather clear: that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.”
Today I was reflecting in my journals of a time when I was in the depths of post-partum depression. When I read it, I am a bit embarrassed. I can tell that my mind was not in the right place. My libido was low. I was exhausted from being up with the baby and dealing with the other munchkins. I put myself last…but remained in a selfish state by hating myself. In many ways I was not teachable. I expected my husband, who was a retail manager at the time (working 60-80 hours a week), to “save” me. At the time this meant that I wanted him to help a lot more around the house. I was doing the best that I could, which wasn’t very good. I could barely “help him”.
(I look back now…he did a wonderful job of everything! He is amazing.)
Speed forward a few years. I take medication for a hormone imbalance (discovered after baby #4). I don’t have a nursing baby to keep me exhausted. I accept myself. I sleep more. I worked reeeeally hard on overcoming my issues. More importantly, I finally “realized” the situation was not ideal for both my husband and I. I am more teachable, or at least I think I am. 😉 LOL!
To some extent, I agree that people can change when circumstances change. I have seen this with a friend who was diagnosed bipolar, and now takes medication. I was told that when she finally took the medicine, that it was as if a light bulb turned on in her brain and she could see the whole picture instead of what was directly in front of her.
I also think that things could be different for those suffering from diseases which affect sexuality both physically and mentally.
I personally have been healed through the Atonement. Prayer and Priesthood blessings have had a huge impact on my personal changes. Having my eyes opened, has helped me so much.
I did not always desire these changes. I am forever grateful for a husband who is patient, kind, long-suffering, and kept his sense of humor. He encouraged me to get out and go on a walk with him, when I just wanted to stay to myself. He is my best friend. He complimented me. He gave me time for myself. He listened to my complaints (when it seems he was suffering more). He kept a steady testimony. He did and continues to do many of the things that I have read from “husbands in the sexual dessert”. I think that because of this unconditional love, I now want to reciprocate 100 fold. I want to “help him”. I know that we are both imperfect, and knowing that he has been patient with my imperfections makes it easier to be patient with his imperfections.
I do not think that I was that different from wives who are not sharing the water in the desert (at times). I did prevent the rain at times, and I know at times I would give and get a sip…but now I have made the desert into a reservoir. I can tell you that I am still learning and I am still working towards a more Celestial Marriage. Sexuality was once a very detrimental thought to me. I related it to bad experiences. At one time, sex was a very shameful topic to me. I did not think about it at all. I thought that by not talking or thinking about it, I would “be pure”. Even after overcoming many inhibitions, and disconnecting it from the bad experiences, I still withheld emotionally somewhat. I have thought back to what changed me…and it is mostly through the help of my patient husband and Heavenly Father (and a lot of personal effort). Laura’s book helped me to realize that God made me the way I am and that there is nothing shameful about that! Embracing the thought that God created me to be a sexual person was an epiphany. In that moment in time, I became liberated from the conflicting thoughts and feelings that I had. No one knows the burden that was lifted!
For me, because I spent years in the darkness, I have a huge desire to share the light. That is partly why I am a marriage advocate. Sexual abuse played a factor into the complexities of my relationships. I can’t change what I went through, but I have changed for the good because of it. I have experienced the feelings that come from being denied and living in the desert for a time. I understand the pains of divorce (although I still believe that all divorces are sad). I “get” depression. I understand the wife who keeps the water to herself (somewhat). I also understand that people can find their way into the light. We NEED HOPE to see the light. Thank goodness that hope was shown to me by my loving husband. Now I no longer live in those shadows.
I understand that God created both men and women to have wonderful experience in marriage. This expression of love cannot be duplicated outside of marriage. I love what Sir John expressed about making love to his wife. (Go back and read it!) It is not the release. It is the beauty of sharing that loving and sacred act with your best friend, knowing them and loving them to such depths. This is perhaps why it means so much more in marriage. It is not empty, like it can be out of marriage.
I guess there are people who really are just hard hearted and have no desire to change. But even when I was doing all that I could, I still had the desire (although vocally I expressed the opposite). I guess I lean more towards being open to the fact that people can change.
Charity is the pure love of Christ.
I find this topic to be something that has really helped me. I am still learning this. (My husband teaches me this constantly through his actions). “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeking not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things…(here’s my favorite part: the promise) CHARITY NEVER FAILETH…” -1 Cor. 13:4-8
As a wife who struggles with often sending her husband into the desert, I wanted to comment on this scripture. Please try not to judge your wives too harshlyl and assume their lack of desire will continue into the next life. So often, there is a physical/mental barrier that will no longer be there after our bodies are perfected by resurrection.
There are different causes for a lack of intimacy. In my case, there is pain which makes any positive feelings about intimacy very difficult. It wasn’t until I read Laura’s book that I even considered the possibility sex could be a positive event.
I have instead pondered 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
7 And lest I should be aexalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
I am optimistc that someday, I will be able to enjoy that wonderful blessing which is currently being denied. I am optimistic that someday, this thorn in my flesh (literally) will be removed. If not, I have only the resurrection to look forward to when I can experience the full expression of love I am denied now. Until then, I continually struggle with my own feelings and trying to keep my husband out of the desert.
I often wonder, if I had cancer or some other disease that made intimacy difficult, if my husband would be able to bear it better? Somehow, those other maladies receive more compassion and understanding.
I would offer a quote I have found reassuring in my struggles.
“Brother Brigham Young was once approached by two sisters, each of whom wanted a divorce. I paraphrase his response: ‘If you could only see your husband as he will be in the glorious resurrection, this very husband you now say you despise, your first impulse would be to kneel and worship him.’ He said the same thing to husbands who had “fallen out of love’ with their wives. Those are mighty words. (Truman G. Madsen, “The Temple and the Atonement”, Meridian Magazine, http://www.ldsmag.com)
I recognize it is hard, and I see the struggles my husband endures, but please try to see your wives from an eternal perspective and what they may be.
Optimistic, thank you for sharing this. Although it isn’t something that I personally experience, I can understand that this is something that is difficult for you too. I would imagine that if you have expressed these feelings to your husband that he would be very accepting, appreciative, and understanding. Intimacy appears to be something that you desire and hope for.
That is the difference though- I have no clue as to why my wife has no interest at all in improving intimacy. Since it isn’t something that she is willing to share, I can only guess that it just isn’t important to her, and by extension, that I am not that important to her either. If there were any indication that my wife wanted any degree of intimacy, I believe the desert would be more bearable.
I have some ideas that I hope will be helpful to you in your situation. You did not say exactly what causes the pain for you or what you have tried to solve the problem so I will be making some assumptions here. If I’m wrong, let me know.
If it’s caused by dryness, a lubricant can often solve it completely. Substantial foreplay can work wonders as well. If you explain the potential benefits 😉 to your husband, I’m sure he would be willing to increase the amount of foreplay.
Even if you have some unsolvable condition causing pain during intercourse, that is no reason to not have sex. There are many different ways to please each other sexually that do not involve intercourse. You can and should be willing to please your husband and express your love sexually, even if you can’t have intercourse. You should also be working towards intercourse, but don’t wait for a solution or complete healing. Have sex in other ways in the mean time.
There are many here who know a tremendous amount about all kinds of sexual function and dysfunction. If you give details I am sure you will get some very useful information.
May God bless you in your efforts,
As a woman, I wonder how many of the husbands who find themselves in the sexual dessert are there because of past history.
In the case of using pornography previously in or out of marriage? Maybe your wife doesn’t trust you, or feels humiliated when you have had sex. That would make sense why she doesn’t want it.
Or worse, was there ever an affair?
Honestly, she could have her reasons!
I feel you could be right. Since we men struggle bridling our passions it can be hard for our wives to trust us. We need to continue to think of our wife’s needs first and she needs to think of our needs. If we both work together things can get better. I also think it is important to get off to a good start on the honeymoon and at the beginning of marriage. A regular weekly time for sex can be very nice for your marriage. We need to try harder to teach our children about sex before they get married so they can be better prepared.
Hannah and JL,
We all make some crazy mistakes. Forgiveness is really nice.
I think that one of the most important things to keep in mind is to stay teachable and not get hard-hearted or hot-headed. I have been so stubburn at times, so I am glad that my husband allows me to change on my own timing. (Talk about rich divedends!)
Affairs and pornography are serious relationship killers. Neither of these are an issue in my marriage, as far as I know. I guess it’s possible that she is getting her satisfaction elsewhere.
Does she feel humiliated by sex? Perhaps at some level. She has expressed that she is not convinced that God approves of sex. If you think sex is dirty, I’m sure there would be some humiliation involved. She has said at other times that she knows it’s okay. She has never said that she knows it’s wonderful. At best its condoned, at worst it’s a sin.
Why didn’t you bring your feelings up in counseling?! That is what counseling is for, duh. Not to skate around issues, but to face the main problems. This is a main problem! Obviously you will never change your wife. But she still needs to know the truth. NOT telling her what you think and feel makes this more of YOUR problem. Maybe she thinks that you are different from her friends husbands and that sex is less of a priority for you. Maybe she doesn’t really care. What you described of her as a good person makes me think that she just doesn’t realize how deeply you are hurting. Maybe she thinks sex is carnal because you never told her how it feels emotionally. Quit protecting your wife from knowing the real you. Sure it might shake things up. But you don’t have to be mean about it.
Sorry but I don’t think you are really at peace. I think you are just numbing your feelings, or putting up a wall.
I am intrigued by what you said about not being truly at peace. I have given this a lot of thought in the past six months. You are right and wrong at the same time here. This is not a situation that ever makes you happy. In that sense you can never be at peace with it. The desires for physical intimacy are given of God for eternal purposes. I don’t believe that they will ever just leave me. If they did, I think that it would be sign that I have distanced myself from God. There will always be some pain, sorrow, and longing for that which cannot be. For many years I prayed for the desires to disappear so that I could have peace. Reading Laura’s articles helped me get to a more healthy focus. The primary principles that helped me get there are these:
* Give her all the love she needs and desires, in the way that she wants to receive it.
* Do not express my needs and desires any more. She has heard it all and understands. She has told me she has no desire to be with me in that way and that she does not want to discuss it any more. No amount of talking, expressing, begging, or pouting has changed her attitudes.
* Recognize that her behavior is not a reflection of my worthiness, or worth. I may not be perfect, but I deserve to be loved.
* Trust in the Lord. I may not have the blessings of a loving relationship in this life, but God has promised that no blessings will be withheld those who endure to the end.
Following these guiding points has not taken away the pain, but has made room for peace along side of the pain. It is the peace to endure troubles, not the peace that comes from the absence of troubles. This is, perhaps the most important type of peace after all. No one is free from troubles in this life.
As far as walls go, that is the reason for my first point above. There is a strong temptation to build up protective walls in response to her own intimacy barriers. Consistent rejections can make you defensive and bitter. It is a constant battle to keep tearing my walls back down. I can do nothing about hers. This seems to be a major focus of Mr. Chamberlain’s excellent article.
Thank you for your comments. You have focused on some of the most important issues involved in this difficult situation.
My post was already long, so I was trying too keep it from getting too long. I did openly explain how I was feeling (being sure not to vent in anger). I thought as soon as she heard how I felt that she would engage a bit more and we could start down the road to making our marriage better for both of us. The last session we had the counselor was about as blunt as she could be, but nothing changed. That was when I started realizing that I didn’t really understand what was really going on in her head. I still don’t, but I have realized that the way I treat her should be independent of how she treats me. I am responsible to make her feel love. That is all I can do other than praying for both of us and our relationship. I do love her more than anything.
It’s amazing how many “sex problems” are really at their core relational problems.
Intimate Marriage + Mature Lovers= Fulfilling Sex
Tri-Lakes Relational Center Springfield Missouri
Mark Chamberlain, What do you think about the responses here?
I can see from your previous entries on Open Forum that your have made a change.
“I am responsible to make her feel love.”
What do you mean?
I meant to say, “I am responsible to make her feel loveD”.
I thought that is what you meant…but what I am wondering is:
Are we responsible to make our spouse feel loved?
Really? So I am “responsible” to MAKE my spouse feel loved? I know that we can express the love we feel. I know that we can try to show that love. But at what point is it their responsibility to feel the love? Are we responsible to feel the love our spouse shares? Am I making sense?
Are we responsible to make our spouse feel loved?
Before I answered I turned that question around and asked myself, is my spouse responsible for making me feel loved?
I think my answer would be that spouses are responsible for honestly trying to show love to and make their spouse feel loved. Effort is required, but also learning what makes your spouse feel loved (like their love language).
As I mentioned, the fact that to me it feels like my wife does not try is as much a part of why I don’t feel lots of love coming from her.
I’ve been thinking about this too. Ideally, both parties make a similar effort to show love and to recognize each other’s efforts to show love. And has been mentioned, it is always nice to try to convey love in ways that our spouse will understand and appreciate.
Even a French speaker and a Japanese speaker can communicate if they both are trying. Hopefully we can become more fluent than this in each other’s love language though.
I have been wondering about another aspect of this … Do we have a responsibility to learn to ACCEPT our spouse’s gestures of love even when (or perhaps especially when) those expressions are not in our love language?
For example, “words of affirmation” are pretty high for my wife, but mean very little to me. In fact, they are “naturally” negative to me. When my wife would try to express her love to me in “words of affirmation”, it would ring hollow to me, and I’d like “if she really meant it, she would give me a hug and kiss (physical touch) or a little card or something (gifts)”.
On the flip side, “physical touch” is high for me, but middle to low for my wife. I would try to show her I loved her by giving her a back rub, but she would say “I need you to tell me I did a good job”.
One thing I have been trying to do is learn to recognize when she is telling me she loves me IN HER LOVE LANGUAGE. It’s a bit of challenge, because it is not an emotional exercise but rather a intellectually exercise. But I think it does help — “Oh, ok, she really does love me, because that is exactly what she would really like from me. I should remember that and do that for her someday. And, it really is kind of sweet and loving in it’s own kind of weird not-me way”
I too have wondered if I should just try and adjust to my wife’s love language. I do understand your comment of her expressing “her language” being a real negative when you don’t hear/feel love due to lack of your language being spoken. I vividly remember once when she was telling me, “how much better of a husband she thought I was than many other of her friends husbands.” Looking back now I view it different, but at the time that got me so upset that I contemplated not leaving, but going away for a while. It just felt like she was taunting me and it hurt. I just wish she would finish reading the “5 love languages” so we could talk about it a bit.
But back to your question, I think we should try and understand your spouses love language and take what they give as love, but it is absolutely the responsibility of each spouse to try and give love in a way that the other will feel. I know for me that I know with my head that my wife loves me (to quote Mr. Spock – “that is logical”), but my mind has not talked my hear into it. Most days my hear wins out and I feel that she does not love me.
I feel EXACTLY the same as far as kinowing in my mind that my wife loves me but rarely feeling this love in my heart.
The mind does amazing things that in this case can complicate the situation. If your mind has decided that your wife does not love you, it will search for evidence to support that conclusion. Without vigilence, the mind will misinterpret events. It becomes a very negative cycle where negative thoughts become reinforced.
In the rare cases where I can assume that my wife loves me and subconciously find evidence to support this, I find I am much more happy. It seems a constant battle for me to remain in this mindset.
It is interesting that the roles in the “sexual desert” can be somewhat reversed. I found myself in a sexual desert with my husband. Over the greater part of our 9 years of marriage he showed very little sexual desire towards me. I on the other hand would be very enthusiastic to engage whenever he found an interest in me sexually. I usually initiated lovemaking. I craved it and dearly missed this physical contact which at a very low stretch in our marriage happened about once a month. I enjoy sexual relations and all the sensations associated with them. I have few mental and physical inhibitions about sex and consider this gift from God to be right and proper within marriage. In fact the more regular the better. For me the sexual relationship represents a significant manifestation of love and emotional connection between husband and wife. My husbands passions were more oriented towards building a property investment portfolio (after church and family of course). Sex was a low priority with a very narrow window of opportunity. I sensed in our marriage that over time sex became somewhat dutiful lacking in spontaneity or fun.
Admittedly, I was not (and still admit the need to improve) great at affection as such, but on the other hand my husband loves this stuff. Caressing my hair, hugs, snuggles etc.. He loves showing his love for me through acts of service and gestures of affection, romantic notes hidden around the house, and I do appreciate this. However, what really ignites my sense of marital closeness is the pleasure I receive from our sexual relationships.
In reading Laura’s book I was able to envision for the first time a more balanced view of marital intimacy in its completest sense, and through sex therapy & marital counselling my husband and I have made huge progress in developing all aspects of our intimate marital relationship. Happily for me he now actually finds far greater pleasure in making love. This brings an incredible feeling of oneness and joy. This restores my faith in this wonderful sensual gift God gave couples.
Whilst our sex life is now more mutually satisfying on the more frequent occasions when we do connect, alas my libido remains far greater than that of my husbands. The refusals of my sexual advances are a little better to handle these days(notwithstanding I still tend to feel some hurt and rejection). I am grateful to see the suggestions posted and plan to put them into practice. I realise that I can change
my attitudes and perceptions to sexual intimacy to achieve a more compatible sexual relationship with my husband.
*Stop fanning the flames of frustration
*Replace certainty with curiosity
*Consider how you might unintentionally be making things worse
*Listen to and address your spouse’s concerns
*Reawaken gratitude and positive perceptions
*Build the foundations that support sexual intimacy
This is my absolute first time participating in a discussion on the internet so I hope my content is appropriate. Thank you to everyone in this discussion who has shared their insights. I find them very helpful and inspiring.
Welcome to the message boards. Most of the posts here assume the stereotype that the man wants sex and the woman doesn’t. If nothing else, it simplifies the pronoun selection. 😉
I hope that it is not too irritating for you to read these posts with the wrong gender used for your situation. It sounds like you have a lot of experience to add to the discussion. Welcome.
Wow, the discussion has really picked up. So for those who have joined in here is Laura’s question to you men…
“Sir John, I am very impressed with this particular post that describes a man’s perspective on the meaning of sex. I’m sure there are many that agree with it. I would be interested to know if those who are not “stranded in the sexual desert” feel the same.
You give a pretty powerful description of the meaning of sex for a man. Does that hold true for those who do not fortunately find themselves in a state of sexual starvation? I welcome anyone’s thoughts on that.”
I was wondering the same thing.
Although us men are usually emotionally constipated and inherently poor communicators of what actually makes us tick, I’d say he hit the nail squarely on the head and buried it in the board on the first swing. It’s the most honest and… intimate, description of the significance of the act of love for men that I’ve ever seen.
*caveat alert* Although divorced, and naturally not sexually active it rings true, especially very early on with my ex when sex was more to each of us than jerking off into her, or as she so elegantly put her side of the equation “when we have sex I just want to get off and then get you off of me.” Please forgive the crude and base terminology, but it seems as accurate and crude as lovemaking was for us at the end when there was nothing but seething hatred for me in the relationship, and she consented so that I would stop begging for a few weeks and take a more active role at home (while I was working 70+ hours a week).
I can understand how sexual intimacy is sacred. Perhaps because it is sacred is why husbands and wives and men and women often have difficulty in expressing or do not express their feelings, their spirit with this most sacred union.
I think it can be helpful for husbands and wives to share vocalized feelings, and for men and women to who have not been married to be patient in understanding the feelings of yourself and your spouse until married.
Marital intimacy for me is dependent on the effective combination of sexual, emotional, and spiritual intimacy.
When I have cultivated emotional and spiritual intimacy with my wife the sexual intimacy is a powerful manifestation of giving my all to her — hopefully without sharing TMI, and that which is sacred, the senses throughout and from my entire physical body and spirit are given into her — to me that is the power and the need and desire I have for sexual intimacy — it is more than a physical act or release, it is a total giving of my entire being into her.
I do not describe our relationship as a sexual desert, but it has periodic droughts brought on by our own neglect and/or our imperfect physical bodies and spirits. While I have expressed these sacred feelings with by wife, we still have challenges in understanding and expressing one anothers intimate feelings; I think in our case a lot of that is due to low hormones. I desire my wife and I to both develop and enjoy all intimacies one like another — I want each of us to enjoy emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy equally, but perhaps that is ideal but not realistic.
I receive no greater complement than when my wife desires me emotionally, spiritually, and sexually!
I read this quote and think it can apply to this subject. I especially like the bit of dry sarcasm in the last line.
“While most of our suffering is self- inflicted, some is caused by or permitted by God. This sobering reality calls for deep submissiveness, especially when God does not remove the cup from us. In such circumstances, when reminded about the premortal shouting for joy as this life’s plan was unfolded (Job 38:7), we can perhaps be pardoned if, in some moments, we wonder what all the shouting was about.”
Neal A. Maxwell, “Willing to Submit”, Ensign, May 1985
Seeking some advice here. Been feeling quite bitter lately. I thought if I completely dropped the subject of initmacy for a while, then, if nothing else, her curiosity would make her initiate discussion of the topic. Nine months later, all indications are that she’s more than content to maintain the “no looking, no touching” policy for what might be the next 50 years of our marriage. And I’m struggling to not feel that all these women who “bait and switched” us men into a lifetime vow of “faithfulness” but have no problem “closing shop” permanently should all be lined up and… sternly reprimanded.
My experience is that the situation becomes exasperated beyond what I can bear when, regardless of what else goes on, the communication path between us gets closed. But I don’t know what to say to her that she doesn’t already know. I know from the first 15 years of our marriage that there’s nothing I can do or say that will ever make her desire me. I do think she thinks sex is both physically and spiritually “dirty”.
But here’s a wild theory that came to me recently (and I’ve had many years to ponder the topic). I think deep inside she’s deathly afraid that I’d leave her (like her dad did). And I think she might be afraid that if she “lets herself go” and indulges in the act of loving me, then it will be too painful for her “when” I leave, so she refrains and withdraws. The irony is that it’s only after a decade or two of this type of emotional isolation that I ever seriously pondered leaving her. In other words, it’s like she’s creating her own destiny.
I’m not sure if I should bring this up with her. And if so, how?
I am going to second UnderTheSun’s request for advice on how often to remind your spouse that you are still suffering. My story is very similar to UnderTheSun’s. I quit making sex an issue about 8 months ago. I too thought that she might be just a little curious about the sudden change. At first that was the primary motivation for me to abandon sex: to make her stop and think about it. I gave up that idea after a couple of months (mostly from finding and reading this site) and realized that my obligation to her is not to “stick it to her” but to love her unconditionally and in the way she wants to be loved regardless of any positive or negative results I may see. My goal is to not make sex a divisive issue in our marriage any more. The only part of our sexual battles I can control is my side so I no longer indicate that I have sexual needs.
During the last six months, I have had some vague notion that I would not indicate that I have sexual needs “for a while” but that eventually I would let her know that it’s still important to me.
Given a situation where one spouse has repeatedly and consistently stated that they hate it when the other expresses sexual desires and that they don’t want to discuss it any more, I have the following questions:
1. Should the neglected spouse periodically state that they still have needs and desires?
2. Should they periodically make more than a statement; i.e. Should they try to convince the low- or no-desire spouse to work on it?
3. If a statement or discussion should happen, how often?
I struggle with question 1. She has made it clear that she does not want to deal with any issues related to this topic. She feels that it is wrong of me to “guilt her” into sex. Any indication from me that I have needs and desires is classified as making her feel guilty. I feel fairly confident that the answer to 2 is no. She has made it clear that she does not want to discuss it and I must respect that wish. But I am undecided about whether a periodic reminder that I’m still here and still a sexual being is worthwhile or not.
What about the frequency of such a statement or discussion? If I decide to mention it periodically, I am leaning towards every 6 or 12 months. Can it really be called too much pressure if it’s only once or twice a year? I don’t know.
I dread the backlash that is sure to come from bringing up the topic of sex. There will likely be 1 or 2 difficult weeks resulting. Even though there are some obvious dangers and no obvious benefits to stating that I still have needs and desires, I have been feeling recently that it may be required to maintain some piece of… sanity… or humanity… I don’t even know what to call it, but I have been feeling some small portion of me dying away since I started hiding all indications that I long for physical intimacy. Perhaps it is the unhealthy portion of me that is dying away and I should never bring it up again?
I am anxious for other opinions on this topic. What do you think?
Wow, Sir John, thanks for echoing what I feel.
I tend to internalize my feelings, creating a communication problem which can result in pent up anger and then who knows what. But no good can come from nagging. Begging and demanding are out. And bringing up the topic in any form makes her feel guilty. And I’m not interested in being “patronized”. I want to be loved and wanted, not placated. You can’t make someone want you, even if you try everything.
And yes, part of me has been dying. Part of my soul. I do feel that if I’m not more verbal, then I’ll be guilty of not communicating. If I explode someday, I don’t want her to be surprised and say she wishes she knew. A couple times recently I was overwhelmed with emotional pain. She asked if I was alright, and I really didn’t know what to say.
Anyway, what kills me is that here I am, stuck with “unrequited love”. Me and Charlie Brown. It’s the same old struggle from middle school onward that I thought was addressed when I found my “Love” decades ago and married her. But now, every day (sometimes every hour) for years includes the pain of rejection. At least single folks have hope.
I’m open to ideas…
Obviously your wife is struggling with an internal issue, which you have eluded to in preveious posts as you have mentioned that she is in counseling.
“What about the frequency of such a statement or discussion? If I decide to mention it periodically, I am leaning towards every 6 or 12 months. Can it really be called too much pressure if it’s only once or twice a year? I don’t know.”
I want to understand why it is acceptable to you for her(and other couples like this) to not require a spouse to work together on this issue. It seems like you are supportive to her with her therapy and allowing her space.
Simply Sweet Marriage,
“I want to understand why it is acceptable to you for her(and other couples like this) to not require a spouse to work together on this issue.”
I’m not sure I understand what you are asking. I assume you want to know why I don’t require that she work with me on our sexual relationship. If that’s not what you are asking, please clarify.
I guess if I knew how to require her to work with me, I would. Are you suggesting an ultimatum: “You must work on this or I’m gone”? She has made it clear that I would be gone. She has said “I have no desire to be with you in that way.” She has said that she does not want to talk about it. She has asked for a divorce several times. It looks like my choice is to live with it as is or abandon my children. I would try to fight for them of course, but the odds are that we would have joint custody and they would be forced to visit two homes with no home of their own. I’d rather never have sex again than put them through that.
I don’t think that you can give an ultimatum unless you are willing to follow through. I’m not.
I suppose I could try a lesser ultimatum. Something like, “you must work on this or…” What? “…I won’t do the dishes any more”? Seems kind of spiteful and manipulative to me. Am I not supposed to be as kind and loving to her as I can and let her be as kind and loving to me as she can?
What other forms “require” could take? I could tell her it’s important to me and that I need her to work on this. That’s a well beaten and fruitless path for us. I can see an argument to say it every once in a while even if it’s fruitless. That’s my question. Should I? And how often?
As for what is acceptable to me… “Acceptable” is a funny word.
Ac·cept”a·ble , a. [F. acceptable, L. acceptabilis, fr. acceptare.] Capable, worthy, or sure of being accepted or received with pleasure; pleasing to a receiver; gratifying; agreeable; welcome; as, an acceptable present, one acceptable to us.
I receive it as a fact, but I don’t receive it with pleasure, so I guess the answer is that it is not acceptable to me. So what? Your question seems to imply a necessary reaction if it’s not acceptable. What is the reaction? What should I do? My answer so far has been to love her as well as I can in the way that she want’s to be loved and not express my desires.
The heart of my question is this: If my goal is not to work on the issue, is there any benefit (to my own psyche) to periodically assert that I am a living soul of flesh and passion; I exist; I have needs. Should I make the statement and then crawl back into my sexual desert for another six months (or year, or whatever)? If so, how often?
Laura seems to think that a letter is a good idea. I can see her point. My wife’s impulsive negative reaction to the topic makes it difficult to get very far into any kind of a discussion. I am sure that I could say a lot more, and say it better in a letter. I am leaning towards writing her. How often? I don’t know.
What are your thoughts on this topic?
I too don’t quite understand your question of, “I want to understand why it is acceptable to you … to not require a spouse to work together?”
I don’t find it acceptable at all! But what can I do?
I too do not feel that I should not use any sort of ultimatum.
I have tried (and am trying again) some of what is listed in this article. I have tried counseling, but so far no luck.
I also am interested in how often I should gently remind my wife, “Just a reminder – I am being patient, but don’t take that as I am in any way that I think we are doing well.” I wonder how that plays into the question raised of, “Consider how you might unintentionally be making things worse”. How often would it hurt the relationship more than helping. I think we could all agree multiple times a day would be harmful (I think that would be called “nagging”) and every 5 or 10 years is the other end of the spectrum.
What I wrote to Sir John I also write to you. I am sorry for the way I asked the question.
“How often would it hurt the relationship more than helping. I think we could all agree multiple times a day would be harmful (I think that would be called “nagging”) and every 5 or 10 years is the other end of the spectrum.”
To tell you the truth, in general many women would be happy going for years without having sex. I think it is good that God made women that way, so that the many single moms can better deal with their lives. I find it difficult for various other reasons…especailly seeing husbands suffer the way I have seen.
I was reading in A Parents Guide*, published by the LDS church…
“Couples will discover differences in the needs or desires each partner has for such a relationship, but when EACH strives to satisfy the needs of the other, these differences need not present a serious problem.”
Personally, I see this issue as a SERIOUS problem. I am sure that we agree that this is a serious problem because one spouse is asexual and unteachable or unwilling to work on it. I have read studies where the couples who actually face sexual intimacy problems together…end up in stronger marriages and having deeper sexual intimacy. I know that I do not need to convince you of that.
I just think that it is wrong not to let your wife know how you feel, no matter how painful it is for both of you. Not communicating about it can cause even deeper problems. Heavenly Father is really the only one who knows what you can do, because he obviously understands the bigger picture.
I have had some trials such as sexual abuse that I did not choose, but I did choose what I did with it. I got professional help. I worked hard to reprogram my mind. I received priesthood blessing after priesthood blessing to heal from it. I decided to always be teachable because of it. I never gave up no matter how hard it was.
So the short of the answer is…how often you “remind” your wife is a question you should ask yourself. I think that a person facing such difficulty should do EVERYTHING in their power to make the marriage work, especially sexual intimacy. Do not misunderstand me, I am not talking about wives with cancer, etc. I am not meaning any manipulation or other harmful means. It may mean individual therapy and having to work through your own issues first. It may mean that you may actually need to share with your wife in some loving way the way that you feel toward her even sexually…it may mean that she might feel really vulnerable and not respond lovingly. But doing everything that you possibly can is a fabulous idea.
I appreciate your comments and concern. I can’t speak for SirJohn, but it seems like our feelings are often quite the same even though our situations are similar – but not exactly the same.
I have let my wife know how I have felt for decades – trying to be as positive an non-accusing way. Even after counseling about the only improvement I have seen is she allows a
I am interested in reading more.
Sorry – I don’t know why my comments were cut off mid-sentence. As I retyped this I think it was that I used a “less than” character. I will use words this time.
… Even after counseling about the only improvement I have seen is she allows for a less than a 1 second hug when I come home from work and that is an improvement. This is even after I told her in counseling that I would LOVE for her to put her arm around me, put her head on my shoulder, or sit on my lap, and in general just snuggle.
It is hard not to take this as she finds me physically unattractive.
I am living proof that women need to be reminded often (I would venture to say EVERYDAY) just what a hug really means. I needed to hear what I meant to him everyday. I was needed by everyone, but I needed to be wanted. Does that make sense?
I do not know you or your wife or what your relationship past history is, but God does. I wonder if Heavenly Father might lead you to a solution or at least a means to the beginning of the solution. Did you try a letter? It doesn’t have to be sexy…it can even be a nice sticky note “thanks for the hug today, it meant more than you know” or “I appreciate…” or “I am glad I married you…this is what I have learned from you…” The important thing is to get the communication flowing, imagine it like tiny raindrops in the sexual desert. On the hot days, they dry up…but if there are lots of them, they stick around.
Perhaps it could be 1 letter if that is your style or being more kindly vocal (not demanding) about that hug that you do get…or hold her a little longer each time and thank her.
What have you got to lose for letting your spouse know how you truly feel? The way I see it, is that you are already in a lot of pain, the pain may change from her response, but it’s still painful.
We just did an article in a magazine where LDS people are the target audience. We sent our engagement pictures. We were told that the magazine had received complaints about pictures where the husband was standing behind the wife with his arm around her…also where a wife was on a husbands back…like a piggyback ride. These were 2 of the pictures we sent (yes, modestly dressed).
We are up against a tough thing…Satan has the “good girl” right where he wants her.
Sexuality in marriage is the purest gift from a loving Heavenly Father.
I know that I am full of it; sorry…I guess it is that side of me that aches for couples to find the truth about physical intimacy and experience it in love with each other.
“I want to understand why it is acceptable to you for her (and other couples like this) to not require a spouse to work together on this issue.”
Okay, WOW, I can admit that what I wrote is not exactly what I meant. Not such a great idea. Sorry. I can see how the word “require” brought the idea that I was inferring to coerce, manipulate, or force. I can see how you would think that I was asking you to give an ultimatum or be childish. This is never healthy and was not my intention. So again I apologize for the way I phrased my question.
I am sorry that your wife has asked for a divorce many times; that must be very painful to live with.
I really do not know how to rephrase what I am asking.
But you still answered it when you mentioned that you are staying so that your children have ONE home. Also, it is obvious that Heavenly Father is the only one who understands the total picture.
Sometimes I have difficulty facing the “gray” areas. I had to edit 2 pages because I feel so deeply about this topic. My husband and I discuss this topic often and in several ways (as people volunteer information to us). My husband often reminds me, “Can an obese person hold a temple recommend?” I have been obese…and I understand what he is saying to me is…this is a gray area best answered by a loving Heavenly Father.
“Should I make the statement and then crawl back into my sexual desert for another six months (or year, or whatever)? If so, how often?”
That is a question you should ask yourself. It sounds like you are okay dealing with your current circumstances, or that you are somewhat able to cope with it.
“Laura seems to think that a letter is a good idea. I can see her point. My wife’s impulsive negative reaction to the topic makes it difficult to get very far into any kind of a discussion. I am sure that I could say a lot more, and say it better in a letter. I am leaning towards writing her. How often? I don’t know.”
Exhaust every possible means and ways to make marriage healthier! I think ongoing letters, twitters, texts, and emails about any topic are a good idea.
“What are your thoughts on this topic?”
Without revealing a confidence, I have seen the “letter” idea work beautifully for a couple who chose to email. The husband learned that his wife was more open to discussing many otherwise threatening topics in a non-threatening way. I think that it is worth a try. I am sure that you fast and pray about this anyway, just include the letter(s). It may not be a bad idea to also get a Priesthood blessing.
I hope that one day you will just go ahead and share with your wife what you have shared with the world about what sex really means to you, especially since you are in an eternal marriage. If you were my husband, I think it would be fair for me to know even if I had a hard time with it.
I am sorry for your circumstances. You are on a very difficult path.
“Can an obese person hold a temple recommend?”
I guess I was in a hurry, what I really meant to write was…”Is an obese person keeping the word of wisdom?” Sorry. Lotsa mistakes lately.
Also, today I was studying charity and I was reminded of the beauty of it. Sir John, I really admire the depth of unselfish charity you have towards your wife and children. Thank you for your example.
Simply Sweet Marriage,
Funny you should mention charity. I think I have you completely bamboozled. I do try to be charitable, but I am much more successful in writing than in practice. In writing, you don’t see all of my uncharitable comments that get deleted before I hit send. Ah, for the magic of virtual charity! I want a keyboard that says “Repent” in place of “Delete.” 😉
Several weeks ago we had some excellent sermons about charity. One quote got me thinking a lot about how very uncharitable I am, specifically in respect to our sexual dysfunction. The quote comes from Marvin J. Ashton’s April, 1992 conference address titled “The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword.” He said many good things about charity but the one that got me thinking the most and that I would like to hear other’s thoughts on is this: “Charity is expecting the best of each other.”
This used to be my guiding principle with this issue. I tried to think positively about our sexual struggles. I told myself that dwelling on the negative will only make things worse. Assume the best and things will bet better. Accentuate the positive, ignore the negative. Today is a new day; start from a clean slate. Either I was extremely bad at it, or it’s a loosing proposition. I still agree with these principles in general and operate my life from a fairly optimistic vantage point. However, in this situation…
For the past nine months I have deliberately forced an assumption of the worst sexually from my wife to govern my actions. I have felt strongly that this is the best attitude and behavior for me. I still feel that way. But how do I rationalize this statement from Elder Ashton, which also rings true? And is my attempt to rationalize an indication that I am on the wrong path? In the past, if I expect the best from my wife sexually, it leads to anger on her part and hurt and rejected feelings on my part. Which path is best? Should I wake each morning with a renewed conviction that she will be a sex goddess that day? Should I behave every day as if she loves me passionately, longs to be one with me, and is excited for the deep intimate fulfilling pleasure of sexual union? It made me stop and reconsider at least.
I also think often about that quote about charity. I’m not sure what you mean by “forced an assumption of the worst,” but it is possible, I think, that this is at least somewhat charitable. There are probably less charitable ways to handle the situation.
For me, I see that charity is what I lack. But I think obtaining charity is somewhat counter-intuitive: we (maybe especially men?) think that we can obtain charity by sheer will power. If we just try hard enough, we can do it. I think charity is a gift we receive from God, and it has more to do with receiving His love and allowing Him to change our hearts. I have small glimpses of charity and hope to more fully receive this gift.
Like you said, it is often easy to understand these concepts and even to know they are true. Actually living them is another matter.
I thought this article had some great insights: http://segullah.org/fall2006/unmustered.html
It may have been quoted here already, but here is more of how Elder Ashton described charity: “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.”
I agree with JustMe. Charity is a gift. Thanks for the full quote. I would be interested to see if anyone else wrote a letter and used charity in it or to cope with it.
Sir John, what you say that has me “bamboozled” is your ability (in the virtual world) to continue to love your wife and proclaim that love to the world! You could take advantage of her vulnerabilities, but you write your frustrations and you do not. You write that you try to accommodate the way she feels even in your distress and discomfort over and over. I can hardly believe that a loving Heavenly Father who knows that you are a martyr in your own world does not want for you to have your deepest desires. I believe that because of the plan that allows your wife (and all of us) our free agency, he cannot just force your wife to suddenly change. I believe that God does however give you certain gifts to cope with the circumstances that you are in. One of these gifts is charity. Perhaps like many of us, you see your weak moments…but I see this guy who is miserable, yet charitable towards his family. Love fades, but charity never fails.
As to your questions, I am not sure.
I have my own experience but its mine and it’s not the blanket policy. LOL.
I will share something that is very tender and personal to me…wish it was in an email. It is really long, but hey—maybe I’ll beat you at writing the first book! Ha ha
My life is getting more public and judged all of the time now. 😉 Sorry for the length (I need an editor).
In my first marriage, my husband was very selfish and full of pride. I always gave him the benefit of the doubt though. I knew that he was a son of God, and I loved him. (I still love him as a brother and I truly hope that he is happy). We had only been married a month when I was in the Bishop’s office telling my bishop about how we had not consummated the marriage and I did not know what to do. What was wrong with me?
The Bishop basically told me in so many words to get an annulment. I prayed about what he said and I did not feel that it was right for me. I began counseling. I continued to pray day after day and week after week. I went to the temple often. As I would receive the answers as to go a certain direction, they were small steps. No matter how small the thing that the Lord would ask me to do, I did them. I think the hardest part was having the patience to do the small steps that seemed to me to not make any difference.
Trust me; there were lots of midnight tears. (That’s when I learned how to cry silently). I learned to love unconditionally in a way I never knew possible. I did EVERYTHING that the Holy Ghost prompted. I came to a point where I asked God, “What else can I try?” “What do you want me to do?” I would be given direction. This went on for months. Not only did I feel isolated, but I was isolated. Many of my friendships were sabotaged.
At some point I felt that I had reached the end of my rope. I had been in counseling, but he finally agreed to go separately before going together. Things began to escalate. It finally came to a point where we decided to separate for a longer period (the 2nd time). As I sat down on the airplane, I took a deep breath. As I usually did, I prayed in my mind, “Lord, Did I do the right thing?” I had a very overwhelming feeling of warmth and love almost like a blanket being wrapped around me completely. Quietly, yet as loud as the pilot on the intercom, I heard the most comforting words from the Holy Ghost, which had made the past years worth all of the pain, and I have never forgot them, “Heidie, you did everything that you possibly could, and I am pleased with you”.
Like I said this is really long and personal and even writing it, brings a lump in my throat and tears to my eyes. I am thankful for the peace even today; to know that at the time I literally did everything that I could to make the marriage succeed. A month later, I had another spiritual experience which I won’t share that led me to file for divorce. All divorce is unfortunate, really, it is sad. It is a hard, no–very hard thing and I do not recommend it.
I can tell you that selfishness in marriage can cause much heartache. Depression and stubbornness, of which I am guilty of, can unknowingly be selfish. Having charity and a forgiving heart only makes the situation more bearable for two people. It’s all hard, but charity never fails.
Thank you for the link. The article is spot on. I appreciate the training wheel analogy. Periodically, when the kids are out playing, I amuse them by riding one of their little bicycles. With my knees sticking out past the handlebars and peddling like mad I take a wobbly course down the street. All I need is big rainbow hair and a red stick-on nose! That’s me with charity. It’s awkward and forced – unnatural. I often hit the mark, but it’s just in passing as I wobble to the other side.
Hello Sir John. My wife and I have read many of the comments on this blog. We appreciate the thoughts expressed by those who have posted, and have learned some things that are of benefit to us. We’d like to contribute what we can by posting some of our own thoughts and ideas. Also, it seems that most of the messages posted come just from a husband, or just from a wife; we’re going to try posting our ideas jointly, and hopefully we’ll be able to offer a balanced, unique perspective on some of these issues, with insights from a man’s point of view as well as insights from a woman’s point of view, after having discussed the issues together.
Firstly, we’ll share some concise opinions on the three questions you raised, followed by some elaboration. Note that we have reworded your questions slightly.
1. Should a neglected spouse communicate periodically their needs and desires? Yes, if some preconditions are met.
2. Should one try to help their spouse improve? Also yes, if some additional preconditions are met.
3. How often should deep communication be initiated? Instead of following any specific regular interval, adapt to current circumstances of the relationship.
Now let’s move on to the elaboration.
FROM A MAN’S POINT OF VIEW
Your goal is to improve your marriage, especially in the areas where you and your wife perceive the greatest deficiencies. Deep communication is one ingredient that, if used in the right amounts at the right times, and if mixed with the right other ingredients, can be very helpful in making progress toward your goal.
Of course it’s important to consider this ingredient in the context of the others. You wouldn’t try to use flour to make bread without also adding other necessary ingredients, nor would you disproportionately or arbitrarily add flour, salt, yeast, sugar, and so forth.
The complicating factor is that you don’t have the entire, exact recipe sitting in front of you on the table. You have to “decipher” the recipe word by word, line by line. To see the entire recipe all at once would likely be overwhelming, both for you and for your spouse. So the Lord will probably continue to give you “line upon line, precept upon precept” as He has already been doing.
Here are some questions to think about that may help you consider what other ingredients may be part of the recipe for a good marriage, and to what extent they may or may not be present; these may, more or less, be preconditions for the sort of deep communication you would like to have, to help it be most effective.
Question: Do you know what aspects of your marriage seem most deficient to your spouse? Have you taken the time to ask, listen, understand, and respond lovingly and consistently in order to improve in areas that are meaningful to her? Remember Matthew 7:3-5.
Question: Are you regularly working together with your spouse on other worthy goals, in other areas? Do you set goals together, and plan together how to accomplish them?
Question: Are you ready to handle the reaction of your spouse? Will you be able to continue to love and forgive, even if the reaction seems negative?
Question: Have you been able to overcome the “victim” mindset that is so common in the world today?
Question: Have you learned to recognize, and even feel gratitude for, the character development and spiritual progress that you are experiencing through your struggles?
Without these other ingredients, what you intend as a heartfelt discussion or letter could come across as attacking or hurtful. Even with these other ingredients, it’s still possible it could be misinterpreted in that way.
One truth to keep in mind is that, for each of us, our circumstances in life are affected much more by our own attitudes, thoughts, and faith than may often be recognized. We recommend that you read or listen to James Allen’s classic book “As a Man Thinketh” if you have not already done so recently. This book is in the public domain, and is available freely on the Internet in both text and MP3 audio format.
Rather than following a predetermined regularity for discussions (or letters, if you try Laura’s wise suggestion), it would probably be better to initiate this type of sensitive communication at intervals indicated by circumstances. While continuously and prayerfully working on improving your marriage, if you feel prompted that deep communication (about these matters or others) is the right ingredient at the right time, then act. Or if you have carefully thought through the condition of other ingredients of a healthy marriage, and if initiating deep communication now would help bring balance, then perhaps you should proceed. And over time, as your relationship improves and as you build mutual trust and understanding, it will become much easier to initiate or receive deep communication, even about an issue that may have previously been a “hot-button” topic.
FROM A WOMAN’S POINT OF VIEW
From a woman’s point of view, it can be a very difficult thing for a woman to be in a relationship where she feels like a failure, being constantly and consistently reminded that she is not filling her role adequately from her husband’s perspective. If you, as a man, feel like a part of you is dying away, and if your wife is not yet ready for the type of deep communication needed for you to express how you feel, or if she responds negatively when you do express those feelings, rely on the Lord to get through those hard times. Continue exercising faith and express that grief and pain to the Lord, because if anyone understands, He does.
Remember the trial that Abraham went through. He may have wondered whether he would be miserable for the rest of his life after sacrificing his only son, the one through whom his promised blessings of great posterity were to be fulfilled. But Abraham moved forward in faith, and he was able to learn that the Lord had higher things in mind for him.
ONE MORE QUESTION
Have you been able yet to look past your own feelings of hurt in order to develop forgiveness, compassion, and understanding for your wife’s personal turmoil?
Thank you for taking the time to prepare such a thorough and insightful response to my questions. You have helped me greatly. The questions you asked in “from a man’s point of view” are probing. They have given me a lot to think about and forced me to reevaluate my behavior.
Do I play the victim? That stings. I hate the victim mentality. It goes hand in hand with the entitlement mentality. People play the victim when they don’t get their perceived entitlements. It drives me crazy. I never looked at how much I do this until you asked. I do have the attitude that I am entitled to love and affection (including sex) within marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I have never felt that she should give it up on demand any time I want. I do feel that I am entitled to have my needs and desires heard, and considered. I feel victimized by the lack of affection. How do I shake off these feelings? How do I get to the point where I don’t expect anything and am happy with nothing? Christ never expected any personal kindness from those around him and yet showed them honest and deep love. When he washed the disciples feet Judas was among them, had already contracted to betray him, and all this was known of Jesus. He asked Peter James and John to watch with him in the garden, but when they fell asleep he told them to sleep on and get their rest. He did not have a pity party or play the victim. He took my stripes and did it with love. I have a long, long way to go.
Your comments in “from a woman’s point of view” have solidified my resolve. She has said that she does not want to talk about it, so I will not mention it to her. I have noticed recently an increase in the number of references to charity, suffering long, and be not weary in doing good. I think the Lord is trying to tell me something. Thanks for guiding my thinking as I consider this very difficult situation. Sometimes, when you are in the middle of these things the emotions overwhelm reason and inspiration. Thank you for providing reason and inspired counsel.
Thanks for taking the time to discuss this among the 2 of you and share your perspective. It is great to hear of a couple that seems to have it together. Sometimes these blogs seem to have a lot of us “outliers” moaning about our situation.
I have thought much about how much of the differences in my marriage come down to poor communications. Your analogy is good about knowing the right ingredients. I would have to say for me, after my years of failing in most conversations, I have no confidence in my intuition any more on how much of what ingredient is needed. I pray that I will know, but I don’t have confidence any more.
I have thought for a few days on your questions that were asked.
Question: Do you know what aspects of your marriage seem most deficient to your spouse? Have you taken the time to ask, listen, understand, and respond lovingly and consistently in order to improve in areas that are meaningful to her?
Answer: I can’t say I do understand what my wife would say is deficient in our marriage. I think she might say something along the line of, “our marriage is just fine – you just want too much sex.” I have tried very hard calmly respond and not “guilt” her. In counseling she was asked to create a list of things that she wanted me to do. She agreed that I was doing them all and most of them I was doing well (except that I would “pressure her to make love” – which I don’t quite understand as I don’t think I have verbally asked that for like 20 years)
Question: Are you regularly working together with your spouse on other worthy goals, in other areas? Do you set goals together, and plan together how to accomplish them?
Answer: Other than raising the kids and filling our church callings – not really. Unless you consider, “trying to get enough sleep” as a goal we are both working on. I do recognize that we are too busy.
Question: Are you ready to handle the reaction of your spouse? Will you be able to continue to love and forgive, even if the reaction seems negative?
Answer: I may not have been a few decades ago, but I am now. I would express how much I love her and am willing to help her if she came back and said she was abused, had done something inappropriate before or even during our marriage, if she had same-sex attraction… It would actually be a releif to know what it is. Now I am only left feeling that it must be me that is just an unattractive person that she can’t love. That thought really depresses me.
Question: Have you been able to overcome the “victim” mindset that is so common in the world today?
Answer: I think if you read my last answer, I think it is clear that I still have some room to work on. I have made improvments, but in my mood swings I do occasionally swing into a “victim” mode.
Question: Have you learned to recognize, and even feel gratitude for, the character development and spiritual progress that you are experiencing through your struggles?
Answer: About the last 5 years I have come to appreciate that the Lord gives us trials like this. It is only through this struggle that I have had to turn to the Lord to get through it by reading and praying regularly. I struggle with what feels like my prayers not being answered, but I have read much and MOST of the time I feel that I need to show my wife all the love I can no matter what she says/does. I certainly feel like I have much more empathy for the pains and struggles that people go through.
From the “Womans point of view”
I struggle when it is mentioned that women sometimes “feel like they are a failure”. It would seem to me if I felt like I was a failure in some area, I would try (at least a little bit) to improve a bit. What hurts me significantly more than not being as intimate as I would like, is the near refusal to anything to try and meet me 1/2 way (or even 1/100th of the way). Now I don’t badger her about it – I generally bring up the issue about once every 4 years or so. My mind wispers that I think she loves me, but her lack of trying screams to my heart otherwise.
ONE MORE QUESTION: Have you been able yet to look past your own feelings of hurt in order to develop forgiveness, compassion, and understanding for your wife’s personal turmoil?
Answer: I think I have 3 different answers for the 3 things you mentioned.
Forgivness – YES. I honestly think I can say that I forgive her for anything. As long as she wanted to stay with me – I absolutely want to stay with her.
Compassion: I think I have grown in this area, but it comes and goes in waves. Actually when every once in a while we actually have reasonably good intimate time together, I am washed over with love and I feel so wonderful about her that I am filled with compassion.
Understanding: I don’t understand her. I have read up quite a bit and none of the suggestions seem to hit home with her. For a few weeks I would cut a rose from outside, bring it and put in on the bed when I left early in the AM with a love note. She told me to stop doing that. I got her a globe and told her that the song “you are the world to me” applied to her from me. I even created a CD with songs that reminded me of her and before each song on the CD I would explain why the song reminded me of her. I got a call from her on her cell phone saying, “thanks!” Maybe I was expecting too much (like a long hug/kiss).
Thanks again for the post.
Nice to hear from you. It’s been a while. I can really appreciate where you are coming from and how you must be feeling. As a wife who formerly could have happily gone without sex the rest of her life here are a few thoughts…
It is possible that your wife does feel content to never have sex again. Female sexuality in particular is a cultivated art–not such an automatic reaction as it generally is for men. It is possible that your wife would be content to never talk about the subject again either.
I can certainly see how husbands might feel that their wives have pulled a “bait and switch” on them. I mention this in my book as well. But, I really don’t think women consciously do that. They are simply unaware of how their sexuality plays out in life, and how some effort on their part is required to nourish it. Unfortunately while it may make you feel better for these wives to be “lined up and sternly reprimanded” I don’t think it would be all that productive. That isn’t the way to a woman’s heart, and that’s got to be the focus on anyone’s efforts. Yours and mine included.
It’s very possible that your wife is laboring under the influence of the “Good Girl Syndrome,” which you unfortunately cannot do much to directly change. Your additional “wild theory” was actually quite profound. I would venture to bet that every wife that is struggling with the sexual relationship in their marriage has something that’s getting in the way. She may not even be aware of it. Negative thoughts and beliefs about sex in general alone can be the culprit, not to mention the additional fears you have identified. I’ve also had women share with me how much fear they have now that they do enjoy sex, that their husbands will now reject them. Fears are a real killer in relationships.
Your wife’s experience of having her dad leave her as a child unfortunately plays a major role in her day-to-day functioning whether we like it or not. We all in some ways create the kinds of life we have created first in our mind. We all live somewhat in a mode of self-fulfilling prophecy. If we believe our wives will never love us sexually the way we want them to, it’s pretty much a guarantee that they won’t because we will engage in attitudes and behaviors that will bring that result about in our lives. Living this way is the opposite of faith. But I recognize how hard it is to believe in something when you have plenty of evidence to the contrary (see Hebrews 11:1).
I do have a thought for you though. This would simply be an experiment you might try if you thought you could pull it off given all the circumstances of your situation. I’m actually a big believer in written communication between spouses especially with topics like this and in situations like this. She may not change. She may be upset for a time, but I do feel that husband’s have a something of a responsibility to keep their wives updated as best they can on their state of being.
I can’t think of anything worse than for a spouse to all of a sudden leave their husband or wife when there has not been an ongoing effort to communicate clearly even if it seems one sided (and I don’t mean continuing to argue about the same ol’ stuff!). We think the other knows how we feel, but we are often wrong. And the deeper, tender real feelings rarely have a chance to surface in the arguments.
I think you and the many other husbands out there in your similar situation ought to consider sharing some of your heartfelt perspective (and even the pain you feel) with your spouse in the form of a written letter or email. SirJohn has shared here on this blog an incredible description of what sex means to him, as well as his personal feelings about the entire situation of his marriage (http://strengtheningmarriage.com/blog/intimacy/help-for-husbands-stranded-in-the-sexual-desert/#comment-944). I think those who have shared here could gather what they’ve already written here and add or refine these writings for the purpose of this letter to their wives.
I do believe these honest and intimate writings have great power to touch hearts! And not just for the readers of this blog, but for the spouses of which they speak.
If you are able to write from the heart without any blame or criticism, but instead take full responsibility for your own attitudes and feelings, and to share them in the kindest most compassionate way possible, I think it can only do good in the long run. I can’t help but think that if all of the wives of the husbands here were able to see and hear how you are feeling–just like many of you have already done here on this blog–then I think it might have power to change their hearts, even if only a little.
No Strings Attached
Of course you need to be able to write this letter without any expectations that things will change, so that there is no psychological pressure attached to the letter. Your objective would simply be to share your feelings in hopes of restoring some connection, even if she is still unable to move toward a suitable solution to the sexual issues for you. Remember that the way to a woman’s sexuality is through her heart.
In general, I think the wives we are talking about face an insurmountable predicament in their minds. Whether they have already given up hope and feel like a failure as a wife, or feel too much fear or disdain for sex, or have too many relationship issues that loom much larger to them than the “sex” issue, the pain they feel on their side of this equation is likely to be pretty significant as well.
Benefits of Written Communication
Engaging in written communication instead of verbal increases the chances that you can communicate more rationally and less reactively (so can she if she chooses to respond). Written communication allows you to share the whole story without getting interrupted or attacked, and it allows you the chance to re-read and re-write until you have an appropriate spirit in your communication.
Even if nothing else changed, I would recommend you husbands continue to share your personal perspectives on life and yourself and your marriage, etc. on a regular basis–yes for your sake, but also for hers as well. You’re not trying to fix her or change her, but you are wanting to share what is in your heart in a way that will keep you from withdrawing from her further.
The hope with these letters is that if you can do it in a spirit of love, then it has at least some hope of impressing upon her heart your continuing love in spite of the situation (which she is likely well aware of ). It may provide some positive motivation for her to find the courage and/or strength to look into improving this aspect of your marriage.
As I see it, the alternative is for you (and the others in this situation) to have continued isolation/emotional withdrawal from each other and increasing pain–potentially resulting in another broken home, versus sending this letter and having some potential short-term upset in the relationship with the possibility of some honest emotional connection to be restored.
Again, this is just a suggestion that anyone would need to consider relative to their specific situation. An additional option is to write the letter and then burn it if it would cause too much damage to the relationship. There is much therapeutic benefit in the simple process of writing this letter. It’s similar to the therapeutic benefit afforded those who read or post in supportive groups like this, but the letter has the added benefit of making a difference in the spouse as opposed to being merely a coping strategy.
I welcome any thoughts, especially from anyone who tries this approach. God bless! : )
I wrote my wife a letter to “break the ice” on this subject. It was a couple of months ago, and we are still working through the details, but I thought it was positive overall.
In truth, I didn’t actually write most of the “letter.” I don’t remember the exact sequence of events, but I found that Michelle Wiener-Davis had posted the text of the 1st chapter of her book The Sex-Starved Marriage on her website. When I read through it, I felt that a lot of it expressed my how I felt, and expressed it more concisely than I could have if I’d tried to write from scratch. So I copied the text into a text editor, highlighted the parts that expressed how I felt, added my own comments in a different color font (so my wife could distinguish my comments from the author’s), and emailed it to her. I really hope it will help things change for us.
Using someone else’s words for the bulk of the letter helped me avoid sounding judgmental, or critical, or other negative results. Others may find this useful, especially if they find it difficult to compose such a letter. With all the emotions this topic carries (frustration, sadness, anger, hope, depression, etc.), I don’t think I could have composed the whole thing on my own and still have it be coherent.
At some point you have to be able to put things into your own words, but this might be an idea for some to “break the ice.”
I have been waiting to see if any other husbands took Laura’s challenge above…Any letters written or received? PLEASE SHARE.
I think that it is very wise and healthy for spouses to express inner feelings about physical intimacy to a beloved spouse. I have seen the positive effects of this both personally and with the many people whom I come into contact with.
Simply Sweet …
While not exactly in response to Laura’s challenge, I have written several letters to my wife along the lines of what Laura suggests….. The results have been mixed.
In General, our marriage is much much better than 2 years ago, which I think was the lowest point. The letters are a part of that, Laura’s Book and “Love Languages” are a part of that, as are several other things …
I wrote her (I believe a suggestion from Laura’s Book) a “sexy letter”, telling her how sexy I thought she was, what I like to do to her (i.e. “slip you shirt off your shoulder and kiss your neck …”), etc. THAT letter was a disaster of epic scale. She was extremely mad about it. Several months later, she mentioned that she re-read it, and thought it was ok, not as bad as she remembered, but still not something she liked.
I wrote her a letter about how I felt and how her rejection hurt me. Again, that was not accepted particularly well at the time, but on later reflection it was ok (not good, but not bad either).
I wrote her a list of fantasies I had that I would like to do together. Her initial response was “No way – those are all evil and bad and I can’t do them”. (“play strip Wii Bowling when the kids are gone”, “Go for drive in mountains and you unbutton your shirt”, “Take shower together”) Looking back now, we have done 3 of the 10 in the last 6 months.
Things are much better now then at any time that I wrote those letters. I suspect the letters played a role, but I’m not sure I think they played the “critical role”.
But now that things are better, I wonder about writing the “sexy letter” again, and it might actually be accepted as a good thing now?
Thanks for responding to this. I wonder what experiences others have had. I am glad that things are better now.
I have to say that reading this was like déjà vu. I had a similar experience of “epic scale”, only my husband did not write a note, he talked to me about those desires. To say the least, I “freaked” out, withdrew emotionally and somewhat sexually…but it also got me really thinking and overall I wanted to please him. In fact, I actually wrote it down and I decided that when I was ready I would surprise him…and I did! It took me 2 years (don’t hate me) to even do the first thing. Then I freaked out about it, but I kept trying again (very slowly).
A couple of years ago when I was reading Laura’s book for the first time, I nervously left a very sexy note for my husband, and it definitely shocked him. He came straight home. He LOVED it!
As crazy as it is, when I wrote it, it did something in my mind and heart where it gave me permission to accept myself as a sexual person and that God created me that way.
It’s easy to forget that in many cultures (especially LDS) where women who are open about their sexuality, are labeled by other women as “sluts” “dirty” and other names. Now I am obviously open, and I am also a target for people to attack. Overall, my husband and I get many very positive emails and feedback from couples thanking us for creating our company. Yet we also get an occasional email that says that we will “burn in hell” for it. (People have their reasons, but it is not my issue).
Fortunately, I know where I stand with God, and with my husband. That is what matters most. For me, I am reminded each time I open an email like that as to why I began this journey in the first place. I was there at one time, before I understood true womanhood and accepted Gods gifts to me. I have had to apologize more than once for the things I have said a long time ago, to friends and family. I am thankful that God created women and men to compliment each other.
You piqued my interest. You said that the letters did not play the “critical role.” What did play the “critical role”? Please tell.
I wish I could point to one thing and say “that fixed it”, because then we could bottle it and sell it!!!
I think “Love Languages” played the biggest role for both of us. “Love Languages” gave us the framework. It was shocking to take the test, and see that my love languages scored low for her, and her love languages scored low for me.
Once we recognized that, than other things helped. Laura’s book helped my wife speak to me in my love language – physical touch. “Men Mars, Women Venus” helped me to learn to speak to her in her language. Both of us have made efforts, I think, to do what makes the other happy, even if it makes absolutely no sense to us.
So, my dear wife has tried a few of my sexual fantasties, which are “don’t make sense to her why I would want that, but make me happy”. I bought a jar from some company (Maybe it was Simply sweet’s I’m not sure) with 365 positive loving statements in it (“More than you hugs, more than your kisses, more than anything, you are my everything”, “You are like a good book, full of mystery, intrigue and romance”, “From the depths of my heart, I will adore and adore and adore you”, etc.). I read her one most mornings. I don’t talk that way, it feels very uncomfortable to me, but I am learning that it makes her smile and makes her happy.
What was the critical point — Recognizing that we are extremely different. What makes her happy and what makes me happy are very different. We kept trying to find something or expected something -some one thing- to work for both of us. It doesn’t exist. So we both do stuff that the other likes because they like it.
I hope that helps a bit …..
THANK YOU for writing that there is absolutely NO one magic pill.
I think it is human tendency to look for one single solution. I still think that expressing those fantasies to your wife was a good idea. (At least it got her thinking).
Thanks for your example of being altruistic. I think that also expressing your own feelings is a good idea, because it made the playing field more even. At one point were you ever fearful or hesitant to express your personal desires to your wife? How did you cope when she reacted in “epic scale”?
Thanks also for the idea, I need to do free print outs like that.
Simply Sweet …
Not only is there NOT one magic pill, at least for us, her magic pill is illogical and confusing to me, and my magic pill is illogical and confusing to her.
I wish I could say that I reacted well to her “epic scale” bad reactions. I really didn’t. At that point, everything is so emotionally charged, that we both tended to react badly. We both try now to step back from the abyss, and try to something we know will make the other happy right after a “fight” or “epic scale bad reaction”. I try extra hard to give her the words of affirmation that she needs. She tries extra hard to give the physical touch I need.
Hello and thanks a ton 🙂
I have been pondering your post and some of the other posts at least daily. My mind continues to “role play” sharing different types of feelings in the form of a letter, and trying to imagine which ones will be productive and which ones not. Unfortunately, at this point I have so many years of emotions and analysis built up, that it’s challenging to back-track to where we left off in our dialog.
I’m also trying hard to model my love for her after God’s love for us. He draws us with tender cords of love… His compassion overflows (Hosea 11):
So He’s an aggressive pursuer, not an emotionless, disinterested party. And He *does* hurt when His love goes unrequited. So I don’t think the right posture includes not showing any personal need, but rather showing a strong need tempered by a desire for the beloved’s well-being, and also the beloved’s sincere loving response, not some dutiful obligation.
But I’m still pondering what to say…
Perhaps I’ll post an update later.
Well, at the risk of having ALL the “recent comments” be from me, I’m going to write another one ….. (Can you tell the my DW is away for a week and I am thinking about her alot!)
I have a different thought on the letter idea, and one I am trying out right now. I have, in the past written her “negative letters” about my frustrations. It is a more comfortable way to share strong emotions without a fight.
But, I just finished a “positive letter” about all that she has done in the last little while. I hope that perhaps this letter will work for strong positive emotions as well. I find it hard to tell her how much some of the things she had done have make me feel validated and manly.
It’s rather dumb of me, since I know that “words” are her love language and she thrives on “thank you’s” for what she does. So, here’s hoping that this thank you letter will be a good way to communicate strong Positive feelings as well.
Stick and carrot … a letter expressing how much the good stuff helps you may be the perfect complement to a letter expressing how much the bad stuff hurts you.
I don’t know… sounds like denial to me. If you’re stuck in the desert, pretend that you are not? And eventually you won’t be in the desert or will you just not care that you’re in the desert?
I am in the desert. So many comments I have read seem like I have written them myself. I tried to discuss it with her and she says it is not her problem, she is not the one that is abnormal. She is happy with once a month, I would settle for once a week if I had to.
I guess I am not the man that Sir John is. I just cannot feel stuck in the desert, bone dry, dying of thirst, and enjoy the blue sky. I tell her I love her and I tell her she means the world to me and she expects that should be enough.
Latest attempt, I thought if I would leave this site open on the computer that she might get interested and read some stuff. She did. then I had to hear about we have everything in our marriage that we need. She says she loves me and that I am perfect for her. She says that she doesn’t know what she would do if anything happened to me. She says she is totally happy with our marriage except for the pressure I put on her for intimacy. She expects me to be accept things the way they are and have victory over my frustration. I don’t think I can.
I can relate to some of what you say. It has often felt like my dear wife was just trying to taunt me when she would say what a wonderful husband I was and even tell me where some areas she felt I stood head and shoulders above some other husbands. It was just torture.
Things only changed for me when I was at an absolute breaking point – not only in my relationship, but I was just barely able to keep doing job, fulfilling my church calling, and my family responsibilities. I finally reached a point where I had to either have an emotional breakdown or turn it all over to the Lord. Even though the situation has not changed, I am better at handling everything. I did finally realize that the majority of the issues were not my fault and that I could not change them. That alone has helped quite a bit. Don’t get me wrong – it still gets to me, but not nearly like it did. Just the other day I got a card from my wife telling me she was glad I was her husband and she didn’t want anyone else. I can’t say it made me feel good, but at least I didn’t feel like ripping up the card (I did put it away where I don’t see it so it wouldn’t bother me).
I do know that one item that really hurts – I think it is the majority of the hurt I feel now – is that she does not care enough to even try to improve the situation. It feels like she does not feel I am worth any effort on her part.
I do think you need to tell her (calmly) that you don’t agree with her on this being 100% your fault and that this has the potential to break your marriage. Share her the quote from Pres. Kimball where he says that most divorces start with issues around sex – not that they say that.
Good luck – my prayers are with you!
I would strongly recommend marriage therapy. Get a good recommendation from somebody. Yes, cost can be a huge issue, but it costs more to end up divorced both financially and spiritually.
I can feel your pain. Once a week may not be enough for a normal guy – especially if you are in your 20s.
Chick flicks may help, but unfortunately, you must be cautioned that many of them portray phony relationships and you may run the risk of getting incorrect ideas about them yourself. I have had to endure my share of them, when I would rather be watching Rambo.
It sounds calous that your wife would demand that you accept things as they are. How would she accept things if you didn’t speak to her but once a month?
n Sunday School a week or two ago, the lesson was on the Priesthood, and part of the Lesson was on D&C 121. The teacher made an interesting comment in the lesson about how often D&C 121 (especially the last part) was taught to the men, and not to the women. He then pointed out that alot of the teaching there are “genderless” and very general. (I have found that to the truth at work personally… A friend who is pretty high up in the organization pointed out to me at some point that all the “leadership and management training” he had is all in D&C121)
So I got to thinking about verse 39 ….
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
I thought about the wife who says “I will decide what is Unholy and Impure for our marriage, and I will take the authority, as I suppose, to make sure that no Unholy or Impure practices are present in our Marriage.” That is a very very fine line, talked about extensively in D&C 121.
Is declaring that anything other than procreative sex is unholy or impure “persuasion”?
Is refusing to discuss and compromise and try something that is desired by the spouse “gentleness and meekness”?
Is withholding affection and physical contact “love unfeigned”?
I would say that “refusal” is much more like verse 37 “to exercise control and dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men”, and the results in a marriage of refusal are spelled out in verse 37 as well “the heavens withdraw, the spirit of the Lord is grieved” and amen to that marriage.
I have to wonder if MAYBE this had been taught to refusing spouses in their youth, and how it applies to everything in our lives and all our interactions (at church, at work, in the store, in the family, in our marriages) with other people, if sexual refusal would be such a problem and destroy so many marriages…..
Sir John and others,
Several months have passed since the last message was posted on this discussion thread. I thought I ought to check back to see how things have been going. My wife and I have written some additional ideas that I might share, but I would like to adjust the comments to a more current context, if you feel inclined to post an update of your situation.
Let us know if you see this message.
My situation certainly has changed dramatically in the past 4 months. That’s the reason I have not posted. I did not want to say too much about it for fear of a jinx!
About four months ago, my wife said that she wanted to talk to me about intimacy. We planned a very sexy anniversary celebration. Her implementation of our plans was a lot sexier than I had imagined! She said that she wanted to turn our bedroom into a “love nest.” Frequency has increased considerably. I have indicated several times that I would like to have sex with her and she was receptive. She has even come on to me a couple of times! She has been an active and even anxious participant in real love making.
I still feel a little uneasy that this may just be a phase, but she has never had a phase that lasted more than a week before, so I am very hopeful of a real and lasting change in our marriage.
I am trying now to figure out a good balance for expressing my desires for her. I believe that my not hinting at sex had an impact on her: removing any kind of sexual pressure or attention may have allowed her to contemplate her own sexuality and her feelings about our sexual relationship. That puts me in a bit of a quandary. If my non-sexual attitude allows her to be sexual, how do I participate and express myself?
I have wanted to discuss these things with her but when I ask she says, “not right now.” We have not really talked about intimacy, she has just been more intimate. That’s ok. I would like to discuss it at some point, but I can be patient.
I would love to hear your ideas. Please post them. Your previous posts were very helpful. Thank you for taking the time and effort to help others with this important aspect of marriage.
I cannot tell you how absolutely thrilled I am to hear about your current good fortune in your intimate relationship with your wife!!! I hope this “phase” will continue! I’m sure everyone will be wondering what brought about the change? Can you specify what things you think contributed to your current improved situation so that others may benefit. I realize you may not really know exactly, but what are your best guesses?
I can certainly understand how taking the pressure off of your wife sexually can be a possible help, if husbands can endure the length of time it may take in some cases for their wives to notice, and then for them to enjoy the peace, and then consider what to do about it…!
Sounds like if she is not yet ready to really “talk” about it, but is willing to improve on her own anyway then that’s great. Let her take the lead on that to bring it up for discussion when she’s ready if other things are improving. I’m just so thrilled for you. I pray for the many couples like you who are struggling sexually, and am always thrilled to hear of positive progress. May it continue!
Wow – good stuff here. I’m very impressed by many of the entries I’ve read. I’m impressed by how willing the male respondents are to listen and grow and, I guess, the same for the female respondents. Great job for those described.
My situation is a bit more complicated: physical intimacy causes my wife physical pain. And no, it’s not some psychological sort of thing, nor is it even genitally-related. It’s due to a surgery in her leg that causes her pain if she experiences orgasm. Think nerves and nerve damage. I can’t recall the first posting I read here but I remember the term “sexual desert”. I can totally relate to that expression. So now the question I face becomes this “For the sake of your own gratification would you be willing to cause your wife a half-day of moderate-to-strong pain?” Only a jerk would say “Yes”.
Speaking of the “J-word” (jerk) that’s one I heard in my first marriage. I know it sounds tame, certainly it isn’t a swear word but it’s still fairly damning nonetheless. I mean, seriously, how would a woman feel if her husband said that to her? I think we can agree that it’s not a flattering comment.
One of the comments I read that really hit the nail on the head is when someone pointed out (from the male perspective) something to the effect of “If sex has so many pleasurable benefits, why wouldn’t you want to do it?” Bingo! That’s always stumped me – to a point. I know that’s a simple statement with a lot of other things that are behind it. But on the face of it…
Another frustration, and this is a bit of a confession, is that women seem red-hot when they’re dating but cool-down significantly after they say “I do”. While there are many things that contribute to this phenomenon (most of which are the subject-matter of this fourm) on the face of it it seems like “bait-and-switch” from the man’s perspective. That is to say that, setting everything else aside, the two basic components, a man and a woman, do not change after the wedding. But, I know, I know, it’s that “setting everything else aside” bit that’s easier said than done.
In past years I’ve run marathons and ultra-marathons. I feel like I’m 100 yards into a marathon and I’m already out of energy. I’ve got decades in front of me to weather out a sex-less marriage and it doesn’t help that I speak almost entirely to women in my line of work and I also see 99 percent women when I do training nation wide. I’m surrounded by things that remind of what I want but cannot have. I suppose it’s a bit like sewing your lips shut and sending you off to a steak house. Enjoy! How not to be frustrated?
And it’s not like my wife can be “fixed” – she’s seen quite a number of doctors in several countries and they all seem to say the same thing “I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do for you.” Gosh, thank you so much…
I tell myself “offer it up” (a favorite expression of Catholics) but I’m not too good with that yet.
Bottom line is that I know my sufferings are NOTHING compared to Christ’s sufferings but having said that I still feel all alone on my emotional sex-less island with no ship on the horizon.
Perhaps it’s as the first writer I read in this column put it – I’m having sex withheld from me to increase my desire for God. My head can understand that but, as of yet, my heart’s not there yet.
And the other thing is that I know that with God all things are possible but at the same time I contrast that with the undeniable fact that bad things do happen to good people.
Perhaps we can all glean one thing from all of this sharing – something that I’ve drawn from all of these sharings – that we’re a lot alike as couples. I’ve read a number of postings where I thought “Wow! I’m not the only one who feels that way or acts/reacts that way!” and in that I’m found some comfort.
I’m not looking for any solutions here but I would like to leave the women with one basic thing that I both heard on a Christian radio program and read in this forum as well: Sex for men is as elemental as verbally communicating is for women. Women, how long would you want to be in a marriage if your husband either never spoke with you or, if he did it was almost always with great disdain and disaffection? I’ll bet you wouldn’t last too long under those circumstances. It’s not terribly different for men. I would sometimes say to my wife “Hey, you like to have coffee – you like coffee a lot. Well, give up coffee just for me and then you’ll have a vague understanding of what I’m going through over here.” I’m not proud of having said that but it’s a little bit frustrating, it’s hard, when one is suffering and the other seemingly couldn’t care less. I know that’s not entirely true but it sure feels that way on the surface.
All right, I’ll pipe down now. This article isn’t anything like I thought I would write but it has allowed me to say some things anonymously and to some extent it’s felt good to get it off of my un-touched chest.
A big “Thank you” to all of those ladies out there that are trying hard to fix what may not be right on their end. It’s not easy and I applaud the effort. I’m not saying that the men in your life don’t need to do some repair but I’m just focusing on the women at this moment.
A follow up comment – something to ponder: living with someone who either won’t or can’t have sex seems to me to be very much like living with a sibling (in my case a sister). You can be the nicest person in the world and it’s not going to get you anywhere. Now, before you gater en masse brandishing pitchforks, I’m not suggesting that everything in a marriage should be done for a reward. Hardly. But to go to the opposite extreme is just as wrong-headed or naive. As an example – how many men will act especially nice to their wives before they ask if they can go over to a friend’s house to watch the “big game” or work on a friends car, etc.? How many women have cooked their husband’s favorite meal because they knew that they were going out shopping and may spend “a bit much” on their shopping trip? I think you get the point here.
The first entry I read here was called “Involuntary Celibacy” and I would love to be able to talk to that man. I think he’s extremely mature and I would love to say to him “You’re not alone, my brother.” Certainly if he lived close I would visit him from time to time even if we had no other interests in common just to show him some support (if he was open to it, or course).
I wish there was a support group that met for situations like this but to some extent I can see where it would either be impossible or darned difficult, to be certain. At the very least it would likely have to be divided by gender or it would be the sexual equivalent of mixing gasoline and matches! I guess that, in a way, these forums are that very support group. I just wish I could look in another man’s eyes, put my hand on his shoulder and say “Your darned right that it’s difficult!” I would say this unequivocably: It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to put up with in my life and I’ve done some very difficult things!
‘Nuff said – for now.
I know I must try to see things from my wife’s perspective: she has a lot of pain and for her physical intimacy is so far down on her wish list that it’s not even on the list. Certainly it’s not in her “Top Ten”.
That’s the worst part – I feel selfish for wanting something that I thought was a given once I got married. And, as others have admitted in this forum – it was a significant part of why I got re-married: I didn’t want to live alone, to be celibate the rest of my life. Quoting yet another writer on this site “What a cruel twist of fate”.
And yet I have to fall down before the Lord and admit that I want physical intimacy with my wife more than a deep and personal realtionship with my savior. That’s hard to admit but if I’m going to be truly honest well, I would have to say it’s true. It’s ridiculous, really since sex will one-day be done for all of us whereas our relationship with our Savior will last throughout all eternity. Idolatry.
This site seems to be not-too-frequently frequented as of late. I don’t know. I’m just screaming out pretending that my typing these words will cause me to see something differently – something to change.
How about this: Pray for me. Pray a lot.
Frustrated. Frustrated a lot.
Thank you for your support. I have wanted to write about my experience the past year from my present point of view, but I wanted to talk to my wife about it first and hear from her the reasons for her change in attitude. I will follow your suggestion to let her bring up the topic. I think that is best.
I made changes in myself over the past year and I believe that those changes were part of the impetus for change in my marriage.
Since our marriage about 12 years ago, my wife has periodically said things and behaved in a way that indicate a negative attitude towards sex. She said that she felt dirty and that she was not sure if it was ok to feel that much pleasure. At other times she was very willing. After the birth of our son, eight years ago, things went down hill. I entered the sexual desert. She did not want to talk about it, and in fact seemed incapable of talking about it without getting angry and defensive.
I could not understand why someone would want to eliminate the most beautiful and sacred part of marriage. Why even get married if you are not looking for a loving intimate relationship? I assumed that she did not really want to be married to me, since she did not want to have a marital relationship with me.
She complained that she felt like the only thing she was good for was cooking and cleaning. That burned. I was always the first one up and working in the morning and the last one to take a break in the evening. Saturdays were her day for rest while I got up and cleaned and cared for the kids. I wanted desperately to share more in life with her than the household chores but she refused and then got angry at me for it.
I heard a lot of advice that if a wife is not in the mood the husband needs to improve. He obviously is not doing enough to help around the house and she is tired. He must be a brute. He is probably lousy in bed. The only part of any of that advice that made sense to me was being lousy in bed. I was painfully aware that I knew next to nothing about pleasing her in bed. It took me several years of marriage to realize that she does not feel what I feel during sex. My sex education had not gone much beyond “tab A goes in slot B.” After I did come to this realization, it was perhaps a bit to late for her. She did not want to bother with her incompetent husband any more. My requests to work on our sexual relationship, to help her feel more pleasure, were met with anger and resentment.
In September of last year, she was particularly angry and hurtful in her rejection. I decided that this was no marriage. For several days was angry and punitive.
After I cooled off some, I realized that if I did not treat her with courtesy, I stood the risk of loosing my children. I vowed to be courteous, but nothing more. I thought that I could not spare any love or affection after so many years of getting nothing in return. Obviously, it was not nothing, but it felt that way. I had some vague hope that in time, my attraction to her and desires for intimacy with her would diminish. They did not, but I did not express them. I also had a hope that she would notice the sudden change in my attitude and come to a realization that she wanted a loving and affectionate relationship with me. She did not.
Our home life was more peaceful and she was generally happier than she had been before. I was more miserable with fermenting resentment added to my unreciprocated longing. It confirmed to me that she had no love for me, that she saw me as a slave and not a husband. The happiest she had been in years was this period when I got up early every morning, worked all day, came home and did the cooking and the cleaning, and otherwise stayed out of her way.
During this time, I was driven to study and try to find other answers to my marital problems. Unfortunately, most of my study was spent finding reasons why she was wrong and I was right. That did nothing to help.
In November, I found your website and started reading your articles and blog posts as well as comments from others here. I began to understand how my attitudes and behaviors affected our relationship. I’m not saying that I was involved in anything evil or malicious, but it helped me understand that perhaps her behavior was not malicious either.
My reading on your site convinced me to change my behavior and attitudes. I committed to giving her the non-sexual love and affection that she needs. At first I was not sure that she needed or wanted anything at all from me beyond a paycheck and house work. She seemed happy without it. But since her complaints had all been around sexual expressions of love, I decided that it might be safe to express my love in non-sexual ways.
I was less reactionary and more deliberate in my behavior. I spent a lot of time and prayer deciding how I would behave in general and how I would respond to specific situations that were likely to occur.
I pondered what I should do if she asked me for sex. Part of me wanted to turn her down. My sexual frustration had been augment in the past by infrequent sex and I toyed with the idea of avoiding all sex even if she wanted it. I decided that this went against my commitment to give her the love and affection she needs and wants. If she wanted sex, I would do my best to make it wonderful for her and then deal with the resulting increased frustration in the weeks and months following. Fortunately, it was not an issue for several months.
I also decided to continue to work hard at all my other husbandly responsibilities. I continued to work hard at the house work in the evenings and weekends.
A key factor in all of this was that I did not expect anything in return. I had tried all of these things for short periods before in the hopes of getting improving our sex life. I knew that a wife needs to feel emotionally connected and safe and that she needs to see her husband helping with the house work in order to be sexual with her husband. So I would tell her she’s beautiful, do the dishes, give her a backrub and get frustrated that she was not in the mood that night. Or the next week. Or the next month. This time I was committed to being loving and kind in a sexless marriage, rather than loving and kind for a sexual marriage.
I had reason to believe that our sexual relationship was unlikely to change regardless of what I did. She has a diagnosed personality disorder which involves a paranoia with being taken advantage of. If she feels that she is getting the raw end of the deal (even slightly), it sends her into a panic. This creates problems for her letting me do things to her, even if those things are pleasurable sexual things. She has a hard time letting go and relaxing. She is constantly on her guard lest some one should take advantage of her. So I committed to being loving and generous towards her even if she never considered my needs and desires at all. That is the huge difference between my commitment in November and my behavior before.
In the previous years I would have said that I loved her unconditionally. To some extent that was true. Even when I was angry about my sexual neglect, I was attracted to her and longed to have a close intimate relationship. I “felt” that I loved her, but I was not acting in a loving way. My frustration that she did not reciprocate my unconditional love proved my unconditional love a lie.
Another important step for me was to quit punishing myself for her behavior. For many years I thought that if I was just a better husband, she would love me. This resulted in periods where I would absolutely kill myself trying to do it all so that she would love me. Being the best that I could be now meant that I worked very hard, but I also took some down time for myself. I did not have days where I killed myself in the name of love. I tried to be the best that I could be on a consistent basis, regardless of her behavior.
I tried to feel good about my efforts as a husband despite her reaction. Another symptom of her personality disorder is angry outbursts. It was most difficult at those times to remind myself that she’s not angry because I’m evil or unlovable, she’s angry because of emotional turmoil within her. It’s not about me. I decided to feel good about cleaning the kitchen even if she complained about the spot on the counter that I missed.
My faith was the primary motivator in all of this. At times it felt impossible to continue, but prayer and scripture study helped tremendously. Part of my faith is a belief in heaven for those who do the best that they know how to do in this life. I believe that the vast majority of those who wish to go to heaven will. They will try hard to be good and repent when they slip up. Christ’s atonement will cover those sins. I believe that heaven will be a glorious and wonderful place. We will be sublimely happy there. We will find nothing wanting. Deeply fulfilling personal relationships are, I believe, a part of that. I believe that this life is not my last chance for a loving marriage relationship. This faith answers and calms my selfish nature with the promise of future love in exchange for the present absence. I don’t know that it would be bearable otherwise.
During this time, my longing for an intimate relationship with my wife never diminished. In some ways it grew deeper and more painful. The more I behaved in a loving way, the more my feeling of love grew for my wife. I also discovered a growing sense of peace and contentment with my life as a whole. This was something I had not expected. Peace and pain can live side by side in the same chest. I don’t believe that peace can live the same way with anger, frustration, or resentment. When I was feeling particularly low, these thoughts helped to see me through.
As I said before, I did not do this to “fix” my wife or change my marriage dynamics. I believe the fact that I did not expect any change made the change more likely. If I had hoped for an improvement as a result of my behavior, I don’t think that I could have endured nine months of no change. I am sure that my wife would have sensed my desires, and expectations. That most certainly would have been interpreted as dissatisfaction with her as a wife, killing any microscopic tinglings of passion she might have felt.
In June, she shocked the socks off of me and life has been a bowl of cherries ever since! Of course that is not exactly true, but it is amazing to me how a very little effort on my wife’s part can turn my feelings around 180 degrees. Since June, I have changed my plan. Where I used to avoid anything sexual unless she initiated, I have expressed a desire for sex several times. I still refrain most of the time, but every once in a while I tell her that I want her – all of her. She responds lovingly. In the past 4 months (excluding our wild anniversary) she has come on to me a few times. Words cannot express the change in my feelings towards her! To know that she is attracted to me physically and that she wants to be intimate with me turns a living hell into an Eden.
Since June, I have tried harder to create romantic times together. I have tried hard to make sure that these are not tied to sex. At least not always. We have had some very fun dates. We send love notes to each other periodically. There is one website that has helped me with the romance more than any other. It is the Love actually blog: http://loveactually-blog.blogspot.com/. There are very fun (even if corny) ideas there that help me to show my wife that I love her, I want to spend time with her, and I’m thinking about her throughout the day. My wife has commented on how much she loves the ideas I got from there. I told her I had help coming up with the ideas but I have not yet divulged my secret of where! It helps to be able to surprise her with some things.
I am hopeful for a happily ever after and wish the same for all of you. Thank you for your support and encouragement. It means more to me than I can tell. I was going to say “than you can know” but many of you do know just how valuable a support community can be when you feel the deep and piercing lonesomeness of a sexually barren marriage.
I am very sorry to hear of your struggles. While the causes may be different, I can certainly relate to the feelings of loneliness and desperation.
I will certainly be praying for you and your wife. God bless you!
Thank you for your encouragement/understanding. I really “enjoy” (if that’s the right word) reading your posts because it helps me to know that I’m not the only one who feels so utterly abandoned when a significant part of who I am is utterly dismissed out of hand with no recompense.
I will tell you that sometimes I’ve even thought that my life would be better if my wife were just to die in a tragic car crash and I could start over. I know that’s a terrible, terrible thing to admit but I’ve been through one divorce and I don’t want to go through another one. How else to get out of this living hell? I feel trapped with no way out – no end in sight.
Since reading your, and other posts, I’ve started to realize that I must work harder on seeing things through my wife’s eyes. It must be hard for her to know that her decision hurts me so. In fact one time she even told me that she worries about me having an affair because she can’t give me what I so desparately want: a physical relationship. She stated that, in her mind, it’s only a matter of time before I fall into the arms of another woman. That hurt me to hear her say that but she also knows that, essentially, that’s what happened in my first sexually-frustrated marriage.
I feel guilty, for certain because my wife is otherwise quite a loving person. But to shut off the physical side of a relationship is like telling an opera singer “I really don’t ever want to hear you sing again. Ever!” Imagine the hurt!
Unlike you I have a lot of experience in the area of sexual experiences. That’s something that I used to be proud of but have come to realize that it just means that I have been a major-league sinner when it came to pleasures of the flesh. What I’m trying to say is that I have never had a feeling that I don’t know what I’m doing or how to please a woman. I know what my wife likes (liked) and how to provide it to her but due to her situation my “skill-set in that area” is rusting, un-used on the shelf. Oh that that is all that it was. A more accurate description is that I feel like there’s a fire burning inside of me and I have to nearly-constantly douse it with a garden hose to keep it from buring out of control.
I’m very happy for you, SirJohn and the recent turn-around in your situation. Your maturity – your ability to look at yourself and want to grow as a good, loving, and yes, sexual man impresses me greatly. I’m sure that I’m not where your at yet. I’ve got a lot of growth to get to where you’re at.
Thank you for your response. I was starting to think that I would never hear from anyone. Maybe that’s a sign of my impatience right there: I’ve only been on this site for several days and expected a response already. I need to grow.
Thank you once again for your contact, SirJohn. I wish you continued success in being able to show your wife how much you want your relationship with her to be 100 percent and nothing less.
One thing that I am seriously considering is sleeping in a separate bed. I am coming to the point of feeling like this: if you’re going to live like a single person then you should get used to living like a single person. Don’t take that literally but when you don’t get ANY physical contact at night (or any other time for that matter) what’s the point of sleeping with someone? Like I said earlier, at this point it feels like I’m living with my sister so what’s the point of sleeping with someone I’d never have sex with? It’s just a way to frustrate oneself.
I too am pleased for your success. It gives me hope. Like Frustrated said though, when I read what you have done I see what I have not been able to do- truly love unconditionally, without any expectations or hope for reciprocity.
I especially appreciated your comment about being less reactionary and more deliberate. This is something that I need to work on. I think the main thing my wife needs from me is for me to accept her and our relationship the way it is, but to me, this is like asking me to go outside at midnight and to accept someone else’s profession that it really is noon.
Like you, I focus on helping around the house, but I am sure that I constantly exude an underlying disappointment in our relationship. So we end up being stuck in a very negative cycle.
There are times when I have glimmers of hope and believe that we are beginning to find the path to what I would perceive as the close, connected, intimate relationship that defines celestial marriage for me. These glimmers generally fade after days and weeks pass with barely the basic level of communication and no sight of closeness or intimacy of any kind.
Thanks again for sharing your struggles and successes.
I understand that orgasm is painful for your wife and therefore the type of physical relationship you would like is missing. Perhaps this is too obvious and isn’t possible for some reason, but I’ll throw it out there anyway:
-Even though orgasm may be painful for your wife, if she’s willing, there are plenty of ways for you both to enjoy a physically intimate relationship without her experiencing an orgasm. There is a significant percentage of women that don’t regularly experience orgasm for various reasons and still maintain a healthy and fulfilling sexual relationship.
Is this a possibility? Besides the lack of physical intimacy, are you both emotionally close, affectionate, and caring?
I would echo what JustMe has said. If your wife is open to discussing intimacy, I think that you ought to discuss sexual options that do not involve orgasm for her. I know that is the stereotype for a selfish man, but I don’t think that it applies to your unique situation. You can show your compassion and love for your wife by demonstrating gratitude with a reduced frequency than you would normally prefer, and also with perhaps less variety. She could show her gratitude and love for you by being sexual with you even though she may not be getting all that someone without her physical problems would expect from sex.
For me a large part of my satisfaction is knowing that my wife had a good time. “A good time” my need to be redefined for your wife and you. From what you have said I am sure there are things that you can do together that would be pleasant for both of you and not cause her pain.
You said some other things that I wanted to respond to. I don’t believe that this life is the last chance to have a fulfilling intimate (including physical) relationship with my wife. I understand that this is perhaps a unique view in Christianity, but I believe that this life is intended to be a pattern and a preparation for the life to come. If we prove ourselves capable of following Christ’s teachings and example, Heaven will be an addition of more glory to all that is glorious about this life, nothing will be subtracted. This was for me such a powerful motivator to be the kind of person that I knew I ought to be that I want to share my conviction of it’s truth with you. I have felt the Holy Spirit witness to me that it is true.
I agree with your statement that in this life we need to put our relationship with God and His Son first, but that is not because that relationship is more enduring, but rather because God’s half of the relationship is perfect and can only lead to improve our marital relationship. If both marital partners were perfect, than there would never be a question of putting one relationship above the other. Building your marriage is pleasing to God. Pleasing your spouse is pleasing to God. Pleasing God would please your spouse.
I would caution you against sleeping in separate bedrooms. I know the torture of sleeping night after night next to your hearts desire when she has forbidden intimacy. It accentuates the pain tremendously. At the same time, you want to avoid anything that might diminish your wife’s affection for you. I think most wives (even the sexual desert wives) would see this as a sign that their husband loved them less. Most would not understand the torture of the “look but do not touch” policy. They are perfectly capable of sustaining warm and loving feelings for their husbands without sex, and although they may understand that their husbands struggle with this, they don’t comprehend the reasons why. The majority of them will assume that it’s because he’s a sex crazed fiend, or a jerk, or “he just sees me as a piece of meat”. I fear that if you slept in a different room, she would see that as you being pouty and whinny when you don’t get what you want.
I am not saying that different bedrooms is absolutely wrong, but I think it is wrong in MOST situations and that you need to be very cautious about that. If, after prayer and meditation, you decide it could help your marriage, I think that you need to have a good conversation with your wife, before you begin the new arrangements. She should be in agreement. Be very careful that the conversation is non-accusatory. Something along the lines of, “I am really struggling to bridle my passions. I have prayed and thought a lot about this and I think that we should sleep in different rooms for a time.” Specify how long. Be sure to emphasize your deep love for her. Remember, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). I think that this means that we, as husbands would give up our very lives to protect our wives. Perhaps in the emotional sense, it could mean that we should give up our own emotional comforts for those of our wives. In this situation, I think it means that your wife must support the decision, unreservedly or it shouldn’t happen. You should then suffer through the nightly torture that separate rooms would alleviate (to some extent).
Lest I be called a hypocrite, please understand that I am the worst example of this. But I do believe it is a good ideal and we should all strive for it.
Laura has said it before, but I’ll reiterate here. I think it’s important to talk about your physical intimacy with your wife as long as she is willing. Is your wife still able to discuss this topic, or does it invariable result in hurt feelings or anger? Laura has recommended telling your wife what sex means to you. Emphasize the affect it has on your feelings towards her and your marriage. That is something that many women don’t understand because it’s opposite for many of them. They feel loved, safe, and emotionally intimate and then sex is desirable and good. For most men, we feel the most love and intimacy through sex. Even if she has heard this before and thinks that she comprehends, it is worth repeating periodically. Things that are not intuitive to me, I must hear repeated periodically or else I don’t practice the principals, even if I “know” the facts.
I hope that some of this is helpful to you. I will keep praying for you to find greater peace in your life, and increased happiness in your marriage. God wants it for you to and is anxious to bless you.
I am pleased to hear of the positive changes that have been taking place in your situation. And I am especially pleased about the personal growth and character development that you have been experiencing.
After you posted your previous message dated June 11th, I immediately typed a lengthy message of thoughts I had in response, but did not post those thoughts at that time, for various reasons. I’ll try to organize some of my thoughts from then and from now and share them here. Later, I may check with my wife again and invite her to share some of her ideas too.
FROM A MAN’S POINT OF VIEW
Sir John, your determination to seek the best way, the right way, to respond to the challenges in your marriage has made an impression on me. Indeed, that apparent determination from you, as well as from others on this forum, is what originally prompted me to consider posting here, and to invite my wife to participate in doing so with me.
I feel compassion and empathy for the suffering that you have endured. I know that the Savior understands what you have been through, and how searingly difficult it has been. Ultimately it is the Lord who oversees each of our life experiences, and who oversees the designing of them for our maximum spiritual progression. The Lord knows that you need these experiences, and He also knew in advance that it would be very painful for you (and in a generalized way, the same is true for all of us). If there were any other way that would be less painful but that would still help you learn the lessons you need to learn, as rapidly and effectively, He would arrange for that for you instead, because He knows exactly what you are going through, having felt the same suffering himself as He worked out the Atonement in behalf of all of us; but He needs you to progress in specific ways spiritually.
The most important thing you and each of us can do is to “know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). And then we need to act on that truth. Any incorrect idea, any particle of wrong thought, misguided belief, or impure feeling has the potential to divert you or anyone down an unproductive pathway. So we’ve got to root out, systematically, any and all of that, whenever and however it may present itself (by relentlessly seeking good and correct principles to replace the bad and incorrect).
Firstly, it’s important for each of us to separate our own mistakes from the mistakes of others. Both can cause pain and suffering, but of different sorts. The feeling you expressed in your June 11th message that you are entitled to love and affection, including sex (except in special cases when physical illness or other limitations may preclude it) is a correct one; see 1 Corinthians 7 as one related reference. So that is a belief that I don’t believe you or anyone should change. I don’t believe any of us should seek as a goal to get to the point where we don’t expect anything and are happy with nothing.
I believe it is possible to recognize and acknowledge (to oneself) the faults and mistakes of others, and even to experience feelings of hurt in relation to those faults, and simultaneously not believe or feel oneself to be a victim.
Remember it is not your wife that had brought upon you this condition. In a manner of speaking, she may have been the “messenger” or practical provider of some or many of these life experiences that you need, but ultimately it is the Lord who oversees each of our life experiences, and who oversees the designing of them for our maximum spiritual progression. It is the Lord who has the power (and the right) to give, and to take away (Job 1:21).
The Lord has things that He needs you to accomplish, and you wouldn’t have the necessary development and spiritual capacity to do so without having these experiences and learning these lessons. That is true of all of us; it’s a pattern that the Lord follows, because it is true and effective. And if you take the time to write a list, if you make it a point to enumerate the critical things that you have learned and are learning, you will clearly see that the first and second great commandments are well represented by the attributes you are developing. I perceive that about you from the messages you have posted.
On the other hand, the Lord does want each of us to move on and continue to progress, to move past our current problems, when the time is right, only to move on to newer, often more difficult challenges (which is okay, because our capacity to handle them has increased by the time we face them). Only the Lord knows the timing, the times and seasons of our lives. To the extent that we have some amount of influence on the timing that the Lord ultimately controls, it is effected by completely submitting to the Lord’s will in the matter, humbly like a child (Alma 3:19), and doing all we can to learn the lessons He is desiring to teach, as quickly as can be. Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, in his October 2008 talk in General Conference, shared his daughter’s experience struggling with a health problem as an example of trusting in the Lord and His timing. I suggest taking a few minutes to review this section of his talk; also, remember Mosiah 24:12-16, especially verse 15.
It would have been wrong, and would be wrong for any of us, to give up all expectation and hope of love and affection; a part of you would have to die inside for that to happen. However, the Lord does, at times, expect us to submit patiently to a delay in the realization of our righteous desires, and to continue to trust in Him as we do so.
Of course the Lord has a plan for your wife also, and He knows in what ways she needs help, and how to help her. You can only be a positive part of that, a contributor, to the extent that you follow the Lord’s inspiration to you about how to go about it; and that’s why we mentioned in the previous message that you should make an effort to help her, but only given the right preconditions.
One precondition, taught by the Lord in Matthew 7:3-5, you have been working on these past months, and apparently very successfully!
So I am pleased, but not surprised, to hear of the changes in your situation. It always happens. Not always in our desired timeframe, not always in our desired manner, but always, if we do things the Lord’s way, each of our situations will always improve.
Seeing that you are now well on your way down a better path, I expect that many of these ideas are lessons that you have long since learned and internalized; but perhaps others may find something of benefit also.
I do have a couple of additional suggestions for you to think about. How long has it been since you have given your wife a priesthood blessing? Perhaps you give each of your children a father’s blessing periodically, but if you have not given your wife a husband’s blessing, you might consider asking if she would like one. If she says yes, and if you prepare yourself well with prayer (and maybe even fasting), it is likely to be of great benefit to her.
Furthermore, I feel that Laura’s previous suggestion to write a letter to your wife, when the time is right, is an excellent one. If you share your feelings of gratitude and appreciation, perhaps going beyond a simple love note, and let her know in a heartfelt manner how much she means to you and how much your life has been a bowl of cherries recently, that may be a valuable step in helping her be confident that her efforts have been valuable and valued.
Surely the Lord will continue to bless you and your wife as you continue being the best you can be. I have noticed the help you have given to many others in this forum as you have posted your suggestions and advice and experiences, and it is to be expected (Luke 6:38) that you will continue getting what you deserve!
Many on this forum know how you feel and want to help you and encourage you however we can. I’m sure many of us will pray for you.
Desiring physical intimacy with your wife is a righteous desire, and it can be a pure and ennobling thing, even when not fully fulfilled for the present.
It’s good that you recognize the importance, for each of us, of our relationship with the Savior, and the eternal nature of that relationship. As Sir John mentioned, many of us on this forum believe that the eternal relationships we form can be not only with the Lord as our Savior, but also with family members, in relationships of love similar to what we may have now, but made eternal and glorious. As Paul said, “Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 11:11.)
Faith in the principle of eternal marriage is something that motivates many of us to go to great lengths in our efforts toward protecting and nurturing our marriage relationships, even through periods of difficulty and suffering, as you have seen with many on this forum.
Have you written a letter to your wife expressing how much you want her and need her? I don’t know what possibilities for solutions might be in your future, but the Savior does, and He can lead you to those solutions as you put your faith in Him. Imagine how the children of Israel must have felt after Moses led them out of Egypt, being pursued by the Pharaoh’s army, only to encounter the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of the Red Sea. Surely they felt trapped, with no way out; but remember what Moses said to them: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day” (Exodus 14:13).
I suppose the Lord may very well have great things in store for you, perhaps better than you imagine at this point. Out of small things, great things can be brought to pass. Sometimes things that seem like some of our biggest obstacles turn out to be our greatest opportunities.
I encourage you to continue participating in this forum, and posting your thoughts and ideas about your own experiences, as well as ideas or suggestions in response to the experiences of others. We all have something to contribute to each other.
In response to Frustrated’s Oct 22, 2009 post
Welcome! I’m glad you have found some hopeful information in this forum. Hopefully you realize you are not alone. There are so many couples that struggle with dissatisfaction in their intimate marital relationship–so many more than you’ll even see here as most couples suffer in silence. I am so grateful to those who have been willing to share their struggles and their hope and their successes. Even just making others not feel so alone is a great gift amidst one’s own pain and longing.
You are on the right path to read all that you can here and glean from it what you can. Others here have provided positive examples of how best to change the sexual dynamics in marriage. Unfortunately it’s not a quick fix, and it generally requires that the change be focused on oneself which in turn brings about a change in one’s spouse. It’s a real process. Depending on how deep the deficit is that affects how much time and effort it might take to turn things around.
Here are a couple of thoughts that you might consider for your situation:
— Have you had a heartfelt conversation (or letter) with your spouse explaining what sex means to you in terms of how it makes you feel loved or rejected? Women do not think the same as men (shocker, I know!) so it takes them a while to get what sex really means to you.
— I’m guessing the relationship with your wife is strained at this point. Even though your feelings and frustration are so understandable, your best efforts will revolve around you turning your wife’s heart back to you. That generally includes putting aside your needs and focusing on hers whatever they may be. You might even consider asking her — “Honey, I’d like to try to be a better husband. I was wondering what I might do to make you feel more loved.” Eliciting God’s help for sustaining throughout this process is necessary to keep you on a positive path amidst your own pain.
— Once the relationship has been restored, you can then work together on coming up with sexual activities that are pleasing to both of you, but that don’t cause your wife pain if her pain is truly physical. (It’s hard to separate the physical and psychological sometimes, so I would be interested to see how things might change if the angst regarding your sexual relationship is diminished.)
— As others have mentioned there are many other sexual behaviors that can be incorporated into your lovemaking to avoid pain/orgasm. Every couple has to develop a sexual style, and when there is a physical limitation that must simply be factored into the equation. It’s similar to what a couple would have to do if there was a chronic illness, and physical disability or even a history of sexual abuse to contend with. Many women are capable of sexual “fulfillment” without orgasm. Can you be fulfilled sexually without her orgasm?
There’s a little bit to start with for now. I hope you will continue to share and find strength here as well.
Although I have been reading this blog since it began, this is the first time that I have had the courage to register and respond. I am intrigued by the statement that Laura recently made to Frustrated which is as follows:
Many women are capable of sexual “fulfillment” without orgasm. Can you be fulfilled sexually without her orgasm?
As I talked with Laura at the BYU bookstore over two years ago I remember that this is exactly the question that prompted me to meet and talk with her that day. I continue to wonder how it is possible that women can be fulfilled sexually without ever wanting or feeling the need to orgasm.
This has been the case in my marriage for the past seventeen years. I have been married for over thirty years now. In answer to Laura’s second question my answer is no, I can’t be fulfilled sexually without her orgasm. I feel so unneeded in the sexual part of my marriage.
I am so grateful for this blog and have learned a lot. I have written letters to my wife regarding how I feel and what sex means to me but I have stopped writing them as they make my wife feel uncomfortable from my perspective. I thank those that have responded on this blog. I relate to Sir John, Just Me, Just Getting By and Frustrated among other respondents. I am so grateful to LDSWifeandMom and Simply Sweet Marriage for sharing their stories of hope and change that they made.
I know that I can’t change how people are and feel particularly my wife. I know that as Laura has stated time and time again we can only change ourselves and how we react to our spouses. I have and continue to try to improve myself and yet at the same time I constantly hurt inside that I will never be able to share what I perceive to be the ultimate in a sexual relationship in that of sexually pleasing my wife and watching and/or helping her to orgasm.
Thank you Laura for allowing me to respond here.
I hope you will continue to participate here. The more the merrier. One of the benefits of blogging is the ability to draw on the wide range of perspectives and experiences that a large group can provide, and we can all learn from each other.
It is interesting that husband and wife often have such differing needs and interests regarding intimacy and sexuality. It can be a challenge to see the other’s point of view and to accept that one spouse’s contentedness with status quo in the relationship is as valid as his/her spouse’s desire for the relationship to grow and progress. Hopefully compromise results.
As long as your wife is content, hopefully you can begin to find some comfort and peace with that. As President Eyring said recently, “Pray for the love to make your companion’s joy your own.”
It is always ironic to me that I can easily give advice but often do not live it myself as well as I need to. I usually know what I need to do, but my heart isn’t always there….
To Laura, Sir John, and Just Me,
First off thank you for your responses and the time it took to compose and type them. Thank you. I’ve been away from this site for a few days so please don’t think I’m disinterested; quite the contrary.
Let me be a bit clearer about my wife and myself. As I admit I’ve had many lovers over the years (bad, I know) and so I’m completely aware that women (in general) aren’t as “orgasm-focused” as men. And, yes, my wife knows how I feel very much. There’s no need for a letter or a talk – she knows, trust me. It’s been brought up enough in the past so that I’ve absolutely no doubt in my mind that she knows of my burden.
As for my wife’s pain: it’s real physical pain. It’s not psychological. She’s had several surgeries on her leg and during one or both of the surgeries her sciatic nerve was damaged. Now, stop and think for a moment what happens to your body when you experience an orgasm. Your muscles contract for a period of time during the orgasm. That brief experience will cause my wife to limp with significant pain for the rest of the day.
Unlike some of you I am not an LDS but rather a Catholic. No offense intended but rather just to say that (and I really don’t like to admit this because it’s hard for me to do so…)I don’t think that it’s right for me to experience orgasm outside of my wife’s body. Or, putting it another way, I think masturbation is wrong, for either sex, UNLESS it culminates in a sexual act that is open to life, i.e. sexual intercourse.
My wife came home and flat out said “We’re not going to have sex ever again in our marriage. I’ve seen a Priest and if you need to you can too but I can’t go through that much pain again and I don’t trust NFP (Natural Family Planning – which has NOTHING to do with “the rhythym method”). She’s been trained in NFP but several surgeons have told her not to have children so even the one percent risk using NFP is too much for her. Essentially I’ve been given zero options. Not some. None.
Lately I’ve just tried to blow off the notion of sex and know that eventually my body will release any build-up while I sleep. From past experience this takes about five months or so.
So, I’m not sure if anyone still has any comments left after hearing this but if you do I’ll gladly listen and respond.
How are things in other aspects of your marriage relationship? Aside from the problems you’ve described with the sexual aspect, would you say that you and your wife are emotionally close, have open communication, have common interests, and generally enjoy spending time together? To what extent are the problems spilling over into other areas of your relationship?
I talked with my wife about the message you posted, and we have a few ideas to share with you. First I will share some of my thoughts, and then some of my wife’s thoughts. (Regarding the “FROM A WOMAN’S POINT OF VIEW” section of this message, my wife jotted down some thoughts and then I typed them up, so some of the wording is partially mine but the thoughts are primarily hers.)
FROM A MAN’S POINT OF VIEW
Norton, I’m truly sorry to hear of your difficulties. You described the problem as having continued for seventeen years. That is certainly a long time to be dealing with feelings of being unneeded and unfulfilled.
You said that you have been married over thirty years now. Did things go well in the sexual aspect of marriage for the first thirteen years? If so, what was different in the first thirteen years compared to the past seventeen years?
You said that you continue to try to improve yourself. I encourage you not to give up, and most assuredly the time will come when you are able to share the ultimate in a sexual relationship.
FROM A WOMAN’S POINT OF VIEW
If you’ve been feeling unfulfilled and unneeded for seventeen years, when your wife does make an effort to change it may be difficult for you to perceive her small efforts or small changes that may come gradually. If she did somehow have a more sudden and dramatic change, you would still have the need to deal with and work through the many years of emotional baggage that you’ve already accumulated. We all need to experience learning how to deal with our emotional responses to disturbing circumstances and unfulfilled expectations. Sometimes the expectations need to be changed, and sometimes we just need to be patient and exercise faith.
A woman needs to feel cherished and loved outside of the sexual relationship. You mentioned that you feel “so unneeded” in the sexual part of your marriage. It may be that she feels unneeded or at least underappreciated in some other aspect of your marriage.
Typically a person’s actions and feelings will make sense if you can “step outside yourself” enough to find out the underlying reasons. Then you will be in a better position to handle your own response and feelings as well as possibly see a clearer route to helping her.
If your wife feels fulfilled with the sexual part of your marriage, you might try expressing appreciation for what she does for you. Gratitude goes a long way toward changing one’s own thoughts and feelings, as well as those of the recipient.
It’s likely that your wife’s desire is to please you. Focus on how she does please you instead of how she doesn’t, even if it seems like the things you don’t feel pleased about seem to overwhelm everything else.
I would say that, for the most part we are compatible and enjoy each other’s company. It’s just that “the other aspect”, i.e. her physical pain spills over into other areas. She only has limited energy with which to do things, which I know is true of everyone but her threshhold is much lower than most peoples. Cleaning only gets done sporadically due to pain issues, for example. Granted I can do those things but then the things that I need to do don’t get done either and, generally the things that I need to do aren’t things that she either can do or wants to learn how to do. You know, guy-stuff, girl-stuff. I’ve got to fix the carburetor on the snow-thrower, for example. I’ve got the tools and the knowledge and it takes several hours to do so. If I clean for her then that project (which will be real important very soon) won’t get done as timely.
I would say we’re close but let me share with you an expression I heard once that totally resonated with me. It goes like this: “To live with a person with chronic pain is like having a third person in the relationship.” I can ask my wife if she wants to do a thing but if “Ms. Pain” says “No!”, then “No” it’s going to be.
I know I’m rambling a bit here but I think I know where you’re going. Yes, we have our moments together talking and what not but when any aspect of closeness is not an option at some point one feels like one is living with ones sister… Now ask yourself – who would want that?
Thank you for taking the time to read this,SomeCouple.
I can see this is a very difficult situation you are facing. I don’t know what the best solutions will end up being for you, but I encourage you not to give up, to keep trying, keep believing, keep praying. And I think you wouldn’t be participating in this forum unless you were holding out hope that things could eventually change for the better, even if you don’t see the path to that right now.
You mentioned in one of your message postings that dealing with this is the hardest thing you’ve ever done. I am a firm believer in the principle that our most difficult problems in life, if we respond to them well, can lead to the greatest personal progress we can make, and that in turn may lead to some of the best and most rewarding opportunities. That’s a very general idea, but as for something more specific, I do have a few more things to suggest for you to think about.
But first I want to check whether I understand your previous posts. It sounds as though there are two main problems: problem one, her physical pain if she experiences orgasm; problem two, she is reluctant to engage in intercourse regardless, even if she has no orgasm, because of her fear of pregnancy. Is that correct?
Where I’m going to next (you may have guessed it) is to ask whether you have tried Laura’s suggestion yet to ask your wife something like “Honey, I’d like to try to be a better husband. I was wondering what I might do to help you feel more loved.” Now that probably won’t lead immediately and directly to a solution for you and your problem, but it probably will help your wife feel loved. And that is important and worthwhile. In one of your previous message postings, you indicated that your wife may be afraid that you could leave her due to this problem. The more you are able to give her reassurance that she is important to you and that you love her deeply, the more it will strengthen and improve your relationship.
(Re: your Nov 5, 2009 comment)
I apologize to you and everyone for my sparse comments here. It’s difficult to find enough time for everything. But I didn’t want you or anyone think I had forgotten you. I regularly think about all those who post here on this blog.
Just a few thoughts for you…You mentioned your discomfort with having any orgasm outside of your wife’s body. It sounds like that’s based on a religious belief that you have. Are you saying that any sexual intimacy that doesn’t result in intercourse is not okay to you? I’m not sure if I understand you completely. I did want to suggest that there are many ways to be sexually intimate with your spouse that I don’t think constitute “masturbation.”
Are you okay with your wife stimulating you to orgasm? That would be one of the possibilities for you both — to avoid the pain your wife experiences with orgasm, and would not qualify (at least in my opinion) as masturbation. Are condoms acceptable to you? What about intercourse that stops before she reaches orgasm, then she helps finish things for you manually? How about the sexual intimacies of foreplay? Are you guys open to that? Can you see yourself deriving some satisfaction from those sexual activities even if they aren’t exactly the regular sexual fare?
Can you identify other sexual intimacies that would be satisfying for you, that also do not cause physical pain for your wife? Have you asked her what sexual activities she does enjoy, and what ideas she has for you if physical intercourse is off limits?
It sounds like the risk of pregnancy is also a huge issue for your wife. It would be interesting to see how much those fears play into her reticence regarding sexual things. I think you provide a good example of the complexities of a sexual relationship when it’s coupled with the realities of life. I think this is why the sexual relationship in marriage is such a crucible or refining fire — maybe more than anything else.
Depending on the nature of the emotional connection, there are always alternatives to maintaining some sexual connection. As couples age creativity becomes even more necessary.
My heart goes out to you and your wife. I pray that you both will be guided to answers that will work for you. I’m so glad you have found this site and have been willing to share your struggles here. I hope that you feel some benefit to being here even if you aren’t finding the exact solutions you desire…yet! : )
Dear Laura and Some Couple,
First off let me say “Thank you” for taking the time and making the effort to help me. Thank you for being friends. I do appreciate your suggestions and your insights.
To Some Couple I would say that I have realized what you have said has deep merit. That is to say that I need to do what I’ll call “Good Husbanding 101”. I believe that, whether there are intamacy problems in a marriage or not all husbands should be asking their wives how they can be better husbands. Or, if they choose not to do so openly to at least run through their own minds a list of areas where they know or believe that they can improve. That’s always sound advice and I’ve started to do several things, some at her suggestion, some on my own, that will put some mortar in between the bricks of our relationship.
Laura, I think we probably have a difference of opinion on what constitutes masturbation. Or, perhaps our difference might be best described as whether or not it’s acceptable to waste sperm. I don’t mean to be too graphic here but I think that when discussing sex there comes a point when specificity becomes necessary. I think that all things are a gift from God. My body certainly is. So, by extension everything that my body produces also comes from God. It would be silly to say that my body is a gift from God by the sperm it produces is mine alone. The term that I’m headed towards is this: “Being open to life”. If we are not open to the possibility of life in our marital coupling then what are we telling God “Wait outside my bedroom door for a while. I’ll be with you in a bit.”? I think that it is wrong to take the tremndous gift of sex and reduce it to merely that – sex for the sake of sex alone. And please don’t misinterpret this to think that I am saying that the only time a couple should have sex is when they want to have a child. As I’ve said earlier I’m a believer in Natural Family Planning as a way to not only conceive but equally to know when it’s okay to engage in sexual relations with your spouse and NOT conceive.
Now, before I start a big argument here, know that such is not my intention. I’m merely stating my beliefs. And, just so you don’t think I’m on a pedestal let me be the first to confess that I’ve not reached this point of belief quickly or easily. I am very much a typical American male who has, in the past, walked around thinking that sex was for my benefit and I could use it in any way that pleased me. God was not part of the equation for much of my sexual development.
The word “Masturbation” means exclusive of sexual intercourse. I suppose the obvious method would be by the use of ones hands but certainly with a little creativity other body parts could be substituted. The end result is the same – it is exclusive of intercourse. Or, put another way, it would be a sexual union that is not open to life. In the end, either the sexual union was open to life or it wasn’t. I think that in this regard there is a signfigant difference between the sexes; a woman stimulated to the point of orgasm wastes nothing – there was no loss of a chance for life whereas the same would not be true for a man. If a man gives his wife an orgasm she didn’t waste an egg but if a man ejaculates outside of his wife then he does in fact waste millions and millions of sperm. A chance for life was lost. God was not part of the equation.
Recently my wife and I had a couple of intimate couplings. They were very enjoyable but a) my wife paid for them the next day (yes, with increased pain) and b) they did not involve me ejaculating. So, in the end, I received my share of pain too. To stimulate ones testes and not release their production literally causes physical pain. Perhaps, Some Couple, you may know what I’m speaking about.
I really wish that I could just masturbate myself as often as I wanted to to relieve this “pressure” but as I’ve matured spiritually I don’t think that’s what God wants of me. I think it goes against His will. Also, it seems a bit of a lie to think that stimulating myself will decrease my desire for sex with my wife. Hardly. It actually has the opposite effect.
As I’ve read some of these postings I’ve started to feel more sorry for others whose wives suffer from the “Good Girl Syndrome”. In those cases the only thing preventing them from having a fultilling sexual relationship is straightening out what’s going on in the wife’s mind. My problem, our problem is different. My wife would enjoy sex a lot more if it wasn’t coupled with hours of increased pain following it. Indeed, if God did heal my wife I honestly believe that she would be a very willing particpant.
I don’t know what else to say. I hope that my musings here did not offend either of you two or anyone else who happens to read this. And, as I said I appreciate your efforts to help me and my wife in this area. I think it’s time for more prayer which is always a good idea.
May God bless you all.
I see your persistence in working to find ways to improve the situation with you and your wife, and I admire you for that. Keeping at it even when things aren’t easy, and even when there may be no obvious path to “success,” is a key part of the experience of getting through these types of situations. Just considering the example that Sir John set for others of us on this message board, I think you’ll agree that his persistence even when he was really struggling, or especially when he was really struggling, clearly made a big difference in the improvements that came in his marriage relationship that he has posted messages about. And if you look carefully through all the messages he has posted, you may notice, as I did, the stages he went through of becoming more selfless, more dedicated, more committed to do the right thing regardless whether he felt he was getting what he wanted out of his efforts. I believe that one of the main reasons the Savior allows us to go through difficult challenges is that it is so effective in helping us be better people, more loving and forgiving and patient, more Christlike. I have noticed from the messages you have posted that you seem to be going through some of those changes also, bit by bit. Certainly there is quite a difference between the way you used to be, as you described it, and the impression of the personal character you come across with now. I can tell the difference even from one message to the next that you post. So it seems to me that you’re probably on the right track, if you keep trying to improve.
Regarding any potential differences of beliefs that individuals on this board may have, I think you’ll find that people will respect your convictions. It helps that you have explained more on your perspective so that there can be mutual understanding on what frame of reference each of us is coming from. One thing I still wanted to clarify was whether the physical pain is the main problem with intercourse between you and your wife, or whether fear of pregnancy was a big concern for her also. Since you mentioned Natural Family Planning, and since I wasn’t familiar with what that means, I read up on it a little.
Your wife must love you a lot considering she was willing to spend intimate time with you recently even though it caused her physical pain. Going through this type of sacrifice for you, and the sacrifice you went through for her to “stop” before ejaculation, are the types of things that can help build those unbreakable bonds of love, as each of us tries to put the needs of our spouse above our own. The physiological differences that men and women commonly have can either turn into barriers (if we only look at things from our own perspective) or can be a way to show understanding and love when we acknowledge and care about the feelings of our spouse. Was your stopping before ejaculation done with the intent to reduce the physical pain for your wife, or was it due to her fear of another pregnancy and the possible complications that could occur with that?
I don’t know if or when God will heal your wife. But I do know that it is within His power to heal, both physical injuries as well as emotional injuries. I encourage you to read through the New Testament (if you have not already done so recently), in particular the areas where the Savior heals those that are in pain or suffering, whatever the cause.
You mentioned that it’s time for more prayer. I have two more bits of advice to offer, if I may. The first is to look for others on this message board that perhaps you may be able to help from time to time, through sharing your experiences and concern. Through sharing your unique experiences and insights, you may be able to bless the lives of others in ways that no one else could. And as you help others, you may find that the Savior will ultimately turn it back to you for your benefit as well (see Acts 20:35 and Matthew 16:25).
The second is to consider, along with prayer, going through a period of fasting, with no food or drink for a few meals. Fasting provides a means of focusing and strengthening faith and commitment. In the New Testament you can read about how the Savior taught the principle of fasting as a means of dealing with especially difficult problems. I know it to be an effective practice through personal experience as well as the experiences of others I know.
Frustrated, I would be interested in seeing how nocturnal emissions or wet dreams fit in, after all, it’s a normal biological function that by it’s very nature “wastes sperm” “without the chance of life” without the conscious control of the man.
There is also evidence that many women experience similar dream-time arousal and orgasm.
I have heard that the Catholic church was against birth control in general but I have not known details. I hope you don’t mind if I ask some questions regarding this topic. I feel like a know much more about Catholic teachings on this topic from your post, but it also raised many questions for me.
Is your position essentially the same as Catholic teachings?
I don’t understand the difference between “Natural Family Planning” and other forms of birth control. I think that I know the difference in application, but as a principle of morality, I don’t understand the difference. If the basic principle is to be “open to life” the intent of natural family planning is to avoid pregnancy the same as condoms or the pill.
Granted, natural family planning is generally regarded as the least effective method of birth control. Is that the difference? Is it ok to try to avoid conception as long as you don’t try very hard?
Is it the fact that Natural Family Planning does not use any man made tools? I did not think that was an important consideration in Catholicism, because I thought that “pulling out” was considered bad and is completely natural.
Is this simply a teaching that should be accepted on faith and there is not a solid explanation why Natural family planning is OK and all other forms of birth control are bad? I have several of those that I believe and practice and hope for greater understanding in the future.
Also, abstinence is the most effective form of birth control. If you don’t have sex, you certainly are not open to the potential of creating new life. Is it immoral to not have sex at least monthly after you are married?
I apologize if these questions seem silly or disrespectful. It seems crucial to understand the details of the Catholic teachings on this subject in order to discuss your situation in a meaningful way.
I admire tremendously your dedication to doing God’s will. I feel confident that our loving God will bless you in your efforts.
Just a quick posting to Morguerat:
You are correct in that nocturnal emissions do waste sperm but, as you also correctly pointed out it is beyond the conscious control of the man and therefore the man is guilty of no sin. It is a natural act of the body (a “normal biological function” as you put it). I myself find that it takes about five months of not having an orgasm to have a nocturnal emission. And, if I remember correctly from various articles I’ve read, small amounts of sperm exit the body in ones urine from time to time but again this is beyond the control of the man and so no sin is committed.
As for women having similar dreams, yes, I’ve known those that have told me as much but it is of no issue, i.e. there is no sin in such because it is beyond the woman’s conscious control just like the man who has a wet dream.
I hope that explains my beliefs clearly.
Thank you for your time.
Dear Sir John,
Sorry to be so late in getting back to you but work has kept me gone and busy. Thank you for your post.
Yes, as I have stated earlier I am a Catholic and my position is the same as the Church’s. It hasn’t always been but I’m coming around to it mostly because I’m tired of ignoring the facts, the data, and the logic behind it all.
The difference between Natural Family Planning (“NFP”) and every other form of birth control is that NFP uses no artificial drugs, pills, patches, chemicals, or anything other than the woman’s body to determine when she is not only NOT fertile but also when she is fertile as well. I state it this way because many couples who were previously unable to conceive using other methods or training have done so with NFP. And, yes, you are correct, if a Catholic couple of child-bearing age were to marry and to use NFP to totally prevent pregnancy, then, baring serious medical issues, that would go against the Church’s teaching.
I should mention that the term “NFP” is a bit broad. These methods are sometimes called fertility awareness-based methods. There are five different types of NFP: The Standard Days Method, The TwoDay Method, The Ovulation Method, The Basal Body Temperature Method, and the Lactational Amenorrhea Method. What they all have in common is that they involve the study of what the woman’s body is doing and what it is telling her via different ways of monitoring such things as her cervical mucus or her body temerpature. When used exactly as shown these range from 95% to 99.5% effective. In practical use (where the users either weren’t taught the methods properly or, I believe, the users had intercourse on a day where the method said to obstain, the results range from 80 – 98%.
It seems funny – we all claim to be Christians, and we are, but oftentimes when it comes to our bodies we feel like the pharmacutical industry needs to “fix” the “problem” of fertility. I’ve always agreed with the old axiom “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A woman’s body changes in many ways during the month and through the use of NFP her body gives off certain signs or signals that let her know when she’s fertile and also, when she’s not fertile.
Of course the thing with NFP is that it involves abstinence. How much? It depends upon which method is used and also it depends upon the woman and her cycle. In ninth-grade health class (way back when – I don’t know what they’re teaching now) they make it sound like a woman’s period arrives every 28 days exactly. In the real world… Well, just ask your wives. You already know where I’m headed on that one.
Anyway, our society creates birth control devices from the standpoint of this: fertility is a problem and it must be dealt with. Funny, I thought it was a gift from God. But no, our society largely treats it like a problem and you can “correct” with pills, patches, shots, etc.
So, going back to one of your points, Sir John, and I hope you already got this: with an effectiveness rating of 95-99.5 percent you can see that NFP is NOT the least effective method of controling pregnancy. Now, when it dips down to the 80 percentile range you can bet that most of the time the couple just flat out gets lazy and doesn’t follow the method. Perhaps you know the scenario: They guy is feeling amorous, he puts pressure on his wife, who knows, maybe it’s even their anniversary and he feels he’s owned something special, and the wife gives in. In my unofficial opinion that’s the number one cause of why NFP drops down in the effectiveness rating. I should also mention that NFP is the only method that requires the couple to both engage in it. Think of the pill – the woman does that. Same with the patch, a shot, the morning-after pill, etc. And, for the guy, well, he’s the only one that puts on the condom, right? And yes, I know that there’s such a thing as a female condom but I’m talking about most couples.
You had mentioned “pulling out”. A) that’s risky because of pre-ejaculate, and B) that is not open to life. Think about it from this perspective: Did God create the human body? If your answer was “No” then for all practical intents and purposes we have no conversation. But, I believe that you believe that the answer is “Yes, God is the designer of the body.” Well, then, did he design any mistakes or flaws into an image made in His own likeness? Of course not. So then, following that train of thought, if a woman’s fertility cycle is from God then isn’t it best that we strive to study it and understand it. I’ve been completely amazed at how many women I’ve known that seem to know less about their bodies than I did. I suppose it’s because I’m analytical by nature but seriously why wouldn’t a woman want to understand completely when she is capable of conceiving and when she is NOT capable of conceiving? That one baffles me.
For me, condoms are a lie. Condoms are like saying “I give you all of me… except one little thing.” That “one little thing” is a big thing in reality or people wouldn’t go to so much work not to share it.
And, as for all of the things like the pill and the patch and the other things – here’s the dirtly little secret: Most of them are abortifacients – that is to say that they cause spontaneous abortions to occur. Many people who abhor abortions think that the pill is safe and does no harm. They need to realize that the pill can cause spontaneous abortions.
Okay, back to some of the rest of your questions. No, it is NOT immoral to NOT have sex at least monthly after your married. Even the Holy Scriptures says that couples should be apart for a time to devout themselves to prayer.
I’ve revealed part of my wife’s physical limitations and here’s another part. She believes, based on the condition of her body that if she were to conceive that she may never walk again. A number of different physician’s from different countries have told her “I wouldn’t have kids if I was you.” because of her medical condition. So, when she sees couples who have large families (think Catholic stereotypes here) and she knows that they’re using NFP she just shuts down. For her the risk, even it it’s two percent is not worth it. Now never mind that these couples may have wanted large families – it just makes her nervous.
The best analogy I can come up with is this: If you lay a 2″ X 10″ board on the ground I can walk on it, jump on it, do handstands on it or whatever you ask me to do. Now, take that exact same board and put it 100 feet off of the ground. Mount it securely on something and let there be no wind. It would be hard for me to crawl, clnging for dear life, across that same board. Why? Well, the answer is obvious – the perceived risk is far, far greater. Now you can tell me about how I ran across that same board a hour ago and that it’s just as study now as it was then but I still won’t be able to walk on it when it’s 100 fee up in the air like I did when it was on the ground. Fear is based on perception, whether that perception is grounded in fact or not. Same thing with ice-fishing. I’ve driven a car across a lake. Some people would never even walk across the lake even when the ice is 36″ thick even though it literally could support a school bus!
I know I’m rambling but I hope I got my point across. I like everything about NFP but it does require abstinence and in our society that’s not something that’s rewarded. It seems “bad” to come home and have great news for your wife (a big promotion, for example) and you can’t go out, have a nice dinner and then end the day having a nice sexual relationship with your spouse because you use NFP. On the other hand it shows complete respect for your wife, who she is – her whole person, not just certain parts of her and that she is worth the wait.
If you still have more questions on NFP I would suggest talking to a Catholic Priest and/or going to a site like the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University, for starters. Or, look in your local phonebook. I live in a very small town and there’s an NFP office less than 20 miles from where I live.
I’m going to run for now, Sir John. As always, I hope I didn’t cause any offense.
I’m slowly coming to grips with my situation. I would have to say that it must be the work of the Holy Spirt because if you would have told me that this is where I’d be not too long ago I would have said “No way!”
Peace be with you and have a very blessed Christmas.
“When used exactly as shown these range from 95% to 99.5% effective.” I love that 95% number, if a couple makes love roughly 2x per week, a 95% success rate would mean only one pregnancy per year. 😉
Levity aside Frustrated, permit me to post some quotes from LDS Church leaders:
First Presidency—David O. McKay, Hugh B. Brown,
N. Eldon Tanner
“We seriously regret that there should exist a sentiment
or feeling among any members of the Church
to curtail the birth of their children. We have been
commanded to multiply and replenish the earth
that we may have joy and rejoicing in our posterity.
“Where husband and wife enjoy health and vigor and are free from impurities that would be entailed upon their posterity, it is contrary to the teachings of the Church artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children… “However, we feel that men must be considerate of their wives who bear the greater responsibility not only of bearing children, but of caring for them through childhood. To this end the mother’s health and strength should be conserved and the husband’s consideration for his wife is his first duty, and self control a dominant factor in all their relationships”
(letter to stake presidents, bishops, and mission presidents, 14 Apr. 1969).
President David O. McKay
“Love realizes his sweetest happiness and his most divine consummation in the home where the coming of children is not restricted, where they are made most welcome, and where the duties of parenthood are accepted as a co-partnership with the eternal Creator.
“In all this, however, the mother’s health should be guarded. In the realm of wifehood, the woman should reign supreme” (Gospel Ideals, 469).
Elder Ezra Taft Benson
“The world teaches birth control. Tragically, many of our sisters subscribe to its pills and practices when they could easily provide earthly tabernacles for more of our Father’s children. We know that every spirit assigned to this earth will come, whether through us or someone else. There are couples in the Church who think they are getting along just fine with their limited families but who will someday suffer the pains of remorse when they meet the spirits that might have been part of their posterity. The first commandment given to man was to multiply and replenish the earth with children. That commandment has never been altered, modified, or cancelled. The Lord did not say to multiply and replenish the earth if it is convenient, or if you are wealthy, or after you have gotten your schooling, or when there is peace on earth, or until you have four children.
From an Ensign article(church magazine).
Thus, on the family questions, if we limit our families because we are self-centered or materialistic, we will surely develop a character based on selfishness. As the scriptures make clear, that is not a description of a celestial character. I have found that we really have to analyze ourselves to discover our motives. Sometimes superficial motivations and excuses show up when we do that.
But, on the other hand, we need not be afraid of
studying the question from important angles—the
physical or mental health of the mother and father, the parents’ capacity to provide basic necessities, and so on. If for certain personal reasons a couple prayerfully decides that having another child immediately is unwise, the method of spacing children—discounting possible medical or physical effects—makes little difference. Abstinence, of course, is also a form of contraception, and like any other method it has side effects, some of which are harmful to the marriage relationship.
I suspect you are playing with me (hence the winking smiley face) but in case there are other readers who may not understand the proper application of statistics I just want to emphasize that the correct analysis of the “95 percent” would be that 95 percent of the people who use one of the fertility awareness methods can have sex twice a week and not conceive at all (assuming that was their goal). So, for those couples the method would be 100 percent effective. It’s that other five percent that would experience the unexpected pregnancy.
The real issue here though, as I see it, is that if a couple was having sex twice a week there’s almost no likelihood that they’ll have ever seen this website! 😉
Okay – on to the serious stuff you posted. Let me sum it up in a word: “Wow!” Your church and mine are on the same page here, as far as I can tell. As a slight aside, I wonder how a gay or lesbian couple might respond to God’s first communication with mankind “Go forth and multiply.” Apparently they think that command doesn’t apply to them because if it did they’d have no good response. I suppose they’d say “Well, we can’t because of how you made us!” but that’s not a discussion that this forum was designed for and so I’ll drop it.
But, yes, it is a signficant issue today, i.e. whether to have children or not to have children. Perhaps for most husbands and wives the issue isn’t whether to have children or not to have children but HOW MANY children to have, and how to space them out. My personal opinion (I’m big on these, I know) is that many couples today (and yes, Catholics included) limit their family size not for the reasons our churches say is acceptable but, rather for comfort/convenience reasons. Most of my friends first-homes were as nice as the homes with which their parents ended. Most of my friends have two incomes and two new(er) cars in the driveway. I’ve never enjoyed two full time incomes through two marriages. I’m not trying to brag or point fingers but just to say that I know couples who choose certain lifestyles conducive to rearing families and not accumulating so much “stuff”. I also see other couples have a child, maybe two children, and then seem quite satisfied with their one or two children and end up with a lot of worldly goods.
Certainly only God can judge who was being selfish vs. who was being selfless. Clearly our two chruches seem to be in agreement that it is a blessing to have children and that, other issues previously mentioned notwithstanding they should be welcomed into a couples lives.
I’m not sure where this leaves us except that I think we’re on the same page as far as our beliefs. May we practice what we believe for, if we don’t then that begs the question of if we really believed it, why didn’t we do it? Why didn’t we live our lives according to our beliefs?
Coming back to the core issue. Assuming a couple is going to have sex and does NOT want to conceive, how does one do this? It seems that your church would be on the same page as my church but I believe that my church is a bit more defined in its position (openly endorsing fertility-awareness methodology). For me, some telling words that you shared about your church’s teaching were that it was against your church’s teachings “artificially to curtail or prevent the birth of children…” I can tell you, and this is no big secret, many “good Catholics” disagree with this position within the Catholic Churches teaching. That is to say that many, if not most(?) Catholics don’t practice fertility awareness methodology. I should emphasize that that is just my personal guess, nothing more. I would hope that I’m wrong but I’d also be surprised, albeit happily, if I was.
And how does one cope with the forced abstinence required by the church’s teaching? It is tough, at least from the man’s perspective. Although, given my current situation I long for the “good old days” where sex would at least be on the horizon and not off the map.
We should always thank God for the challenges he places in our lives. I’ve tried to thank him for this forced abstinence but I don’t do it well or often. Maybe though I’m learning to control the sexual animal within me by having this forced upon me. Right now, and for who knows how long, I am forced to be celibate. Sex is not an option. Maybe if I had the sex I wanted I’d not learn to grow past my own desires. I suspect there’s more than a small amount of truth in that logic.
I’ll quit rambling. Thank you for your sharings, morguerat. You seem very learned.
I would assume with the lack of comments on this thread that all the world’s relationships have now been fixed. 🙂 Thanks Laura and Mark!