Where your intimate questions are answered by author and intimacy expert, Laura M. Brotherson. For additional Q&A, visit Laura’s Strengthening Marriage Blog “Open Forum” discussion pages.
- What percent of women enjoy sex?
- Expected Sex — Vacation sex, Birthday sex
- How to prepare for the honeymoon and sexual relationship in marriage
- I was sexually molested as a child. What can I do to find fulfillment?
- What about a vibrator?
- Still haven’t had an orgasm after 24 years of marriage
- What can I do if my wife isn’t interested in improving our sexual relationship?
- Selfishness and wanting to improve our intimate relationship
- Can women generally get by without sex?
- The words “intimacy” and “sex” aren’t synonyms
- Getting educated about the female sexual response
- Desire Gaps–My husband needs sex more often than me
- Prolonging the pleasure in lovemaking
- I hate it when my husband gropes me!
- I have a hard time verbalizing sexual things, and doing the suggested homework
- My wife hasn’t been interested in sex for many years. It’s going to be a long retirement.
- Information on Tantra–a spiritual approach to lovemaking
- He needs it, and I don’t–Finding a counselor
- How to find couple time
- Why won’t you directly address the issue of oral sex?
- I just want to cuddle without strings attached!
- Why do women let themselves get frumpy?
- Safe places to buy lingerie
- I don’t enjoy kissing
- My wife talks about stuff during sex
- Husband dislikes lovemaking
- Why is sexual fulfillment so difficult for women?
- Wife won’t read your book
Subject: What percent of women enjoy sex?
I have read your book. It is very good. Having read much on this website I have come to the conclusion that 99% of men enjoy sex and 99% of all women do not. That means that only 1% of couples are happy. I would like to know the facts. What percentage of women enjoy sex? What percent have learned to enjoy sex? What percentage of women do it because it is their marital duty? And what percent of women just hate it? Also, what percent of women want to change? Even a rough guess would be great.
I can see where you may be coming from on your observations. It’s probably important to keep in mind that those who frequent my website are likely to be those with an extra vested interest in issues of marital intimacy. There’s likely to be a higher percentage of those who have struggles.You may be surprised to know that 99% of men do not necessarily have the stereotypical higher interest in sex as is widely believed. A fellow marriage advocate and well-known author Michele-Weiner Davis has noted in her book “The Sex-Starved Wife” that there is a large segment of our population where the man is the lower-desire spouse and has a very sexually frustrated wife.
My discussion of the Good Girl Syndrome very much applies to men as well. It’s not just women who do not embrace and develop and enjoy their sexuality as divinely intended. Many men also do not embrace their sexuality. Sex can be a very scary thing for a man even in some ways more so than it might be for a woman due to the potentially over powering driving emotions associated with male sexuality.
You are correct that it is likely to seem that from the comments and articles and such on my website and blog that it is all men that are the sexually frustrated ones with sexually-uninterested wives, but I just want people to be aware that this is simply not always the case.
But back to the women (though most of this could apply to men as well)…it’s pretty difficult in our society for women to really develop a healthy sense of themselves as a sexual being and to see that as being a good thing. On one side you have the “No, no, no. It’s bad” (PERIOD!) mentality and on the other side you have a sexual-free-for-all mentality. Both extremes are detrimental to a healthy sexual identity and functioning within the divinely appointed relationship of marriage.
It is possible that some women have been raised with such a healthy, open, and appropriate understanding of sex and sexuality (most likely by parents who have a healthy sexual relationship themselves) that they were able to overcome all the other mental garbage they would otherwise accumulate throughout their lives. But even if you think about body image issues alone, many women even with a good sexual upbringing still have a row to hoe to conquer body image struggles, which obviously lead to inhibitions in the sexual relationship.
I think it would be difficult to identify accurate numbers about those who truly understand and fully enjoy the sexual relationship of marriage. To start with most people are not even sufficiently self-aware enough to answer that question honestly. Most people in a survey would likely answer yes just because it’s the socially acceptable answer. Prior to my sexual awakening I would have “honestly” told anyone that I “enjoyed” sex because that’s what a “good wife” says.
If we turn to some of the research I was able to find on the matter of sexual function and satisfaction, which I reference in the introduction of my book, And They Were Not Ashamed, you’ll see that a study in The American Family Physician journal estimates sexual dysfunction in the general population as high as 52 percent in men and 63 percent in women. Sexual concerns were reported in 75 percent of couples seeking marital therapy and are nearly universal (100%) in women seeking routine gynecologic care.
A less scientific look at sexual dissatisfaction comes from Ann Landers who asked her readers to respond yes or no to the question “Would you be content to be held close and treated tenderly, and forget about the sex act?” More than 90,000 women responded and 72 percent of them said YES. That’s a lot of women willing to fore go sex for a hug!
Much more study needs to be done to accurately identify the numbers to these kinds of sexual questions, but as you can see in my article about the “Characteristics of a Healthy Sexual Relationship” I consider it a generous number to say that 20% of couples have “figured it out” and have learned to really enjoy their sexual relationship.
Because there is so little positive affirmation or positive promotion of one’s sexuality and the sexual relationship of marriage I do say that there are not many women who really get it. (I may need to start a registration for women when they finally “get it” to start counting how many there are.) You can see by the Self-Assessment I posted for the Good Girl Syndrome (http://strengtheningmarriage.com/blog/sex/the-good-girl-syndrome/) that there are quite a few hurdles for women to overcome in order for them to be able to count themselves as having really “got it!”
If I had to take a total stab in the dark on your question about what percentage of women have sex out of duty, and what percentage of women hate sex, and what percentage want to change and want to experience their sexuality as God intended I guess I would break it down as follows (I’m just going with numbers that consider married women only–based on my studies and experience):
Have sex out of duty —– 60%
Have learned to enjoy sex —– 15%
Want to change/Want to enjoy it —– 15%
Hate sex —– 10%
One last thought…keep in mind that all couples will experience sexual incompatibility simply due to the nature of the very different sexual wiring of men and women, coupled with growing up in our sexually dysfunctional society (including both extremes). I am convinced that truly enjoyable sex and having a mutually fulfilling relationship sexually over the long-haul is a learned behavior for every husband and wife.
Subject: Expected Sex — Vacation sex, Birthday sex
I need some help with some insights into a recurring problem in our marriage … expected sex. What I mean by expected sex is times when, at least in my mind, sex is the obvious outcome. For example, our anniversary or my birthday would be times that I assume we’ll celebrate those events by making love. That generally causes big problems for my wife.As a specific example, I finally got my wife to go with me on a trip. We were at a beautiful resort place together and had a great time. We went to a movie, and a show, and to dinner. It was lots of fun. But I had the “expectation” that since we were away from all the stresses of our lives that sex would be the obvious result of our time alone.
Several years ago, we tried the “lets go get a hotel room for the night” thing and it was a disaster – she said she felt like a whore because I expected to get sex by taking her to a hotel. Knowing that, I tried sooooo hard all week NOT to push intimacy, and to do all the things non-sexual that she would like. But still, the “expected sex” thing hung over our last night there, and she said “well, I guess I did say at one point I would wear some lingerie, so I’ll go put something on”, but it was sooo “unsexy” they way she said it, it ended up in a fight in the middle of the night.
I guess I must be doing something wrong in the time leading up the “expected sex” moments, but it is unclear to me what that is. I’m wondering if other people have similar problems with expected sex and if they have identified the triggers or behaviors that make this so difficult.
I had to read your question with a smile as I’ve heard this issue many times mostly from women. Women who have not yet awakened to, nor embraced their sexuality as part of their “personness” tend to be annoyed by the expectation of vacation sex or birthday sex or whatever we want to call it. Yes, for some having more open conversation of each other’s expectations can alleviate some of the problem, but in a lot of cases even making that expectation more clear would still be irritating for women who might see a “vacation” as an opportunity for her to NOT have to have sex, when you might see a vacation as the exact opposite.I remember when I used to think in such a way myself. With all the demands of young children, any kind of getaway from them did not equate to glee about having sex. I’m sure my thoughts were more about catching up on needed sleep or not having to do anything. I can certainly see how you or any husband might see things differently from their wives.
When sex is still a “duty” in a woman’s mind then you are more likely to get the kind of behavior you got on your trip with your wife. And yes, that ends up being a very “unsexy” experience for both. Sexual expectations can translate into performance pressure and do much to be anti-arousing to a wife who’s not much into sexual intimacy in the first place. It’s difficult to imagine going on a such a vacation together without some expectations, but if you can either discuss those expectations ahead of time so you’re both on the same page, or put yourself into a psychological place of NOT having any pressure-inducing expectations, that may be more effective for your situation.
It’s possible that your wife’s negative behavior had more to do with specific circumstances or a lack of emotional foreplay, etc. but if you really have done all that you can imagine that would make her feel loved or loving toward you, then it probably has more to do with how she feels about sex or herself. It’s back to Good Girl Syndrome issues.
I see part of my efforts as that which moves us toward a sexual awakening for women in hopes that someday the norm will be for wives to have learned to embrace their sexuality within marriage and not see it as a duty or a less-than-godly activity. Unfortunately we still have a ways to go…!
I do think a conversation with your wife about this very subject would be good. It may work best in a letter or email, but I would share the thoughts you have shared here. If you can be pretty casual or neutral about it, you might be able to create a good conversation about it. It seems like you have made some progress in this department in your marriage, so the chances for you to continue the progress might be pretty good. Again, I’m all for more open interchanges between husband and wife, especially if empathy and compassion can be the guiding factor.
Subject: How to prepare for the honeymoon and sexual relationship in marriage
It seems that many people are getting the book “And They Were Not Ashamed” as an enrichment or help for marriages, which is wonderful, and I’m sure we will always seek enrichment later on… But we’re just starting. We’re getting married in a couple months, and we’re open to advice.One of the books we’ve read was so doom and gloom, using what felt like scare tactics, about how difficult marriage is. We felt horrible reading it. We don’t have any problems with each other, quite the opposite!I would like your opinion on how much to talk about sex, as we’re just starting–pre-honeymoon, and the first few months? I don’t want my wife to feel overwhelmed with information. I personally feel like I’m pretty sensitive , and I don’t know if I want her to feel like she’s having sex as a duty or for my sake. She seems like she IS very excited about sex and will be. If I am sensitive and caring, I feel like it will only get better. I feel like I can be very giving and let things go naturally as we talk about everything. We’re very open already.
Of course we will learn beforehand about how sex works and I will definitely have learned how to make it enjoyable for her sexually. Do you think we could do that without reading too much? I do think that people starting with the ideas presented in “And They Were Not Ashamed” would be much nicer than trying to change things for people who have already been married for a while, but what do you think would be best in our case?
I do believe the book “And They Were Not Ashamed” can be very helpful for those not yet married as well as for those who already are. This book is a must read for any who want to start out better than the rest of us probably did! : )Since you are not yet married I would suggest you read the book separately, or together in a public place. It all depends on the two of you as to what would be best. If you can read the whole book (except maybe the last three chapters on how to teach your children–although it’s great for reeducating yourself as well) that would be best. But if you are not able to read it all then chapters 3, 4 and 5 are most critical to know and understand before the honeymoon. It can make all the difference between having a positive experience or starting out on the wrong foot that can take a long time to overcome. Things don’t have to be perfect, but the more you can learn about each other’s expectations and understand your differing wiring the better! I hate to see more honeymoon horror stories created out of ignorance!I also recommend that you read the article “From Honeymoon to Happily Ever After—Preparing for an Intimately Fulfilling Relationship,” which I wrote especially for soon-to-be-married couples like you. You can find the article here.
I wish you well on your exciting new adventure of marriage. I would encourage you and any other engaged couples to get all the marriage education you can. You can find many articles on our Strengthening Marriage Blog and on our Articles page: http://www.strengtheningmarriage.com/news.php. I would even look into a couple sessions of premarital counseling with a good marital therapist for good measure as well. The better prepared you can be the better off you’ll be! Good luck!
Subject: I was sexually molested as a child. What can I do to find fulfillment?
I went through a lot sexual molestation as a child, but have hardly any memory of it. I have tried everything,(therapists-many!), but nothing has helped. I feel like it is negatively effecting my marriage. I have a difficult time being intimate with my hubby because I don’t like being touched in many ways. I hardly ever feel fulfilled after we are intimate (regardless of what happens). We have spent hundreds of dollars, but nothing has helped. We have your book (bought it soon after we got married). It has informed us, but nothing has changed. My husband and I are very open in our communication on this subject, but we just feel like we’ve tried everything. Just asking what else can we do to help me be fulfilled?
It was interesting to get your question, as I just returned from a three-day training on sexual abuse and trauma. It may be surprising to realize that 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused or have experienced some kind of sexual trauma, and 1 in 4-6 men have experienced it as well. These stats are simply staggering. That is a lot of people who have been significantly affected in their thoughts, beliefs, actions and reactions to many things in life, but especially toward sex.Most of the things you mention about your sex life don’t necessarily mean there’s been sexual abuse in someone’s past, though it’s certainly a possibility for you. Not liking certain kinds of touch and not feelings fulfilled are actually fairly common complaints.
It’s great that you have sought out therapists to help you overcome what you believe to be related to abuse. I do hope you will keep seeking professional help until you find the answers you need. Most people will not be able to fully overcome without professional help. It would be important to know what leads you to believe you were abused if you don’t remember it well. It’s not surprising though if you don’t remember, as the body has an incredible ability to protect us sometimes by keeping things out of our conscious awareness.
I’m very sorry that things haven’t seemed to work sufficiently well for you thus far. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right. I think our soul knows when it’s time to break free. The timing must be right for this kind of trauma work and healing. I encourage you to continue to seek professional help. It’s too big of a journey to go it alone. I think we also heal in stages. It’s like peeling an onion.
I would certainly recommend you check out the book “The Sexual Healing Journey: A guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse” by Wendy Maltz. You can also find out a lot of good information on her site: www.HealthySex.com. This book was one of the required readings for the Sex Therapy training I recently attended.
(There are some things about sexual orientation and masturbation in the book that she’s a little off on, but otherwise it’s an incredible book for anyone to guide their journey to sexual wholeness. It can help those without overt sexual abuse as well.)
The content covers:
Part I — Starting Out: Becoming Aware
Ch 1 — Realizing There’s a Sexual Issue
Ch 2 — Acknowledging the Abuse
Ch 3 — Identifying the Sexual Impact
Ch 4 — Deciding to Reclaim Our Sexuality
Part II — Moving Forward: Making Changes
Ch 5 — Creating a New Meaning for Sex
Ch 6 — Finding Our Real Sexual Selves
Ch 7 — Gaining Control over Automatic Reactions
Ch 8 — Moving Toward Healthy Sexual Behavior
Ch 9 — Healing with an Intimate Partner
Part III — Getting There: Creating Positive Experiences
Ch 10 — Techniques for Relearning Touch
Ch 11 — Solving Specific Sexual Problems
Ch 12 — Enjoying Sexual Experiences
You might also consider getting the video program she also created called “Relearning Touch” that can help couples start at ground 0 and work their way up from there at their own time and pace. I saw some of the video and thought it was great. I plan to use it in future couples seminars. It’s great for everyone. I believe you can get it by calling Intervision at (541) 343-7993 or emailing email@example.com. The cost is around $50.
Here’s a good overview article by Wendy Maltz as well: http://www.voicesofstrength.org/intimacy.htm.
Some of the things she suggests for sexual healing are:
- Stop sexual behaviors that are part of the problem.
- Learn about healthy sexuality. (I hope our book “And They Were Not Ashamed” can be helpful in that regard.)
- See yourself as separate from what was done to you.
- Learn to handle automatic reactions to touch.
- Familiarize yourself with touch techniques.
After attending this training I am more convinced than ever that inappropriate sexualization of children (or any of us) is terribly damaging. But with persistence and a lot of time and effort sexual healing and wholeness can occur.
I hope something here will be helpful to you. God bless!!
Subject: What about a vibrator?
We are a happily married Christian couple (married 15 years), and we are thinking about the possibility of using a personal massager for clitoral stimulation during foreplay and intercourse. This is mainly to help lessen clitoral soreness and increase our frequency of intercourse. What are your thoughts on the moral and physiological aspects of this matter?
I would not see the question of using a vibrator in lovemaking as a moral issue. This is simply one of the many questions regarding variety in lovemaking that is best answered between a husband and wife in order to determine what is best for you in your relationship.One issue to consider though is that the stimulation of a vibrator is difficult for a husband to replicate, so there’s a risk of becoming sensitized to that kind of stimulation to the extent that it could become difficult to orgasm without it. A vibrator can be very helpful for the couple that is first learning what an orgasm feels like, or for the couple that justs wants to add a little bit of playful variety to their lovemaking.
Subject: Still haven’t had an orgasm after 24 years of marriage
I’ve been married for 24 yrs and I’ve never had an orgasm. In your book on page 78 it says: “Do I know what turns me on? Do I know what works best for stimulating my clitoris? Have I determined what kind of touch or stimulation is needed? When? What intensity, quantity, or speed is most arousing?”I’m struggling with the fact that we aren’t supposed to masturbate yet throughout your book it talks about getting to know your body. To what extent are you really supposed to take this? I have a very obsessive and addictive personality. I feel if I were to do this it would definitely wind up being a self pleasuring activity for me. Yet I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish, feel, etc. with an orgasm.
It’s important to consider the whole package when determining what’s needed to experience the ecstasy of orgasm. Particularly for women, it’s not just a sexual “technique” that’s usually missing. While clitoral stimulation is important, it’s possible that the real culprit lies somewhere else, such as in the relationship, or in your thoughts and beliefs about sex. We need to consider the way women are wired sexually, then see which area seems to be lacking. So, let’s take a look at each of the 6 T’s of the female sexual response and go from there:
First — your Thoughts. Sex is something that requires the full engagement of the heart and mind, especially for women. If your thoughts include things such as:”My husband seems bored,” or “Is it going to happen this time?” or
“Gee, this is taking a long time,” or “Boy, I don’t know about this orgasm stuff. I don’t know what it’s going to feel like. What if I don’t like it? What if I do or say something embarrassing,” or “I wonder if I’m doing this right,” or
“I wish my husband would do such and such instead,” or “I wonder if the kids can hear us?” or “I hope I won’t disappoint my husband this time, and finally have an orgasm,” etc….then it will be very difficult for your mind to fully engage in the sexual experience.
I’ve come to the understanding that fully experiencing lovemaking is very much like experiencing true faith–not just a generic kind of faith we often talk about in Sunday School. True faith is the belief that something you desire will definitely happen (or something even better), but it is accompanied by an emotional detachment that turns the matter over to God for it to happen in it’s rightful time and way. In other words, you must believe, then let go of any attachment to it emotionally.
One of the hardest things for women is to approach having an orgasm with that necessary mindset. The more we get worked up about having an orgasm or the more we “want” it to happen or obsess about it the less likely it will. It’s a horribly challenging paradox I know.
The words that best describe this necessary state of mind is a confident/believing and relaxed “letting go.” All of this begins in the mind with our automatic thoughts and also our core beliefs. This is why any “good girl syndrome” issues or even just any form of negative or unproductive thoughts and beliefs and attitudes about sex can so easily get in the way of thoroughly engaging or enjoying sex or, more specifically, experiencing an orgasm.
There’s a lot of mental training or mental skill acquisition that is necessary for many women to fully experience sex as it was intended by God. This is where the help of a sex therapist or maybe even a brief phone consultation with me could get you moving in the right direction. (You can check out that option on our website: www.strengtheningmarriage.com.)
Secondly, Tenderness represents the relationship issues and emotional connection in the relationship. Emotional intimacy is a woman’s primary foreplay. Are you being loved by your spouse in a way that truly makes you feel loved? Do you feel close and emotionally connected to your husband? Are there any relationship issues that may be getting in the way of you truly letting go and fully engaging in the sexual experience?
Thirdly, Teasing and Playfulness helps you create the kind of environment for an orgasm to most easily occur. If lovemaking feels like a performance by either of you it will limit the mutual fulfillment that is possible and inhibit the sexual response. Being playful with each other outside of the sexual relationship is the best way to practice for relaxed playfulness within lovemaking.
Fourth, Talk. Conversation is one of the key ways for emotional connection (mentioned above) to be created. Being able to openly and honestly share your heart and soul with your spouse provides the necessary “emotional foreplay” women need to fully engage and let themselves go into the flow of orgasm.
I might also add that another use of “talk” within lovemaking is a concept I call “auditory arousal” (see “And They Were Not Ashamed,” pg 133-135). It’s a way for a woman to focus her attention and fully engage in the sexual experience by verbalizing her feelings and experience with each sexual sensation. When the mind is focusing on fully experiencing and savoring every touch and kiss and caress and verbalizing the pleasure with “Mmmmms” and “Ahhhhhhhhhs” and “I love the way you…” then it keeps the mental clutter and distractions mentioned earlier from derailing the pleasure train.
Fifth, Touch. One of the most common physical inhibitors of a full sexual response is insufficient clitoral stimulation. Most women do not experience an orgasm without direct clitoral stimulation, and direct clitoral stimulation does not generally occur automatically during intercourse except in the woman-on-top position (for some women). Most women need their husbands to manually stimulate their clitoris in addition to whatever other sexual stimulation they need to reach orgasm (kissing and caressing other erogenous parts). (This is where the male/female sexual wiring differences picture shown here has some validity: (http://strengtheningmarriage.com/blog/archives/24)
And some women even find that it’s not so much the actual touching of the clitoris, but the pressure on the clitoris that makes the difference. Whether the husband is putting pressure on the clitoris and/or stimulating it with the right kind of touch for his wife or she is using his thigh or penis in a way to gain the clitoral stimulation she needs, couples need to practice and have patience as they figure this stuff out.
Regarding the section you mention in our book about learning about your body, the “self-learning” section was removed in the 2nd and following printings to put the focus more on a couple doing the learning together. Of course that is ideal, but for some couples, especially after 24 years of orgasm-less sex for the wife, it might be something they could consider for her to see if she can figure out what works outside the psychological pressure that potentially exists within the “bedroom” of the sexual relationship.
This kind of learning is a completely different thing than masturbation, but I realize that some people just don’t see how the two are very different, even though I have thoroughly addressed the stark differences between masturbation and “self-learning.” Masturbation is something you do alone with selfish intent for your own pleasure. Self-learning is a short-term endeavor — something you do for your husband and your marriage. The intentions and outcomes between masturbation and self-learning are entirely different.
You bring up a good point that you are concerned about having an addictive susceptibility with regard to doing any self-learning. That is definitely something you need to take into account when determining your best course of action. You don’t have to figure it out on your own. Hopefully you and your husband can figure it out together, I just don’t consider this “last-resort” type option to be completely off the table if you’ve already tried everything you can already think of for the last 24 years of marriage. As I’ve said, it’s not necessary for you to do any self-learning on your own unless that seems like the best option for you.
You and your husband really need to go on a fun sexual adventure of trying every kind of touch and position and lighting and music and connecting and stimulating that you can think of…as if you were doing a fun research project on your sexuality. You could even try taking your husband’s hand or finger or whatever and seeing what kind of stimulation you can guide him to create to see what works best for you.
Some people have a fear of losing control, which inhibits their sexual response. Experiencing an orgasm is not about “losing control” but allowing yourself to get on the pleasure plane that will take you and your husband to the exquisite wonderland of sexual bliss or the mutual sexual fulfillment of orgasm.
The sixth T is Time. It can take even an hour of direct clitoral stimulation the first few times for the body to work itself up enough to release the pressured pleasure. Couples really need to set aside sufficient, unrushed, pleasure time for the sexual learning and adventure to naturally unfold. The focus must be on enjoying every sensation NOT on the “outcome” of an orgasm itself.
This is all easier said than done. How do you maintain a state of faith that orgasm will occur and yet not focus on it to the point of inhibiting it. Being patient not only within the lovemaking experience but also throughout the course of “practicing” until you get there is very important.
I’m sure your husband could see, if he reads this, what he might be able to do to help you in this sexual adventure. Read and discuss these ideas and choose one or two things to add to your relationship and to your lovemaking then go from there.
For those who have yet to experience an orgasm, it is certainly an unknown. It can be valuable to have some good idea of what you’re looking for or what an orgasm feels like. The following are a few descriptions of an orgasm from our book “And They Were Not Ashamed” (pg. 72-73) that may be helpful:
“Orgasm is the physiological response which brings sexual intercourse to its natural and beautiful termination . . . . In the moment just preceding orgasm, muscular tension suddenly rises. . . .
At the moment of greatest muscular tension all sensations seem to take one further rise upward. The woman tenses beyond the point where, it seems, it would be possible to maintain such tension for a moment longer. And indeed it is not possible, and now her whole body suddenly plunges into a series of muscular spasms. These spasms take place within the vagina itself, shaking the body with waves of pleasure. . . .
If a woman is [sexually] satisfied by her orgasmic experience she will discharge the neurological and muscular tension developed in the sexual buildup.”
“[Orgasm] has been described as a momentary feeling of suspension, followed by a sensation of warmth starting in the perineal area and pervading the entire body. Rhythmic contractions of the lower third of the vagina follow. There may be from three to ten contractions over the period of a few seconds. She can increase the intensity of the physical sensations by voluntarily strengthening her P.C. muscle contractions . . . as she lets herself go in seeking release. As her physical movements, her response to her partner’s stimulation and her own mental concentration blend into a total reaching for satisfaction, she comes to climax—often an emotional mountain-peak experience, when the rest of the world recedes and seems to stand still—a high point of feeling, best described as ecstasy.
Sometimes a woman does not know if she has experienced an orgasm. If you feel your vagina contracting involuntarily, if you feel excited at first, and later feel calm and physically satisfied, you can take this as evidence that you have had an orgasm….”
“Orgasm might also be described as pleasurable sensations that slowly build, until the sexual tension bursts into a shooting star throughout the body. Rapid involuntary contractions or spasms radiate from the vagina and genitals. What began with some concentration on your part builds into a sexual crescendo until the sensations overtake you, reaching a fevered pitch. The sensations surge in intensity, momentarily transporting you from the present to an uninhibited wonderland. Like a sunburst of warmth and energy, the feelings penetrate your body, mind and spirit—coursing through you like an overwhelming, yet tangible feeling of love and ecstasy. The rush of blood to the genitals creates pleasurable pulsations and a soft fulness. It may even feel as if your heart is beating and pulsating in the genital area.”
I would also recommend that you and your husband read or re-read chaps 3, 4 and 5 of “And They Were Not Ashamed,” which give detailed insights about the female sexual response, as well as the various differences in sexual wiring between men and women. Practice lots, have fun, be patient and believing, and let go of it all. It will happen…!
Subject: What can I do if my wife isn’t interested in improving our sexual relationship?
What do you suggest when one partner desperately wants a close and intimate connection in marriage, but the other does not? As the years pass with little progress, how can the spouse with higher “desire” refrain from feeling resentment, discouragement, and despair and instead continue loving his/her spouse fully and unconditionally?
Good questions. My heart goes out to you and other spouses in similar situations. This is a common predicament in which many men find themselves. Often it is the husband that wants to work on the sexual relationship and the wife doesn’t. Ideas that may be helpful can be found in our Straight Talk Q&A question on how to get one’s spouse to read our book:
Your question is basically “How do I get my spouse to change?” which I address in this article.
When you want something to be a certain way in your relationship so badly, it’s hard not to feel resentment and discouragement at your situation. The thing I hope we can all really learn is that the only person we can directly change is ourselves. I can’t change my husband, but I can change ME — my responses, attitudes, behaviors, etc.– which makes it easier for my husband to WANT to change and then to put in the necessary effort to change.
Your focus needs to be on seeking God’s sustaining power to help you function as optimally as possible even in a less-than-ideal circumstance. This is critical to removing any psychological pressure your longing places on your spouse to change.
We make it more difficult for our spouses to change when they feel any sort of pressure from us. Even if you think you aren’t putting pressure on her, just wanting something so badly and having an emotional attachment to the outcome means that there is some psychological pressure being felt by her (even if subconsciously).
In addition, your efforts are best served by focusing your attention on becoming an expert at making your wife feel loved, accepted, and cherished unconditionally. You must hold her in a place of NOT needing her to change, which unlocks the door for her to actually become the person or develop the relationship you so desperately desire.
Keep the focus on you and your behavior, your attitude, your conversation with her, etc. because that is where you have the most power. Discipline yourself to not get distracted by focusing on her attitudes and behaviors (or lack thereof). Keep your focus on YOU! You CAN change your spouse, but it comes by changing yourself.
I wish I had an easier answer for you, but this is one that actually works! This is the soul-stretching work that too many people are unwilling to engage in, but which holds the keys to receiving their heart’s desires.
It’s likely that your wife either doesn’t know what to do to change her feelings about sex, or thinks sex is unworthy of her time and effort, or has relationship issues with you that you don’t know about, or that she has given up hope that she’ll ever be able to enjoy sex, or maybe she simply doesn’t like herself…the list can go on and on.
She may see the sexual dimension of your relationship as a low priority compared to an emotiona/relationship issue, for instance, and may resent your focus on that part of the marriage when she is more concerned about something else before she can “warm up” to that issue.
The unfortunate thing for most couples is that the man tries to improve the intimate relationship by focusing on the sex and the wife tries to improve the relationship by focusing on the emotional and spiritual dimensions of the relationship. Given the different wiring of men and women these approaches are like two ships passing in the night. One or both of you have to do what is not natural for you in order to address the problems in a way that your spouse can understand.
Subject: Selfishness and wanting to improve our intimate relationship
A recent topic at church was selfless service. I have been thinking about how this applies to marriage. Specifically, is it ever “ok” to think about “my needs”? If I feel like my needs are not being met, is it safe to say that I probably need to focus more on my spouse and serving others and less on myself? If my spouse is perfectly content with the status quo in our relationship, but I feel that it is lacking and needs attention and effort, is it selfish of me to try to involve my spouse in improving our relationship? If I desire greater levels of all types of intimacy in our marriage, but my wife does not, is that selfish of me, and what course of action should I take?
Certainly it is okay to think about our needs, it’s just that when we are in that line of thought we tend to stay in a state of dissatisfaction and longing, instead of in a state of appreciation for the many good things our spouse IS doing. The more we can focus on the good things about our spouse the more we will see good things from our spouse.If you feel like your needs are not being met, certainly it is helpful to share that valuable information with your spouse. For example, you could say, “Honey, I am feeling a bit unloved in our relationship. I don’t know how to explain how important physical intimacy is to me. It just seems to be the most powerful way for me to feel that you love me even though you do many other wonderful things for me.”
If you can then discuss it, great! If these discussions never go anywhere then I’d suggest getting someone to help–like a counselor, either going to God himself with these issues or a human-form counselor might be helpful. Don’t let your resentment build, but be wise in how you approach it.
Improving your relationship is all about how you go about it. If you go about it with a spirit of discontent then it will feel like pressure and that your spouse is not good enough or doing enough for you. That’s hard for any spouse to receive. If you can go about it without any emotional attachment to the outcome then go for it! It can be a fun new adventure for you both to read a book together or try something new, etc. It’s all in the spirit of how you do it, and the intention behind it.
It’s not selfish of you to want more intimacy and connection with your spouse. The selfishness comes from a focus on what YOU need to the exclusion of what your spouse might need. By all means, keep the positive communication flowing on the subject, but keep your focus on what you can do to be more loving as a husband.
You might also check out the following Q&A and article that address these subjects:
Q&A — “How do I get my spouse to read your book?”
ARTICLE–“How do I get my spouse to change?”
Subject: Can women generally get by without sex?
Does the average woman want sex, or do they just kind of do it when they are moved along by a man? Can women generally live without sex indefinitely?
I have unfortunately encountered many women who have said they could easily go without sex for the rest of their lives. I could probably have fit into that category myself in the past. These are women who might even have otherwise pretty close and connected marriages. Sex feels like a duty for many women, or is at least a lower priority. Unfortunately I would say that on average most women don’t really get into enjoying their sexuality in marriage the way it was intended by God.I would say that the following contribute to the general lack of healthy sexual development in women:
1) Negative cultural conditioning about sex (“good girls don’t,” etc.);
2) The complexities of the female sexual response and mental wiring;
3) The lack of healthy sexual education (especially from parents) with little promotion toward a healthy sexual relationship in marriage.
It generally takes some kind of a book (like mine) or a parent or a friend or someone to say, “Hey, sex is an important part of marriage! Here are some things you need to know, or here is a good book you ought to read.”There are a few wives who understand the importance of developing and enjoying their sexuality, but I would suggest they are in the minority. And the seeming twist of fate for many of those women who do enjoy their sexuality without much effort is that they tend to marry men who often have some kind of issue with sex, and end up being the lower-desire spouse in the relationship. I believe it’s part of the divine design of marriage that such struggles provide opportunities for each of us to work on some things, which guides us toward our own wholeness.I do hope that with education and positive, Godly promotion of healthy marital sexuality that we will create a whole new generation of women (and men too) who understand the importance of their sexuality as a key component of their wholeness, well-being, and marital quality, and who then raise up the next generation of young adults to come into marriage with an accurate and healthy understanding of sex.
Subject: The words “intimacy” and “sex” aren’t synonyms
I have read some of your work, and find many good thoughts and points in your writing about sexuality. However, one thing that stands out is your use of the word “intimacy.” I have grown weary of intimacy being coupled with sex, or rather, being synonymous with sex, as though there is no other definition of the word. I feel it has fed the notion so many cling to, that if you are having sex, you are having an intimate relationship. Teaching about emotional, mental and spiritual intimacy, in my opinion, is as important as teaching about sexual intimacy. I feel that if the other facets of intimacy are in place, more often sexual intimacy will take care of itself, because a couple has learned how to share on a deeper level and naturally will do so in the bedroom.
I agree that the word intimacy is often used in place of the word sex, as if they were synonyms. Intimacy is not always synonymous with sex, nor is sex always synonymous with intimacy. Depending on what exactly one is referring to, it is usually more accurate to say “emotional intimacy,” “spiritual intimacy,” or “sexual intimacy.” One circumstance I often have to deal with is the audience I am addressing, and their comfort level with the subject matter. I often have to use the word “intimacy” when I am really talking about “sex,” and I even sometimes have to use the word “oneness” when I’m really talking about a specific kind of “intimacy.” So, this is one of the ways the semantics of sex get clouded.Many couples that are having sex are not necessarily having an intimate relationship. This is one of the issues I am particularly concerned about. Ideally sexual relations should be a consummation of emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy, but often it is not. I agree that teaching about these other dimensions of intimacy (emotional, spiritual, mental) is very important, but your suggestion that it is really more important than the sexual intimacy comes from a mindset that is generally female.
There are many men (and some women who happen to be the higher-desire spouse) who would argue the exact opposite–that it is really the sexual intimacy that is the most important for us to talk about. This all goes back to some of the male/female sexual differences I talk about in chapter 5 of my book. Item number 6 on page 92 addresses the notion that women generally need emotional intimacy and connection before they can even warm up to the idea of sex, whereas men generally need the sexual connection before they can warm up to the idea of emotional intimacy or heart-to-heart sharing and connecting. So who’s going to break the vicious cycle?? Because we can only directly change ourselves, it depends who I am talking to that dictates which side of the cycle (emotional or sexual) that I focus the discussion on.
You are correct that for many women if the emotional and spiritual dimensions of intimacy are in place that sexual intimacy will flow more easily. My concern is that many women unwittingly use this excuse that if things were just better emotionally they’d be more “in the mood.” But I believe that puts women in a impotent no-win situation. I believe women have great power to cultivate their sexuality (…change themselves first), which in turn will more likely bring about the very thing they hope for in their relationship–that of having a more emotionally intimate relationship. And since I’m talking to a women I focus my comments in that direction. If I was talking to a husband I would likely suggest the opposite.
I hope this discussion is helpful.
Subject: Getting educated about the female sexual response
You mentioned the need for couples to get educated sexually and particularly to learn about the female sexual response. What are some good resources you could recommend to my wife and I?
Check out chapters three and four of the book “And They Were Not Ashamed–Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment.” These chapters detail new insights regarding the female sexual response, including a new first phase defined as a “warm-up/preparation” phase. Another key is the need to reverse the clinical phases of Desire and Arousal, particularly when considering the female response. Many women must first experience some degree of arousal before sexual desire occurs. You will also learn more about each of the stages of the sexual response: Arousal, Desire, Orgasm/intercourse, and the Afterglow.Check out the section on causes of low sexual desire, which can be valuable in determining what may be inhibiting sexual desire in either spouse. Other helpful books are “Intended for Pleasure” by Christian physician, Ed Wheat, and “The Act of Marriage” by Tim LaHaye.
Subject: Desire Gaps–My husband needs sex more often than me
What do you do if your husband has a greater need for more frequent lovemaking than you do, and you feel a pressure to not disappoint him?
The concepts of supply and demand, as well as quality versus quantity can be helpful in understanding the issue of frequency of lovemaking, or so-called desire discrepancies. If the supply of sexual relations is low in the relationship, the demand for it naturally increases. If someone hardly ever gets to eat a dessert that they love, it can become something they begin to crave and even obsess about, potentially leaving the other spouse to believe that it will never be enough. But it’s not really the issue of quantity that’s the real problem…In addition to frequency of sexual relations is the concept of quality versus quantity. If the quality, or mutual fulfillment, of sexual relations is low, then the quantity that is needed to feel satisfied grows higher. It’s like eating only twinkies for dietary nourishment instead of healthy, home-cooked meals. You can eat twinkies all day, but their empty calories never really nourish or satisfy. Whereas, if home-cooked meals (mutually enjoyable intimacy) are the regular fare in a marriage, then it keeps either spouse from being ravenous for real nourishment.
The real nourishment in lovemaking comes from the emotional connection of husband and wife during sexual relations. Disconnected, disinterested, distant or distracted lovemaking leaves both husband and wife with an empty feeling, just like the empty calories of a twinkie. We can’t just give our bodies in lovemaking. We must be willing and able to give our heart and soul as well.
Many so-called lower-desire spouses have simply not yet fully awakened to their sexuality, nor to the importance of it in the marital relationship. If a wife, for instance, has not accepted, awakened and developed her sexuality, then lovemaking will likely be a low priority, making her interest in sexual intimacy infrequent at best. As she begins to awaken to her own need for the wholeness of sexual intimacy, and to it’s importance in creating oneness in marriage, she will begin to experience much greater pleasure and fulfillment from the experience, making it less likely to be something she merely checks off her “to do” list.
As she finds greater pleasure in lovemaking her husband will experience much greater pleasure as well. A husband is never fully satisfied sexually unless his wife is. So, really it’s not even the frequency that is the primary factor. Husbands may say they want or need sex more often than their wives, but may soon learn that truly connected mutually enjoyed lovemaking stays with them much longer, decreasing their need to obsess about the next “healthy, home-cooked meal!” Mutually enjoyable lovemaking can also increase the wife’s interest. So as a husband’s hunger for more frequent sex decreases, a wife may begin to enthusiastically participate and even initiate!
So, if your husband currently seems to have a need for greater frequency, then the best place to focus your efforts is on developing your own sexuality, and removing any mental or emotional inhibitors, so that you can more fully experience the enlivening ecstasy that sexual intimacy has to offer both husband and wife. Many wives do feel a sense of pressure to meet their husband’s apparent need for “more” sex, but keep in mind that what is really needed is not just MORE, but for lovemaking to be an experience that you both fully enjoy together. Psychological pressure is a killer of sexual desire and enjoyment. Ignore the pressure, whether verbalized or not, and focus instead on the pleasure in order to diminish what may seem like a desire gap. I absolutely believe that so-called desire gaps between husband and wife can diminish as couples get educated and work toward greater mutual fulfillment in lovemaking.
Subject: Prolonging the pleasure in lovemaking
How can I prolong the pleasure of lovemaking with my husband? It seems like it’s over too quickly.
One of the best ways to prolong the pleasure of lovemaking is to learn to find greater pleasure in ALL aspects of the lovemaking. Every touch, every sensation, every glance has the potential for stoking the fire of passion and connection during lovemaking. In chapter 12 of “And They Were Not Ashamed” you’ll find a section of specialized Sensate Focus exercises that are great for couples to learn to savor each touch, and be more fully present and connected during the entire lovemaking experience.The Sensate Focus exercises encourage couples to focus on one dimension of lovemaking at a time, without strings attached to intercourse or orgasm. These are especially helpful for both husband and wife to learn to slow down, relax more fully, and savor each touch together. It may be a soul-stretching experience to embark upon these exercises, but it is worth the effort! The price of true intimate ecstasy is to allow the inevitable and necessary soul stretching of marriage.
Subject: I hate it when my husband gropes me!
I hate it when my husband comes up to me and gropes me sexually in some way when I’m making dinner or at some other time. Can’t he see how much I hate it? Why does he do that? And how can I get him to stop?
This is a common frustration for a lot of women. Men are fairly regularly in “on” mode and don’t always think through the fact that their wives are not. When women are not in a state of arousal, or even thinking about working toward the state of arousal, then sexual overtures from their husbands come across as out of place and even crude. It often makes women feel like a sex object, even if that’s not how her husband intended it.It’s interesting for men to note that similar behaviors, when inside the bedroom within the context of lovemaking, are much more acceptable and maybe even welcomed when a women is in a sexual mindset. It’s just that women generally don’t live in that mindset, or get into that mindset as quickly as a husband. This sexual state of mind is something a woman can cultivate to develop her own sexuality and to enhance the intimate relationship with her spouse.
Often it’s a matter of knowledge or education for husbands to acknowledge that their wives are wired differently. What would be a total turn on for them if their wives were to do the same thing to them in the kitchen is often a total turn off for her. A husband has the ability to understand this difference between himself and his wife, and to choose more effective or welcomed behaviors to show his affection and playfulness.
A woman also has the ability to understand this difference and to change her thinking about such behaviors to see them as simply the way her husband currently shows his love and friendliness. A wife could really shock the system by initiating such behaviors herself, and also provide an opportunity for her to show her husband that intimate playfulness doesn’t always have to lead to something else. (It may take a few times for her husband to understand and accept that message.) This could certainly provide a dramatic change in the dynamics of the relationship, if she is able to be genuinely playful in her overtures, rather than be spiteful or punishing.
Either spouse can change their behavior and/or their response to the other’s behavior, and have it affect the relationship for the better.
Subject: I have a hard time verbalizing sexual things, and doing the suggested homework
I have been reading your book, and it has really helped me understand what my problem has been in our intimate relationship. I’m really having a really hard time with the “homework” you give in the book. I ‘know’ everything I am reading is true and good for me to understand, but I just can’t get into the mode of “saying the words.” My husband has been trying to get me to do many of the things you talk about in your book. How do I get myself over the hurdle? I go to say, “I like it when…” and that’s where it stops. I can “do” things that I can’t think about or verbalize. It causes things to hit a wall in our intimacy.
It can be really hard to open up verbally about sexual things–whether it’s in having a discussion about it with your spouse, or during lovemaking, or in teaching children about sex and intimacy. You can see in Chapter 6 of our book some of the reasons sex is such a taboo topic and so difficult to discuss. Many of us learn that sexual words are bad or dirty, and that we shouldn’t say them. There are all kinds of negative conditioning and emotions associated with sex that we bring with us into adulthood.One suggestion would be to start with writing what you would say to finish the statement, “I like it when….” This can help you to at least process it enough mentally to get it on paper and provide a step in the right direction toward being able to verbalize these things.
Another suggestion would be to practice saying these things out loud when you’re by yourself. This can help alleviate some of the embarrassment and discomfort you may be feeling. It may be particularly helpful if you place you hand on your heart while you practice expressing your thoughts and feelings on the subject.
I also think the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) that I mention in the appendix of our book could be very helpful. I know it was very helpful to me in overcoming inhibitions and unproductive beliefs about sex that I really didn’t even know that I had. The EFT works with the energy meridians of the body where many of our negative thoughts and feelings seem to be stored. Definitely look into that as well.
If it is helpful, maybe your husband would be willing to do some of the homework to let you see him comfortably saying the words that are so hard for you. Normalizing sex and sexual talk can help you overcome your unnecessary inhibitions. One therapist shared with us that he uses our book with his group of sex addicts, because it allows them to change their whole thinking about sex, and learn to see it in its originally intended goodness and light. When something is so taboo and forbidden it seems to have a very negative draw with extra power to wreak havoc in our lives. It can really mess with the wonderful intimacy that should freely exist between husbands and wives.
You’ll also need to address the thoughts and beliefs that are creating this mental barrier in you. You can do that by spending some time pondering about and identifying (preferably in writing) what your negative and unproductive thoughts are that are getting in the way of fully expressing yourself sexually.
It’s great that you are at least able to physically participate in expressing yourself during lovemaking, but you’ll find a much fuller experience if you can overcome the barriers you face. I am convinced that each of our individual intimacy challenges and barriers are there for us to overcome them, which provides compelling opportunities to learn and grow. I can assure you that your efforts will ultimately be worth it, as you experience the richness of a fully functioning sexual relationship with your husband.
Subject: My wife hasn’t been interested in sex for many years. It’s going to be a long retirement.
Your articles are always terrific and I’m sure they are of help to many. Unfortunately I feel that your message about spirituality and sex might not reach many post-menopausal LDS women who feel that the days of enjoying anything sexual are over. Once the kids have come, are raised and are gone, many are happy to be done with intimacy. For a certain segment, they feel God programmed them to be that way once the hormones have decreased. In talking to a well known LDS psychologist and marriage counselor, he says it is not unusual in his practice for LDS women to turn it off as they get older. It occurs with very good, righteous women. They just don’t want intimacy to be helped. What can be done, but to have faith and hope for things to be better in the next life. This issue is just not addressed.I’m looking at this from a slanted, personal view because my wife and I have been married for nearly 40 years and there has been no intimacy for many years. We’ve been to counseling, but any intimacy discussion is closed. To suggest reading your book or any other regarding intimacy is met with, “What, and be reminded of what a failure I am as a wife?” or “I’m not comfortable talking about this.” My wife is a wonderful and faithful LDS woman having had many leadership positions. I think much of her service could be a form of practiced avoidance of intimacy. If I mention anything to her I’m told that “a lot of sisters feel this way.” I also realize that there is a significant likelihood that upbringing and even some form of personality distortion mean that there may never be a way for a reasonable solution. I’ll be retiring soon, but with our relationship the way it is, it’s going to be a long retirement.
What a sad and difficult situation you are experiencing. I know you are not alone. I have addressed in another Q&A the difficulty of having a spouse who is not interested in sex, or in working on that part of the relationship, and what you can do about it. I hope it might be helpful to you. I don’t know whether things will change for you and your marriage or not, but I do believe it’s still possible. I’d like to just share some thoughts on the bigger picture I see surrounding your situation, that I hope will provide some hope.I believe the time has come for a sexual awakening in marriage–for husbands and wives to see the importance of the sexual relationship and the importance of their healthy sexuality as a vital part of their individual wholeness. It’s only a matter of time before enough people will have awakened to the truth and the light about sex that it will become common for women to be happily discussing and developing their sexuality instead of discounting or despising it, until they ultimately shut it down when they’ve had enough!
I do have a special concern for the older generation of women in particular. Older women seem more resistant to changing, or even considering the idea that their sexuality is an important part of cultivating their individual wholeness and marital oneness–a priority worthy of their time and effort. Discussion about sex is even more taboo for that generation than the younger generation.
But again, I think as enough people accept the challenge to change the cultural beliefs and negative energy associated with sex (and even marital sexuality) to its positive and pure state, that everyone (even these older wives that have shut it down) will benefit by feeling a positive shift regarding sex. It will become easier for all of us to awaken to the truth and light regarding sexual wholeness in marriage. This is similar to when someone finally broke through the psychological barrier associated with running a mile in less than a minute. After it was done then many others were able to do so as well.
I imagine that at some point even someone like your wife will feel the new energy, kind of like she can feel the sunshine around her. I believe it will help awaken a desire in her for that sunshine to be a vibrant part of her being, and will drive her to seek it in its fullness (whatever that may be for her).
Your job is to hold her in a place of faith, love and acceptance, placing no psychological pressure or expectations upon her. The “but if not” principle teaches us to live in a state of faith and be believing that our desired results will come to pass. But it also helps us to let go of the desired outcome, allowing and trusting in God’s perfect time and way to bring about our hopes and dreams or something even better that He has in mind!!
Remember that our very natures can be changed. We need never be without hope that things can improve and that people can always change for the better…especially if we don’t get in their way with nagging, criticizing, pressuring or other negative behaviors.
God bless you for your patience and long-suffering. I hope you’ll continue to keep hold of hope.
Subject: Information on Tantra–a spiritual approach to lovemaking
I was browsing through your website and noticed that one of your radio show appearances was on the subject of tantric love. I’ve heard of it before and have seen books in stores, but I’ve never explored it much, since most books are just too explicit and have pictures of real people. Do you know of a book or another reference that would be okay?
Tantra refers to ancient Hindu philosophies where sexual love is seen as a spiritual union or sacrament with a focus on the emotional connection and the sexual energy shared between husband and wife. In researching tantric love, I have found some valuable insights that have helped me see sex as a more spiritual experience. One book I might recommend is called “Tantra: The Art of Conscious Loving” by Charles and Caroline Muir. I may not agree with everything in it, but I did find it to be of value. The information is presented within the context of couples being more conscious or intentional in their lovemaking…and it has no pictures! It may be beyond what most couples are ready for, but it can certainly provide some insights into a more spiritual view of sexuality.
Subject: He needs it, and I don’t–Finding a counselor
My husband and I have been married for over 20 years. I love my husband dearly, but we have hit a bump in the road in regards to our sex life, and I don’t know how to fix it. We regularly disagree about how often he needs “it” and I don’t. We have tried talking it out, but the issue never seems to get resolved. I know there are other things in our relationship that hinder this process, so I am at my wits end as to how to help us through this. Can you help, or direct me to someone?
Sexual issues are generally rooted in complex, multi-dimensional aspects of the marriage. My first suggestion is to read the book “And They Were Not Ashamed–Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment” together, if possible (or read it separately, if you can’t do it together). Begin doing the homework suggestions, applying the principles with a focus on yourself NOT on your spouse. (Remember you can only change yourself.) This book addresses all dimensions of the intimate relationship–the emotional, spiritual, and physical/sexual–with homework to help you get to the roots of the issues. This is certainly a common dilemma of “he wants more,” “she wants less.” You are not alone.Secondly I would suggest checking with some local counselors who might be able to help you through these challenges. You can contact your local LDS Family Services office or search for counselors at www.AMCAP.net. You can also use the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT) therapist locator for a list of marriage counselors in your area (http://www.therapistlocator.net/).
I’d also recommend checking out the Marriage Friendly Therapists Registry (http://www.marriagefriendlytherapists.com/) to be sure you find a marriage counselor that is pro-marriage and pro-commitment. Not all marriage counselors are created equal. You want a counselor that is most likely to help you succeed at marriage, rather than one who will merely help you get out when the going gets tough.
Call around to some of the counselors until you find a good fit. See the Appendix in my book for other suggestions on how to find a good therapist. You’ll find some questions to ask the therapists to “interview” them to find the right one for you. Be prayerful about finding one who can help you best, and you’ll find them.
I think you’ll begin to better understand the dynamics at play in your relationship, as you’ll read our book and begin to apply the counsel. It’s too much to address in a brief email here, but I believe you’ll be touched by the things that will be most helpful for your relationship. Know that happiness and mutual enjoyment in marriage is possible, and is waiting for you!
Subject: How to find couple time
I’m not sure if this is an issue you mention in your book, but since your bio stated that you have three children, I’m wondering how couples can find quality time for intimate moments, especially once they have children? I’m sure you’re well aware that with children “couple time” becomes very limited. You may tell me to go get a babysitter, and perhaps I’m a little paranoid, but nowadays that seems like a risky option. You hear more and more about terrible things babysitters have done while parents were out on a date, or what care givers have done while parents were at work. Basically, I’m curious to know how does one effectively juggle all the demands in life, especially with children in the home, and still maintain a healthy, loving, and intimate spousal relationship?
Finding quality time can certainly be a challenge with children. But the first step is making your marriage a priority, deserving of your priority time and attention. Intimate time can be found by getting children into a good bedtime routine, so that you still have time and energy available for each other.I’m a big proponent of a date night, but do understand the difficulties and expense of babysitters. Being active in a church is one of the best sources of babysitters. Although my oldest can now babysit a little bit, I still have a long list of good babysitters that I personally know and trust because of my interaction with them at church. You might want to look to church sources for babysitter referrals. As always, be prayerful and in tune with the Spirit to be able to know who will be safe and good with your children. You don’t want to live in a state of fear, or to send that message to your children either. This fear of the “what ifs” might be a belief you’d want to address within yourself. (This is about pulling up the mental weed and planting a flower in its place!)
You’ll find in our book a lot of insight and great ideas to help you build a strong and intimate marriage relationship. The key is to set your priorities and divvy out your time and energy accordingly. A weekly date night ought to be required and scheduled, and/or you could choose a night that is simply reserved for “couple time” once the kids are in bed. With a predetermined day and time, you both can mentally save some of your energy for each other and not let yourself get started on other tasks.
If you’ll be prayerful about it and seek each other’s suggestions I am confident you can find time to make each other a priority. The number one thing parents can do for their children is to give them parents who love each other. A strong marriage between the mom and dad is the basis of a child’s security, and the foundation of their sense of well-being.
God bless you and your wife in your efforts to make each other a priority, and to build a strong and intimate relationship.
Subject: Why won’t you directly address the issue of oral sex?
It is becoming more and more apparent to us especially with your recent “What’s Okay, What Isn’t” articles that, despite your overwhelming desire to avoid advocating or opposing specific behaviors, you cannot continue on the path you are carefully negotiating without losing your audience and your credibility. I suspect that both ends of the spectrum of your readers are becoming frustrated with what they see as your cowardice to “take a stand” on something. And, of course, I am almost certain that 90+ percent of the questions you get about “what is permissible” pertain specifically to oral sex. I cannot see how you can go on forever avoiding it. Why not at least have the audacity to address it directly? What do you have to lose? You’d satisfy the vast majority of your readers if you did. You’ve already made clear that you’re not speaking on behalf of the church, and of course the church has wisely chosen not to speak on these issues either way. But if you were brave enough to come right out and say something one way or the other the impact would be enormous. Do I expect you to do this? No, frankly I don’t. But I do think it is quickly becoming your only escape from the corner into which you have painted yourself.
I can understand your frustration regarding this issue, but I suspect you may not understand some of the bigger issues at play. First of all I have no intention to be the “bedroom police” or the “permission giver” on specific sexual practices, so I will not be commenting on specific behaviors either way. The way I would answer a question for you would likely be completely unacceptable for another couple anyway who would likely be simply different than you with their own set of issues to deal with. This is just one of the reasons there are no one-size-fits-all answers.I have not been cowardice in any way, thus I have not been offended by your inquiry. I have taken a stand, and that stand is that couples must determine the answers for themselves (with the Lord’s help if necessary). And I think I have laid it out pretty thoroughly in both of the “What’s Okay, What Isn’t” articles–Part I and Part II as to why that is the only possible effective solution (see the “Articles” webpage). I do not see any such “corner” that I have painted myself into.
I don’t know why it’s difficult to see why I would never come out and say “I am for this behavior or that…” It would only serve as a battering stick for some spouses to use in “unrighteous dominion” over the other. And it would also probably stop up the few avenues I currently have to help strengthen marriages. I do not think any specific behavior is blanketly acceptable to everyone anyway. I think I make it pretty clear in the articles as to why.
I have specifically referred to oral sex and a host of other similar questions (lingerie, sexual aids, etc.) in some of my articles, but some of the specific references were edited out, thus your assumption that I have purposefully avoided the issues. I am very grateful for the opportunities I have been afforded to publish on this sensitive subject to help couples in whatever way I can in this delicate dimension of marriage.
I will try to address some of the specific questions I have had about oral sex and post them on our Q&A page, since that would cut down on a lot of the questions I get. But basically the answer to most of the questions is to read those two “What’s Okay…” articles and figure it out together with your spouse.
I’m not sure why some couples feel the need for a public validation of what they have already apparently determined for themselves. This seems to be where your biggest frustration is. If couples already know I’m talking about oral sex, or other questions, in the articles, then that should be enough for them to go about determining together what’s appropriate on any question they have.
I think there is some mistaken perception that if I or someone would just come out and say that a specific sexual behavior is okay that all couples will magically lose any shame or inhibition about the behavior. That is simply not how it usually works. I see little benefit to sharing my opinions about specific sexual behaviors, but see much damage to relationships that could occur if I did.
I hope this has shed some light on where I am coming from. I definitely agree that there is too much angst and negativity about sex in general, and am doing my best to change that cultural conditioning. I believe one of my primary directives is to help take sex out of the darkness–out of Satan’s territory–and restore it to God’s light. I do appreciate your email and this opportunity to explain my perspective.
Subject: I just want to cuddle without strings attached!
Sometimes I just want to cuddle with my husband, but it always seems to turn into sex. My husband feels bad when I’m not in the mood, but why can’t we just enjoy cuddling sometimes without it leading to something else. What can I do?
Non-sexual touch, or affection, is a universal human need. Many wives feel frustrated with the lack of it, or that it always seems to have strings attached. On the other hand, many husbands feel frustrated with the lack of sexual touch that seems to be less frequent than they’d like, causing reluctance to not take advantage of any opportunity. Though husbands have a need for non-sexual touch that is just as significant as their wife’s need, the more intense feelings associated with sex make many men overlook the simpler pleasures of affection, preferring to skip that stuff and get to the good part! So, the issue of sexual touch and affection in marriage is often a dilemma for both husband and wife.One suggestion I give to couples is to set aside one night a week just for cuddling, or whatever form of affectionate touch you can both enjoy, with an understanding that it won’t lead to anything else. This mutual understanding makes it easier for both of you to relax, and learn to enjoy non-sexual touch for its own sake. For many women this helps them to disconnect any negative associations they have with touch always leading to something else.
Paradoxically, more affection often helps women to warm up to more intimate interactions because it feeds her emotional needs for intimate connection and closeness. Where many women need some emotional and mental warm-up and preparation time to fully engage in sexual intimacies, this weekly night of affection goes a long way to help her develop a warmer response to her husband’s sexual interests. With that said, husbands must not go into this “affection night” idea with any expectations (even non-verbal ones) or it will defeat the purpose of giving loving touch with no strings attached.
Women must also consider their husband’s needs and willingly suggest another night of the week to be set aside where loving touch can lead to sexual touch. For women, date night may provide the ideal mental and emotional warm-up time they need in order to relax and more fully engage in lovemaking. Having this understanding of at least one night for lovemaking makes it easier for husbands to relax about sex, knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! This planned-ahead occasion also gives the wife the opportunity to mentally and emotionally prepare her heart and mind for a more enjoyable and fulfilling shared intimate experience.
Subject: Why do women let themselves get frumpy?
Why is it that I see so many frumpy looking women especially at church? Most of these ladies would look nice if they would dress up, use a little make up, and lose a few pounds. It’s difficult enough for men (being visually stimulated) to get through the day without having unwholesome thoughts, being bombarded by ads and other media with beautiful, sexy women everywhere. The temptation in the workplace is another issue. Wives can be a strong first defense against temptation by keeping themselves attractive and desirable to their husbands. Wives don’t need to look like models, but they can do wonders by just dressing nicely, using a little make up, and generally being a little more fashionable. What are your thoughts?
Knowing what I know about the visual nature of men, and the readily available temptations, I can see your concerns. I have even had one man tell me that he truly believed the number one cause of divorce was overweight wives. I also know that it can be frustrating and discouraging for women to feel like they have to be beautiful and thin to keep their husbands from straying, on top of everything else they feel they need to be doing.The issue of letting one’s self go, or just not being as attentive to one’s appearance, applies fairly equally to husbands and wives. Many men, as well as women, gain weight and seem to let themselves go after marriage. And I’m not sure how well husbands’ bodies would fare after birthing a few kids! ; )
As a woman I can attest to the extra time and effort it takes to look nice. As I laid in bed one early Sunday morning trying to find the will to get up, after a very late night preparing a Sunday School lesson, I remarked to my husband that it just wasn’t fair that he could be up and ready to go in about five minutes flat, while it would take me at least a half an hour! If I didn’t wear makeup or do my hair I could save myself a lot of time and effort. For many women who might already be feeling overworked and overwhelmed, their appearance might seem to be the only place where they can let something go.
Maybe one thing you could do for your wife is to help take care of some household responsibilities to free up some time for her to put on her makeup, or curl her hair, or even to go exercise. I don’t know how our family would make it to church without my husband’s help doing the morning routine with the children, so that we can all be ready to go at about the same time. Maybe you could genuinely offer to go walking together in the mornings, or whatever you think might be lovingly helpful.
I appreciate my husband’s help in the evenings, so that I can try to go work out some nights. Thankfully he has never made me feel that he was embarrassed or disappointed about my appearance, or that he expected me to get busy and lose some weight (even when I needed to). What an absolutely discouraging position that would be, making it much more difficult for me to find the will or the interest to try to look my best. I wonder how many frumpy women might just be feeling unloved, and hopeless that they can ever look good again, and have quit trying.
Husbands can do much to help uplift and encourage their wives, having faith in them, and encouraging their efforts. One woman told me that her husband tells her every day how hot she is! She told me that because she feels that her husband thinks she’s attractive, she continues to work at looking as good as she can. She said that if her husband ever stopped telling her that she’d probably stop trying and get discouraged very easily.
I do think it is important for each of us to try to look the best we can not only for our spouse, but also out of respect for ourselves. I know that I feel good when I look good. I remember how difficult it was as a full-time mother of young children when I felt frumpy-looking a lot of the time with all the demands and sleepless nights. I know I was grateful to have date night and church to look forward to each week, so that I could remember that I could look decent, and for my husband to remember that he actually did have a cute wife!
For some spouses it might be particularly hard to actually go out and buy something nice for themselves. If it’s important for you to have your spouse wear nicer clothes, then maybe you could lovingly encourage them to go buy a nice new outfit for themselves, or take them out on a date to do so. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Some of my best dresses have come from second-hand stores. But sometimes people need permission to buy or do something for themselves, when they’re not sure if they’re worth it, or if they’re not sure there’s enough money for it.
Marriage is about doing what we can to meet each other’s needs. When an issue is particularly important to one spouse then it needs to be important to the other. But the spouse who is concerned about it can do much to make it more likely that his/her spouse will change. They must hold their spouse in a space of unconditional love and acceptance, creating the best possible conditions where the spouse is most likely to want to change. In this environment couples can best find the desire and motivation to be better for each other.
It’s definitely a tricky situation to communicate your desire for your spouse to take better care of their appearance, while at the same time sending a clear message that you love them no matter what. This ability is key though, for any spouse to be effective in helping the other make any desired changes. Look for and reinforce the positive in your spouse, and you’ll get more of that behavior. If you only see what they aren’t doing or what you don’t like, you’ll just get more of that.
Subject: Safe places to buy lingerie
Is there a safe place to go to buy lingerie on the internet? I’m afraid of running into people I know in stores who may not understand, and online I feel like I am viewing pornography when looking for lingerie.
This is a tricky question. Most every sexual question that could be asked requires some careful personal consideration of yourself, your spouse, your relationship and your vulnerabilities. I definitely recommend seeking divine guidance on this or any sensitive and delicate question. Even the question of using lingerie itself within the intimate relationship is very personal and up to the individual and couple. Lingerie can be useful for women in helping them feel more amorous and sexy. Men tend to be stimulated visually, so lingerie is often a welcome addition to lovemaking. But every couple must determine what they are comfortable with, and what they feel is acceptable within the intimate relationship of marriage.The only truly “safe” place to shop for lingerie is in a regular department store. Thankfully most department stores from Dillards to Wal-mart carry nice lingerie, so you don’t have to shop in questionable outlets. The benefit of shopping in actual stores is not having to see real people dressed in the outfits, but there is that chance of running into someone you know. If a couple has determined that lingerie is an acceptable part of intimacy, and has a conviction of the goodness of sexual intimacy in marriage then they need not be ashamed if they do happen to run into someone they know! It might even be beneficial in helping to overcome unnecessary inhibitions about sex.
Finding lingerie online can be quite tricky. I am not familiar with everything that might be available online, but I believe there are a few Christian sites that use only mannequins to model their lingerie. While I have not reviewed this entire site and every product, this is one site that seems to be the safest so far for lingerie: www.theactofmarriage.com (click on “Lingerie”). Other sites blur their photos to make them as appropriate as possible, but still may be too risky.
While women can be at risk with regard to visual sexual material, they tend to be less susceptible, and may find it safer to shop online than their husbands. Again, every couple needs to be aware of their individual weaknesses and susceptibility to sexual information of any kind, to be sure that it does not detract from or weaken the sexual relationship of husband and wife. The intent of any sexual “addition” to lovemaking should be to strengthen the relationship and allow greater intimate enjoyment of each other.
Subject: I don’t enjoy kissing
Why don’t I enjoy kissing with my wife? I did before I married her. We loved kissing. But I no longer look forward to kissing my wife. I get tired of it after a few minutes. Often, when we make love, we don’t kiss at all. Or rather, I’ll kiss her body, but not her lips. It just isn’t a priority for me. I want to want to relish the intimacy of kissing my wife, of making sure that she is well-kissed, but I simply can’t find any real pleasure out of it anymore. Is this common? How does one recover that delight?
You can rest assured this situation is very common! Kissing and non-sexual touch often experience similar demise after marriage–once we can do more why “settle” for just kissing or for plain old affectionate touch. This may not be the only reason kissing has lost some appeal, but it’s a natural progression for the more explosive feelings of sex to outdo the simpler pleasures. You may have to re-learn to consciously choose to enjoy each stage of the lovemaking “journey” for it’s own sake, rather than rushing on to the “destination.”You might consider doing what I’ve suggested to many wives who miss having that “plain old affection.” Schedule one night a week (or month) for the purpose of re-training yourself to enjoy these simpler pleasures. (This is also one of the steps in the “Sensate Focus” exercises–You can find out more about it in Ch 12 of my book.) If you really want to enjoy kissing again, then let yourself re-learn to do so…!
By setting aside time just for kissing, knowing it’s not “permissible” for it to go anywhere, can help you learn to stay in the moment of pleasure. If needed, go somewhere where it’s possible to make out (like in the backseat of your car), but where it’s not so easy to go further, then it won’t be as much of a temptation. “Kissing only” sessions can be amazingly transforming in a relationship.
Kissing is much more “intimate” than intercourse, therefore it is often easier, less vulnerable, and more comfortable for many people to shy away from kissing. They’d rather intertwine their bodies than their hearts. You can’t hide who you are when someone is looking into your eyes, nor can you ignore really seeing the person you’re kissing when you are focusing face-to-face.
If the “intimacy” of kissing might be an issue, then the emotional intimacy/ friendship between you and your wife may need some work. Unconditional love and acceptance of yourself and your spouse can also ease the anxiety of intimacy. When we don’t fully love and accept our total self (the good and the bad) we are not fully capable of giving our full self to another in an intimate relationship. We will always hold something back out of fear. But we do not have to be dependent on another’s acceptance of us to give our self to another intimately. If we can achieve unconditional love and acceptance of our self, it will matter little what others think or feel about us.
It sounds like you may also have learned to mentally associate “kissing” with being a chore–just like so many women have learned to associate “sex” with being a chore. The steps for both to change are similar. The mental discipline many women need to develop to stay focused within the lovemaking experience is similar to the mental discipline you’ll need to re-learn to enjoy “kissing pleasures.”
Telling your mind to enjoy each kiss, and keeping out the negative mental clutter is key. The mind is a much underdeveloped and underused power. Telling your mind to focus on the enjoyment of every little sensation and touch of kissing is much more helpful than allowing yourself to prove, once again, that you get bored after a few minutes… Remember thoughts are like instructions to the brain, which tell our emotions and bodies how to respond. Consciously choose to only allow thoughts that give positive instructions to the brain. The great ability we each have to train our minds to focus on what we want gives us the power to create any life experience we want. It’s the law of the harvest–what we focus our minds on grows, and keeps coming back to us in the form of life experiences.
If we believe we’ll get bored after a few minutes of kissing then our mind helps us prove ourselves right…we get bored after a few minutes! We have the ability to decide to change that belief to something like “I thoroughly enjoy the intimate experience of kissing my wife, and she enjoys it too,” then maintain focus on that thought for as long as it takes to form new mental pathways that support the belief that you “love kissing and that you savor every moment of it!”
It’s possible that your wife may not enjoy kissing either. Your wife’s experience with and response to making out are definitely factors in your experience with kissing. I know of many women who really don’t like kissing at all. In fact there are some that are really grossed out by it. Many women can’t stand kissing because it always seems to lead to something else. If women would learn to ask (and get) more of the non-sexual touch and affection (including kissing) that they want/need without letting it go anywhere, it would also improve their sexual feelings. Husbands can also plan to give their wives this kind of affection “with no strings attached!”
Sex in marriage is a crucible for personal and relationship growth. What if you knew that your sexual problems held the key to the most intimate, passionate sexual relationship you could ever imagine? I suspect we would all see our sexual difficulties in a different light and would be able to address the issues with greater hope and greater resolve. God bless you and your wife in your efforts.
Subject: My wife talks about stuff during sex
In the few times my wife and I have sex, she talks about all sorts of things and it drives my buggy. Why does she do that?
It’s likely that your wife is not fully aroused or mentally engaged in the lovemaking experience. You can pretty much guarantee if she is still talking about anything that happened that day or what she has to do tomorrow, etc. she is not fully aroused sexually. For women, their minds must “turn on” before their bodies can. Remember that for women sex is a decision, whereas for men it’s a reaction. You must do what is needed for her to want to “decide” to engage. She has to consciously choose to participate before arousal can begin, which is then followed by actual desire. (This is very different from how men function!)A husband can help his wife become engaged in lovemaking by giving her some time to slow down, switch gears/transition, and also help her warm up emotionally by engaging in some conversation. Plan to spend some time connecting before lovemaking even begins. This mental/emotional preparation is pretty much essential for most women. I know men might have a hard time understanding this concept, since they don’t need any “warm-up” time. They are pretty much ready to go at a moment’s notice!
In addition to addressing any negative conditioning a wife may have about sex, husbands can remember the four T’s of the female sexual response– Tenderness, Talk, Touch and Time. She needs to feel tenderness and love toward you, which can be enhanced when you are aware of what specifically makes her feel loved and then do those things. She needs you to talk to her, listen, and connect emotionally. Let her clear her mind and begin to fill with loving thoughts through conversation. Touch. Many women do not receive enough non-sexual touch (affection) that doesn’t have “strings attached.” Within the lovemaking experience they also need sufficient touch/stimulation of the clitoris to become fully aroused. Be sure she gets enough of the kind of sexual touch she likes. (She and you both need to know what that is.) And lastly, be sure you take enough time, or she won’t even get up to bat until you’ve already hit home plate.
I’m sure many men can certainly relate to your frustration. Many wives have driven their husbands buggy a time or two by not switching gears and fully engaging mentally and emotionally! In the middle of the action she might remember she wanted to tell him something and doesn’t want to forget. It’s only if a wife is not fully engaged that she could even think to start such a conversation. But that’s what happens when the body may be present, but not the heart and mind.
On the other side of talking during sex, many women actually need the auditory stimulation of verbal expression to help them fully engage. This “auditory arousal” that can heighten her excitement can be tender words of love, admiration and desire, or it can be expressions of your own feelings of pleasure, but only if she was sufficiently prepared mentally and wants to be participating. Getting her to even want to engage is usually the hardest part! I’m sorry that women can be pretty complex sometimes… But it’s worth the effort to figure her out!
Subject: Husband dislikes lovemaking
My husband and I have been married 10 years, and it is he that dislikes love making…not myself. What can we do about it?
It is becoming more and more common to find men with a lower desire for sex than the wife. This dynamic can be particularly challenging to both the husband and wife. Each may feel particularly self-conscious about this issue in their marriage. Many women have shared with me their feelings of rejection and feelings of failure as a wife. Men whose wives have the lower-desire regularly feel this way, but it is particularly disturbing for women who feel so out-of-the-norm. Men too most likely realize something is not quite right, which can be anxiety-causing in itself. You and your husband are definitely not alone.Low sexual desire is generally categorized into physiological causes, psychological factors and relationship issues (see page 68-69, And They Were Not Ashamed). Some of the more common causes of low sexual desire, particularly in men, are:
- Low tolerance for the inherent anxiety-producing nature of intimacy
- Unresolved conflict in the relationship
- Negative sexual conditioning and inhibitions resulting in guilt and shame, etc. regarding sex
Intimacy can be a scary thing. The very nature of intimacy–emotionally, spiritually and physically–inherently requires a significant degree of self- awareness and self-disclosure, which can be extremely anxiety producing, especially for one who is not used to identifying and/or sharing their emotions. It’s easier to watch TV or work long hours than it is to develop one’s self emotionally and build the level of trust, vulnerability and intimate sharing that true intimacy and ONEness requires.
While some men can hide behind the “physicalness” of sex and avoid the emotional and spiritual dimensions, others prefer to sidestep sex altogether. This low tolerance for intimacy is a deeply rooted source of low sexual desire. With effort and awareness men can break through this barrier by becoming more aware of their thoughts, beliefs and anxieties about sex and intimacy. One good way is to start a “Self-discovery Journal” to begin to identify thoughts and emotions, and to ask questions about one’s self, and then free-write anything and everything that comes to mind, as if opening a closet door and looking inside.
Unresolved conflicts in marriage provide a ready source of resistance to sexual intimacy. One study found that men with low sexual desire often had an angry or domineering wife. This is an area where women can do a self-check to see if this might be an issue. One of men’s common complaints is that their wives are downright mean much of the time. For some men it may be difficult to feel a desire to be intimate with a wife who is often angry and demeaning. Without awareness men can also withhold intimacy (which women are often accused of) when it feels like it is the only thing over which they have any sense of control.
Much of the inhibited sexual desire in men can also be attributed to the negative conditioning that often affects women. The “Good Girl Syndrome,” which is an overemphasis on the negatives about sex, and a serious lack of affirmation regarding the positives or sanctity of sexual relations in marriage, can significantly diminish sexual desire in men. Beliefs that have developed such as “sex is bad or wrong” or “I can’t control myself, so I better not even go there” can contribute to an inhibited interest in sexual activity. Becoming aware of underlying conditioning and our core beliefs is key to overcoming them. The homework in Chapters 1, 2 and 7 may be especially helpful in overcoming the guilt, shame and negative thoughts and feelings one has accumulated about sex.
Subject: Why is sexual fulfillment so difficult for women?
Many women seem to lose their desire for sex after marriage, while men seem to want it all the time. It’s really rotten for a woman to have no desire for sex, but to have to have it anyway. And lack of desire doesn’t always mean having a feeling of shame toward sex either. Men can have an orgasm with the snap of their fingers, while it takes a master mind to achieve it for women. Why did God create men and women this way? It’s not fair.
I can certainly relate to your frustrations. It wasn’t so long ago that I too had a difficult time understanding why God would make physical fulfillment so easy for a man and so difficult for a woman. It seemed to me that the female sexual response was something akin to rocket science! Studies show that nearly 30% of women struggle with reaching orgasm, and there is a significant number of women who have yet to even experience an orgasm for the first time. Can you imagine how men would feel about sex if they rarely experienced a climax? I expect they might feel much the same way you do.I do not believe men have a stronger sex drive, or that women have a weaker sex drive. I believe men and women simply have “different” sex drives, and that we have yet to fully understand our different sexual wiring well enough to comprehend how to create the mutual fulfillment God intended in marriage.
It is true that sexual fulfillment is relatively simple for men and is more complex for women, but women also have a greater capacity for sexual pleasure as evidenced by their ability to have multiple orgasms.
I also agree that you don’t necessarily have to have shame associated with sex to hate it. I would be quite amazed with any woman if she could honestly say she loved to have sex all the time when she never or rarely experienced an orgasm. Feelings of failure may also accompany the sincere, but ineffective attempts to experience the ecstasy of orgasm. Wives that say they hate sex or see it as a “wifely duty” may simply be tired of trying. They may wonder what’s wrong with them or they may develop some anger with God for making sex so difficult for women. These are all understandable feelings.
But over time I have found that there is purpose in all things. While it does take a significant amount of time and effort for a husband and wife to learn how to fulfill each other’s intimate needs, I am beginning to see the wisdom in God’s divine design for men’s and women’s differences. Both husband and wife have an opportunity to stretch and grow in ways that will ultimately create great joy and closeness, as they learn how to become more whole, more ONE–emotionally, spiritually and physically. Women are definitely designed to experience all the joys of sexual fulfillment.
I hope you will get a hold of my book And They Were Not Ashamed and read chapters 3 and 4 that go into great detail regarding the female sexual response, and also chapter 5, which identifies the many sexual differences between men and women. Understanding sexual differences can help couples have greater empathy for each other as they change their thinking from “Why does my spouse have to be this way?” to “How can we make this work together?” I hope you’ll hang in there and know that there is hope. I believe you’ll find it. God bless you in your efforts to find mutual fulfillment in your marriage!
Subject: Wife won’t read your book
I greatly enjoyed your book, but I can’t get my wife to read it. She thinks it’s just another sex book that titillates men and puts women down. I so badly want to have an open conversation leading to mutual understanding with my wife about many subjects in your book, but she feels uncomfortable to talk from the heart. Any suggestions for helping my wife to see the importance of your book?
Your question is a common problem for many husbands. I can understand your wife’s hesitation to read “another sex book”…especially if she thinks it’s just another smut-filled book that will make you want sex more, while she may still be trying to avoid it. There are some things you can do to increase the likelihood that your wife will want to invest her time and energy in this issue, but your wife must somehow come to understand the importance of physical intimacy in marriage and decide that she’s ready and willing to take it on.The best way you can help her come to that realization is to pray for her heart to be softened, that she will see the importance of intimacy–not just for you, but also for her–and have a desire to work on it. You can contribute to creating such an environment by having patience with her, and letting her find the light in her own time and way. I know that is frustrating to the many good husbands out there who just want their wives to enjoy physical intimacy with them, but even as I asked my own husband what he might suggest to husbands like you, he just said to “tell you to pray and hang in there!” I wish I had some simple magic for you.
From my experience, though it was primarily me that took the initiative to overcome my reticence and inhibitions regarding sexual issues, it was my husband’s unending patience with me, and him continually striving to love me anyway, even though I wasn’t meeting his needs, that really gave me the motivation and desire to finally figure out this sex business once and for all! This is a good course of action for any spouse!
Look for the good in your wife. Appreciate everything she does do and try to let go of the mental desire/urgency that she read this book and “get fixed” because I’m sure she already knows things aren’t as they should be. She probably doesn’t like “not liking sex” either. She has likely lost any hope regarding sex, or feels like a failure as a wife, or is simply so inhibited and negatively conditioned about sexual issues to even go there. But I know you and your wife can find the fulfillment in marriage that God intended if you’ll hang in there and trust in God to provide the help and the answers in His perfect timing and way.
Take the things you have learned from reading the book such as: understanding negative conditioning, sex differences between men and women, the intricacies of the female sexual response, the need for women to feel emotionally intimate, close and connected for arousal to occur, etc. and apply what you can to create a warm and supportive environment for your wife. The dynamics of your relationship can change significantly even if only one of you are consciously working at it.
Maybe at some point you could ask your wife if she’d be willing to read the book together with you for a few minutes at night–if you promise it won’t lead to anything…! (That might be something holding her back). Pray to know specifically what you can do, and I believe you’ll get answers. But be patient with her. The last thing your wife needs is any pressure. This is one of those issues that if you can let it go, it is more likely to come back to you.
I hope something here will be helpful. I want every husband out there to feel like he is the luckiest man in the world! I also want every woman out there to not only enjoy intimate relations with their husbands, but also to feel alive sexually and to graciously accept the sexual dimension of the self.
Note: Wives can also apply this information if it’s the husband who is reluctant or uninterested in “reading a book” or working on their marriage.