Okay, so let’s have the talk. You know, the sex talk. The one that makes us all uncomfortable…? Yeah, let’s do that. Specifically, let’s talk about sex in a marriage relationship. This topic so huge and multifaceted, that it’s difficult to narrow it down to just one blog post. There are who knows how many books, articles, Bible passages, songs, etc…written about the subject. And there is a list of books with Amazon links at the bottom of this post if you want to check that out.
The area I want to focus most on are barriers to a healthy sex life. I want to say first that while my husband and I do have a pretty healthy sex life, we are not experts by any means. I’ve read a few books. He’s read parts of a few books. Much of what we have learned over the years is through trail and error…lots of error.
I think the majority of us who are married would agree that men think about sex and want to have sex much more than women. But why is that? Is it because men are sex addicts? Is it because men are “pervs?” Is it because women are frigid? Is it because women are too modest? Those might be some reasons for some people. Those are certainly some stereotypes that we think of sometimes. But really, it’s just how we are made. It’s just how we are wired. Both men and women have to move outside of their own selfishness to be able to be the sexual partner that the other needs. To be able to maintain a sex life that is satisfying to my husband, I have to put myself aside sometimes. And to maintain a sex life that is satisfying for me, my husband also has to set his own needs aside. It’s how it is meant to be.
Think about it. If I only got my way, we’d have sex like once or twice a month. Seriously. That would keep me sexually satisfied. Would it keep me emotionally satisfied and connected to my husband on a deep level? No, but it would keep me sexually satisfied. I’m tired. Stuff is required of me all day. People are needing me all day. Once the kids are in bed, I honestly just don’t want to be needed. I often want to be left alone. That’s the truth.
And if my husband got his way, we’d have sex every day…sometimes more than once. Being tired, mad, hungry, sick… none of those things are deterrents. He can be consumed with work worries and still want to have sex. And let me be clear…he’s not out of the ordinary. He’s not a weirdo. Not at all. He’s just a regular, normal man.
So somehow we have to come to a common ground that we can both live with. And not just live with, but thrive in. We have to come to a place where, given our different needs, we are both satisfied and feel loved and valued. And many people think that this just magically happens when you get married. It does not! It takes intentional work and practice.
So I’ve asked for some friends to give me their input and I think the number 1 barrier to a healthy sex life in marriage is…
1. SELFISHNESS!! Selfishness selfishness selfishness!!!
Most, if not all, of the other barriers can really be resolved if we would just put our spouse first. Before our friends, before our job, before our insecurities, before our kids, before our desires, before our other obligations. Before my own self. I have to love him more than myself.
These next barriers I’ve listed aren’t in any real particular order. Some of these things are more of a problem for us than other things. And these are certainly not all of them. Not by a long shot. These are just the ones that have come up most in the conversations that I’ve had had with people.
Ugh…bless them, but they just come along and throw a monkey wrench in everything! And they don’t mean to. It’s not their fault. But they mess up our bodies. They take away our privacy. They drain us of energy. They cause us a great deal of worry. They leave their stuff everywhere! We have four kids. We get it. But in order for my kids to not destroy our sex life and our marriage, I have to put my husband first. “Put my husband before my kids?!” you say?? YES! The best thing you can do for your kids is to love the heck out of their daddy! Love their daddy like crazy. I think women struggle with this more than men. Now, I obviously can’t put his needs in front of the kids’ needs all the time. But here are some practical things that we’ve done and are doing that demonstrate that our relationship has priority.
- Early bedtime for the kids! And honestly, it’s not early enough. The three little kids are in bed by 8:00 and Jack is in bed by 9:00. We rarely let them stay up later than that. After 9:00 it is mommy and daddy time and they are not allowed to intrude on that. Period.
- Our bedroom is off limits to the kids! You may say…”What?? But we love to snuggle with our kids in our bed! We have family time in our bed!” Nope…not us. That is my room and Phillip’s room. The kids do not come into our bedroom unless they are invited. We have solid white bedding…on purpose! If I want to snuggle with my kids, I’ll do it somewhere else. That room is mine and Phillip’s space. It is our haven. Which reminds me, it’s really messy right now and I need to clean it. That may seem harsh to some of you, but it is a boundary that we’ve made to keep our marriage and our sex life a priority.
- We have regular date nights. This was much easier when we just had two kids. We had weekly date nights back then. Since having four kids, we have to be more intentional about it. We have to hire sitters, ask for help from family, steal away time when we can. It’s so important. Carve out time, away from your children, to exist with your spouse.
- PDA (public displays of affection) in front of the kids! I’m not talking about gross stuff, but if I want to kiss their daddy in my kitchen with them in there, then I will. If they don’t like it, they can leave the room. For real.
Apparently people without kids, still have a hard time finding the time to actually be together without distraction. They work too much, travel too much, play golf too much, get together with friends too much, clean house too much, etc…etc…etc… We haven’t lived without kids in almost 11 years so I can’t even remember what that’s like anymore. But here are just a few practical things we try to do to make time for each other.
- Housework done by 9:00 or not done that night. If dishes and laundry aren’t done by the time Jack is in bed, it can wait until the next day. Are we always good about this? No, but we try.
- My photo editing done by 9:00. It’s a goal that I can’t always reach. I need to be more intentional (There’s that word intentional again.) about reaching this goal.
- We say No to stuff. Can you teach this class? No. Can you babysit my kids? No. Can you do this job at church every week? No. Can you help me move? No. Can you take photos of my dogs for free?? Heck NO! Phillip is a teacher so he’s not required to work 60-70 hour weeks. He’s not required to do shift work. If he were expected to do such things, he’d have more that he would have to say no to. We say yes to what we can, but we also say no a lot. Some would say that we’re being selfish, but putting our marriage first and creating margin in our life to be together is not selfish. And it’s flat out dangerous not to.
How often do you and your spouse actually talk about sex? And I’m not talking about husbands complaining about how it’s not often enough or wives talking about how they don’t want to. I’m talking about really asking hard questions and listening and conversing. How often do you and your spouse do that? Do you text or talk during the day about what’s going to happen once the kids go to bed? What about during sex itself? Do you talk to each other about what is working and what isn’t? That is difficult stuff to talk about. We’ve been married almost 13 years and some of that stuff is still difficult to communicate. I sent my husband a list of questions to answer. He knew he’d be quoted and he graciously answered them anyway. These might be some good conversation starters to have with your spouse.
- How do you feel when I don’t make sex a priority?
A – It makes me feel like I have done something wrong, or that you are unhappy with me about something.
- Does having a good sex life positively affect other areas of your life? If so, how?
A – The quality of our sex life is kind of like a barometer for our relationship in general. If our sex life isn’t good, I don’t feel connected to you and that makes everything else seem out of order. When I’m happy with our sex life, I feel more confident and secure everywhere else. My job becomes more tolerable, it’s easier to deal with the kids, and I’m just in a better mood.
- What mistakes have you made in regard to promoting intimacy?
A – I tend to bottle things up. If I’m frustrated or irritated about something, I avoid it or just keep in inside rather than provoke a confrontation. I know that doesn’t solve anything and it just leads to an explosion when it finally comes out.
- Do you have a difficult time expressing your expectations to me regarding our sex life?
A – For some reason, I feel embarrassed about wanting to have sex all the time. Sometimes I’m afraid that you’re going to look at me like I’m nuts and say “Seriously? Again? We had sex yesterday!” I don’t expect to have sex every day, but it’s on my mind a lot.
- What do you believe I need in order to want to have sex?
A – I think you need to be prepared mentally, emotionally, whatever. If you’re distracted or upset about something (not even related to me) I know it’s not going to happen.
Do you know how important sex is to your husband? On his every day life?? Have you ever asked him? Did you know that you can make him feel more successful at work if he’s sexually satisfied at home? It’s a great and scary responsibility, but it’s also a beautiful opportunity to fill your husband with what he needs to live a productive life outside of the home. I love what he said about everything else being out of order. I have the great privilege of giving him order in his crazy life. What an honor to be able to do that for him! It’s not just sex. It’s not. It’s so much more than that.
5. Our sexual past, our sexual pain, our sexual failures
Oh, this is big and there are books written specifically for each of these. This can cause so much damage for years and years. And that’s why God’s design for marriage is so much better than man’s design. But even if we have failed at God’s design, or if we’ve been failed, there is redemption and healing. I’m sure good help is hard to find, but please seek it out. Your marriage is worth the effort.
- Some CDC research has estimated that approximately 1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls are sexually abused before the age of 18. Do you see those numbers?? That means that there’s a good chance that one of the partners in a marriage relationship has been abused sexually at some point in their life.
- From what I’ve read online, approximately 45-55% of women and approximately 50-60% of men have an extramarital affair at some point in their marriage. I think it’s probably higher. And regarding lust and pornography…pretty much 100% of men have struggled with this at some point in their marriage. I’m certainly no expert on this and haven’t really studied on it. There are some recommended resources at the bottom of this post that can provide much more insight and help in this area.
6. Body image
This is especially an issue with women. Women have a hard time believing in our own beauty. And when we don’t think that our bodies are beautiful, we don’t want to get naked. Plain and simple. And we sure don’t want anybody gazing upon our nakedness in all of its glory. We just don’t. We clam up. We get embarrassed. We want to run away. But men are visual. They want to see, touch, smell, and taste. They just do. And they want to be seen, touched, smelled, and tasted. Sorry if this is too graphic, but it’s the truth. And so here is where we have to let our selfishness go. You don’t want him to look at you? Let him anyway. Men, you want to see her naked all the time? Sorry… you can’t. Use some restraint. We see our own flaws that our spouse doesn’t see. Men, tell your wife how beautiful she is. Women, choose to believe him.
Below is a list of books worth buying/borrowing/checking out/stealing…okay, don’t really steal. I have not personally read most of these, but I’m going to try to start reading through them all, one by one because they are all recommended by people I trust. I’m sure it’ll take me years. But our marriage is worth the time investment and so is yours so look into these books! Also, Family Life puts on a marriage conference that’s really good.
- Sheet Music by Dr. Kevin Leman
- Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll
- Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus.
- Sex Begin in the Kitchen by Dr. Kevin Leman
- Sexperiment: 7 Days to Lasting Intimacy with your Spouse
- Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn.
- Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoker
- Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge
- The Book of Romance by Tommy Nelson
Specifically for healing and hope after infidelity:
- Beyond Ordinary by Justin and Trish Davis.
- Unfaithful – Hope and Healing After Infidelity by Gary and Mona Shriver