As much as I love the comfort zone series I’m doing on Fridays, I know that some women are struggling to even have a sexual comfort zone in the first place.
I felt this way myself for a long time. Because my entire marriage felt uncomfortable, it wasn’t possible for me to have a sexual comfort zone.
It’s ironic, really. Before I began to make some changes in my intimate interactions with my husband, I was pretty much in control of our sex life. I never did anything sexual that made me uncomfortable, but my sex life as a whole was very uncomfortable. Knowing what to expect and being in control don’t actually create comfort, after all. I’ve heard from many women who say that only when their discomfort outweighed their feelings (of fear, anxiety, resentment, sadness, etc.) were they willing to make any changes at all.
Discomfort is often the impetus to growth.
As I look back, I realize that this was true for me. For years, we’d had a constant tension in our bedroom. My husband never knew if he was going to get lucky, so he was usually tense even before he would initiate. I could always tell when he was going to ask, and I would be tense. Even when we would have sex, and on those rare occasions when I would allow myself to relax and enjoy the encounter, we both knew that as soon as we were done, things would get back to normal before the afterglow was gone. And normal for us wasn’t comfortable for anyone.
Eventually, some of the things that had made me uncomfortable (arguing about sex, disagreeing about parenting, etc.) went away. They were replaced by a husband who was depressed and no longer seemed interested in me. I found myself spending time wondering if our marriage would make it. I realized that I didn’t particularly care if it did, and that upset me.
How uncomfortable are you?
Are you uncomfortable in your marriage? Do you know what is causing your discomfort?
Conviction of sin. Some women realize things are uncomfortable in their marriages because they realize that their sexual refusal and gate-keeping are sinful. (Julie Sibert has a great piece on this at Intimacy in Marriage.) Carefully read 1 Corinthians 7:1 – 7 (and then read Paul and Lori Byerly’s “Sexual Responsibility”).
We are to yield our bodies to our husbands. We are not to deprive them sexually. I deprived my husband off and on for many years. While it’s true that I managed to provide him with a physical release at least once a month for most of that time, it was never as much as he needed. I told myself that I was giving him what he needed but no more—but the Bible doesn’t say to give only until your minimum requirement is fulfilled and then take the next few weeks off. A sexless marriage is defined as sex ten or fewer times during a year. Are you in a sexless marriage?
There was no mutual consent in the deprivation. It was all on me. It took me a couple years to come to the terms with the fact that what I’d been doing had been sin. Some women will hear or read something that removes the scales from their eyes, be convicted of their sin, and therein begin to change practically overnight. Uncomfortable in their sin, they stop.
Tension. Do you find that you and your husband frequently argue, including arguing about sex? Do you breathe a sigh of relief when he goes away on business or your period begins, knowing that you have a few days off from being bugged about sex? Do you dread bedtime? Do you make decisions about what to do and wear based on your husband’s desire for sex? I used to dress conservatively around the house to keep my husband from being able to sneak a peek down my shirt. I would bend over to unload the dishwasher only when he wasn’t in the room to ogle my butt. There were times when our tension was constant. And not only were we tense, I noticed our kids responding to the tension as well. They occasionally asked, “Are you and Dad getting a divorce? Why are you fighting? Why don’t you want to sit in the room with us when Dad is there?” Are you tired of the tension, just wanting life to feel better? Are you uncomfortable enough in your tension to want to change?
Lack of tension. For me, it was when we stopped having tension that I began to worry. Have you stopped arguing about sex? Are you just coasting along, barely interacting with each other? Has your husband stopped asking you for sex? (Read “Just Because He Stopped Asking Doesn’t Mean He Stopped Wanting” at Hot, Holy, & Humorous.) Has your marriage hit a point of apathy, with neither of you really seeming to care about how things are going? For me, this was the big discomfort that kicked me into gear. When we were angry and resentful, I knew that we cared. When we stopped caring enough to even argue about sex, it froze me in my tracks. I began to hear a death knell for our marriage, and that was what finally made me uncomfortable enough to do something different.
Unclear boundaries and priorities. Are you starting to spend too much time with a male co-worker, either in reality or in your mind? Is your husband spending more time than usual on a hobby so he can be way from the house and from you? Do you find yourself fantasizing about someone other than your husband just to get through sex? Is your husband spending time watching porn? Do you find yourself wondering if your husband might ever actually stray from you? A sign that one of you is taking your mind or heart outside the marriage is a red warning flag. If nothing else makes you uncomfortable enough to pay attention, this should.
People are noticing. One woman shared with me that it was when people outside their marriage began to ask how things were going that she knew something had to change. For the most part, even when those inside the marriage know the marriage isn’t good, it still looks okay to those on the outside. But when you have a pastor, a neighbor, a co-worker, another mom on the soccer bleachers, or your mother-in-law asking, “Are you okay? Is your husband okay? How is your marriage doing?” it’s a sign that your marriage no longer looks okay from the outside. When we deprive our husbands of sexual intimacy, they struggle. If things are really tough, they’ll even seek support. My husband went to talk to our pastor several times. I was embarrassed at the thought that the pastor knew that I wasn’t having sex with my husband. For some women, the thought of that humiliation alone makes them uncomfortable enough to change.
Sadness. I remember moments of deep sadness. I would wonder, Is this what marriage is supposed to be? Will it ever be any better? Why does everyone else seem to make it look so easy? How do we even begin? How do we know if it’s time to give up? The heaviness in my heart was part of the discomfort that led to my growth.
Lack of control. I know a lot of women who will admit, “I’m a bit of a control freak.” They have structure, guidelines, and rules for every area of life. Kids must be in scouts and one sport. Trade shoes for slippers when you come into the house. Sex happens only when the kids are asleep and the light is off. If you are used to a certain amount of control and suddenly start to feel like something is off, this can be pretty unsettling. It may be tempting to add more rules to try to regain control because the lack of control makes you uncomfortable. But maybe that change in feeling you’re in control is a sign that something else is what really needs to change.
Are you uncomfortable enough in your marriage to want to make some changes? What will it take?
If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. If the marriage you have is not the one you know is possible, are you uncomfortable enough to take a first step?
Are you ready to stop being uncomfortable? Take the first step and move toward a comfort zone of intimacy with your husband.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net