Dear Sister in Christ,
Your husband has sent me an email that just about breaks my heart.
You’re probably thinking, “Well, of course he did. He’s always complaining about our sex life. You’re a sex blogger and probably don’t understand what I’m going through anyway. He probably wants you to tell him how to get me to give him more sex. Why does he have to make sex into such an issue anyway? Why can’t he just leave it alone?”
I’d love to sit down with you, with some coffee and a yummy treat, and just listen. Since I can’t do that, I figured I could write you a letter. My guess is that you’re as miserable as your husband is, even if it seems to be for different reasons.
A few years ago, my husband could have written practically the same email as I got from your husband—but this isn’t about me. The reason I wish I could sit down with you is because I have a heart for hurting women, seeing as how I’ve been one much of my life.
If I were sitting with you in real life, we would have our coffee and treats and chat about life stuff. You’d tell me where you grew up and what’s going on in your life. I’d complain about housework and tell you about how wonderful and sad it is to watch my kids become adults.
And then, because sex is why your husband wrote to me, I’d try to guide the conversation to your marriage. And I’d ask you some questions. I would tell you it’s okay not to answer me, that the answers aren’t for me. They’re for you. I just want you to take these questions into your heart and mind.
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Do you know why sex is an issue for you? What are you thinking and feeling when you refuse sex or insist on keeping the lights off or won’t perform oral sex for your husband? I’m not talking about the reasons you tell your husband when he asks you about it. I’m asking you what your real reasons are.
For me, the reasons I gave always had some truth: I was tired, I didn’t feel good, I had my period, all he ever seemed to want me for was sex, etc. But the real reasons, the deeper reasons, really didn’t have anything to do with those things. Sometimes, they didn’t even have anything to do with my husband. For me, sex was an issue because it required so much emotional vulnerability. My childhood, adolescence, and early adult years taught me not to trust. My inability to trust became such a part of me that I often forgot it was there—but it was. I was afraid to trust my husband. I was afraid of bonding to him too much I was afraid that if I had sex and gave my whole self to him, I might start to need him—and then if he left, I would completely fall apart.
Maybe this resonates with you, or maybe you have completely different reasons. Maybe you’re afraid. Maybe you’re punishing him for something you’re afraid he might do.
No matter what you tell your husband, do you know inside yourself what the real issue is inside you?
Have you ever set aside your own reactions and your frustration with your husband’s sexual advances to really wonder what’s going on with him? Do you lie there late at night and wonder why your husband can’t let go of sex? Do you ever think about what he really feels?
My husband, who isn’t especially good at recognizing his own emotions, much less talking about them, was eloquent in sharing his feelings about the lack of sex in our marriage. He told me he felt emasculated. He felt unloved. He felt lonely. He felt alone in his marriage. I always had a response ready for him, and it usually began with, “Well, if you would only . . . “ or “Maybe you’re the one who needs to change . . . “ I always assumed my husband was trying to tug on my emotions only for the purpose of getting sex. Why did it never occur to me that his words were truth?
What does your husband say about how the state of your sex life affects him? Do you assume he is just saying that to get sex, like I did, or has it occurred to you to consider the words as his truth? What if he is telling the truth?
Are you taking care of yourself? Women are really good at giving to others and putting themselves—and sometimes their husbands—last. If you’ve been feeling depressed, have you talked with the doctor? If you’re on an anti-depressant, are you on the right one? (Zoloft and other SSRI’s are libido killers; fortunately, there are some better options. Wellbutrin is what works for me.) Are you getting enough sleep? If not, what can you let go in your life to get more sleep? Who is feeding you spiritually?
I worked full-time when my kids were little, so I had a huge dose of mama guilt about spending time with my husband when the kids were awake. I was the nursery coordinator at church, and then that was replaced by a Wednesday night kids group and teaching adult Sunday school. Trying to be a good mom and church member while working full-time meant that I never had time for myself. I was so busy serving others that I rarely was able to simply soak in God’s presence and let it feed me. My mind was always running through several different to-do lists.
Are you running yourself so ragged that you simply have nothing left to give? What can you let go for a season in order to be more refreshed and able to be there for your marriage? Who do you have in your life to just wrap arms around you and hold you while you let go of sorrow and stress?
Are you tired of fighting about sex? Do you feel worn out sometimes? Do you ever wonder what’s wrong with you that you can’t just have sex like other women seem to do? Does it ever feel like you end up spending so much time and energy on avoiding sex or preventing your husband from making an advance? Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you just let it go, even though you have no idea how to actually do that?
I would sometimes lie in bed at night while my husband was downstairs drinking his refusal whisky, feeling like I’d fallen down the rabbit hole. How did I get here? How did our marriage become this? If I’d just agreed to have sex in the first place it would have taken half the time as our stupid fight did. I’d feel like a bad person, but I wouldn’t have any idea how to start. How do you reboot a marriage after all these years? Will it ever get better?
Does the state of your sex life wear you out and weary your soul? How bad does it have to get before you are willing to do something about it?
Are you working on your marriage at all? Maybe your husband has asked you to read some blogs. Or maybe he’s asked to do a study with you. Maybe he’s asked you to seek pastoral or professional counseling with him. Maybe you’ve thought to yourself that maybe you should do something. Maybe you’ve even agreed to some things your husband has requested.
It was really easy for me to agree to something—and then look for reasons I couldn’t follow through. I preferred to avoid making any effort on my marriage. I’m not sure why. I was afraid I might learn that I should never have gotten married in the first place. I was afraid I’d find out I was the wrong one in the relationship. I worried that I would just cave in and become a doormat kind of wife that I’d promised myself I would never be. I wanted my husband to love and accept me as I was, and I was afraid that making a significant change would change me somehow.
As I said earlier, my guess is that you aren’t a whole lot happier in your marriage than your husband is. You have so much anxiety and tension about sex. What if you were to really put some time into working on it, just to see how it goes? What is the worst that could happen if you give it a genuine try? Seriously. If you tried, what is the worst possible thing that could happen as a result?
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You may feel like you’re all alone. I mean, who can you really talk to about this stuff, right? Even if you have good Christian women in your life, when it comes down to it, intimacy is hard to talk about. I have always been close to my mother-in-law, and while I could go to her about many things, I just couldn’t bring myself to talk to her about having sex with her son. And the women at church? Well, they seemed like such better Christians than I was and I was afraid they wouldn’t really understand the feelings I was dealing with. Being selfless sounded so hard to me, and they seemed to have it all figured out. It never occurred to me that they might understand.
And the sad thing is that in so many other areas, my husband was the one I could talk to—but I couldn’t talk to him about this, because he was biased.
I’d like to close out this letter by sharing some things I’ve learned—the hard way, of course:
- For your husband, sex is far more than a physical release. He wants to have joyful sex with you because it is the thing that makes him feel closest to you emotionally. This isn’t a character flaw. It’s the way God made him.
- Your husband loves you—ALL of you—more deeply than you can imagine.
- If you decide you want to change, you can. You can start right now. You don’t have to become a sex tigress overnight. Just get started, and keep on moving.
- Making sexual changes can be hard work at times. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. You know what else? It’s completely worth it.
I will respond to your husband’s email. I’ll suggest that he pray for your walk with Christ. I’ll recommend that he work on growing as a husband. I’ll pray for both of you. And then I’ll click the Send button, with tears in my eyes for his heartache and for yours.
Dear Sister, I wish I could wrap my arms around you. The best I can do is send you some virtual (((hugs))).
Please know that I’m praying for you. If there’s something in particular you’d like me to pray about for you, know that you are welcome to write me back.
With much love,
Image courtesy of Iamnee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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