I used to lie awake at night, after sending my husband back downstairs to drown his rejection in whisky or after having given in to another bout of passive sex, wondering what had happened.

Sex used to be fun. I used to think of myself as a nympho. Even before I had experienced an orgasm (a year and a half into my marriage), I enjoyed the closeness, the guilt-free naked togetherness. After we’d been married for a few years and had our children, although my drive was affected by the exhaustion of parenting and we simply didn’t have much time, once I got into, I still enjoyed sex.

“What happened to me?” I would wonder, lying there, unable to close my eyes lest I see the sadness in my husbands’ eyes again. “Why do I hate having sex so much?” There were times when I would spend several hours anticipating sex and feeling excited about it, and the wrong word or expression or gesture from my husband would not only shut down any arousal I’d been having, it would elicit anger and disgust in me. And when we would have sex, I would usually lie there and wish it could just be over so I could get back to my reading or daydreaming or fuming or whatever had been interrupted by his request.

I’ve since come to realize that it was never about sex as much as it was about the marriage. Add a couple bouts of extreme pain during sex due to gynecological medical issues to relationship problems, and you’re bound to have some trouble. Even understanding this, I would like awake, wondering what had happened that had made me hate sex. Even though it wasn’t really about sex, sex was an expression of what was wrong in the marriage and it was one concrete thing that could be addressed.

When my heart began to open to changing my sexual interactions with my husband, my dislike of sex was a big hurdle. Wanting to do the right thing doesn’t make it easy to do the right thing. And as I realized the importance of a mutually enjoyable sexual interaction, I became more frustrated by my feelings about sex.

I had to work at recapturing the joy of sex. Like everything else, it was a process, and progress was slow at first. At first, I had to remind myself to take deep breaths. I had to become aware of when negative thoughts and feelings were flooding my mind. I had to train myself to remember that sex was good, sex was Godly, my husband loved me, and this was the most effective way to help my husband feel loved. It didn’t take as long as I expected for the negative feelings to mostly go away.The more I reminded myself of the positive aspects of having sex, the more relaxed my body and mind were–and those are both important in setting the stage for enjoyable sex again.

Several things worked together to make sex fun. Intentionally purging myself of the negative thoughts and feelings was huge, obviously, but it wasn’t the only thing at work. As my husband had sex more and could set aside his stress about whether he would get lucky with his wife, his approach toward me relaxed. He became more teasing than desperate. It was easier for him to take time to make things enjoyable for me. The more he felt loved by me, the easier it was for him to show his love to me. The more we both felt loved, the better our relationship was outside of the bedroom. And the more loved and relaxed with each other we both felt, the more adventurous we felt with each other. It was a spiral, with lots of strands working together to grow the experience exponentially.

About six months into my efforts to reform myself, we found ourselves home alone during the day. After years of having sex in the dark, as quickly as possible, with no true intimacy and little enjoyment on either part, we found ourselves on the floor in the computer room of our house. In broad daylight, we each gave in ways we’d never experienced. It wasn’t the sex acts (yes, we enjoyed several different activities that morning) themselves that were so meaningful, it was the generous and giving attitude we both had toward each other. I remember lying on the floor, with my husband embedded between my legs and in my heart. It was the first time in our marriage when I fully felt we were making love rather than having sex. It was the moment I knew healing was really happening and that things would be okay.

We continued to have some ups and downs in our sexual journey (we still do–we’re works in progress), but that experience became a watershed moment and a touchstone for me. When negative feelings started to well up, I could reach back into my memory and pull that day up to remind me of just how wonderful sex could be. It was the benchmark against which possibility was measured.

It was a while before sex was good more often than it was not. God gave us that day to encourage us, to remind us of what He had in store for our marriage. Since then, we have had other sexual interactions that have far surpassed this one in intimacy and sheer pleasure. This one remains firmly lodged in my heart as a reminder of God’s promise to my husband and me.

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