Can You Learn How to Have Sex (Again)?

Are you ready to (re)learn how to have sex?


My husband’s biggest complaint about our sex life wasn’t the infrequency; it was my lack of real engagement and participation and the lack of genuine intimacy between us. After years of maintaining a wall between us, I was terrified to connect with him without that wall.

When I began to work on our sex life, I had a lot to learn and relearn.

Being sexually intimate involves more than the sharing of bodies. It also involves the sharing of an experience. Being sexually intimate with my husband requires me to be quite vulnerable. In order to relax enough to enjoy sex, I have to completely let my guard down. After years of sexual resistance and avoidance, I didn’t know how to do this.

I would read the Song of Songs to immerse myself in thinking about the joy of a healthy sex life.

One verse in particular threw me:

His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me.
Song of Songs 2:6

It sounds so basic, doesn’t it? It should be simple-but even the thought of lying with my husband like this made me panic. It wasn’t just the actual mechanics of sex that got to me. It was the intimacy of lying so close and intertwined.

You may know that you need to make some changes in both thought and deed. You may have great intentions. But when sexy time arrives, those great intentions take you only so far in the face of those ingrained patterns of avoiding intimacy.

How do you move from “I think I can, I think I can” to “mmm, this is lovely and amazing”?

How can you learn to have sex again?

Although this may sound silly on the surface, to those of us who’ve spent years avoiding sex, it is an important and difficult question.

Fortunately, you can take small steps to help you become comfortable with the physical reality of sexual contact as well as with the intimacy that develops as you begin to lower your walls.

The process I suggest here is something that will work best if you talk about it with your husband first. You both will be learning some new ways (and relearning some old ways) of interacting with each other. Going through the process together will help build even more intimacy.

It’s a good idea for you and your husband to agree on a couple things before you get started:

  • Plan to follow these suggestions two or three times each week. Schedule appointments if you need to.  Frequency is important in helping you become comfortable
  • Each step has you set a timer and do something for a period of time. Agree that if either of you feels aroused and wants an orgasm, you will accommodate that need in some way after the timer goes off. If your husband has been sexually famished, even the lightest non-sexual touch and intimate contact may be very arousing for him. You may be surprised, too, at how your own body and mind respond to these things. Because it is important to learn to value the intimacy that can grow between you, hold off on the orgasm until after the timer goes off.

As I’ve suggested with other processes, plan to work on each of these steps for several weeks. Become comfortable with each step, and then take some extra time to learn to feel confident and enjoy the activity there. Comfort and confidence are the things that can help you feel good about your progress and motivate you to keep going.

  1. Have some light so you can see each other’s eyes. Lie on your bed naked. (If you aren’t quite ready for naked, wear light lounge wear or have a sheet over you.) Set a timer for fifteen minutes, hold hands, and—talk. Talk about things that are not hot-button issues and that don’t require decisions. Reminisce about your honeymoon. Talk about your next vacation. Ask each other questions. Share funny things that happened during the day. It’s kind of like a date, only you’re naked.
  2. Add non-sexual touching to your naked conversation—and bump the timer up to twenty minutes. Don’t just hold hands. Caress faces, exchange back rubs or foot rubs, or trace words onto each other’s arms and guess what the word is.
  3. Add kissing to your touch, only limit yourselves to non-sexual parts of the body. Keep having that conversation, though. That’s part of building intimacy.
  4. Add sexual touching and exploration, and set the timer for thirty minutes. If you’ve take several weeks with each of the first three steps, you should be ready for this by then even if it’s hard to imagine now. This should not be orgasm-focused sexual touching, although if one happens, enjoy it. Instead, try to just explore each other’s bodies and see what kinds of touch, and where, your spouse likes. A sad truth is that after so many years of avoiding sex and genuine intimacy, your bodies may be quite different than they were earlier in your marriage. You may be learning entirely new bodies in some ways.

Although I didn’t go through a process that was quite this methodical, I did work on doing all these things with my husband. (I just paid attention to the clock instead of setting a timer.)

My biggest problem with sex wasn’t the sex itself. It was the naked vulnerability. Learning to be emotionally intimate while physically naked was a huge step in giving both of us the intimacy we needed in our marriage.

In fact, even now, when we are embarking on something sexually new or I am feeling particular vulnerable, I find that being together naked while we talk and touch each other helps me reconnect with that intimacy we share.

So . . . are you ready to (re)learn how to have sex?

Are you ready to (re)learn how to have sex?

Image courtesy of marin at

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7 Comments on “Can You Learn How to Have Sex (Again)?”

  1. “Learning to be emotionally intimate while physically naked was a huge step in giving both of us the intimacy we needed in our marriage.” This sentence resonates with me. Due to the deeply-ingrained, negative associations I have with sex, my tendency is to be EITHER emotionally intimate OR physically naked. Combining the two is painful.

    The steps you offer should help us be BOTH emotionally intimate AND physically naked and replace those negative associations with positive associations: naked with my husband = safety, security, understanding, acceptance, etc.

    That puts us closer to being both emotionally intimate and sexually responsive with positive associations. I think that might be what husbands are longing for because it’s what they experience so naturally.

    1. Ding, ding, ding! That’s exactly it. Replacing the negative associations with positive ones is why this can work. When I was able to be naked and vulnerable both physically and emotionally at the same time, I was able to experience spiritual intimacy as well.

  2. Thank you, Chris. You have provided a bridge of sorts. I envision my husband on the other side of a body of water, yearning for me to join him, and me pacing the shore, unable to find a safe way to cross over. This helps immensely.

  3. Hi Chris, this is amazing! But… did you and your husband ever fight in the beginning? I struggle with sexual intimacy and he struggles with emotional intimacy which caused a fight the first time we tried this. We ended up stopping after 10 minutes and didn’t speak much during that time. Any advice? We have only been married for 2 years.

    1. One of the things I wish I’d done differently in making my changes was that I didn’t tell my husband what was going on. So when I would want to take even ten minutes to just talk, he thought it was just me trying to avoid sex or pick a fight. So yes, we fought in the beginning because my husband didn’t even know that I was doing this intentionally. Over time, though, when he saw that my attempts at conversation would consistently result in sex, it got easier.

      If you and your husband can make it only ten minutes and you don’t talk, then try five minutes and just physically be next to each other holding hands. Then add talking. Then bump up the timer. Start where you are and bump things up more slowly.

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