How Do You Eat an Elephant?


Work on sex like you would eat an elephant--one piece at a time.

A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of how overwhelming it can be to face the need to work on sexual intimacy in our marriages.

When we are in a habit of withholding sex from our husbands—no matter why the habit began or whether we’ve even been aware of it—the challenge can be daunting.

The Tasks, the Mountain, and the Elephant

For some of us, it is a huge enough hurdle to learn how much our husbands hurt when we deprive them of the full freedom of the marriage bed. As soon as that hurdle is behind us, we face two major tasks:

  1. Change the habit.
  2. Work on the things that led to the habit in the first place (whether those are relationship problems, our own heart or sin issues, medical difficulties, the view that sex and sexuality are worldly instead of godly, or trauma.

When I came to understand the depth of my husband’s hurt, I felt like I had just crawled up a mountain. For a moment, I closed my eyes to soak in the realization that I had reached a new place, a new understanding that would be good for my marriage. I praised God for having gotten me to the top of that mountain. Then, I opened my eyes to see a whole new vista of other mountains in front of me.

It was hard to know where or how to start changing my habits or working on the roots of those habits.

As I think back on the mountain I saw in front of me, I am reminded of the question, “How do you eat an elephant?”

The answer? “One bite at a time.”

We can easily be overwhelmed by the mountain of change that dominates the view in front of us. It is a huge mountain, after all.

Just like you might eat an elephant one bite at a time, you climb a mountain one step at a time. You can work on sexual change one bit at a time.

Eating the Elephant

How do you eat the elephant of your sexual refusal?

  1. Pick a place to start. You might want to pick the place that will be easiest to chew so you can begin your task with something you’re pretty sure you can accomplish. Maybe you want to start at the toughest spot so you can get it over with. My first task was to work on the area that I thought would have the biggest impact on my marriage. I began with the area that my husband had addressed the most with me—fully participating during sex.
  2. Open your mouth. Take a deep breath. Breathe in the presence of God. Say grace and know that you will be blessed in the effort you are about to undertake. I sometimes think of my journey of change as taking one deep breath at a time.
  3. Bite. Sink your teeth into your task by stepping out in faith and doing what is needed—even if it doesn’t make sense or you aren’t sure you bit at the right place. If you don’t take that first bite, you’re just going to be sitting there staring at that elephant on the plate in front of you.
  4. Chew. Repeat the biting motion over and over until that piece has become less intimidating. I stopped chewing so many times. I would realize that I was letting my mind wander during sex, and I would have to remind myself to resume what I had been doing.
  5. Swallow. When you swallow food, it becomes part of your body. Likewise, as you work to develop new habits in your sexual relationship with your husband, those habits will slowly become part of who you are. You will absorb the experiences as you retrain your mind, body, and heart to become more sexually generous.
  6. Savor. Take a moment to truly enjoy each bite you swallow, each step you take, each change you accomplish. It was frustrating to get to the top of a mountain and see all the new mountains I had to climb—but I made sure to celebrate the fact that I’d gotten to the top of the mountain.

If you’re looking for more on how to actually work through this change, you may find this post helpful.

Take Heart

I know how overwhelming it can be to stare at a mountain of change that we need to climb—and with sexual refusal, the whole time we’re climbing that mountain, we need to also be working on understanding why that mountain is even there in the first place so we can make that mountain smaller.

The prospect of sexual change can be overwhelming. We can easily feel discouraged before we even try.

I found encouragement to keep going by thinking about what was waiting for me further along my journey: full intimacy.

Take heart. You can change!

Don’t look at the pile of food on your plate, the height of the mountain to need to climb, or the enormity of the task in front of you. Instead, take one small bite, one baby step, one tiny bit of change at a time.

Find encouragement in the thought of what awaits you: the feeling of being sated and no longer hungry for intimacy, the beautiful view waiting at the top of the mountaintop, full intimacy with your husband.

Be encouraged. Know that God is with you in your pursuit of full intimacy in your marriage bed.

I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

(No actual elephants were harmed in the writing of this post. I can’t say the same for metaphors and clichés, however.)

Work on sex like you would eat an elephant--one piece at a time.

Image courtesy of tiverylucky at

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5 Comments on “How Do You Eat an Elephant?”

  1. I think what is hard for me is when I want the sex to be more intimate and slow.. and he wants it quick and dirty… I was raised to view sex very strange.. So anything other than the “normal”, I sometimes feel like its wrong, I am dirty or a slut, or what have you.. I like sex! But my own demons make it hard sometimes…

    1. Tiffani there’s nothing wrong with wanting more intimacy . Sex is supposed to be intimate. Your husband needs to be considerate of you too. Sex isn’t supposed to be some cheap act where a guy has his way with you and doesn’t even think about your feelings. If you feel like a slut it might not be all your problem. Sometimes guys treat us in way where they are objectifying us even if they are not aware. Sometimes there’s a reason why we come out feeling cheap. I’ve been in your shoes before. I think our worldly society and their views have contaminated the Christian world in a lot of ways. God created sex for both people. I would talk to your husband about it if I were you .

  2. This is not to the guys who are roughing it out but a comment in general. I think Christians really need to educate their kids in their responsibilities in marriage and what sex is and not just focus on their girls but their boys too. People focus so hard on telling girls to wait Til marriage sometimes and forget about the boys . When I look back I. Now I remember the very problem I face in my marriage now with being pressured into things I don’t want is the same thing I had to face as a young adult. My husband is the only person I’ve ever been with but I ended up pregnant at 21 a few months before we were married. It was my intent to wait until I got married. We were together three years before and the entire time I was constantly being pressured to have sex despite repeatedly saying I wanted to wait . I was pressured Til I finally gave in. That same kind of immature pressure boys use carries over into marriage and they have probably never been counseled on how they are to treat a girl before.God held me accountable of course for my part in the mistake , but he held my husband accountable too for the pressure to sin. Now my husband isn’t a Christian but I’ve heard of girls having the same problems with boys from Christian homes . Pressuring is not what Jesus does although He is all powerful. He invites us and waits patiently for us to knock and choose Him because we want to . This is not to any guys who are really being treated bad this just relates to my own problems and what I’ve realized

    1. Faith i have a question I would like to ask. it’s not really related to blog subject but more on your story that I find similar with mine.

      1. Feel free to post your question, iryna. I don’t know if Faith is following comments on this blog post, but if she sees your question she can decide whether to answer it.

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