Face the Fear


Over the past fifteen months, I’ve frequently been asked why I decided to change how I approached sex.  What I’ve often wondered, though, is why it took me so long to get to that point?

Since writing this post a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking a great deal about how much I have walked in fear throughout my life. As I think back on the time leading up to my decision to work on sexual intimacy, I clearly see why it took me so long.

The reason is simple: I was afraid.

Sex on My Mind

For several years before I realized how much I had been hurting my husband and made a commitment to change, our sex life had been on my mind.

My husband and I would argue about sex or have one of our serious conversations about it. I would focus on my own emotional hurt and strengthen the walls that held him at bay.

For the next few days, I would spend a great deal of time thinking about sex. I would wonder what was wrong with me that sex had become such a battleground. I had always enjoyed being a sexual person, and even though sex didn’t often lead to an orgasm for me, I loved all the other sexual feelings.

Why did I have this huge emotional barrier up between my husband and me? Why couldn’t I figure out how to deconstruct what I had constructed? Why couldn’t I simply let go?

Every time I would think about the possibility of doing better with sex, I felt the physical sensations of fear. Thinking about making changes in sex triggered a flight-fight-freeze response, whether I was with my husband in the midst of a discussion or thinking about it alone in the car.

I suppose this sounds silly to some people: after all, how hard can sex actually be? There was part of my own mind that thought the fear was ridiculous, too—but that didn’t change the reality of my fear.

Fear of Change

What did I fear? Lots of things, I suppose:

  • A loss of the comfort I found in routine and knowing what to expect. What would life be like if sex weren’t in its assigned compartment?
  • Exposing my true self to my husband. What if he decided he didn’t love me once he knew me? I felt so unlovable anyway that I was pretty sure that would happen.
  • My husband’s sexuality. Whenever he persuaded me to try one new thing sexually, it always seemed like another something was just around the corner. If I gave him what he wanted (say, sex once a week), then how long would it be before he wanted sex three times a week? I was afraid that if I encouraged him to feel more sexual than he already did, he would keep pushing and I would never, ever be enough.
  • Being proven wrong. If I made the effort to change and it actually made a difference, then I would have to admit I’d been wrong all those years. I didn’t think I could bear that.
  • My own feelings. I was afraid that if I allowed myself to fully experience my sexual feelings, I would unleash all sorts of other feelings, too. My sexuality was tangled up with feelings of self-esteem, my value in a relationship, and even my faith. If I began to untangle one piece, what else would spill out?
  • Failure. What if it turned out that I really couldn’t do sex in a way that made my husband happy? I would have proof that I was a failure as a wife and as a woman. I would rather fail for lack of effort than have proof of my shortcomings.
  • Success. What if I made an effort on sex and it actually worked? What if I ended up happy? How would I know what to do with a happy marriage? It was an unknown, so it scared me.

Even before I knew how wrong I was to withhold sex from my husband, I actually wanted to work on sex—but I was too afraid.

Just thinking about making sexual changes scared me. This meant that before I could think about how to make all those changes, I first had to face the fear.

The Fear That Made a Difference

So why did I finally change? Why did I finally face the fear?

I would love to say that it’s because I found courage. Although this journey has required a lot of courage, I didn’t get an extra dose that gave me the boost I needed to get moving.

My husband had become depressed. Our kids were in their teens, and I could see glimpses of the times my husband and I would be alone together after the kids left. We had little friendship left. Although we enjoyed spending time together with friends, we didn’t enjoy spending time with each other.

The future I saw was bleak—and I was afraid that after the kids left, the surface of our marriage would dissolve just as the core of it had seemed to.

My fear of the future in front of me became bigger than my fear of change.

Is fear holding you back from even thinking about the possibility of working on sexual intimacy in your marriage? Do you know what you fear?

Fortunately for me, not only was my fear of the future bigger than my fear of change, so is God. I didn’t get an extra dose of courage—but once I saw what I needed to do, all I needed to do was reach out to God to help me through it.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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28 Comments on “Face the Fear”

  1. Oh my word, Chris! This spoke directly to me. I have tears rolling down my cheeks. What is it that keeps me from admitting to fear? Pride? Why is it so hard to stop hurting the one I love? My own ego? Changing means I have to admit that I have been wrong, that I have hurt the man I love over and over and over. How can I do that without going into further depression and a worse feeling of self-esteem? What will change look like? Will I become like those girls I looked down on in junior high and high school? Dear God, I need Your help!

    1. Debbie, I am on the same journey you are–just a little further along. Admitting I was wrong was so very, very hard. It was also freeing, because it gave me permission to be different than I’d been in the past. I no longer had to worry about whether trying something would be seen as proof that I’d been wrong all along. Becoming sexually uninhibited with my husband took time, but it where I am now on this journey–and there is great freedom there, too.

      Bless you for reading and for asking yourself some hard questions. I know how hard it is. I will be praying for you to reach out and hold God’s hand as you try to answer these questions.

      1. So, my fear is that if I admit I have been wrong and confess a desire to change, I will fall back into my habitual pattern and fail. Then husband has the ability to hold me accountable, tell me I’m wrong and another fight and more depression. It sounds so much easier to hang on to how it has been. At least we know what to expect and how to protect ourselves from hurt. (Selfish? Yes! Wrong? Yes! Safe? Yes! Safety is a key need.)

        1. Yes, selfish. Yes, wrong.

          Just take one step at a time.

          I want to ask, though . . . is your depression under control? For me, it was shortly after I went on the right anti-depressant that I was in a mental place to be able to start making the changes I did. If you are not using medication, do you know what the signs are of worsening depression? Does your husband know? If fear of deeper depression is getting in your way, then a first step might be to address that fear.

        2. But also, yes, “safe”, but not happy.
          Thank you for your concern, Chris. My depression is not clinical. It is under control. I use the term depression as a catch-all phrase for fatigue, weary, heavy-heart, loss of motivation and depressed emotional state from my usual “always looking for the positive” attitude. At one time it was much worse. This is a maintained level of “married life is not what we expected/hoped”. If you will, (as I guess is the root of my problem) I also have this under ‘control’. How’s that for a controlling personality?

        3. I’m glad to hear it. You mentioned depression in a couple comments, so I wanted to be sure that didn’t get ignored just in case you’re talking about clinical depression. It’s hard to let go of control, isn’t it?

  2. When I first started to read your blog, among others, I felt like this was foreign territory. I was proven wrong. Even though I allowed frequency to flourish in our marriage, I put a stop/hold on a couple of things (acts) that I would not do.

    Since that time, I have introduced one thing, to our marriage bed, that I previously refused to do. What freed me was knowledge. I’m a scientist by trade, so I’m always saying, “Prove it to me.” I did much reading about this one thing I would not do. I now know how wrong I was to say “No” to this act. This very act has been incorporated into our marriage bed, to the delight of my husband. I also get such joy from giving pleasure to my husband.

    Thank you for your courage to share and encouraging others. Bless you, Dear.

    1. Good for you! Even after I began to work on sexual generosity in many areas, there was one thing that I absolutely refused to do. It took me about six months of research and understanding my fears, and then I took the plunge. Working so hard at just that one thing and now being able to bless my husband with that have blessed me in return.

  3. @Debbie, I am praying for you as well. (((((Sister hugs.)))))

    Fear has always been a big struggle of mine. I think I feared if I didn’t control things, all would fall apart and I would be hurt even more than I already was.

    I also think the root of my fear came down to really not trusting and believing God and what the Word said. We live what we truly believe, no matter what our mouth says. I didn’t really believe He would take care of me, otherwise I could have let go of my control in my marriage.

    1. Thank you, Janna. I suppose you’re right. It’s not just pride or ego involved, it is a fear of losing control. So why do I need to control? I say I trust God, but when it comes down to it, I have such a hard time giving up control at this level. I get the first part of Genesis 3:16 when part of the curse for Eve’s sin was to be pain in childbearing. I’ve always wondered what the second part of that verse means, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Is it about control? The other part of the curse is that we as women desire control in the relationship, but that is not God’s design as Adam would now rule over Eve and pass that down through the genetic code like sin? Again, God, please help.

      1. I think the “desire” does have something to do with control.

        You can do this! It is not easy, but it is so worth the fight to beat your fears! When I made the decision to change, I experienced freedoms I never imagined. I know you will too. Press into Jesus and let the Holy Spirit fill you and lead you.

        I will be praying for you, is there anything specific you would like prayer for?

  4. I have gotten so much out of your blog, and you have really helped me along my own journey. Fear is an awful thing. It is fear that has hindered me in so many areas of my life – holding me back, being afraid to just step out and live life. I too am afraid to what will happen when Baby Girl leaves the house, but I am feeling less afraid of that fact today than a few years ago. The very thought brought on such anxiety, now – well, now I’m almost excited at the prospect of hubby and I enjoying our retired years together. And that tells me I am constantly moving in the right direction. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7, but it is up to us to claim this promise and start living it out. One small step at a time. Once again, thank you.

    1. You’re so welcome. Thank you for your lovely comment. I never thought I would be happy to have my kids move out of the house, but I am looking forward to that a great deal now!

  5. The Lord has led me to your blog, and in His perfect timming I need it! I’ve been encouraged with your transparency to reveal what you’ve been growing in. There are times I want to be fixed quick. For example. I know that my fear trickles into every thought and interaction through the day. It’s like I have to be praying and working on myself and I’m tired of it. It’s so self focused and self consuming that I miss so much. I love The Lord so much and I hate my flesh and the sin in me that entangles me. It’s hourly battles and now that I verbally made the commitment to be more sexualy available it’s more repenting. Repenting that I’m anxious for nothing, repenting on not putting God first in our marriage, repenting that I don’t desire to be with my husband, and the list is very long. It’s vexing my spirit. Please pray for me to be a testimony of His grace. I fail miserably.

    1. I will pray for you. Bless you for making the commitment to be sexually available. I would like to encourage you to visit the New to this blog? page. About halfway down the page, I’ve provide a list of some resources. Look around a little bit, see what’s a good fit for you, and let your heart be open to the words you read. May you find peace and joy in this journey.

  6. I will pray for you too, Heavy Heart. It’s truly amazing what happens to our hearts when we let go, and let God. We all are in a constant state of change. I celebrate with you today because, from this day forward, you are willing to make your marriage a reflection of God’s kind of love. Change is hard to do but it will be worth it. I pray that the Lord will continue to direct your every path. Blessings to you.

    1. Thank you Far above Rubies and Forgiven for the prayers. Philippians 1:6 is what rings when you said we are all in a state of change. His grace carries us through from faith to faith.

  7. Wow! This post is fabulous Chris, you truly have a gift. I am a victim of a twenty five year sexless marriage and still confused as to what is really going on in my wife’s head. If I wasn’t sure that our sexual problems are a direct result of her narcissistic unloving parents I would be unable to tolerate the pain and just leave her. But her defense is exactly as you said! It is a endless cycle of flight, which when fails turns into fight and blame, on me of course, which when I am completely loving and compassionate and accept all blame, turns to freeze, where she says nothing at all as I ramble about my suffering. Eventually I have nothing more to say. Which accomplishes nothing because nothing changes.
    I quit approaching her for sex years ago and we have had zero sex in two years now. A few times a year to zero is not so difficult. Especially when you realize she doesn’t want sex anyway. She seems very happy now and I try to be as loving as I can without anything physical. Nobody has any idea of our problem. She is of course against therapy.
    I hope you don’t mind the unintended consequence of this blog. I need for her believe that I will not stay in this marriage without some effort to change.

    1. The intended consequence of this blog is to help women in their marriages. If you don’t plan to stay without some effort from her, then I would ask that you think carefully about how to communicate this in a way that helps your wife feel loved and that it is not just about your sexual needs. If she had narcissistic unloving parents, then she faces a constant uphill battle. You leaving because you don’t get enough sex simply validates what she already thinks about herself because of her parents. Stress what the marriage needs and what she needs.

      If you haven’t approached her for sex in years, how is she supposed to know this is even a need that you still have? I would say that although not asking may keep the peace and guard your own heart from the pain of rejection, it is ultimately an unloving choice. You are withholding a part of your heart from your wife (all the while holding it against her that she isn’t meeting the need you aren’t communicating).

  8. Thank you for your advise and drive! 6:37 am, are you kidding! Please take a nap and get some rest, we need you out here. LOL!
    I really believe I have been giving her what she needs. My stopping sexual initiation was for me to see if she really desired any sort of sex at all. She just doesn’t and never did. She claims she loves me and I am a wonderful husband. I just can’t see how she could love me but never, and I mean never in 25 years, has she had any urge to please me in bed. It was all she could do to just allow me some time with her limp body.
    In your case you admit that fear of not changing became greater than the fear of where you thought your marriage was heading. Why do you think more love and attention to her needs will be fruitful when that’s not what motivated you to change? It hasn’t worked yet.
    However, your advise is solid and sound, and i will keep trying fulfill her needs!
    God Bless You.

    1. I didn’t say that more love and attention to her needs would result in change. What I suggested was that when you communicate that you need to see some change, you do so lovingly, with her needs in mind.

      You stopped initiating because you wanted to test your wife. You learned that she doesn’t desire sex. What are you going to do with that information? Many women don’t desire sex until they’ve become aroused. It simply isn’t on their mind. It has nothing to do with love for them. (I know it may sound foreign to you.)

      Would your wife agree that you are meeting her needs? This isn’t the magic key to unleashing her sexuality. However, if you are putting pressure on her to make a big change, it doesn’t hurt to make sure you are coming from a position as a husband who does meet his wife’s needs.

      And yeah, I moderate and reply to comments at weird times

  9. I just stumbled across your blog, and certainly the Lord was directing my steps, even on the Internet. I could have written so much of the start of this post myself. And yes, it is FEAR! Not fear of sex, exactly, because we do at least make the physical connection. It’s fear of… what–losing control of myself, liking it too much, having my heart injured?? The thing is, we were sexually active with each other before marriage, and I was not at all afraid when it was wrong. Why do I feel like I have to protect myself (and against what?) when it is right and should be amazing and truly intimate and fun? I don’t know what happened. Now I don’t even like him to look at my naked body, but if he purposely doesn’t look, I don’t like that, either. …I think about this constantly. There are other things, but it is mostly a self-preservation instinct that keeps me from loving him with reckless abandon, and I can’t figure out why. He’s crazy about me, he’s good to me, and he’s been faithful for more than 25 years. I don’t ever refuse; I make myself available because it’s right and because I realize I am the only person on earth who can fill this need and desire of his. But he knows I am only doing it for him. He would be the happiest man on earth if I enjoyed sex with him enough to do it for me, too. (Why don’t I want to make him the happiest man on earth??) I need to fix this. (But it’s so scary.)
    I was disappointed that your post ended where it did. What was your first step, once you decided to change? What did you do next? And how did you continue?

    1. It was hard for me to completely let loose. It required me to open my heart completely and absolutely. I was terrified–but I will tell you that the complete lack of inhibition in the marriage bed has taken us to a new level of intimacy.

      Click on the New to this blog? link at the top of the page. You’ll find links to the posts that describe my earliest steps there.

      Welcome to the blog and to this journey!

  10. Just came back here to say thanks, Chris. 🙂 I read your “new to this blog” entries (and many others!) and actually got the courage to try some things and LIKE it. I can see some of the same marriage blessings coming that you have mentioned, and the paradoxical reward of sacrifice. Already things are changing, and I am very grateful.

      1. Just saw your comment, FAR. Thank you for your encouragement! When that sense of self-preservation creeps back in, I have to make a concerted effort not to let my mind linger there. My husband said recently, “I don’t know what you ate, but I like it!” 🙂 We’ve been married 27 years, and I’m no longer resigned to it just being “the way it is.” Hooray! That is a huge victory.

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