I was doing it all wrong, I realized yesterday on my drive home.
It took me years to figure out how to think about sex.
Early in our marriage, I thought of sex as a thing I was still trying to figure out how to do, a reminder of my failure as a woman. In my mind, it was still a thing to conquer. Even once I figured that out, though, I wasn’t thinking right.
When my kids were in the “I always have so much to do and never enough time, and my body and mind just can’t keep up with them, not to mention my marriage or my job” season of my life, I thought about sex as something on my to-do list, something I needed to get out of the way so I could move on to the other things I really needed to do. It was something that needed to be done because my husband wanted it.
At some point, my husband began to express discontent with our sex life. We both thought I had a low libido, because I was just never interested. I tried to pick up some pointers from magazines—Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, and Cosmo. I would read tips like “dress in underwear that makes you feel sexy” and “try to think about sex throughout the day.”
I immediately dismissed the sexy underwear tip. There was nothing that made me feel sexy in my mama body. Besides that, underwear would show too much of features I didn’t like, and even basic boring white bras were a strain on the budget. Body image got in the way of sexy underwear.
But thinking about sex? I was pretty sure I could do that. So I gave it a try, off and on, for years. My husband would point out that he felt less important to me than the kids. He was right; he was. So thinking about sex would help me remember what he wanted and that he was supposed to be a higher priority.
The To-Do List
I would be in the shower in the morning, thinking about what I was going to wear for the day and what I needed to do when I got home from work. The list would go through my head: do dishes, fill out forms for kids’ school, look at topic for Bible study, make grocery list, and have sex. There, I thought about it. While I was at work, I would inevitably be asked by a colleague what I was doing that evening. I would typically respond with, “The usual—laundry, cook dinner, grade papers, make lunches for tomorrow . . . ” and I would mentally add have sex. On my drive home, as I was decompressing from my work day and gearing up for my work at home, I would make a point to remember to think about the fact that I would be having sex that night.
Much to my surprise, it didn’t work. My husband was still unhappy about our sex life, and I was unhappy with our “discussions” about our sex life—so I was willing to do something to make it better, as long as it was something that could fit into my life. My husband would ask me, “Did you think about sex today?” I had, but it didn’t make me look forward to sex. It didn’t help me enjoy it any more. It didn’t improve sex for my husband, either, since he knew that he was an item on my to-do list that I was checking off. Even when I ended up enjoying it, sex was a chore for me. Thinking about sex just reminded me of one more thing I needed to get done before I could go to bed and get some sleep. Why didn’t it do what the magazines had said it would do?
By the time our kids got older and my sleep needs had changed, we had laid down patterns in our marriage. Sex was something my husband didn’t have enough of and that I didn’t often feel like giving. But every now and then, I would try to think about sex throughout the day—and wonder why it never, ever made me look forward to sex like it was supposed to.
Sex Is for Me, Too
Yesterday, I figured it out. Our marriage bed has seen an upswing in activity (at my request—go figure), so I knew it was pretty likely that something sexual would be happening last night.
This week has brought a lot of stress at work. Yesterday as I tried to get some work done at my desk, my mind kept drifting to my husband. I was thinking about how much I looked forward to the comfort of his arms.
On my drive home, I found myself thinking about sex. I thought about what I could be wearing that would make my husband’s eyes glow. I imagined how he would respond. I thought about what I might ask him to do for me to both relax me and build me up to a sexual release. I smiled and squirmed in my car all the way home, anxious for us to be together.
It occurred to me that I was thinking about sex and that it was helping me build anticipation. Why is it working now when it didn’t work before? I wondered.
The difference is this: I had learned that sex was for me just as much as it was for my husband. In the past, I would be thinking about his interest in sex, wondering what activities he would want, and being able to cross him off my list of things to do. In the past, sex wasn’t for me at all. Even when I began my journey of change, I was improving the quantity and quality of sex—to make my husband happy. Eventually, I got to a point where I was making the changes because I understood that sex was good not just for my husband, but for our marriage.
Now, I have finally come to embrace the knowledge that my sexuality (and my husband’s) is for me, too! God created me with a sexual body. He gave me skin that shivers when it is caressed. He gave me a clitoris that is filled with glorious nerve endings that serve no purpose other than my physical pleasure. He gave my husband various body parts that can be used to help me experience pleasure, just as my body can do the same for him.
Accepting God’s Gift
The very act that defines marriage is the thing that makes us one flesh. When my husband and I are one flesh—physically, sexually, emotionally, and physically—as we both fully participate in sexual activity with each other, I feel more whole than at any other time in my life.
It is easy for women to let things interfere with fully embracing our sexual selves. We have baggage from past relationships. We have body image issues. We struggle with sexual pleasure or experience pain so we learn to avoid sex. We are products of teaching from church or parents that say “good girls don’t” but never the teaching that should say “good wives do.” We see the world’s sex-drenched approach to life, and in an attempt to not be of the world, we avoid our sexual selves. We were sexual outside of marriage and felt impure and ungodly so try to do everything differently once we are married. We fear letting go sexually because we aren’t able to fully trust.
So much gets in the way of us seeing ourselves as sexual creations of God, but that is exactly what we are. God created us as sexual beings, and it wasn’t so we could just pack it away in the back of the closet and pull it out when chores are done or on special occasions. Our sexuality is part of who we are all the time, just like we never stop being human or stop being women or stop being who we are. It is God’s desire that we fully unleash this aspect of who we are with our husbands. Sex brings great pleasure to each of us, and the act of sharing that pleasure is a glue that bonds us closer together in our marriages.
All those years that I saw sex as something primarily for my husband, I was rejecting one of God’s great gifts to me. I was thinking about sex all wrong. I’ve now learned to see my sexuality as part of who God created me to be. Finally, I got it right.
And it is very, very good.
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