Are you in an emotional swamp at the thought of making changes in your sex life?

Words cannot adequately describe my emotions when I realized I needed to work on sex.

Some of these emotions were due to my newfound awareness of how deeply our sexual disconnection had hurt my husband. I felt a heavy burden of guilt for having caused him so much pain. My heart hurt for him. I felt like I had completely failed at marriage and being a wife.

Swamped by Emotion

Most of my emotions, however, were related to what I was facing in making changes regarding sex.

  • I knew I would be reliving my failure every time I did anything to work on sex.
  • I had to accept feeling unloved for the rest of our lives. I wanted him to love me more than he wanted sex. I had to give up on that dream. Once he got his way, he wouldn’t even need to try with me anymore.
  • I hated my body. I was too heavy and stretch-marky. Surely he would realize at some point how unattractive I was. I preferred quick sex in the dark. My unattractiveness would stay hidden, and he wouldn’t have enough time to see how unappealing I was.
  • I felt angry that I was choosing to become a doormat. I was caving in, doing something I hated because I was supposed to. Why shouldn’t my husband have to suffer, too? Why should he be the only one to get what he wants?
  • I was bitter and miserable because I knew I would have to work hard just to do something I didn’t even want to do.

I saw a lot of difficulty and sorrow ahead of me, with no hope for any good returns for me. The most positive emotion I could identify was that I felt resigned.

I felt like I was in an emotional swamp, flooded and overgrown, filled with unpleasantness and danger lurking just below the surface.

In the Swamp

My recent post about intentionally appealing to your husband’s visual nature was an odd post for me to write. For the most part, it was fun. I did a quick internet search for ideas and pulled others out of my head. I even tried some of them out for Big Guy to make sure they would work.

Yet . . . lurking beneath the surface of fun was the memory of those long-held habits, thoughts, and emotions.

Even as I wrote what I thought was a fun and sexy list of ideas, I was aware that for some women, the thought of doing even one item on that list would be overwhelming. I know what thoughts I once would have had: If I do that, he’ll expect sex. Or he’ll think that I want sex. He’ll see me in a way I’ve worked hard to avoid. He’ll expect me to do it again some time. I’m just not that kind of woman.

I’ve been in touch with several women recently who are bogged down in that same emotional swamp I recall so well. They acknowledge that sex is a problem. They admit that they aren’t doing a good job of being wives. They can’t imagine the possibility of enjoying sex. They feel the overwhelming unfairness of having to be the one to change who they are in their marriages.

These women have been so much in my heart the past few days. That swamp is far enough in my past that only in rare moments does it threaten to pull me back down. I am in a marriage that is on solid ground now. But I carry memories of that swamp. I know how slow-moving the water can be. And I know how hard it is to take those earliest steps out.

If the thought of working on sex leaves you feeling mired down in a morass of emotions, it can be hard to face the actual steps necessary to work on sex. When you feel overwhelmed, heavy-hearted, angry, and bitter, and maybe a little guilty, it is hard to know what your first step should be—not to mention actually taking that step.

It can be hard to face the actual steps necessary to work on sex. Click To Tweet

So you sit, feeling resigned to the fact that you should make some changes in sex but unable and maybe a little unwilling to actually do anything.

That emotional swamp is not a pleasant place to be, is it?

Leaving the Swamp

If you find yourself in an emotional swamp as you think about changing your sex life, the thought of taking even a small step might be too much.

Make your first step something that has nothing to do with sex. Let it be something that helps your heart.

  • Make a point to smile at your husband at least once a day.
  • Use a loving tone of voice in speaking to your husband.
  • Pray every day for God to heal both your hearts in your marriage.

Three simple ideas, and none of them are about sex.

Make your first step something that has nothing to do with sex. Click To Tweet

If you aren’t yet ready to take a sexual step, could you try one of these?

My very first small step was this: I stopped rolling my eyes when my husband hinted at or asked for sex. It was sort of sex-related, but it was one very small step.

Choose one of these non-sexual steps. Do it long enough for it to become a habit and to become comfortable and confident doing it. (For me, this took around six weeks.)

On Solid Ground

The treasure at the end of the journey to change sex isn’t to be able to have sex easily. It is to have a healthy and joyous marriage in which you and your husband feel intimately connected. Sex is one part of this, but it is not the grand prize. Full intimacy is the grand prize.

The journey to this treasure begins with one step.

If you are too overwhelmed to take a sexual step, take a non-sexual step. A step is a step is a step. With another step, and another, and another after that, you can find yourself out of the swamp and on your way to a marriage on solid ground.

Photo credit photojock a

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14 Thoughts on “Out of the Swamp

  1. IntimacySeeker on July 19, 2016 at 10:03 am said:

    Thanks for acknowledging the swamp. I struggled with the previous post because the terminology–“eye candy”–triggered my frustrations around objectification. Different terminology–“intentionally appealing to your husband’s [God given] visual nature”–feels much less threatening to me. Self awareness is so important in this journey. When we can recognize we are in the swamp and identify why, we can more easily re-establish our footing on solid ground.

    • I understand about objectification with the term “eye candy.” When I think of eye candy as something I am choosing to give rather than something that is imposed upon me, it feels fun and sexy rather than objectifying. But that right there is part of my own self awareness. I knew the post would be problematic for some women, and when I saw that it was getting a lot of traffic, I knew it was important to follow it up with something that acknowledges how difficult it can be to read and think about the kinds of things that can make us feel objectified in our marriages.

      • IntimacySeeker on July 19, 2016 at 3:38 pm said:

        I’m pretty comfortable doing most of the things you mention. I don’t really think about it as choosing to give something. It’s become a natural part of our sexual dialogue. So I’m pondering why seeing the term in print triggered such a strong emotional response for me. Perhaps I associate the term with objectification on a societal, cultural scale.

        • Perhaps I associate the term with objectification on a societal, cultural scale.

          This would make sense. “Eye candy” is often used to indicate not just a visual appeal but also a lack of actual substance. (Sort of like one of my grad school colleagues who referred to a hunky guy who wasn’t too bright as “body by God, mind by Mattel.”)

        • sandi on July 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm said:

          Hi IS, just wanted you to know I had a similar reaction though I’m also comfortable doing almost everything on the list. I think it has to do with the idea that if I don’t make myself into “eye candy” he’ll just look at the eye candy that is everywhere on the street. Like it’s my responsibility to keep him looking at me instead of his responsibility not to indulge his visual nature where he has no right to do it.

          My hackles went up right away and yet I do recognize that I do have some responsibility in it because I’m the only women he can indulge his visual nature with and feel good about it.

          It’s a mix of feelings for me.

        • I think it has to do with the idea that if I don’t make myself into “eye candy” he’ll just look at the eye candy that is everywhere on the street. Like it’s my responsibility to keep him looking at me instead of his responsibility not to indulge his visual nature where he has no right to do it.

          Where does this idea come from? It was the farthest thing from my mind as I wrote the post. It was more “your husband enjoys looking at you, so make the most of it by being sexy on purpose”–sort of like if someone were to tell Big Guy, “Your wife loves chocolate, and handing her a bar of Hershey’s is just fine–but if you really want to give her something to enjoy, make sure it’s Ghirardelli.” It’s still from him, but I’m going to enjoy one way more than the other.

        • sandi on July 23, 2016 at 7:57 pm said:

          I’m not sure where that idea came from. I wasn’t meaning to imply you were saying that in your post. It was just a knee-jerk reaction to the term. Maybe fear because at 50 years old I can sometimes feel more like an eyesore than eye-candy. 😉

        • I had one of those knee-jerk reactions today when Big Guy said something about my body jiggling. 🙂

      • Would it help to think of it as something that is desired, as blessing him. I have an on-going denial story dealing with “candy.” Wife used to make the best fudge in the world, the best you’ve ever tasted. Don’t take my word for it, just ask the people who used to pay $15 for it every Christmas. )We home-schooled our kids and Wife made Christmas money with her fudge.) Then one day she read an article that made her think about all the butter and sugar she put into her fudge, and decided that it was just too unhealthy, and so stopped making that delicious fudge candy.

        I love her fudge candy and would love to have some; nope, it’s not good for us. Something I like, something I would enjoy, is denied me because she doesn’t think it is good for us.

        • IntimacySeeker on July 25, 2016 at 8:12 am said:

          Thanks for sharing this way of thinking about this. I’m revisiting my reasons for no longer wearing lingerie. I understand it’s something my husband would enjoy. The question is why? Would he enjoy seeing me in lingerie because he loves me or because media have taught him to do so? Media have powerful, unhealthy influence on our young people and they do immense damage. Girls, boys, women, and men are taught to objectify women. Purchasing and wearing lingerie feels like I’m participating in that. Thinking of myself as eye candy feels likewise.

  2. Charlie O on July 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm said:

    When I was in high school I heard a speaker say that love is the SUSTAINED direction of one’s WILL toward ANOTHER’S GOOD. It is about DOING what the other person needs and/or wants. We live in a time when what we feel has become too important. DELIBERATELY doing loving things is a powerful liberator from negative emotions. Keep on keeping on!

  3. InitmacySeeker on July 28, 2016 at 3:28 pm said:

    “This would make sense. “Eye candy” is often used to indicate not just a visual appeal but also a lack of actual substance.”

    I’ve been thinking about this. I struggle with an either/or mentality that was drilled into me in my youth:
    One is either a girly girl or a smart girl.
    One is either feminine or strong.
    One is either a good mother or successful in her business.
    One either likes sex or deserves respect.

    If I’m “eye candy” I’m not worth much. And if my husband enjoys the “eye candy” he thinks I’m not worth much. And since I know I’m awesome, I can’t possibly be “eye candy.”

  4. IntimacySeeker on July 29, 2016 at 12:21 pm said:

    The awareness is a crucial first step. Positive self talk could help. I’m thinking about ways to frame the statements. I don’t think I’m at a point where I can say femininity and beauty are valid on their own. I feel I can embrace my femininity and beauty AS LONG AS I’m intelligent, industrious, resourceful, compassionate, influential, and therefore, deserving of respect. So even with positive self talk “AND” statements, there is a hierarchy, and femininity and beauty are on the lower tier.

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