“I hate sex,” Shelly told me. “It makes me angry to hear you even suggest that I’m supposed to be enjoying it. I’ve been married 23 years and have never enjoyed it. Frankly, I do it because I’m supposed to.”
I hear from women like Shelly quite often. They feel ripped off, like they’ve been cheated out of something they’re supposed to enjoy. The message that sex is a gift from God almost sounds insulting. Instead, they view sex as the gift they must continually, and begrudgingly, give to their husband.
To some degree, many years of my marriage could be described by that same sentiment. I didn’t hate sex, but I certainly dreaded it. I resented the fact that my husband’s pleasure had to come at the expense of my pain. But as a woman who longed to be a godly wife, I determined before the Lord that I would meet my husband’s needs. While God was probably pleased with that attitude, it certainly didn’t represent the true healing he wanted to do in my heart and in my marriage.
On this journey, God has taught me—and is still teaching me!—what true sexual intimacy can be. Every woman’s story is different, so I’m not offering a simplistic formula that will guarantee a miracle in your bedroom. But I do believe God is able to bring healing into every woman’s heart.
Address the Obstacles
It’s important to start out by addressing some common barriers that prevent women from enjoying sex. While some men want to have sex every three hours and others may want to do so once a week, almost universally men find sex pleasurable. This is not true for most women. Female sexuality is far more complicated, and obstacles to sexual pleasure typically fall in three categories: physical, relational, and emotional.
Sexual response is complicated. It involves many functions of the body, including the endocrine, circulatory, skeletal, muscular, and reproductive systems. That means a lot can go wrong. For example, an underactive thyroid can destroy sexual desire and response. An imbalance of hormones will do the same. Medications like antidepressants and even decongestants can impact sexual function.
Physical obstacles to sexual pleasure may also be difficult to diagnose, partly because physical pain can have a psychological root. Women who experience vaginismus (pain during intercourse) have a learned fear response to intercourse, causing the vaginal muscles to tighten. Even your OBGYN may not be able to explain why sex always hurts or why it started hurting after you had your second baby.