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Performance Anxiety

When our sex life didn't fit the newlywed cliché, I was determined to fix it.

Newlyweds don't answer the phone, are late for work, and rarely leave the house because they're so busy making love. Newlyweds have around-the-clock sex on kitchen countertops and in Jacuzzi bathtubs. Or at least that's what I expected.

Yet my husband, Dan, and I never made love on countertops or in hot tubs. We were always at work on time. Most of my bridal shower nightgowns sat unused, and late night love-making sessions were rejected for popcorn and a movie.

From the start, we made love only one or two times a month. While friends and relatives teased us about the "hottest" time of our lives, I maintained a grim mental calendar, tracking the sexless weeks. Six months into our marriage I convinced myself, We're having sex problems!

Trying to spice up things, one night I put on a silky nightie. For several minutes I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, rehearsing my grand entrance into the bedroom. When I emerged and struck my most seductive pose, Dan looked only confused.

"Doesn't that itch?" he asked, distracted by a lacy patch.

Immediate mood kill.

Next I decided I'd interrupt whatever he was doing and climb onto him as if he were a jungle gym, hoping to catch him "in the mood."

"Could I just have some space?" he pleaded.

Concluding that I wasn't causing the problems in our sex life, I adopted a new mission—discover what was wrong with Dan.

I perused the sexual reference section of our church library, jotting down questions I thought were key to unlocking his issues.

"Honey, I want to talk about sex," I said one afternoon. "Tell me about your relationship with your father."

I admit that didn't produce the desired result.

"Dan, I want to tell you something," I said several evenings later. "When you say no to sex, it feels as if you're saying no to me."

His expression softened and he squeezed my hand. "I never thought of it like that."

Since I had his attention, I added, "And when we do make love, it feels as though you're giving me pity sex. It's not that good."

Again—not the right thing to say.

I had nothing left to do but pray. As I admitted my inability to fix the situation, God helped me shed my anxiety. He showed me our sex life wasn't the problem—my expectations were.

Well aware that males typically have a higher sex drive, I was bewildered by Dan's failure to fall into that pattern. By demanding sex (a real mood killer for him), I'd made the situation only worse. When I began to pray, God showed me that I should bring him into every aspect of my life and marriage—even sex! I ditched the worldly expectations I was holding onto from movies, conversations with friends, and Cosmo magazine articles. As my expectations changed, so did my sex drive.

I found I preferred offering love to Dan as a gift for the terrific man he is instead of trying to seduce him as if he were an actor from a steamy movie scene. It was much more satisfying—and fun—to create our own spontaneous enjoyment in the bedroom rather than studying a pop culture magazine like it was a sexual owner's manual. Plus, the inner peace and confidence I gained through prayer was more attractive to Dan than any piece of slinky lingerie I could have worn.

On a practical level, Dan and I realized we'd been working extremely long days without getting the exercise or balanced meals we needed as healthy individuals. When Dan added a run into his day and I lifted some weights, our energy for each other skyrocketed.

When I released my expectations for having constant, wild, passionate "newlywed" sex, I saw we really didn't have a problem. Now when I assume something's wrong, I stop and think, Where's the real difficulty? Within the situation itself or my expectations?

While there still aren't any countertops or Jacuzzi tubs in our sex life, there aren't any lofty expectations, either. So even in our plain-old bedroom, with our plain-old sheets, in plain-old t-shirts, the lovemaking is extraordinary.

Dan and Judith Bari have been married 1 year and live in Minnesota

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Intimacy; Marriage; Newlyweds; Sex
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 2006
Posted September 12, 2008

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