Q. I am coming to you completely desperate for answers. My 29-year-old husband and I (I'm 22) have been married almost a year and a half and have had sex maybe twenty times. I have tried to find information on why this is, but all I find is information on lack of female sex drive. My case is exactly the opposite. My husband never wants sex. I waited to be intimate with anyone until my husband, but he didn't. He doesn't understand the importance of this intimacy to me or how it affects every other aspect of our marriage. I am miserable and frustrated most of the time. I feel completely unattractive and disgusting, despite his constantly letting me know that it's not me and that he is very attracted to me. His actions certainly show differently. Please help me.
A. Louis: Yours is an unusual, but not unheard-of situation. We occasionally counsel couples whose pattern is like yours. There are some men who have lower libido and a once-a-month pattern for intercourse seems to satisfy their needs.
There are two considerations that are important, however—things your husband needs to consider. The most important is your sexual desire and the frustration you're experiencing. It is healthier for you to have both the release of an orgasm and to enjoy a sense of intimacy. This is true physically and relationally, and he should be providing that for you. It sounds like you've tried to communicate clearly about your feelings, but you might explore with him what his feelings are in response to your frustration. Often men feel threatened by any suggestion of their mate's dissatisfaction.
That brings up the second issue for consideration: his sexual interest and libido. There are many possibilities for his lower drive and for most males they are scary to look at. Denial is usually the first line of defense. It just doesn't feel right to a man to admit he may not be sexually adequate to meet his wife's needs. We all like to think of ourselves as real studs (whatever that means).
If he were willing to talk openly with you that would be a place to start. You can talk about your sexual histories. What were the attitudes in his family of origin? Was he sexually abused? What is his experience with masturbation? How has pornography impacted him? What premarital experiences did he have? There are many life events that can affect a man's sexual drive through guilt or anxiety. He may even have low testosterone level, which a medical evaluation would reveal.
If he's unwilling to discuss these issues with you, perhaps he has a male friend he'd risk it with. Ultimately it would be helpful for you to go together to a competent counselor. One way or the other, do something to move the situation forward. The status quo seems to be creating too much tension for you.
Melissa: This is a hard thing to bring up, but I am wondering if you need to take a good hard look at yourself. Get a woman friend to help you see if there are things about you that would be a turn-off to your husband. You said that he says he is still attracted to you, but to say otherwise would be risky for any man. Check out such things as cleanliness, odors, weight, the way you dress, your playfulness, attitudes, or anything you and your friend can think of that might be objectionable to him. Choose this friend very carefully and wisely. She should be someone you know you can trust to keep this confident. If there is no one to help you, ask the Lord to let you know what the problem is. His plan for the two of you is oneness. You can count on him to help you achieve that.
Masturbation Is My Only Option
Q.My husband and I have been married over twelve years. We recently learned in a Bible study class that masturbation is a sin. This is the only way that I am able to reach climax. Are they implying that it is a sin to masturbate alone, or is it okay with your partner? I need some clarification, because I haven't seen anything written in the Bible stating that masturbation is a sin. Can you elaborate on this subject?
A. Louis: Masturbation is not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Any interpretation that it is a sin must be an application of some other Scripture regarding sexuality. Some of these certainly could imply that masturbation under some circumstances could be sin. For instance, if masturbation is used as a way to deny sex to your spouse, that would be destructive and go against the 1 Corinthians 7 principles Paul describes. If masturbation is accompanied by fantasies of extra-marital relations, it may fit with Jesus' definition of lust in Matthew 5.
In your situation, which is not unusual because of the physiological differences between men and women, masturbation is not a sin. Often with their faster sexual response a male has sprinted through the excitation, plateau, ejaculation, and recovery phases while his wife is just beginning to feel turned on.
Manual stimulation may be her only option to achieve orgasm. A thoughtful husband can provide that, giving her not only physical release but a sense of being cherished. That clearly completes the biblical picture of two becoming one.
Masturbation alone can be useful when a couple is not able to be together for sex. This may be the case in many different situations (travel, fatigue, schedule problems, health considerations, even a time of spiritual "fasting" by one mate). I do not see individual masturbation as sinful in these situations as long as the associated thought life honors the marriage vows.
My Husband Wants Anal Sex
Q. My husband of eight years and I still enjoy lovemaking very much, and I don't have many complaints in this area. However, he has consistently brought up wanting anal sex to keep things interesting. This suggestion is completely disgusting to me, and I cannot understand why he would want to do something that would be painful to me when there are other ways to spice things up. He says he would do anything for me and I should do the same even if it is just for him. What does God think about anal sex in a Christian marriage? I really don't know what I am to do. Is this an area of submission?
A. Louis: I don't know exactly what God thinks about anal sex in a Christian marriage. The condemnation of the homosexual practices in Sodom that gave us the word sodomy to describe anal intercourse is the only clear statement in Scripture. Paul's comments about "unnatural" sex in Romans 1 may also apply.
Medically, anal sex is even more problematic. The rectum contains more potentially harmful bacteria and viruses than the vagina. If anal penetration is practiced, some protection by condoms should be used and alternating penetration of the rectum and vagina avoided. The rectum is simply not designed for this kind of treatment and serious medical problems may result.
I would like to comment, however, on the more important consideration—your feelings about having anal sex. Any sexual practice that feels forced on a mate violates the sense of safety and mutuality required for marital intimacy. That applies to oral sex, positions for intercourse, locations and situations for love making, or means of sexual stimulation. Sex is intended for mutual pleasure and, like submission, requires giving by both husband and wife.
There are many times in marriage when one partner has to choose between his or her own pleasure or preferences and that of a spouse. I believe those are clear opportunities to express the kind of love that Jesus asks of us: to lay aside our own desires for the benefit of each other's need for safety and respect from our mate. If my desire for pleasure from a certain sexual activity takes precedence over my desire for Melissa's sense of being honored and protected within our relationship, I have violated her trust. It wouldn't matter how convincing my arguments or how persuasive my appeal, I would damage her.
When there are things I would like to try, but she's not comfortable, it is important for me to let that be entirely up to her to initiate or request that experience. Meanwhile, I've given her the gift of my love and respect.
Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., are marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counsel clergy couples.
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