Q. My wife won't initiate sex. She says it's not dignified for a woman to do that. So I initiate or we don't make love. Our lovemaking would be more exciting if the urge came from her sometimes. What should I do?
A. This is almost every husband's lament. We've rarely met a man who hasn't expressed the desire to have his wife seduce him—it's a huge boost to a man's ego to feel that he's irresistible. Unfortunately, as in your case, not all women can even imagine initiating sex, let alone actually make the first move.
We'd advise you to have a listen with your wife. Notice we didn't say talk with your wife. Set the agenda, tell her what you'd like to discuss, then really listen to her responses. Find out her thoughts, feelings, taboos, and desires regarding sex. Ask her where her ideas about sex were formed—from her childhood? From her church upbringing?
We'd assume she has sexual needs even if she's unaware of them or embarrassed by them. Maybe the two of you could come up with a dignified way of expressing those needs, maybe just a subtle signal you've agreed upon. It might not be as exotic as see-through negligees or stepping into the shower with you. But it could be just as effective if you both know what the "signal" means. It could be as simple as lighting a candle in the bedroom.
It may be unrealistic to expect your wife to become a "siren." But it's possible she could start out with something in code.
Allay her fears by showing her that you understand where she's coming from and that you're willing to be patient and "safe" for her to try something so new and different for her.
Q. I fake my orgasms. I don't want to tell my husband because it would make him feel bad. So I lie. Now I'm not sure I'd recognize an orgasm if it did happen. I know I'm not doing the right thing. But I'm not sure what to do.
A. While we can understand your reluctance to tell your husband the truth about your frustration, we'd hate to see you wait another night or 20 years to overcome the problem. It's not uncommon for women to have difficulty reaching a climax. Since men and women are wired so differently, it's understandable that a woman may not experience the necessary arousal for that ultimate sexual release.
Once a man understands those differences, he will usually want to help overcome any barrier to achieving climax. The first step is to confess that you're experiencing this frustration—trust us, your husband would feel worse knowing he was never given the opportunity to share a genuine experience with you. The second is to invite your husband to read a good book on sexual response with you, to help you understand your sexuality better, and then to apply what you've learned. We suggest The Gift of Sex by Cliff and Joyce Penner.
You'll definitely know when you've reached an orgasm, and sexual intimacy will be a lot more enjoyable. Your husband's going to appreciate the change when you no longer have to fake it!
Q. Often during intercourse my wife feels as if she has to urinate. If we stop, sometimes the feeling goes away. I've heard that this feeling is related to female ejaculation. Could this be the case? Is there such a thing—or what's going on?
A. The simple answer about "female ejaculation" is that there is no such thing. However, a woman's orgasmic response does include intense contractions of her pelvic musculature. The build-up of tension prior to orgasmic release certainly focuses on her genital area. At times a woman will leak urine during intensive sexual play or pelvic thrusting.
Since the bladder is adjacent to the vagina, stimulation of the clitoral area or vagina can affect the bladder's sensory nerves. This is exaggerated if the bladder hasn't been emptied prior to lovemaking, if there's a bladder infection, or if the pelvic support for the bladder has been weakened. A visit with a urologist can help her identify any physical problem creating the sense of urgency. We recommend a medical evaluation since her discomfort is at times interrupting your sexual intimacy.
Q. I'm having a tough time getting into the "sex is good" attitude and out of the "sex is wrong" attitude that my family and church drilled into my head before marriage. Everyone just accepts that married sex is dandy—but my mind can't switch that quickly, and I still feel guilty.
A. I (Melissa) know exactly how you feel. I can still remember—after 43 years of marriage!—how hard it was to change from guarding my Christian purity to surrendering to the pleasure of sex in marriage. I'm glad my parents and church taught modesty and chastity. You're fortunate to have that heritage. That saved us both from lots of painful regrets. The problem is that no one bothered to tell us that the rules change with the wedding.
Although you know that intellectually, getting it settled in your heart isn't quite so easy. Two things helped me make that adjustment. The first was a patient, gentle husband who understood. He was glad I'd saved myself for him, and gave me time and space to shed the restrictions I'd been taught. The second was a new understanding from the Bible and Christian books about sexuality—that sex was created for a wife to enjoy and celebrate with her husband. One of the first things written in Genesis is that God created male and female and they were naked and unashamed!
I'd always enjoyed the physical affection of our courtship. Then when I really sensed God's blessing on sexuality, I began to hear that blessing in place of my parents' prohibitions! Believe me, that was a wonderful freedom. With patience, you'll find that freedom too.
Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, are authors of Real Questions, Real Answers About Sex (Zondervan).
Copyright © 2005 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine.
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