Q. Sex is painful for me. My husband's penis is too large for my comfort. What can we do?
A. Since a woman's vagina is miraculously engineered to expand enough for a baby's birth, it seems logical to assume that sex should be possible with little discomfort. At times, however, there's enough difference in the size of the husband's erect penis and his wife's vaginal entrance (introitus) to create pain. When this occurs, the first step is to have a physical evaluation. A gynecologist can tell if the introitus is tight and needs gradual stretching maneuvers to relieve the pain on penetration.
If there's no physical problem, there is still hope. The most common cause of pain when a husband enters his wife is her reflexive tightening of the vaginal entrance. Some of the reasons include childhood abuse or trauma, anxiety about sexual intercourse, vaginal dryness or infection, or response to previous pain. All of these can be treated effectively. At times the treatment may be as simple as using a vaginal lubricant or antibiotic. At other times, sex therapy or counseling may relieve a positional problem, fear, or some pattern of sexual technique (such as insufficient foreplay to encourage vaginal lubrication before penetration).
Q. I found out recently that my husband looks at pornography online. I'm frustrated, hurt, and betrayed. Plus I'm wondering if that's the reason he doesn't want to have sex with me. When I confronted him, he became angry and told me that I think sex is the most important part of our relationship and I should "get over it." What should I do?
A. Regarding his pornography, it's important for you to know that it's not about you. Most men who habitually view pornography began in adolescence. They became aroused and masturbated, which created an addiction and established patterns that interfere with normal marital intimacy.
Self-stimulation requires no holding off until his wife's orgasm, or waiting for her to be "in the mood." The physiologic release of endorphins and epinephrine is a highly satisfying sensation, and easy to achieve through pornography and masturbation. Thus the addiction serves as a tranquilizer and as a psychological confirmation of masculine potency.
Look into getting a filter for your internet. Then move the computer into a high-traffic area, which will hold him accountable.
There are good books and resources that can help you understand this addiction and point the way to healing. Check out Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction by Mark Laaser or Don't Call It Love by Patrick Carnes. Or go to www.bethesdaworkshops.org, www.careforce.org/lifekeys, or www.xxxchurch.com.
But most importantly, go to a marriage or sexual counselor together. If he refuses to go, then you go. This is a difficult problem to overcome without professional help.
Q. My wife feels that the "missionary" or "man on top" position is the only acceptable position. Whenever I try to put her on top, she becomes angry, then, of course, we don't have sex. Help!
A. Whatever position a husband and wife want to try, as long as it's mutually agreed and pleasurable to both partners, is okay. The only exception is anal intercourse, which can cause physical problems. Include in your sexual play those exchanges that are neither forced nor painful, but only delightful to you both.
There are advantages to a wife being on top. These include increased control for her to reach climax, minimized size and weight differences, and the excitement for the husband to see his wife more fully and be able to better stimulate her breasts.
Few areas of marriage require "partnership" more than sexual intimacy. The keys to any partnership are commitment to each other and communication that allows each partner to understand the desires and preferences of the other. In sex this requires honest talking and unselfish listening.
For your pleasure and to expand your repertoire, talk together about your sexual patterns in a time separate from lovemaking.
If your wife doesn't immediately become defensive, she may try to listen. It's much more effective, however, for you to listen first with the goal of fully understanding your mate. That's difficult to do, and may call for some search-talk to really comprehend the thoughts and feelings that determine her behaviors. Discuss her feelings or beliefs about variety in positions. Questions such as, "What are your expectations or longings about our sexual play?" or "How do you feel when I ask for something different?" may help your spouse express some things that haven't been obvious to either of you.
Keep listening and checking your understanding until you each agree the message has been received. While not easy, it can establish a base for your ideas to be heard. A preamble can help: "It feels good to understand you better. I'd like to express my feelings more clearly. To feel safe I need to feel understood too."
That's the ideal of mutual commitment and communication. You may not achieve that level immediately. It may be necessary for you to see this area of disagreement as an opportunity for you to show selfless love by providing satisfaction for your mate.
Also consider reading together some accurate Christian books about sexuality, such as Intended for Pleasure by Ed and Gaye Wheat or The Gift of Sex by Clifford and Joyce Penner.
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 © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine.Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.