Jump directly to the Content

Real Sex

Inhibited Lovemaking, High-Tech Adultery and Use It or Lose It?

Inhibited Lovemaking

My wife and I have been married three months, and she hasn't yet had an orgasm. She has certain fears of sex, and a lot of inhibitions. There are distinct boundaries that never get crossed. I don't blame her, but she blames herself. What can we do to help things get better?

Louis: Early adjustment problems are not at all unusual. Most couples have questions related to their physical intimacy. Many of the Christian books on sexuality, such as The Gift of Sex (Word) and Intended for Pleasure(Revell), can be helpful in overcoming inhibitions.

Since sexual development is such a private experience, there can be many reasons for the difficulty. It might be helpful to see a qualified counselor to help your wife work through feelings that block her orgasmic response. These can be related to early restrictive teaching that presented sex as dirty. Many women were never given the message that marital sex is a God-given gift meant for our pleasure.

Another common cause is a woman's need for her own emotional control and her related feelings of anxiety as erotic stimulation increases. The intensity of pre-orgasmic excitation can seem threatening for a woman who has learned to stay in control of her feelings. Also, guilt related to sexual fantasies or premarital experiences can create barriers to full sexual enjoyment. Of course, early sexual abuse can stimulate fearful associations. But don't let an overzealous counselor convince your wife that her problems with sex mean she was abused as a child. Such ideas may be planted by a well-intentioned therapist but often have no basis in reality.

Melissa: Sometimes worrying about having an orgasm can inhibit a woman's response. If your wife is preoccupied with orgasm, she may become too much of a "spectator." Sometimes an orgasm comes more easily when a woman stops striving for one.

If your wife blames herself, she may be suffering from false guilt. The Bible has clear instructions about how to deal with real guilt: Repent and accept God's forgiveness. But false guilt is based on notions that are not true, yet seem so real that our "hearts" worry over them. Once your wife has dealt with any real guilt, she can trust God to free her from listening to the lies (see 1 John:3:18-20). Treat your wife tenderly and accept her totally—inhibitions and all. You might also check out your expectations. Many men expect their wives to resemble the women they see in the media. Big mistake.

Louis and Melissa: It's also important to look at your sensitivity as a sexual partner.

High-Tech Adultery

Our marriage reached the crisis point when my wife started having cybersex relationships on the Internet, and even some phone sex, with several men. She says she wouldn't have an actual affair, but she refuses to stop these improper activities, and she refuses to go to counseling. She says she's staying in our marriage for the kids. What do you suggest I do?

Louis: Your wife's behavior indicates she has a serious sexual addiction. Since she is unwilling to seek professional help, you have two options. One is to express your love for her and declare your commitment to win her back, but do nothing about her disturbing sexual behavior. This approach could work if she becomes convicted by God, won back by your love, and turns her life around. But it could be a very long wait—and she may never change.

The second option is also risky, because it will lead to difficult conflict and could fracture your relationship further. That option is to reaffirm your love and commitment to your wife but employ a "tough love" approach. Disconnect the modem, get rid of the computer, whatever it takes. Say, "I love you and I can't watch you destroy yourself and our marriage."

As with other addictions, sexually compulsive patterns tend to develop tolerance so that more and more stimulus is needed to achieve the desired level of excitement. Chances are, others who are playing around in cybersex have similar addictions and would be equally susceptible to having multiple sex partners. As you make a decision about how to move ahead, you might want to read Harry Schaumburg's False Intimacy (NavPress). It's a good resource for sexual addiction problems.

Your wife's problem won't be resolved by some quick and easy solution. There are some deep and probably long-term conflicts that will require professional help once she admits her need to change. Ultimately, her healing will involve accepting God's grace and recognizing the fulfilling nature of mature marital sex. Your forgiveness will help promote her recovery.

Melissa: I am the computer person in our house, and I know the drawing power of the Internet. If I could talk with your wife, I'd tell her: "You're fooling yourself when you say you are staying in your marriage for your kids. What's best for them is a strong, intimate relationship between their mom and dad. If you are really serious about doing what's best for them, you'll get into some good counseling and get your act straightened out.

"Your kids know what is going on—more than you think. What lessons about intimacy and commitment are you modeling when you relate to a computer fantasy rather than investing in a human relationship? You were designed to be a good wife and mom; these goals are not beyond you. Both require hard work and commitment. But the rewards far outweigh any 'fun' you might miss on the Internet."

Use It or Lose It?

Is sex a "use it or lose it" proposition? If we don't have frequent sex will our sex drive be diminished? Also, is it true that sexual activity helps prevent prostate problems later in life?

Louis and Melissa: The basic drive for sex isn't easily daunted. In fact, after most short-term periods of abstinence, the sex drive is increased and sexual release is intensified. If the reason for decreased frequency is rooted in relational problems, however, there may be a diminished drive. But that's not a matter of physiology. The causes of the slowdown must be dealt with; then let nature take its course.

Louis: Now to your second question. Urological studies support the notion that regular ejaculation decreases the incidence of prostatic disease. It seems a "feast or famine" rhythm contributes to problems in later life. But don't let the medical concern become an excuse for coercive sex. Saying, "I've gotta have sex or I'll get cancer!" is out. "Not tonight, Honey" should be respected and later coupled with some communication about acceptable frequency.

Melissa: I hope the wives among our readers don't dismiss this letter too lightly. Frequent sex is a gift of love from you to your husband—and, evidently, good preventive medicine as well!

Real Sex columnists Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., were marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counselled clergy couples.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

Free CT Women Newsletter

Sign up for our Weekly newsletter: CT's weekly newsletter to help you make sense of how faith and family intersect with the world.

Affair; Intimacy; Marriage; Sex
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 1997
Posted September 12, 2008

Read These Next


Join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter

Follow Us

More Newsletters