I Want More Sex without Being Pushy
My wife doesn't want or need sex as often as I do—and I understand that this is typical. But if my need seems great and she's not in the mood, is it okay for me to try to warm things up? I'm wondering if there's any way I can be considerate and self-sacrificing, yet get enough sex, too?
Melissa: The avenue to sexual satisfaction for women is definitely relational. When you are trying to "warm things up," if you do the things your wife needs you'll be much more likely to succeed. Those things include listening to her (sometimes to what seems to you very irrelevant things), sharing your own feelings (even when they seem trivial to you), giving her lots of attention (eye contact) and not pressuring her for sex (give her plenty of nonsexual touching and attention).
When you're sharing your feelings, you can make clear to your wife what you have in mind. But make sure you stress that you want the time together to be pleasurable for her. It might be a good idea to try this approach when you are not feeling desperate for sex.
I find there are times when I'm not really in the mood for sex, but I'm still willing to be available to Louis. It's helpful if he understands this and is able to lower his expectations for how much time or "pizzazz" I can offer. Discuss that possibility with your wife, and strive for openness and honesty with each other. Talking is a wonderful way to connect emotionally before you try to connect sexually.
Louis: Understanding female sexuality can be a real challenge, but it's essential if you want to connect with your wife. A new book, Secrets of Eve (by Hart, Weber and Taylor, Word Books), surveys women's attitudes and perceptions of sex. This could help you understand you wife, and it could be a springboard for talking with her about your differences. She needs to understand the intensity of your feelings and drive just as much as you must discover what increases her responsivity.
Obsessed with Sex
After having a ho-hum sex life for the first four years of marriage, my husband and I finally talked things out. Now we have wonderful, incredible sex. My problem is I feel like I'm addicted. It doesn't seem right for me to be so consumed with sexual thoughts and desire, or to want sex as much as I do, which is constantly. I feel out of control, and that can't be godly behavior—even if my urges are directed toward my husband. How can I get control of this?
Louis: It's fairly unusual for a woman to find herself consumed by sexual thoughts and desires, but it's not pathological or even necessarily "ungodly." Sexual drive and pleasure are part of God's creative design. The problem comes when a person's sexual feelings and fantasies go outside the marital boundary. It's important for you and your husband to keep on talking in order to protect your faithfulness in marriage.
It's also problematic when sexual thoughts or behavior begin to interfere with other responsibilities. For instance, if you withdraw from other relationships, become negligent in caring for your children or abandon your own spiritual life, some control would become necessary. The good news is that compulsive behavior can be controlled.
First try a spiritual approach. When sexual thoughts enter your mind, substitute prayer or devotional reading to change the obsessive thought patterns. You'll find that the frequency of your sexual thoughts decreases.
A second approach is to substitute physical activities that require significant energy expenditure. Work out or do some physically challenging jobs. The sublimation of sexual energy helps diminish the intensity of the sex drive.
Often it helps individuals with compulsive behavior to have an accountability partner. Find a trusted woman friend you could call when your sexual drive is overwhelming. Your husband could be your accountability partner, unless your sexual desire is too distracting for him.
Finally, you may need professional counseling to explore the reasons for your intense "turn on" and establish better control. Be careful in choosing a counselor. Find a very experienced, woman, Christian therapist.
You didn't mention how long this current heightened sexual desire has been going on. If it's still pretty new, just take advantage of the added enjoyment you are experiencing with your husband and rejoice in God's gift.
Melissa: My hope for you is that you and your husband can just enjoy the pleasure of your sexual relationship. Most couples have the opposite problem—the wife has too little sexual desire. Your level of desire might seem extreme to you by comparison to what you experienced before, but perhaps you're simply blessed with a drive to match your husband's and you'll find yourself grateful and content. Don't worry—God doesn't frown on the marital pleasure he created.
For 15 years I was married to a very abusive man. The only way I could get through sex with him was to fantasize in order to pretend that I wasn't even there. Now I'm married to a great, Christian man, but I can't break that habit of fantasizing or mentally disengaging. I feel so guilty. I can't even tell my husband because it would hurt him so much. What can I do?
Louis: Retreating into fantasies is a common way of dealing with painful situations. It can provide psychological protection when actual physical escape is impossible. As the pattern for escape becomes set there are certain signals or stimuli that tap into the thought routines. For instance, if your abusive ex-husband signaled his demand for sex in certain ways, those same signals probably still prompt you to begin the fantasies.
If you can become more conscious of what the specific stimuli are, you can disconnect similar (or identical) messages from your current husband. His touch, looks or words don't mean that abuse will follow. You may be able to get him to change some of the specific "trigger" behaviors. I don't think he'd be hurt if you explained that a certain thing he does causes you to have flashbacks of painful past experiences.
It might also help if you take more initiative in your sexual play. Your intentional actions may help remove that sense of impending danger that made fantasy necessary.
Melissa: Many, many women fantasize during intercourse. Fantasizing itself isn't wrong or bad. The problem comes when the fantasies interfere with expressing love for your husband. There are two steps that can help you change your fantasies. The first is spiritual. Look at 2 Corinthians 10:5. This passage says we can "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." Up till now your fantasies have not been under your control, but you can take control over these thoughts with the power of God. Start by changing the fantasies into ones about your current husband. Eventually I believe they'll disappear altogether. Taking something "captive" is a very active and assertive thing to do. The Lord wants you to be free of your past so he has made his strength available to you.
The second step is hard work, too. Identify the truth and make yourself believe it deeply. You now have a wonderful husband who will not abuse you. The fears that trigger the fantasies are unfounded and untrue. The Bible says that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). The perfect love is God's love (not your husband's), and as you identify the truth about your present situation and believe it, then God's perfect love will drive out the fear. Another truth to identify is that you are not guilty—your abuser was.
I agree with Louis that you should discuss this with your husband. He needs to know what you're dealing with so he won't sense that things aren't right and feel responsible for the problem. As you and your husband work through this together, your relationship will grow stronger.
Real Sex columnists Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., are marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counsel clergy couples.
1998 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or firstname.lastname@example.org.