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He Wants to "Just Do It"

Also: "Are Sex Toys Okay?", "I Don't Want Our Kids to Know", We've Never Had Sex", and "I Feel Rushed"

Q. When my husband and I have sex, he won't caress or kiss me. He just wants to do the act. When I ask him for some affection, he gets angry and says I shouldn't tell him what to do. I've tried to let it go, but I really crave his touch! Why is it so difficult for him to be affectionate during sex?

A. Most guys like to think of themselves as strong, capable, and reasonably bright. One factor in our growth as men is developing wisdom to go with our strength. And one area where that factor is important is in our sexuality. We have a lot riding on our ability to make a conquest, a drive fueled by our testosterone. Once our arousal gets in gear, the blood drains out of our brain and wisdom can get bypassed.

Many times men don't understand that by investing in foreplay and being affectionate with our wives, we reap huge dividends not only sexually but relationally. This seems to be the case with your husband.

We recommend having a serious discussion with him to help him understand your desires. Find a good time and set the stage for your husband's most receptive mood. Let him know you're struggling with something and need his help. Explain your frustration only in terms of your feelings, not his behavior. Resist the temptation to accuse him in any way, which will only shut down his receptivity toward your feelings. Stick to discussing your desire for sexual fulfillment and the fact that he's the man you want.

Are Sex Toys Okay?

Q. I'm a Christian. However, my pre-Christian experiences left me with an incurable std that isn't deadly, but nonetheless is something with which my wife and I now have to live. We've been using a sex toy to avoid reinfecting each other. Are we sinning by using a sexual aid?

A. In marriage a couple may do anything in their sexual play that meets three specific criteria: (1) it's agreeable to both parties; (2) it's not harmful to either person; (3) it doesn't always take the place of genital union. The use of sexual "toys" doesn't necessarily violate those guidelines. As far as we can tell, sexual toys aren't "sinful" used by a husband and wife in agreement.

There is, however, one potential problem with sexual toys. Our sexual expression is most healthy when it's enjoyed relationally. Outside of the intimate love relationship, sex can become a mechanical release of tension and mostly self-focused. The reliance on "toys" to enhance your orgasmic response can develop into a lower tolerance. In other words, the more you use them, the more stimulation you need for a satisfactory release. That pattern can become destructive to the marriage, and with some "toys," it may even be physically harmful.

I Don't Want Our Kids to Know

Q. My husband and I have three children all under the age of 10. He and I set aside some time on Saturday mornings to have sex. Currently, my kids have no idea what we're up to, but it won't be long before they'll understand what we're doing. I don't want to give up my special Saturday times, but I'm uneasy about the kids knowing that their dad and I are in the middle of a sexual encounter. Any words of wisdom?

A. Your time on Saturday mornings is a wonderful tradition. May you continue to have that time together. As your children grow and learn more about sex, we hope they're learning it from you rather than elsewhere. Most kids know a lot more about sex than their parents would ever suspect. Though there's no reason for you to feel embarrassed about it at all, be sure you lock the bedroom door. Also, get some good material for teaching children about sex for when they ask questions. Be ready to answer their questions objectively and comfortably. When kids see their parents take time for each other, they feel safe and stable in their family. Don't give up those special times!

We've Never Had Sex!

Q. My husband and I have been married for more than two years and we've never had sex. We kiss and "pet" each other, but when it starts to move toward intercourse, he pushes me away and says he has something else he has to do. When I ask him why he won't have sex with me, he says he wants a wholesome relationship, that he doesn't want to use me, and we'll have sex when he's ready to have a baby. He refuses to use a condom because "it's ugly." How can I tell him I feel as though I'm missing out on one of the best gifts of marriage?

A. Your husband's resistance to have sexual penetration can be the result of several possible issues. Of course one is what your husband has said: He doesn't want to "use" you and sees intercourse as intended for procreation only. But that's an unusual position.

There are other possibilities you should consider. One is that your husband's sexual behavior is a reflection of scrupulousness that's part of his overall compulsivity. Repulsions toward "ugly" condoms could reflect concern for dirt or germs. For excessively perfectionistic individuals, genital sex is a messy proposition.

Another possibility is that he may suffer from erectile dysfunction. If a guy has experienced difficulty in achieving or maintaining his erection, that creates serious anxiety within him. It becomes threatening for him to attempt intercourse. You never mentioned anything about his arousal. But if everything's working that should be obvious.

Still another possibility is something in his background—a previous relationship with a bad experience, perhaps even sexual abuse. If this is the case, he should visit with a professional counselor.

Concern about pregnancy can certainly contribute, but with so many contraceptives available, that can be minimized. He may be more concerned about fatherhood than your possible pregnancy, which can certainly be a scary proposition. Being a dad is no easy job.

You should consider these factors in an appropriate counseling setting since they represent significant internal conflicts.

It's normal for you to feel as though you're missing out on a wonderful marital gift. We've found two communication techniques that may be useful in helping to share that feeling with your husband. The first is to use a "preamble." Tell your husband there's something important you need to talk about; it's a feeling with which you've been struggling and you need his help. When you have his attention and concern, tell him just what you've told us, "I feel I'm missing out … "

The second technique is to use the preamble and appeal but to do it in writing. That may be easier for him to accept. With either style you could also assure him that if there's some other concern he has, you'll be understanding and willing to support him in getting help.

I Feel Rushed

Q. While my husband and I have sex frequently, sometimes I feel rushed and as if foreplay lasts for just about two seconds. We have three kids, we both work outside the home, and we rarely relax. What can we do to make it feel less hurried? Are there any techniques that might help?

A. Not having time to relax is the scourge of today's families. Setting no margins or boundaries in your life can prove deadly. Eventually, you'll pay the price—whether it's the loss of sexual intimacy, your physical health, or your family relationships. And none of those things is worth losing!

We suggest you read Richard Swenson's books, Margins or The Overload Syndrome, as you consider how to make some lifestyle changes to give you time to relax.

But in the meantime, why don't you trade out baby-sitting and get away for a weekend. (Leave your cell phones and laptops at home!) Going away for one night isn't enough for stressed-out couples. That first night may get smothered in exhausted sleep. But after that, the following hours and day should give you a chance to relax and enjoy each other. Or the excitement of getting away together may get you through that first night, then you'll want to sleep all the next day! Regardless of which way it turns out, you'll definitely want to escape with each other. Share your thoughts with your spouse about how rushed you feel and tell him you want to take things slowly. We're sure he'll agree.

Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., are marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counsel clergy couples.

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

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