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"Post-Pregnancy Turn-off"

Also: "Foreplay? What foreplay?" "Talking During Sex"

My wife recently had a baby and I was in the delivery room to help. But since then I haven't wanted to have sex with her. I love her; I'm just no longer turned on by her. What's up with that?

Michael: The miracle of birth is a wondrous event, and I'm glad you shared this moment with your wife. Watching the birthing process can be pretty traumatic for us husbands, though. Birth isn't a clean, pleasant event to observe up close. A beautiful part of your wife's body now has an association beyond the erotic one you had before watching her give birth.

The good news is that this doesn't have to be permanent. If she's like almost all new moms, she isn't feeling sexy or erotic either. Use this time to get to know her again. Her body has gone through a major change and is different inside (hormones) and out.

Double or triple the caring, caressing touches. Agree not to have sex for a couple nights, but instead spend the time touching, caressing, and relearning her body. Tell her what you love about her body as you caress her. Given a bit of time and energy, you can see the beauty, passion, and sensuality in this new mom who is your wife and lover.

Debra: While having a baby is an incredible experience, usually we aren't prepared for the many aspects of pregnancy, delivery, and the 6 to 12 months that follow. What you're experiencing is common. In a recent article in the Journal of Family Practice, Dr. Janice Byrd states: "Pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period represent a major life transition that usually has a substantial impact on the sexual adjustment of both mothers and fathers."

Be disciplined in your thought life—focus your sexual fantasies on your wife, on good sexual experiences you've had together, and not on pornography or other women. Center your thoughts on your love for your wife and your child, keep speaking loving words to her, and be non-sexually affectionate with her—hugs, holding hands, kissing, and caressing are great forms.

And pray for both of you to make the adjustments that will promote healthy sexuality together as this year progresses. Then, be patient—you should see a gradual return of your sexual feelings for your wife.

Foreplay? What foreplay?

My husband doesn't understand the concept of foreplay. He thinks that because he's ready to go at the drop of a hat, I should be, too. I've tried to explain that women need more time to "warm up," but he doesn't believe me and just doesn't listen. How do I get him to understand I need more time?

Michael: Not listening to you give feedback on how your body works makes about as much sense as not listening to Tiger Woods when he's trying to help you improve your golf game.

While there are a small number of women who respond quickly, most do not. The only way to know is for a man to listen to his wife.

His insistence on knowing your body better than you is robbing him of a great opportunity to relax and enjoy connecting with you. When he does decide to listen to you, he'll realize how much better sexual intimacy can be.

Both the porn industry and popular media rush to the "money shot" in filming. Most people aren't willing to pay to watch the normal gear-up process for women, so film portrays an inaccurate message. He probably doesn't accept your expertise in other areas of marriage either, so you'll likely need an external source. A quick read through any good Christian sex manual will confirm what you're telling him, and may be more believable.

Debra: A woman's sexuality is extremely complex. This is partly because of our anatomy. The erectile tissues that fill with blood somewhat efficiently in men (hence, a quick erection, at least in younger men) are more spread out in women and take longer to fill with blood. In its most simplistic, physical aspect, sexual arousal and orgasm are muscular tension and engorgement of pelvic tissues with blood. Orgasm is the pushing of the blood out of the tissues that became engorged, and the release of the muscular tension. I often use the analogy that men can go from 0 to 75 MPH and back to 0 in a matter of minutes and women take 10 times that long. It is the way we are made.

Add into this the complexity of a women's hormonal cycles, her body image cycle (one day she feels fat and ugly, the next day she feels attractive), her level of fatigue, and whether she feels loved and appreciated, and arousal can become very complicated.

Ask your husband to read this response, and also read a few chapters in Doug Rosenau's book, A Celebration of Sex. If he still refuses to believe you or to respond to what you're saying, seek a good relationship therapist or Christian sex therapist to work through this. Don't let this misunderstanding hinder the love, unity, and fun of your sexual relationship.

Talking during sex

My husband wants me to talk more during sex. I just don't know what to say! I feel silly when I do try to talk. I want to please my husband, so I've gone to Christian websites and even bought a romance novel for ideas. But nothing's helped. What can I do?

Debra: What does your husband want you to say during sex? Since you're attempting to satisfy a need or desire of his, it's important that the two of you talk about what would satisfy him. And as much as I avoid "why" questions, ask him why he wants you to talk during lovemaking. Where does this desire come from? (Pornography? Movies? Past experiences?)

As always, any discussion about sexual preferences or needs should happen at a time other than when you're making love, and not during another conflict. You need to prepare your heart to listen non-judgmentally, truly desiring to understand what your husband is saying, feeling, and wanting. I'd encourage both of you to dig a little deeper to discover what the real need might be before you continue pursuing outside sources as guides for change. If you really want to read some suggestions, try the Song of Songs in a modern translation. The couple in the Song has mastered the "art of verbal lovemaking." (All of us can probably learn a thing or two from them.)

Michael: I honor your desire to please your husband during sex. I hope he works hard at discovering what you want and pleasing you also. I agree that the two of you need to discuss this further so you understand what he wants, and why. For some husbands, hearing our wives talk helps us stay focused on her. Comments such as, "Oh, that feels so good" also provide affirmation and direction. Other husbands just want the intimacy of knowing what's going on in your mind. Are you imagining the two of you on your honeymoon, or just caught up in the way he makes you feel?

Occasionally spouses want to hear crude or coarse sexual talk heard in movies or written in erotica. Being playful, erotic, and sensual is biblical. Coarse, demeaning language doesn't belong in the intimacy of the marital bed.

We're pleased to introduce Michael Sytsma and Debra Taylor, two certified Christian sex therapists and founding members of Sexual Wholeness, Inc., who are joining the mp ranks as the new experts for our Real Sex department. For more on them, turn to page 34.

Louis and Melissa McBurney, our long-time (more than a decade!) columnists for Real Sex, have retired from their daily work with clients and are now traveling the globe, training and encouraging church leaders to live whole and holy lives. While we'll miss them in this column, they're keeping connected to us as our regular contributors. So we'll continue to see strong, biblical, marriage advice from them—probably written from a small village in Kenya.—The Editors

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

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