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"Pressured to Lose Weight"

Also: "Is He a Sex Addict?" "Make-up Sex"

Q. My husband has been withholding sex from me for the past two years to motivate me to lose the weight I gained from my pregnancy. I've tried to diet, but I feel so much pressure, I can't drop the pounds. What do I do?

A. We wonder if he's really not interested in sex and has found a way to justify his avoidance. If he's finding sexual release through pornography, for instance, he may be less interested in sex with you, so he uses your weight as the excuse. If that's the case, we'd recommend seeing a Christian sex therapist to work through your intimacy issues.

But more likely, he feels hurt that you have "let yourself go," so he's resorted to "punishing." Many people lose interest in sex when their spouses stop taking care of their health and appearance. You may think, That's unfair and wrong! He should love me the way I am. But physical attraction isn't logical. Staying healthy and fit is important—not just for the physical side of your relationship. You can't make your husband change, but you can change. As unfair as it seems, the onus is really on you.

Our bodies are a gift (the Bible calls them a temple). Get on a balanced diet, exercise, and set realistic goals (a pound a week).

Then sit down with your husband and have a talk. Tell him how you feel when he uses your weight as an excuse, that you want to be healthy, but his "motivational" techniques are anything but. Then give him suggestions on how best to encourage you. Don't do it just for the sex; do it for your own well-being.

Is he a sex addict?

Q. How do I know if my husband's a sex addict? We've been married a year and all he wants to do is have sex. Is this normal, or does he have a problem

A. Your husband is probably just a normal, horny male. Studies have found that men think about sex every few minutes. Be happy he's directing that desire toward you, and work together to make your sexual play the most exciting and fulfilling possible.

We know couples who get into arguments over libido issues, in which one spouse, to get the upper hand, will throw out, "You're a sex addict," or "You're a pervert. All you think about is sex." We can't begin to tell you how damaging that is to marriage—and to your spouse's self-esteem. It's cruel. God designed men to have stronger sex drives.

Usually sexual addiction is marked by self-focused involvement with pornography, self-stimulation, or promiscuity. If you have reasons to think these exist, express your concern—at a time when foreplay isn't in process!—and ask him directly about his sexual practices.

It's important to let him know how you're feeling about sex. It would be better for you to negotiate frequency of intercourse than for you to become bitter about his advances.

She reads trashy novels

Q. My wife loves to read romance novels. Then she compares me to the men in those books. She makes comments about how unromantic I am or about how she wishes I'd do things like they do. Those men are fictional! How am I supposed to compete?

A. In unfulfilled relationships, spouses may turn to outside sources for "fulfillment." Stereotypically, men turn to pornography; women turn to romance novels or chat rooms. In both cases the substitutes are a way of avoiding real intimacy. Tell her about the loneliness and desire for intimacy you're experiencing. Let her know you're willing to change.

While she may be clinging to unrealistic expectations about romance—you're probably never going to need to rescue her from a band of pirates!—she is crying out to you for something she feels she isn't getting. Why not listen to what's behind the statements the next time she makes a comment? Tell her you'd like to be more romantic and fulfill her desires, but you need some help. Ask her to tell you how she'd like to be romanced. What would make her feel beautiful and loved? Then do your best to put at least one or two of those things into practice.

Make this a challenge and give those fictional guys some competition! It may be that you haven't learned to sweep a damsel off her feet. See if you can discover their secrets. Try to surprise her with soft music, candlelight, and "sweet nothings" whispered in her ear. Don't just walk away while she gets her thrills from some paperback book.

Make-up sex

Q. Every time my husband and I argue, he tries to initiate sex—as though making love will make our anger magically disappear. Why would he think that? And how can I get him to deal with the real issue at hand instead of jumping into bed for "make-up" sex?

A. Aren't men screwy? They're so ignorant about how a woman is wired and so compartmentalized about sexual pleasure that many really do believe a tumble in the hay is just the ticket for conflict resolution. It works for them. A good ejaculation and their epinephrine and endorphins mellow them out. The anger and unhappiness of a few minutes ago are erased. They may be absolutely dumbfounded that their mate is still upset.

Hopefully, with a lot of good communication, your husband can begin to understand you. Sometimes it helps to read together a good book about men and women such as Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus or talk to another couple about this pattern.

The timing is crucial when talking to your spouse. Don't try this in the heat of a disagreement. Find a time when you're feeling pleasant and relatively stress free. You might begin by telling him there's something you can't figure out and need his help. Then share how important it is for your sexual arousal to have good amorous feelings and that stress or anger or even distractions by the kids really make it difficult for you to switch gears. If there's something he can't do when he's anxious or uptight—if his golf game suffers, for instance—use that to make your point. Take it from there to discuss your sexual responsiveness.

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).

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

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Diet; Marriage; Sex
Today's Christian Woman, Winter, 2006
Posted September 12, 2008

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