In November (2018) Pastor Ed Sharane of Fellowship Church in Texas, issued a challenge to his congregation: “Have sex with your spouse for seven straight days and see what it does for your relationship.”
I’m sure men everywhere were giving roars of approval while women were groaning and dreading the week to come. At least, that’s how it played out in my home. My husband slapped his knee and said, “That’s awesome!” while I sarcastically said, “Who the heck has time or energy to have sex seven days in a row?”
My guess is that close to 80% of you reading are having the same type of reaction that I had. Maybe even 90%. Sex for us women is often another item on the list of things that needs to be done in a day, and feels more like a duty than a pleasure.
When I was in the counseling office and a pastor’s wife, sex and issues with sex came up repeatedly with the couples I saw. Rarely was it the woman wanting more and the man struggling with not being interested. Rather, it was women who had some sort of wall when it came to intimacy with their husbands and the negative impact it was having on them as a couple.
Read marriage books and they will often tell you that a good way to measure the strength of your marriage is to take a look at your sex life. If that really is the case, then a lot of our marriages aren’t very strong! While I believe a marriage can be strong in friendship, respect, commitment, and love, even with a less than stellar sex life, at the same time I also believe that sex is a valid gauge of where the marriage is. I believe that because sex indicates where both spouses are emotionally.
When women don’t want sex, it’s usually an emotional issue as much as it is a physical issue. When men don’t get sex, it’s a self-worth issue as much as a sexual need. When both parties are lacking in these areas, it does affect the marriage.
“I just hate it. It’s not enjoyable for me. I can’t wait til it’s over,” one woman said, shrugging her shoulders and talking without emotion. “I could go the rest of my life without it and never miss it. My husband, on the other hand…”
Many women hate sex because of the horrible memories it brings up for them. This is often the case with abuse survivors or women who had abusive marriages in which sex was used as a weapon instead of a way to achieve intimacy.
Frankly, the only way around this issue is usually going to counseling to help heal the wounds that surround this issue. Wounds that contribute to sex being a disgusting and hateful experience typically run so deep that only rarely can a woman work through them on her own. Can she do it is some cases? Yes, but only with a deliberate and conscious effort to do so and not quit when the going gets tough. However, as a rule, this situation can really use another person who is able to listen and then connect the dots, so to speak, from past trauma to current distress. After the connections are made from past to present, the therapist can help the woman begin to create new, and much more pleasant, associations in her mind regarding sex.
Not Feeling Treasured
Other women hate sex because it makes them feel like an object and not a person. They complain that they feel as if their husband is only having sex with them to fulfill his own desires, and then, once it’s over, there is no cuddling and holding, but instead the inevitable roll-over and snoring. Meanwhile the woman is laying there in what should be the “after-glow” wishing that her husband had taken time to hear about her day, listen to what’s on her heart, and just cuddle her for a while.
In some cases, the husband is deliberately knowing his wife needs this and is just ignoring it. In other cases (most cases) the husband doesn’t realize what his wife truly needs. Just like we, as women, assume that our husbands should automatically know that we need to talk and be held, husbands assume that, “Of course sex is great for her too, what more could she want?”
We need to learn to communicate to our husbands what we need from them. It’s as simple as, “Honey, before we have sex, I really need us to talk for a while beforehand. If you can listen to my day and the things that are bothering me, then I’m going to be able to get in the mood much better than if it was all stuffed inside of me.”
Lack of Emotional Connection
This blends in with not feeling treasured, and the two often go hand in hand. If a woman is not emotionally connected to her husband, she can hardly respond to him sexually. Everything needs to be ok in the woman’s world in order to be able to be sexually aroused.
Lack of emotional connection can come because of a variety of circumstances. Crazy work schedules in which the spouses hardly ever see each other can be one circumstance. Poor communication is another, and not feeling validated by your husband can be still another. In another scenario, a woman may be feeling scared because of financial strain or medical problems plaguing a family member and because her heart and mind are so consumed with worry over those things, sex is the last thing on her mind.
The things contributing to the lack of emotional connection can sometimes be solved as easily as a deep conversation between husband and wife, with some changes being made, like reading a marriage book together a few times a week or purposefully setting aside a date night each week. Other times, it requires a marriage counselor. Sometimes, talking about the reasons contributing to a lack of emotional connection triggers things in both husband and wife that can’t be discussed without tempers flaring and emotions running all over the place.
Lack of Privacy
Maybe a couple wants to have sex but they are co-sleeping with their children or living in a tiny apartment where the kids can hear everything. Nothing puts a damper on the sex life your hearing your kids crying through the thin wall, “Mommy, can I come into bed with you? I want to be with you!”
This issue takes some creativity to get around, as well as a lot of spontaneity. Gone are the days of having a candle-lit dinner for the two of you with a nice, slow, romantic evening that builds as the hours wear on, culminating in awesome sex. Now, it’s a matter of finding time wherever you are in your day: early morning before the kids wake up; in another part of the house, because yes, they did end up climbing into bed with you; or maybe it’s cutting a dinner and movie night short, and going home for a little bit before picking the kids up at Grandpa and Grandma’s. Look for opportunities and grab them. As one of my friends says, “After the kids come, you have to find a new normal when it comes to sex.”
This particular issue can arise either because of a traumatic past and resulting physical stress and sub-conscious tensing or because there truly is a medical problem. Sometimes this comes as a result of giving birth.
At risk of TMI (too much information), I had third-degree tearing during labor, and for almost 6 months postpartum sex was excruciating. I eventually went to the doctor and talked to a couple of friends who had also torn badly during delivery, and was given wise counsel from all. That conversation is probably best reserved for a private message (so message away if you need answers!) but the short end was, sometimes a (minor) reconstructive surgery is needed for some women, and in other cases some creativity and attempts at finding that “new normal” is needed.
If painful sex is something you are experiencing, I would encourage you to seek out a medical doctor first, and then perhaps a therapist.
Lastly, there is the most common complaint among wives and mothers regarding sex: “I have the kids tugging and climbing on me all day. The last thing I want at night is for my husband to be all over me. Besides, I’m too exhausted to want anything to do with sex. I just want to sleep.”
There isn’t an easy solution for this problem. The kids will continue to climb on you and need you, laundry will always need to be done, meals cooked, and your husband is always going to want sex. The best you can do is figure out some ways you can find some refreshment between the demands of your day and that “Come to bed, honey,” invitation your hubby issues. Maybe a hot bath with a cup of tea or glass of wine is what you need. A mid-day nap when your kids are napping might do it for you. Or maybe you and your husband need to move to morning sex, before you begin the chaos of your day.
It also helps to think about sex all day long. Thinking about it, daydreaming about it, and planning for it helps you get in the mood a lot quicker than if you never gave it a thought as your day progresses. Sex is mental as much as it is emotional for many of us, so let your brain help you get revved up.
In a book that my husband and I are trying to read together, the author encourages couples to make sex a priority. We make loving our kids, paying the bills, and working at our jobs a priority, and doing so results in it all getting done, so why not start making sex a priority too? As those at Young’s church found out, regular sex does help increase our moods and draw us closer together as a couple, so what better priority to have in life than to have sex with our spouse?
Seven days of sex isn’t completely feasible on a regular basis (even Pastor Young admitted that he and his wife were too tired one night to complete the seven day challenge) but it sure doesn’t hurt to make it a goal once in a while! Try it and see what happens. I dare you!