ADVICE & ANSWERS: Past Sexual Sin Affecting Marital Intimacy

An anonymous reader brought this question for your consideration:

I recently married my husband. We are both Christians, both with past sexual sin. We are in crisis. I never have, and still don't, enjoy sex. I don't know what to do. I have no sex drive. My husband is thinking the worst of our marriage, feeling as though I don't find him attractive, etc. I really do love him, but I don't have any sexual desire towards him at all. Looking back, the lust of the world is so much more appealing. I know it's bad to say, but it's the truth. How can I get a sex drive? Please help.

Think about what you would tell this woman if she came to you for advice, and leave your advice and answers in the comments. So many women struggle with these same themes... past sexual sin, lack of desire for intimacy, etc. Perhaps you, too, have struggled with these things... if so, I'd invite you to share your thoughts, struggles, and successes in this area. I hope that the advice shared here will be biblical and helpful to any and all who may struggle with these or similar issues.

*** Because this is a sensitive subject, and I want to encourage your ability to share openly, I will publish anonymous responses to this question. ***

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Anonymous said...

You need to stop thinking about yourself and what you want but what pleases your husband. That has been my secret to a wonderful marriage. I tried pleasing myself the first 25 years of marriage and it didn't work. We were both miserable. If he wants sex, I pretend I enjoy it even if I don't want it...I please him, I put his needs before mine. I would also suggest you start dwelling on the lovely, good, pure, holy, etc. Stop watching tv and going to movies. Fill your mind with God's word, good teaching, and wholesome books. Renew your mind with God's truth instead of the world's lies. We are here to serve others, specifically our husbands and in so doing, they will adore you and it's wonderful! God's ways are wonderful!

Mr. & Mrs. L said...

Could I be way off base for this particular situation? Absolutely. Just my .02 cents.

We are not to withhold ourselves from our spouses, (except for short times to focus on prayer, etc.). So, withholding ourselves is sin. Period. It doesn’t say, “ . . . unless thou carriest issues from your past . . .”

We are to be unselfish. It’s not all about us and what we want or whether or not we even want it to begin with. It’s about God and obeying Him, it’s about loving our husbands. It’s a choice that we have to make. Are we going to love/serve God and our husband, or are we going to love/serve Satan and ourselves?

What would you think if the way you felt love was when your spouse talked to you – and then he said, “I’m sorry, I just don’t enjoy talking with you anymore, there are so many other more appealing conversations to be had out there in the world.”

No, we may not ‘feel’ like it. But feelings aren’t truth and I’ve never seen the passage that says, “follow thy feelings”. Maybe you don’t enjoy intimacy. That’s too bad. But – you have an opportunity to love your husband, and for the most part, physical intimacy is how men feel loved. And when we make good choices at those opportunities, and are consistent in our choices, we are usually blessed for it.

Anonymous said...

I have noticed that the longer we go without sex, the harder it is to get back on the wagon (so to speak!!). And conversely, the more we do it, the easier it is to make it a bigger part of our marriage.

Sex isn't just about achieving pleasure. It's also about physical and emotional intimacy -- being close.

It seems like you're creating a block for yourself -- you're attaching so much guilt and emotion to the fact that you don't want to do it that you're really psyching yourself out. "Just do it!" And find things to love about it.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's emotionally or mentally healthy to "just do it and ignore how you feel." However, Satan uses people's feelings to decieve them...because we trust how we feel. Feelings aren't always right. I would encourage the wife and husband to seek Christian counseling. This seems to be a deep problem that can't be fixed by just the two of them. Perhaps there are even deeper problems that need to be fixed before the intimacy problem can be worked on. But sexual intimacy is such an important part of a marriage...I'd hate to think of the wife not enjoying it with her husband. So- simple Christian counseling :)

Janel said...

When it comes to sex, I've learned with myself and women I've counseled, it's never cut and dry. It tends to be a combination of things, but you'll need to lean on God to walk you out.

If you are not having some type of health issue or on some medication that is sapping your sex drive, I always suspect it's got spiritual roots. If you haven't seen a doctor in awhile, I suggest you visit and let him/her know of any trouble and see if there is something to be done.

If it is completely spiritual and you are uncomfortable with with your past, FORGIVENESS is key. If you haven't, ask God to forgive you for your past sins. THEN! You need to forgive YOURSELF and forgive Hubby. That's the start of the journey home.

Remember how the man asked Jesus to help his unbelief? Ask Jesus for help with your desire. He already knows... No need for embarrassment.

Linda Dillow has a terrific book called "Intimate Issues." It addresses this very issue and so many more in a very gracious, friendly way. I can't recommend it enough.


Allena said...

i would suggest going to christian counseling also. but not only that talking with your husband and praying for him. not praying for just what you think he needs prayer for but asking what he wants prayer for. Also doing a daily devotional together and praying together will help you grow closer.
i would even say to go as far as cutting off your temptations. (ie no romance books, movies, tv, internet etc)
anywyas those are just some suggestions.

Cahleen 何凱琳 said...

I'm going to reiterate a little of what other people have already said, and put some of my own two cents in too. First of all, for the time being just enjoy the intimacy/physical closeness part of sex while you get the physical enjoyment part straightened out. This is the most important part of sex anyway. DO NOT compare yourself with the women on Sex and the City or in movies who have an orgasm every time they have sex. For most women I know, real life sex doesn't work like that. Enjoy the closeness and don't withhold sex from your husband during this time of figuring things out, but at the same time I don't think you should just pretend that everything is fine for your husband's sake. I think a loving husband would want you to enjoy sex, which would make it all the more enjoyable for him too! Talk about EVERYTHING together, and go to a Christian counselor. I've also found that exercise and taking care of you body helps. Are you on any medication? Birth control pills and ant-depressants are the biggest culprits I know of for diminishing libido. Most importantly, realize that your sex life is something God cares about, and make sure you give it to Him.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with all the people encouraging you to seek help outside your marriage. There are more and more Christian sex therapists out there, and one of these might be a good option. Whoever said the longer you don't have sex, the harder it is to "get back in the saddle" is completely right! Don't let it get less than once a week at the very minimum, is my advice. Putting it off for longer than that will drive your husband to get his desires met elsewhere, in himself, the internet, or in another person. Be mindful of that. I don't think it is healthy to just ignore the past hurts and unforgiveness you are dealing with and tell yourself to be self-less in making love with your husband. This sounds like 18th century England to me:"It's not enjoyable, but it's our duty." It is true that sex is something we are called and gifted by God to do for our husbands, but hopefully, you can get to a point where you do it for yourself too, and learn to LOVE it, be loved through it, and love your husband through it. That is God's design, and I pray you start experiencing that soon. Seek help... it may be difficult for you to do now, but it's better than seeing your marriage fall apart a year or two down the road.

Buffy said...

It's not normal for a woman not to have any sex drive (it might happen a lot but it's not normal!). First off it could be a symptom of something like a hormonal imbalance that she needs to see a doctor for. Or it could be that she is too busy and stressed in her life and is therefore too tired, in which case she needs to cut out some of the things in her life that are draining her, get more rest time and get in touch with her body and her sex drive.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry that I don't have time to read others' comments, as this might have been mentioned already... Is this new bride on hormonal birth control? I can't even begin to describe how my intimate life with my husband changed after we stopped the BCP and let God control our family size. It is unbelievable the hold that the pill had on my hormones and sex drive. I was at a loss, as I didn't really desire my husband at all. I loved him immensely, but did NOT want to be intimate with him.

I am so regretful of the time that I spent on the pill for many reasons... but at the top of that list is how it dulled my desire for him.

Just a thought...


Terry said...

I think getting some help may be one way to go. Also, I would suggest that she share with her husband openly and honestly what she is dealing with. I don't remember in the question any mention of her sharing this with her husband. She may just find that open communication makes all the difference in the world. When it comes to physical intimacy in a marriage, you must be able to tell your spouse your likes, dislikes, etc. I also think he would appreciate her interest in improving the situation and will express great patience and gentleness because of her willingness to do so.

Anna S said...

"I am so regretful of the time that I spent on the pill for many reasons... but at the top of that list is how it dulled my desire for him."

I would like to echo Lauren's experience. I have received numerous similar testimonies from other ladies when I posted about the Pill on my blog.

Terry said...

Hey, Jess, it's me again. I didn't bother to read the other comments until after I'd already left mine and I felt compelled to respond to those whose advice was just "close your eyes, give him what he wants and get through it." While I agree that it's important not to deprive your husband of sex, I also don't think he will enjoy it if the wife isn't happy and enjoying it as well. Men want to feel wanted by their wives. While the "grin and bear it" approach may appease his physical appetite for a short while, his emotional needs aren't being met, which isn't good for either partner in the marriage. This wife needs some help.

Anonymous said...

I have walked in her shoes and I just want her to know that she is not alone with those feelings and lack of desire.

I'll spare you the details of my story; it is sufficient to say that I had a lot of sex before I met my husband.

Going into our marriage I carried a ton of guilt, which affected our sexual relationship. He was very understanding and supportive. We have a healthy relationship and can (and do) talk about everything. So, my first bit of advice to Anonymous would be to work on growing your emotional and spiritual relationship with your husband. Work on growing together spiritually--it will make a difference. You are a whole person, and you want a whole relationship, therefore you must take the issue as a whole one. It is not "just" a problem with sex. It involves your emotions, your physical health, your mental health, and your spiritual health.

While I have not sought outside help through counseling, my husband and I read a couple of books that deal with this topic. We had to work through forgiveness and grace toward one another, and he to me, especially.

I used to think that any problem we were having in our relationship was a result of having had sex before our wedding night. "Oh, this is happening because we had sex before we were married." While I think it does make a difference, I think I gave it too much credit. The real issue is that we are all sinners, and sinners have this knack of sinning everyday. Sex is not the main problem. The fact that we hurt one another on a daily basis is a problem. We are sinners in need of grace from God and one another everyday. Don't forget that.

Third, we have had to keep moving forward, applying God's grace and forgiveness in our relationship when that guilt rears its ugly head.

I also agree with the other women who said that having sex helps increase your sex drive. That is absolutely true.

Someone else mentioned a tv show, "Sex in the City." I'd just like to add that watching any kind of pornographic material will not help. It may be arousing for a time, but it will harm the relationship. Those shows tend to alter our expectations of what real sex and real relationships with real people are like.

I'd also say, be patient. Give it time. Work through it and give yourself time. We are working on our tenth year of marriage this year, and, honestly, the sex is better now than it was a few years ago. There are probably a lot of variables as to why this is, but it's true.

I hope I helped a little. Hang in there.

Anonymous said...

I left one important thing out...pray. I can't tell you how many times I asked God to give me desire for my husband. I personally think that is a prayer he will honor.

Anonymous said...

While I can't imagine never wishing for sex with my husband, I'll admit there have been many times when I didn't wish for it at that exact moment. But I've get a lot of pleasure from being useful! A cheerful, hospitable (if I can use that word in this context) attitude is a good start, and sometimes it ends up being a lot more fun than I expected!

Anonymous said...

I will add my voice to the chorus saying that the pill could be the culprit. It's unbelievable the difference getting rid of it made. I tried several different ones with no luck. My doctor didn't seem very helpful with this problem either and discouraged me from going off the pill. I wish I had never taken it.

Also I'll second the book Intimate Issues. Though I had little past sexual sin to worry about, watching my friends get into trouble had quite an impact on me, and gave me a negative view of sex. Thinking through their well-presented ideas really helped me out.

While I agree that sex should not be viewed as some hateful duty, I have found that doing it helps you to enjoy it. I seldom say "not tonight" anymore, and it has improved things so much. You may just need to step out in faith and give it a try. Remember this is God's plan for your marriage, and it really will make it better.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jess, for allowing anonymous comments on this topic. I know it has helped some of us be a little more forthcoming.

To Anonymous (the one who actually asked the question):
Oh, dear sister, you are not alone. You've already read comments from women who've walked and are walking with you through a similar struggle in their marriage. I am just one more voice to add to these.

I used to say, "I love my husband, but I hate sex." I asked two very Godly women - relatively famous in some circles (if I named one in particular, you'd probably have heard of her) - about how to handle it, and I'll never forget what one of them said. "Loving your husband is a good start. You may hate sex, but do you love your husband? Because loving is giving" (cf. John 3:16). The one who commented first that you're thinking overly much about yourself and not about using this as a way to serve your husband was right. The one who commented that sometimes you should start with "just doing it" was right, too. Sometimes obedience to the Lord (and that's the important part) is a matter of faith and a simple choice to obey. It's not easy, certainly not, but the choice is a simple one: to obey, or not to obey.

This is a hard-fought battle in our home. There have been tears, anger, bitterness, arguments, hurt, growth, intimacy in the physical realm, intimacy in the spiritual and emotional realms, kindness, humility, and love. This hasn't been a battle I fight alone; my husband fights with me. We've been fighting this battle for six years. I still have a hard time opening myself up to my husband physically. To be honest, I don't know that it will ever let up, because while part of our battle is due to physical circumstances, a major part of it is just that I want my own way. "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness'" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God is faithful to you, to help you obey first because you need to, but beyond that to transform that duty to delight. I will be praying for you...

With hope,
A sister wearing similar shoes

Anonymous said...

The pill reduced my libido as a newly-wed too. At the time there was no information about this and I thought it was my fault.

When I went off the pill things became much more normal.

Allison said...

Sometimes, when women don't feel attracted to their husbands, it's because of something in the relationship...perhaps the woman doesn't feel respected or valued by her spouse...perhaps she feels that her sexual needs always comes second to those of her spouse. Of course, as other people have mentioned, birth control and anti-depressants can also negatively affect a woman's libido. I'd encourage the woman to think through (and, if she feels it would help, talk to a therapist) what she needs sexually, and whether she's sublimating her needs to her husband's. If she is, it's not surprising that she wouldn't enjoy sex. A spiritual partnership requires mutuality in all things, including sexual satisfaction.