ADVICE & ANSWERS: Sexual Problems in Marriage

Has your marriage survived or worked through significant sexual problems? If so, please ponder these questions that were left in the comments of the recent "Being Sexy For Your Husband" series and consider leaving your thoughts for some commenters in need of wisdom and encouragement.

Specifically, there are three that have been left in the last couple of days, and I'd be grateful for your biblical, loving responses to them. Here are snippets from each:

#1- THE PROBLEM OF PORN:
On Part FOUR, anonymous left this comment on March 1, 2008 at 8:16AM:
"In recent months, my husband has expressed that he's bored in bed and joked about his desire in watching me and another girl. I clearly said "no" and explained why such practices go against our spiritual beliefs and wellbeing. ...But then today, I found a few links to videos of lesbi@n porn [on our computer]. Now I'm concerned that he's turning to porn for sexual satisfaction. First of all, how should I approach him about this issue and what should I do about it?" CLICK HERE to read the entire comment.

#2- THE PURPOSE & NATURE OF SEX:
On PART FIVE, anonymous left this comment on March 4, 2008 at 6:25AM:
"I refuse to believe that sex is a pure act in a fallen world. ...Even in a marriage, sex is a "necessary evil" because there is no other way to propogate the species. The fact that some people "burn" is just another indication that it is sin and God has provided an outlet, almost as a concession that it's better to use a spouse to "get off" than to engage in more egregious sexual sins. All I know is that sex has always left me feeling used and dirty. ...Woman are nothing more than a creation for man. How could a holy, loving God do that?" CLICK HERE to read the entire comment.

#3- LACK OF DESIRE ON THE PART OF A HUSBAND:

On PART FIVE, on March 5, 2008 at 3:39PM:
"Hi there. I have read through your posts because sexual problems have been a continual problem since I got married 7 years ago. ...My husband is totally not what this world portrays a man to be aka 'tiger'! ...He has never once initiated sex and now we have not been'one' for months. I find it very depressing. ...The problem is that we have talked about it over and over again............and then nothing. ...I don't even want to have the 'but it's so important to our marriage and me' conversation as I feel like a record going round and round and nobody is listening. Sigh." CLICK HERE to read the entire comment.

I'd ask you to prayerfully consider if you might have some specific insight or information to share with any of these women, and if so, please leave your thoughts for them as they weigh these serious heart issues. You may choose to leave your comments here on this post, but please identify whether you are referring to #1 (The problem of porn), #2 (The purpose of sex), or #3 (Lack of husband's desire).

I debated with myself about how to handle these, and decided that since they were left recently and many of you may not be back to check the comments on those threads, AND since they are all left anonymously and thus will not be putting anyone "on the spot", that I'd bring them to your attention here, and ask for your input.

Thanks for considering these difficult but real-life problems in this area of biblical sexuality in marriage.

24 comments:

Terry said...

On issue #2: I hesitate to offer advice because this commenter's views are so extreme that there are undoubtedly underlying issues here that she left out- and I respect her privacy and right to do so. But as a woman who survived through childhood sexual trauma, and bad decisions as a young single woman, I can see how one could arrive at this set of conclusions.

I understand how in our fallen world and current cultural climate, sex can seem dirty. But God has instituted it as a way for a man and his wife to achieve oneness and create life. Despite my past problems, I enjoy times of intimacy with my husband and don't feel used or dirty as a result. On te contrary, I feel loved and cherished.

My suggestions to this dear sister:
1)Pray, pray, pray. And spend some time in the word focusing on the wonderful attributes there on marital intimacy and romance.There are beautiful descriptions of romantic marital intimacy throughout the Song of Solomon and a few verses in Proverbs as well.
2)Talk to your husband. If you feel used after sex, youu need to give the man an oportunity to try and do whatever he can to make these times more special for you: cuddling and talking afterwards or things like that may help you connect your sexuality to the entire relationship (which it should be anyway) rather than compartmentalizing it as a "necessary evil" and duty that you have to perform by virtue of being a wife. God intends for you to enjoy your intimacy as well as your husband. And I'm sure he would enjoy it more if he knew that you did, too.

This is getting a little long so I'll stop. I hope these suggestions are helpful. God bless you and I pray you find the answer to your dilemma.

Learner said...

Regarding #3
Although I have not experienced the exact situation you are describing, God opened my eyes a few years ago to see that my husband was not appearing as interested in having sex as he had previously, or frankly, as interested as I was! I was frustrated and feeling a bit rejected, when God put it on my heart to be vulnerable with my husband (after listening to a wonderful testimony by Carolyn Mahaney). I asked him to let me know what was good about our sex life and what was not so good. What would he like to see more of, and what would make him more excited about having sex with me. I was so encouraged to hear what he said. Some of the critique did hurt a bit, but he was right! I have made it my mission in this area to delight and surprise him.
Since then, things have improved so much, and it has been refreshing to see how much his desire has increased because I was willing to be rebuked in things I was doing wrong, and try to please him.
I hope this helps!
Meagan

Sweetpeas said...

Regarding #3
My husband VERY rarely initiates in our house too. It's been a journey (for me, since all I can control is myself, not him), but I've come to a place where I suggest making love often, but don't take it personally if he says no. When we DO make love he obviously enjoys it, so I don't feel it's anything personal against me that he says no, most of the time, just that he's stressed and sees this as "one more thing on the to do list". And when it bothers me, I pray for him, that God will show me how to minister to him more. I've found that praying consistently and sincerely for my husband has made my marriage SO much better, because it has changed me so much! I highly recommend Stormie Omartian's book "The Power of a Praying Wife."

Anonymous said...

#2 Problem of Porn
My husband has had a porn addiction since before we were married. I sort-of knew it was an issue before we were married, but he said it wouldn't be a problem after we married, because then we could have sex. Made sense to me at the time, but now I know better. After we married I found out how deep the problem was and that cyber-sex was an issue as well. We tried many computer programs such a Covenant Eyes, but my brilliant husband could always figure a way to take the program down or get around it.
He went on a mens' retreat last year and another man confessed his sexual sin and shared his recent victory in that area. He had joined a sexual addicts group at a local church. My husband started attending the group and God started working. My husband has NO internet access. He had me put passwords on the computers. By God's grace, my husband is also experiencing victory. But he needed:
1. Accountability from a real live person.
2. Absolutely no internet access.

Anonymous said...

whoops, that last comment was for #1 Problem of Porn, not #2.

Joy said...

Re: #2 The purpose & nature of sex:

I'd like to respond to the comment "Women are nothing more than a creation for man," which I assume is referencing the creation of Eve after God said that it was not good that man should be alone.

In this Biblical account (Gen 2), the events follow this progression:
1.) God says it is not good for man to be alone
2.) Then, out of the ground God forms every beast of the field...
3.) Then, God brings all of these animals to the man, having the man name them. "The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field."
4.) THEN, finally, God creates the Woman.

So, why did God go through the progression of creating all the animals, bringing them to Adam, etc. before making the Woman for him? I think it was to make something clear to Adam. While naming them, Adam had to look each animal in its face. He would eventually realize that he was not complete in himself, and that nothing found on the earth could complete him. Some part of him as a human man was missing. I think God followed this progression to force Adam to consciously realize his need for "Woman".

So yes, Woman was created to complete the man, to be his help. But this is not a negative thing as it may seem at first. If Man needs Woman,this actually puts the "power" so to speak, in Woman's hands. A man cannot have a Woman unless she voluntarily gives herself to him. (I am not talking solely about sex here. It is possible for a man to rape a woman, but even if he does, he does not have her. The Woman is much more than a vessel for sex.) It is not denigrating to be "needed", instead,it is empowering.

Also, a man's need for Woman is not limited to sexuality, as anonymous appears to think. While sex is a large part of the relationship, anybody who reads secular or Christian marriage material soon finds that men need much more from their Woman, things such as respect, admiration, etc. These are things that a man must earn. He can never just take them.

Remember Tom Cruise's movie character who told his Woman "you complete me"? The writers were not off-their-rockers here. According to God's wonderful plan, men do need women in order to be complete. Big strong men who could normally take what they want need Woman, all of her. This protects the Woman, because there are parts of her man cannot just take. He must wait for her to give it to him.

...And that is why when you go shopping you see all those men, bored stiff, faithfully following their Woman through the handbag area.

Anonymous said...

Joy,

Then why is it a husband will divorce his wife solely because of lack of sex, if it isn't the only thing he wants/needs? Those men who "faithfully follow their Woman through the handbag area" are probably just hoping to get some when they get home.

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Hello,

My name is Spencer, and I found you via LAF. I hope you don't find it too uncomfortable for me to ask this question of you (Well, it is sort of...um...delicate, and I am a guy, and am only 19!!), but I suddenly got very curious while reading your Part One post from February 18th. I'm going to be really, really blunt here.

Do you mean that you think it's good for a husband to like/want to/enjoy seeing his wife naked?

Again, I feel sort of embarassed to ask your opinion on this, and I'm sorry. I just really want to know what you think now; I've always thought that it was dead wrong.

Spencer

Jess said...

Hi Spencer,
Welcome. I'd encourage you to read through Song of Solomon and answer your question for yourself. Take specific notice of the way Solomon takes notice of his bride's body.

As for my answer, I'm convinced by the Word of God and by God's specific designs of the male and female bodies that there is absolutely no shame in the marriage relationship of "oneness" between a man and his wife, and that God in fact intended pleasure for both the man and the woman from marital oneness.

And, given the visual nature of most men, that includes deriving pleasure from fully seeing his wife. Other women? No. But his wife? Absolutely. Check of SOS and see for yourself!

Blessings,
Jess

Jess said...

#1,
Just in case you didn't see it, I responded to you in the original thread where you left your question, so you can look there for my response.


#2,
I'm so sorry you feel this way. Your view of women and men and sex and sin have undoubtedly been tainted by your own feelings of being used (and, I'd guess, by some kind of sexual abuse or rape in your past). I don't have any way to *convince* you of what the Bible says-- that it is right and good for a man and wife to be one flesh, and that they should delight in each other. The very design of our bodies makes it clear that God put pleasurable sensations in place so that intimacy would be a time of oneness AND pleasure between a man and his wife.

The fact that we "burn" with desire for each other is a signal for how much we should "burn" with desire for God, not as a symbol of evil or sin in our intimate relationship with our spouse. Additionally, that "burning" desire for one another is what bonds us together with our spouse and makes a one woman-one man-FOR LIFE relationship possible.

Our holy and loving God has created intimacy for many purposes: (1) for giving to us a physical and emotional "picture" of the kind of delight and love He has for us (symbolizing the communion and relationship between Christ & the Church), (2) for giving Himself glory as we honor one another with our bodies and serve each other with love and joy, and (3) for our pleasure, delight, and as a way that we can express our love for one another within marriage. Our God is indeed both very loving and very holy and has made it clear through His word that marital sex is a holy gift of love FROM Him.

I would highly encourage you to work through the concerns and questions in your heart and mind with a qualified biblical counselor so that you might begin to grasp a biblical view of this important part of married life, and not continue on with such an unhealthy and unbiblical view of sex.

Blessings & Prayers~


#3,
I have many friends in your situation, and I don't have any great answers. Counseling is the answer that I would encourage, but you said in your original comment that that would mortify your husband. Perhaps he'd be less mortified if it was with a pastor or biblical counselor from a different city, someone he didn't have to look at every Sunday in church, etc.???

I sometimes wonder if Matthew 18 is a biblical method for addressing this kind of denial of intimacy. You have already confronted him about his direct violation of Scripture and he has not heeded God's Word (to give to his wife conjugal rights-- 1 Cor 7)... I've not ever heard others that would deal with it in this way, but it might be something to consider. That if he won't do something about it, you may bring in a 3rd party who will begin to help mediate and counsel the two of you through this obstacle in your marriage.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that continual denial will make room for Satan to gain a stronghold in your life, so it doesn't seem like something we should take lightly.

Of course, pray.
Of course, show respect and honor to him.
Of course, strive to be loving towards him in AND out of the bedroom.
But I would work towards renewed and regular times of intimacy in a deliberate and intentional way, through prayer, loving encouragement, a respectful attitude towards my husband, and loving "seduction" of my man. ;)

I hope this helps. Perhaps others would have more to share?
~Jess

Anonymous said...

Jess,
This isn't in response to the questions (sorry!)...I didn't see an email address for you. I was wondering if you would consider doing a parallel series for young single women dealing with issues of femininity, sexuality, modesty,etc. Obviously a lot of issues that you've dealt with in this series have their origins prior to the wedding vows. I for one often feel like I'm floundering in a sea of mixed messages from the culture, but also from an often negative view of sexuality within churches.
Just a suggestion...I know most of your readers are married women, and I know your little ones are keeping you very busy!

Jess said...

Anonymous,
That's a good suggestion. As you noted, I've got little ones and (as you may not know) our tribe is about to increase in number-- I'm due with our 4th in 2 weeks. ;) But I'll start a "file" on it, and see what I can come up with. Maybe by summer I can tackle something like this.

Thanks for the suggestion!
Jess

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Thanks for your reply!

I have to admit that I'm not quite 100% convinced, but you have a serious point. I'm definitely not saying you're not right (It looks like you know about this stuff a lot more than I do!) but I've always considered it as wrong. Part of me thinks it would diminish the "wrong" of other sexual sins (lust, etc.). I'm not sure if I'm making sense now....

Do I sound Quaker? Honest, I'm not! ;-P

Thanks again for your help,

Spencer

Elizabeth said...

Spencer,
What makes sin sin is that it is a perversion of something GOOD. Lust is a sin because it takes the beautiful gift of married sexual love that God gave us and makes sex something self-centered. That married people can look at and enjoy their spouse's body is GOOD and part of God's design...the goodness of marital intimacy if anything "increases" the wrongness of lust and other sexual sins because by committing those sins we pervert something very good and very holy. Does that make sense?

cjmr said...

Re #3:

I'm wondering if the husband's lack of desire might be because of a mental or physical health issue that might be addressed by his MD? Lack of sexual desire is a frequent symptom of depression, and lack of 'ability' can be a symptom of a number of diseases. (Often when a man 'can't' he pretends he doesn't want to.)

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Elizabeth,

Yes, it makes sense. Like I said I'm still not 100% convinced, but we'll see. Still, thanks! :-D

Jen said...

My husband and I discussed the difference between lust and desire. Lust is defined as "uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness" and "strong or excessive craving ". Desire is "an expressed wish; request", "sexual appetite or a sexual urge" and "passion"

As a course of our discussion, we concluded that lust is selfish and self gratifying. We also see it as something that is not Godly, as it shows no self control. Desire, however, is something God-given, and, one could argue only for a certain someone. My husband, were he that type, could lust after several women, but only desire me. Does that make sense? Desire also askes after the wellbeing and wishes of the other, and sexual appetite is healthy and right. In the marriage realtionship, to desire each other is not only right and acceptable, it's encouraged! ;)

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

Well I understand the desire part, that makes sense...but it just seems to me that the, ahem, "naked" subject would lead to other sins (If I named them it might be too inappropriate; I am among ladies here! :-D).

So. I'm just not sure.

Spencer

Jess said...

Spencer,
I appreciate your efforts to come back here and try to dialogue about this, but the truth is that until you get married and actually experience the things we're talking about, your view of what's right/wrong is based entirely on conjecture and hypothesis.

Suffice it to say that nakedness is a natural and God-given part of the original design of marriage. There's nothing shameful about it between two married people. I'd encourage you to read in 1 Cor. 7, also, about how the ANSWER for lust and burning with desire is marriage. Marriage is the God-given solution and biblical outlet for sexual desire and needs... including that of being "naked and unashamed" with another human being.

Blessings,
Jess

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

I see what you are saying about my lack of marital experience. I definitely agree.

My major issue with this, however, is that it makes me wonder, where does one draw the line? If X (visual sexual pleasure) is okay, then what about Y and Z (other sexual sins)?

I'm not sure if I'm making any sense here. But thank you for your help. :-)

Spencer

Jess said...

Hi Spencer,
I think the fundamental problem here is that you are making an ascetic-ish association between pleasure and sin, when the two are not the same. It is easy to feel that way, though, in our very sinfully sexual culture. But it is problematic because it's not biblical.

God made sex for our pleasure-- in physical, emotional, spiritual, relational AND visual ways. He clearly intended visual differences between men and women, as is clear in the biological differences between us.

The closest translation for the exclamation Adam uttered when he saw the (naked) Eve was "wow!" There is a natural and God-given excellence in enjoying the spouse that God gives you. Delighting in the physical and visual differences between a husband and wife is not the same thing as delighting in the physical differences between you and someone who is not your spouse. Not even close.

Equating pleasure that is enjoyed within God's designated boundaries with sin that is clearly *outside* God's boundaries is a problematic connection and is, I believe, where your misunderstanding primarily lies. Delighting in the physical beauty of a wife does not then lead to, for example, pornography. Pornography is an exploitation of something GOOD God made: the physical delight of a wife for her husband. (All sin exploits and twists the good creation of God.) But just because something CAN be done wrong doesn't mean the doing of that thing is wrong within God's design. Sex itself can be done wrong, in ways that are against God's design-- that doesn't make sex evil. It makes it exploitable for sin. Eating can be done wrong, in ways that are against God's design- that doesn't make food evil. It's the same way with visual pleasure in marriage. Husbands who delight in their wives' physical beauty are certainly not in the wrong-- it is the twisting of that God-given pleasure (with porn, for example, or with checking out other women) that would be sinful.

I'm glad you've come back to try to understand; I hope this is helpful.

Jess

Dr. Paleo Ph.D. said...

You make a lot of sense in your "arguments," I must say. But to make myself clear, I'm going to have to be blunt. I didn't want to actually spell it out, but forgive me. You can choose to not post this if you feel better that way, I won't mind.

I see that pornography is way different than sex inside marriage, etc. So what I'm really thinking of is sexual sin inside of the marriage bonds. To be crude, if enjoying "nakedness" is acceptable, then what's to stop one from accepting petting, oral sex, sodomy, etc., as long as they are inside the marriage bonds?

It just seems too easy to jump from one to the next, in my opinion. I can see where you might draw the line to separate it all, though, and you're argument still makes some sense (I mean the argument you've been using, as to Biblical references to sex/nakedness, and those other things I mentioned are not spoken of well in the Bible). All I'm saying is this is what I've been "hinting" at.

My apologies for saying that; I just figured it was necessary to stop beating around the prudish bush. :-)

And I really appreciate all of your help and guidance; I hope my comments have not been an annoyance to you.

God bless!

Spencer

Jess said...

Spencer,
I'm not sure how to say this, so I'll just say it. I'm not sure that your opinions about what is permissible (and even wonderful) within marriage are biblically informed. I don't see how one can read Song of Solomon and not at least find petting as part of the marriage relationship. Other verses, like Proverbs 5:18-19, also reference enjoying one another's bodies in the marriage relationship.

I don't see biblical prohibitions on some of the things that you mention. Many Christian people (theologians and laypersons alike) read Song of Solomon and see clear references to oral sex. Petting is clearly happening in SOS and in the other verse I mentioned. There are probably others as well...

All that to say, I think you may just need to avoid putting prohibitions on things that are not explicitly ruled out in Scripture, as well as waiting until you're married to determine what will and won't lead into sin.

Cause I can tell you-- your view of what the marriage relationship will be like can be vastly different when you're just contemplating it as a single person from what it's actually like in reality as a married person.

I don't know that I can say more than I've said. I would encourage you to find a godly man who could mentor you and to whom you could direct questions more specifically.

Blessings,
Jess

Mr. Anon E. Moose (Anonymous) said...

#3) WHAT IF THE WIFE WANTS IT AND THE HUSBAND DOESN'T?

I'll try this one...

Other guests have pointed out that there are a myriad of possible physical (medical) causes, including diabetes. I'd say that if a husband is willing but not able then a medical check seems well-advised.

I also read about a man who had been abused in childhood, and this history only became disclosed after his wife contacted a counselor who had sufficient wisdom to carefully encourage the man to disclose his real situation. There was a period of counseling that followed and led to recovery. (Gary Chapman's book, Loving Solutions, has the account.) This leads me to believe that a husband may need some biblical and sound counseling to get him out of the woods.

I'd say "stress" can play a big role for a man, and I understand that excessively high loads of stress can cause hormonal declines that leave him with depressed desire.

I believe that other emotional factors, such as managing anger incorrectly, could also play a role.

A husband (perhaps a particular vulnerability for a husband) could be ashamed of performance problems and instead of deliberately collaborating with his wife to give to her to the full extent of his ability .. he might fail by running from the problem or hiding.

With all that said, I do hope that a husband will take God seriously on this matter and will remember that he has given his body to his wife.

It's my opinion that even spouses with physical difficulties can give to their spouse a male-female "Eros" relationship, appropriate expressions of attraction and desire, and probably often times cooperative spouses can give pleasure that works around the technical difficulty.

I note with interest that 1 Cor 7 does not seem to give "chauvinist" conjugal rights to men as some people seem to think. Instead the responsibilities seem to be entirely reciprocal. My beliefs are complimentarian but this specific instruction seems strikingly "egalitarian".

Christian MEN, I believe, are regularly counseled that they had better not DARE discussing scripture with their wives when this part of the marriage is being violated.

Christian guys are told: NO Matthew 18 process, NO talk of 1 Cor 7 ... that would all be manipulative and demanding and one must not be "demanding" in the area of sexual intimacy, so therefore it's off limits to talk about what scripture has to say about marital intimacy.

Honestly, I struggle with that advice (i.e. "don't dare talk with your spouse about this as a matter of heeding scripture".)

As best as I've been able to interpret [please do check for yourself], sexual deprivation is a very, very legitimate grievance and the biblical process for addressing it does seem to say that we need to bring it to the attention of the person.

How difficult it is not to seem demanding when one is also hurting! I would love to hear thoughts/advice about this one.

My best shot at understanding this is that either a husband or wife should be able to talk lovingly but seriously about 1 Cor 7 with their spouse and request for it to be honored in the marriage.

(And contrary to some teachings that have become popular, the person who approaches their spouse in this way should not be "shamed" by Christian counselors and so on for trying to address this problem.)

What do other folks see on this?