Imagine for a minute that you and I are seated across from each other, sharing a latté at Starbucks without children. The colors of fall splash golden red and yellow hues in the background. We each let out a sigh and smile as we take our first sip.
And then I begin the conversation. I invited you here because I wanted to have a heart to heart talk with you. A talk about…well…yes, about sex.
You see, a few years ago, sex was not something I thought much about or wanted to do. To put it plainly, sex was not enjoyable.
Now, if we go back a few more years, there was a time sex was enjoyable…and exciting.
We were both 16 and madly in love. We would drive away on a Friday night date in a bench seat Chevy truck and stop off at the local “point” before making it home just in time for curfew.
On Saturdays, we would watch a movie at his house – except there wasn’t much movie watching going on. We looked for opportunities to steal away together and re-create one of those steamy scenes from Titanic.
I dreamed of him at night and imagined the next time we would be alone. Of course those dreams were dripping with guilt because I had promised myself that I would be a virgin when I married. Yet no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t say no to this person and the feelings he aroused. So I learned to live with the guilt.
I tried hard to justify my actions to myself to make the guilt subside. That didn’t work very well, so I decided that since I couldn’t control my passions, I would control my enjoyment of those passions.
Emotionally, I began to hold back a small portion of my full enjoyment for our wedding night. Then, I thought, I would indulge in enjoyment, guilt-free.
So, when the wedding night came, I reached into my stash expecting to find all my stowed away pleasure, only to find it empty. Where did it go? Where did all the deep passion that I wanted to save for this moment go? I hoped maybe I would find it the next night or the next.
Night after night we rolled in the sheets yet my passion and excitement for love making was gone. The reserve that I carefully hid away, hoping to enjoy once we shared last names, had vanished, and in its place I found shame.
I discovered shame is sneaky. It slinks in through doors you thought were locked and makes its home beside you, quietly. I let shame live beside me the first 4 years of our marriage.
Talks about sex mostly resulted in arguments and the cold shoulder. My husband was patient and sweetly initiated sex many times, but I was skilled at making up excuses. I would consent here and there, but every time we came together, I was reminded of our un-wed passions and my failure to control them.
I unknowingly held onto that grudge against myself and my husband for years. Four years after we said “I do,” we welcomed our first son into the world. They say a baby changes everything, and it does, including your sex life! Now added to my emotional difficulty of sex were the scars of a surprise C-section, breasts used to nourish the baby, plus the high demands of becoming Mom. I threw out the list of excuses and just ran from sex! I had no physical desire or emotional energy to connect with my husband.
Thankfully, when our son turned one year old, I had a breakthrough. Some friends of ours blessed us with tickets to a Weekend to Remember conference hosted by Family Life. They didn’t know our intimate struggle, but merely wanted to pass on a blessing that someone had passed on to them early in their marriage. They have no idea how much that weekend blessed us.
There, in our hotel room the walls began to fall.
Of course, I believe, God in His Sovereignty had orchestrated events leading up to this event. A couple in our Sunday school class the week before had shared their testimony and talked about the difficulties they’ve experienced in their own intimacy.
As I listened, I couldn’t believe it. Their story was similar to ours! A lady I greatly respected had not lived a perfect life either, but God had restored and forgiven her. It gave me hope.
Finally, I was ready to talk. My husband had tried to get me to open up many times before, but I never would – to myself or to him. The pain was too deep and I preferred keeping it locked up inside where I thought it was safe. I didn’t know the freedom that awaited if I would just let it go and deal with the truth.
One night we started talking about my responses to sex and it was then my husband did something I’ll never forget. He sat next to me, grabbed my hand and humbly said, “Will you forgive me for those times I didn’t stop us from having sex before we were married? I know that violated something very special for you – and us – and I am truly sorry.”
Tears I didn’t know existed came bursting forth as a wave of forgiveness and trust blew in. I forgave him. I forgave me and wanted to move forward in freedom and sexual integrity.
Since then we’ve added two more children to our family. With every birth there was a period that sex was uncomfortable. The guilt hovered over me again, but my husband would remind me, “We have confessed all of this. God has forgiven us, and we’ve forgiven each other. This is not who we are anymore.”
I would pray for God to give me the desire to have sex with my husband. And not just sex, but passionate love for him.
I want to tell you, He has! I have cried during our time together because I finally feel released from the shame and guilt and am passionately attracted to him again.
If I’m not feeling like it one night, I can talk to him about what’s going on in my world and not wall up inside. In a word, there’s freedom now and it is good.
I wanted to share this story because I know there are other women who are where I was. Right now, sex is painful. Maybe it’s physical, maybe it’s emotional. Maybe it’s because of shame from your past or that time of life. I want to tell you, it won’t always be painful. I encourage you to deal with the shame from your past and know that the years of raising small children will pass. The season when kids cling closely to you all day and cry for you at night are not sexy years. But they won’t last forever. Our marriages will still be there after the kids leave the house. Keeping an intimate, open sex life is an essential element to marriage that requires time and delicate attention to be enjoyed. But the benefits are worth all the effort!
Some great resources on this topic:
Intimate Issues by Linda & Lintus and Lorraine Dillow
Every Woman’s Battle by Shannon Ethridge
No More Secrets by Julie Steck
Marriage is so important and takes daily work.
What other resources have you found to be helpful for you in your marriage? Share those with us!