I once heard a counselor say that sexual intimacy between a husband and wife is the source of some of the greatest delight in a marriage, but also the greatest disappointment. Dealing with sexual issues can be a real challenge for couples.
I’ve heard from a number whose physical relationship is an area of struggle for them, and how it can put a big strain on the rest of their relationship. So how should we respond when we and our partner are experiencing difficulties with our sex life?
If you find yourself in a season when lovemaking is challenging for one reason or another, here are seven things to keep in mind that will help you navigate sexual difficulties.
Remember that popular culture has corrupted what intimacy is really about. Don’t believe everything you read; you may not be as “below average” as you think. The only measure that matters is whether the two of you find joy with each other. Contrary to the movies, physical intimacy is not all firework displays and heavenly choirs. Anyone who has been married for a while knows that’s fantasy, not reality. In the real world, couples have to deal with things like sick kids, financial pressures, job worries, or physical issues that can lower the temperature in the bedroom.
Don’t allow the walls to go up. Awkward as it might be, open communication is vital. These 9 Tips for Talking About Sex With Your Spouse could help. Share your concerns and disappointments. That’s going to require a level of vulnerability that could actually help draw you closer together: here are 5 Tips to Improve Conversations With Your Spouse. Ask what your spouse needs from you and listen without being defensive. Reassure them of your love and commitment. If you find your spouse no longer wanting sex, try to learn why.
Avoid the temptation to retreat altogether because things are awkward—that’s only going to create a sense of distance and rejection. Physical contact that isn’t overtly sexual in nature helps you feel connected and cared for. Keep in mind these 4 Benefits to Holding Your Spouse’s Hand.
Sometimes a therapist may recommend you abstain from physical intimacy for a time while you deal with certain physical or emotional issues but otherwise, don’t back away entirely. I’m not suggesting you demand more of your spouse than they are willing or able to give, but signaling your desire will be affirming to them. Being vulnerable and showing kindness and compassion even when it’s not easy will strengthen your bond. Listen in on a conversation my wife Susan and I had about What to Do When You Are Not in the Mood.
Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know it all: when it comes to sex, ignorance most certainly is not bliss. [Tweet This] For example, one common sexual problem for couples is mismatched libidos or levels of desire. Getting educated about the hows and whys can make a huge difference. Bear in mind that your spouse’s desires and needs may change as they age. They may be in a different season, emotionally or physically; ask them to teach you. Read books with your spouse; consider meeting with a therapist specializing in sexual issues even.
As I have acknowledged, sexual struggles can cut into a marriage relationship as deeply as just about anything, but try to keep your sense of humor. Don’t make fun of your spouse and their issues, but look for opportunities to lighten the mood occasionally. Sexual dissatisfaction shouldn’t be ignored, but don’t let it cloud all of your relationship.
Avoid the temptation to go elsewhere to find satisfaction or comfort—whether that’s romance novels or movies, pornography, or even other people. That will only turn a difficulty into a disaster. People who play with fire don’t just get burned themselves, they burn others, and they can end up burning the house down. When you got married, you made a commitment to your spouse: here are 10 Ways to “Affair-Proof” Your Marriage and honor that vow.
If any of this rings true for you, the first step may be to acknowledge it by opening a conversation with your spouse without being accusing or defensive. Turning on the light can scatter the shadows where fears lurk.
If you have come through a season when physical intimacy was a challenging area, what was helpful for you and your spouse? Share your thoughts and experiences here.