SWM 050 – Anonymous Questions from September 2019 – Deployed Spouses, Passive Sex Partners, Sleep Apnea and How to Boost Attraction for your Spouse

How do you deal with deployment
How do we improve sexual intimacy
How to improve our sex life
Satisfaction and Adventurousness
How do you get your wife to be more dominant in bed
Asking doesn't work, not asking doesn't work.  How to initiate.
How do get your husband to take his sleep apnea seriously
What should teenagers do instead of masturbating?

As always, I’m about a month behind, so today we’re handling questions from our anonymous Have A Question page that came in during September.  

So, without further ado, here are the questions:

Question 1 – Deployed Husband

My husband recently deployed and will be halfway across the world for almost an entire year. Our time zones are almost completely opposite, so he’s asleep when I’m awake and vice versa except for a few hours, morning and evenings. It’s hit and miss if I even catch him at those times and often my kids are with me wanting to talk to daddy (two toddler boys).

What do you recommend for us? He’s higher drive and I know you’re against masturbation… but I also would rather he masturbate to pictures of me than be tempted by other women. What are our other alternatives? Obviously we will try to message and video chat as often as we can but it’s not looking like that will be often.

On my end, I’m at the tail end of breastfeeding, and my drive has been low for almost 4 years (since our oldest was born), but I can feel it starting to return. Inconveniently, he just left… What do you recommend for avoiding remission, connecting with each other long distance, etc.?

I really enjoy listening to your podcast and reading your blog. I love your perspective on everything, even if I don’t always 100% agree (though I usually do agree). I’m glad you are here posting and helping people work through this stuff, it’s very important. I look forward to your response!

That is a difficult situation.  Let me preface this by saying that I’ve never served, and no one I know well has either.  For some, my lack of personal experience invalidates my having an opinion. If that’s you, stop reading, because either I’m going to say something that you already agree with, or you’ll disagree and get upset because “how dare I.”

For those of my readers who already know I’m not, nor have ever been, in the military, you probably already know what my answer is going to be.  But I’ll reiterate it for those who don’t.

I do not believe that solo masturbation is inline with God’s plan for sex.  I believe God created sex to be connecting, a shared experience, between a husband and a wife, together, and with no one else.

Solo masturbation is neither connected, nor shared, nor between a husband and a wife.  It’s, well, solo. And so all the things that the Bible tells us sex is good for – procreation, emotional connection, shared recreation, etc. are invalidated when you masturbate alone.  You’re using sex in a way God didn’t intend. Same as pre-marital sex, affairs and threesomes.

Unfortunately, our culture has turned sex into a personal need rather than a relational need.  We believe that we each, individually, need sex in order to survive. This leads to statements like 

I also would rather he masturbate to pictures of me than be tempted by other women.

As if those are the only two options – masturbate or have an affair.  Unfortunately, we’re arguing between shades of sin. Either he has an affair with someone, or he has one alone.  He either breaks the marriage vow with another person, or he does it by himself. Because either way, he’s going to be spending his time deployed learning to have sex with someone other than you.  Either with someone else, or solo. Neither of which is beneficial to reintegration of the marriage down the road. It’s just going to add to the struggle.

Of course, this leads to the question What are our other alternatives?

And here’s where people get angry.  I think they get angry because they feel convicted, and it’s easier to get angry than be confronted by truth and do the self-examination required.

The answer is patience and self-control.  I can pull a dozen verses telling you that Christians need to be patient and have self-control, but frankly you’re either already going to know it’s in the Bible and find a reason to rationalize every verse, or you’re going to know it and be convicted.

To me, the only Christian response to the problem of “I can’t have sex when I want it” are those two virtues, patience and self-control.  It doesn’t really matter what the scenario is. It could be

  • You get aroused during church – not a good time
  • You desire to have sex with your girlfriend or boyfriend
  • You’re single and just horny
  • You get propositioned by someone who isn’t your spouse
  • Your spouse divorces you, but you’re used to having sex
  • Your spouse dies, and you miss their touch
  • They’re sick
  • They’re exhausted
  • They just had a baby
  • They’re on a business trip
  • They’re deployed

There are a hundred times and reasons why it’s an inappropriate time to have sex.  The answer to all of them is – exercise self-control and patience. 

That response, and only that response, actually improves your relationships.  It improves your character, which is part of the Christian walk. It gives us opportunities to be more Christ-like.

Any alternative I’ve seen, from masturbation to affairs to open marriages to polyamory, just leads to you damaging your relationship with your spouse (present or future) and damages your character.

We are not supposed to have everything we want when we want it.  Instant gratification damages your character. Because what happens when he’s used to masturbating whenever he feels like it and then comes home and one day you’re too tired to have sex, or you’re sick, or you’re at a meeting.  He’s going to masturbate. Because why not? The more we build habits, the more we rationalize not having to wait, not having to exercise patience, the less willing we are to wait.

And this doesn’t just hold true for sex.  It spills over into other areas. Usually people aren’t patient and self-controlled in one area of life and not others.  People tend to be patient people, or impatient people. People tend to have strong willpower, or not.

As well, the practice of masturbation teaches us to be selfish. We don’t have to focus on anyone else, on how they’re feeling, what they want, what they need.  It’s all about us. A decision to masturbate is a decision to be selfish. After a year of experiencing purely selfish sex, he is likely to change as a lover. He will likely be less generous, less concerned with your pleasure, less attentive to your needs.

But a man who has decided to wait for you, because you are a part of sex, that is a man who is focused on his wife, not himself.  That is a man who is constantly exercising self-control, patience, and selflessness. That is a man who will be more able to integrate back into the family when his tour is done.

But he has to want to do it himself.  That’s not something you can tell him he has to do.  Otherwise, he’ll just masturbate and hide it, and that will cause even more problems.

So, that leaves you in a difficult position.  What do you do? You can decide for yourself not to masturbate.  You can send him this and ask what he thinks of it. But above all, I’d suggest you express that you love him unconditionally and whatever he does do, you’d rather know than not.

Because whatever his decision is, it’s better to know and deal with the outcome than to not know and be in the dark about why things have changed so drastically.

At least, that’s what I think.

Oh, and of course, when you have the opportunity to have a shared experience, even if that’s over a video feed, then I’d say take advantage.  

Question 2 – How do we improve sexual intimacy

I am not even sure what question I should ask here. Let me try this: I have no clue what to do to improve sexual intimacy in my marriage.

I read with great interest your recent topic on responsive desire (and all the referenced topics). Through studying this topic, I am convinced that I have been correct in my feeling that I am totally to blame for living with my wife in a sexless marriage (clinically defined as 10 or fewer times a year). I do not know how to initiate sexual activity with my wife in a direct way (as you suggested in the topics), and hinting does not work at all. One thing that I have noticed is that she is generally responsive only if under the influence of alcohol. If she is sober, hinting gains nothing (tired, headache, back ache, tummy ache, too late, etc.) and direct request gains only an irate reaction.

Being a much older man, I have relied on sildenafil (recommended by my physician and urologist) to help sustain erection during sex. But of course it takes time to work (several hours), so probably only 10% of the time that I use the pills do we have sex.

Clearly I have a communication problem.

I’m not sure you are totally to blame.  If EVERY time you initiate and she’s sober she’s responds with some sort of defense that equates to “no”, but when she’s inebriated she generally responds with “yes”, then it seems like there’s something going on in her psyche that’s usually blocking her from being willing to experience sex that gets dampened by alcohol.

To me, that sounds like more of a psychological block on her end.  Now, yes, communication might help mitigate that a bit, certainly bad communication will make it worse, but I sort of doubt you’re going to solve this by improving your communication on your end alone.

Without knowing more, my guess would be you need something that’s going to dig a little deeper.

That might be several in-depth discussions about what sex means to both of you, your views on sex, and what is causing these defenses to come up.  Those discussions might need the help of someone such as Dr. Jessica McCleese who is a licensed, Christian therapist who specializes in marriage and sex.

That might be a Bible study that shows that sex is not only not sinful in the right context (marriage), but blessed, recommended and even commanded between spouses.  Note: Let the Bible (or Bible study) convict her about the commanded portion. You saying “The Bible says you have to have sex with me” is not a good idea in the majority of cases.  Quite a few years ago now, we did Intimacy Ignited with a small group from church.  I’d highly recommend it if she’s willing to participate.

Point is, while I applaud willingness to take responsibility for this, and you should definitely learn to communicate better, simply learning how to initiate more effectively is not always going to solve issues like this.  It will likely take something more intentional on both sides.

Question 3 – How to books

Are there any christian “how to” books or websites that you would recommend? My wife and I have been married for 3 years and seem to have really good communication on everything except for what happens in the bedroom. I am definitely the more adventurous one, and have been wanting to try out different things from the start and am more or less the only initiator in the relationship. We have talked about trying different things together and she seems okay with the idea of spicing things up a bit, but she freezes up whenever we try to initiate something other than the “vanilla.” I don’t have much trouble talking about what I would like, and dropping hints. But she doesn’t really seem to act on what I have been trying to tell her. On the flip side though, I haven’t been able to figure out what she likes either. Every time I ask, she says “I Don’t know,” or “I just like the usual”. Which makes me feel like I’m not very appealing, since I hardly ever seem to get her aroused. Likewise, she has expressed a lot of frustration with her inability to be aroused or climax and has said that she struggles with the idea of being “sexy.” She doesn’t want to treat sex as an “obligation”. But a lot of the time that is how things feel for both of us. (We also just had a baby, so intimacy tends to be a bit rushed of late.) So I was hoping to be able to find some resources to help us figure these things out a bit better. I know there are lots of secular books out there but neither one of us feels comfortable looking through something with graphic photographs/drawings. Do you have any suggestions? Or is the root of the problem just a lack of communication? 

First, I’d recommend reading this post: The worst time to spice up your sex life, because that seems to be just what you’re trying to do.  And it’s no wonder. After all, media has been pushing this idea forever.  The idea that fundamental or systemic problems in marriage can be solved by simply adding a new sex position or activity.  I even saw this article once from a woman about how letting a guy ejaculate in her nostril saved their relationship. I wish I was kidding, but here’s the article, which I hope was a joke itself.

Point is, I don’t think a “how-to” book is going to help in this case.  Arousal is generally more about what’s going on in your mind than your technique.  It could just be that she just had a baby. That tends to shift a lot of hormone levels around, so you might just need that to settle a bit.  Or it could be she’s struggling to switch from “mommy” mode to “wifey” mode.

If you want to learn a skill that’s more likely to help, I have two ideas:

  1. Learn to give great massages – this will help her relax, and can be an excellent way to transition to foreplay and build that arousal, not only because of the physical pleasure, but because of the mental relaxation that often goes along with a massage.
  2. Learn to communicate during sex – I’m finally learning, after 18 years of marriage, just how important it is to arouse a woman’s mind – more so than her body.  You can create a lot of arousal without a single touch if you learn to do that. I wrote the Introduction to Talking Dirty to help couples (mostly guys) with this.  It’s awkward and weird at first, but definitely worth the effort.

Also, as above, you might want to talk to a therapist or check out the Intimacy Ignited bible study if there are underlying beliefs that are limiting her ability to respond.

Question 4 – Satisfaction and adventurousness

I’ve been wondering about “The degree of correlation between sexual satisfaction and being able to engage in the sex acts that interest you”?

Assuming everything else is decently stable, and healthy, but still with good energy and tension within the relationship.

Any thoughts?

I’m not 100% sure I understand the question, but in general I think I agree.  The more you engage in sex, the more you tend to enjoy it. This happens for a few reasons I think:

  1. Your brain likes to win, so if you are actively doing something rather than passively experiencing it, your brain tends to send more dopamine to say “Hey, we’re good at this!” which in turn improves your ability to get aroused and even orgasm.  
  2. The more you engage, the more likely you are to add elements you like.  If you’re just star-fishing sex, then it’s unlikely you’re going to have a great experience, but if you jump on top and start grinding in a way you know you like, then, well, you’re likely to enjoy it more.
  3. There is a feedback loop that happens between people when they have sex.  The more you engage, the more you seem to enjoy it, which then makes your spouse pick up on that and enjoy it more themselves, because they feel sexy and that they’re doing a good job, this again loops back, and so you get this ever-increasing feedback loop of pleasure and arousal.  Unfortunately, the opposite feedback loop also happens. If you’re not enjoying yourself, that becomes apparent to your spouse who then gets a lot more anxious about their performance and enjoys it less, which inhibits them more, which likely makes sex worse again for you both, and around and around we go.

Question 5 –  How do you get your wife to be more dominant in bed

What or how can I help her change from being very submissive in be to more dominant? She is very dominant in everyday life but as soon as we get in bed she is too submissive and just lays there making it not very exciting for me.

That’s doesn’t sound like submissive.  That sounds like passive. Submissive spouses still tend to be very active, engaged, enthusiastic, etc..  

Rather, it sounds like your wife is disengaging during sex for some reason.  She’s not submitting, she’s checking out.  

It could be because she has some limiting belief that tells her sex is for you, not her, or that she shouldn’t engage because “good girls don’t do that”, or something else.  It’s hard to say what with so little context, but it sounds like you might have to have a conversation about what sex means to her, what she thinks about it, etc., and that will inform what your next steps should be.

Question 6 – Asking doesn’t work, not asking doesn’t work

I normally have to ask her if I can I have sex or get sex on a particular day, and she gets mad cause I have to keep asking about it, and she says if I don’t ask it as much I have a good chance of getting some. But over the last couple of months I tried this and then in the morning she will be like I was horny last night and if you asked you would have got some? What am I supposed to do? and also why the heck would she not start initiating with me if she was in the mood?

Yeah, two things going on here, as you said:

  1. Why isn’t she initiating when she’s “in the mood”.  That’s a question for her that you should ask – in a way that is gracious and wanting to understand her more, not in a way that is accusing.  If you need help with that, contact me here.
  2. Stop asking.  The problem is, you are always putting the responsibility for sex on her.  You want her to initiate when she’s in the mood and when you’re in the mood, you want her to tell you it’s okay to initiate.  Either way, you want her to tell you it’s a good time to have sex. Most women don’t like to be responsible for sex. They want you to be, and they want to respond.  To give her something to respond to. Asking “are you in the mood” is not an initiation. In fact, it will have the opposite effect.

Question 7 – Husband has sleep apnea

Hello Jay, It’s been so helpful listening to your podcasts and reading your blog, and I really appreciate your objective, honoring methods of presenting answers to the questions posed. Here’s mine: what is the best approach to help my husband grasp how serious his sleep apnea is to his health, our marital health and diminishing intimacy, and frankly, my trust? He has had 2?sleep studies and was diagnosed with both types apnea (obstructive and central ) and has only intermittently used his c-pap. He actually snores so loudly I cannot sleep, he stops breathing altogether and then gasps and sometimes hits/kicks me as he comes to for air. It’s scary, and I get so angry and worried he’s going to suffocate. At this point he’s lost his sex drive , and I’m exhausted. Like having a newborn for the last 3 years. the length of time we’ve have been married. He works a very difficult job 12-18 days as an electric utility lineman, and he’s highly skilled, extremely loyal to the field and his crew. However, our marriage suffers, and I’ve made many attempts at asking him to please take this seriously. I know he feels a great deal of pressure to perform at his job, but I fear we’re pushing our luck concerning his health, our growth as a couple, and his poor self-care. I’m weary and sad about his lack of care over these things that hurt both of us. Thanks for your time! 

I think it’s time to exercise some healthy boundaries.  

What if you told him, during the day, that you are going to start sleeping in another room because you both need more and better sleep and because it’s too hard to watch/hear him continue to suffer when there is help available.  That you are afraid of what it will mean for your marriage, that you fear this separation will create even more of a divide, but you don’t know what else to do. Then follow through with it that night, without delay.

This would attack the problem from two angles:

  1. It will show him how serious you are about it.  It will give a physical example of the rift that’s already being created between you because of this.
  2. You’ll get better sleep.

One of our supporters in our forum actually did this.  She would lay with him until he fell asleep, then go to sleep somewhere else.  It worked for her and her husband got a CPAP machine.

But, you have to do it out of love, not anger.  

Another good suggestion from our forum is to ask why he doesn’t want to use the machine.  What about it worries/scares/annoys him? Just make sure you ask in a way that shows you want to understand, not in a way that sounds like “what is wrong with you?”

Question 8 – What should teenagers do instead of masturbate?

Hi Jay, just wondering, if masturbation is regarded as a sin, how do we guide our teenagers to deal with sexual needs ? When puberty hits, they will experience desires that can’t be met unless they are married, so how can we assist them to cope in a way that will take care of their conscience? And with the degradation in this world, it’s likely they will be exposed to sexual matters at a much younger age than we have been. Is it even possible for them to enter into marriage with a healthy attitude to sex?

I think generally our entire approach to this is wrong.  First off, we assume that their desires can’t be met. They can be, just not in the way that we’re conditioned to think.  We think desires have to be met with a satiation of that desire in some way.  

But that’s not how the Bible deals with untimely or immoral desires. Not that sexual desires are immoral, but the desire to act on them while not married is.  

The Bible teaches us to meet desires with self-control and patience.  To lean on God for strength.  

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – 1 Corinthians 10:13

So, what if we taught our teenagers about sex.  About what God’s design for it is. About the various temptations and how Satan is trying to distract them from a healthy attitude and experience about sex.  About the risks and potential outcomes of masturbation, porn, and pre-marital sex? Of what it means to be able to meet your spouse without any other experiences, of never having to compare them to another lover.

Is it possible to enter marriage with a healthy attitude of sex?  Yeah, I think so. I know a few people who did. It’s rare, but the few that did, they had parents who didn’t shy away from talking about sex and answering questions about it.  They were open and honest about sex, making it something glorified, in the right context, rather than shameful simply out of the habit of “never talk about it”.

Question 9 – Never attracted to husband

How do you deal with deployment
How do we improve sexual intimacy
How to improve our sex life
Satisfaction and Adventurousness
How do you get your wife to be more dominant in bed
Asking doesn't work, not asking doesn't work.  How to initiate.
How do get your husband to take his sleep apnea seriously
What should teenagers do instead of masturbating?

What can a wife do if she was never attracted to her husband? I knew that I wasn’t , but dismissed the red flag because I loved the personality of him. Now I feel stuck, am repelled with physical contact.

Well, the good news is this can change.  Neuroplasticity is a wonderful thing – our ability to rewrite, recondition, even reprogram our brain.  

Unfortunately, you’ve likely been conditioning your brain over the years to believe that you aren’t attracted to him.  So much so that you’re brain has responded with repulsion. So, bad news is – you did this. Good news is – you can fix it.

And I believe God will help you.  So, I would probably take a two pronged approach to this.

Firstly, pray about it.  Ask God to help you remold your mind so that you can be as attracted to your husband’s body as you are to his personality.

Secondly, retrain your brain to like how he looks.  Our attractions, preferences, etc. are merely preferences that we’ve built over time.  They can be changed.

You can do this by:

  1. Focusing on aspects you do like.  Start with personality, since you say you loved it.  Loved is past-tense, so I’m guessing that’s waning as well due to your continued negative conditioning.  Actively look for things you like about him. Train your brain to notice them more and put more weight on them.  You do this by consciously calling attention to it more often.
  2. Choose to be attracted.  You can actually, by sheer force of will, decide to be attracted to someone.  Practice that. Some might call it “fake it ‘till you make it”, but I prefer “practice makes perfect”.  
  3. Compliment him, mentally and verbally.  Change the script in your head from “I’m so not attracted” to “I like x about him”.  Then start telling him things you like about him. Start with personality first if that’s easier.  Then start trying to find physical things. Even if it’s he has nice elbows. Saying something out loud has a lot more impact on our psychology than just thinking it.
  4. If you’re masturbating, stop.  Masturbation includes a lot of those same hormones that you get from sex.  Dopamine and oxytocin get released and you’re using them to train your brain to get sexual pleasure without him.  If you stop, then two things may happen. First, your “fix” from masturbation will drop off and your brain will look for another source (your husband), which will get your brain already thinking of him as more attractive because he’s a potential solution to a problem.  While women don’t neccessarily go “man-crazy” when they haven’t had sex, their brain does reconfigure to see potential partners as more attractive. Use that to your advantage and point it at your husband. Then, if you do that sex, those same chemicals will help you bond to him.  Oxytocin will help you feel more loving and kind to him, which will help your impression of him. Dopamine will tell your brain that you’re “winning” when you’re with him. Our brains like to win, and so it will make him seem more attractive so you will be with him more and get more dopamine.

I hope that helps.

That’s it for now.  If you have a question of your own, you can ask it anonymously on our Have A Question page, or contact me here.

If you’re looking for a way to boost intimacy during the holidays, don’t forget to grab your copy of the Intimacy Advent Calendar before it disappears for another year.

And, as always, we appreciate your comments and reviews.

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