I received this question from our anonymous Have A Question page about a month ago:
My wife and I have had a troubled sex life for years. Before we were married it was incredible and she fulfilled every desire I had(yes we know it was sin, but it happened). In counseling she said the only reason she did that was to make sure I would stay. One time after what i thought was a great time of making love I said to her “that was the best ever!” She was quiet then when pressed said it was more exciting with her first lover.
This line alone cuts me to my core.
She will not discuss sex. She will not help me understand how to please her. She will not talk during sex. She does not communicate during sex. We seldom have sex- perhaps two or three times a month and of those she is engaged maybe once.
Help me get out of this hell. What can I do to deal with all of this?
Unfortunately, this is a scenario that happens in a lot of Christian marriages: the bait and switch. That is, you thought you were marrying someone who shared your views, passions, feelings, goals, etc. and then as soon as you get married, it turns out that wasn’t the case.
There’s a few ways this happens.
Sometimes they simply didn’t know what they were committing to. I’ve heard spouses say they expected sex to be great … and when it wasn’t, they really weren’t interested any more. Unfortunately, a lot of them simply shut down and don’t realize that great sex takes practice. It’s not good for a lot of people right away, but, it can get there if you keep trying. However, some just give up and say “well, it’s not good, so I’m not interested”. They don’t realize that sex is a requirement for a thriving marriage, and so they cheat themselves and their spouse into ever having a fulfilling sexual relationship, or a thriving marriage.
Sometimes they change, and it’s not a conscious decision, or intentional. Our marriage was like this. My wife did a complete 180 degree turn around when she went on birth control pills, just prior to marriage. Her sex drive shut down, she became depressed, had a short temper, and every day felt like walking on egg shells living with her. On the rare occasions when we had sex, she liked it, but that was quickly forgotten. I often thought, and said “I feel like Jacob” who got his bride switched on the wedding day. This created a pattern of behaviour that turned her primary reaction to sex to be that of refusal. Now, we both had our issues to deal with, but the primary catalyst of this was external: the birth control pills. I often wonder what our marriage would have been like without them.
Sometimes they actively deceive you. These are the really difficult situations, like the one described above. This is a true bait and switch. It’s unethical and immoral, and just wrong. Unfortunately, I honestly don’t know how to protect against it. It’s not just women who do this either. I’ve heard of a lot of husbands who make very overt sexual advances prior to marriage, or even have sex, frequently, before marriage, and then, once married, they lose interest. I don’t have the words to describe how deceptive this is.
Regardless of the situation, whether they deceived you or not, you made a vow to stick with your spouse, for better or worse. Well, this is the worse.
That doesn’t mean you should abandon hope though. I’ll admit, I had some years that I pretty much had given up on hope. Some days my only hope was the mythical “sexual peak” at 35-40 for women. I thought perhaps that might mean we’d have sex a couple of times a month. Other days I had no hope. So, I understand the feeling.
While you can’t change your spouse, you can change yourself. You can make talking about issues in your marriage easier. In our marriage, we decided that since divorce wasn’t an option, we’d have to learn to communicate better, before we killed each other. So, we learned to communicate. We learned how to share our feelings, the good ones and the difficult ones. We learned to create a safe space for each other. We dealt with our issues, and slowly, our marriage started to change. It wasn’t easy, and it required years and tears, but we did it.
So, is there hope? Yes. Can I promise it will get better? No, because this requires both spouses to be invested in making the marriage better. If they are both willing, it can happen. I hear from many couples who have gone from sexless to sexually fulfilled marriage just like we did. Some of them are regular readers. Some I’ve been blessed to play a smart part in helping.
So, what can you do to get out of this hell? Figure out what you need to learn to make your marriage a safe place for your spouse. I can’t guarantee it will make them willing to talk about it, but it will increase the chances that they will. That means learning to communicate, effectively, intimately, lovingly.
Now, I’m afraid I don’t have many resources to help with communication , but I am working on more, so stay tuned. There seems to be a huge need for this, and we aren’t doing a good job, as Christians, of teaching good communication skills. So, I’m going to try to find the time to help fill that gap.
In the mean time, I’d suggest these posts:
How to resolve conflict more effectively
As for her referencing a previous lover, I’m not sure what you can do about that. You pressed, and she answered. It’s not the best way she could have handled the situation, but this is one of the drawbacks of sex before marriage. Perhaps there needs to be a ground rule of not comparing your marriage to previous relationships, but only to previous sessions in your marriage. Then, you won’t be comparing yourself to anyone else, only to a prior you. I think that’s generally a good way to look at things. Not to keep up with others, but only to make sure you are constantly improving.
So, work on communication, and that will make it easier for her to talk about sex. Then use that feedback to improve sex into something she might actually desire.
I hope that helps.Have a Question? Ask it here!