For many spouses, external events can negatively affect the sexual context. This generally is the wife, but not always, as this reader’s question shows:
We are working through a sexual refusal pattern in marriage and we are making good progress. Last night I pointed out that I wish sex had been longer but since we had very limited time I’m glad that we just had sex. To which my husband said, yeah, it’s good that we had sex considering we went to the hospital [to see my grandma who is recovering from a fall]. This sparked a conversation where I discovered that ‘unsexy’ external factors such as going to a hospital, animal shelter, etc. Impact my husband’s desire to have sex. In other words, if has had to do something or go somewhere unpleasant he finds that he will think about that thing and not want sex. I don’t relate to that very much – I mean I can talk about a family member’s terminal and progressive illness at dinner but then turn around later that night and still have sex without the sex being seriously impacted (although I may find myself with a fleeting thought about it). Anyway, here is the question: in your opinion, how common is it that external circumstances outside of our control put a damper on intimacy? And, what are some strategies and tactics for overcoming these roadblocks and continuing an intimate/sexual relationship with your spouse? (Before you think I am heartless, realize that I am not looking for a perfect set of circumstances to have sex – instead, I accept life will never be perfect and I just want to make the best of it by not letting it affect intimacy with my spouse.)
So, let’s try to answer these questions. I’ll give my thoughts, and I’d love it if our other readers would offer their thoughts in the comments section below.
How common is it that external circumstances outside of our control put a damper on intimacy?
I think it’s extremely common. Again, this typically occurs in women, but that’s not always the case. As I’ve been saying for the past while, sex drive is far more complicated than just a simple “high” or “low”. Part of the ability to become aroused depends on our brains determining what is and what is not a sexual context. And, part of that mechanism is controlled by stress.
As well, we each have our own “triggers” for what hits our sexual accelerator pedal vs our sexual brake pedal. It seems that the reader above might have a very unsusceptible brake pedal, meaning, not many things put the brakes on sex. Her husband’s, on the other hand, seems to be quite sensitive. As well, stress can affect how our brain picks up these triggers as well. For the vast majority of the population, stress makes the brain notice brake triggers far more easily than accelerator triggers. In fact, what is normally an accelerator trigger can become a brake trigger in stressful situations. For the rest of the population, the opposite is true: in stressful situations, the accelerator is more sensitive.
And it’s completely understandable that you have trouble relating to the other side. Your brains are wired completely different. It’s hard to recognize that it’s the same systems, just configured in different ways when the end result is the complete opposite effect.
What are some strategies and tactics for overcoming these roadblocks and continuing an intimate/sexual relationship with your spouse?
The first is for both of spouses to recognize why it happens. Once we understand how our brain works, we can sometimes override it. But that’s hard to do if you don’t know what’s going on. Sometimes even just knowing makes a difference. As well, this reader’s husband is probably more than a little stressed or anxious about the fact that he’s a man exhibiting behaviours that more often show up in the other gender. That can feel emasculating, which can be terrifying for men.
But, it doesn’t mean he’s not a “real man”. It just means his brake trigger is a little more sensitive. If you have a touchy brake in a muscle car, it doesn’t make it more feminine. It just means it has a touchy brake that you need to be aware of and adjust accordingly.
So, how can you adjust?
The biggest thing is to reduce the stress. If something happens that causes the stress to go up, something that is “unsexy”, then give it time to transition. Don’t just try to jump from “unsexy” context to sexy context. It can take a few hours to switch gears for some. As well, you might be able to shorten the transition by talking through what is going on. This allows the open loops floating around in the brain to be closed. It gives resolution and closure to the topic. It stops the brain from playing the “what-if” game which can easily derail a sexy context. In this way, stress can actually be released instead of becoming more chronic and holding on. It’s like releasing the emergency brake.
Most people will tell you just to “act sexier” or bring new exciting things in. They’ll suggest basically piling on the accelerator. But, the problem is, if the brake pedal is on the floor, it doesn’t matter how hard to stomp on the accelerator. You still won’t get anywhere. Help your spouse release the brakes, and you’ll find you get much further.
I hope that helps. Readers, please share your thoughts below.Have a Question? Ask it here!
11 thoughts on “External events can stop a sex session from going anywhere”
I have experienced a lack of sexual desire due to stress. My wife more than me, I think. When this happens we have to talk things out and make things right before we can engage sexually again. These days this happens once a month or less. If all is well we can engage sexually 2 or 3 times a day.
These stressful situations happened quite often when first married. I think my wife found things to get stressed about when we were first married so that we would not have to engage in sex later on. It was one of her ways of avoiding me when she was not wanting sex. She used many other excuses, cramps, period, business, and many others. But stress was a good way for her to put the brakes on our sex life.
“2 or 3 times a day.” … how did you ever find the time … me/wife … 2 or 3 times month … aside from work, cars, grass, upkeep, Honey Do lists, my daughter and son kept me very very busy with their games and practices (all of which I did): league hockey, school team hockey, summer hockey, floor hockey, volleyball, skiing lessons, soccer (rep & house), football, music lessons/recitals/shows (piano, violin etc),school plays etc etc … then wife had the audacity it complain that we weren’t physically inmate enough!!
I happen to know that Mike is a retired pastor, so they don’t have kids or work to worry about.
That said, I have 5 kids, and if their activities meant we’d only have sex 2-3 times a month – I would start cancelling those activities immediately. They don’t need hockey, volleyball, skiing, soccer, football, music, etc. nearly as much as two parents who clearly love each other. That’s not going to happen if those parents are only finding time for each other 2-3 times per month.
To me, this is another side-effect of solo masturbation (referring back to your previous comments). If you see no issue in masturbating alone, then, yeah, that makes it easier to accept this and think it’s okay. If you don’t have that as an option, then your more motivated to solve the actual problem rather than try to sidestep it, which, ultimately, doesn’t actually solve the issue.
Jay Dee … just to clarify I did NOT ever masturbate while married … not even once. My kids were very important. My two kids are very close to me today … the ex has never even spoken to me. I would much rather be married than fly ‘solo’ but doing the same thing (getting married) and hoping for something different is the definition of insanity … obviously in retrospect I was correct. At 62 getting married again is ‘why bother’. Tx Jay Dee.
I think we must have radically different experiences with marriage. If my wife died (I don’t see leaving happening), I would definitely want to find another wife – I absolutely love being married. I can’t imagine not being married. I don’t think I’d like being alone.
ya, if I was 42 … I would get remarried but at 62 think that is too old.
I don’t know how I’ll feel at 62. I suppose I will have to wait and see.
Hi Jay Dee. Just thought of something … I am 62 my Grandfather went to heaven at almost 95 so that would be 32+ years and as the chance of getting married after 60, statistically is slim to none so according to you I can never have an organism again!? Think we need need to be realistic and also to show some grace and not be so legal. 🙂 Tx Jay Dee!
I would argue he’s not in heaven, but rather awaiting judgement, but that’s a whole different topic (it’s here if you’re interested).
As for the rest – this is the same argument I get from people who think there’s no issue with Christians having sex outside of marriage. “What if I don’t get married? I can never have sex again?” It’s the same answer too – God didn’t create sex simply for the sake of having sex – He did it to build relationships. Whether that’s partnered sex, or solo sex, it should be done with a spouse. Otherwise you’ve simply removed sex from a relationship, and gone the way of the world.
Your msg provoked several emotions in me; sadness, then anger and finally happiness.
My Grandfather is in heaven. “when a Christian dies he/she immediately passes into the conscious presence of Christ in heaven. But when the day of resurrection arrives, he/she will be given a new and glorified body” … “The erroneous teaching that we don’t go to heaven until the Lord comes, is not new. It has been around for many years. The scriptures are very plain on the subject – when a saved person dies their spirit goes to be with Christ and their body awaits the rapture.” Several verses ie 2 Corinthians 5:8 & Luke 16:22 … Lazarus died and was immediately carried into a place of paradise. The unsaved rich man was immediately found in a place of. “when a Christian dies he/she immediately passes into the conscious presence of Christ in heaven. But when the day of resurrection arrives, he/she will be given a new and glorified body” . Don’t think you are really interested tho.
Dr. Dobson is correct. “The bible does neither encourage nor condemn masturbation, the bible is simply silent about it. I believe that we as Christians should do the same, never encouraging it but never condemning it. Doing anything different would be unbiblical, and we would be relying on our own understanding and the wisdom of man. I prefer the wisdom of God over the wisdom of man” any time of the day. And if God never encouraged nor discouraged Christians from practicing masturbation, neither should Christian leaders encourage nor show any condemnation of the practice of masturbation. Also Dobson (Focus on the Family) said that if a sin it is a very very minor one and most likely helps to prevent committing a more serious sin ie sex outside of marriage. I ran into another anti-masturbation wacko and when I explained that sex with a wife is like driving a Porsche and solo love is like driving a Civic and when busy and the cloud descends that best to go pee and quickly masturbate and get back to task at hand … the person capitulated. Also, I have been involved with biz dev worldwide and investing and often have had to say ‘no’ or fire an employee … but there is a way to accomplish without being mean so when I saw your response to that widow you showed not one ounce of compassion … I was shocked and it raised ‘red flags’ … as was very un-Christ like.
The other issue which didn’t line up was your view that as anal sex was not directly prohibited in the Bible that therefore was OK but masturbation also was also not prohibited but is bad … is not consistent. As many know … anal sex is “unnatural, unwise, unhealthy, unkind (as any MD will tell you as it can cause much harm), is unloving” … Drs “strongly caution against anal sex”.
I am happy because then what I suspected but now I know that you are either not a real Christian or your views/intpret. are wrong (why it is best to never add to the Bible nor take away … this solves many issues … like this. )
“In the last days … false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” So sorry Jay Dee but need to say … “Get thee behind me, Satan”. Must admit I was almost fooled by you!!
Oh, I’m interested – I already addressed those arguments in the post I linked to. The Lazarus argument in particularly is fraught with problems. I encourage you to check it out if you are interested.
As for the rest – there’s nothing new here, just recycled arguments you and I have already hashed out. If you have anything new, feel free to bring them, but I’m not going to keep repeating myself to the same person ad nauseum.