Just so everyone is on the same page: the term “Sexual Awakening” is used in many Christian Marriage communities to describe a point where a spouse who has been refusing (limiting sex in the relationship), or one who just has an extremely low (or no) libido, suddenly turns around and realizes sex is important, or that they have a sex drive after all.
There is typically one single conversation, a moment, or something defining that suddenly changes the relationship, whether it be a conversation between spouses, a conversation with a friend, a book, a blog article, a sermon, a verse, a prayer, God’s voice, whatever. In every case I have seen, heard, or read about (including my own), there is one pivotal instant where everything changes.
I’m not sure which was the pivotal point in my life. It was either the moment my wife asked “do you think I’m a refuser?” Or the day she told me she would never say “No” again. They were pretty close together, and I can’t say which was the defining point in my wife’s mind, in fact, it might have been before there where she got the idea into her head that she might be a refuser. But nailing down the specific instance is not the issue here.
Now, sometimes the “awakened” spouse takes this point and turns their sexual life around on a dime. A refuser will all of a sudden initiate sex everyday. A spouse with no libido will now crave sex multiple times a day. A partner who used to only allow missionary position and absolutely no other sexual activity will begin to introduce new positions and activities into every session. These seem to be typically in the case where there is a repressed sexuality and the burden that repressed them is suddenly lifted. For example, when a wife finds out that God intended sex to be wonderful and good, not a sin like she had been taught her whole life. Or a husband who was constantly afraid of being labeled a pervert by his wife, because that’s what his mother called him when she caught him masturbating as a child, and now realizes it’s normal to like sex. But, these seem to be the rarer cases.
Unfortunately, some few of these cases believe that if you don’t change your life in an instant, then you haven’t had a “real” sexual awakening.
More often than not, this process of sexual awakening takes day, weeks, years, or even decades to fully mature into a completely changed life, in fact, I’m not sure the process is ever really finished. In that regard, it’s very much like the Christian life. While it only takes an instant to make a decision for God, it will take us the rest of our life to learn how to live out that changed life.
Now, some get a bit frustrated with this. They know their spouse has had a sexual awakening, they know that the other understands what life should be like, but it is very hard for some to break old habits. For example: My wife is having a very hard time giving up her gatekeeper habits. Don’t get me wrong, we have a great sex life:
- We have sex frequently (2-3 times per week)
- We participate in different activities and positions during sex (not always the same thing every time)
- We talk about sex openly with each other. The good, and the bad.
So, what’s wrong you ask? She has trouble giving up control of whether or not we’re going to have sex. Often she will come to bed and say “We’re not having sex tonight, right?”, which is a question, without being a question. And she doesn’t really even realize she’s doing it. I mean, she’s aware of what she’s saying, but she’s not consciously aware that she is trying to control the situation. It’s habitual. She’s been gatekeepering (is that a word?) for so long that its going to take time to change it. Now, I know that if I responded with “Yes, we are” then we probably would have sex. But that’s not what I want. I don’t want to be the gatekeeper any more than I want her to be. I want it to be a mutual discussion, and that’s what we’re currently working towards. It has taken her about 5 years from her sexual awakening point to get to where we are now, and it’s been a fairly steady progression, with some understandable backslides due to 2 pregnancies and births in that time as well. And I fully expect it to take another 5 years or more before we work out of her habit all these little automatic responses. It doesn’t mean she isn’t trying. It doesn’t mean she hasn’t had a sexual awakening. It means, she’s working on it, and that’s all I can ask. I am so thankful that I now have a wife who understands the importance of sex in a marriage. I would never complain that it isn’t “enough”.
My next post will be about the other spouse. We have our own process to deal with.
Have you had a sexual awakening and are working through the ramifications? Are you a spouse to someone who has had a sexual awakening? How has the journey been so far?
25 thoughts on “How Long Does A Sexual Awakening Take?”
some interesting concepts here, even if you take out the Christian element it is a thought provoking read.
Thank you! That is high praise.
One of the things I’ve written about a bit in my blog is that sexual transformation and awakening is a process for both spouses. I will always remember the exact moment my heart changed–but learning to actually act on that heart change took about a year. It was another year yet before it was I felt fully changed. Meanwhile, my husband had his own process of coming to trust that the change was real and another year before his trust in me, with his full sexuality, was rebuilt. And we are still in a process of growth. But the decision to change? That happened in an instant.
Yeah, I agree 100%. My next post will be more about my journey through this change. Thanks for letting me know about your blog. I look forward to reading your posts.
Great article. Yes, we expect our spouses to change overnight, but sanctification is a lifelong process. Thank you for the reminder.
Yes, this is as much a reminder to myself as anything else.
What if it’s both partners who are lacking libido, and fully realize it? When does an “awakening of the mind” turn into “action”? How long is too long before it doesn’t?
Let me preface by saying: I’m not a medical doctor or psychiatrist, so don’t take anything I say as professional medical or mental advice.
But, it’s pretty rare (from what I’ve seen) for both spouses to have no drive (though no unheard of). I guess the first question is: does it bother you? If not, maybe it’s not an issue. I don’t know how to gauge a situation like that.
But, if you feel something is missing, if you feel a component of your relationship is not there (and not just because everyone is telling you it is, or the world tells you it is wrong), then maybe start doing some digging. The common offenders are:
Prior Sex Abuse
Bad Teaching (family, church, school)
Substance Abuse (drugs, alcohol, etc)
Neurological Disorders (Anything on the autism spectrum can have serious sexual side effects, as well as ADHD, and I’m sure more than I’m not qualified to list)
and probably a lot more I am missing.
I guess the long and short of it is: If it bothers you, ask questions, get yourself checked out.
I have the same problem! It started with his porn addiction, which left no drive for him. After a couple years of that we got saved and he has done a wonderful job in freeing himself from the chains of porn. When he finally started being an initiator, I started being a gatekeeper. I don’t know if it was to protect myself from being rejected for the millionth time, or just to hurt him. Eventually here we are, both so used to being in a sexless (well, sex deprived) marriage that we have just made a habit of not doing it. Now we have a few kids, which is energy draining enough on it’s own. And we’ve subconsciously satisfied our natural desires with things like dessert. We eat a lot of sweets, and I realized it’s to pacify ourselves to what we really want. Of course, that packs on the pounds and makes it harder to get our libidos to where we want them to be. I used to love sex and want it, now it just hurts and isn’t fun when we do it. And he doesn’t please himself or anything, he has lost his interest in sex altogether. Both of us just feel like it’s so much hassle, we have genuinely both lost our sex drive. So it definitely can happen!
You are not alone, I see this pattern of behavior a lot out there. Check out the post I wrote yesterday (see link below). It happens, but you have to move past it.
I was a gatekeeper for a looonngg time, although I never saw it as such and still struggle with the concept that I was “controlling” when we had sex. It just hurt to have to have sex with someone who didn’t seem to care about me, just the use of my body. My husband and I married young and both of us were quite ignorant about things. I used to think I had to ‘be in the mood’ but I never got there because he (still does) waits until he wants it to say anything or hint around. For the most part there’s no ‘sex starts in the kitchen’ stuff going on here. I’ve begged him to just let me know when he’s going to want sex so I can mentally prepare myself since there’s little other type of preparation although once we ‘start’ he now does spend some time pleasuring me rather than it’s all over in a few minutes. I now realize the importance of sex in marriage but it seems that now he’s the gatekeeper and somehow in his mind that must be okay. It seems like ‘payback’ to me. I’m trying to make myself available, look nice/sexy, even make the first move but often he says he’s tired or, I’ve noticed that if I show up with a sexy outfit at bedtime or even undress in front of him that sometimes he’ll close his eyes or ignore me. I guess he doesn’t want to do anything/get aroused so he chooses to not even look. This is VERY painful to me. As hurtful as all the times I did it when he wanted to yet I felt so alone because of the lack of real relationship or any kind of foreplay that lasted more than 2 minutes. At my request we began the “31 Days to Great Sex” in January. By mid-April and several arguments later we were only on day 18 and unless I bring it up we’ll never finish it. I guess my answer is, yes, I feel like I’ve had an awakening but it seems like it’s too late to make any difference. My husband told me that he had asked God to take away his sex drive because I ‘always said no’ and because I said that all he thought about was sex. I did say that many years ago. He said he was trying to prove to me that he loved me but, not only did he quit pursuing me sexually, he never started pursuing me in any other way so, in essence he proved what I thought all along. We’ve been married a long time. I can’t fix this mess. To be honest, the whole thing seems hopeless. What good is an awakening if the other person can’t see that they’re still holding your past behavior against you?
My next post I’m going to deal with the process we go through as the spouse of the awakened person. I’m not sure how long it has been since your awakening, but it took me a while to really believe it was true. And even longer to wipe any lingering resentment (if it’s completely gone at all, I’ll be honest, sometimes it still pops up).
But one thing is for sure, in my marriage and just about every other one I’ve seen: Neither spouse is ever free from issue. If one spouse is refusing/gatekeeping, usually the other has something equally bad going on. Whether it is the cause or the result of the refusing/gatekeeping or something that just happens is neither here nor there, what matters is that we all have our struggles, and we should be lovingly helping our spouse in their struggles.
Keep at it, keep loving him. Show him what love is. I’d suggest reading my post on “How do I get my spouse to do [blank]”. It expounds on this idea a bit more.
Try gentle slow loving next time you do have chance. Instead of making orgasm the goal try just loving while praying that God would fill you more with love than desire. Put off your orgasm on purpose for 30 days and just love with your hands and voice and most of all with your heart. You might be shocked and pleased with the outcome but even if you are not it is God’s way to love whether it is returned or not! It is what you promised to do!
Ha! Try telling my husband any of this. He swears its important but still will do/say anything to get out of sex. And if we do have sex, it’s EXTREMELY boring for me. I’ve waited 5 years already. Ain’t waiting another 5 for this joke. Of course, I’ve been told for so long that it must somehow be my fault because I’m a woman and men just don’t NOT have sex. Hahahaha! My husband is repressed, stuck in the dark ages. All I want is love and affection. I don’t nag. I don’t put him down. I don’t disrespect him. I work out as much as possible. I love him so much and he literally just ignores that love. One day, he will wake up and I will be gone. I’ve put too much into this to have him treat the situation like he can take his time with this.
I urge you to pray and think about this before making any big decisions. It took 8 years for my wife to turn around. Thank God I did not leave! All that would have been for nothing!
Our marriage now is amazing. It can happen, it takes patience, it takes love and show them God on a daily basis.
Now, I admit, this is talking about a believing husband and an unbelieving wife, but I think we can extrapolate a principle here. The point is, by you being more Christ-like, you show him and eventually bring him into the same sort of relationship with God, because obviously something is missing there.
Work on your relationship with God, and I am willing to bet that improvement will occur in your marriage as well.
I expand on this idea a bit more in the post linked below.
Is it still refusal when they lock out certain sex ideas, activities, but enjoy the same stuff they don’t reciprocate? For example, a woman enjoys receiving oral sex, but refuses to perform oral sex because performing oral sex is disgusting to her. Or what about a husband who does perform oral begs and pleads that she “smooth up” because he detests hair? My wife guards her sexuality, is very inhibited, although she likes PIV. She is all about the emotional connection but is so out of touch with the physical part she won’t even touch herself. I’m praying for an awakening that she will perceive God’s gift of sex for *all* that it is.
I believe most would consider that gatekeeping, and not refusing. They are deciding how and when, but not actually refusing to have sex with you.
Alternatively, she could just be uncomfortable with her sexuality, which many woman are. A product of Christian upbringing typically, sadly to say.
It is unlikely she will change if she isn’t willing to discuss it. That is the first step. If she is, then start discussions about how she feels about things, why she feels that way about them. For me, I find the best time for those discussions are right after sex, when you’ve both had an orgasm, oxytocin is ramped up, and that makes you both trust each other more and be more willing to discuss sensitive topics.
And keep praying.
Having been both a refuser and gatekeeper at various times, I don’t see much difference between the two. For me, both actions were the result of the same heart issue on my part. My husband has shared with me that he felt just as hurt and rejected when I controlled the quality and conditions of our sex life as he did when I outright refused.
I agree that they are both the same underlying issue, but I do think the terminology is useful to determine which specific issue they are facing.
It seems to me that refusers typically do not understand that sex is a need within a marriage, whereas those who are gatekeeping understand the need, but not that sex is a blessing and can be pleasurable for both.
Now, the reasons for this misunderstand can come from a host of reasons: CSA, bad theology, bad upbringing, bad spouse, mental imbalance, whatever.
Yes, both behaviors hurt the spouse, but being on the other side of both, I’d say the refusal hurts much more than the gatekeeping (not to say that gatekeeping is OK, it still hurts, just less).
It seems often a refusing spouse will turn into a gatekeeping spouse on their way to becoming neither.
Thank you for reminding us that a real change often takes time. We all wish for the instant conversion with no back sliding, but that is really rare. Most of the time, it takes people time and they will have ups and downs.
The spouse that is waiting on a change has to be patient and take the approach that this is going to be a more like a distance race than like a sprint. Hopefully it is only a 5K, but it may well be a 10K, 1/2 marathon, full marathon, or even an ultra marathon.
Patience and encouragement are two necessary tools.
I was at work the other night and thinking about the depression and anger that plagued me th oughout much of my teen years, and I think much of it can be linked to Jesus’s words about lust in Matthew. I often felt guilty and angry when I felt any kind of sexual urge, and since adolescence is a time when we guys feel that frequently, there was a ton of anger and guilt. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I saw a minister on TV teach that the purpose of those passages wasn’t to make us feel guilty or repress our sexuality, but to emphasize God’s grace and to make us realize how much we need Him in our daily lives. It was like, “Gee, NOW someoneÂ tellsÂ me.” I recently deleted my Christian Mingle profile because I don’t want kids and, because of that tremendous spritual burden, I’ve pretty much been rendered asexual, so there’s really no reason for me to be married.
I suspect there are a lot of fellow believers who feel the same way but don’t wanna admit it because we’ve been taught to repress those emotions as well. Even Moses yelled at God when he got frustrated at one point, so while I’m a Christian, I’m not a Christian apologist.
Hey Chris, thanks for commenting.
I sort of understand what you mean. I had a lot of questions about God growing up. The things the church I grew up in were teaching made no sense at all.
I agree that a lot of Christians are just following. It has become more cultural than faith. They are no longer excited by their faith, when you share something you read, they don’t care, they just shrug and say “So?” And I think a big part of this is people creating confusing doctrine loosely based on the Bible.
As for being a Christian, but not an apologist. I’d suggest checking out 1 Peter 3:15, Titus 1:9 and 2 Timothy 4:2.
Lastly, man has does this to you, not God. God can heal you. Draw closer to Him, and you will find peace.
I’m 32 and married for 10 years. I’ve never had an arous response not a libido. I’ve never lost it because I’ve never had it. I grew up from childhood into adolescent but my sexuality remained that of a child. I then grew into adulthood and even now motherhood and still I feel the same “asexual” way as I did as a young child. I have never had fantasies or a desire and certainly have never experienced a female arousal response such as an erection or lubrication even much less an orgasm. I have no past sexual abuse or hang ups and my marriage is rock solid as my husband is very patient and loving and tender. I’ve prayed and prayed for God to give me answers and especially to awaken my sexuality … Not reawaken it becaue it has never given birth to begin with. Anyone ever dealt with and figured out my scenario??
Ashlee, I am praying for you to awaken to the sexual desire God created within you for your husband. I know people use the term “asexual” to describe themselves, but that is not possible. Because you are a human being you are a sexual being–you are of the female sex. I recommend you stop thinking of yourself as asexual and start believing the truth that you are a sexual person. Ask God to awaken your sexual desires and learn to enjoy the physical touch of your husband from things like a back or neck rub or a hug to a soft kiss. Read the Song of Solomon which warns against awakening love too soon, but in marriage that “love” is intended to blossom and is celebrated. I would recommend scheduling some “dates” with your husband which will give you time to think about and anticipate your upcoming lovemaking. Perhaps a book like “31 Days to Great Sex” or “The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex” might be helpful.