I have a few questions in my inbox from our Have A Question page this week, but I wanted to tackle this one that came in last night.
I am trying to be a good Christian in my marriage but I am struggling. When I have sex with my wife I can’t seem to stay focussed on her. My mind wanders to think about other women every time. I can’t seem to stop it. I am working with a therapist to help me re-wire my brain to help me take control of my thoughts. I know this is sinful and I am doing everything I can to change. My question in the meantime is whether since I can’t seem to control my thoughts yet, should I just stop having sex with my wife until I can? Also if I am mid session with my wife and thoughts of other women creep in, should I just stop our activity immediately (ie not finish)?
I’ve been married for 17 years and feel so much guilt about this. I value any insight you can share.
It’s not a sin to be tempted
Everyone deals with temptation in various means, whether it be sexually or otherwise. And it’s not a sin to be tempted. Temptation is just part of being human. Even Jesus was tempted while here on Earth. Just wanted to state that in case someone is reading this and feeling that they’re sinning just by being tempted.
It is a sin to entertain temptation
However, it is a sin to give that temptation any ground what-so-ever. We shouldn’t consider the temptation. We shouldn’t bargain with it. When Jesus was tempted, He didn’t weigh His options, He immediately rebuked Satan.
So, when you find these thoughts come up, make a conscious effort to think about something else. Your spouse would probably be a good focus if it happens while you’re having sex. Actually, that’s probably a good focus any time you have these temptations. Let your brain learn that if it thinks about anything sexual, then your first thought should be of your wife.
It does take time, but it can happen. The change is slow though. One day you will realize it hasn’t happened in a while and you’ll wonder when it changed. But, it’s been changing all along. Those neuropathways will build over time.
Should you stop having sex with your spouse to avoid temptation?
No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think that would have the opposite effect. The Bible tells us not to avoid sex with our spouse, and if we do by mutual consent, then make sure it’s not for too long, so that temptation cannot take hold of us.
Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. – 1 Corinthians 7:5
How do you stay focused during sex?
I’ve never had the problem of staying focused on my wife during sex, but my wife, who is ADHD, has trouble focusing in nearly all situations. Her trick for staying focused might help you:
She keeps a running commentary in her head about what we’re doing during sex.
That way her brain has less of a chance for stray thoughts, because she’s consciously directing the flow of consciousness. She’s talking to herself about what’s going on, so that her mind and her body are in sync, so that there is less of a chance to disconnect.
Does it work perfectly? No, sometimes she’ll still have stray thoughts, but they’re easier to recognize when you’re focusing on your thoughts. When it happens, she goes back to her running commentary.
So, that might help you in the same situation. Keep a play-by-play going in your head. Keep it focused on your wife, maybe use her name, to help keep your thoughts focused on her.
Where are the thoughts coming from?
Lastly, I’d be curious what’s feeding these thoughts? Who are these women that you think of? Are you struggling with porn, if so you need to deal with that immediately. Do you have relationships with other women that are not healthy, that are blurring the lines of what’s appropriate? If so, you need to pull those back, if not cut them off completely.
Figure out what the source of these thoughts are, and then work to remove them.
Those are my thoughts on the question anyways. I hope they help. Anyone else have any additional ideas? Let us know in the comments below.
Or, if you have a question of your own, you can ask it here:Have a Question? Ask it here!
31 thoughts on “How do you stay focused on your spouse during sex?”
Not sure if this writer is a reader but Shannon’s The Fantasy Fallacy would be a GREAT way to dig deeper and determine what is causing the fantasies. I wonder who these women are and what do they have in common. It might be some hurt in his past that has nothing to do with his wife that are triggering them, but he will need to actively deal with that instead of letting his mind try to compensate in a sinful way.
I personally struggle with dissociating during sex, where I actually picture two complete strangers, and more often than not I am the male aggressor in the scenario, even though I am a woman. Shannon’s book helped me to figure out that this was my brain’s way of trying to take back control after some damaging sexual encounters as a teen. But it is still sin. What helps me the most was establishing an EYES OPEN rule. It is hard to picture someone else when I am looking my husband in the face. And if I drift, I just pull myself right back. It is getting easier but yes, it takes time. I also find narrating our encounter very helpful to fill my mind with something else then. “I can feel him ____,” “I am moving ____.” If you don’t have a plan of what to fill your thoughts with instead, the sinful thoughts rush back in. Talk to her during sex, or ask her to talk to him and tell him what she feels while his eyes are open and focused on her. Focusing as many of the five senses as possible on her will help. Ask yourself questions. “What do I hear right now? I hear ___ (use her name) her panting. What do I see? What do I smell?” Etc.
I agree having just as much if not more sex is actually better, because practice makes perfect. Lastly, when you screw up, and you will, keep trying! It is SO worth it!! The first time I kept my eyes open and stayed present the entire time–eyes open even during orgasm!!–I cried. It was so unbelievably intimate. I cried because it was so amazing, and yet kind of scary to be so vulnerable, and I also cried because I’ve missed out on that for YEARS. But I am so thankful that I have the chance to do it God’s way now. And seriously, God’s way leads to WAY better sex. It will probably feel like sex isn’t as good while you are retraining your brain, but I promise it will be worth the hard work when you get there. You are making a GREAT choice to work on this, and I am so proud of this writer! I hope he perseveres!
Wow! What a great and fulsome response! Thank you so much!
To answer your questions the women who creep into my consciousness during sex with my wife are fictional not imaginings of real people (at least as far as I can tell).
I don’t have any sexual trauma in my past. Sex with my wife has been hot and regular up until about 3 years ago. Now it is infrequent and a little too tame for my liking. We sometimes go 6-8 weeks with no sex at all but mostly we average once a month.
I’ll try using your suggestions (although as you can see, based on our frequency it might be mid April before I get that chance) and I’ll report back.
I’m so glad you saw the post! I look forward to an update.
It is always nameless (and actually, kind of faceless, if I think about it) people that come to my mind too. Weird, kind of, isn’t it? Do the women all have something in common? I wonder if there is a specific trait or attitude they all possess that can give you a clue as to what deeper need you have that is going unmet. Adventurousness? Desire? It could simply be your need for variety and less tame-ness, and since you are not getting that from your wife, your brain is tempted to get that through a *variety* of women. Does that make sense? It’s a legitimate need that our brains (thanks to Satan and sin) try to meet in illegitimate ways.
That is an extremely long time to go without sex. I am sincerely sorry for that. Have you talked to her about this? Or do you know what changed to trigger the change in frequency? Going that long is definitely going to open yourself up to temptation. Perhaps addressing the frequency problem will fix some of these issues; if you are having sex more often there is a better chance of variety, and it might be easier to stay present?
Thank you once again for your response.
My wife has been mildly depressed for the last three years. She is such a sweet woman. Great mom, very magnetic personality but recently (in the past three years) she has struggled. She is very low on energy but does a great Job raising the kids and keeping the family running smoothly.
Because she is not well, I try to do whatever I can to support her. She is being treated for her depression (therapy).
Since I consider her struggles to be as legitimate as if they were physical (and they are) I make no extra requests of her which means I do what I can to lighten her load (take care of kids and house etc).
The idea of asking for more sex under these circumstances just seems wrong. She needs to get well. So when we do have sex I always wonder whether she really wants it or whether she is doing it to meet her perceived obligations as a wife.
In fact we had a difficult exchange along those lines. What I really want is to be wanted. I am in great shape and consider myself desirable. Sometimes I get get sense she has sex with me not out of any real desire but rather out of a sense of obligation. That is an awful feeling for me.
Coupled with her depression, this sense of duty sex has really derailed our sex life.
I can’t and won’t demand it. I want to be wanted. Anything less is not worth it. I will stay with and support her until death but I dread that my sexy life is over.
Thank you so much for such a wonderful resource Jay, and thank you Kay for the comment that has greatly helped me in my marriage. I have struggled for years to stay focused on my husband during sex and on the act itself. Following your advice that I stumbled on a few months ago, I have decided to also establish an “EYES OPEN” rule during sex. Typically I would keep my eyes closed during love making. The change was amazing. I did not expect it to be so intense, but the first time I just broke into tears. My husband got such a fright he thought he has hurt me, but I was just crying from the joy of the moment. It was so intimate to connect to him in such a special moment. I still need a lot of work to feel both focused and comfortable having my eyes open during sex, but we are making such great progress already. I also would like to add that my husband and I have also recently added prayer to our love making routine. I am not sure what other think, but I find it so helpful for us to take a few minutes to pray together before making love. When I suggested it to my husband he was immediately very excited about the idea. It is such wonderful gift to be able to give thanks to God as much as possible.
I think the answer is in your response. When Jesus was tempted he rebuked Satan. We can do the same. It’s as easy as saying, I bind you Satan from influencing my thoughts in the name of Jesus. I refuse to give you control.
The bible says to take your thoughts captive. To be in control of them. Also, the mind and heart are connected. Find ways to fall in love with your wife again. Your thoughts will automatically flow to her.
Agreed. Love is a choice far more than it is an emotion.
Another question I would ask is did your wife deny you in some way sexually to the point where you feel like you have to hold a part of yourself back from her? Or maybe something made you shut down or shut her out and whatever attention you are receiving from other people makes you feel validation. Hope this helps
Yeah, I think that’s a good question. Often our minds try to protect us from further hurt. They don’t always do it in the most helpful way though…
Well sex between us has been very infrequent lately but I certainly don’t feel like I have to hold a alley of myself back from her. I love her dearly and feel very affectionate and caring. The women in my thoughts are fictitious so I don’t think it has to do with any attention anyone is giving me.
Usually it is those who watch porn (mental adultery) that can have this problem, although it’s not said whether that is an issue. If it has been going on for seventeen years then something is surely wrong. If it started at some point in the marriage then I would ask what incident started it. I would imagine this can happen when one has ungodly sexual enounters before marriage and soul ties have happened which need to be repented of and broken. Until that is broken we will feel tied to these previous partners and will think about them at inconvenient times. If that is the issue then the best thing is to repent to God in the presence of a mature christian where they can ask God to break each soul tie.
So, firstly, I don’t believe in the existence of “soul ties”. I think it’s bad theology, for a variety of reasons. Foremost among them, I think it’s not in line with what the Bible teaches a soul is. And I think this is borrowed from the pagan mythology of a soul mate.
But, even if there was such a thing, why would you need to be in the presence of a mature Christian to ask God to break it? Does God not listen to “immature” Christians? Does the Bible not say that Jesus is our intercessor? That we need come to no one but Him? Curious what you meant by that statement.
A third party is not required. Of course you can deal with it directly yourself just as you can pray to God yourself. However, most folks would have no idea HOW to go about it, unless they have some prior experience with inner healing or deliverance ministry. Hence, a facilitator may be useful to walk them through the process. OR they could just read a few prayers online to get the gist.
Again, this treats Christianity like it’s a pagan rite. That you need to know the right words, speak the right phrases. This is modern Gnosticism.
Well many denominations do in fact include rites, some not so much but I think all do at least a couple like communion, but that’s not what this is. You can say whatever you want if you recognize your authority in Christ and have a clear concept of what you are trying to accomplish.
But, why does that take looking up a prayer online? Seems to take the relationship aspect out of Christianity. Perhaps I’m just misunderstanding…
could be that there are soul ties that need breaking – whether from previous sexual relationships or even previous porn use. I’ll try to find a good link regarding soul ties, as I know it is probably not a well known topic.
I don’t think so, but I don’t believe in the existence of soul ties. I do believe in chemical bonding however, which may sound the same to some, but I think they’re very different. One is based on a chemical reaction in the brain, the other in some magical property that seems to have it’s roots in Plato’s Symposium.
here’s a link: http://www.greatbiblestudy.com/soulties.php
Just smacks of a “magic” view of theology. I’m disappointed that stuff like this makes it into Christianity. It goes hand in hand with the doctrine of immortal souls. The hubris that we think we can outlive our life, despite the Bible clearly stating that only God is immortal and eternal. I think humans have difficulty accepting that idea, and so we accept these falsehoods into Christianity. Many would rather accept the idea that we can burn forever in pain than the Biblical teaching that God will destroy us in mercy if we choose to be apart from Him. And then they turn around and try to sell the idea that God is loving, just and merciful.
Sorry, went on a bit of a rant there.
Hmm interesting. I guess the whole “gift” thing is in some way similar to how according to the book of Acts, handkerchiefs touched by Paul were brought to the sick and they were healed. But in my experience, soul ties have been less about objects, and more about a connection (be it bond or a vow) made between human spirits. Would you agree that sex creates a spiritual bond between two people?
I see that the OP has clarified that the imaginings are of fictional women, so that would rule out soul ties in this case, but still worth mentioning for the sake of future readers.
Can you define what a spiritual connection is?
Not very well since I’m not even really able to define what a human spirit is, other than to say it that part of us that analogous to the Holy Spirit of the trinity. Even this is a problematic definition but one that is commonly used is Body, Soul and Spirit, with Soul being further subdivided sometimes into Mind, Will , Emotion.
Whatever the part is where I feel God’s presence when I worship, and the part that somehow “recognizes” when I hear a speaker say something that really resonates with what I feel God has been leading me through – that’s what I call my Spirit.
I am still learning how to live according to the spirit (connecting with Holy Spirit) and to integrate this into my life and sexuality, but it really does seem to be a real thing and is making a big difference in my life.
Your speaking of a relationship it sounds like. That is a concept I can get behind, that if a spiritual relationship. But that a relation must be ended by a third party, no, that I don’t get.
Yes it is a relationship complete with mental and emotional baggage.
So, a chemical (physical) and mental (psychological) bond then? Nothing to do with spirituality?
A relationship is between two people. People that are chemical emotional spiritual physical beings. Each part can be connected to each corresponding part is f the other person and all the parts are interconnected within a person
When I have invasive thoughts during sex, I open my eyes and look at my husband. This seems to work! It brings me into the “real world” and not to other images. Even after 20-some years of not looking at porn, sometimes an image will pop up into my thoughts, but if I open my eyes and look at my husband, I’m not “seeing” those other images.
Lastly, afterward, sometimes I do repent if I actually “entertained” that thought a bit.
No guilt, no shame, just do what you can and pray! we’re all human! 🙂
Have you and your wife thought about counseling together. I know that biblcal sound counseling that brings everything back to the bible can help you be able to speak what your both are feeling. I see that satan has a foot in the door cause you both don’t want to communicate to each other where your at. We know you love her and she is a wonderful wormen but she needs to know how you feel. Also in turn she needs to tell you how she feels through this depression. When we perceive what is going through the other persons mind we almost alway are wrong. What we do and say should always turn to glorifying God and are we doing that when we are doing things because we think the other person is thinking them. No. She might be thinking that her husband doesn’t love her cause he doesn’t do this or that. Satan doesn’t want you to have sex cause that will bring you closer so why not make you think that neither of you want it. I know that this is not an answer to your question but my heart breaks for the two of you and I don’t want you to stay in this holding pattern. I want to see your marriage flourish like God intended. Pray as you have sex! Pray before to invite God into the room to be glorified by you and your wife. It’s kind of hard to have other women in your mind if God is there. I know it’s not that easy but it’s a start. And Please go to your church cause your not the only one who has gone through this. Make sure they are safe and brings it all back to God and His Word.