One of the most common types of emails we receive is from a husband who feels sexually rejected by his wife and hopeless. He wants more sex, but feels like his wife isn’t interested and doesn’t love him. Frequent sexual rejection can be devastating to a marriage. Men are taught to hide their feelings and make it look like everything is “ok”, so rather than talking directly about our pain we often lash out in other ways: anger, annoyance, frustration, criticism, and withdrawal. These emotional responses mirror back to the wife the rejection that the husband is feeling by denying the wife what she craves from the marriage. This response creates a damaging cycle of rejection that hurts both spouses and the marriage.

We believe that it’s God’s will for every married couple to have a satisfying sex life! We recently wrote a post about how to talk to your spouse about sex, and that’s a good place to start for the general topic. The purpose of this post is to give a hurting husband a simple script he can use to discuss the pain he’s feeling because of sexual rejection by his wife.

First, husbands, as always, you must be in prayer. You should talk to God about sex ten times as much as you talk to your wife. The Bible says that marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the church, so meditate on Philippians 2:1-11 and learn about Christ’s humility. Don’t just read it once — read it three times a day for a month. Then you’ll be ready to approach your wife in a Christlike manner. Jesus is a loving leader who God exalted because of his humility. Do you want to lead your wife? There’s no better example than Jesus.

Second, here are some words you can say to your wife. Feel free to change things up as appropriate, but remember to be loving, gentle, and honest.

I love you so much, and I want to have deeper intimacy with you. You may not realize it, but it really hurts me when I flirt with you or try to initiate sex and you rarely seem interested. Maybe on the outside I seem brush it off, but inside I’m really hurting. You’re the only person in the world that I want share my sexuality with, and when you reject me it feels like you’re rejecting my love entirely. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated or disappointed also. Can we talk about how to have a sex life that’s more satisfying for both of us?

That should get the conversation started!

If you have a tip to share, please leave a comment. Have you had this conversation with your spouse? How did it go?

Some of the most common questions we get are variations of, “how do I talk with my spouse about sex?” So here are a collection of tips, both positive and negative. I won’t elaborate much on each one, but I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.

  1. Pray first. Either together or separately, pray that God will bless your marriage and your sex life. Ask for humility and gentleness towards your spouse. Pray that God will help you to understand and love each other the way He intends.
  2. Be honest and gentle. Remember that your goal isn’t to manipulate your spouse into a certain behavior, it’s to grow in intimacy together. Be brave enough to be honest, and be humble enough to receive honesty from your spouse. Agree together that it’s safe to be honest with each other, and then discipline your own emotions before you react to honesty from your spouse.
  3. Pick the right time. When you and your spouse are in a good mood, when you’re feeling connected, when you have time for an intimate conversation. Talking about sex after you have a great sexual encounter can be wonderful, but avoid it after a disappointing encounter. Even if the conversation is urgent to you, respect your spouse enough to be patient. If you think your spouse will be resistant to even talking about sex, you might want to give him or her a heads-up that you’d like to have a conversation sometime in the near future.
  4. Set a purpose and expectations. Clearly explain your purpose for the conversation at the beginning. Talk about the most important thing first, and try to focus on one topic at a time. It’s easy to get distracted by side issues, especially if communication has been poor for a while and there are a lot of pent-up frustrations. Recognize that you may need to give your spouse some space to vent, but try to keep your contributions to the conversation as focused as possible.
  5. Stay positive. Express your love, admiration, and gratitude for your spouse. Don’t complain, but instead talk about how passionate you are for a great sex life. You don’t need to be pointlessly cheery, but using positive language helps avoid hostility and defensiveness. Consider the difference between “we hardly ever have sex” and “I’d love for us to have an exciting sex life together”.
  6. Ask questions to understand. Make sure your questions are sincere and loving. It’s very tempting to use questions to disguise accusations and frustrations, but your spouse isn’t a fool and will quickly grow to resent these passive-aggressive attacks. Focus on “what” and “how” questions instead of “why” questions — “what would you like from our sex life?”, “how do you feel about oral sex?” “Why” questions often make people defensive at having to justify or explain themselves. You want to understand what and how your spouse feels, but you don’t need to dig into why.
  7. Be specific and explicit. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Get it? Your spouse can’t read your mind! If you want something specific, you have to use actual words to say so. I know it’s more “romantic” if your spouse just knows what you want and does it without you asking, but that’s not how real humans work. If you don’t know exactly what you want then it’s fine to express a general desire, but then be prepared to discuss it and nail down some specifics.
  8. Reach a conclusion. Before you’re both exhausted, revisit your purpose for the conversation. Have you accomplished your purpose? If so, declare victory and conclude the discussion. Great job: you successfully talked about sex! On the other hand, if your conversation has meandered endlessly make an effort to refocus yourselves and reach a conclusion.
  9. Actionable agreement. At the end of your discussion make sure that you each know what actions you’ve agreed to take. Don’t settle for a vague understanding that something will be different from now on — make your agreement specific and explicit. “Yes, I will try XYZ”“Yes, I will plan at least one date night each month”.
  10. Follow through. Now that you’ve made a specific and explicit agreement, you actually have to do it. If you find that your spouse isn’t living up to what he or she agreed to, you’ll need to have another conversation.“It really meant a lot to me when you agreed to plan a date night for us each month. I can’t wait to spend that time with you. Will we be able to do it soon? I’ll make it worth your while….”

I’m sure there’s a lot more that can be said… hundreds of books worth… but these are the main points I find myself writing to people over and over. What do you think? Share your ideas or questions in the comments!

We’ve linked to some great tools that can help you and your spouse discover new sexual activities that you might enjoy, and today I want to share a game-like tool that will help you and your spouse discover your preference levels for various sexual activities. The game is played like “would you rather…?”, with the addition of a tournament layer that will help your top preferences float to the top. Don’t worry, it’s easy.

(If you’re interested, the game is basically a pairwise preference assessment that uses a tournament rather than a matrix to generate a loose ordering. If you want to do the work, feel free to use the matrix method!)

Don’t be intimidated! Just follow these steps and you’ll be sharing your most intimate desires with your spouse in no time.

0. Be in a sexual mood! Consider each activity in its best light for you, rather than just how you feel at the moment.

1. Make your list of sexual activities and write them on index cards. The activities should include things you do now, things you want to try, and things you think your spouse may want to try. You can both contribute cards to the deck, or one person can write them all. For activities with a “giver” and “receiver”, be sure to specify which role the card is referring to. For example, don’t just write “oral sex” — you should have two different cards: “give oral sex” and “receive oral sex”.

2. Decide which spouse will go first — this person will be the responder until you finish the game and start over; the other spouse will be the asker. You don’t take turns during the course of the game.

3. The asker shuffles all the cards face-down to create a draw deck.

4. The asker draws two cards from the draw deck and asks the responder: “would you rather X or Y?” (Where X and Y are the activities on the two cards, of course.)

5. The responder picks one card over the other. Even if you like both or hate both, the responder has to pick one to win. The winning card goes into a new pile of cards called the winning deck, and the losing card goes into a new pile called the losing deck.

6. Continue steps 4 and 5 until the draw deck is empty. Then, the winning deck becomes the new draw deck — shuffle it, and repeat steps 4 and 5 until the deck is gone.

7. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 until you have one winning activity!

8. Since you haven’t shuffled the losing deck yet, the cards near the top of the losers should also be activities that the responder really likes. (Of course, a favorite might also have been eliminated early, but that’s just the luck of the draw!)

When you’re done, you have a few options:

  • Whatever activity won, do it!
  • Begin the game again by swapping roles.
  • Begin again and keep the same roles, playing through the losing deck to pick another winner.
  • Separate the “give” and “receive” cards to discover your favorite ways to both give and receive pleasure.

I know that’s a lot of steps, but hopefully you get the idea. To inspire you, after the break is a list of activities that I’ve written down for Sexy Corte and myself.

Continue reading

Sexy Corte’s recent post about how people are more important than devices got me thinking over the past week. Like most of us, I’m guilty of sometimes losing myself in electronic distraction when I should be paying attention to my family! Each of us has a responsibility to forsake such distractions in favor of the people God has put into our lives, and if your distraction is bad enough then you could be violating your spouse’s conjugal rights. So, interpret the rest of this post in that light — I’m not trying to shift blame, but I do want to offer some ideas that might be helpful for the person who isn’t getting the attention he or she needs.

No matter what your spouse should do, you can’t force it; you’re only in control of your own actions. So what can you do to get more attention from your spouse? Let’s consider some of the reasons that the internet and electronics are compelling, and then think of some ways for you to beat them at their own game.

  • Novelty. There’s always something new (and pointless) to read on the internet. Last night I learned that a Harambe-shaped Cheeto sold for almost $100k on eBay. You probably clicked on that link, didn’t you? Shame on you! Ok ok, here’s a picture of the Cheeto.harambe-cheeto
    That’s completely dumb, right? But still, it’s something new to look at and think about, and the internet is full of novelties like that. New stuff is alluring, amusing, and interesting. There’s no reason that your relationship with your spouse has to be stale and repetitive! Do something new, even something small. Talk in a funny voice. Learn some jokes. Flash your boobs. Go to a new restaurant. Try something new in bed. Surprise your spouse pleasantly at least once every day and you’ll definitely get some attention.
  • Challenge and accomplishment. For men, the biggest electronic distractions are usually video games. They appeal directly to the male need to triumph over challenges. Sure, the challenges are insubstantial and inconsequential, but when a man beats a game it feels like a real accomplishment. Women may not get this, but they have other kinds of projects they pursue that men don’t understand. Find a project to work on with your spouse — something challenging that you both care about and enjoy. Fix up your yard, refresh your kids’ bedroom, or even play board games or video games together. There are plenty of sex games on our site! When you work and achieve together, you’ll build intimacy together.
  • Knowledgeable discussion. Not everything on the internet is trivial nonsense. When I get most distracted it’s usually because I’m reading some bit of political or technology news, or learning about some historical event on Wikipedia. Learn something new that your spouse will be interested in and then talk about it. Put some effort into one of your spouse’s interests or hobbies, and he’ll probably be eager to talk until you’re sick of it. What games does he play? What sports does he watch? What series is she reading? How has God been leading her?
  • Brain-dead relaxation. Sometimes we surf the web when we just don’t want to think too much. Our brains need time to relax. Instead of pressuring one another to engage, make time to  relax together, which might include snuggling quietly while you “parallel play”. Sometimes Sexy Corte and I snuggle while we read, play on our phones, listen to music, or watch television; just being physically together is great when we don’t have the mental energy for more.

You have a responsibility to be your best “you” for your spouse and your family, not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually too. Your spouse has a responsibility to give you the attention you need, but that might come more easily if you take a few simple steps yourself! What do you do to make yourself more interesting to your spouse? Share a tip in the comments.

We get hundreds of emails asking for marriage and sex help, and in almost every case the second step of our advice is to talk with your spouse. (The first step is to talk with God through prayer.) Most emails include a disclaimer like:

I’ve already tried to talk to my wife about this, but she just won’t listen.

So… you want advice that doesn’t include talking to your spouse? Well, you can’t just skip past that.

There are a gazillion books you can read about how to have productive conversations, but today I want to share one of the most important tips I’ve learned: stop asking “why?” so much. If you have kids, you know how annoying it can be to constantly hear “why? why? why?”. This question seems to crop up around age three, and never stops. Hopefully as adults we don’t smother our spouses with “why” so often, but the question can often do more harm than good.

Oftentimes a husband (especially) will want to hammer away at “the problem” and “fix it”, so he asks “why?” over and over, hoping to discover the knob he can twist just the right way to make his wife do/feel what she “should”.

Sound familiar? Wives do it, too. It’s no surprise that conversations like this aren’t effective for building intimacy. “Why?” can be a powerful tool for gaining understanding, but it isn’t the right tool for every job! Here are a few ways it can backfire.

  • Passive aggressive. You know this one. Even if you aren’t trying to be passive aggressive, these kinds of questions can be received that way. But be honest: oftentimes, you’re being passive aggressive.
    • “Why didn’t you take the trash out?”
    • “Why are you late?”
    • “Why don’t you want to have sex?”
  • Interrogation. Trying to nail down your spouse with words. You make it appear that you’re just trying to understand the truth of the situation, but what you’re actually doing is forcing your spouse into the corner until he admits some mistake or failure. These are often “why… but…?” accusations.
    • “Why did you say you were getting Christmas cards for my family, but then not mail them in time?”
    • “Why did you say you want more intimacy, but then every time I want to have sex you’re too tired?”
    • “Why do you not feel the way we both agreed you should feel?”
  • Digging. Sometimes your spouse doesn’t know the answer, or there isn’t an answer, but you keep asking “why?” anyway. You rephrase the same question over and over, sure that if you keep digging you’ll eventually find gold.
    • “Why don’t we have more sex? Why don’t you want to have sex? Why has our sex life stalled?”
    • “Why do you feel that way? Why don’t you feel this way?”
  • Rephrasing. “Why?” is often a fine question to ask once, but using different words doesn’t make the question more helpful.
    • “What makes you feel that way?”
    • “How did this come to pass?”

When you’re starting a difficult conversation, stay away from “why” and instead focus on “what” and “how”.

  • “How do you feel about our sex life?”
  • “How do you want our sex life to make you feel?”
  • “What is your favorite thing that we do together?”
  • “What do you think is missing?”

Accept the answers without comment or judgement. Asking “why?” will make your spouse defensive, literally — you’re asking her to defend her answers with a reason that’s good enough for you to accept. It can be difficult to hold back your opinion, but usually that’s your pride prompting you. Your pride says things like:

  • “She shouldn’t feel that way.”
  • “I deserve a husband who does XYZ.”
  • “I can convince her…”
  • “That’s not fair.”
  • “His answer shows that he doesn’t love/respect/understand me!”
  • “How can she possibly think that?”

These comments are unlikely to be helpful, but your pride insists that you say them anyway. Your pride tells you that your feelings are right, justified, and logical, and his feelings are wrong, mistaken, or cruel. It’s so obvious, right? He’s sure to realize the error of his ways if you just ask the right “why” question.

Don’t feel bad; we all fall into the pride trap.

So, before you ask “why?”, consider: will my question enhance intimacy, or irritation? If you mostly care about being right, then by all means, hammer away with “why?” until you smash everything in sight. On the other hand, if you mostly care about intimacy with your spouse, use “why?” very judiciously and give her the space and respect to think and feel without having to justify herself to you. Your spouse will feel secure and respected, which are key building blocks of intimacy.

God intends sex to be hot and awesome inside marriage, and commands abstinence outside of marriage. That’s a difficult expectation! Our society says that abstinence is a waste of time and effort — maybe even harmful — but that’s how difficult endeavors often look to people who don’t want to try. Climbing Mount Everest looks foolish, dangerous, and difficult, and many people who make the attempt fail, but I can only imagine how fantastic the journey is for those who succeed.

In any event, my purpose here isn’t to advocate for abstinence. If you’re a Christian, God commands it. (See: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 and Hebrews 13:4, among many other verses.)

However, it’s unfortunate that the command for sexual purity has been widely applied within the church so as to avoid almost all other discussions about sex. Most unmarried Christians are taught to abstain before marriage, but little else. There’s an unspoken expectation that right after the wedding ceremony a switch will flip and the newly married couple will somehow “figure it out” on their own. This is a recipe for disaster! And, in fact, it often leads to sad results: mismatched sexual expectations between spouses that aren’t revealed until it’s way too late — either so far into the relationship that it’s too painful to break it off, or even after the wedding.

So, my strong encouragement for unmarried Christians is twofold:

  • Give some serious consideration to your sexual expectations for your future marriage, long before you have a potential spouse in mind.
  • Have a frank conversation about sex early on in any relationship. It may quickly become obvious that your partner isn’t on the same page as you, and you can spare yourselves a huge amount of heartache by breaking things off quickly.

The difficulty is obvious: how can you learn any of this without having sex? How can you know what you like if you’ve never tried it? To some degree you can’t, but that’s fine. The point isn’t to be  a sexual dynamo before you get married. Think of it like you’re planning a vacation to a place you’ve never been — first consider for yourself the kind of vacation you’d like to have, and then discuss your ideas with your partner and compare. If you get excited about the same kind of things, great! But if you want to sit by the pool every day and your partner only wants to hike, then you need to figure if and how to compromise, or whether to just cancel the trip.

It isn’t only the specific sexual interests and expectations that reveal a lot about your compatibility, but also the way in which you and your partner engage in the discussion. There are no “wrong” answers, but if your answers and approaches are significantly different from each other then that might be a red flag. Is your partner open to your ideas and desires? Is your partner suggesting things that repulse you? When there are disagreements (as there are bound to be), is your partner eager to compromise? Or resistant and stubborn?

This conversation about sex shouldn’t be a one-shot, although one discussion may be enough to rule someone out. After the first discussion you’ll both probably have more ideas and questions, so bring sex up again in a week, and another week, and another. Eventually you’ll both either be super-excited at the prospect of sex together, or one of you will be dreading it. If you’re early in the relationship, that dread should be enough motivation to get out while you can.

So what kind of topics should you discuss? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • What do you think is the purpose of sex in marriage?
  • What do you think are God’s expectations for sex?
  • What makes you most excited about sex? Most nervous?
  • How often do you think about sex?
  • Have you ever had an orgasm? Do you masturbate? How often? How do you touch yourself? Where? When?
  • What most turns you on? What turns you off? What sights, sounds, touches, experiences, smells, tastes…?
  • How often do you think you’ll want to have sex when you’re married?
  • What should you do when one spouse wants to have sex and the other doesn’t? What if this happens frequently?
  • When is it ok to refuse sex with your spouse? Tired, sick, angry, busy, pouty, worried, sad, distracted…?
  • Even if you know you wouldn’t enact them in real life, what kind of sexual fantasies do you have?
  • How should spouses compromise if one person wants to do something sexually that the other doesn’t?
  • What activity are you most excited to do sexually after you’re married?
  • Is there anything sexual that you definitely won’t ever do?
  • How do sex and romance relate in your mind?
  • Do you want to take charge sexually, or be led? Or both at different times?
  • What do you think about oral sex and anal sex?
  • Do you think sex should be playful or serious?
  • Would you want to try new things, even knowing that some you might end up disliking?

As you go through this list I’m sure you’ll branch off in many other fruitful directions. It you’re still excited about each other after having this discussion a few times then your sexual compatibility isn’t likely to be a roadblock to your relationship.

The key is that you have to be honest and vulnerable with each other — if you can’t, then that itself is a huge red flag. The internet is full of sad stories about “bait-and-switch” relationships in which one partner (usually, but not always, the woman) was sexually adventurous before the wedding, and a cold fish after. If a frank discussion about sex is had early enough in the relationship, then it will be easier for both partners to be honest because the stakes will be lower — you won’t already have invested several years into the relationship that you’re afraid of losing. Even if one partner wants to deceive the other, it will be harder for him or her to succeed at it over the course of a long, multi-part discussion.

Don’t just assume that you and your potential future spouse are on the same page about sex! Have the discussion and be honest — with each other and yourselves.

Got any other tips to share for discussing sex with a potential spouse? Leave a comment!

The internet has completely let me down: I can’t find a video of the scene from Malcolm in the Middle that made me and Sexy Corte crack up last night. We’ve really been enjoying this show recently (thanks Netflix), and it amuses us that we now identify with the parents rather than the kids. Hal and Lois’s relationship is great. The episode we watched last night, “Malcolm’s Girlfriend”, has a scene with the parents laying in bed discussing Malcolm’s distraction by a crush:

Hal: Certain things are beyond the boy’s control. It’s his genetics. Girls, they just swoon. Sorry, what am I telling you for? You battle with it every day. There’s nothing we can do.

Lois: Oh, yes, there is! I can ground him, and I can ground him till he graduates from Harvard.

Hal: He’s gonna pull away, then we’ll have another Francis on our hands.

Lois: Are you blaming Francis on me?

Hal: No!

Lois: That’s what you said!

Hal: No, I meant that… Lois, let’s not have this veer off into us somehow not having sex tonight.

Yeah, we’ve been there before! A perfectly normal conversation somehow tricks foot into my mouth, and then my only concern is trying to steer back onto the path that was gliding towards sex.

 

I’ve heard that for most women, sex starts long before sex actually starts. There are two things that definitely make me anticipate sexy time with El Fury more.

  1. Flirting. I absolutely love it when my husband flirts with me. It makes me feel like I did when we are first dating. I get all giggly and melty. It doesn’t take much effort, but it makes the mood of whatever we are doing that much better. Little things like a wink, a pat on the rear or playful banter help us make small connections during the day that turn me on for alone time later.
  2. Conversation. I love talking to my husband. Especially when I can get lost in our conversation. Most of the time it is easy to get caught up in talking about schedules, tasks, the kids. That’s part of the business of having a family. But, it’s important to talk about other things! We try to find interesting things to talk about that make the conversation exciting. El Fury and I listen to podcasts, or talk about books we are reading. Even if we only get to talk while exercising or going somewhere in the car, it’s very sexy to be interested or to feel interesting.

Foreplay doesn’t have to be physical to get you in the mood. What do other spouses do to connect outside the bedroom?