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Posts tagged ‘sexual intimacy’

Q & A: Do I have to have sex with my husband?

SOURCE:  Taken from an article by Leslie Vernik

Q. I’ve been married for 25 years to an emotionally and verbally abusive man. I feel angry and bitter toward him for the way he treats me, yet he still expects me to be loving and affectionate with him, especially in bed. I can’t do it. What does God expect me to do? Can I withhold sex as a consequence for his abusive behavior?

A. This is an extremely important question that many women face. In last weeks’ answer I spoke about being treated as an object instead of a human being. An emotionally destructive marriage is where the personhood, dignity and personal choice of the spouse is regularly diminished, degraded, disregarded or crushed.

No one likes feeling like an object, especially if you are in a committed relationship with the person who treats you as such. Husbands sometimes complain to me that they feel that their wives treat them like a paycheck. Wives complain that they don’t feel like a loved person but merely a sexual object or a slave. Marriage is the most sacred and intimate relationship we have apart from our relationship with God. When one person (or both people) continually disrespects, mistreats, or lies to the other, intimacy is broken. It can be rebuilt but not without genuine repentance and a lot of hard work.

From what you say, it sounds as if your husband believes he’s entitled to the benefits of married life, (sexual intimacy, your affection and love, not to mention normal care), without having to do his part. He doesn’t seem to understand that having a good and loving relationship requires two people who interact with one another with kindness and respect. His emotionally abusive behavior is driving you further away from him. Does he just want sex from you? Or true intimacy?

The Bible calls us to love, not hate. That command includes our enemies. But what does Biblical love look like towards your husband in this instance? Biblical love isn’t necessarily feelings of affection or warmth, but actions that are directed toward another person’s long term best interests.

So ask yourself the question, Is it in my husband’s long term best interests to be sexually available to him so that his sexual needs are met? If you answer “yes”, understand that meeting his sexual needs is not a solution to your relationship problem it is just a solution to his sexual frustration.

Another way to look at this situation is that it is in your husband’s best interests to let him experience the felt consequences of broken intimacy and tell him that when he treats you disrespectfully, you’re too angry to feel warmth and affection towards him. When he’s not sorry he treats you that way, it makes it impossible for you to feel affectionate toward him. You need to have a calm conversation with him regarding your feelings. Here’s a sample of something you might say.

I know you get very frustrated when I’m not responsive to your sexual needs. You want me to be sexual with you and enjoy our physical relationship, but the way you treat me much of the time makes me feel angry and hurt. When you call me names or degrade me in front of the children, the last thing I feel like doing is being warm and affectionate towards you. If you want genuine intimacy and affection, you will need to work on changing the way you treat me. Wouldn’t you rather have someone who wants to get close and affectionate with you rather than someone who is just doing her duty?

Most men I talk with want closeness with their wives. Try expressing your feeling about being just an object versus a person. This may help him see the impact of his behavior, not only on you, but on him. But if your husband won’t hear you and doesn’t care about what your feelings are, then what?

Hear me. I don’t believe in using sex as a weapon anymore than someone should use the silent treatment as a weapon. It isn’t good for the marriage. It is controlling and manipulative.

However, I do think sometimes we have to say, “I can’t talk right now because I’m too angry to do it constructively” or “I can’t talk with you because you won’t hear me or listen to me”. That’s not using talking as a weapon, but stating a problem either with you or in the relationship.

In the same way, if someone says, “I can’t have sexual closeness with you right now because I’m too angry to do it lovingly.” I think that is stating a truth. Or “having sex with you feels like I’m just being used as an object but you don’t really care for me when you treat me so disrespectfully other times” helps the one who is doing the hurting to know what needs to change in order to repair the relationship.

What Does God Think About Sex?

SOURCE:  Dennis/Barbara Rainey

When you and your spouse married, I’m sure you expected to have a healthy and active sexual relationship together. That’s great—that’s what God intended. Unfortunately, the daily stress of life often gets in the way of sex, distracting the attention of a husband and wife from each other and from pleasing each other.

Sex can become a marital battleground, even in young marriages, because of emotional and mental baggage from histories of sexual abuse, inappropriate sexual behavior in past relationships (or even with your spouse before marriage), or pornography. Even if these experiences or issues do not apply to you directly, our culture’s messages about and portrayals of sex can unconsciously influence the way you and your spouse respond and relate to each other in bed.

To build an intimate marriage, husband and wife must be committed to meeting each other’s physical and emotional needs. Because most men and women have differing ideas, standards, and expectations about sex, it’s no wonder that many marriages suffer in this area.  One of the best things you can do is learn about God’s purposes for sex.  After all, He is the Designer—He created our bodies.  And you may be surprised to know what He had in mind.

God’s purposes

The Designer of sex made numerous statements integral to the sexual aspect of marriage. First, sex is the process He gave us to multiply a godly heritage. He commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).

But God also designed sex for our pleasure, to be enjoyed in the marriage bed. Sex is meant to be a bonding experience with your spouse. Scripture talks significantly more about enjoying the pleasures of sex than it does about being fruitful and multiplying! As Dr. Ed Wheat wrote, “God Himself invented sex for our delight. It was His gift to us—intended for pleasure.”

The Song of Solomon, though full of spiritual meaning and application, provides an excellent description of God’s intention for a husband and wife’s sexual relationship. According to Solomon, the man has the freedom to enjoy his wife’s body, and the woman has the freedom to enjoy his. Here’s a sample of how the lover and his beloved expressed that freedom in the Song of Solomon. The lover (King Solomon himself) said:

How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist. Your navel is like a round goblet which never lacks mixed wine; Your belly is like a heap of wheat fenced about with lilies. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. … How beautiful and how delightful you are, my love, with all your charms! (Song of Solomon 7:1-3, 6)

Men, these words give us three points on how to be great lovers for our wives.

First, Solomon readily praised the young Shulammite woman, his beloved. He told her how beautiful she was with vivid and picturesque language that communicated his admiration to her. I often ask the husbands at our marriage getaways, “When was the last time you wrote your wife a love letter that praised her and told her how beautiful she is?” Solomon understood how important this is in communicating love.

Second, Solomon was romantic. His poetic words describe his beloved’s entire body as a source of delight. Some husbands have an easy time being creatively romantic, but the rest of us need help in this area.

Third, Solomon’s focus was physical. A wife may be tempted to resent her husband’s sex drive and physical focus, but she should understand that much more than a woman, a man is stimulated by sight. And God designed him this way deliberately.

A lovely lover

What about the bride’s approach to sex? Some of her comments about her lover indicate that she focused on what she saw (Song of Solomon 5:10-16):

My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head is like gold, pure gold; his locks are like clusters of dates, and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves, beside streams of water, bathed in milk, and reposed in their setting. His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, banks of sweet-scented herbs; his lips are lilies, dripping with liquid myrrh. His hands are rods of gold set with beryl; his abdomen is carved ivory inlaid with sapphires. His legs are pillars of alabaster set on pedestals of pure gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. His mouth is full of sweetness and he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

She also spoke of how she felt in her lover’s arms (7:10-12):

I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country, let us spend the night in the villages. Let us rise early and go to the vineyards; let us see if the vine has budded and its blossoms have opened, and whether the pomegranates have bloomed. Then I will give you my love.

Then she revealed her feelings about physical passion (8:5-7):

Beneath the apple tree I awakened you; … Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love; nor will rivers overflow it.

These passages illustrate the two main aspects of a woman’s approach to love: the physical and the relational. The Shulammite woman described her lover’s body as richly and colorfully as Solomon’s depiction of her. But she then focused on him as a total person and their relationship.

Men often make the mistake of focusing only on the physical side of sex. Sex is much more than a physical act that ends in a few minutes. Sex actually brings two people together in body, soul, and spirit. When the soul and spirit parts of sex are missing, the woman will feel empty, undesired, and used. One woman I counseled confessed that her husband approached her only one night a month. “He never shares his life with me,” she said. “He slips into bed with the lights off, we make love, and that’s it.” I will never forget her next comment: “Making love with him is like a bread-and-water diet.” Ouch!

If a marriage is going through a rocky spell, or a spouse is struggling with an emotionally difficult issue, the problems will almost always manifest themselves in the sexual relationship. Sex acts like a gauge, measuring the depth of a relationship. For the woman I just described, the physical experience left her lonely and longing for true companionship. For sex to be truly satisfying for both partners, each has to be totally open and vulnerable to the other. Each person must feel needed, wanted, accepted, and loved sacrificially.

Sexual adjustment takes time in every marriage. Enjoy the process—that was God’s intent when He created this awesome experience for intimacy in marriage.

Adapted by permission from Rekindling the Romance, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004.

Real Sex Talk In Marriage

SOURCE:  Louis and Melissa McBurney/Christianity Today

Oral Sex, Anti-Climax and Pain vs. Desire

Is oral sex wrong between married partners? I’ve talked to a couple of Christian friends about this, and the consensus is that men are generally for it, while women are generally against it. So who’s right? Is there a biblical answer?

Louis: Your observation is correct. When couples don’t agree on oral sex, the men tend to be the ones who are for it. But in our counseling experience, we find about as many couples who say they practice some type of oral sex as those who don’t. Generally the problem is not so much with cunnilingus (the husband stimulating his wife with genital kisses) but with fellatio (the wife stimulating her husband’s penis by mouth).

The wife’s resistance may be explained by a variety of causes. Rarely is it related to childhood sexual abuse where she was forced into fellatio. Sometimes a wife is responding negatively to insistent demands by her husband, which feel threatening to her. Also, there is often a revulsion to the idea of oral sex because of uncleanliness and strong genital odors.

Medically, the practice is generally safe unless there are infectious genital lesions (e.g. herpes, condyloma, chancres, etc.). These call for medical treatment. However, the anal area is not sterile and should be avoided in sexual play.

Biblically, there is no clear directive. Some verses in Song of Solomon seem to suggest oral sex, and Hebrews 13:4 might imply that any mutually agreeable behavior between husband and wife is sanctioned. The Levitical laws that carry the most explicit sexual directives and prohibitions do not mention oral sex.

Melissa: Sexual intimacy is always best when it is mutually satisfying. If oral sex causes dissension, then it is destructive—especially if you’re not talking openly about your disagreement. Trying to understand each other’s perspective could help a lot. Find some time to talk when your emotions are not so high from lovemaking. Be as open and frank as possible. You might find that you can work out a compromise.

We’ve been married 12 years, and my husband has always had a problem with retarded ejaculation. He can’t climax while having sex. I don’t want to make the problem worse by complaining about it, but it makes me feel unappealing. The doctors say the problem is psychological, and my husband seems to resent the idea that he should see a therapist. Our marriage is great otherwise, but I’m frustrated about this. What should I do?

Louis: Assuming your doctor has ruled out the physical causes of retarded ejaculation (e.g. neurovascular disorders, drug side effects, etc.) and that the pattern has always been present, I would advise you to look at it in the context of your entire relationship. You say your marriage is “great otherwise,” so the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” may apply.

If your husband is not resistant to sex, is sensitive to your sexual needs and can lovingly bring you to orgasm, I don’t think the problem has anything to do with your attractiveness. The most common psychological causes of this disorder are a compulsive personality where control and scrupulosity about cleanliness may create anxiety; a fear of impregnating one’s wife; or a deep-seated (probably unconscious) ambivalence toward women.

Genital union is fun and important for a sense of sexual oneness, but intra-vaginal ejaculation is not necessarily symbolic of commitment, attraction, passion or love. A couple may find orgasm quite pleasurable without penetration. Stimulation to climax can be mutually satisfying with a variety of techniques. If you find orgasm more intense and complete during penetration, then continue that approach. And follow it up by stimulating your husband to ejaculation.

Because of infections and a difficult childbirth experience, I have vaginal scar tissue and a damaged gland that, short of a miracle, will never heal. As a result, intercourse is very painful for me. My husband understands this is not my fault, and I understand his need for regular sex. I dread having sex, but should I keep enduring it out of love? Resentment is growing between us.

Louis: The idea of “enduring” sex for any reason is distressing to me. We human beings are created with such a marvelous aptitude for healing and adaptation that I’m usually optimistic about the potential and probability for healing.

First of all, you and your husband should call a temporary moratorium on penetration, though not on sexual relations and pleasure. Second, check out all possible medical or surgical procedures that might relieve the physical problem of the vaginal scar tissue. The vagina is an elastic, expandable structure, and removal of the old scarring might be possible.

I assume you have already pursued medical avenues for relief, so third, I suggest that you begin the exercises of “sensate focusing” that can let you find nonpainful, enjoyable ways to give each other pleasure. This approach usually involves taking turns bringing each other physical pleasure—first through nonerotic stimulation such as massage, and then progressing slowly over many weeks to erotic, sexual stimulation without penetration. The later steps include some gentle, well lubricated vaginal massage with one finger, then with two, etc., halting at the first sign of pain. This gradual approach can prevent vaginismus, the spasm of the vaginal walls that creates most of the pain of intercourse. You should direct your husband in this process and proceed very slowly (over a period of months) in order for the conditioned pain/anxiety response to subside.

Since I’m not sure what physical damage has occurred, it is impossible for me to predict whether you have clitoral responsivity. If your clitoris is intact, you should be able to experience orgasm once the pain response is alleviated. Even if the pain cannot be overcome, love-making without genital union should still provide sexual satisfaction and relational intimacy.

Melissa: Working through this type of problem can deepen your relationship. Expressing love to each other as you consider each other’s needs and difficulties can help you both realize how important you are to each other. The key, again, is communicating openly, tenderly and unselfishly. The Lord designed us to have a strong need for each other. When we work to meet one another’s needs, our love for each other, ourselves and God expands and deepens. I hope you will use this difficulty to let that happen.

Real Sex columnists Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., were marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counselled clergy couples.

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