How can we fix an unsatisfying sex life? We’ve been married for more than two years, and our sexual relationship has never been mutually satisfying. For some reason sex makes me feel “cheap” and “used.” My husband says I approach it as if it were a chore. That frustrates him and makes him angry. What are we doing wrong?
There are a number of factors that contribute to sexual satisfaction in marriage. “Doing it right” is just one of them. A good sexual relationship has a lot to do with how the two of you are doing
outside the bedroom. If you’re having sexual difficulties, you probably need to work on your relationship in other areas as well.
Another factor may be the “gender gap.” A man’s physical response is often “hot linked” with visual stimulation, and his body can be ready for intercourse far more quickly than his wife’s. By contrast, a woman’s sexual response usually takes more time and is tied to feelings of romance and emotional intimacy. In fact, a woman’s arousal cycle can take as long as thirty to forty-five minutes to reach completion. If a couple’s entire sex act only lasts ten or fifteen minutes, she won’t even have a chance to get going. This is a common reason why some women come away from sex feeling “used” or “cheapened.”
There are, of course, many other reasons why a spouse may develop a negative reaction to their partner’s sexual advances. A history of sexual trauma, abuse, addiction, abortion, and disease, as well as menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and caring for infants and children, can have profound effects on our sexuality. Some women avoid sex because they fear becoming pregnant (again). In every case, the important thing is for the two of you to sit down and talk about what each of you are feeling and what each of you wants. Take time to listen and understand one another. Here, as in every other area of marriage, good communication is the key to a healthy and mutually fulfilling relationship.
Establishing a solid sexual relationship in your marriage should be a goal the two of you share. To attain that goal, your sexual experiences need to be satisfying for both of you. Here are a few keys to finding that satisfaction:
1) Take care of your body. During your dating days you probably presented your best self to each other – showered, shaved, powdered, and perfumed. Married couples often get lazy about these things. Remember that regular exercise, good nutrition, and good hygiene are just as important now as they were when you were single.
2) Be upfront. Take responsibility for your sex life. Tell your spouse what feels good to you and what you need. Don’t assume that they will “just know.”
3) Plan ahead. Make your sexual relationship a priority. Take time to make it happen. Scheduling sex may seem contrived and unnatural, but it may become a necessity as your lives get busier. You may also find that it leads to better sexual experiences, thereby improving the quality of your marriage.
4) Give yourselves a break. Your sexual times together need to be free of the demand for having an orgasm, and from any anxiety associated with that. Replace those stressors with closeness, warmth, pleasure, and fun.
5) Deal with scars and habits. Real intimacy can be difficult to achieve if you’re carrying around the baggage of sexual abuse, premarital sexual relations, or pornography use. If one of these is an issue for either of you, it’s an issue for both.
Keep in mind that the sexual aspect of your marriage is important. It’s not something that you can afford to let go by the wayside – not if you want to build a relationship that will last a lifetime. If you’re having problems, talk them out and start looking for solutions. You owe it to each other – as the Bible says, “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except 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” (I Corinthians 7:3-5). Guilt feelings and “shoulds” are by no means the best motivation for meeting your mate’s needs in the bedroom, but you may need to begin there and work on bettering your attitude.
If you’re having difficulty in this area of your marriage, don’t hesitate to seek professional counseling. Our staff would be happy to provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area who specialize in sexual issues. You can contact our Counseling Department Monday through Friday between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Mountain-time at 855-771-HELP (4357). The Family Help Center staff member who answers the phone will arrange for a licensed counselor to call you back. One of them will be in touch just as soon as they're able.
Portions of this answer originally appeared in The Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, a Focus on the Family Book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Contributing author Sandra Lundberg. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family.
The Way to Love Your Wife: Creating Greater Love and Passion in the Bedroom (book)
No More Headaches: Enjoying Sex and Intimacy in Marriage (book)
The 5 Sex Needs of Men & Women: Discover the Secrets of Great Sex in a Godly Marriage (book)
Red-Hot Monogamy: Making Your Marriage Sizzle (book)
Intimate Issues: Conversations Woman-to-Woman (book)
Removing Excuses In the Bedroom (CD)
Marriage Alive — The Web site of Dave and Claudia Arp, a husband and wife team who strive to help couples build better marriages and families.
Love and Respect — This ministry offers materials, articles, and conferences designed to help those already married to enrich their relationship and for those considering marriage to prepare for the journey together.
Sex and Intimacy