I’ve heard from couples who have gone literally years with dysfunctional patterns (sexual and otherwise), yet at some point, something compels them both to move toward each other and heal the disconnect.
Maybe even grow closer sexually than they ever could have imagined.
Personally, I think marriage is hard. It is by far one of the hardest things I have ever done or will ever do. I think many people would agree with me.
And some of you are in marriages where the pain is incredibly raw. And deep. And debilitating. And maybe the sexual struggles have left you discouraged and disillusioned. If that describes your marriage, I want to neither minimize your pain nor haphazardly throw around false hope.
But here’s the thing.
If you are still married, in my opinion, you are left with no biblical choice but to do what you can to improve the relationship.
(I know this should go without saying, but I’m not talking about abusive relationships. I’m talking about marriages where two people have grown apart, lost interest in sex and/or encountered relationship roadblocks that seem insurmountable).
So what does it take to heal and strengthen a marriage, particularly from a sexual angle?
Sexual disconnect begins in too many ways to outline here. Suffice to say, sex is both complex AND simple. That dichotomy can make it hard for a couple to get on the same page (or on the same bed, if we’re looking for a more accurate phrase).
But if I had to funnel the challenges into themes, one that would consistently rank at the top is that one or both people in the marriage won’t own their own stuff.
In other words, is sex difficult in your marriage because of you?
For example, you won’t seek healing from the past, such as past promiscuity, sexual abuse, adultery or pornography use. Or you won’t let go of false messages, such as sex is bad, sex is a chore, sex is gross, and sex is sinful (even in marriage).
Or possibly you refuse to understand what’s going on with your body, such as hormonal issues, other physical issues, lack of orgasm and body image struggles.
Whatever your issues may be, are you dealing with them?
Because if you are letting them to continue to sabotage sexual intimacy with your spouse, that’s heartbreaking.
There is no better time to deal with your issues than now. And there is no better time than now to find countless Christian resources available (counselors, books, seminars, blogs, DVDs, etc.)
Because I write about sex, people think I know “secrets” to incredible sex in marriage. There is one “secret” that I consistently recommend (and it’s really not a secret at all).
I tell people to build great friendship with their spouse. And I’m not talking about friendship that looks like other friendships you have. I am talking about genuine companionship and fun with the person to whom you literally pledged your life.
Many things sabotage a couple’s ability to work on their friendship. Sure, it’s easy when you’re dating and newly married, because you likely have a ton of time to simply focus on each other.
But then life happens. Careers. Kids. Crazy calendars. House maintenance. Bigger decisions. And so on.
The other subtle thing that happens is friendship drift, meaning you start to take a lot for granted with this person standing next to you.
Those “dating days” seem like a luxury for which “we just don’t have the time.” It’s not malicious. Two people drift apart because the demands of life became relentlessly loud and stressful.
Okay, I get it.
Maybe you aren’t the one hurting sex in your marriage. Maybe it is your spouse who is the culprit. So what then?
What do you do when your spouse is not responding to your frustrations, pleas for marriage counseling, sexual initiation and so forth?
It’s probably time for a different approach. If your spouse is manipulative, passive aggressive, unwilling to deal with their own issues or just generally negative, then you still need to find ways to stay healthy.
Seek counseling for yourself. Continue to build and enjoy your activities and hobbies. Invest in yourself physically, such as walking more, joining a gym, getting plenty of sleep, taking hot baths.
Read books for tips (one I recommend is How to Act Right When Your Spouse Acts Wrong by Leslie Vernick). Pray. Find ways to give back to your community by getting involved in charities you believe in.
Strive to not get sucked into your spouse’s manipulative arguments. I’m all for communication, but when a negative spouse is just trying to pick a fight, your best response is to stay calm and refuse to engage in childish behavior.
Sometimes when you start responding more maturely to a negative spouse, they will begin to see the light and realize they too need to grow up and help restore all aspects of intimacy in the relationship
Sometimes this doesn’t happen.
But even if it doesn’t, your choices still will help you be healthier emotionally and physically.
Is your marriage beyond sexual repair? I don’t know. But I do know the above questions are worth asking.
For more reading, also check out the series What Is Destroying Sex in Your Marriage?
Julie Sibert writes and speaks about sexual intimacy in marriage. You can follow her blog at www.IntimacyInMarriage.com. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and their two boys. When she's not writing, she's probably drinking ridiculously overpriced coffee.