One person who I hadn’t seen in awhile shared with me that he and his ex-wife were now back together after quite a few years apart.
The ex-wife had even had another marriage (and another divorce) in that time.
Being the curious creature I am, I said, “What are you going to do differently this time to make sure you don’t go down the same path again — you know, the trainwreckish path?”
He had an answer, but I admit I wasn’t overly convinced they had dug to the root of what destroyed them the first go-round. I hope it works, but honestly, I don’t know if they’ve stacked the odds in their favor.
Their struggles weren’t sexual per se, but the conversation with him got me thinking about how many fractured marriages I hear about with regard to sexual intimacy.
More often than not, the two people are still married, but sex is an issue. A big issue.
It’s a simple question. Kind of.
But if we soak in it a bit, we realize that if we don’t understand the “why” behind something, we are rarely capable to forge any lasting change. Surface healing is a cheap counterfeit for real healing.
And surface healing has a tendency to fake us out and make us believe that “all is now fine,” when really we haven’t gotten to the root of the heartache.
Lest you think I’m horribly naive, I do recognize there are marriages stuck in sexual discord because one spouse or both are steadfast against even beginning the process of digging into the cause. Or because the marriage is embroiled in an ongoing unconfessed sin, such as infidelity or pornography use.
Such marriages are not beyond God’s redemption, but obviously there has to be a willingness on the part of the offending spouse to walk in a healthier direction.
I also know there are plenty — pa-lenty — of marriages dealing with sexual struggles that could get unstuck by asking the hard questions about why sex is a struggle.
While these certainly don’t cover every scenario, they do cover a spectrum of things that tend to trip people up sexually in their marriages.
1. Is past sexual abuse or sexual violation against you making it difficult for you to see sex in a positive light?
2. Are you self-sabotaging sex in your marriage because you falsely believe you should be punished for past promiscuity (such as when you were single or before you were a Christian)?
3. Are you withholding sex as a way to punish your spouse for a past betrayal or other loss of trust in your marriage?
4. Have you not yet explored what God says about the positive aspects of sex in marriage? Do you see sex only as being dirty or gross (even in the context of your marriage)?
5. Are you and/or your spouse wanting to do things sexually that fall outside God’s boundaries for healthy sexual intimacy in a marriage? Is this causing guilt, anger and/or confusion?
6. Is your marriage incredibly fragile because of non-sexual struggles (financial pressures, parenting challenges, work stresses, in-law challenges, etc.)?
7. Are you and your spouse unsure how to help each other experience pleasure? God designed sexual climax for a wife and a husband, but often they need to teach each other what feels good with regard to foreplay, arousal and orgasm.
8. Are you diligent about all other areas of your life (kids, work, volunteer work, ministry), but indifferent about nurturing sex in your marriage?
9. Has sex just become boring, and you and your spouse follow the same sexual routine every single time?
See what I mean about the spectrum of what causes sexual struggle in marriages?
I am not a counselor. Or a doctor.
But I know there is healing to be found from sexual struggles. Sometimes a married couple can find that healing on their own through honest communication and a genuine exploration of God’s Word.
And other times, it is wise to also involve a professional counselor or ministries that specialize in helping people heal from the pain of sexual trauma, sexual betrayal or other deep discord.
Wherever you find yourself in the struggles, what will it take for you to courageously look at why you are stuck?
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.