If sex is the problem, it’s not the issue

Hello again, sweet friends!

I pray these words find you aching towards Christ, and seeing Him respond in His grace and mercy.

I have had a thought so many times in this past year that I wanted to share with you. It’s a truth that has been lurking in the background of so many of my posts in the past, but has never been more clear to me as it is now.

If sex is the problem, then it’s the not the issue. 

If your marriage bed is what is causing you the most angst and tears, then I can promise you that it, in itself, is not the issue.
“So what is the issue?”, you may ask.

I hate to say I don’t know, but I don’t.

It could be some tangible sexual sin (and the things your heart may fear the most) – a pornography addiction or the devastation of adultery. It could be some tangible non-sexual sin – a gambling or gaming addiction, financial embezzlement, alcoholism.
These sins are the ones that our minds most often jump towards, these are the ones that haunt our dreams.

But there are other sins that can be the issue.
Self-centerdness. Silence. Pride.

Perhaps the issue is something else entirely. The root isn’t always sin.
There could be a history of sexual abuse. There could be other personality or history challenges affecting sexual desire or identity. It could be that there is a sense of shame around sex due to their family or some other circumstance. Perhaps there is an incorrect theology or philosophy of sex.

And then, of course, there is the whole realm of physical.
Performance issues.

(As an aside, I wrote about whether your husband’s lower sex drive is your fault in the blog posts here and here)

My sweet sisters – we are complicated beings. Often the actual issues will be multi-faceted, layers of several different areas. Often your spouse won’t even begin to know themselves well enough to identify the what or why of sexual refusal. Even if it is something “obvious”, like a pornography addiction or office romance – the why behind the action is tied to deep heart wounds that a “quick fix” (read, internet safety software or moving to another town) won’t get at.

So what are we to do about this?

Be aware. Often we have such a short-sighted view of our husband’s struggles (and our own!). Whatever they are, just know that there are layers you can’t see. Know that there are layers even he can’t see. Especially if he wasn’t raised to be self-aware, or has never had the language of the heart taught to him.

Be patient. This one is hard. Hard, hard, hard, hard. It doesn’t come naturally. It’s why it’s a fruit of His Spirit in us. Because we can’t contrive it, we can’t grow it, we can’t manufacture it and we can’t fake it. Be patient with his journey. Be patient with your own. Be patient with the journey you are on together.

Seek help. This is one of the most vital pieces. Listen to me, friends. You can’t do this alone. You both could probably benefit from counseling. Even if he won’t go – you go. You go for you. The church is Christ’s body, and it is wonderful. But sometimes a pastor isn’t enough. Prayer alone sometimes isn’t enough (I know, it is sacrilege to write). You or he may need psychological assistance. Or physical.

Find community. Finding friend’s is one of life’s greatest joys. Not the sort of friends you spill your husband’s secrets and faults to. Not gossip-driven women who are a shame to Christ’s name. I mean friends who will let you cry without needing to know why. I mean friends who will pray for you when you text them and ask. Find them in your church. Find them online. Pray for them. Open your eyes to women outside your usual circle of age, race, demographic, denomination.  We are not meant to journey alone. Even leaving a comment here can be a place to start.

Pray. Yes, I know I just said that prayer alone sometimes isn’t enough. But I do fervently believe in the power of prayer. Prayer doesn’t change our circumstances as much as it changes us. If you haven’t ever experienced the power of a prayer-life centered on Christ, go find a book by Thomas Keating or J. David Muyskens and read it. This is the magnet, friends, that pulls our hearts towards Christ.

From here on out, will you make me a promise?
When your marriage bed is suffering – when it is lacking, when it is a place of hurt rather than healing – will you ask yourself what is the real issue here?
Because it isn’t just sex.

Under the Mercy,
(praying you are as well)


6 thoughts on “If sex is the problem, it’s not the issue

  1. thank you Annabel for your enlightening post.after more than 20 years of refusal & gate keeping, God changed me & I have discovered that I am the higher drive spouse in our marriage.we have also discovered that I am the one who is a bit more adventurous .but my husband is not willing or able at this point to really help me and learn how to help me have an orgasm.I struggle with the fact that sex seems to be just for him. He’s a very happy camper. I have been reading and learning and experimenting in order to please him better. I just don’t want to get to the point where I’m resentful. Your post reminded me that I need to be praying more often about our marriage bed.and I don’t need to be praying so that he will change and grow and help me, but that I will be happy and content even without orgasm. (that just seems wrong to even type.) I don’t know. I’m very frustrated. And I’m one of those women for whom orgasm is very important.

  2. How very true. My struggle is to help my husband to see clearly that lack of sexual desire on his part is just a SYMPTOM, not the diagnosis. It’s been very hard to be patient, especially when it seems to my selfish eyes that he isn’t motivated to change. But am I willing to change, or more importantly, BE changed? So difficult.

  3. Absolutely!! Being chronically disinterested in sex with your partner is a symptom of something else. Thing is, it’s such an easy thing to spot for us HD gals, and it affects us deeply, so we have to be careful not to fixate on it.

    I heard somewhere that a healthy relationship should be easy, and I firmly believe that. Of course there will be bumps in the road that will require extra efforts from both, but for the most part a marriage should be a sanctuary, not an additional stress in life. So knowing that it isn’t feeling easy for either of is, THAT is what demands my attention, more so than the bedroom problem specifically.

    Lisa, regarding orgasm, I’m in the same boat, although I’m for the most part ok doing without. While it’d be really nice if he’d insist on it sometimes, I don’t directly blame him for me not getting there. Often I’m so craved for intimacy that I’ll just take what I can get, but mostly it’s because I’m too in my head. Basically, if I was more selfish, less worrying about if he was enjoying himself, I doubt there would be a problem. We need to talk about this (again) because I know it’s not right, but it’s a sensitive topic and it usually pushes him away, so I’m picking my battles right now. I hope you and your husband do better with communication.

  4. What you have shared is something that I have felt in my heart, but actually hearing another woman who understands what being an HD wife entails has opened my eyes to the many different layers. I’ve always gotten the impression, and even asked my husband, if his lack of desire could go deeper, maybe even tied to the past. He agreed, but like you stated, even he doesn’t know what it is. We call it a mental box, and we have tried a couple of times to “break into” it, and find what it is that is holding him back. He’s said that it’s like knowing that it’s there, but not understanding what’s in it, only that it seems to radiate an almost “shameful” light on sex. I am going to keep tenderly trying to help him destroy that box, but I believe that it’s become so strong that we may need counseling. We will see. I want to continue to be patient and loving, and not push things too hard, because that in turn destroys any progress we make. Thank you so much for sharing this, it’s so important for women to understand that sometimes the sex life is just a symptom, so that we can learn to be better help-mates and draw our husbands out gently, so that they can receive healing no matter what the actual problem is. Lisa, I deffinately understand what you mean when you said most times you are too sex starved to be concerned about your own orgasm, I too am just grateful that my husband finally wants me when we have sex to focus on my own pleasure. To me it is like if I were dragging myself through a dessert, and found a bottle of water, but one yard away there was a feast on a platter. Too grateful for the water, I don’t care about the feast until the water is gone. In the meantime, I am grateful to God that my husband and I love each other so. It’s still hurtful sometimes, but I know he loves me and that’s a blessing. Praying for you ladies, may God bless you all.

  5. This is the first time I’ve ever felt compelled to comment on the blog of someone I don’t know personally; I had to tell you how grateful I am for this blog and for this post in particular. It is precisely what I needed today, and I know I didn’t stumble across it by accident. I was lead here–down a long, difficult, 14-year road. It is entirely possible that finding you today has saved my marriage. Thank you for doing what you do.

  6. The title of your post is 100% RIGHT ON!! Absolutely correct in soooo many ways!! I encourage everyone to look outside their marriage bed…..its there….believe me….its there!! Prayers for all the women who come here. Annabelle, I pray for you everyday!

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