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)

Annabel

The idol of unmet needs (and finding joy in daily living)

If you are a living human (as opposed to, say, a robot reading this post), you have unmet needs. The fallen nature of the world around us means that none of us are living in our perfect scenario. And if, by chance, you are floating high on life right now, I can promise you that troubles and trials will come.
This isn’t a message of despair or depression. This is simply the truth.

My question today is, how do you respond to unmet needs? As higher-drive wives, many of us are often in the scenario where our unmet needs include sex. We would like it more often, more consistently, and possibly in better quality. But those needs are not currently being met. Of course, where you are now is not the end of the story, and that in itself can be the greatest comfort. Our God is the God of the impossible – so lets put the impossible in His hands and see what He does with it.
But for your now, for your today…what to do with those unmet desires and dreams of your heart?

Perhaps, and I say this with the greatest caution, you should gently put them aside.
But Annabel, you say, how can I put aside that thing that I so greatly desire? How can I abandon something so important? How can I rest when I am seeing the thing my heart desires, even needs, going without notice or care?

Please hear me out on this one.
I am not suggesting that you try to muscle your way through life with gritted teeth and a “I don’t need anything” sort of attitude. That is dangerous and false. What I am suggesting is that your need can become your idol. It can become all you think about, all you concentrate on. All of your emotional energy can be focused there. Every spare thought turns to it.

I know, dear sister, that when your sex life is limited, or perhaps even ignored, it hurts. Deeply and desperately. When the planets of our life are out of alignment, things go crashing into each other. You are being sinned against.
But please hear me say this as gently as possible : there is a time for everything. Including joy. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

So what, then, do I mean by all of this? Simply this : whatever your need is, there are still places, somewhere, that are producing life. And instead of standing and staring at those dead patches, maybe every once in a while it would do your heart good to go enjoy some beauty? Beautiful places are different for every person. Perhaps you love to paint or write. Pick it up again, even if just for yourself and your Father. Perhaps spring is calling you outside to play with your children. Go, laugh – allow yourself the grace of a smile on your face. Or maybe it’s the Godly refreshment you find engaging with certain friends – call them up, find a time to meet, to talk and listen.

A few weeks ago I was driving home from a weekly Bible study that I so enjoy. The women are refreshing, the topic always challenging and encouraging. As I turned a corner, I was pondering how much I enjoy that time, when I suddenly remembered some of my own mis-aligned and crashing planets. Almost in the same minute, I realized that I needed to just place those things before God and continue to simply enjoy the sweet gift He had given me. I thought about how often I have not allowed whatever joys He was giving to be a focusing point – but to instead turn my eyes and heart energy towards all that was going wrong. I missed out on the places I could be happy by stubbornly sitting in those that were not.

When needs are screaming who has time to enjoy the beauty of flowers, the warmth of a cup of coffee, the laughter of a child, the warmth of a spring day?
You do, dear friend.

I am praying for you this morning. Praying that you would have eyes to see where He is, indeed, bringing joy. Praying you can see His gifts that are so great towards you. Praying that if you have set up idols of your needs, that they would be taken down. Praying for you to have the strength and hope that is a hallmark of our faith – that is a testimony to the One who rose triumphant.

Pray for me, as well. I am in a season of needing to put some things back in order in my own life (hello, early mornings) in order to find the heart space to see the daily joys.

Your friend,
Annabel

My words to broken women

This is a blog for broken women.
I didn’t realize it would be so when I started it, but as the months have passed and the comments and emails have added up, I realize that the women drawn here are facing what feels to be impossible situations. Too often their husbands refuse to admit anything is wrong. Sometimes, the counseling they get is unBiblical, or lacking in compassion. Women come crying into this space – filled with hurt from affairs, pornography, rejection.

These things weigh heavy on my heart. There are comments that I struggle to reply to – what to say? How to offer words of comfort or wisdom? I am not a licensed counselor. I am not an ordained minister. I am a simple women who is working through the daily challenges of her own marriage, a woman who is fighting for Truth herself. I am blessed to have seen so much healing in my own heart and home. But it’s not formulaic. And how to offer myself to the crushed and bruised that I find so often laying on my doorstep?

I cannot offer my arms through this gift and frustration we call the Internet. I often think that if we could meet, the greatest thing I could offer would be my silence. Sitting with the broken woman in sackcloth and ashes. Grieving.

But my silence here doesn’t carry that weight. It’s my words that are needed. And here they are – shaking and unsure. May they speak life into dead places.

The strength of the Church
God placed us in the Body for a reason. Our human response to pain is to retreat, like a wounded animal, to a safe place and hide. This response, as natural as it is, hurts us. We need a community of believers. So run, dear sister, run to the strength of fellowship. This may mean a local church body (which I strongly encourage you not to forsake). It may mean a small group that you attend. It may mean a woman or two that is willing to stand in prayer with you. Don’t alienate yourself. Find community.

The safety of the WordGod’s Word is alive. It is sharper than any two-edged sword. It will lead your feet down right paths. It will guide your heart towards truth. Open it. Soak in it. Let it renew your mind and form your worldview. There is safety here, sisters. It will guard your heart from bitterness. It will guard your tongue from lies and cruelty. If you do nothing else, pick up this living Book and let it shape your heart.

The power of prayer
I have said this so many times before – do you truly know the power of prayer? When you are lost and confused – do you ask for answers? Truly? I find so often my prayers are simply complaints – not a true surrendering of my will or a seeking of His. Let prayer be like breathing – a continual pattern that fills your day. Prayer doesn’t need to be a show. You don’t need to be on bended knee (although the humility of that position can help turn your heart towards Him). It can be at your kitchen sink, or sitting at your desk, or as you make your bed. Let prayers rise like incense – ever before Him.

The surrender of the willThis is the mark of a woman who has a true understanding of who this Christ is that she follows. And yet, it can be the hardest thing of them all. When life is a tumult, when your heart is broken – do you stand before Him with open hands? Like Christ, do you say “Not my will, but your will be done”? Those words ache. Do we really embrace that in all things He is working for our good? Do we accept that bearing our Cross may mean this? And God calls us to bear our suffering with joy. Joy?! How is that possible? Only in surrender. May we be women who stand humbly before our God, fighting for and believing in the miraculous, and realizing that His answer may be the changing of our hearts.

The choice of life“Today I set before you life and death…choose life.”
Choosing life is choosing gratitude. It is choosing joy. It is choosing to find expressions of our life that bring beauty to those around us. Serving others through our gifts. It is choosing to build our hearts up with good things, and not things that paint false pictures. Our willingness to engage in things that bring life will bear good fruit. As my counselor once said, “Sometime you have to wake up and ask yourself ‘What would I do today if I felt wonderful?’ and then go and do that thing.” This is a choice to live out of the reality that we cannot see, rather than the one we can.

My dearest friends and sisters. I know you are hurting. I know.
And I know that these words are not enough to answer every question. They are not enough to fill the deep pain in your heart – the tearing that you wonder if you will ever recover from. I offer them with tears and prayers. May they lead you to the only One who can heal your heart. May you find Christ, and in Him find true comfort. He is your heart’s true home – may you be found dwelling in Him.

Irregardless of our realization of it today, the truth is that we will all one day stand before Him. Our Lamb who gave His life for us. We will see Him, and we will be like Him. And as hard as it is to imagine, we will one day realize that He is worthy of all our suffering. We will not arrive with demands and questions. We will see Him and cast down our crowns, crying “Holy, holy, holy.”

I am praying for you today.
And thank you for your prayers. I have felt the difference as we enter the last week of Lent and look towards the most important day in our Christian calendar – the celebration of His overcoming death and winning us to Himself.

You are loved.
Annabel

If you are a reader, here are two books I would highly recommend in helping shape your heart towards Truth in hard times.
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Hinds Feet On High Places by Hannah Hurnard

It hurts : A message to higher-drive wives

Today’s post is an excerpt from my guest post with Brad & Kate at One Flesh Marriage.
If you are like me, you remember your wedding day with clarity. Mine was such a precious day – joining myself to the man that I had never believed I would marry.  Becoming a wife – a joy I never truly thought I would experience. We came into our marriage as virgins, and I came in with the usual words of wisdom ringing in my ears. “Sex will be a wonderful gift between you and your husband. But be warned – men need sex much, much more than women. So be ready to sacrifice and serve him. Be ready to say yes much more than you probably want to.” The words were communicated in a loving and healthy way, but I still remember struggling with fear. The man I loved was probably going to turn into some sort of sexual beast-monster after marriage! Could I truly handle his incredible needs? 
 
The marriage bed came – full of wonder and bliss. In fact, I loved it so much that during our honeymoon my husband had to say “Can we take a break?” I thought it was an unusual but isolated incident. We came home and set up “real life”, and I found that the “isolated incident” was in fact, a way of life. As weeks turned into months and then years, a definite pattern emerged. I wanted sex often. He didn’t. I felt sex connected us. He felt it was the result of our connection. I wanted us to be intimate after we had been angry with each other. He couldn’t find the emotional reserve to try and sexually connect when we had argued. 
I cried so many tears. I heard “no” in one form or another so many times. Sometimes it was said with kindness. Other times it was a simple cold shoulder, a turning of the back. I wondered what was wrong with me – how could I be so sexually driven? Was I unattractive? Was I the sexual beast-monster? I wept for the marriage I had dreamt of, and wasn’t living in…..
Would you like to read more? Come join me at One Flesh Marriage today as I write about what it means to be a higher-drive wife.
Have you come over from One Flesh Marriage today? A few places to start:
Are you a higher-drive wife? A compilation of some helpful posts.

Growing Patience

Good afternoon, friends! Sorry for the silence, but I am running into life as a mom of two small children, being a good wife and homemaker and all the other things that come with a life busy and full. Even as I am writing the sounds of my eldest crying and getting into something punctuates and interrupts me. Our current living situation has the youngest still sharing our room (not how we want it, but so it is), and that has made for a challenging time where sex is concerned. So today I wanted to write about patience – because I am having to learn a lot about it.

Sometimes the timing is just off. Sometimes the nights are short, the days are long, and you just need to be patient. Maturity requires us to realize that we don’t always get whatever we want, whenever we want it – and that our response to that realization marks our maturity. I would like to have sex more often than I do. But sometimes, by the time the day is all said and done it just doesn’t happen. Often the reasons are legitimate (I have been running a fever & sick on top of the current crazy in our life). Sometimes just as we are about to engage in sex, our littlest wakes up needing me. And my hard-working husband is asleep before I get back.
Marriage is a holy estate. It is created to display the glory of God and engage our hearts in the grandest Story ever told. It has it’s seasons. As a higher-drive wife in a sexually recovering marriage I can forget that sometimes I just need to walk in patience. Sometimes it really is okay if we aren’t have sex as often as I would like – it’s just life’s timing.

So next time you are up to your eyeballs in crying children, limping around because your back hurts, and at a total loss about what might be for lunch today – take a minute to smile, grow a little patience with yourself and the world, and embrace the season you are in.

Annabel

P.S. If you are in a sexually broken or hurting marriage, your journey is already full of challenges. May God, indeed, grow the fruit of the spirit in you as you drink from a very hard cup.

Preparing for Orgasm

I recently had a reader ask me how I mentally prepare for orgasm. I had mentioned in this post that it is something I try to do as a way to serve my husband sexually. She asked me how, and I thought it might be something helpful to share here.

First, I want to start by saying that this is my own experience. Every higher-drive wife is different. You may be HD but slow-start (in other words you need lots of time to get warmed up, even though you want to have sex more often than your husband). Or you may be (as a wife of one of my readers) HD and quick-start, needing to orgasm right off the bat before foreplay is even enjoyable. Or you may fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. We are each made differently, and that is okay. So please take everything I share here as a starting point for figuring your own particular “marital chemistry”, and not as the end-all of sexual wisdom (not that you would).

When I know that my husband is tired or our life dictates a need for faster sex (hello, children), I try to make sure I am as prepared for orgasm as possible. It doesn’t help us out much if I take 45 minutes to “get there” when we only have 20! And while there are times that I am happy to have sex with him without orgasm, he enjoys my enjoyment almost as much as I do, and he isn’t happy to have time after time without bringing me to orgasm. All of that to say, it is often helpful for me to try to be ready before the show starts.

So how to I do that? Here is (without too much detail), a few ways I prepare myself for sex (and orgasm).

1. Remember
I think my husband is incredibly good-looking. He is a wonderful lover. I have stored up some amazing memories of us together. I have a very personal Rolodex that I will begin to “look through” in my mind. This is often the first step of my own personal process.

2. Dream
In addition to some wonderful memories, I also have a pretty good imagination. Often I will find myself wandering into a scenario in my head that hasn’t actually ever happened. Making up my own stories about what might/could happen is a wonderful way to get turned on.
One very, very important caveat here is that I don’t venture into “sexually restricted” areas. This means dreaming about something that my husband isn’t comfortable doing, or a fantasy that makes my husband into someone he is not (by personality or by looks). Of course dreaming about anyone besides my husband, or anything else that is forbidden Biblically is completely wrong here.

3. Write (and read)
For me, writing is a wonderful outlet. I keep a password protected journal where I am able to write all of my sexual dreams and imaginings. My husband is fully aware of this writing, and it is a wonderful place for me to write out some of my deepest heart’s longings. I also write out prayers in this journal, both for my marriage bed as well as personally. It keeps my heart accountable in my writing, as well, to remind myself that God reads every word and knows the thoughts and intentions of my heart. Reading what I have written before is also a helpful way to start my engines humming.

4. Pay attention
One of the best ways for me to get “warmed up” is to simply pay attention to my body. Sexual urges, attractions and physical response is not wrong. In fact, within marriage it is incredibly right. So when I am thinking about my husband and preparing myself for sex with him, I pay attention to how my body responds. I know what it feels like to be getting hotter, so when I feel that way I mentally welcome it and appreciate it. I bask in it, so to speak.

5. Timing
For me, timing is everything. If I know that Mr. Spice and I are going to have a rendezvous at night, it doesn’t do me much good to dwell on sexual thoughts at 3 in the afternoon. That’s just me. While dwelling on those thoughts may get me revved up to go at 3:30., it doesn’t do much for me by 9 p.m. I just don’t have that kind of sexual stamina. By that time I will have forgotten all about my good feelings and have to start over. I usually need to start mentally prepping about 20 minutes before we are going to have sex. More if I will be distracted by small people or housework duties. I can get by with 5 minutes or less if it’s the only thing I am doing. But (for me) the mental preparation needs to be fairly close to the actual act.

6. First time is the charm
One thing I have noticed is that if I get myself all worked up and then don’t act, I not only lose the momentum I have gained, I take a few steps back. For me, the first time is the charm. If I am aroused and we don’t have sex, I can’t gain that arousal back very easily. In fact, if Mr. Spice starts to suggest that we move towards sex a few hours after I was ready I will find myself frustrated and annoyed. Which is not right, but it is how I feel. Often at that point I have to make a decision to go with it, and always will be glad I did. But it’s a hurdle to get over. This also means that if I am wanting sex than I probably need to try to distract myself from dwelling on it all day – it does me no good to be all revved up with no place to drive.

So there you go – a little glimpse into how I prepare myself for sex and help myself get to a place where I am able to orgasm faster. For me (as you can tell), it’s all mental. My imagination is my greatest friend here. I don’t really do anything physical (except write).
What about you? Are there ways that you “warm up”? Is there anything that helps you reach orgasm faster once you get there?

A gentle reminder to share with wisdom – we shouldn’t be able to picture you & yours in the marriage bed – lets keep that behind closed doors where it should be.

Share on, sisters –
Annabel

The friend of the spicy wife

I so clearly remember walking down the aisle towards the man I had longed for and dreamt about. It was a beautiful day – the perfect weather, the perfect dress, our family and friends present to watch us make our covenant together. I remember the joy I had as we exchanged vows, and the excitement I felt for what was to come. The day turned into night and finally, finally, our hotel door closed. It was just the two of us. Excitement turned to nerves as we both realized what this meant – we were about to become one. Finally, all the waiting was over.

The wedding night and honeymoon were wonderful. We were virgins who had kept ourselves for each other. We laughed and enjoyed each other, relieved that we were finally free to enjoy God’s gift of sex. Then it was back home to set up real life. Soon, however, I began to notice something strange. There were many days when I desired sex, and he didn’t! Impossible – the man always wants sex more than the woman…right? I thought it was just a fluke. A strange coincidence. But it happened again. And again. And again. The fluke was becoming a pattern.

Almost seven years and many, many tears later, I have realized one very important thing. I am a “spicy” wife. One of those not-as-rare-as-you-might-think women who desires sex more than her husband does. Consistently. While there isn’t very good research right now on this phenomenon, statistics seem to indicate that as many as 1-in-4 marriages have a higher-drive wife. But as I found out (the very hard way), no one talks about it. I looked to find support and help, and all I found was sources saying something was wrong with one (or both) of us. I grew so discouraged by the words I found written to lower drive wives to be adventurous and sacrificial in the marriage bed. I remember literally throwing a book across the room as I cried – how strange I was! I must be so broken! It wasn’t supposed to be like this!
After much counseling and prayer, I have realized something very important. There are many, many of us. Sitting silently, grieving privately. We sit with a false smile on our face as our friends bemoan their husbands sex drive. We struggle with comparison and questions. We are lonely, often conflicted, and sometimes deeply hurt.
Or perhaps we are just confused – because we love sex and would like more of it – why don’t our friends seem to feel the same way? Irregardless, we stay silent.

Want to read the rest of my story? I am blogging today at Warrior Wives. Excited to be guest posting with my friend Elizabeth, and I hope you will come over to hear 5 ways you can befriend a higher-drive wife.

Annabel