I’ve had the privilege of sitting and sharing in the lives of many married couples. These couples come to counseling for many reasons, but the most common one is bad communication. Not because the they somehow lack the ability to talk at one another, but rather they don’t understand how the other is defining words like honesty, trust, love, respect, sexual intimacy. I find that many couples will work hard on their communication issues and see progress, but still be stuck. They are often stuck because they refuse to acknowledge a major core issue and that is sexual intimacy.
Sex is a significant part of marriage where each spouse gets to connect in one of the most vulnerable and sacrificial ways possible. This however, is an area that many husbands and wives find themselves stuck and deeply hurt in. Sexual intimacy is something that is cultivated over a long period of time. It requires patience, sacrifice, prayer and being teachable.
Unfortunately, many spouses have been hurt through sex with one another and do not want to pursue reconciliation either because they don’t want to or know how to. Because this is a pattern for many husbands and wives, it can leave them in very dangerous territory. When there is a lack of intentional sexual intimacy and pursuit on the husband’s end, the wife will feel empty and desire an emotional connection. This is often where emotional affairs begin with another man. A husband should always be considering, “how do I pursue my wife in a way that serves her and provides for her emotionally.”
When a husband lacks healthy sexual intimacy from his wife it opens the door for cognitive distortions. A husband may believe that he is physically unattractive, a bad sexual partner or has some other deficits. Due to this perceived rejection a husband will often turn to porn to satisfy him. Unfortunately, many wives are OK with this.
The difficulty in a wife being ok with her husband looking at porn, is that it only serves to create an unrealistic expectation for how sexual intimacy should happen. Secondly, the husband will little by little not find his wife attractive unless she is doing what he sees on the computer screen. What used to excite the husband sexually has become more and more twisted. This is not unlike a drug or alcohol addiction. The first time you get high or drunk, it doesn’t take that much, but to achieve that same feeling each time after, it requires more and more.
I want to give some practical suggestions for husbands and wives as well as anyone who is walking with a married couple through this situation.
1. Husbands, it is intensely sacrificial and vulnerable for a wife to give herself in sexual intimacy. Value this, acknowledge this and listen to her.
2. Wives, just because your husband wants sex all the time, doesn’t mean they are an animal. Do not encourage your husband to look at porn because you are mad at him for not anticipating your needs.
3. Frequency doesn’t equal quality. More sex doesn’t always mean a closer marriage and better foundation. If you are walking with someone who is having marriage problems in this area, be mindful that your advice is not, “just have more sex”. You need to be aware that for some married couples there may be present medical conditions making it hard to have sex. Additionally, be aware that there may be sexual trauma in the marriage that is causing a barrier.
4. Husbands and wives teach each other how to be sexually intimate. As you get older you can’t rely on how you viewed sex and sexual intimacy like you did in your 20s. When you’ve been married for some time you have to show humility and be willing to accept that you don’t know everything.
Finally be gracious with one another, be slow and intentional. Don’t give up and rest on your assumptions that your husband or wife is rejecting you. Share your needs and wants and be in prayer together. Husbands and wives, pursue each other and by doing so you increase the possibility of having a healthy marriage and fun together.
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