I always think not twice, but ten or twenty times, before introducing the topic of intimacy in marriage on my blog, because this is such a private, private matter and the last thing I want is to be ungracious or indiscreet when discussing it. But a recent dicussion on Terry's blog prompted some thoughts that I just had to put into writing.
Some women plain and simple can't stand the thought of being intimate with their husbands, and in those cases, it's pretty obvious that there's a problem (though not necessarily through the woman's fault). When one of the spouses outright denies physical intimacy, an explosion is bound to happen. But what happens when the wife sees marital relations as an inevitable duty, and decides to just grit her teeth and suffer through it?
To tell you the truth, I find it perhaps even more heartbreaking when a wife, maybe out of the gentle womanly quality of submission, bears a load of suffering during times of intimacy with her husband. It's nothing less than a tragedy when a wife resigns herself to a lifetime of misery during times that are supposed to be special, wonderful, and rekindle the fire between herself and her husband. And of course, what husband with an even remote trace of sensitivity will be happy with this kind of arrangement?
Please note that I'm not talking about occassionally getting over a "headache" or tiredness. I mean a situation when the wife (I speak about the woman's side of the matter, because most of the readers here are ladies) consistently suffers through intimacy with her husband, and doesn't attempt any change, either out of embarrassment, or because of disappointment she suffered in the past.
The special togetherness that is shared only between husband and wife is supposed to be enjoyable. I'm not saying that it's always supposed to be everything that Hollywood movies would have us believe, but it's not supposed to cause pain, embarrassment, or discomfort. If it does, it means there's a problem.
I'm not saying this to cause pain or guilt to women who have been struggling with this matter. Obviously, I'm generalizing a lot here, and cannot presume to understand everybody's situation. But I am thoroughly convinced that one must not resign. Perhaps there is nothing wrong on a purely physical level - at least not something a doctor would detect. It doesn't mean your difficulties aren't valid.
By the way, some doctors are very good at making a superficial examination, and telling there's nothing wrong and we should just get over it - even if they were the ones who prescribed medicine that is causing the problem. During the time I have been blogging, I received numerous emails from wives who experienced a rapid decline in their sexual desire once they started using hormonal birth control, but no doctor ever warned them about it, and most doctors outright denied the connection.
Perhaps you have a past of sexual abuse, or simply a burden of impure past, or other emotional inhibitions. In such a case it would be wise to seek godly counseling. Maybe there's a health problem that leads to exhaustion or lack of desire. And even simply feeling "too tired" isn't supposed to be dismissed. Perhaps the wife is up with a small baby several times each night. In that case, it's understandable that she's always tired in the evenings, and couple time can be carved out at other times of the day.
Women are highly emotional creatures; for most of us, it's impossible to satisfyingly connect with our husbands on a physical level, if something in the relationship has gone amiss, or if the wife doesn't feel cherished, loved and secure. Perhaps the root of the problem is actually elsewhere, and by solving it, the issue of physical intimacy will be naturally solved as well.
Body image issues can also prevent a woman from enjoying physical intimacy with her husband. We all change as we grow older, bring children into this world and nurse them, and it's normal. I've lost all of my baby weight already, but my body is not quite the same, nor will it ever be. My hips are different. My waist is different. And that's alright - I exercise and do my best to be physically fit, but I didn't expect to give birth to a baby and still have a slender maidenly figure. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a husband who always tells me how beautiful I am and how attracted he is to me in my new self. Perhaps not all husbands are so understanding. Perhaps some unknowingly cause pain to their wives and lower their self esteem by, for example, pointing out at another woman who recently had a baby, or has several small children, and looks in better shape. Maybe some men think it's a good way to motivate their wives to eat more healthily and exercise, and don't realize how hurtful it can be. Openness on such matters is crucial.
Or maybe the problem is even on a purely "technical" level, but you've never talked about it, out of embarrassment or fear of hurting the other side's feelings. Or you tried, and it didn't work out, and you decided to just live with it - and it usually doesn't improve on its own. With heartfelt prayer, honest conversation, commitment on both sides and lots of hard work, change is possible, and it can bring your marriage onto a whole new level of closeness and trust. It will bless both of you. Don't give up.