The Pandemic of Pornography

A Pandemic Problem.

We have seen a lot of loss in recent days due to a worldwide pandemic, but we have been suffering from a virus that is much more devastating than COVID-19. Since the birth of Playboy magazine in 1953 and the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the entertainment industry has constantly pushed the envelope when it comes to sex. For years, sexual content became bolder and more mainstream. Then in 1993, the World Wide Web became public. And this newfound digital access comes with a virus that has permeated our homes and churches and has put influenza to shame.

Defining the Problem.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, pornography is defined as:

“Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.”

But chances are I don’t need to define it. We all know what it is and probably have all seen or watched some version of it.

  • Over 40 million Americans are regular visitors to porn sites.
  • 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis.
  • And the average age a child is first exposed to porn is 11 years old.

Porn is truly a pandemic worse than COVID. It is destroying our homes and families right under our noses. Why? It kills the desire for true intimacy and leads to sexual addiction.

You may be reading this and thinking that porn is not a problem. You may believe that porn is a normal part of life and something everyone does. But the truth is that once you begin to use pornography for sexual gratification, you start training your brain to attach to the fantasy world through pornography and masturbation.

Sex addiction can cause some serious challenges in relational sex, because you have neurologically attached your brain to a fantasy image or act. So when you have sex in real life, you have to close your eyes and/or disconnect from reality. Fantasy simply becomes more enticing, because it requires no work or relational intimacy. It is a false intimacy that sinks it claws deep into you, and you cannot pull away.

Do I Have a Problem?

Now you may be asking yourself, “Do I have a pornography problem?” Or “Am I a sex addict?”

First, let’s help define what a sex addiction looks like. Sexual addiction is a compulsive behavior that completely dominates your life. It causes you to make sex a bigger priority than family, friends, and work. Everything revolves around sex, and you are willing to sacrifice what you cherish most to preserve and continue your unhealthy behavior.

There are also patterns of out-of-control sexual behavior, such as: compulsive masturbation, indulgence in pornography, chronic affairs, dangerous sexual practices, prostitution, anonymous sex, and compulsive sexual episodes.

For sex addicts, sex is the same as food or drugs in other addictions. It provides the “high” that addicts depend on for feeling normal. Temporary pleasure and unhealthy relationships become more important than forming healthy, intimate relationships. A sexual addict may begin to isolate themselves either emotionally or literally. There is a repetitive struggle to control behavior, which is followed by a deep sense of despair for continuously failing to do so. Self-esteem gradually decreases, increasing the need to escape into the addictive behavior all the more. It’s a vicious cycle.

Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are wondering whether you might be an addict:

  • Do I have secret sexual behaviors with myself, pornography or others?
  • Am I unable to be honest about my sexual behavior?
  • Have I caused pain in my relationships due to my sexual behavior?
  • Have I had consequences financially, relationally or socially due to my sexual behavior?
  • Do I continue my sexual behavior regardless of consequences or attempts to stop the behavior?
  • Do I have difficulty not lusting or objectifying people?

If you have answered yes to one or more of these questions, you really need to seek help. It’s hard to admit weakness and ask for help, but it is absolutely crucial. One of the biggest lies that lust tells us is, “You can handle this by yourself.” Once you believe that, all hope of getting better is gone.

Addressing the Problem.

For the Christians reading this post, you may be telling yourself, “I will just pray harder or increase my faith.” I am here to tell you that this is not enough. I know that may sound blasphemous, but I am not the one who said that—God did. The Bible tells us in I John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise is absolutely true, but it only offers forgiveness. There is a vast difference between forgiveness and healing. The key to healing is not found here. It is found in James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed….”

Forgiveness is immediate and comes from God, but healing takes place over time and is gradual. Forgiveness comes when we confess our sins to God, but healing comes when we confess our sins to one another. You CANNOT heal from a sex addiction on your own or even just you and God. Others must be involved. Start by finding one person you can trust and confide in, and ask them to help you by being accountable to them.

If you find yourself bound to pornography and sex addiction, there is hope. Find someone you can be accountable to or find a recovery group that encourages behavior change. The road ahead is long and the work is hard, but the result is absolute freedom to live the addiction-free life God has called you to live.

Erik Almodovar, Pastoral Counselor.

What to Do if Your Spouse is Not Interested in Sex

In the last post, we looked at what can cause your sex drive to run out of gas. We also talked about some things you might be able to do about it.

But what do you do if your spouse is the one with little to no sex drive?

THE STATISTICS.

According to an article in the New York Times by Jen Gunter, 15% of married couples are in a sexless relationship. A sexless relationship is defined as spouses who have sex 10 or fewer times in a year.

And if you assume it’s just husbands who are frustrated by their wife’s lack of desire for sex, you would be wrong. While it’s true that roughly 80% of males have sex drives that are higher than their wives, there are still approximately 20% of wives who struggle because their husbands are not as interested in sex as they are.

NOT AN EASY PROBLEM TO ADDRESS.

Unlike where to go on vacation or how to discipline the kids, a spouse with little to no sex drive can be a delicate and difficult issue to address. Few things are as sensitive and personal as one’s sex drive, and trying to address this issue can trigger…

  • Feelings of inadequacy.
  • Fears of rejection.
  • Family of origin issues.
  • Frustrations with your spouse.

To effectively deal with sexual issues in marriage requires a level of security and vulnerability that can be difficult for spouses…especially spouses with little to no sex drive.

FEW ACCEPTABLE WORKAROUNDS.

So, if you’re the one doing without, what can you do? For most other things in marriage, there are acceptable workarounds…

  • If they don’t like to cook, you can get take out.
  • If they’re not into football, you can get a friend to watch the game with you.
  • If they’re not much of a talker, you can talk to a good friend.

But what are you supposed to do about sex? It’s not like you can just find someone else to have sex with…at least not if you want to keep your marriage. So do you…

  • Pressure them for sex?
  • Learn to do without?
  • Get out of the marriage?
  • Settle for satisfying your own needs?

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

There are no quick and easy fixes when your spouse has little to no interest in sex. But there are still things you can do to try to address the issue.

Don’t assume this is just the way it is.

Don’t automatically assume there’s nothing that can be done. Such an early surrender will lead you to feel helpless and resentful. It is possible to address and improve this problem if both of you are willing to work at it. So exhaust every avenue before you assume nothing can be done.

Don’t take it personally.

We are created as sexual beings. I believe this is both God’s design and desire for us. So, if your spouse has a low-to-no sex drive, then something is standing in the way. Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about you.

Chances are, it’s more about your spouse…their experiences, their emotional state, their physical state, their behaviors, their insecurities, their problems with intimacy, etc.

Don’t immediately assume their lack of sex drive is about you.

Work on your part of the relationship.

Even though your spouse’s lack of sex drive is probably not about you, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to improve your relationship with your spouse. None of us are perfect. We can all do better when it comes to our relationship with our spouse. And working on your part of the non-sexual relationship will help to remove any roadblocks that might be interfering with your sexual relationship.

Communicate your feelings clearly and lovingly.

It can be difficult to talk about your sexual relationship with your spouse. It’s such a personal thing and opening up about it can leave us feeling vulnerable to further hurt. But you must talk about it! You cannot improve something you won’t talk about.

You can speak lovingly and encouragingly, but you must also speak clearly and openly about your feelings, your desires, and your needs. Your spouse cannot read your mind, so don’t leave them to guess at what you want and why you want it.

Be encouraging/insistent that the two of you work on the problem.

Sex drives can certainly vary between spouses, but a low-to-no sex drive is a problem that must be addressed. Encourage/insist that the two of you talk to a physician to rule out any possible physical, hormonal, or medication problems that might exist. If you find nothing on that front, then the two of you should see a counselor for any historical or relational issues that are interfering with your sexual relationship.

Chances are, your spouse will not be excited about taking these steps. They may even resist. But that’s where you need to be lovingly persistent and insistent.

Pursue other forms of sexual engagement with them.

There is more to sex than just intercourse. If intercourse is a problem for some reason, then find other ways for the two of you to engage in sexual closeness. And don’t be so serious and intense about it. Make it playful. (After all, it is called fore-PLAY.)

BUT WHAT IF MY SPOUSE REFUSES TO WORK ON THE ISSUE?

What can you do if you’ve tried all the above, but to no avail? If your spouse refuses to address the problem or do anything about it, it can leave you feeling stuck and powerless. After all, it’s hard to dance with someone who won’t get on the dance floor. And as we said before, there are few acceptable workarounds for this problem.

If your spouse refuses to address the issue, you are left with four alternatives…none of which are ideal.

You could leave the marriage.

You may feel like doing this because your needs aren’t being met and you feel hurt and rejected. But you need to be very careful with this option. It will not fix the problem. It simply replaces one problem with other problems that can actually be bigger and more complicated.

You could learn to accept things as they are.

Again, this is not an ideal or easy alternative. And you need to be careful with this alternative because if all you do is try to ignore the issue and sweep it under the rug, your resentment will eventually build up and leak out in your behavior.

Your resentment could lead you to become angry with your spouse and withdraw from them, or your resentment could lead you to start looking outside the marriage.

If you’re going to pursue this option, you must be able to see your spouse as unable (much as if they had a physical handicap) and determine that your relationship with them is more important than having sex with them.

You could offer up your desires to God and sacrificially commit to this marital norm.

This is different from the previous option of just learning to accept things as they are. Just accepting things as they are is more of a grit-your-teeth-and-put-up-with-it approach. Offering up your desires to God and sacrificially committing to this marital norm is more of a willingness to sacrifice what you want for the good of your spouse and your marriage.

1 Corinthians 7 talks about the need for sexual consistency between a husband and wife. But in that passage, we are also told there can be times when abstaining from sex can used for spiritual purposes.

Theres’ no doubt that this is a difficult option to pursue. But focusing your frustration in the direction of faith, will reduce the resentment and anger that comes from the “grit-your-teeth-and-put-up-with-it approach.” And hopefully this “dry spell” will not be forever.

You could pursue sexual release through self-pleasuring.

If no other option works, you may have to turn to this option. I’m fully aware that this can be a very controversial topic, especially for Christians who are mindful of the Bible’s warnings about lust and looking at others lustfully. And there are distinct dangers to the self-pleasuring option.

  • Self-pleasuring is always accompanied by fantasy. If the object of your fantasy is someone other than your spouse, it can lead to further dissatisfaction with your spouse…making your frustration even worse. It can also violate the Biblical mandate about not lusting over people other than your spouse.
  • Self-pleasuring can become a way of getting around the hard work of building sexual intimacy with a real live person…your spouse. This can create a further gap between you and your spouse.
  • Self-pleasuring can become a habitual form of dealing with stress, anger, or other negative emotions. When this happens, the self-pleasuring becomes an addiction. At that point, it’s no longer serving you. You are serving it.
  • Self-pleasuring can not only become addictive, but it can lead to turning to pornography for stimulation and fantasy. This not only violates the biblical mandates against lust but will typically be hurtful to the other spouse and lead to an even greater divide between spouses.

So, although there is no specific prohibition in Scripture against this option, you must be careful in seeking sexual release through self-pleasuring. It should be done…

  • With your spouse’s awareness.
  • With your spouse’s involvement…if they’re willing.
  • And only when the accompanying fantasies are about your spouse.

A FINAL WORD…

As you can see, having a spouse who shows little to no interest in sex is a complicated and very personal issue. It is possible to solve this issue if both spouses are willing to honestly communicate and patiently work on the problem. But if the spouse with the low-to-no sex drive stonewalls, it requires great commitment and faith from the other spouse to keep the marriage going.

If this is a problem in your marriage, and you’ve been unable to resolve it, sit down and once again and share your heart with your spouse. Seek help from physicians, counselors, or trusted friends. Lean into your faith and prayer. Don’t give up. Continue to fight the good fight for your sexual relationship.

Is Your Sex Drive Running Low?

It’s normal in marriage for one spouse to have a lower sex drive than the other. But when one spouse exhibits little to no sex drive, it can be an extremely difficult thing for the marriage.

I know marriage is about more than just sex, but sex can be critical to the health of a marriage. Studies have shown a correlation between sexual satisfaction and marital satisfaction.

And even the Scripture tells us that sex is a basic drive and desire, hardwired into us by God, for enjoyment as well as procreation. You see this throughout the Song of Solomon, as well as in passages like Proverbs 5:19.

So, if your sex drive is nil to none, let’s look at some possible reasons.

THE REASONS

Though we think it should be simple, a sex drive is a complicated issue. There are many things that can snuff your sex drive. Here are a few of them:

Hormonal.

Hormones and hormonal balance are major players when it comes to sex drive. Sex drive can be affected by the time of the month, low testosterone levels, thyroid problems, and many other hormonal issues. Don’t overlook this.

Relational.

When you’re not doing well relationally, it will affect your sex drive. This is especially true for wives. If a wife is feeling insecure, unappreciated, emotionally disconnected, or hurt it will greatly suppress her sex drive. The same can be true for husbands, but typically a husband’s sex drive is not as tethered to these things. That’s why most husbands will still be interested in sex, even after having a fight with their wives.

Physical.

Because sex is very physical, physical problems can interfere with your sex drive. If sex is painful, it can very quickly dampen your sex drive and even prompt you to avoid sex. Erectile dysfunction, breathing issues, heart issues, excessive weight, back pain,  joint pain…these can all interfere with sex and your sex drive.

Age can also be a factor. It is not true that we lose our sex drive when we age,  but that drive can certainly decrease as we age.

Medical.

It can be easy to overlook, but certain medications can dampen and interfere with your sex drive. Many anti-depressants, heart medications, prostate medications, and even some over-the-counter medications for heartburn can affect your sex drive.

Historical.

Whether we like it or not, we carry our history into our present…and into our bedrooms. Past abuses and hurts can greatly affect your sex drive. What you were taught about sex (good or bad) plays into your sex drive. Past sexual experiences can be a factor. And unresolved issues between you and your spouse can dampen a sex drive.

Habitual.

Certainly, if you’re involved with someone else, it will affect your sex drive with your spouse. But if you’re involved in the on-going use of porn or masturbation, chances are you will experience a lowering of your sex drive for your spouse. You’re expending the sex drive you have on someone or something other than your spouse; leaving little to none for them. These are serious issues that will need to be addressed.

Emotional.

On-going emotional issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, and insecurity hit at the heart of a sex drive. Body image issues are another big factor. And trust issues (often stemming from past hurts and abuses) make it difficult to freely open up in sex…thus dampening your sex drive.

Intentional.

We don’t think of this one as much as we do the others, but a lack of intentionality will slowly siphon off your sex drive. Life is busy and demanding. If we’re not intentional about maintaining and improving our sex life, our sex drive can easily wane.

THE REMEDIES

If one or more of the above issues is decreasing your sex drive and hurting your marriage, take heart. There are steps you can take:

  • See your physician. Explain your issues with low sex drive and have them do a complete workup. Have them go through all your medications to determine if they may be interfering with your sex drive.
  • Nurture the relationship in non-sexual ways. Spend time together. Have fun together. Surprise them. Serve them. Compliment your spouse. Flirt with your spouse. Put in a lot of effort outside the bedroom. Chances are, this will make it easier for you to show interest in the bedroom.
  • Get in better shape. Take care of yourself physically. It will help with mobility and stamina and lead you to feel better all the way around.
  • Work through past issues. Work with a counselor to dismantle the effects of past abuse, wrong messages, depression, anxiety, or anything else that might be interfering with your sex drive.
  • Be intentional. Don’t put sex at the back of the line of things to do. Don’t give it the left-overs of your time and energy. Think about it. Set aside time. Schedule. Plan. Be as intentional about this part of your marriage as you are with other parts.

A WORD TO THE OTHER SPOUSE

All of this has been written for the spouse who has a low sex drive.

But if you’re the one who struggles because your spouse seems to have no sex drive, then you probably feel you have little to no control over whether your spouse actively does something about their low sex drive. It can leave you feeling like you have no options when it comes to your own needs.

In the next post, we’re going to try to address the needs of the spouse who is living with someone who doesn’t seem interested in sex. So stay tuned.

It’s Marriage Not Magic!

I love a good magic show. As a kid, I would practice for hours learning sleight of hand magic. And now that I’m an adult and know it’s just a series of tricks and illusions, there’s still something about the wonder and the mystery of a magic show that captivates me.

Marriage and Magic

Whether you like magic or not, there is a part of all of us that wants our marriage to be magical. And we tend to treat our marriage as if it were a magic show, in the following ways:

Making something disappear.

Magicians are known for making things disappear. From small coins to jet planes, magicians seem to be able to make things disappear right in front of our eyes.

Likewise, spouses tend to want problems in the marriage to disappear. We ignore issues, down-play conflicts, or distract from problems in hopes they will magically disappear. But marriage is not a magic show and problems don’t magically disappear. They must be faced, addressed, and worked through.

Making something appear.

This is the flip side of making something disappear. Here, the magician magically produces something…seemingly out of thin air.

Many couples hope a great marriage will just appear, without a lot of effort. It’s as if they hope for great communication, easy conflict resolution, good sex, and large bank accounts to be magically produced out of thin air. But those things don’t magically appear. They come from an abundance of long, hard work.

Sawing a person in half.

This is a classic piece of magic. An assistant climbs into a box, and the magician uses a saw or sharp blades to separate the assistant into pieces; only to reassemble the assistant moments later, without a scratch!

In marriage, spouses will cut one another, with words or actions, and expect them to bounce back as if no harm was done. But you cannot hurt your spouse without leaving some sort of scar that they will carry for a long time. And sometimes a spouse can be cut so badly they can’t be put back together. So be very careful with your words and actions.

Reading a person’s mind.

It’s amazing when a magician can tell a person what card they drew or what number they’re thinking of. A magician can call upon someone they claim to have never met, and yet tell them things about their life in amazing detail. It’s like the magician can read minds.

I want to remind you that you cannot read your spouse’s mind. So don’t make assumptions about what they’re thinking, what they’re going to say, or what they desire. To do so is disrespectful and a sure way to get yourself in trouble.  Yes, you should get to know your spouse so well, you have a pretty good guess of what they’re thinking. But you should never assume you can read their mind. Ask questions and clarify responses. You’ll be better off for it.

Escaping the impossible.

One of my favorite magicians was Harry Houdini. He became famous as an escape artist, who bragged that he could escape from any shackle, restraint, or container. And whether through trickery or physical prowess, it seemed he could escape from anything.

Too often, we tend to believe we should be able to escape problems and hardships in marriage. We will try to ignore them, avoid them, and run from them. And when those escape tactics don’t work, we will blame things on our spouse or assume we’ve married the wrong person. But unlike a magician, you cannot escape from problems and hardships in marriage. You must go through them and learn from them.

A Final Thought…

Magicians make what they do look amazing and magical. But what you don’t see is all the years of hard work and practice that went into making it look like magic.

Marriage is not a magic show. If you put in the years of hard work and practice, your marriage will look like magic to others, but you’ll know how the trick is done. You’ll know it’s not magic, but rather years of trial and error, loving and learning, serving and sacrifice.

But if you stick with it long enough, you will eventually come to the end of your life and think…TADA!

How to Prioritize Partnering Over Parenting

In the last post, we talked about how parenting can take its toll on partnering. If you haven’t read that post, I encourage you to check it out.

To quickly summarize…without proper care and attention, children can turn you from playmates to roommates. You can wind up focusing so much on being good parents you forget how to be good partners. This is how marital drift often starts.

But the good news is you can turn this around. Although the sooner the better, it’s never too late to prioritize your partnering over your parenting.

PRIORITIZING YOUR PARTNERING OVER YOUR PARENTING

There are many ways you can start to reclaim your partnering. Here are just a few:

Maintain a Regular Date Night.

I’m talking about a planned, scheduled, just-the-two-of-you date night. If you have to stop and think about when you last did that…it’s been too long! Budget for, and reserve, a regular sitter…even if you have to cut back somewhere financially to make this happen. It’s that important.

Carve Out Time to Be Together Each Day.

I know this is hard, but be creative. You may need to put the kids to bed a little earlier. I’m surprised by how many parents sacrifice time together just because they don’t want to go through the hassle of putting their kids to bed a little earlier.

There are other things you can do. Maybe you need to withhold the kid’s favorite videos so you can use them for those times when you want to spend some time together. My wife and I would take our kids to the park or the indoor playground at McDonald’s where they could play while we sat and talked. (Bring a friend for them to play with.)

Use your imagination, but do whatever you have to to get some daily time together.

Repeatedly Show Your Kids That Your Spouse Comes First.

When my kids were little and I would come home from work, the first thing I would do when I came through the door was to pull my wife close, give her a kiss, and hold her while we spent a few moments talking. When this happened, my children would try to worm their way between us, vying for our attention. But, like a mean father, I would make them wait their turn. (They hated it.)

This didn’t change when they were teens. They just changed their tactics. They didn’t try to worm their way between us anymore. Instead, it was, “Dad, can I have $20? Mom, would you drive me to my friend’s house? Dad, can I have the keys to the car?“ Again, I would make them wait their turn. This finally aggravated them so much they blurted out, “Why do you do this to us?!”  I told them, “Your mom was here before you were here, and she will be here long after you’re gone. You’re short-timers here and you’re not even paying rent! So you can wait your turn.” (Needless to say, this didn’t go over very well.)

There are other ways you can impress upon your children (and your spouse) that your spouse comes first. Opening the door for your wife. Giving your spouse first choice. Sitting close together and occasionally making the kids find somewhere else to sit. Always defending your spouse in front of the kids. Again, be creative, but show your kids that your spouse comes first.

Lock Your Bedroom Door.

You cannot say you’re prioritizing your partnering if you’re not prioritizing your sex life.  And one of the ways you do that is by locking your bedroom door. If you’re one of those people who feel it’s cruel to lock your children out of your bedroom, think about this…

I read a story about some parents who, after checking to ensure their child was asleep, decided it was safe to have sex. But just when things were at a climax (pun intended) they looked over to the side of the bed to find their child jumping up and down saying, “Can I ride too?!” The story ends with this couple promptly installing locks on their bedroom door.

Locks are necessary when you have small children who forget and who occasionally get scared at night. If you’re afraid they might get sick and you won’t hear them, then install a monitor. Just make sure it only works one way!

If your children are teens, locks are still a good idea. But the biggest deterrent is to tell them, “If our door is closed, you don’t want to go in there, because you might see something you can’t unsee.” (Wink, wink.) That will scare them off!

These are just a few of the ways to get your partnering back in front of your parenting. I’m sure you have others, and I would love it if you would leave comments and suggestions to help the rest of us out!

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is…yes, you should love your children and yes, you should sacrifice for your children. But you shouldn’t allow your parenting to take priority over your partnering.

And the biggest reason why is that one day, your children will consciously or unconsciously pattern their marriage after yours. So set a good example of putting partnering ahead of parenting.

If You’re Struggling with Your Sexual Relationship…

Sex can easily become an issue in marriage. Here are some of the things spouses tell me in my counseling office…

  • “My spouse wants sex all the time!”
  • “My spouse is just not interested in sex. “
  • “I’m not sure about some of the things my spouse wants to do sexually.”
  • “My spouse never wants to try anything new sexually.”
  • “Our sex life was good until the kids came along, but now…”
  • “I thought we would be having more sex after the kids left home.”

I usually save the punch line for these posts until the end of the post, but let’s just go ahead and get it out of the way upfront…

If you’re struggling with your sexual relationship…you’re not alone.

WHY DO WE STRUGGLE?

Despite what media would have you believe, sex does not always come naturally. It’s common to have some issues to work through when it comes to our sexual relationship.

Here are some of the things we have to work through when it comes to our sex life…

Past experiences.

These can include how you were raised, the things you were told (or not told) about sex, and past sexual experiences. These all contribute to how you feel about sex and how you approach sex…especially if these things were negative.

Gender differences.

Despite striving for equality in life and the workplace, men and women are undeniably different. Gender differences include hormonal differences, anatomical differences, and differing societal messages.

Personality.

Sex is extremely personal, so it makes sense that our personality is integral to our views of and our approach to sex. Personality plays a role in whether you’re conservative or adventurous, modest or confident, quiet or vocal…you get the idea.

Stage of Life.

When you’re young newlyweds, you have all kinds of time and energy for sex. But as time goes on, work, kids, and home become more of a drain on your time and energy…and thus your sex life. If spouses have not made their sex life a priority during the hectic stages of life, it will be revealed during the empty-nest stage of life. And later in life, health and medical issues can interfere with your sex life.

WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?

I know…this seems like a rather depressing picture. But there’s hope. Your sex life is like your career, your finances, or anything else in life. If you ignore it, it deteriorates. But if you give it care, attention, and work, your sex life can continue to improve.

Every couple’s sexual relationship is unique and specific. But there are three things every couple can do to improve their sexual relationship…

Be tenacious about meeting your spouse’s needs.

Your spouse has needs, both sexually and non-sexually, and their needs are valid, even if you can’t personally relate to them. Just because you can’t relate to your spouse’s needs, doesn’t mean those needs are unimportant, or that you should ignore them. Unless your spouse’s needs are abusive or immoral, you need to do your best to meet those needs. It will leave them feeling better about themselves and you.

Take responsibility for your own pleasure.

This statement could be easily misunderstood, so let me explain what I mean by “take responsibility for your own pleasure.” I’m not talking about selfishly demanding what you want sexually. Nor am I suggesting that if your spouse is not meeting your sexual needs, you can go and get your sexual needs met apart from your spouse. What I’m talking about is being lovingly honest and openly communicating your sexual needs and desires to your spouse. Yes, I know this can be awkward and uncomfortable, but if you can get completely naked with your spouse and engage in the gymnastics of sex, then surely you can learn to talk openly about it. Besides, your spouse is not a mind reader, and they have no idea what it’s like to be you in your body. So talk to them about what feels good, what you want, and when you want it.

Keep working at playing.

Your sexual relationship is not something you can put on autopilot. You and your spouse are constantly changing. Your needs and desires change, the demands of life change, and your health continues to change. Because of these things, you must continue to work at improving your sexual relationship…for both you and your spouse.

If you struggle in your sexual relationship with your spouse, you’re not alone. But, whether your sexual relationship with your spouse is magical or mechanical, the two of you can always work together to make things better. And that’s your “homework!”

Things I Would Tell My Newly Married Self

I have done a lot of premarital counseling, and I’ve found it to be both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable, because you get the opportunity to walk with a couple and to speak into their present and future lives. Frustrating, because many of these couples have no frame of reference for what you’re telling them…and they’re often too “in love” to hear it anyway.

Engaged couples mean well and they want to have the best marriage possible. It’s just that the excitement of becoming Mr. and Mrs. makes it hard from them to really imagine the feelings and frustrations they will face down the road. The light in their fiancé’s eyes blinds them to the issues that are there. The blood that rushes to their head (and other places) keeps them from hearing things they need to hear.

Remember when you first realized that marriage wasn’t what you thought it would be? Maybe it was the first time you realized those quirky parts of your spouse’s personality weren’t going to change like you thought/hoped they would. Perhaps it was when you discovered that their approach to money felt less like pulling together and more like tug-of-war. Maybe it was when you realized the sexual tension and excitement you felt during the honeymoon phase had morphed into a dull predictability that was just a notch above doing the laundry.

We’ve all encountered things in marriage and found ourselves thinking, “I wish someone had told me about this.” So I’ve thought about it, and here are some things I would tell my newly married self:

  • You don’t need to be right all the time…even if you think you are.
  • Dirty clothes go in the hamper, not on the floor beside the hamper.
  • Just because they say they’re fine, doesn’t mean they are.
  • “I wish we were closer” probably means something different to them than it does for you.
  • When they say, “There’s nothing in this house to eat,” it doesn’t they want to go get groceries.
  • They can criticize their parents. You cannot!
  • People’s standards for cleanliness vary greatly.
  • Just because their personality is different from yours doesn’t mean they are brain damaged.
  • Your sex life will occasionally ebb and flow, but it will always take work.
  • If you don’t look at them, you’re not really listening to them.
  • It’s ok to disagree on how to raise children. They will grow up anyway.
  • Compromise is not surrender.
  • It won’t hurt you to watch what they like to watch. (I’m still learning this one.)
  • The more you’re willing to release, the more you’re able to receive.
  • When you say, “Where do you want to eat,” and they say, “Anywhere’s fine,” DON’T BELIEVE IT!

These are just a few of the things I would tell my newly married self. I’ll bet you could add to the list. What would you tell your newly married self? Leave your ideas in the comments and let’s see how many of these we can collect…for all those people who don’t know what they’re getting into!

The Crowded Marriage.

Let’s start by stating the obvious…it’s been a little over 8 months since I have posted to Normal Marriage. I realized this when, on a trip back home, I ran into a niece who asked me if I had kicked her off my Normal Marriage mailing list, because she hadn’t gotten a new post in “forever.”

I could give you a lot of detailed reasons for why it’s been so long, but the long and the short of it is life crept in and crowded Normal Marriage out.

Ever had that happen? Ever had the demands of life crowd out your marriage? The demands of life come in all shapes and sizes…

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Have You Lost the Magic?

Couples come into my counseling office for many reasons. Some are having on-going conflicts they can’t resolve. Others are having trouble with their parents or in-laws. Some are struggling in their sexual relationship. Others are at odds over finances. And some just seem to have different ideas about what makes for a good marriage.

But there was one couple who came into my office who summed up marital issues in one simple sentence. “We have lost the magic.“

Ever feel like your marriage has lost the magic? If so, maybe it’s because: 

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