January 12, 2008 by Stacy McDonald
Recently, the topic of why some women struggle with marital intimacy was discussed on my ladies email list. The response was overwhelming. Although there were many struggles that women brought up, most fell under the following main topics:
1. (Self Rejection) Ladies struggle with their body image for various reasons (usually weight) and can’t seem to believe husband’s acceptance and love of her body because she herself views her body unbiblically.
2. (Feeling Rejected by Husband’s Words) Ladies who struggle with their body image, in part, because of husband’s rejection, sinful behavior, or hurtful comments.
3. (Feeling Rejected by Husband’s Disinterest) Ladies who struggle with feelings of rejection, unmet physical needs, and body image because of a husband’s lack of sexual interest (whether spiritual, emotional, or medical).
4. (Feeling Neglected or Abandoned by the Church) Ladies who are having these struggles and feels like she can’t go to anyone in the church for help because of 1. Fear of gossip or indiscretion 2. Embarrassment 3. No Titus 2 women available 4. Church unwilling to “go there.” 5. Husband is in leadership.
In addition, women listed a lack of interest for reasons such as pregnancy, exhaustion, and the fear of being interrupted by little ones.
[Added January 19] I have heard from ladies who told me I forgot other buttons. Besides the reasons listed in the poll, I heard from a few ladies who struggle with intimacy because of:
- Previous sexual abuse or molestation.
- An unbiblical view of sex within marriage (viewed as dirty or sinful).
- Physical pain during relations due to a medical condition.
- Unaddressed guilt due to past abortion or other sexually related sin.
My husband, James, is preparing to address men and how they can help their wives, so please share your input by voting in the poll on the left side of the screen. I have been asked to post some of what I sent to my ladies list today, so here it is:
I wanted to share some things I’ve struggled with myself as well as things I’ve observed in other women. For the most part, at least for now, I’m going to focus on topic #1 (self rejection/body image), since that was the original focus of the thread. I do believe that we as wives should evaluate our husband’s criticisms with humility and with the gracious assumption that he has our best interest in mind. If a husband asks his wife to take better care of her body (eat better, exercise, take better care in her grooming habits, wear a little makeup, etc.), she should do everything possible to fulfill his request. Just as we want him to take care of his body and practice good grooming habits (including not wearing that weird tie we hate or socks that don’t match!), so too should we seek to please him by the way we look.
However, if a husband is asking his wife to do something that is impossible or that she honestly feels is out of her control, then she needs to communicate with him that she is struggling and needs help. Perhaps if weight is the issue, he could watch the children so she could take the time to exercise. Maybe he needs to allow extra money in the grocery budget to make room for healthier foods.
If she needs a “spruce up” maybe he could get her a gift certificate for a make over or a professional haircut – maybe some new clothes, nightgown, or scented bath oils. Of course, these are things men should be talking about with men. My husband is preparing something for his blog soon that we’re hoping will be helpful in this area.
A wife also needs to be honest and let her husband know if his criticism was hurtful. She should communicate that she needs the assurance that he’s going to love and desire her no matter what. A husband must learn to view his wife’s body realistically, knowing that babies change our shape and none of our bodies (including his!) are made to last forever. ;-)
We’ll discuss in a separate post how a wife should biblically respond to a husband’s sin.
I can relate to so many different areas of what has been shared – and based on the overwhelming response to this topic, I suspect many here can as well. I have really been pondering this whole thing and plan to really dive into this as a study. I will try to share with you as I go along. I hope those of you who have also decided to study this topic will share as well. God has our answers ladies; we just need to seek Him.
Close your eyes!
Someone mentioned wanting to keep the lights out during intimacy and I can surely relate – even a candle is too much sometimes. And it’s not because I’m shy. :-) When my husband tells me he loves my body, I’m more inclined to think he’s just being a “good husband,” saying nice things because what else could a “good husband” say? I do own a mirror after all!
The fact is that when I do this I’m not viewing my body biblically and because of that I think that he either 1.) Is just saying nice things and doesn’t really mean it (i.e. he’s lying) or 2.) He’s absolutely crazy – perhaps deceived (I think I’m hoping for this one – and I want to continue to hide my body to keep him deceived). Sounds irrational, but I think some of us may actually think this way. My husband once said to me, “I know every inch of your body; why do you keep trying to hide it from me?” I answered, “Because I’m hoping you’ll forget!” LOL
He’s told me over and over again that men don’t see what we see. One of the other moderators said that her husband told her she must have one of those circus mirrors she’s looking through because whatever it is she’s seeing, that’s not what he’s seeing!
Some of you know I grew up with a spinal deformity. My spine is severely twisted, my back is scarred from multiple surgeries, and my rib cage is noticeably uneven. I have always been “too thin” and absolutely hated when people told me I was skinny. I used to wonder how people could be so rude by saying such things when they never would have thought to tell someone they were fat! I drank every kind of weight gain drink I could find – all to no avail. You see, I wasn’t the “good” kind of skinny; I was the “scrawny” kind of skinny. I was thrilled the first time I hit 100 lb. (I was pregnant!). Now people ask me all the time if I’m pregnant (I’m not and my youngest is almost 3). I finally gain the weight I always wanted and THAT is where it decides to land???? LOL!
I never had much of a shape and the shape I did have was distorted and twisted. I wore a back brace for 7 years (1-7 grade) and was ridiculed all through elementary school – to the point of being afraid to walk home from the bus stop alone. I was often followed and taunted by classmates – even being cursed at, pushed, and having things thrown at me. I can remember crying at night, praying desperately to God, “Just let me die – why did you make me???” I was angry with God, hated myself, and truly wished I had never been born. There was nothing I could do to change my body – not one thing. I literally laid in bed at night listing all the things I hated about my body – I am not kidding. I obsessed about it.
In my teens I went wild. I dressed very immodestly, showing off what I shouldn’t and then covering up what I believed to be ugly. I became very good at dressing to cover my deformity, while accentuating the parts that would attract men. I was drawn to the rebels who did drugs because they were the only ones who accepted me. A group of misfits, I suppose.
I began to drink and do drugs so I could experience my sin without having to be self-conscious of my body. Not only did this lower my inhibitions, it made me forget how ugly I felt. I wanted to be noticed and prove to myself that “somebody” wanted me. Obviously, this had the opposite affect. I was left even more empty, lonely, devastated, and degraded. Thankfully, God eventually used my misery and despair to bring me to my knees.
After becoming a Christian, I slowly began to learn to focus on God, rather than on myself. That had been my biggest problem. Self focus. I needed to learn (and am still learning) that God didn’t give me a body for my own self-gratification – for others to admire. (That was obvious enough!) In some ways I think our obsession with a great body is a desire for self-worship. Our bodies are to be a living sacrifice:
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1, NASB95)
In our fleshly thinking, we want others to admire our bodies (self focus) – sometimes that’s why we women dress immodestly. Men tend to lust after women; women tend to lust after being “lusted after.” Of course men and women alike may lust after power, glory, strength etc. But I’m talking in generalities about sensual lust. A man may look at a beautiful woman, scantily dressed and lust after her in an adulterous way. A woman may look at a beautiful woman, scantily dressed and covet too, thinking to herself, “I wish I had her body.”
But God gave us our bodies as part of His plan – to be used for HIS purpose – not ours! “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) It is good and right to try to please and satisfy our husbands, to nurse and nurture our children, to serve Him with holy hands, to worship, to love, to provide acts of mercy, and the list goes on. It is important for us to take care of our bodies, eat healthy, stay clean, groom ourselves, and even be attractive – in a way that glorifies God. But we shouldn’t allow the heathen (pornography, Hollywood, television, advertisements, and magazines) to define beauty for us.
“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14, NAS)
Think about it – typically a woman with a small waist and a flat stomach is a woman who hasn’t had children. A woman, whose breasts are perfectly firm, without any sagginess, is probably a woman who has never given birth to or nursed little ones. Is it any wonder that our society defines beauty under the lens of barrenness?
Now, I’m not saying that women whose bodies have remained “thin” or have not yet sagged (although that will change with age for everyone) are somehow less beautiful (that would be a first!) – I’m just trying to remind us all (me included) how we should biblically view the extra bulges and sags. Some of these things represent our little ones. They represent the blessings of God. They are also a reminder of our humanity. Our bodies are decaying – any physical beauty we have is fading – it’s a rotting facade. We can’t trust in the temporal beauty that God tells us is “passing.”
“Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30, NKJV)
Proverbs 31:30 may have been intended as wise instruction for men for what to look for in a godly wife, but how many of us as women have also been fooled by our own “deceitful charm” and have been put into bondage by our own “passing beauty?” Join me in putting away the destructive thinking of the world and let us seek to be women who fear the Lord – women desiring honest, lasting beauty. And let us pray for our husbands that they would embrace Proverbs 18-19:
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love.” (Proverbs 5:18-19, NASB95)