January 12, 2008 by Stacy McDonald

Part 1 – Intimacy in Marriage – Body Image

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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)

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51 Responses to “Part 1 – Intimacy in Marriage – Body Image”

  1. Persuaded says:

    Stacy.. this was a wonderful post and I do so look forward to what you are going to say next! I have a somewhat different perspective on this issue… but believe me it is just as much of an issue for us single women, as it is for our married sisters.
    btw, I just received my copy of Passionate Housewives yesterday, and I am already loving it! ((hugs))

  2. Melanie says:

    Thank you so much for this post. Intimancy in my marriage is great. The part that touched me was your story of your past. I was convinced that I had to be the only Pastor’s wife that had a story like that. It has taken me many years of prayer and conversation with my dh to let the guilt go and cling to the fact that the Lord has changed me. One question I have is this, when your children get older and ask about your past how much do you tell. I really prefer that they would be in adulthood, but I don’t want to outright lie to a question.
    Many blessings to you!

  3. Stacy McDonald says:

    Hi Persuaded – I’d love to hear your persepective as a single sister. We have all been affected by our culture’s obsession with the perfect body – married or single. I am so glad our daughters will have a healthier view of their bodies than I did (though with billboards and ads everwhere, it still affects everyone). Thanks for posting!

    Melanie – Our children know that we lived a very sinful life before Christ. Different children know more detail than others, but none know the “gory details.” I don’t want my mind dwelling on the past, so I certainly don’t want unnecessary details in their minds either. I would say that some things are on a “need to know” basis. We have to ask ourselves “Will telling this story truly bring Christ more glory?” There are some things that are better left unsaid.

  4. Michelle says:

    Wow, thank you very much for this post. This is something I’ve been struggling with recently and though I picked one choice on the poll, there are elements of all the choices that are true! I love your quote “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?”

    I need to remember that more often. I have 2 beautiful blessings and pregnant with a third – I should be celebrating those stretch marks and saggy belly!!!

    Thank you for encouraging me today!

  5. Jess says:

    This is, by the grace of God, not an area where we’ve struggled.

    I’ve tried to take my husband’s comments to heart– that he TRULY DOES find me attractive, and that he TRULY DOES want me. I’ve found that when I take that to heart and act accordingly (with confidence and excitement in intimacy), rather than letting the world’s messages of “beauty” affect how I see myself, our intimacy has grown more enjoyable for us both.

    Basically, what I’ve found is this: everything the world feeds us is a big fat lie that’s going to eat away at our marriages. The more we can hone in on what is attractive to our own husband and meet his needs, and the less we focus on what Hollywood tells us we “should” be like, the more delightful this area will be.

    ~Jess

  6. Janet says:

    I have been married for 19+ years, and I would add something to the poll question regarding pregnancy and intimacy. By far for me, it has not been BEING pregnant that has been a problem for intimacy (though it is probably not my favorite time!), but the fear of BECOMING pregnant that has been a constant intimacy damper for most of my married life. We believe that God would not want us to use artificial birth control, but we have never been able to quite come to the “whatever” stage in terms of children. We have 6, and I’m 43 and have just found out #7 is on the way (on day #8 of my cycle, which has always been a “safe” day up till now!). I don’t know if anyone else relates to this, but I thought I would share this reality in my life. I have to admit I often have fantasized about what post-menopause will be like when my husband won’t have to start our intimate evenings with “What day (of your cycle)is it?”! Just finished reading DHW and it was so encouraging — keep it up!

  7. Janet says:

    OK, I’m embarrassed. I just realized I called your book “DHW” instead of “PHW” — yikes, must be the pregnancy!!

  8. Jayne says:

    Thank you for writing with such deep honesty. Like Melanie, I was most moved by your story of immodesty and immorality in your teens because it had parallels to my own life.

    Your post also provided an occasion for me to thank my husband for what a good job he does of making me feel beautiful and desirable. I’m not sure how he does it, but he has me convinced that he sees something different from what I see in the mirror. I appreciated the reminder of how blessed I am in my husband.

    It was also a reminder of happy I am that I discovered this blog. How ironic that it was the writing of your critics who brought it to my attention. Or perhaps it is an example of how “all things work together for good”.

  9. Jayne says:

    Oh, I wanted to add a word of encouragement for Janet. I had my 7th child at 43, six years ago. It was a long and tiring pregancy, but our son is truly a blessing.

  10. ladyofvirtue says:

    Dear Stacy,

    I had spinal problems, too. My back was not as twisted as it was bowed. I thank God that I did not have surgery like you had to endure, but I do remember having been told that I had more on my back than my front (meaning bosoms). I also wore a brace for a number of years.

    I was told that I would always have back troubles in pregnancy. Funny, but I don;t hardly experience pain in my back, but I do get tendonitis
    in my sacroiliac due to the unevenness of my hips.

    Thank you, Stacy, for being willing to address this subject. If there is anything our growing families need, it is husbands and wives who are bonded together!

    Sherry

  11. Jennifer says:

    Stacy, your words are so empathetic and correct about so many women! I am single, but I still struggle with issues of weight and confidence; I don’t really want to get married until I lose about 25 pounds. Image is indeed a large distorted mirror that seems to constantly pursue the women of our society. I’ve even heard that women in another country actually have their calf muscles surgically removed so they can have smaller legs! How tragic that we’ve lost sight of true beauty. Thank you for your words and for addressing this vital issue; I know it will touch many.

  12. Coffee Catholic says:

    Your poll didn’t have a block for pain causing a lack of intimacy – that’s what I deal with and my poor husband is such a wonderful and understanding man! I have chronic pelvic pain with no cure in sight. We have intimacy but only in-between times of pain and even when we do, it is still often painful. The doctors either don’t listen to me or they can’t find any explanations. I wonder how many other women suffer with pelvic pain and painful intimacy? It’s a real turn off for me and I’m often afraid of getting intimate with my dear husband. I know my duty as a wife and I feel incredibly guilty for my shortcomings and failings in this area. It’s a secret burden I carry around on a daily basis – especially after having to say “no, dear” for two months in a row! Or worse, not being able to fully “get in the mood” when I *am* intimate because of the fear of the pain. I feel like I have a ball and chain around my very joyful and willing passion!

  13. Emily says:

    I loved your post, Mrs. McDonald! What a wonderful testimony!

    I wanted to encourage Coffee Catholic: Pelvic pain is often caused by weak muscles of the pelvic floor. If you’re already doing kegels, and it’s not helping, you might want to consider seeing a physical therapist who specializes in women’s health. Some doctors don’t see this as a valid option, and many see pelvic pain as something women just have to endure. However, my OB in NC often sent his patients to a women’s health pt for pelvic pain and found it very successful. I pray the Lord leads you in the right direction! God bless!

  14. Coffee Catholic says:

    I’ve never heard of this! I’ve pushed the issue recently and now the doctors just want to cut me up with surgeries and other weird proceedures. What are these keegles?? I’ll give anything a try if it can stave off surgery!

  15. praying4more says:

    This is a wonderful post, Stacy. So important and so necessary for women to discuss. So important that we be taught the truth. And the truth is very clear in scripture that we are not to deprive our husband of physical intimacy. So often in my marriage I have not heeded this command of Scripture….mostly because I have worn myself out doing a thousand other things (many of which God had not called me to do, as you know from the story of my testimony which I’ve previously shared). The last thing I want to do at the end of a long day is to meet any other needs. Sadly, I have heard this complaint from DOZENS of women through the years. We all have the same mentality, that we’ve given all day long and we just don’t want to give anymore.

    I have also talked to women friends through the years (and have even been there myself a couple of times) who do not like intimacy because their husbands are not warm and loving to them. Not that they are involved in pornography, but rather that they are just not romantic. They do not do anything to make their wives feel loved. So the wife doesn’t want to be intimate. It is hard to want to obey the Scriptures when your husband certainly isn’t obeying them.

    And to the woman who agonizes over intimacy because of fear of pregnancy, I want to ease her mind by reiterating what I said a few posts ago. Intimacy does NOT always mean pregnancy. Really it doesn’t. I am proof of that. We EASILY conceived our 2 children prior to beginning our walk with the Lord, but we have been unable to conceive since turning that area of our life over to the Lord. He can keep the womb closed if he doesn’t want to bring forth children, just as he can open a womb on day 8 as another lady testified. (I continue to hope to follow in the footsteps of Sarah or Elizabeth and be blessed with a baby in “my old age” (mid 40’s))

    Anyhow, Stacy, thanks for addressing this issue. May the Lord work mightily in many marriages through it.

    In His Joy,
    Patti

  16. praying4more says:

    It’s me again. How silly of me in my last comment. The lady who agonized over the possibility of pregnancy is the same one who conceived on day 8. I guess I don’t remember very well, do I? I mean, it was only a few more comments until the end, and I couldn’t remember who said what. Shame on me!

    But my comment remains the same. The Lord IS fully capable of keeping a pregnancy from occurring if it is His plan to do so (as in my case), and since he didn’t keep that from happening, you can know with certainty that the child you carry IS His plan. From the foundation of the world this little one has been part of God’s eternal plan. And since it is His plan, he WILL provide all you need.

    Take it from one who has battled a barren womb for 14 years now—you are abundantly blessed!

    Blessings,
    Patti

  17. Emily says:

    To reply to Coffee Catholic: I spoke with my husband as to how to best answer your question, and he felt you should do some searches on “kegels,” “pelvic floor exercises,” and “pelvic floor physical therapy.” There is so much information out there, and only you are able to discern what information does and doesn’t apply to you. If you are able, we’d also recommend getting a second opinion. Sometimes surgery really is necessary, but there are women who have been able to successfully avoid it. God bless you!

  18. Julie says:

    Stacy,
    My biggest area of difficulty with intimacy is not so much body image, but just physical exhaustion, along with no time to feel pretty or freshen up, etc.
    I am trying to work on organization of my time to remedy the situation. I have seen an idea for a household management binder on Mrs. Catherine’s website. I have been working on putting one together, and I can already see how much more time will be available for these things.

    Julie

  19. Katy says:

    Thanks for your post. I would highly recommend the book, Love & Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. My friend’s parents, who have had a long and successful marriage, gave this book to my husband and me shortly before we were married, and I have found it to be a helpful resource. Dr. Eggerichs devotes a chapter of his book to a husband’s need for intimacy.

    The premise of the book is that the primary needs of a wife and a husband are different. A wife’s primary need is love from her husband, while a husband’s primary need in marriage is the respect of his wife. The basis for this principle is found in Ephesians 5:33, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband”.

    When a wife is feeling unloved by her husband, she tends to act disrespectfully. Likewise, when a husband feels disrespect, he acts unlovingly towards his wife. Accordingly, a “crazy cycle” ensues in which the wife’s disrespect results in the husband’s unloving behavior, which results in the wife’s disrespect, etc. In order to break out of this cycle, we need to treat our husbands with respect even when we do not feel like they have met our need to feel loved. Our direction as wives to treat our husband with respect is not conditional upon his first fulfilling our need for feeling his love. (Of course, I am not suggesting that a wife remain in an abusive situation.)

    In the area of physical intimacy, a wife who feels that her emotional needs have not been met tends to not feel like meeting her husband’s need for physical intimacy. Unfortunately, this response is not likely to improve matters. If a wife can fulfill her husband’s need for physical intimacy even when she is not feeling emotionally fulfilled, she will often find that her husband will meet her emotional needs and act lovingly towards her as a result.

    God bless.

  20. Jayne says:

    The last time I was in an online discussion where I stated my belief that husbands have a right to marital intimacy I was viciously attacked. (Including my husband being called a rapist.) I greatly appreciate finding this blog and people who share my basic assumptions. These discussions elsewhere make me wonder how much feminist influence affects our ability to be intimate. We are given a message that women have absolute rights over their bodies and our husbands come to us as supplicants. In this view a man has an obligation to put his wife “in the mood” rather than any rights.

  21. nir says:

    You say nothing about those like me who are survivors of childhood rape/incest. I also have pain and post traumatic stress due to these events. This has very much hurt my marriage.

  22. counter cultural mom says:

    Hi Stacy,
    I enjoyed reading your post about body image. I speak about Contentment to women’s groups, and have posted the podcast on my blog…there are various issues covered, and one is body image (www.counterculturalmom.blogspot.com)
    The things that have brought me to a place of contentment with my body are 1) choosing to care more about how my husband sees my body than about how I see it….he thinks it is beautiful, and I choose to accept that. Sometimes I have to discipline myself to see myself through his eyes.
    2) realizing that my body is good when it fulfills its purpose. My body housed 4 boys….it doesn’t look the way it did before, but that’s OK. God made my body as a home for those babies, and to nurse those babies, etc.
    3) Another purpose of my body is to be a gift for my husband. When I offer it freely to him, he likes it even though it isn’t perfect. I need to be content enough with my body to offer it freely to my husband, “naked and unashamed”, as Adam and Eve were in the garden.
    4) I used to want my body to look perfect…now it is enough when I look “my best”, which is a factor of how old I am, how many children I have, how much time and money I am willing to spend, etc. I want to look my best for my husband, but not worry about looking like someone else’s “best”.
    It has taken me a long time to come to this point, but there is so much freedom in it!! It has had a great impact on our marriage.
    Molly Evert

  23. Jennifer says:

    Well Jayne, men do have the obligation to respect their wives and women do have rights over their bodies; men should not have to beg for sex, but nor should women feel pressured to give it if they really don’t feel like it. There are two sides to the story, after all, and the feminist movement has actually been helpful in this matter, because it stands against women’s bodies being exploited and tells women that they actually do have rights, rather than just giving their bodies over to men (please keep in mind I’m not describing marital intimacy here; I’m referring to society in the past and how it has abused the female image. Marriage, of course, does NOT exploit a woman’s body)

    Matters like these are what make me appreciate sweet books like “The Princess and the Kiss”, a children’s allegory about a princess who tries to determine which man will be worthy of her heart (and her body) in marriage. I especially like the fact that the princess is wise in her choice and that the choice is entirely left up to her; only she decides who is worthy to share her life and her bed with her, and her ultimate choice of husband is divinely inspired :)

  24. Jen says:

    CoffeeCatholic, you may also wish to try this site for your pain:

    vaginismus.com

    Many women have found help and healing there, and barring that, at least commiseration.

    This is a wonderful post.

  25. Jayne says:

    Jennifer,
    Stacy has posted part two on marital intimacy and it includes a passage from I Corinthians 7 that is the key to understanding the question of sexual rights in marriage. I have found it far more helpful than anything contributed by the feminist movement. If we are to continue to discuss this topic let’s move it to the comments there.

  26. Jennifer says:

    I’m well-aware of what Scripture says, Jayne, and my point is that a wife is not automatically obligated to say yes, even if she feels fine. I don’t wish to turn this comment section into a discussion thread; my purpose for commenting is simply to serve as a reminder that women were historically required, even in marriage, to do whatever was asked of them and no doubt this passage in Corinthians was abused to coerce them into doing so. The feminist movement has benefited women greatly in this area, because it dared to tell them they could say no. Thank God we have Godly men now who respect women and Christian husbands who love their wives, but this has not always been the case.

  27. Jennifer says:

    Hi, just as another little extra note: I would like to confirm that, while I am defensive of pressured wives, I have witnessed unfairness to men in this subject as well. I hope I didn’t seem impatient with you, Jayne; I do understand what you mean, and this subject actually reminded me of a book I saw for housewives that addressed this topic most offensively. The book is called “Happy Housewives” and it is written by a woman who claims to be a conservative Christian. I was stunned, therefore, at her many degrading insults towards husbands and men! She tells women to have sex with their husbands, but not out of love or respect; rather, she says that men are simple and only want three things (sex, attention and respect) and that if they don’t get these things (in her exact words) “They will either look someplace else or become miserable bas*ards that annoy you”. I was totally gobsmacked; this lady claimed to be anti-feminist and scornful of working mothers, yet this was how she spoke of men and her own husband? I hope I don’t sound judgemental; I just couldn’t believe this was being marketed as a Christian book. It is true that men sometimes take a lot of flak in our present society and frankly, if a wife gives her husband sex with the same attitude as this author, he’d probably just as soon go without! It’s very sad to me when spouses are disrespected by the people who should cherish them most, no matter which spouse is guilty of this.

    Thank you again, Stacy, for the obvious Christian purpose and tone in your book for wives. Thinking of books like the one I just described reminds me of how important it is to not only guide spouses, but in a Christian manner.

  28. Janet says:

    Dear “praying4more” and “jayne” — Thank you for your encouragement. I had a miscarriage this week after all, so it just goes to underscore all that my head knows, but not always what my heart acts upon–the Lord truly is in control of family size. It is certainly interesting that this whole issue came up right before the miscarriage, and I can certainly see it as a good coming out of a sadness. I believe this whole experience will cause me to trust in the Lord more deeply with just one more area of my life.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Stacy, I read most of your post but not all the comments….wanted to mention, in light of your husband saying that he loves your body…..beLIEVE him! As he said, men look at things so differently. I recommend that you read “Sheet Music” by Dr. Kevin Lehman to understand a man’s perspective (from a Christian perspective). When I read that, I FINALLY believed MY husband and realized that he DOES see things differently than I do. Now I can be what he needs me to be through understanding him better………hope this helps.

  30. Jayne says:

    Janet,

    I am very sorry to learn of your sad news. I heartily agree with you that God brings good even out of sorrow. God transformed the seeming tragedy of the crucifixion to become the source of our salvaton. This same transforming power works in our lives when we give them to God.

  31. Anonymous says:

    There are also men who are not interested in sex. Maybe an old injury, high blood pressure, diabetes or drugs/alcohol. What happens if you find yourself married to this type of man and he is unwilling to deal with it?
    Any suggestions?

  32. Mrs. C says:

    Dear Stacy,

    I thank God for you and the wisdom you share from His Word.
    May He continually bless and keep you in His care.

  33. Janet says:

    Stacy, it’s obvious that this discussion is necessary. A lot of women struggle in the area of intimacy in marriage, and have nowhere to turn for help.

    Janet, I am sorry that you miscarried your baby. I had a baby at the ripe old age of 44, and I can tell you that he is a delight to us. It was a privilege to have a baby at the same time my daughters were having their firstborns!

    Anonymous Anonymous, it is very difficult for a wife to deal with lack of intimacy in marriage, due to her husband’s inability or disinterest for whatever reason.

    Difficult, but not impossible. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

    First of all, I would counsel you to pray. Ask the Lord to show you your own heart in this. Ask Him to work in your husband’s heart.

    Then, examine yourself to see if you are loving your husband. Are you striving, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to do what is best for him? Do you treat him with respect? Do you make his favourite meals? Do you look for ways to be kind and thoughtful? In serving him with a glad heart, as unto the Lord, you will find joy.

    Next, talk to him. Explain how very important this area is to you. There are women out there who are *more* interested in intimacy than their husbands, no matter what the literature says. *I* happen to be one of them. My husband knows that this is an important area to me, and he tries to accommodate my needs.

    Often, in the past, I have felt frustrated. I reacted in one of two ways. I got resentful, angry, disrespectful, and made snide remarks while treating him badly. Or, I cast all my cares on the Lord, praying for my husband, for our marriage, for my own attitude, and asking the Lord to help me to die to self and live for His glory.

    Obviously, the latter way is God’s way. It is the way of peace. It brings joy and contentment. It builds rather than destroys.

    And, ultimately, it brings glory to our Beautiful God.

    Blessings,
    Janet

  34. Anonymous says:

    Janet
    I thank you for your advise. All the above has been done more than once. Everyday I take great care of him and pray for him. His response is always the same. I cannot do it, sorry.

  35. Janet says:

    Anonymous, my heart goes out to you, and I don’t want you to think that I am uncaring or that I don’t understand.

    I do. I have lived through years of a bad marriage, with a non-communicative, non-responsive husband. I remember reading the story of Abigail and her churlish husband, Nabal. When Nabal heard that Abigail had provided food for David and his men against Nabal’s wishes, he had a stroke. I prayed that God would do that for me – deliver me from this horrible, loveless marriage.

    Yet God did not answer those prayers. He chose instead to teach me His way. My marriage is not perfect, but I can tell you that my husband is the perfect man for me. He rubs off all of my rough edges. God has shown me that my heart was deceitful and desperately wicked, and that I wasn’t honouring my husband as He had commanded me. I had things in my life that had to change.

    When I did begin to change, God did a work in my husband’s heart. It didn’t happen overnight, but our marriage was slowly transformed.

    When you write, “I cannot do it. Sorry.” I wonder what you mean.

    What can’t you do?

    Can you continue to serve an unloving man and consider it as service unto the Lord?

    Can you learn to find joy in Jesus, even if your marriage is not what it should be?

    What have you done that you cannot continue to do?

    What would God want you to do?

    I am simply trying to understand your situation.

    Praying for you,
    Janet

  36. Gloria says:

    Stacy ~~

    What a wonderful topic to discuss and one that is so often *not* discusses at all … at church or elsewhere for that matter!

    I am so thankful for a very healthy intimate life with my sweet husband and realize that it is a “gift from God”….. I couldn’t do your poll because none of the selections came close to describing my intimate life with my husband.

    I have thru the years had many a close friend share with me their struggles in this area and it breaks my heart! God does not intend for it to be this way! He wants us to find JOY and enjoyment in sharing ourselves with our beloved husbands~!

    I look forward to hearing more on this from you!

    blessings,
    gloria
    blessed to be dru’s helpmeeet & JOYful mother of 10!
    http://homesteadblogger.com/ourfamilyjourney/
    http://homeschoolblogger.com/ajoyfulmother/

  37. Anonymous says:

    There is one other problem I sometimes have. I no longer find my husband physically attractive. He has put on a lot of extra weight,his hygiene is not always good and he has a bad hair toupee job. To be frank I do not feel that he is very sensual even in something like a kiss let alone in intimacy. And yes, I have gently talked to him about some of this or tried to set an example or reinforce the positive unfortunately without long lasting effect. Adding more sorrow is that he has always had a low drive,at least compared to mine. I have felt so desperate at times and to my shame I have struggled in my thought life lately. –Lonely and feeling that I am some freak of womanhood–so much Christian marriage material hammers away at the theme that women are not as visual as men,that they have a lower drive,that men have this intense need–as if the same could not be true for me or that just because they have a need some how we are to drum up all the emotional and physical accoutrements of interest because they have a need. In my case I haven’t seen any answers and my “interest” has shriveled for my husband (though my actual interest in sex itself has not disappeared)with the unappealing package and attitude that has gone on for years.

  38. Stacy McDonald says:

    “I no longer find my husband physically attractive. He has put on a lot of extra weight,his hygiene is not always good and he has a bad hair toupee job.”

    Anonymous, if you post again, please use some sort of “name,” so that we can keep the comments straight.

    Ouch! Imagine how hurtful it would be to you if your husband’s desire for you was contingent upon what your hair and body looked like. You can see the hurt that this type of unbiblical thinking has caused so many wives here on this thread – that same hurt can be felt by a man – though probably not to the same degree.

    I say this to remind you that it is your responsibility to change your thinking toward your husband, according to God’s will for you. He wants you to love and desire your husband – so it’s not impossible.

    First, pray. Ask God to give you a godly desire for him. His body belongs to you (just as yours belongs to him). Perhaps his lack of desire comes from him sensing that you do not find him attractive. Try communicating in a playful, loving way. “Honey, I love you the way you are – why don’t you just get rid of that toupee and come to bed – I want the real you!”

    I’m not sure what you mean about hygiene – I’ve seen huge variations of opinions on what that means, so perhaps you need to be frank and honest with him about what your comfort level is.

    As far as his weight. I don’t know how old he is, what his health conditions are, or what your definition of overweight is, but you are called to love and give yourself to him alone, regardless of your actual desire.

    I could be wrong, but your comment seems to have a bit of an edge. I would suggest praying about your attitude toward your husband and asking God to instill in you the love and respect your husband needs. If you are indeed having lustful thoughts, repent and give those to the Lord. Confess your struggles and temptations and immerse yourself in the Word of God.

    Repent for your attitude toward your husband and remember that you were created for him (1 Cor. 11:9, Genesis 2:18). Be what he needs. Show him that you want to please him and you’ll find that in the process, you’re likely to be pleased too – but that can’t be the goal.

    You said: “So much Christian marriage material hammers away at the theme that women are not as visual as men…”

    This is true. Men are more visual. Just look at the billboards and magazines and you’ll see it’s true. While there are a couple of magazines that cater to women, containing images of naked (or near naked) men, there are numerous magazines catering to men in this area. Men are generally more stimulated visually. It’s just a fact. This doesn’t mean there are no women who are stimulated visually or that women aren’t ever stimulated visually, it just means that men and women are wired differently. God made us different and that’s a good thing.

    “…that they have a lower drive,that men have this intense need–as if the same could not be true for me or that just because they have a need some how we are to drum up all the emotional and physical accoutrements of interest because they have a need.”

    I’m confused, I thought you said your husband wasn’t very interested in intimacy and now it sounds like you resent the fact that “so much Christian marriage material” hammers away at the fact that women are supposed to “drum up” interest because the husband has a “need.”

    I understand that you said you are still interested in sex – and that interest is not focused toward your husband. This is sin on your part and you need to focus that interest in the direction of your husband. I think that if this happens, your husband’s interest will naturally increase.

  39. Jayne says:

    I can relate to the anonymous poster who is feeling like a freak. I apparently have a stronger than average sex drive and much marriage advice just doesn’t seem to apply to me. I know what to do when my husband wants to be intimate and I don’t, but don’t hear much about what to do when it is the other way around. I agree that it is a lonely feeling to see support and advice that is aimed at the typical situation when one is not typical yet needing advice.

    I talk very openly with my husband about my sexual desires. Perhaps more communication will help your situation too.

    I have never had any problems with finding my husband attractive, so I am offering a suggestion that I have not tried myself: When you find your thoughts straying to improper fantasies, try replacing them with fantasies with your husband as the object of desire. Also, don’t think about the aspects of his appearance you find unattractive; focus on parts that are attractive to you – perhaps his eyes or hands.

    Perhaps, if hygiene is a concern, you could invite your husband to have a bath or shower with you. This could be done in an erotic and romantic way rather than as a criticism of his hygiene.

    And I agree with Stacy about praying for a change in your own attitude.

  40. Sad Anonymous says:

    Stacy,I did post before about the lack of attraction to my spouse and I would say this is at the tail end of years of frustration with my husband’s low drive and steady rejection of me. If you go to the website About.com and check the Marriage section there are many agonizing testimonies about this problem. In my first marriage (I was married for a long time and then widowed) our intimate life was almost daily and free of stress -just loving,sensual and happy. I remember times that we actually wept with deep happiness at the joy of this blessing God gave us. Years after my beloveds death I remarried. We are not very old and practiced purity leading up to our marriage. To my shock,within three weeks after my marriage I realized my husband was only minimally interested in sex or even in simple things such as a kiss when he returned from work. When I tried to figure out what I needed to do to improve things he began mocking my sex drive making me feel oversexed,dirty and confused (I no longer accept this perception of myself thanks to the positive memories from my first husband). Additionally,he would refuse sex to me or ignore me in this area for weeks and then pressure me to masturbate him or give him oral sex and continue to ignore me. I had never done these practices before but thought it my duty to even though I begged him to work out something else with me. I began reading every Christian marriage book I could lay my hands on and tried every thing (and still do) to improve things. My prayer journals are filled with my prayers about this. I finally got numb and tried to just accept that this was the way it was going to be but I admit there was still my own needs for affection and sex still haunting me. I became fearful to even look at my husband with any desire because the old pain would begin again–there will be no happy outcome to the desire. I do encourage my husband about what I do appreciate in him physically, I have come up with creative ideas (rejected by him ), asked him what he wanted (his only wish is that I just give him masturbation and oral sex!),asked him if we could go to counseling (no),asked him if he was straight (yes,he was insulted),asked him to see a dr.(he did and is ok physically),prayed and prayed and prayed.Now it is many years of marriage (we are now in our late 40s) and the best I can do is tell him I love him,find ways to serve him,take careful care of my appearance,pray and live with this nightmare as is. He does not want to change anything on his part and does not want to hear anymore about it. If I had not had a successful,joyful and abundant sex life in my first marriage I would have continued to blame myself for his lack of desire. If I had not tried(and continued to try) to enhance our relationship I would be feeling this was dependent on me entirely. Low desire on a man’s part can have numerous causes and horrendous outcomes on the marriage (as the reverse is true). I can still appreciate the positive things my husband does and respect his position as husband (backing him up and encouraging him). However,it does not appear I am going to have a marriage of kisses,handholding and actual intercourse will be extremely rare.
    It is probably self protective that my desire and attraction to him in the physical sense is dwindling by the day. I am still feeling alternately pained and numb and grieving (and I miss the loving ways of my first husband…God bless him..)By the way myself and both of my husbands are dedicated Christians. Appealing to him on a scriptural basis regarding depriving a spouse has been in vain. Sometimes he will also try the approach,”Problem,what problem? It is all in your head…” I suppose it is when two people have such drastically different drives. –Sad Anonymous

  41. Jennifer says:

    “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)”

    I love this quote. Who says Christians are prudes? ;)

  42. Stacy McDonald says:

    Dear Sad Anonymous,

    I don’t think it has as much to do with “different drives” as it does sin. Your husband has a sexual desire or else he wouldn’t ask you to please him in “less intimate” ways, without wanting to have a true union. He wants his sexual release, but he is rejecting true intimacy with the wife God has given him.

    I think you should get counsel with someone at your church (perhaps a pastor or elder’s wife could talk to you). You seem to have a resolved “this is just the way it’s going to always be” attitude about this, but I can hear the pain and bitterness in your post. This is obviously not healthy for any marriage and if he claims Christ, you should ask him to go to your church for help. If he refuses, you should go yourself.

    We are to glorify God in our marriages and if sin is causing God to not be glorified in your marriage, it is the business of the church to help you.

    That being said, I don’t know you and so I’m sure there are many other factors involved that are unknown to me, so that’s why it’s important you get the counsel of people in your life who do know you.

    For instance, you said that you rarely actually have intercourse. I think of something I read once where a husband and wife were in counseling and the husband told the counselor, “Our marriage is in trouble, we are hardly ever intimate – maybe 2 or 3 times a week.” Then the wife talked to the counselor in the next session and she said, “Our marriage is in trouble, my husband is over-sexed -we’re intimate all the time! He’s obsessive – he wants to be intimate 2 or 3 times a week!”

    I only use this as an example to show that a husband and wife typically have very different perspectives on these things and it’s important for you to get counsel from someone who can see the “whole” picture.

    You also must be very careful in comparing your current husband to your first husband. They are different men with different gifts, personalities, and ways. Not only will you create discontent in your heart if you focus on “how much better” everything was with husband 1, you could also (and may have at some time) hurt him deeply – making him feel like he doesn’t measure up.

  43. Janet says:

    Dear Sad Anonymous,

    I really feel for you. I can hear the frustration and despair in your post.

    I agree with Stacy, that you should go to someone for help if your husband refuses to listen to you.

    There are a few principles that I would urge you to consider, meanwhile.

    1. God ordained that this man would be your husband. He is not unaware of your situation. You must believe that “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” You are in this marriage, without as much intimacy as you would like, and although it is painful, you must agree that God has given you this for His purposes.

    2. So, what does God what you to do? How can you glorify Him? What steps can you take to change your heart attitude, if you are bitter, or to be responsive in spite of the pain of rejection, time and time again? It is difficult, but not impossible, to accept our circumstances and to glorify God in them. It may be helpful to remind yourself that your husband has great qualities, and list them. Then praise God for them.

    3. I am surmising that your episodes of intercourse are very few and far between. (Maybe once per month.) In that case, your husband is not fulfilling his duty to you, and you should go to a trusted Elder’s wife, or the Pastor or his wife…someone who will be able to give wise counsel. Don’t fall into the depths of despair, and don’t give up. God is able to change people, including your dh.

    I know.

    In Christ,
    Janet

  44. Anonymous says:

    Though not Persuaded, I can give you a bit of one single person’s perspective. I’ve always been single-no husband or boy friends-and in my mid-twenties. For some reason I’ve been getting lots of stretch marks. Many nights I feel my skin hurt and know they are coming. The doctor was surprised somebody my weight would have them, but she didn’t think there was any way to stop them. I suppose I get them simply because my weight does change a bit (though somehow I made it until about 22 with only one!).

    I know I idolize men and marriage. And this scarring has been reenforcing this to me. I start crying, thinking maybe I shouldn’t get married. Or at least not until I’m old enough a man will expect a lot of lines (though perhaps not stretch marks from someone never pregnant). I begin to wonder how I can warn a man with propriety if I ever get engaged or am proposed to. “You know how women’s legs look with cellulite? Much of my body has that effect.” No, time for a new way to say this. “You need to know I have lots of scars…”)

    It used to be I didn’t worry so much about how I looked. When people told me I was beautiful here and there I didn’t see what they did, but I at least felt more marriageable. Now I think of all those dumb adds that show up in e-mail showing a girl in a swimsuit with a cellulite effect drawn on only one leg, advertising something to help get rid of what is very strongly implied by the add to be ugly. I think of how much people go, “I have these two stretch marks” as they get all worried. And then I think, who finds these marks attractive? What man will love me? What do I do about the fact I can’t show a man what he would be committing himself to? Not marrying doesn’t seem an option-I fit into the ‘burning’ category to be frank. I don’t blame women for honestly saying they don’t love their stretch marks. They don’t need to pretend just because hearing people talk of not liking them sometimes makes those with the scars feel worse. Yet it’s hard to not come away from all that’s said about them feeling like a disgusting freak. (i wonder how many women speaking against them hate them so much partly because the message they get bombarded with from others is how unattractive such marks make them, just like such talks make bearing the marks harder for me.) Usually I won’t even look at my scarred skin-even when not in bright sunlight! I look at them, wonder when they will end, wonder what the effect will be in five years and if it scarring will still be occurring, wonder if they’ll appear on my face, think of how the rest of me is going down hill at this age as well and there’s no sign of marriage in sight. I end up pouring tears from my eyes and also-where I should be with all my problems-crying out to God.

    Signed,
    Scarred & sometimes (wrongly) scared

  45. MrsMelody says:

    Thank you for this series. I enjoyed your book, Passionate Housewives, and look forward to reading more here.

    Blessings
    Melody L

  46. Jayne says:

    Scarred,
    If your stretch marks are similar to ones that I developed during my pregnancies, they fade a bit over time. I have lots of marks all over my body, some from stretch marks, as well as scars from sugery, diseases and injuries. They don’t bother me at all because I know that I am beautiful in the eyes of my husband. He sees me that way because he loves me. I don’t need the sort of perfect, unblemished and unrealistic body portrayed in the media because I am not on display for the public anyhow.

    If God has called you to marriage, you will find a man who loves you and his love for you will make you beautiful in his eyes. You don’t need to worry about our culture’s absurd notions of beauty. Focus instead on developing the sort of godly character that will attract a godly man. More important than outward appearance is filling your life with “good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.” (I Tim 2:10 NIV) Trust in God and dedicate yourself to Him. Know that God loves you and do not be anxious. Be willing to accept either marriage or joy-filled singleness from Him.

  47. Struggling says:

    I can understand the frustration and the hurt that Anonymous feels in her marriage. We had no intimate trouble for the first ten years of our marriage. But due to pornography struggles on my husbands part, the last seven years have been a struggle. Even though my husband is trying to stay “clean” the intimacy damage has been done. I want intimacy with him so so much, but it isn’t there. After having five children and putting on a little extra, I don’t care for how I look in the mirror really, but when your husband doesn’t want you, it is VERY difficult to feel attractive. He says nice things sometimes, but his actions show otherwise.
    I read your book Passionate Housewives recently, and I have such a desire to be the wife God calls me to be. I want to be such an example to me daughters. But the struggle to honor a man who is not acting honorable, is so huge. Alot of times I just feel like my husbands “sister’, just living in the same house raising the children. Trying to get along for the children sake.
    I remind myself all the time that God is working on us. God’s love and my love for Him and my children keep me holdin on!

  48. garrettswife says:

    Thank you for this post — it is much needed. My situation with intimacy — so far as I have been able to read — has not been mentioned. My husband has a very nasty habbit — he “dips” snuff (i.e. Copenhagen). This habit makes his personal hygeine simply digusting and a complete turn-off. We NEVER kiss — ever, and even hugging or cuddling is hard becuase he is alwyas needing to “spit”. The smell and obviously the taste simply make me physically ill. I have talked with him repsectfully many times about this issue (we have been married for 7 years) and simply asked him to come home, brush his teeth, refresh his mouth, and show me some affection so that intimacy is more appealing. He will usually do this for ONE day, and if intimacy does not happen immediately that night, he quits. If anyone has any suggestions, please comment. I love intimacy with my husband; he is a wonderful man, but too much time has elapsed for us, and as the Scripture holds true — Satan can and will get a foothold. We both feel as if there is a “wedge” between us. I also have a 20 month old and I am 38 weeks pregnant, so those are of course contributing factors at the moment. Still, would love to rekindle passion when baby arrives. Thanks so much.
    ajobuz@aol.com

  49. Elena Rulli says:

    Nir, all my solidarity and love go to you.
    If I may dare to give you an advise, try to regain the self-love and self-respect that were robbed you during your childhood, seek your husband’s help by telling him honestly what it was like, as much as it can be terrbly painful to revive those memories; I think that, in this case, pain will be part of the healing process. Silence is never good, because it makes humiliation and hate sink deep, too deep in your soul and it makes you feel guilty and unworthy. No one has the right to inflict rape to anybody, no one and you weren’t responsible for what happened to you.
    Forgive me if I was too straightforward, my words were well-meant.

  50. Anonymous says:

    I’m so glad I found this blog. My husband and I have been married 15 years. 2 years ago he made a comment about my weight that has really shaken me. I’ve since lost over 100#, but am still larger than the average woman. He’s spent the last 2 years wishing he’d never said what he did. I know he loves me. But my already very low self esteem and poor body image has gotten worse.

    We had a history of pornography. I stopped 9 years ago or so, but he occassionally “sneaks” it. Combine this with the comment about my weight and I’m just a mess. Even 2 years later. The rational side of me sees that we are both flawed and I should be thankful that he tries to stay away from porn. I see that he loves me and our children. But the insecure side of me overshadows all of this with feelings of inadequacy.

    This is becoming an obsession. I feel like he can’t love me unless I look like a crack whore. I worry about “who” he’s thinking of when we make love. This is not only hurting our marriage, but it’s causing an eating disorder in me.

    I never thought it possible, but I’m now having anorexic thoughts and am considering vomiting in addition to my use of diuretics. Every morsel of food I put into my mouth – whether it be a bite or a binge- makes me feel like I’ve failed him and our marriage.

    I know that marriage was not intended to be like this. But how can I be uninhibited with a man when I feel I’m constantly being compared to the women in porn and magazines where they’ve been airbrushed to the point of being a near cartoon?

    I’ve prayed on this. I need help for myself. I recognize that this problem is more mine than my husbands. I’ve prayed for my husband that he comes to realize that what’s between us is all that’s needed. Porn is never the answer.

    What really confuses me is that we’ve always had a great sex life. We have sex as often as we can and I seldom turn him away. I can “function”, but my heart’s not in it like it used to be cuz I’m so concerned with what’s in his head.

    Any advice is much appreciated.

    –Dysfuctional

  51. Emily says:

    Superbly encouraging post!

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