Category Archives for "Sex & Family Planning"

Sep 22

Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Have More (and Better) Sex

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

more sexDo you think there will be plenty of time down the road to nurture sex in your marriage?

Maybe. Maybe not.

When my husband and I married, we were 37 and 33, respectively.  And though we had each had sex in previous relationships, we did not have sex with each other until our wedding night.

We had been engaged just under a year and had been together for nearly two years, so to say the sexual tension between us was intense is an understatement of the greatest magnitude.  We wanted each other — in the worst (best?) way.

During our first few years of marriage, we enjoyed an incredible amount of sexual intimacy.  And even now 11 years after we said “I do,” we certainly still enjoy and savor our sexual connection.

But — and here’s the caveat you can’t see at the altar — life has a way of moving along and sabotaging sexual connection.

We started marriage with my 5-year-old son, and then we added another little guy to the picture about a year and half after our vows.  I couldn’t have seen then what I’m living now.

For those of you doing littles, brace yourself.  If you think the newborn, toddler and preschool years are busy, the grade-school, middle school and high school years will push your calendar to a new level of insanity.

And I’m not even talking about those folks who over-schedule their kids in a bazillion activities.

I’m talking about painfully average folks like me and my man, keeping the ship afloat and making sure everyone gets where they need to be with what they need when they need it.

There are things you can’t see at the beginning of marriage (thank God) that then become your reality the more years you log.

For us, in our short 11 years together, it has been the thrilling (and exhausting) ride of raising kids, of caring for an elderly parent, of losing jobs and changing jobs and finding jobs, and of facing a myriad of health struggles and financial hurdles.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful for the life I wake up to each day. Grateful.

But I don’t always like the toll it has taken on the sexual connection in my marriage bed.

Do you think there is plenty of time down the road to nurture sex in your marriage?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Do you know why you shouldn’t wait to to have more (better) sex?

Because if you don’t build now the healthy habit of regularly and intentionally connecting with each other sexually, you will find it almost impossible to do when life gets cumbersome and treacherous.

When I think of how my beloved and I now have to seek with eagle eyes the sliver of margin in our life to make love, I think of how much more difficult it would be if we had not invested in our sexual relationship early in our marriage.

There was a time in our life when sex came easy — when we weren’t neck deep in parenting chaos and we weren’t taking care of an elderly parent and we had the advantage of being a bit younger than we are now.

The reason you shouldn’t wait to have more and better sex is because the elusive “tomorrow” that you think will be an easier time to have sex really doesn’t exist.  In fact, depending on your age and season of life you’re in, the “tomorrow” you wake up to might very well be incredibly harder than your life today.

I’ve long believed that when a husband and wife are taking good care of their sexual intimacy — having sex often and making sure they both are enjoying it — they are better equipped to do life.  Better equipped to savor the good moments.  Better equipped to endure together the painful debilitating parts.

Do you think there is plenty of time down the road to nurture sex in your marriage?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Mark my words. Your sexual connection tomorrow will depend on what you are doing about it today.

Aug 18

Wives: Why Being a Little Selfish Will Lead to Better Orgasms

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

It seems a bit counterintuitive.

a wife's orgasm

This idea of being selfish in bed.  It even — dare I say — seems to fly in the face of that beloved Christian platitude of being self-sacrificial in marriage.

But ladies I gotta tell you — if you aren’t experiencing and enjoying orgasm in your marriage bed, then your marriage bed (and your marriage) is likely suffering.

Big time.

(For you husbands reading this, pay close attention.  I have gems in here for you too.  And hopefully by the end of the post, you and your wife will both run with abandon toward her orgasmic pleasure).

No surprise to anyone who has ever had sex that a wife having an orgasm (statistically speaking) is not quite as sure of a thing as a husband having an orgasm.

The clitoris just isn’t as predictable as the penis.

Yes, I’m painting things in somewhat broad strokes here. The truth remains, though, that if you asked 100 people who is more likely to have an orgasm in every sexual encounter in a marriage — the husband or the wife — I’d bet my last $1 that all 100 would say “the husband.”

Women sometimes ask me how to have an orgasm.  (You just can’t offer a class on that at the local community college, but hey…if I could, I probably would. Orgasm 101.)

In all seriousness, I believe wives who see the value of sex do indeed want orgasm to be a part of it — they often struggle, though, with knowing how to get there.

This is especially true if they have never had an orgasm, but even for wives who have known sexual pleasure, there still can stumbling blocks that thwart their pleasure.

The solution? Enter selfishness, stage right.

Here are three tips I suggest:

 

1.  Stop thinking that sex is all about him.

This one little lie fuels a wife’s lack of orgasmic pleasure more than anything else.

Somewhere along the way, she bought into the lie that her husband’s need and desire for sex trumps anything the sexual encounter could offer her.  Sadly, this thought seems most pervasive in Christian circles, where wives are subtly or not-so-subtly told “sex is what you have to do.”

But what if you viewed sex instead as something you “get” to do?  Something that is as much about intense pleasure for you as it is for your husband.

When both a husband and a wife are more intentional about pleasure for both of them being a priority, it’s not really selfish.  It’s a true reflection of what God intended sex to be in a marriage.

When God said that a husband and wife should not withhold their bodies from each other, that wasn’t just for a husband’s benefit.

It was for her benefit as well.

2. Stop assuming your husband knows how to help you climax.

In one regard, husbands are at a disadvantage sexually.  A woman’s body is bewildering landscape. What seems to turn her on one night doesn’t really do much for her the next.

Add to this that she often doesn’t know what turns her on, and it is no wonder that her likelihood of reaching orgasm starts to feel like climbing Mt. Everest.  Nice in theory, but completely impractical in reality.

There is a better way.

Wives, you need to coach him on pleasing you.  Husbands, you need to invite her to coach you — and then respond accordingly to her direction.

If you as a wife do not know what it will take for you to orgasm, I will give you a little insight.  Your clitoris likely needs more stimulation than you realize.  Whether it be through intercourse, oral sex or use of hands, you likely need to try different techniques to get the rate and firmness of stimulation just right.

And consider various positions, such as the wife being on top, where she usually has more control over angles and rate of movement.   Missionary position is not the only way to have sex.  I’m not ruling it out, of course, but for a wife to achieve orgasm this way, her husband usually needs to be further forward with the shaft of his penis in more direct and firm contact with the clitoris.

Talk to each other and welcome the opportunity to be teachable.  This principle is foundational in marriages where there is amazing sex. (I have a whole page on my site with links about orgasm, if you want to check that out as well).

3.  Start leaning into pleasure.

This is probably the most difficult one for women to embrace.  Like I’ve already mentioned, if she thinks sex is just for him, she has gone to great lengths to downplay the significance of her own orgasm.

Also, she has like a gazillion details running through her mind at any given time. And unlike her husband, she’s not able to put all of them on the back burner when she crawls into bed — and into sex — with her spouse.

Good news is that you can learn to lean into pleasure.

Spend more time on foreplay. Stop telling yourself you don’t deserve sexual pleasure.  You do deserve it with the man you married.  The clitoris was God’s idea and it serves no other purpose but to allow you to experience indescribable orgasmic pleasure.

When you are feeling aroused — and especially when you feel yourself getting close to having an orgasm — focus on the pleasure.  On the surface that may look like pure selfishness, but ultimately it will do your marriage a world of good.

If you’ve made it this far in the post, my guess is you are either a bit nervous. Or a bit aroused.   Or maybe a lot of both.

A little sexual selfishness goes a long way to better sexual intimacy in marriage.   Sex doesn’t have to be a battleground. And it doesn’t have to be a bleak boring tundra.  It can be a playground of sacredness, oneness and pleasure.

What do you want for your marriage?

Jul 21

Sexual Touch and What You Might Be Missing

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

sexual touch in your marriageThe way you touch your spouse — what does it say about your sexual desire?

It’s an important question.

Sexual desire — the degree to which we sexually long for the person we married — is a tender vulnerable place.

Rich with possibilities.  And, in some marriages, fraught with discouragement.

My husband and I had not had sex with each other before we were married, so our wedding night set us on an adventure of learning about arousal.  We had much to learn about sexual touch.

Certainly we understood the mechanics of sex, but as far as discovering what we each found arousing with each other — well, that was a blank slate!

And for that we were grateful.

Eleven years in to marriage, and we still love exploring the map, figuring out new ways to turn each other on.  With our touch.

What do you convey when you touch your spouse sexually?  In many regards, words can never measure up to what touch can do.

Yes, therein lies the power. The way we touch can be positive or negative, and the subtleties between the two is more impactful to a sexual connection — and to the entire marriage, really — than many couples care to reflect upon.

Nowhere does our touch speak clearer than in how we use it sexually with the person we married. That is a bold statement. I know.

But think about your own marriage and the way you each express yourselves sexually — with your touch, not your words.  When you look closely at that, what gut feeling are you left with?

One of ravenous gratitude? Or one of disappointment and discouragement?

A common complaint I hear from some people who comment on my blog and who email me is that sex in their marriage has become predictable.  I even had someone tell me once that the way he and his wife had sex was so predictable that he could almost time it down to the second.

He was painfully aware that predictable sexual encounters — especially ones drenched in an obligatory tone of “have to” rather than “get to”fail to take us to the authentic sexual connection we desire.

Just in case you think I’m overly sympathetic to husbands who feel sexually neglected, I do indeed have a heart’s cry for women who find themselves in similar circumstances.  They too hunger for a husband who wants them sexually and clearly expresses that desire in the way he touches her.

If you think sexual touch is an area where you and your spouse can grow, consider these three tips:

Tip #1:  Use your hands to their full potential.

Consider the ways you can use your fingertips and hands — through a variety of light caresses and firm touches — to arouse your spouse.

And don’t forget that sexual arousal is not limited to only certain areas of the body.  Sure, the genitals and breasts are the areas we think of the most, but honestly, the entire body is fair game. You may be surprised at what you discover.

For example, some people find it particularly arousing to have their spouse run their fingers through their hair or along the back of their neck.

Don’t be afraid to ask what they enjoy and also to try new touches and take cues from their feedback (verbal and nonverbal!)

Tip #2:  Don’t be overly anxious to get to the act itself.

I like an intense orgasm as much as the next person, but I think what can be as invigorating is what leads up to that orgasm.  And a lot of that has to do with the time we invest in touching.

Anticipation is powerful, so pay close attention to the way your touch can take your spouse through a delicious cycle of getting close to a sexual edge.  Learn how to take them to that edge, back off it ever so slightly, and then go to the edge again — several times before actually going over.

Couples who figure out that cycle find better sex at the end of it. Amazing.

Tip #3:  Add more sexual touch when you are clothed.

How intentional are you throughout the day to convey to your spouse with your touch, “I want you. I desire you. You’re still the one who turns me on.”

Sadly, too many husbands and wives who couldn’t keep their hands off each other early in the relationship can now go days on end without ever really touching each other, let alone touching each other with passion and playfulness.

It is extraordinary what you can say to your spouse. Without actually saying anything.

Sexual touch — do you know what you are missing?

For more on sex and your marriage, consider the 10 Best Sex Questions to Ask Your Spouse.

Jun 16

Why “Going Through The Motions” is Robbing You of Great Sex

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

going-through-the-motions-sexMy husband recently switched from a second shift schedule to a more “normal” day schedule.

Americanized life — and maybe life in other countries too — tends to gravitate toward “work during the day” and “off in the evenings and on weekends.”

While I know that’s not everyone’s reality (it wasn’t ours for years), it is what is most conducive to things like kids’ sporting commitments, evening birthday parties, dinner out with friends and catching a 6 p.m. movie.

So, in many regards, we were thrilled when his schedule went to a shift of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Thrilled I tell you!

What we didn’t anticipate is the toll that new schedule would take on our sexual intimacy.  

I. Kid. You. Not.

With his previous schedule, we had become accustomed to having sex late at night — and by late, I could really say “early in the morn,” because we were often having sex at 1 a.m.

Sure, with the new schedule he was now coming home from work by 3:30 p.m., but our evenings and nighttime hours became consumed with various life activities and responsibilities.

By the time we made it to bed, it was to sleep, not to have sex — because he had to get up at 5:30 a.m.

We found ourselves drifting toward a lot less sex.

But there was a positive we discovered (which I think is going to get us back on track for more frequent sex as well).

What we discovered is that we had lost touch with what it means to be ravenously desired sexually.  In other words, sex with the old schedule was a lot more frequent, but it was too often characterized by “going through the motions.”  

Don’t get me wrong.  It was still good.

I mean, we both like sex a lot, so it’s not that we didn’t enjoy it.  We were having sex so often, though, that it had become — I hate to admit it — somewhat routine.

Enter “new work schedule” stage right.

When we’ve made love lately, we both have noticed how powerful it is to want to be wanted sexually.

When the person you’ve married can’t wait to get their hands on your body and you mutually can’t wait to get your hands on theirs, it’s an intensity unlike anything else.

And I believe we get a glimpse of God’s kindness in that He gave us sex not only to protect our marriage, but also to infuse it with sexual passion and playfulness.

My point?

Have you become comfortable with simply “going through the motions” in your sexual intimacy? Have you lost a sense of what turns you each on?

Sadly, “going through the motions” too much will rob you of great sex.  What will wake you up from that?

For us it was a work schedule change. For you, it might be this blog or something else you read. It might be that you are at a sexual crossroads

It might even be a comment from your spouse, who realized awhile back that it would be better for both of you if “going through the motions” sex was more of the exception than the rule in your marriage.

There’s a lot to be said for wanting to be wanted sexually — and mutually running toward that feeling with abandon.

If “going through the motions” is robbing you of great sex, what will you do about it?  

May 19

Why Is Sex a Struggle in Your Marriage?

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

sexual struggles in marriageRecently, I went to a graduation party where I was able to catch up with some people I have known for decades, but don’t see often.

One person who I hadn’t seen in awhile shared with me that he and his ex-wife were now back together after quite a few years apart.

The ex-wife had even had another marriage (and another divorce) in that time.

Being the curious creature I am, I said, “What are you going to do differently this time to make sure you don’t go down the same path again — you know, the trainwreckish path?”

He had an answer, but I admit I wasn’t overly convinced they had dug to the root of what destroyed them the first go-round. I hope it works, but honestly, I don’t know if they’ve stacked the odds in their favor.

Their struggles weren’t sexual per se, but the conversation with him got me thinking about how many fractured marriages I hear about with regard to sexual intimacy.

More often than not, the two people are still married, but sex is an issue. A big issue.

If sex is a struggle in your marriage, do you and your spouse know why?

It’s a simple question. Kind of.

But if we soak in it a bit, we realize that if we don’t understand the “why” behind something, we are rarely capable to forge any lasting change. Surface healing is a cheap counterfeit for real healing.

And surface healing has a tendency to fake us out and make us believe that “all is now fine,” when really we haven’t gotten to the root of the heartache.

Lest you think I’m horribly naive, I do recognize there are marriages stuck in sexual discord because one spouse or both are steadfast against even beginning the process of digging into the cause. Or because the marriage is embroiled in an ongoing unconfessed sin, such as infidelity or pornography use.

Such marriages are not beyond God’s redemption, but obviously there has to be a willingness on the part of the offending spouse to walk in a healthier direction.

I also know there are plenty — pa-lenty — of marriages dealing with sexual struggles that could get unstuck by asking the hard questions about why sex is a struggle.

Why is sex a struggle in your marriage?  Could you and your spouse explore the below questions together?

While these certainly don’t cover every scenario, they do cover a spectrum of things that tend to trip people up sexually in their marriages.

1.  Is past sexual abuse or sexual violation against you making it difficult for you to see sex in a positive light?

2. Are you self-sabotaging sex in your marriage because you falsely believe you should be punished for past promiscuity (such as when you were single or before you were a Christian)?

3. Are you withholding sex as a way to punish your spouse for a past betrayal or other loss of trust in your marriage?

4. Have you not yet explored what God says about the positive aspects of sex in marriage? Do you see sex only as being dirty or gross (even in the context of your marriage)?

5. Are you and/or your spouse wanting to do things sexually that fall outside God’s boundaries for healthy sexual intimacy in a marriage?  Is this causing guilt, anger and/or confusion?

6. Is your marriage incredibly fragile because of non-sexual struggles (financial pressures, parenting challenges, work stresses, in-law challenges, etc.)?

7. Are you and your spouse unsure how to help each other experience pleasure?  God designed sexual climax for a wife and a husband, but often they need to teach each other what feels good with regard to foreplay, arousal and orgasm.

8. Are you diligent about all other areas of your life (kids, work, volunteer work, ministry), but indifferent about nurturing sex in your marriage?

9. Has sex just become boring, and you and your spouse follow the same sexual routine every single time?

See what I mean about the spectrum of what causes sexual struggle in marriages?

I am not a counselor. Or a doctor.

But I know there is healing to be found from sexual struggles.  Sometimes a married couple can find that healing on their own through honest communication and a genuine exploration of God’s Word.

And other times, it is wise to also involve a professional counselor or ministries that specialize in helping people heal from the pain of sexual trauma, sexual betrayal or other deep discord.

Wherever you find yourself in the struggles, what will it take for you to courageously look at why you are stuck?

And what will it take for you to no longer allow that why to hold captive healthy sexual intimacy in your marriage?

Apr 28

Hanging on by a Thread: Sexual Trauma and Marriages

By E.J. Smith | Help , Sex & Family Planning

9fce6acf-af11-47dc-85c4-2e3769731b14Trigger Warning: If the topic of sexual assault or sexualized violence is one that is deeply troubling to you, please do what you need to take care of yourself in this moment. Some of the material in this article could be triggering to you.

 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. Sexual violence and the trauma it creates isn’t something we talk about a lot in the context of marriages, and yet these experiences can have a devastating impact on the health of our closest relationships.

It’s not something that is openly discussed.  What I’ve learned over the course of my time as an Advocate for survivors, and as a therapist, is that the aftermath of sexual assault — be it that of a spouse or even of another family member can have a devastating impact on the family as a whole.

There are many resources available to survivors (I’ve listed several here), however, I wanted to take a special opportunity to dispel some myths and also offer several simple considerations that readers can do to help their families and loved ones get through these extremely challenging times.

By the Numbers

First and foremost, we need to lay out some facts regarding the prevalence of sexual assault in the US.

Currently,  1 in 6 women, 1 in 10 men, and 1 in 4 college-age women will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. Of these survivors, approximately 15% were under age 12 at the time of their assault.

Statistically speaking, most of us know a survivor. And assuming for the moment this rate is accurate, that means of the 2,118,000 marriages reported by the CDC (2013), over 350,000 marriages involve a female partner who has experienced sexualized violence.

However, that number is not accurate due to the fact that nearly 60% of sexual assault goes unreported each year (RAINN, 2013). Suffice it to say the numbers alone make it worth discussing.

So How Can You Help?

This topic is admittedly broad.

Factors like how recent the assault was, age at time of assault, if the person was married, whether or not the perpetrator was known to the survivor or not (roughly 85% are, by the way) will largely determine the way your loved one (the survivor) responds.

Every situation is unique. That being said, my intention here is simply to give you some basic tools to support your spouse as you go through this challenging time.

And please let me reiterate that while I’m writing this with the example of the spouse being the survivor, these are generally good guidelines to apply for whenever someone (a friend, colleague, child, or any one else) discloses this to you.

1. Believe Them.

Yes, it really is that simple.

Evidence suggests that if a person is willing to disclose a sexual assault, the odds are (roughly 92-96%) that it was real. Hopefully believing your spouse isn’t a challenge to begin with, but even it is—I would strongly recommend erring on this side of caution.

The #1 fear that keeps survivors silent is not being believed.

2. Accept that there are no easy solutions.

This just isn’t one of those issues where someone can simply identify, address and clean up the problem in 1-2-3.

There are no easy solutions. And while therapy is often a fantastic avenue for healing from trauma, everyone involved needs to understand that sometimes the work that we do makes things seem worse before they get better.

I find this is especially true with people who have kept their stories hidden from their families. Old coping strategies that kept the “secret” contained crumble.

Ultimately, this is a good thing. In the mean time, it’s often quite painful and can really shake things up in the relationship and at home.

3. Get “Ok” with not knowing the full story.

One of the first things I try to do when working with survivors is to aid them in restoring their dignity and autonomy through healthy boundary setting.

This always includes an open invitation to share their story, if they feel comfortable, but not pressing the matter.

There are plenty of people out there whose job it is to ask the really uncomfortable and invasive questions, like the Police for example, or a nurse getting the medical history before a forensic exam.  Leave the “investigating” up to them.  You knowing every gritty detail won’t make the story any better– believe me.

Allowing a survivor to tell his or her story on their own time, and respecting those boundaries is much more important in your loved one’s healing journey than any Q&A.

4. Recognize that Trauma may result in a temporary loss of intimacy.

I’ll never forget the woman who came in devastated that she had “ruined her relationship” because every time she tried to be intimate with her spouse, she would have a flashback to her assault.

The lack of sexual intimacy was taking a toll on their relationship. When her husband asked what had changed and she explained the flashbacks, he (understandably) became hurt over the idea that he would be in any way, shape or form connected to that horrible event in her mind. Of course it wasn’t him. She knew that.

The body and the mind needed time to heal, however.  Healing from this kind of trauma–like any trauma– cannot be forced.

If you can, commit to being a patient, supportive and understanding partner.  Illustrate this commitment by allowing your spouse to set the boundaries, and try to keep an open flow of communication. (Yes, I know– again with the boundaries).

Think of it this way, sexual assualt is (for many) the ultimate violation of one’s personal space and autonomy.  Restoration of that autonomy is of critical importance.

As frustrating, hurtful, and even as lonely as the interim might feel, in the long run, these messages of acceptance and patience will help intimacy to return.

4. Re-educate Yourself and Others

This one is, in my opinion, by far the most important piece.

Something I always include in my presentations is a segment on myths and facts surrounding sexual violence. There is a ton of misinformation out there.

To separate fact from fiction, seek out reliable sources of information, like RAINN. Many, if not all, States have their own organizations as well. TAASA is the State organization for Texas.

You can also look up your local rape crisis center, and ask to speak with a staff person or advocate who can speak with you regarding your particular situation and give you the warmth and support you need to not only survive this nightmare yourself, but also to help you support your loved one—wherever they are in their healing journey.

Please be forewarned: We can read a pamphlets and flyers all day long about how its not what the person was wearing that made them more of a target, but it takes on a whole new context when your loved one is hurting.

These high stress situations expose our personal biases, and deep-seated beliefs. If you learn nothing else, please remember that the only person who is capable to stopping a sexual assault from occurring is the perpetrator.

To help keep the blame game in check, ask yourself: “If the perpetrator hadn’t been there, would this have happened?”

Why is it Relevant?

Let’s say that you are reading this article and thinking, “Yes, I (or my spouse) has experienced sexual violence… but that has nothing to do with what’s wrong in our marriage.”

What can I say? Maybe that’s true. You and your spouse are the experts on your relationship. Nevertheless, I would invite you to consider the fact that as people, we are constantly living, learning and (hopefully) growing by way of our experiences.

If someone you or someone you love has endured the living nightmare that is sexual assault— I’m willing to believe it had an impact. Every survivor story is different, so there isn’t a one-sized conclusion to be found. Many times, however, I do find that we carry our pain forward with us (consciously or otherwise). Either way, I think it’s worth examining.

Who knows, it could save your marriage.

 

Note: If you need assistance locating your nearest rape crisis center or have questions about sexual assault, please do not hesitate to connect with me via email or in the comments. You can also try looking up your area on the Sexual Assault Legal Services & Assistance (SALSA) website.

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Apr 21

Stuck at a Sexual Crossroads in Your Marriage?

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

sexual-crossroadsI didn’t know when I started blogging about sex.

I didn’t know how many people struggle – I mean really struggle – with sex in their marriage.

It all seems ironic now, but when I started writing and speaking about sexual intimacy in marriage, I must have naively underestimated the power of the internet.

And after awhile, as the emails and comments started to pour in from every corner of the world, I started to see some common threads.

Heart-wrenching threads.

Many people, maybe yourself included, are at a sexual crossroads in their marriage.

Sex has been a source of disconnect way more than a source of oneness.  Sometimes for years.  Decades even.

Sure, the specific circumstances may vary, but generally it often comes down to one person valuing and wanting sexual intimacy.  And the other spouse avoiding it at all costs.

I’ve long believed that healthy patterns are intentional.  No one falls into an exercise routine or happens upon some vitamin rich broccoli.  No one haphazardly starts digging into God’s Word on a regular basis. Or drifts into a balanced budget.

Nope. Healthy patterns are intentional.

You have to walk in the direction of health, whether it’s physical, spiritual, emotional, financial – or sexual.

Unhealthy patterns, though, usually sneak up on us much more casually.  They are unintentional.   No one stands at the altar and thinks, “Someday I’m just going to stop having sex with this person to whom I have just pledged my life… my future” or “I can easily see the moment down the road when his touch will mean nothing to me.”

Nope.  Unhealthy patterns are hazy.  We’re in them before we really know it.  And once there, they become our normal.

Regular mutually satisfying sex drifts into occasional token sex.  Babies come. Life gets complicated.  Jobs get demanding.  Lawns need to be mowed. Sexual distance begins to seem less awkward.

Fill in the details however you may, but I see common denominators among many married couples who are rarely having sex.

They never envisioned sex in their marriage would ever look like that.

It just happened.

Thus the crossroads, where one person in the marriage is ready for a healthier normal that includes sex with the person they love — sex as God designed it.   And the other person isn’t quite sure if they are ready to give up the comfortable unhealthy pattern.  (Actually, sometimes they are quite sure they don’t want to give it up).

I don’t know if any of that describes you, but if it does, I encourage you to read this post with your spouse.

Does that take courage?  Without a doubt.  Whether you are the one desiring nurtured intimacy or you are the one who has been refusing it, it takes courage to address such deep woundedness in your relationship.

Sometimes, though, those baby steps in the direction of health – as painful as they may be to take – are the first steps toward something changing for the better.

No, there are no guarantees.

But staying stuck at a crossroads seems equally or more painful as well.  Better to at least try to shed light on the matter. Better to give hope, love and sexual renewal a fighting chance.

Are you stuck at a sexual crossroads in your marriage?

Could you do something to move your marriage in a healthier direction?

When I started blogging, I had no idea how often I would be asking that question.  But now I ask it all the time.

Mar 17

Why Everything You Thought About Hot Sex May Be Wrong

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

what-makes-sex-hotHave you seen some of those video segments that show the extent that professional photographs are digitally manipulated?

To help people (particularly women and teen girls) grasp a more accurate picture of beauty, these documentaries visually show, step by step, how an original photo is tweaked to look more striking or more beautiful.

What we end up seeing is rarely what a person looks like in real life.

Technology has made the process seamless, allowing virtually anyone with the right software to not only remove all “flaws” from a photographed person, but also to enhance other features.

Bigger breasts. Whiter teeth. Smoother skin.

There are no limits.

A few magazine editors and photographers have willingly admitted that there is not one photograph that appears in advertising or print that has not in some way been altered.

Not. One.

What in the world does this have to do with hot sex?

Quite a bit, actually.  But not only for the obvious reasons.

Sure, our perception of body image has taken quite a hit because of all this digital manipulation.

And poor body image no doubt affects sexual intimacy in marriage — even if we landed at that “poor body image” on the rather shaky facade of fabricated visuals blaring from magazine covers, billboards and internet ads.

But the body image struggle isn’t the only thing tripping us up in bed.

The hottest most passionate sex in a marriage bed likely doesn’t look like we think it looks.

Media and Hollywood  regularly portray lovemaking, and they’ve become so skilled at portraying it that we are made to believe what we are seeing is accurate.  (That’s why they call it make believe).

It’s no wonder that when we think of “hot sex,” we aren’t just thinking of two perfect bodies.  We also are believing that those two people sexually move and engage in perfect rhythm.

Every kiss well-timed.

Every touch graceful.

Every shift in position flawless.

Every climax easily achieved.

Not even a pillow is out of place.  The room is perfectly lit.  Her make-up looks… well… like it was just touched up by an expert.  And his body is just the right shade of tan.

Hot sex.  If what you think it is seems to mirror the fabricated version, then everything you think may be wrong.

Real passion — real sex — is much messier. Much more awkward.

Honestly, this is one reason I’m not a big fan of a husband and wife videotaping themselves having sex.

Obviously, videotaping poses a huge risk that such video could fall into the wrong hands, even mistakenly.  But you also risk changing your perception on something that truly is amazing — even if it doesn’t look amazing.

Do you know what makes sex hot?

Love. Commitment. Vulnerability. Communication. Trust. Emotional transparency. Privacy. Authentic playfulness. A covenant.  Friendship. Agreement with the Lord that marital sexual pleasure and connection is right and holy and worthy of pursuit. Letting go of inhibitions.

Did you notice I did not name anything that is an outward physical attribute of the wife or husband — or even of the act itself?

Anything physically that happens during hot sex in marriage is merely a reflection of what is happening within the hearts, minds and souls of the two people there.

If you think the hottest sex comes from technique or physical beauty, I encourage you to fix your eyes on the Author of sex.

He reveals to us that sexual intimacy rooted in a godly understanding of authentic marital love and oneness will always be more profound — even hotter — than anything the world can offer up in the latest romantic movie.

Are you settling for mediocre sex in your marriage bed because you have convinced yourself you cannot have hot sex?

Feb 17

Great Sex and Your Marriage: What You Must Know…

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

great sex and your marriageI’m a Christian wife who blogs about sex, so as you can imagine, that makes for interesting conversations at social gatherings.

My husband and I were at a wedding reception once, sitting with a friend of mine and her husband.

With a mischievous laugh, my friend looked at my husband and jokingly said her husband wanted his picture with him.  “You’re his hero!  He thinks you get sex all the time!”

We laughed.  Sure, her exclamation was in jest, but honestly, it reflects a more somber tone that weaves through many comments and emails I receive from readers of my blog.

Many people think that because my husband and I enjoy sex often — and that it is quite good — that our marriage is somehow a walk in the park, free of many of the struggles that they face in their own marriages.

Sex for us, they think, must be a panacea for any strains on our marriage.

Here is what I want you to know about great sex and marriage…

A huge part of what makes sex great in my marriage is that we work hard at the rest of our marriage.

All the time.

And it’s work.  Hard work.

We stumble. We get short with each other.  We’ve said things we regret.  We’ve misunderstood each other’s hearts.

But we also have learned to get back up.  To forgive quickly.  To talk.  To extend grace. To remember our commitment.  To pray for each other.  To laugh and savor all the extraordinary joys that show up in ordinary ways.

Great sex in our marriage — the kind of sex that is profound and indescribable on so many levels — does not exist in a vacuum.

I think if you met me or my husband or were to glimpse into our life on any given day you would be surprised to see how our marriage looks like a lot of marriages.

Messy. Chaotic. Boring at times.

Wrought with tiredness and stress.  Our dirty dishes pile up.  Our dog destroys things she shouldn’t.  Our calendar is often a bully.

So when we make love — when we crawl into that sacred space literally and figuratively — we show up having already poured ourselves out in the other crevices of our relationship.

Truth be told, each phenomenal orgasm is tender reminder of what it took for us to get there.

What I want you to know about great sex and your marriage is that you both have to be willing to give and re-give yourselves, often when you really want to do the exact opposite.

You have to resolve to tackle the hard issues, one baby step at a time.

You have to be able to train your eyes to spot speckles of goodness and love and warmth amidst so much noise.

That’s not easy.

I know.

But that’s where the great sex is found.

And if you were to stop by my house on any given day, that’s exactly what I would tell you.

(After, of course, I tried to keep the dog from jumping on you. And then asked you to look past the laundry baskets, overflowing bookshelves, messy desk and worn-out kitchen floor that should have been replaced in 1991).

Jan 20

5 Secrets of Sexually Confident Wives

By Julie Sibert | Sex & Family Planning

sexually-confident-wivesI love to make cheesecake.

It wasn’t always this way, though.  Despite my deep love for cheesecake (I mean, it borders on obsessive), I was always hesitant to actually make one.

I had heard that it was difficult, wrought with several things that could go wrong.

Then I started thinking how ridiculous it was to be paralyzed by that kind of fear.  About cheesecake, nonetheless.

Instead of wallowing in my paralysis, I took action.

I set out to learn all the secrets of making scrumptiously awesome cheesecake.   And because of that, I can now make rock star cheesecake.

If you were my neighbor or a close friend who wanted a cheesecake for her baby shower, I would be your gal.  You’d be coming back for more.  I guarantee it.

Along the way, not only did I learn how to master homemade cheesecake, I also discovered something else — the secrets in making remarkable cheesecake are strikingly similar to the secrets of sexually confident wives.

(See how I did that.  I managed to put “cheesecake” and “sex” in the same conversation. Sounds like a little slice of Heaven, if I don’t say so myself).

5 Secrets of Sexually Confident Wives

1. Don’t wait for perfection.

Do you think everything has to be “just right” in order for you and your husband to have sex?

You have to be well rested.  The house has to be picked up. The kids have to have spent the evening quietly reading books before putting themselves to bed early. There can’t be any dishes in the sink.

Well, sexually confident wives don’t operate that way.

They embrace that life is messy. And they know it is possible to weave sexual intimacy into all the chaos that is inherent with everyday life.

I think one of the reasons I was so paralyzed in making cheesecake is that I really thought I needed all these fancy kitchen tools and the perfect oven and gourmet chocolate shavings and so on and so forth.

That’s just not true.  Waiting for perfection will leave you… well… waiting.

That’s not good if you really want cheesecake.  And it’s not good if you want tender sexual connection with the man you married.

2. Plan ahead.

Don’t confuse “plan ahead” with “things need to be perfect.”  As I said above, waiting for perfection isn’t going to pan out very well.

However, with regard to planning ahead, cheesecake bakers know the secret of setting their ingredients out ahead of time so they are at room temperature.  In other words, the cheesecake will turn out better if you plan ahead.

Same is true of sex.

Planning ahead simply means that sexually confident wives have mastered the art of all-day foreplay and preparing themselves for sex.

Do you wait to get in the mood for sex or do you spend the day getting in the mood?

I encourage you to become more intentional about setting the mood for sex — a tone that you begin early in the day with your husband that sends the message that sex is on the menu tonight.

Sure, a sexual quickie now and then is nice, but some of the richest sexual encounters happen after the groundwork has been laid throughout the day.

3. Find pleasure in it.

When I make cheesecake, it brings me tremendous joy to know that not only will others partake in the outcome, but I will as well!

When it comes to sex, your pleasure matters.

If you view sexual pleasure as just something for your husband, then you will quickly grow weary of sex.  But if you learn that those intimate moments between just you and your husband are meant to be pleasurable for both of you, then you will see sex as a blessing.

Not a burden.

I’ve written extensively about orgasm and you can find those posts on this page on my site.  I also wrote a post here on Engaged Marriage titled “Wives, Do You Know Why Your Orgasm Matters?”

4. Add variety.

Some Christian wives hear the words “sexual variety” and immediately feel anxious, thinking that such variety means sexual acts that are outside God’s guidelines for the marriage bed.

Not so! Sexual variety is definitely possible without sinning.

God after all is creative!  I believe He gives a husband and wife tremendous freedom within the exclusivity of their marriage to explore sexual pleasure.

Try different positions, various types of touch and other aspects that engage all the senses (guys tend to be very visual, so your husband would likely enjoy seeing your body more!)

When I’m making a cheesecake, I rarely make plain cheesecake.  I branch out and make turtle cheesecake. Or white chocolate raspberry cheesecake. Or Irish Cream cheesecake.

You get the picture.  Sexually confident wives love adding variety — and embracing it — during sex.

5.  Learn new skills.

I was reading the paper one day and saw a review of a book titled “125 Best Cheesecake Recipes.” I couldn’t sign on to Amazon quick enough!

As Christians, we now have ample access to books and resources on sexual intimacy in marriage. I literally have three bookshelves full of Christian sex books.

If you want to better understand the gift of sexual intimacy as God sees it, as well as learn new techniques, you can do that!  For example, I just co-authored an eBook titled Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage.

I’m not trying to plug my book (well, maybe I am a little).  I’m just saying that you can learn more about sex from trusted Christian authors and bloggers.

Whether you are making cheesecake — or making love — follow the secrets that will leave your husband coming back for more!

Any other secrets you would add to the mix?