Overcoming Sexual Barriers in Marriage

Rachelle Colegrove

What does a couple do when the bedroom has lost its sizzle? They do what some of you reading this article just did…GOOGLE… “Why isn’t my sex life working?” or some similar topic. I imagine you are reading this article because you or your partner is disappointed about the sexual aspect of your marriage.

Sex is not turning out like your friends, TV, the movies, or even a previous relationship predicted.

What now?

There are three categories of sexual problems: physical, relational, and a combination of the two.

Examples of physical issues:

  • Erectile Dysfunction
  • Female Sexual Pain
  • Loss of desire

Examples of relational issues:

  • One partner having/had an affair and the other cannot think about resuming sexually
  • Sexual aversion due to an abusive situation either currently or from the past
  • Relationship conflict that damages safety and respect

Combination issues (more likely):

  • A young couple cannot have intercourse on their wedding night because of a small vaginal opening resulting in sex being linked with pain. Sexual aversion then develops for one or both partners because the pain during sex is not pleasant.
  • Low desire may be triggered at any stage of marital life for a variety of reasons. However, if the lines of communication are not open about sex, the higher desire spouse feels rejected leading to demand for more sex or withdrawal from the relationship—either approach leading to less intimacy.

Sexuality is one of the most openly discussed topics on TV and the news and yet I find that most couples cannot even say the words penis, vagina, and orgasm as it relates to their personal sex life without it becoming a threatening, scary conversation. A sexual conversation needs to be held fully clothed when you are ready to try it!

Treatment for overcoming sexual barriers in marriage depends on the length of time the problem has existed and the severity of the after-effects on the relationship. Treatment differs between the 70 year-old loving couple who wants to resume sexual intercourse after the narrowing of the vaginal walls and the couple who blames each other for sexual issues and threatens divorce if their partner doesn’t get it together sexually.

Normally a couple struggling with sexual intimacy must put the issue “on hold” for a season, quit blaming each other, learn to communicate, care for their own heart effectively, and eventually learn to love their spouse again.

Often instead of learning to love, spouses try two less effective ways of change:

  1. They try to change their spouse. This is not effective for obvious reasons. No one likes the feeling of being judged or controlled and no one can actually change another human being except him or herself.
  2. They try to serve their spouse more. “If I were just more loving, he/she would change.” On the surface, it appears a better option. However, when the loving actions are not reciprocated, it often leads to bitterness and resentment—neither of which provide a great foundation for awesome sexuality. There are more effective ways to increase sexual intimacy.

INCREASE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Instead of the above options, couples need to commit to working on the problem together as a team. Effective teamwork starts with clear communication. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson is a great book for learning how to have difficult conversations effectively. Another option might be The DNA of Relationships by Gary Smalley which contains an effective communication tool called Heart Talk.

However, just reading books will not change anything; you must take the concepts and practice them. This is where a good marriage therapist and a group of trusted friends would be a great asset.

INDIVIDUAL SEXUALITY HEALED

Once the relationship is stable and there are no threats of divorce, affairs, and when the name calling stops, the relationship will truly be a safe place.  After gaining relational stability, then it is time to look at each person’s individual sexual history. Perhaps there are beliefs or events from your personal past keeping you stuck in an ongoing cycle of hurts and disappointment in the bedroom.

A great resource for exploring beliefs around sexuality is The Sexual Healing Journey by Wendy Malz. If there is sexual abuse in your background (which is defined as any time someone made you feel uncomfortable in an unwanted sexual manner) you made need to get some professional help to heal.

COUPLES SEXUAL HEALING

Lastly, it is time to look at the couples’ sexual relationship. Making time for sexual conversation and activity is critical. The number one reason women do not have intercourse more often is because of fatigue. You cannot heal a broken sexual relationship without time (or any relationship issues for that matter!)

Many factors lead to married people feeling like roommates instead of passionate lovers. Among the ones, I hear the most are busyness, child-centered parenting, negative beliefs about sex, past abuse, and TV/electronics in the bedroom. Honestly, I think a ban on all cell phone, tablet and TV use after 9 PM would lead to an increase in sexual frequency. (OK, I will get off my soapbox now!)


As a licensed professional counselor specializing in marriage and sex therapy, my goal is to help couples connect in a deep, satisfying way both relationally and sexually. I wish you the best in your efforts to reconnect! Email me and let me know how you are doing – I care! rachelle.colegrove@getrelationshiphelp.com

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