Marriage Problems, Part 5: The One About Sex

In this post we finish off discussing ongoing challenges with two of the heaviest hitters: changing destructive behavior and the sex talk.

With all of the challenges we mentioned in the previous blog post, we have emphasized the need for patience, love and respect. The same is true for the final two we will cover: making change happen and the sensitive topic of sexual intimacy.

Challenge 7: Wife: “You need to change.” Husband: “No, you need to change!”

Change is hard, no doubt about it. It is very difficult to suddenly stop doing things we have done continually and replace them with something else. The biblical concept of repentance is not just about apologizing for doing wrong, it is about changing our lives to prevent it from happening again. It is about becoming a new person (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10).

One pastor pointed out the importance of “being willing to be honest with self, followed by being willing to correct what needs to be corrected.”

Another pastor noted that another roadblock to addressing ongoing challenges in marriage is “finger pointing!”

Survey respondents mentioned how it is important to focus on what really needs to be changed and what simply needs to be accepted:

  • “Personality traits sometimes need to just be accepted and appreciated. The things that drive you crazy are usually also the things that you found so charming about that person.”
  • “Accept things as they are that can’t be changed, and enjoy life.”

Action steps: Remember that we can change, and we need to. When one or both spouses have things that need to change in their lives to make the marriage better, it is logical to ask, “Why is this not changing?” or “What do I need to do differently to better my marriage?”

Many things could be preventing change, including denial, laziness, selfishness or just complete obliviousness. If our spouse is refusing to change (not even trying), we must directly let him or her know how much it is hurting us. But after that, it is up to the individual. It’s easy to focus on trying to change the other person rather than changing ourselves. This will never work. We each have a responsibility to better ourselves, no matter what our mate is doing.

Challenge 8: Sex!

One of our married survey respondents simply mentioned “intimacy” as an ongoing challenge within marriage, and that person is not alone. It is a common problem, and it can be an issue that leads to divorce.

Several pastors surveyed mentioned infidelity, pornography addiction and other sexual sins as ongoing challenges married couples have sought counseling for, and which have sometimes led to divorce.

Regular emotional and physical intimacy should be the norm, not the exception.These can occur when godly intimacy is neglected and a spouse looks for love or sexual fulfillment in the wrong places.

One pastor wrote: “Most of the time divorce is caused by adultery or the thoughts and actions that lead to adultery. And to give oneself over to an adulterous attitude, a mate is always going to separate from God through lack of prayer, Bible study, meditation and fasting.”

Action steps: If you are married, connect emotionally and have sex regularly. It sounds ridiculous to have to say it, but when married couples neglect emotional connection and the beautiful gift of sex, then the question is, “Why?”

And there can be many reasons given:

  • The kids are exhausting.
  • I’m not in the mood.
  • I’m just not interested in it that much right now.
  • It’s not always picturesque.
  • We have just been so busy.
  • We’re mad and fighting with each other right now.
  • We have health problems, and it is difficult to have sex.

And on and on the list can go. Some reasons can be valid for a time, but they should not be the norm. Regular emotional and physical intimacy should be the norm, not the exception (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).

Men sometimes don’t understand or attend to all of their wife’s emotional needs, and women sometimes don’t understand or “get” their husband’s sex drives and society’s onslaught of temptation. Women can feel that long periods without sex should have no effect on their husbands, since it may have no physical effect on them. Men usually have affairs because they are looking for more sex and attention, while women often have affairs because they feel like their emotional needs aren’t being met.   

Watching pornography is another monster to be discussed. (You can read more about that uncomfortable topic in our “Freedom From Addiction” article “Pornography.”) But behind every addiction is also some emotional need not being met.

“Ongoing challenges” can become “I’m so glad we’re past that”

Change is possible.

When we notice something is not working and eroding our marriage, we must commit to changing. One of the most satisfying statements a married couple can say about a challenge they have faced is, “I’m so glad we’re past that.” It takes a lot of hard work, humility and patience, but change is possible.

In the last blog post of this series, we will see how decades of unresolved challenges can come calling in the later years of marriage if we are not careful.

Read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 of this series.

Click here to read part 6 of this series: “Happily Ever After . . . We Hope.”

Topics Covered: Relationships, Family, Marriage

About the Author

Eddie and Shannon Foster

Eddie and Shannon Foster

Eddie (a school speech-language pathologist) and Shannon (a former school counselor) Foster are members of the Cincinnati/Dayton, Ohio, congregation of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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