Navigating Intimacy and Overcoming Challenges in Marriage: A Q&A Session

Welcome to our latest Q&A podcast session where we delve into your most private and urgent questions about intimacy in marriage. Through real inquiries from our listeners, we’ll explore practical solutions and spiritual insights aimed at enhancing your marital connection. Let’s get started with some of the thoughtful questions you’ve sent in.

Question 1: Overcoming Disappointment in Intimacy

“As newlyweds who were virgins before marriage, my husband and I are learning about intimacy. It’s been challenging, especially since I feel incomplete after sex if I don’t orgasm. My husband tries to help, but mentioned it feels like ‘work,’ which hurt my feelings. How can I help him enjoy this more?”

This isn’t unique to you. Many wives write in wishing their husbands would spend more time on them during sex. There are a few approaches we can take. Let me offer three ideas:

First, it’s actually very normal for women to take 15 – 20 minutes of stimulation to climax. I believe there’s divine design behind this. One theory I have is that women, in general, are so busy taking care of others, this is the one area where they can lie back and be pampered for once and it shouldn’t be short! 

Second, is to take a close look at the story you’re telling yourself in this situation, and see if there’s another way to look at it that is believable to you. The story you’re telling yourself is, “I’m a chore. I’m a burden, and he’s bored. If I just wouldn’t take so long to get there, I’d be more fulfilled.” You’re probably bracing yourself for disappointment before the next sexual encounter.

What are some alternative ways to think about this that are believable to you? Let me give you a few suggestions, but this is something I seriously encourage you to take action by writing out a few alternative stories rather than just take my suggestions:

  • It does take work to bring me to orgasm, and I’m worth it.
  • My husband must be getting tired but he’s still hanging in there. He must love me enough to do this for me.
  • There’s nothing wrong with me for taking 15 – 20 minutes. I’m normal, and this is an opportunity for my husband to learn what it means to pamper his sexy wife
  • My sexual experience matters. It matters that we have good experiences so that we’ll want to keep growing in this way. I think it’s good judgment to advocate for shared mutual pleasure in our sexual relationship, so I’ll keep asking for what I want. 

Ultimately the story you choose to tell yourself will have a big outcome as to how you approach this together as an intimate team.

My third idea is more practical. Sometimes adjusting your typical script so that you go first and he goes second can help a lot. Also give yourself permission to take an active role in your own sexual pleasure during sex. For example, could you spell your husband and take a turn with your own hand if his hand gets tired? Or what if you got in a position where you put some lubricant on the tip of his penis, take his penis in your hand, and used his penis like a paint brush against your own vulva? What about giving his tongue a turn? What about making it a sexy game? There’s also the option of using a vibrator once in a while too. 

Sometimes engaging in sexually arousing conversation while he caresses you can make the 15 – 20 minutes be a joyous time. One husband once told me his wife expressed disappointment that she took “so long” to come. He responded that he isn’t at all disappointed, and wouldn’t want to be denied the pleasure of touching her for any shorter length of time. You can make these times sweet and intimate as you bask in each other’s sexy presence.

Question 2: Adjusting to Changes with Aging

My husband, who is 55, struggles with achieving orgasm unless he stimulates himself. We’re worried about how aging affects our sex life. How can we continue to be intimate?”

I appreciate this question. There’s a lot I don’t know about you or your husband, so I’m making some assumptions with your question. I’m assuming he was once able to achieve orgasm without self stimulation, but now that he’s aged it’s become more difficult for him to get there unless he self stimulates. I’m also assuming you get a lot of pleasure from you being the one that brings him to orgasm with your body.

It is true that as men age, they can expect their penises to cooperate less and less. For some men, it can be very embarrassing and disheartening to see the decline in their sexual functioning in this way. Some marriages go sexless because he is embarrassed about his ability to perform, and starts avoiding sexual encounters. 

Yet there are many couples in their 70s, 80s, and 90s that report having a very active sex life. The ways they have sex may be different from when they were younger, but it’s still a very sexual experience for both people nonetheless.

Your greater question is “how to expand your definition of sex.” Here’s a thought I have for you: when you have sex, is it done with the lights on, with your eyes open, gazing into each other’s countenance? Is sex for you two about something special you’re sharing? What are you communicating nonverbally through the powerful language of sex?

Question 3: Handling Emotional Revelations

“My husband and I are both on a faith deconstruction journey. With it has come some changes in what we each believe. We both were abstinent before marriage and married young. My husband recently expressed regret over not having more sexual experiences before our marriage. This has made me feel inadequate and uncertain about how to process his feelings without feeling hurt. Any advice?”

You’re right that it’s natural to wish for things we don’t have, or sometimes wonder what life would be like if we could live it over again. I wish we were sitting next to each other having a conversation so that I can ask questions and get a better understanding, but I’ll do my best here.

Sometimes when someone we love tells us something that hurts, they’re uncovering something true that we’ve been hiding. I’m suggesting that perhaps the reason why the thought that your husband might have wished for different sexual experiences is because he thinks you’ve been inadequate, and it hurts because there’s a part of you that agrees with him – that perhaps you’ve wondered if you were adequate as well. If you fully believed you weren’t inadequate, then his comment wouldn’t stick like it has. This is just a theory I have, and if you were my coaching client, I would help you, with great compassion, explore this further with you and help you process this. Even if you were open to swinging (which I don’t advocate by the way), it wouldn’t solve the problem of adequacy.

Perhaps another angle we could take is the idea of whether or not we are fully chosen in our marriages. The sad reality in most marriages is that one person chose the other, and the other agreed to be married, but didn’t full-heartedly choose the other person back, if that makes sense. If you were to do your life over again, perhaps you’d choose your husband again, but this new revelation has you questioning if he would have chosen you given what he now knows. Choosing someone whole-heartedly is risky and takes courage. It means a lot to choose another just-as-flawed human being with their own limitations and things that drive you wild. If you think this might be closer to the heart of the matter, I recommend processing this with him.

One more note: as we develop as adults, we all go through the phases of construction, deconstruction, and reconstruction. A friend said that this pattern tends to go in decades, with construction in our young adult 20s, then deconstruction in our 30s and early 40s as we conclude the second half of life. Then we reconstruct something better heading into our 40s and 50s as we begin the second half of life. This is because things that served us in our younger years no longer serve us in our new stages of life. I say all of this to reassure you that things like this coming up for your husband are to be expected. 

Expressing that he wishes he had a more varied sexual history is one thing. What he chooses to do with that revelation is something else. What will he choose going forward? What will you choose? How will you respond? Ultimately this is an invitation for you to dig deeper and better understand yourself and what you believe, and what will serve you better in your most important relationship.

I highly recommend marriage coaching in this situation. There’s so much good that can be accomplished as you have a guide to help you process feelings, ideas, and make sense of the process. A good marriage coach should challenge you to take action and push you to grow in new areas that will serve you better for the future. This is a good time to plug my Get Your Marriage On program, because it’s designed to help and support you in this very process you’re going through.

Question 4: Exploring New Forms of Intimacy During Pregnancy

“I’m pregnant and unable to have intercourse (Doctors orders). How can my partner and I maintain intimacy during this time?”

This is a challenging time, especially with intercourse off the table. Your baby is your highest priority right now. There isn’t a great answer here, because you can’t NOT have sex and have sex at the same time, right?

This will be something you and your husband will need to work out, and realize sometimes in life there’s not going to be an elegant solution to these types of problems. Sometimes you choose the least crappy choice among your crappy options. 

Whatever you choose, I recommend you approach these conversations with compassion and open hearted understanding. I also recommend you make a plan for getting intercourse back on track after the baby arrives rather than letting the no-sex become the new normal and a few years later you wake up realizing you’re in a sexless marriage with tremendous resentment towards each other.

I do want to leave you with a few practical tips that I know other couples have done during this time. They make time for talking, laughing, and playing together. It might look like watching a show you both like, or playing card games on the bed. It might be having a relaxing bath together. It might involve masturbation to relieve sexual tension in a constructive way that moves your marriage forward, not backwards. Sometimes masturbation can be good medicine when handled correctly (no pun intended). What about massages? What about looking into each other’s eyes? What about him brushing and blow drying your hair? There are so many great ways to connect if you push yourself to think creatively here.

Congratulations on your soon-to-arrive baby. Children are awesome. I hope you two can look back to this season of your marriage and realize it’s a time when you’ve learned to dig a little deeper in your commitment towards each other.

Question 5: Addressing Discomfort with Physical Intimacy

My wife is uncomfortable touching and looking at my genital area, although she’s willing to try. How can I help her become more comfortable?”

Thanks for your honest question. I feel for you. This is common, and sometimes it goes the other direction: the husband struggles to touch or look at or get hear his wife’s vulva. 

Please understand first and foremost that this is a problem your wife needs to solve. You can’t solve it for her. Any attempt to try to “fix her” will be an attempt at control, which goes antithetical to intimacy.

If your wife is truly interested in changing this aspect of herself, there are steps she can take. Think about a food that you may have not liked as a child but like now that you’re an adult? For me it’s tomatoes. I think I learned to like tomatoes by eating more of them and growing up about the idea of tomatoes. Frequent exposure to tomatoes, eating a little bit more each time, helps me get to the point where I can enjoy tomatoes in my salad or hamburger. I even grow tomatoes in my garden, and those are soooo different than what they sell in the store!

All of this is to say that she must WANT to want to like touching your penis. If she doesn’t want to, here are your only four options. 

  • Get upset at her, hoping she’ll feel bad enough and cave and touch your penis to make you happy with her again
  • Give up on any desire to have her like your penis more than she does. Fold into her to keep the peace, and probably harbor resentment towards her while doing it
  • Withdraw emotionally from the relationship. If the idea of her not wanting to touch your penis hurts you, no longer put yourself in situations where you might get hurt. You then disinvest in the relationship.
  • Realize how this situation in your marriage is inviting you to grow up in some aspect in your marriage. Is it that you tend to not voice your concerns and play small? Or is it that you tend to go along to keep the peace, and not advocate for what you believe would be good in your marriage? Or are your desires valid in the first place – are you being needy or baby-ish about it? I don’t know the answer here, but there are just some thoughts to consider.

Of those four options, the fourth one is the only real option. It may not be an ideal outcome, but it is the path for growth. I believe sexual issues are invitations for personal growth. It will require you to grow in some aspect yourself, and in turn you’ll be inviting your wife to grow as a result. But you’ll make far more progress by focusing on yourself here first rather than trying to fix her.

Also keep in mind that she might purposefully not want to like your penis, because it gives her the upper hand in the power struggle in your marriage by being the one hedging and holding back. I’m not saying this is the reality in your marriage, but it’s possible. We always assume our spouses have the very best intentions but my experience is that sometimes people take pleasure in doing hurtful things to their spouse while appearing innocent. This is what experts call “normal marital sadism”.

In summary, Action is sexy – not just talk. I really hope you two can have conversations and take action about this and make some meaningful traction here. 

These questions reflect common challenges many couples face, reminding us that intimacy is a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. By facing these challenges together, you can deepen your connection and enrich your relationship. Remember, the path to a fulfilling intimate life is paved with empathy, understanding, and mutual respect. If you need more personalized advice, consider reaching out for professional marriage counseling or coaching.

Thank you for trusting us with your questions. Continue to nurture your marriage and remember that every step forward is a step toward a more fulfilling union. For more insights and support, visit our website and explore our resources designed to help you Get Your Marriage On to a great start.

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<h3>Dan Purcell</h3>

Dan Purcell

Dan and his wife Emily Purcell are the founders of Get Your Marriage On! They are on a mission to strengthen marriages by making lovemaking incredibly fun and deeply connecting. Dan is a sex coach. They are also the creators of the popular Intimately Us and Just Between Us apps that have been downloaded over 750,000 times. They are the host of the popular Get Your Marriage On! podcast with over 1 million listens. In addition to their coaching program, they host romantic retreat getaways for couples, and put on workshops on how to have a great sex life and deeper intimacy.Dan and Emily met in middle school and have been married for over 20 years and have 6 kids. Dan loves cracking dad jokes, running marathons, planning the next creative date night with his sweetheart, and enjoys the magnificent outdoors around their St George home.

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