Is a great marriage possible without good sex? That’s a question we never thought we’d have to answer. My wife and I married at ages 18 and 20 and innocently thought our sex life would be just like our honeymoon: effortless and fun. We were good kids in a good marriage, so why wouldn’t that include good sex?
Within the first year, she was pregnant with our first daughter. She started experiencing sharp stabbing pain during intercourse. We assumed it was likely a pregnancy complication. It was too awkward to talk about with anyone else, so we just dealt with it in our own way. That usually meant her avoiding intimate contact altogether and me sulking around trying to guilt trip her into some form of contact that didn’t cause instant pain.
I accepted the compromise because we were both so excited to meet our first child. But, the pregnancy passed and the pain stayed. Then, we had a newborn in the house—which made finding time and energy for sex difficult all by itself—but the pain made it all the more difficult.
That’s how long it stayed. Even after the pain started to subside, the emotional scars remained. We would occasionally have what I insensitively called “real sex.” I’ll be honest with you. Even then, it wasn’t really enjoyable. She was so scared the pain would come back that she would often push me away or her entire body would tense up. I felt like we were a million miles apart emotionally. I honestly believed I was the only man on earth who was going through this, so I turned myself into a martyr.
That was more than 10 years ago. Thank goodness I decided to ditch the martyr role. Honestly, it wasn’t until I learned to love my wife more than I loved sex that our relationship started to heal. I wish I could tell you that everything ended neatly, but that’s not real life. A decade later, we’re still battling the skeletons of the past. But, whenever I remember my role is to love my wife with the unselfish love of Christ, our marriage becomes much more than just good sex. When we love each other like Jesus, we don’t just have a good marriage—we have an unbreakable marriage!
If you’re in a rough place in your marriage, read on. Here’s a list of tips to help your marriage become unbreakable, too.
- Keep the communication lines open. It’s easy to let raw emotions take over instead of talking out the difficult issues. My wife would often roll her eyes and physically turn away when I started a conversation about sex. At the same time, my conversation was always phrased in a way that basically said, “You’re broken and here’s how we’re going to fix you.” This was not helpful at all. Both of you need to feel safe enough to clearly express your desires and your fears without repercussion. Listen closely to your partner and put their needs above yours. If you both do this, there are acceptable compromises within reach.
- Don’t give up. Just because your expectations aren’t being met, that doesn’t give you an excuse to quit your marriage. Our vows included the phrase “for better or for worse, in sickness and in health.” Of course you have no idea what that might mean when you say it, but the vow is still as valid as the day you said it. Just because sex isn’t cooperating right now, doesn’t mean your marriage is broken.
- Don’t look over the fence. Once you start to feel like your sex life is hopeless, it’s easy to start looking outside your marriage for fulfillment. I struggled with pornography. I felt like I needed an escape, and I temporarily found it in the world of porn fiction. This led me to have even more unrealistic expectations of what our sex life should be like. If you’re struggling with porn, get help. Also, don’t share your struggles with members of the opposite sex. You may find a person at church who is empathetic and understanding, but you’re undermining the bond you should share only with your spouse.
- Find help. While sharing your struggles alone with the opposite sex is a very bad idea, sharing together as a couple with someone who can help is vital. We struggled for so long because we were too scared to talk to anyone else about it. Find a counselor or a therapist. If the problem is physical, talk to your doctor. Find someone who is equipped to handle your situation.
No matter how difficult your situation, I promise you it can be better than it is today. Even if sex as you see it will never again be possible, there are ways to find fulfillment and lasting intimacy that are more powerful than a physical pleasure. Talk to each other openly without judgment. Then, work together to find someone you both trust to help counsel you. And, make an appointment to see your doctor. If either of you are struggling with temptation, confess those thoughts and renew your commitment to one another. God has the supernatural ability to make all things new and that includes your sex life. Take your first steps today, and start the healing process.