episode 13

Here is the latest Coffee & Pearls podcast:

Scroll down to read it as a blog post!

I know… talking about sex is a touchy subject.  But that’s one of the reasons it’s such a difficult part of our lives.  If I’m struggling with any other part of my life, I can chat about it with my girlfriends.

“My three year old is being rude to me, how do you deal with that?” 

“I crave ice cream at night, what do you do for a healthy late night fix?”

“My mind wanders when I pray my rosary, how do you work on this?”

We lean on each other and we need to.  God created us to live in community and to support one another.  Being a human is hard!  We need Jesus and friends to make it through.  Well… we really only need Jesus but friends make it so much more bearable!  So I’m throwing this out there to the internet because I wish it was something someone had told me.

Bitterness can ruin your sex life.  

For most of us Catholic moms, having lots of little children or struggling with infertility and practicing Natural Family Planning can really put a damper on one’s sex life.  All of a sudden spontaneity is out the window and it’s more like, “Are we in Phase III, do you have a headache, did anyone poop on you today…” which is spouse talk for, “Do I have a chance to get lucky tonight?”

And it’s not just husbands who miss the way it used to be.  Wives miss it too!

I wish I had lots of energy, I wish I felt sexy at the end of the day, I wish my cycle didn’t comeback at 6 weeks postpartum…

Recently my husband said, “Honey, I think your bitterness is ruining your chances for having a good time.”  And anytime my husband says something like this to me, I feel the urge to stomp my feet, declare him absolutely wrong and pout about how much he “doesn’t get me.”  Fortunately, five years of marriage begins to temper your reactions and teach you that maybe your spouse does know a thing or two about you.  In fact, I’m pretty sure God designed marriage to be one gigantic mirror.

My husband sees me everyday so it’s not surprising that he does know me (and my bad habits) pretty well.  I’ve learned to listen calmly and consider what he says thoughtfully. Now, I may need some time to process what he says by myself or to calm down and sort through the emotions that bubble up when he gentle challenges me about some aspect about myself but ultimately, I usually come around to thinking, “Yeah, he has a point.  I think he’s right and I should work on that.”

So when he suggested that I seemed a little more bitter lately about our sex life and that it was perhaps ruining my chances for having a good one, I sought to examine that.  I had to admit that I did feel bitter.  I felt trapped.  I know how important sex is to a marriage and especially to how my husband feels loved.  And I really do love that guy so much!  But then there are all these obstacles in the way… kids… wonky cycles… a bad case of vaginismus after this last baby.  I can’t drink wine anymore (C’mon God… that one hurts a lot!)

I found myself feeling bitter that when the planets align, we might have an opportunity to have sex and at that point, it almost doesn’t matter how I feel because it comes up so infrequently that I feel like I ought to do it.  Let me be clear, my husband NEVER forces me to have sex.  He doesn’t even give me a big guilt trip about it, which is rather remarkable.  I do this totally to myself.  I feel bad, especially postpartum, when we only get small windows for intimacy amidst larger spans of uncertainty and abstinence.

So here’s kind of how my thought process was going….

“Okay… we’re in Phase III, we can have sex today… maybe I’ll take a bath tonight to relax… nah, the baby is always fussy at night and I can hear her crying from the bath so it’s not relaxing… maybe after she finally goes to sleep… yeah but then I’m so tired, I hate having sex when I’m exhausted… why is this so hard…. why can’t it just be fun and spontaneous like it used to be… where has that spark gone… who gets excited when you have to schedule your intimate life…why did God design marriage to be like this… I shouldn’t have to have sex when I don’t feel like it…. why can he get excited to have sex in 2.3 seconds no matter what else is happening… it’s not fair…”

And so my pity party goes.  It gets worse if it’s been a hard day in any way (I had to clean toilets, one of the kids peed on me, there were more than 10 tantrums… etc.)

But wow, as I look at those thoughts… they sure do smack of bitterness.  I realize that I’m stealing my own joy.  I’m robbing myself of any chance of having a good time.

Instead, I could choose to have a positive outlook.  

“YAY, we’re in Phase III! My poor husband has been a rock star these last thirteen days, I can’t wait to show him how much I love and appreciate him.  I’ll take a bath and put music on so if the baby is fussy, I can’t hear her.  Maybe I’ll use a bath bomb… that always makes me feel special…I’ll light some candles in our room to make it feel new and different… yeah, let’s do this!”

Okay, commence eye rolling.  I know! I sound like a pathetic cheerleader having to psyche myself up to have a good time but you know what, that’s exactly what I have to do.  And somewhere along this “fake it to you make it” train, I start to actually feel excited.  By choosing the positive thoughts, I’m at the very least keeping out the bitter ones and at best actually starting to feel anticipation and warm tinglies.

And at the end of the day, for me, this is marriage.  This is sacrifice.  Instead of dwelling on the perfect night that we probably only get 2 times per year, instead of focusing only on what I want at the expense of having any sex at all, instead of acting like it’s unfair that a man has dedicated his life to loving me and actually wants to have sex with me… I can choose joy.

I can choose to be grateful.  I can choose to squash feelings of bitterness and just say, “Hey bad feelings… get outta here… there’s no place for you inside my head.”

I imagine I’ll be working on my marriage for my whole life so I imagine we’ll always been working on our sex life too.  I wish it was easier to figure it out but I understand why it’s not something we talk about.  Our sex lives are so personal.  Our situations are so different.

And it’s private.  Intimacy between a husband a wife should be private.  I asked my husband to read this before I posted it to make sure he was okay with my sharing this much about us.  But letting go of my bitterness has been so helpful for me and I thought, you know, it just may be helpful for some other mama with little kids.

So there it is.  I’m just tossing it out there.  I hope it helps someone. I wish you all happy marriages and rockin’ sex lives.

P.S. If you want to read some books to help your marriage, here are some I recommend:

The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning by Simcha Fischer

Holy Sex!: A Catholic Guide to Toe-Curling, Mind-Blowing, Infallible Loving

Discovering The Mind Of A Woman: The Key To Becoming A Strong And Irresistible Husband Is…