Robert Hello! my name is Robert Green and this is my lovely wife of 35 years Linda Sue. We are empty nesters of 2 boys. In this picture we just finished flying a couple of Harris hawks outside a castle in Ireland. They were on a year-long backpacking trip to 30 countries and we joined them in Ireland for a week. It was awesome!
Linda We got married on St. Patrick’s Day in 1984.
One of my favorite things about getting married on St Patrick's Day is that I changed my last name to Green!
Robert I'm sure you are wondering who's the guy she married.
As George Costanza once said…these are the remnants of a once proud civilization
I'm smiling big in that pic. Why? Because like any guy, I know the honeymoon is coming. But the start of my married sex life would immediately hit a speed bump.
Linda We got to Maui and headed to the pool. I put oil on like I had always done, but evidently the sun is different in Maui because what normally would have been a tan turned into a major sunburn.
Robert She kinda looked like this. I had to rub aloe vera on her but yet I could not touch her if you know what I mean. After her fever broke we had a great time!
Our only claims to fame is that I'm a graduate of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of 1982, and for 4 years Linda held the career record for free throw percentage at the University of Louisiana in Monroe. Yes, Linda is a minor celebrity.
It's our privilege to work with a lot of couples in marriage ministry at Watermark, and we are seeing more and more couples who struggle sexually. We know this can be an area of significant pain and please know that you CAN find healing. Tonight, for the first part of our talk, we want to talk about one very specific scenario: where one spouse has a higher sex drive than the other.
Linda We'd like to start by sharing our own story in this area, then share with you some things that helped us.
I grew up in a Christian home and came to a saving faith in Jesus when I was 9. My parents modeled love and affection toward each other and taught me that sex was “God's gift and His design for couples to enjoy in marriage”. I never got the “sex talk” but in their defense, they felt I probably learned all I needed when I walked in on them at age 6.
I belonged to Jesus, but I had a rebellious heart and spent the first 22 years of my life pursuing the things of this world - especially in my college years where my poor choices led to inappropriate relationships, heartache, guilt and shame.
But God, in His mercy pursued me through it all and turned my rebellious heart back to Him. He put a new desire in my heart – to walk in His ways. God has declared me blameless because Christ's shed blood on the cross has covered my sins. Although I battled thoughts of guilt and shame over the years, I was able to fight that battle with truth - that I am forgiven and a precious daughter of the King who delights in me and loves me with unfailing love. And by his grace I was able to go into marriage experiencing freedom in the area of sex.
Be Encouraged! We have a God who rescues redeems heals and restores. He is able to do so much more than you can imagine or hope.
Robert I also placed my faith in Jesus at an early age. I remained a virgin until we married but had plenty of sexual promiscuity, especially in high school.
I learned about sex primarily from culture. In my church we were taught to stay away from sex because only bad things can happen until you get married. As a first born I complied but it was a daily struggle against my hormones that often resulted in masturbation.
I couldn't wait to have "legal sex" but I was not really looking to get married until I met Linda in 1982. After she beat me in a free throw shooting contest I knew she was The One and we married 18 months after meeting.
This kicked off [Phase 1] in our sex drive story. To be honest with you, this talk started on a napkin at a restaurant. We started drawing on the napkin a picture of our journey, which you now see in this chart. It's a little corny but we think it will help convey the story.
Linda The pink line depicts my sex drive and the blue line Robert's. During Phase 1 we had a robust sex life where our desires were in sync.
As young marrieds we were in a church where sex was never really talked about, so our own experiences were our guide and we were having fun. It never really dawned on us that couples struggled with sex.
In 2008 we entered [Phase 2]. This is when menopause hit and I wasn't sure what was going on. I couldn't sleep, think, had no energy and my sex drive disappeared, and I didn't know how to handle it. I didn't want to hurt Robert so I tried to avoid situations that might trigger his desire, like undressing in front of him.
I was working with my doctor and trying different natural remedies but nothing seemed to be helping. And then it felt like everything came crashing down when my dad died suddenly. I was very close to him – his only daughter and we shared the same birthday. I found myself overwhelmed with grief while dealing with the menopause stuff.
Robert During this time Linda was sometimes avoiding me (which made her feel bad) and I didn't really know why, and neither did she. We were not quite sure what to do. So I started adjusting my expectations. While I was frustrated by it I knew she was grieving the loss of her dad and I hoped she would snap out of it.
I hit 50 during this phase and started seeing the effects of mid-life, including a decrease in my sex drive. In some respects this was a blessing because it helped me to lower my expectations regarding frequency.
But during Phase 2 we were not in a desert. There were plenty of times of passion, just not with the frequency we had once enjoyed. For example, on our 25th anniversary we had a fun time in Car #23 on the mile-long Whistler gondola!
Linda Hey, at least we showed the restraint to skip #22, which was the glass bottom car.
Robert When we give this talk we often get the question: how long is the ride?
Linda A couple of things happened in 2010 that led us to [Phase 3].
First, I decided to try hormone replacement therapy. After trying a few options, I found a combination that did wonders for my energy and sex drive. You can see from the chart that every time I receive a treatment, which is a few times a year, it has an immediate impact on my sex drive.
Second, I attended a Bible study program that taught me how to memorize scripture, meditate on His Word, journal and pray, which helped me grow in my dependence on God.
Which was critical for me because when our sex drives flipped there were occasions when Robert didn't seem to desire me, and I would start to believe lies, like I was undesirable, and I would question my body image. But because of my time in God's word, I had the tools to fight these lies. I was reminded that what God tells me is true: that I'm made in His image, and that He loves me.
RobertToday, I can tell you that our sex life is better than ever. Yes, there are times when we are not as in-sync as we once were, but because we have each had seasons of being on the high and low side, we better understand each other and have more compassion for each other.
So we would like to leave you with 4 things that we learned through this journey. These were very helpful to us, and we've seen them be helpful to others. We believe these 4 things apply whether you are age 27, 47, 67 or anywhere in between.
We had to learn how to talk about this. And so must you. I TOTALLY understand how awkward this can be for many of you in this room. But this is important. Really important. If you personally are struggling in the area of sex, you must tell your spouse. Even if you do not know what is happening, which was often our case, it will be helpful to let your spouse into your struggle. By not discussing it you open the door to misunderstandings between you. AND, you actually deny your spouse the opportunity to love you if you keep it to yourself.
[Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.]
Linda When Robert wanted to talk about this topic, I would often take it personally. So if your spouse comes to you and wants to discuss this topic, listen compassionately and with an open mind. Hear their point of view. It surprised us how often one of us would be reluctant to discuss this topic yet the other was thinking almost the exact same thing! Each time we talked about sex, it became easier to discuss the next time.
We have also learned that as awkward as it is, it's important to communicate what you like sexually. It was hard for me to share what I liked. Robert helped me understand that I wasn't being selfish, because it was important to him to please me. In a marriage where both spouses are focused on serving each other, this is actually a way to love each other.
Robert 2. Don't pressure
This point is primarily for the spouse with the higher drive.
When Linda hit menopause and her desire changed dramatically, I quickly learned that pressuring her for sex was not a good idea. I tried to ask nicely, like "Feeling frisky TODAY?", but that would often make her feel guilty and put a damper on the evening. Another tip: if she's crying and you are comforting her, don't try to turn that into a sexual encounter.
Look at Paul's words in Philippians 2:
[Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.]
So, we are called to mutually serve one another. Pressuring your spouse to meet your needs is not "serving" them. We have found that a better way is to go back to #1 and discuss this in a way that honors your spouse.
Linda There were times when I found myself frustrated. That's when expressing those frustrations to God, asking him to change my heart, and allowing him to work in me made a difference. I found that my focus would change away from my needs.
One of the things that helped me a lot was trying to see the situation through Robert's eyes, so think for a moment about what you would do if your sex drives flipped. If you became the one on the low side, would you be encouraged if your spouse related to you the way that you are relating to them now? If not, what will you do to change that?
Robert 3. Don't withhold
This point is primarily for the spouse with the lower drive. This is the spouse that is in the position of power. When my desire is lower, I control the frequency with which we have sex. So how is a Christian in power supposed to act towards those under them? Consider the words of Jesus:
[Mark 10:42-44 – Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all."]
I am to serve, and that includes my spouse. Remember, your spouse does not have another sexual outlet. You are it.
Some spouses do not understand how much of a physical need sex is for their spouse. Paul understood this when he counseled couples in Corinth:
[1 Corinthians 7:3-5 – The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. The wife gives authority over her body to her husband, and the husband gives authority over his body to his wife. Do not deprive each other of sexual relations, unless you both agree to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so you can give yourselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, you should come together again so that Satan won’t be able to tempt you because of your lack of self-control.]
Linda When we marry we give our bodies as a gift to our spouse. And It's important that we don't take that gift back - even when the demands of life get hard. You might be worn out from a day at work, or caring for an elderly parent.
When I was exhausted from nursing babies, caring for toddlers, the teenage years or the craziness of menopause – sex was the last thing on my mind but that's where sex starts.
Scripture has really helped to change my thinking. When negative thoughts like “I don't want to have sex” come into my mind I try to apply 2 Corinthians 10:5:
[We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…]
When I surrender that thought to God, he will replace it with a desire to serve my spouse. I must choose to change my attitude and give unselfishly and allow God to work change, then I can focus on ways to make sex work, which means I might need to get creative.
For example, scheduling a time for sex. A quickie works great. When intercourse is not an option, there are plenty of other ways to pleasure your spouse!
Robert 4. Share
If you are struggling, it is wise to bring others into the conversation. This may be very difficult – it's hard enough to share with your spouse much less others! At our church the first place would normally be your small group members, guys with guys and girls with girls. Let them be the ones to help you decide the next steps to take. If you are not in a small group in your church, we highly recommend that you find a church that can be a safe place to discuss this.
[Proverbs 15:22 – Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.]
It will be helpful to have others around you because this can be complicated.
Linda Our sexual desire can be affected in many ways. Sometimes there is physical pain involved in sex and that needs to be shared with a doctor. It could also be a medical issue, so a next step might be to consult a medical professional. For me, hormone replacement therapy obviously made a big difference.
It could be something spiritual - because our spiritual life is so closely tied to our sex life. Are you trusting the Lord with everything, including your sex life? As you share this struggle with your group, ask them if they see any areas of your life where you could be struggling to submit and trust the Lord.
If sexual abuse is part of your story, there are ministries that can help. Don't suffer in silence. And if you are involved in porn, we beg you to seek help because it will impact your intimacy greatly.
Robert So to summarize the talk so far, Communicate | Don't Pressure | Don't Withhold | Share. Or, put another way, Communicate, Serve, and Share. We want to be crystal clear about one thing: you should leave here with a desire to better serve your spouse. Guys, if all you heard tonight is that your wife should not withhold sex, you have totally missed the point. Ladies, if all you heard tonight is that your husband should stop pressuring you for sex, you have missed the point. You MUST talk about this and come to a place where you are serving one another.
And please understand: if you make changes based on what you heard tonight, and things do not improve immediately, don't be discouraged! This may take time. That's why you need some friends around you to help encourage you on the journey.
My friends, God wants us to enjoy this incredible gift of sex. In case there's any doubt, realize that he dedicated an entire book in the Bible (Song of Solomon) to this topic!
Linda You can also visit the re|engage website to find some really helpful resources. Go to: [MarriageHelp.org/Sexual-Intimacy]
One of the resources mentioned on the site is a book called "Intimate Issues" by Linda Dillow and Elaine Pintus. It is a handbook to help you transform your sexual attitudes and enhance your sexual relationship. I recently led a group of women through it and I highly recommend it!
Robert We recognize in a crowd of this size there is bound to be some couples struggling in their relationship, perhaps specifically in the area of sex, and the thought of physical intimacy is a world away. Don't feel any pressure to leave here tonight and have sex or act like you have it all together in this area. We encourage you to simply get started talking about it.
If you would like help navigating how to talk about this with your spouse, or have questions about anything we've discussed, your leader would love to help.
Thank you for letting us share tonight!