Professional counselor Debra Fileta offers some helpful advice this week for those who no longer find themselves attracted to their spouse. What does that do to the sexual relationship? How should we respond? Deb combines much real-world experience (working with numerous couples) and biblical insight to offer a workable plan. I hope you enjoy it, and consider ordering the book out of which this excerpt is taken: “Choosing Marriage: Why It Has Start with We > Me.
The following article is an adapted excerpt from Debra Fileta’s brand new book, Choosing Marriage, and is used by permission (Chapter 8, Sex Marks the Spot: From Infatuation to Adoration)
Have you ever felt a lack of physical attraction to your spouse?
I asked that question in a survey of over 1000 married people. I was astounded to find that half admitted struggling with a lack of physical attraction toward their spouse.
The ebbs and flows of physical attraction are a normal part of the marriage experience. And to me, they are not concerning because a good marriage is made up of so much more than the physical. In those moments when physical attraction may find itself on the back burner, what holds a strong marriage together is every other attraction two people have built along the way. The magnetic force of commitment, time, and experience all wrapped up into one can bring a couple together in a way that no one but God could think of.
Maybe some of you are in a stage of life where you have lost sight of the many things that hold you and your spouse together. Maybe you’re struggling to find an attraction, and it’s starting to have an impact on your sexual relationship. I counseled a young man who was having a hard time finding that physical spark toward his wife. He found himself dwelling on the physical attributes she was lacking, comparing her to the other women he would see. I shared with him three big picture themes I address with couples who are dealing with a lack of physical attraction, and I want to share them with you as well.
When it comes to our sexual lives, the things we give our time, our thoughts, and our energy to are what will grow, while the things we neglect to invest in will naturally wither. Our sexual palates are shaped and molded based on what we’ve been exposed to in the past, as well as what we expose ourselves to along the way. The more we fill our minds with junk like pornography and explicit movies and novels, the more we’ll be enslaved to those unrealistic sexual expectations, and in turn, sabotage our most intimate relationships. As it’s often said, junk in equals junk out.
But let me be clear. This is not just about disciplining our minds by saying no to overt trash, but also about learning to discipline our minds even when faced with the day-to-day opportunities for lust and temptation.
As the young man in the story above began to eliminate the bad and concentrate on the good, his attraction toward his wife began to grow anew, and his desire for her began to take shape all over again.
One thing I especially love about the Song of Solomon is the way the couple spends time “concentrating” on the good in each other. Both the lover and the beloved spend verse after verse going back and forth, simply describing in detail the things they love about each other.
Imagine if we apply that same drive and focus, that same “concentration,” to the way we view our spouse? I mean, what would happen if we consistently zoom in on their strengths, talents, and character, and speak them out loud? What if we simply appreciate them for who they are, rather than dwell on who we want them to be? This doesn’t just apply to our physical attraction and sex lives; it applies to every aspect of our marriages. Concentrate on the good, eliminate the bad, and you’ll find your marital connection achieving heights you never imagined.
Another important step toward rekindling physical attraction in marriage is taking inventory of your physical health as a couple. We often apply 1 Corinthians 6:20 (“Honor God with your bodies”) to our spiritual and emotional decisions, but fail to apply it to our physical decisions as well. What we eat and drink as well as how we invest in our physical health and well-being are all decisions that can be used to honor God with our bodies, or not. But not only are we honoring God when we choose to invest in our personal health; we’re honoring our spouse by giving them the best version of ourselves.
This is so much more important than simply trying to achieve a certain weight or a specific clothing size. It’s not about that at all. It’s about health, and wholeness, and learning the discipline of striving to do the best we can with what we’ve been given. Something about taking responsibility for our health in this way is truly appealing and attractive, because it shows we care. Our physical health and well-being are a gift we give to ourselves as well as to our spouse.
It’s important for each one of us to take inventory of where we are with how we care for our bodies and the impact it may be having on our sex lives. A few of us might be able to say we eat well and exercise frequently. But most of us have room for improvement. There’s no better time than the present to take those next steps in getting your physical health to a better place. Work with your spouse to set achievable goals, integrate exercise into your time together, and create healthy menus. Keep each other encouraged and accountable as you move toward a place of honoring both God and each other with how you care for your bodies.
At the end of the day, the best thing you can do for your sexual relationship is to get your heart right. Sometimes in marriage, a lack of attraction has absolutely nothing to do with the person standing before you, and everything to do with your own heart.
Ongoing attraction has far less to do with the desirability of our spouse and far more to do with the condition of our heart.
Maybe you’re holding on to bitterness or resentment. Maybe your spouse is doing something that’s bothering or hurting you, but rather than communicate, you’ve chosen to hold back. Maybe you’ve allowed the seed of unforgiveness to take root in your heart. Maybe your sexual history is creeping its way in and having a negative impact on your intimacy. Or maybe you’re playing the comparison game, holding your spouse up to a measuring stick of something—or someone—else, by which they were never meant to be measured.
Is anything inside of your heart keeping you from feeling a meaningful attraction toward your spouse? If so, it’s time to recognize it, acknowledge it, and then take the necessary steps toward overcoming it. Even in the bedroom, this kind of attitude will be the only thing that can take your sex life from me to we.
From Infatuation to Adoration
On the day of your wedding, you will find yourself at the absolute peak of infatuation. You might find yourself disappointed at the imagery that it’s only downhill from there. But that’s absolutely not what I am saying. The fact that infatuation fades is only disappointing for those of you who believe infatuation is the best of all emotions in marriage. I’m here to tell you that it’s not. Not even close.
If infatuation is fueled by the mystery of the unknown, adoration is fueled by the intimacy of the known.
The best is yet to come. There’s something far more significant than infatuation: adoration. If infatuation is fueled by the mystery of the unknown, adoration is fueled by the intimacy of the known. It’s the beautiful connection between two people who know each other deeply and love each other still. It’s the indescribable feeling of having your heart, mind, spirit, and body on display, yet knowing that you’re loved fiercely. It’s being aware of the flaws within your spouse, yet choosing to love anyway. Adoration isn’t fueled by emotion; it’s fueled by choice. And no matter how exhausted, disappointed, frustrated, or insecure you are, adoration always makes a point of raising the needs of your spouse higher than your own. It always chooses one thing and one thing alone. It always chooses marriage.
My prayer for each of you reading this book today is that God will move you past the superficial emotion of infatuation and challenge you to live in a place of deliberate adoration. And that in the process of bettering your sex lives, you will find something even more valuable: the bettering of your heart.
This article is an adapted excerpt from Debra Fileta’s new book, Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me, and was used by permission. Choosing Marriage is available May 1st, wherever books are sold!
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage: Why It Has To Start With We > Me and True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about love, sex, dating, relationships, and marriage. You may also recognize her voice from her 200+ articles all over the web! She’s the creator of the True Love Dates Blog, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!