This was first published on KSL.com
I grew up in a very religious household and I think it’s created a problem with shame and therefore desire for sex. I simply could care less about it now, which obviously doesn't work in my marriage, so I have a very frustrated husband. I honestly wish I could get into it and make my husband happy, but I’d much rather relax, read or watch TV. Do you have any advice? How does one change that?
You are not alone on this one. Unfortunately, when it comes to intimacy, many people are not having the experience they wanted or thought they would have. For many intimacy has become a source of stress, shame, disappointment, performance anxiety, discomfort or conflict, and with this much fear-based energy around it, who would want more? Many women also find shame around sexuality has also dampened their enthusiasm.
Whether you are in a new relationship or have been married for a long time, these issues (coming from either your mindset or your physiology) can ruin the connection and enjoyment. If you suspect your problem might be physiological make an appointment with your doctor to talk about your hormones, menopause, medication you are taking, or other factors that affect libido, also talk to a doctor if you experience discomfort.
If your issues are more about mindset, subconscious shame or that sex has become a source of stress, disappointment, anxiety or conflict in your marriage – there are many things you can do to change this. Here are four ideas to start changing your mindset:
1. Change Your Shame Mindset around Sexuality:
The world we live in offers plenty of opportunities to feel shame around intimacy. Many grew up hearing sexuality was bad and dirty, so the whole thing has a negative energy around it. The battle with pornography and sex trafficking in our world today, has brought increased shame for some men around even having sexual desire. Some tell us they feel their natural desire for intimacy casts them as perverted or bad. They mistakenly carry shame around any desire, even a pure and loving desire for more enjoyable or interesting intimacy with their spouses, even though they are wired exactly as they are supposed to be. We are all, of course, accountable for our choices and where we go to fulfill those desires, but our natural desire for intimate contact and connection is nothing to be ashamed of.
Many women were taught as girls to suppress their sexuality completely and see it as dirty and bad, because good girls don’t do that. Then, they get married and are immediately expected to find it, turn it back on, and be comfortable with it. This is unrealistic. Subconscious programming around intimacy can be changed but it can take work and commitment to do it. There is a Subconscious Intimacy Exercise on my website that could get you started on changing some of these shame mindsets.
Some people also experienced sexual abuse as a child (1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys have) and these experiences can skew subconscious mindsets and feelings around sex. Many need professional help and must do some serious work around sexuality to feel differently. Don't be ashamed to seek out help, it is never too late to process past experiences and heal them.
2. Get rid of Stress, Fear and Performance Anxiety:
Shame around sexuality can also bring fear of failure into the mix. You may have fear of failure around your appearance or gaining weight as you age. You could have fear of failure around performance anxiety or not meeting expectations. This can lead to embarrassment, frustration and disconnection. All of these can create a place where sex is more about fear than love.
Both of you must learn to hold space for each other without any expectations or disappointments. Let each partner's experience be whatever it is and perfect for today. Intimacy should just be about enjoying each other, connecting and relaxing. It is a classroom on love and connection not a test of performance.
Men you do not have to be Antonio Banderas, and know every move in the bedroom to make your wife feel amazing and relaxed. Women don’t have to be a Victoria’s Secret super model to make their husbands feel loved and wanted. All you need is to show up with a willingness to give and receive love and touch.
Women, also remember what men really want is to be wanted by the woman they love. They don’t care how perfect your body is, they only care about how much you want them and love being with them. When you can get out of your own self-esteem fears and focus on giving love and attention, you will enjoy the experience more.
Then, also let your spouse give to you and show his love for you exactly as you are. Receiving love is often more difficult, than giving love. Your conscious and subconscious fears of not being good enough may say you don’t deserve it. This can block you from receiving and create a wall of resistance that makes it hard to enjoy intimacy. If this is an issue with you, again, please download the Subconscious Intimacy Exercise and practice getting in a receiving mindset.
It would help if you will practice receiving in other areas of your life too. Allow your husband to spend money on you without feeling guilty. Allow your neighbor to watch your kids so you get a break (without feeling guilty). Small exercises like this shift your mindset to one where you deserve to have your needs met.
3. Eliminate Disappointment by Dropping Expectations:
The biggest poison in a marriage, around intimacy, is disappointment. The minute you feel either disappointed in your spouse or (even worse) a disappointment to your spouse – fears of loss and failure take over and drive the love out of the experience. Love cannot happen where there is fear.
To fix this you must drop your expectations and let whatever happens be perfect. Many of us have false expectations because of TV, movies or pornography, but intimacy in the real world never happens like it does on the silver screen.
It is usually somewhat awkward, clumsy, messy and even funny at times. Let go of any expectations around what it should look like and just focus on the joy of touch. Make sure your spouse feels successful every time and tell them often how wonderful they are, no matter what happens, because you had no expectation beyond being together, holding each other and showing up with love.
(If there has been disappointment, guilt, shame and failure in the past, you may need to apologize to your spouse for that. Promise to drop all your expectations moving forward and expect nothing but connection and gratitude for each other.)
4. Eliminate Conflict by Making the Less Interested Person in Charge of Initiating:
Make sure intimacy does not become transactional or more about one person’s needs than the other’s. It should not be about getting what you want, it should be about giving to them with no strings attached.
If you are in a negative cycle of the same person always asking or wanting sex, and the other rejecting and not interested, switch it up. Make the less interested person in charge of initiating intimacy on frequent basis. This means initiating intimacy often and making the more interested partner feels wanted, while the more interested partner should be in charge of making the other feel adored, loved, admired whether they initiate today or not.
There cannot be a transaction here. You don’t do the dishes, so she will initiate later. Instead you just serve and give, asking nothing in return, and trust your spouse to show love and want to be with you. This allows you both to create an authentic love experience where positive energy is created around intimacy.
(If you try this and it doesn't work and the less interested partner doesn't intiate, which means there is no intimacy, there are other issues in play and you may need to get some professional counseling or coaching to deal with other issues.)
Because you said you are the less interested spouse, make sure you are seeing intimacy as a chance to relax and feel wonderful with your spouse, not a chore you must do.
Imagine the way you might look forward to a great massage and transfer those same feelings to how you feel about being intimate. If you had the chance to get a massage every night before bed, wouldn’t you what that? Tell your spouse what you need to make intimacy that kind of relaxing, amazing experience for you.
If this part of your relationship is still complicated with fear, lack, scarcity, and negative energy, consider getting some professional help. We offer regular Marriage Mastery Retreats or Couples Coaching to work on the dynamics of fear of failure and loss in your relationship. This is much different than marriage counseling and is very effective for some people.
You can do this.
This was first published on KSL.com
The question you wrote about last week might as well be about the two of us. My husband and I both come from dysfunctional families and didn’t learn how to do relationships the right way. We seem to constantly disappoint and frustrate each other, and we are fighting way too often. He is never happy with our intimacy, and I never feel my needs are important, and sex is one more chore. How can we learn to have a healthy relationship if we’ve never seen one?
Unfortunately, most of us grew up watching parents who didn’t know how to do relationships right, and they couldn’t teach us what they didn’t know. So most of us need some tools and skills to improve our marriages. The good news is, it is never too late to start educating yourself and doing things differently.
Almost all the people we work with say the same thing about their marriage. They don’t feel their needs are getting met. They usually feel unloved, unappreciated and unwanted. The interesting part is both partners, in the same marriage, say the same thing. They both feel unloved, yet they can’t seem to find a way to give love to each other.
We believe the problem is twofold: 1) Your fears make you incapable of giving real love to your spouse because they keep you focused on what you need, and 2) Your subconscious projections are in the way of you seeing what your spouse needs. Projections are the way you see the world through the lens of what your past experiences have taught you. This is not wrong, but these perspectives are not necessarily accurate or effective, either. They also mean you might have a tendency to love your spouse the way you want to be loved or were taught to love, not as your spouse needs or wants to be loved. You also may not know what you need to feel loved, or how to ask for what you need.
Your first job is to have awareness about these issues, figure out your core fears and values (and what makes you feel loved and safe) and accept the challenge to continually work on them, which is your main responsibility in creating a healthy relationship.
Here is a checklist for men and women with general guidelines of how to love your spouse the way they want or need to be loved:
Join us for a Marriage Master Retreat in April.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
I have read your articles for years and have been doing everything I can to show my wife I love her. I help her more around the house and with the kids, yet I’m still not getting attention and love back. She is still not interested in intimacy and acts like being with me is the last thing on her list. No matter how much I explain what I need from her back, she seems unwilling to give it to me or care. What do I do if I have really tried to change but she isn’t?
Here are my best tips for working on your marriage:
Get some clarity on whether this marriage is still your perfect classroom (and there are lessons you are still supposed to learn here) or if your perfect classroom is to get strong enough to leave it.
You must know this, so you will be committed to making it work, if your gut says to stay. You are also the only person entitled to know what your perfect path is. You may need to do some soul-searching and find your truth around this. I am going to assume the answer for you is to stay and keep trying to fix it. There will probably be comments on this article, though, telling you to leave. Ignore them because they aren’t entitled to know what’s right for you. Only you are.
Remember life is a classroom, and every experience (without exception) is here to teach you something.
All of us tend to marry the person who will be our greatest teacher. We marry someone who will push our buttons and trigger our core fears better than anyone else, so our fears and worst behavior come to the surface, where we can work on them. Ask yourself what behavior you exhibit at your worst. Does it usually happen at home? What do you think you are supposed to learn about eliminating your worst behavior?
If you get needy and complain when you don’t get treated the way you expect, that is your lesson to be better, as much as it is your wife’s. She should learn to be more loving toward you, but you may need to learn how to get away from your selfish focus on your needs and figure out how to love a human being that disappoints you. Anyone you marry will disappoint you to some degree. We are all flawed, selfish, scared, struggling students in the classroom of life, with the exact same value. Focus your attention on the ways your marriage could make you better.
Avoid (at all costs) coming from a high-horse position as the good person, casting your spouse as the bad one.
There are no good people or bad people here, and no one is solely responsible for the problems in your marriage. You both have growth to do. Check yourself often to make sure your ego isn’t in blame mode. If you show up as the good one and cast her as the problem, she will feel this, and everything you say and do will make her resent you and pull away even more.
Are you giving with strings attached?
Are you helping around the house and with the kids, only because you expect her to give you intimacy later that night? If you are, you are helping her with a selfish agenda that is all about you, and she knows this. Therefore, your gifts of service are really about getting what you want, not serving her. In order for your service to make her love you more and want to give to you, the gifts of service must truly be about her with no expectations attached.
You can’t fake this, by the way. You must truly be unselfish and focused on serving her. Down the road, if you consistently show up with real love, and it doesn’t ever turn her around so she gives back to you, you can decide if this marriage is not working for you. For now, give for her, not for you.
Figure out your core fear and core value system.
Check out the chart on our website to identify your core value system. Do you value time with people, tasks and getting things done, physical things, or ideas and opinions most? If you are a people-focused person, you value intimacy and quality time most. If you are a task-focused person, you value getting things done around the house most. It’s important you understand your currency and love language, so you know what love looks like to you.
Even more important, you need to understand your core fear. Do you have fear of loss and like to be the one in control, or often feel mistreated or taken from? Or do you have fear of failure and often feel unappreciated or unwanted? Whichever you tend toward becomes the core of almost every fight you have with your spouse. We do Marriage Mastery retreats where we help you see how you are showing up and causing conflicts in your relationship and how to really show up with more love for your spouse. This helps both spouses to see how to be your best in the marriage.
Once you know your fears and values, the question is, are you living the golden rule or the platinum rule?
The platinum rule says to love your neighbors the way they want to be loved. You must figure out her currency (core values), so you know how she wants to be loved first. You may think your wife wants acts of service, so you are helping around the house, while her real values may be more about validating her ideas and beliefs about how things should be done correctly. She may not appreciate the service because you aren't doing it the way she believes is right. Spend the time or get some professional help to understand your spouse and what she values at the core level.
Understand her core fear and become the cure to it.
Does your wife fear failure? Is she afraid she isn’t good enough, or does she fear loss and needs control to feel safe? This core fear is the primary driver of her behavior. Most of the choices she makes about where she spends time and energy are made based on what would quiet her core fear best in this moment. Once you get this, you can (and should) be the cure to her core fear. If she is afraid she isn’t good enough, and she is trying to cure this fear by being the perfect mom and housekeeper, then you should not only help around the house but, more importantly, you should tell her constantly she is an amazing mom, wife, woman and housekeeper. Tell her you love her dedication to being a great mom. This will contrast with what you might have been doing, which is complaining she doesn’t give enough time and attention to you — which increases her fear of failure.
I cannot tell you how powerful it is when you become the cure to your spouse’s core fear. This is the way to make her feel loved and safe, which makes her genuinely want to spend more time with and on you. People adore and appreciate anyone who makes them feel safe, valuable and amazing.
There are some people who won’t respond to even the best treatment, and you may find down the road your spouse is one of them. However, usually a greater understanding of how she thinks, what she fears and what she values could change the dynamic of your relationship. Don’t give up, and download the Understanding your Marriage Worksheet on my website to help you see your marriage and the fear dynamics more accurately.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a life coach, speaker and people skills expert.
My husband started to have a friendship with a woman, and last week he went out to see her. He promised me I didn’t have anything to worry about, but after knowing someone for so long, I could tell he wasn’t telling me the truth. He looked me in the eyes and promised me nothing happened. He even got mad at me for questioning him. The next day I pressured him a little more, and he tells me he made out with this woman in her car. I read your article, and you said “staying mad doesn’t protect you from further mistreatment.” But how does it not? How am I supposed to be able to trust him again if I am not with him, and he goes out on his own? How can I make myself trust someone that so easily looked into my eyes and lied and, not only that, promised me, and got mad at me for even questioning it? I don’t want to leave this marriage; that doesn’t feel right, but I don’t want to distrust him either. Help!
You are probably going to get comments on this article that say you should leave him, and that might be the right answer here, but remember you are the only one entitled to know what is right for you. For now, it sounds like your gut is saying you should stay though and work on the marriage, so this advice is directed to someone who wants to rekindle the flame and make their marriage work.
If you want to repair your marriage, staying mad and distrustful is not going to give you the security and peace you want. Not trusting him is also not going to create a great marriage that makes you feel loved and wanted either. In my article two weeks ago about getting more of your spouse’s attention, I urged you to figure out what outcome you really want.
If you don’t take the time to figure out what you want, in any situation, you might accidentally behave in a way that creates the opposite of what you want. Once you know what you want, you can choose behavior most likely to create that.
You probably want, more than anything, to feel secure about your spouse’s love and loyalty toward you. The question is, what behavior is most likely to create that? (There is a Clarity Questions worksheet on my website that could help you figure this out.)
Let’s look first at what won’t create love and loyalty: Suspicion, checking his phone and social media accounts, asking incessant questions about where he is and what he does, and being withdrawn, angry or bitter. No fear-based response is going to create love.
Did you get that?
No fear-based response, born of protecting oneself, is going to create more love in a relationship.
Fear-based behavior is always going to damage connections and put a larger wedge between you. The more you second-guess him and check up on him, the more he is going to pull away. If you want him to draw closer to you, you must encourage him to want to do so by being positive and loving. If you want to create more love in your marriage, you must put more love into it. You must be validating, reassuring, admiring, appreciating and giving toward your spouse.
This is not easy to do, though, when you feel hurt and betrayed, but you must try because it’s a universal law — you get what you give. If you give resentment and fear, you will get the same back. If you give distrust, you create a relationship where no one feels safe. But if you were to focus all your energy on making your spouse feel loved, you are more likely to get that back. If you focus every day on appreciating, validating and reassuring your spouse, you will feel more appreciated and safe. (If this doesn't work, then your spouse isn't really in it and commited — and this will become clear pretty fast.)
Of course, this doesn’t mean you put up with infidelity and look the other way, either. You should let him know if it happens, again, you will leave the relationship because you deserve to be treated better.
Let him know you are going to make the choice to forgive him this time, though, and pour positive love into the relationship because you want to heal it. If he is willing to recommit and get professional help, you are willing to stay. This must be a firm boundary, and you must be ready to walk if it happens again. He must know you are serious. If he thinks you won’t leave, he will not be as motivated to change. We teach people how to treat us by the behavior we allow. Let him know you love yourself too much to allow that kind of behavior, again.
Here are some things you can do to create more love and security in your marriage:
1) Work on your self-esteem. You are responsible for how YOU feel about YOU. Do not make your spouse responsible for your self-worth and expect that person to keep your bucket full. Get professional help, if necessary, to know your value, and don’t let anyone diminish it. Your spouse will feel this confidence in you and will see you as valuable, too. If you know you’re a catch, your spouse will see you as one.
2) Figure out your spouse’s love language, and love that way. Make sure your spouse feels appreciated, admired, respected and wanted daily. What does your spouse value and care about? If it's a clean house, help with that. If it's physical touch or quality time, make sure you give that. If you are not willing to invest at this level in the relationship, you aren’t really in it.
3) Instead of checking your spouse's phone or social media for inappropriate texts or websites, fill the phone with love notes, playful flirting and fun from you. Be the one that blows up the phone with validating emails, texts and “I want you” messages. The best way to ensure your spouse doesn’t stray is to be so much fun that the desire to stray isn't there. If you have trouble showing this kind of love, own that, and do some work to learn how. You aren't responsible for your spouse's choice to cheat, but pouring effort into the relationship makes cheating less likely.
4) Have fun together. Plan fun dates, travel, find hobbies to do together and create exciting moments as a couple. Be the one your spouse is making out with in the car. Make it fun and exciting to be married to you, and you will have nothing to fear.
5) Get professional help. Don’t wait until your marriage is on the brink of divorce to work on it. Constantly invest in classes, retreats and counseling or coaching to improve your relationship and keep it healthy. We have a Marriage Mastery Retreat coming up that will provide this kind of relationship "upskilling." You will leave with a guidebook about creating a thriving relationship with your unique personalities and dynamics. We will show you exactly how to fix the underlying problem.
Listen to your heart on whether this relationship can and should be saved. If your gut says your spouse is going to do it, again, or if he refuses to get professional marriage help, you may consider being strong enough to leave. If your gut says the marriage can and should be saved, commit to a love-motivated course, and make him so happy he wouldn’t want to lose you.
You can do this.
Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com and a speaker and author. Access all of her past article on marriage through her new app Get Clarity on your app store.
FOR MORE FREE
Coaching is less expensive than you think - If you need help we can find you a coach you can afford.
Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.