When You and Your Spouse are on Opposite Sides in the Bedroom

You may have expected sex to just “work” when you got married. Or that married sex would fix your porn problem. Or you may have been afraid sex wouldn’t “work” because of trauma in your past. And if you’ve been married for any length of time, you may also wonder why married sex is such a struggle. It seems you and your spouse are on opposite sides in the bedroom.

Men and women both struggle here, and they struggle a bit differently. The top searches that bring people to our website are, What do I do when my spouse doesn’t want sex? And both husbands and wives ask that.

There are also many married people who wish sex would just go away. You may have felt harmed by sex, objectified, pressured, betrayed, even traumatized. You may feel Scripture has been weaponized against you, or carry a lot of shame around sex, including around married sex.

Things don’t have to stay that way. The enemy works overtime to steal, kill, and destroy in this deep area of human experience. You may have to do work intentionally to move from opposite sides in the bedroom toward building intimacy together, but the effort will be worth it.

Disordered Married Sex

It takes intentional work for two different people with different expectations and experiences to build a healthy mutual God-honoring married sex life. When that doesn’t go well, disordered married sex might look like:

  • Sex being used as a weapon. Either demanding sex or withholding sex as a weapon can push partners apart. If sex is driving you farther apart instead of bringing you closer together, it’s not as God would have it.
  • One partner demands sex and the other gives in out of “obligation” or “duty.” Such a dynamic breeds resentment and deep harm. (Offering sex as a generous gift can be a beautiful part of marriage. But a gift can never be demanded.)
  • Sex is physically or emotionally painful for either partner. Sex must be free of pain if it is to be good. Medical intervention may be needed to address physical issues causing pain, or therapy to address emotional wounds that need healing. Pushing through pain to have sex that hurts is never helpful.
  • It’s not happening. Close to 30% of marriages can be considered “sexless” – where sex is happening not at all or less than once a month. Sometimes medical issues make this a reality, but otherwise it indicates something is unhealthy in the relationship. (And that does not mean you can demand sex from your spouse!)
  • You or your spouse have been sexually discipled by porn. Our pornified culture adds huge challenges to building a healthy married sex life. Almost every assumption porn leads someone to believe is wrong. Those brain templates must be sought out, dismantled, healed, and fought against if married sex is ever to become good.

The important question is to ask is Why married sex is not going well.

What to Do Now

The journey to better married sex can seem difficult. But here are some important steps:

  1. Consider what sex means to you personally. Do you feel entitled to sex when and how you want it? (Hint; that’s not the way of Jesus. Ever.) Did you learn harmful messages about sex and intimacy from family of origin, culture, porn, or perhaps the church? What are you looking for when you want sex (or don’t)?
  2. Seek healing. Every human being has been harmed sexually in some way – some much more than others. Where do you need healing? It might be dealing with past trauma from abuse as a child, or past betrayal. It might be doing the hard work to stop using porn and undo the templates around disordered sex in your mind. Or something else. And this takes as long as it takes.
  3. Work on the relationship. If sex is not going well in marriage it’s almost never just a sex problem. Sex is very diagnostic of the dynamics in a relationship. If there is control and manipulation, abuse, addiction, deep-seated selfishness, power imbalance, unfinished conflict, or similar big issues, sex won’t get better until those are addressed.
  4. Talk about sex. Yes, you can talk about it! One of the most helpful findings from the research of Dr. Michael Sytsma and Shaunti Feldhahn is that couples who regularly talk about sex have a much better sex life. If you can’t talk about sex together, it’s an indication you need some outside help from an expert such as a Christian counselor. Realize what sex does for your husband or your wife, and talk about it.
  5. Bring God into the bedroom. You and your spouse both married sinners. How that works out in the bedroom is a powder-keg for conflict unless and until God intervenes. You need Him to soften both of your hearts and bring you to a place where you seek true intimacy together by serving each other, where both of you experience mutual goodness and connection during sex as well as in all aspects of your marriage.

It Can Get Better

Don’t give up. Seek intimacy. Seek your spouse’s heart – before, during, and after sex. Keep God in the middle of your relationship. And you can move from opposite sides in the bedroom to growing meaningful intimacy.

Your Turn: Where is the conflict in your sex life with your spouse? What are the underlying reasons you’ve been on opposides in the bedroom? What next step are you going to take?  I’d love to see your comments below.

Want more? This week on the podcast I talk with Brad and Marilyn Rhoads about Grace Marriage, and how that affects many aspects of your relationship, including sex. Listen or watch here.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • Being on opposite sides in the bedroom when you’re married doesn’t just happen; it comes from somewhere. And there are things you can do about it. Tweet that.

How’s the Communication in Your Marriage?

Communication is the Number 1 issue couples struggle with. Understanding your Communication Style will be an important step in making your communication more effective. Better communication always leads to improved intimacy.

This brief FREE Communication Personality Assessment will provide you personalized results indicating your communication strengths, communication challenges, and some tips on taking your communication to the next level. You really can experience deeper intimacy and a more loving relationship.

Take the Communication Personality Assessment now!