A few years, ago my husband, Stuart, and I got in a bad fight. A really bad fight. So bad that I started packing my clothes and planned to take our boys and myself to my hometown for a little while to cool off.
I don’t remember the specifics of the fight, but I do remember I felt unheard, uncared for, and hurt.
In no way am I throwing my husband under the bus. Arguments take two people. And Stuart felt unheard, uncared for, and hurt—just as I did. I didn’t end up leaving that night, but we finally came to the mutual decision that our marriage needed help.
For better or for worse, opposites attract
Most everyone has heard the adage, “opposites attract.” And no truer description can be said of my husband and me.
He’s introverted. I’m extroverted.
He’s task-oriented. I’m people-oriented.
He loves sports. I don’t.
I love reading. He doesn’t.
He thinks 15 steps ahead. I hardly know what I’m doing the next day.
He’s a saver. I’m a spender.
He’s logical. I’m emotional.
You get the idea. In many ways, we cover each other’s weaknesses. But have you ever tried communicating with someone who’s opposite from you in almost every way possible? You might as well be speaking a different language.
And we needed a translator. So we found a counselor.
The “C” Word
For a lot of people, counseling (or therapy) is one of those verboten topics you don’t speak of. Only people with “real problems” need counseling. The ones with bipolar disorder or the kind of anxiety where they can’t leave their house. Marriages on the brink of divorce. They’re the ones who need it. Not me. I’m normal.
But “normal” people have issues too. None of us are perfect. We all have imperfections that affect those around us—our spouses, our kids, our friends, ourselves. Counseling is not something to be ashamed of. It means you’re self-aware enough to know you could use some help in figuring things out. In learning new ways to understand and love your spouse. In digging into your past to uncover why you get so angry with your kids for no reason.
Is it uncomfortable? At times. Is it hard? Extremely. But is it worth it? Absolutely.
My parents divorced when I was young, so I began seeing a counselor at an early age. Back then, counseling helped me understand that my parents’ divorce was not my fault. I couldn’t have done anything to keep my parents married.
I continued seeing counselors on and off to make sure I wasn’t letting the pain from my parents’ divorce creep into my other relationships. Sometimes I met with an older, trusted friend or a mentor when I wasn’t seeing a professional.
My husband had never seen a counselor before we got married. He, like many people, believed only people with “real issues” went to counseling. I asked him multiple times if we could go to counseling before we had that big fight. He said he was willing, but he didn’t truly grasp its purpose.
The morning after our fight, he signed us up. He even took the initiative to fill out the multiple-page questionnaire. He knew we needed help. We couldn’t keep speaking in different languages and expect the other to magically understand.
The Best Decision
We have now been in counseling off and on for about three years. And Stuart is the first to tell other husbands, “It was the best decision we ever made for our marriage.” He knows counseling isn’t taboo, it’s a necessity.
In counseling, we’ve learned our fight cycle—the steps taken from the point of misunderstanding to a full-blown fight.” We now know when we disagree, I need space to cool off before we can begin to work through it together. We also know Stuart reacts the opposite: he wants to dive right in and work it out immediately. He’s learned to give me space, and I’ve learned to come back to him to work it out.
He’s also learned I am a verbal processor. If I share an idea, I probably haven’t thought it through all the way. Talking about it is my way of figuring it out. And I’ve learned Stuart is much more detail oriented in problem-solving. So when I have an idea, he asks questions. Previously, I took that as his way of questioning the validity of my thoughts. But really, it’s just his way of helping me see all the aspects. (Most of which I hadn’t processed yet.)
Do I love his questions? Not always. But we’re a work in progress. And his questions are usually good ones.
What does counseling have to do with sex?
Before we went to counseling, Stuart and I misunderstood each other all the time, and we felt like we were walking on eggshells. We spoke different languages and didn’t feel like we could completely be ourselves without being misunderstood. And when you constantly feel misunderstood, unheard, or uncared for by your spouse, vulnerability is difficult.
And sex is one of the most vulnerable things you can do.
If you don’t feel comfortable being vulnerable, sex is probably one of the last things on your mind. I will say, stereotypically, feeling loved, cared for, and accepted is more necessary for a wife to desire sex. Husbands can often ignore the emotional to get to the physical, but not always.
Both spouses should always strive for their partner to feel loved (or respected), understood, and accepted. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5:21-27 (NIV):
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Jesus is selfless with His love. He accepts us fully and loves us without condition. Yes, wives are told to submit to our husbands—something none of us can do perfectly. But this kind of submission comes naturally when we feel loved, accepted, and heard.
In the same way, physical vulnerability is much easier when a wife feels these from her husband—and may even increase her desire for sex. (Which is usually the wish of most husbands!)
Counseling can help spouses understand each other better, which enables them to love each other better. And loving each other better increases the feelings of intimacy and willingness to be vulnerable.
Increased intimacy and vulnerability = a greater desire for sex.
Thanks to marriage counseling, my husband and I have greater understanding, acceptance, and appreciation for the unique aspects each of our personalities brings to our marriage. And with those emotional needs met, we enjoy easier vulnerability and greater intimacy than ever before.
Which is my way of subtly saying—yes, counseling has helped my sex life. And it can help yours too. Stop listening to the voices of shame that hold you back from seeking help.
Your sex life may depend on it.
Copyright © 2021 Jenn Grandlienard. All rights reserved.
Jenn Grandlienard grew up an East Coast Philly girl, but now loves calling the Midwest her home. She lives in Xenia, Ohio with her husband, Stuart, two sons, Knox and Zeke, and pup, Crosby. Jenn and her husband work with Athletes in Action, a ministry of Cru that teaches college athletes what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. She loves to read, work out, laugh really hard with friends, and spend time with her husband and boys. You can check out her blog about all these things and more at OurGrandLife.com. Find her on Instagram at @heyjenngrand and on Facebook.