Sexual Atrophy


I use sticky notes quite a bit.  I get ideas for this blog, and I’ll use them. There’s one that has been stuck to the surface of my desk for a month.  It has two words at the top…one specifically that I haven’t been able to let go of.


Photo Feb 28, 10 09 52 AM
My Sticky Note

It  was 2005 and I had torn my rotator cuff in a softball game. Post surgery, I found myself meeting with my physical therapist. It’s there I heard this word, that perhaps, I had never really thought of.  It’s a word I need to blog about.

Atrophy [a-truh-fee] a wasting away of the body or of an organ or part, as from defective nutrition or nerve damage; degeneration, decline, or decrease, as from disuse

My left shoulder and arm had a significant difference from the right.  Because of my pain, I really hadn’t taken the time to examine my shoulder. I just kept it covered. I had a hard time looking at the damage (I can deal with other people injuries but not mine). My PT went on to explain because of the pain, the damage, the lack of usage, and the procedure, atrophy has set in.  Before I could reply, she warned me if I didn’t take the necessary steps (physical therapy) to get the strength back, the shoulder would never return to full range of motion (full health).

This month, we’ve been blogging on the subject of sex. I’m wondering if there are couples that are dealing with “Sexual Atrophy”: a deterioration of intimacy, desire, and affection.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says,“Live happily with the woman you love through all days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.”

Simply said, the Lord desires you to live happily with your spouse.  And yes, it includes sexual pleasure as well. Sex wasn’t meant just to be JUST enjoyed during the honeymoon phase.  It’s meant to be enjoyed through all the days of your lives together.

When comparing with my previous experience with “atrophy” it’s caused me to see some parallels with what can lead to “Sexual Atrophy.” I’ve used the signs of physical atrophy to help show atrophy in our intimacy.

1 – “You haven’t noticed” any sexual atrophy. There’s no desire to check for health and/or change because you’re fine with where you are at regardless of how your spouse feels.
2 – Current “pain” (hurt, frustration, bitterness) has caused atrophy.  You tend to steer away from the subject with your spouse because you don’t want another fight. Perhaps you just don’t want to let go of the pain. Perhaps the pain has become a safe place.
3 – “Lack of activity” is destructive.  You may be fine with little to no sex.  How does you spouse feel? Are their needs being ignored. In many marriages, there’s usually one person that has a greater sex-drive than the other.  I’ll say this, I’ve never dealt with a marriage who had issues with too much intimacy.
4 – “Previous pains”/damages have led to atrophy. We carry our past into our marriage.  Sometimes couples go thought atrophy because there was previous pain that wasn’t dealt with.  Now it’s been carried into the bed.  That pain has built a blockade that is preventing affection.
5 – There is a “fear of correcting the hurt”.  Perhaps previous attempts to fix it have failed.  Maybe you feel like you will be working alone in it. Perhaps you know the problem lies within you and you don’t want to admit it.

No matter what is causing the atrophy, you need to heed the same advice I was given: Take the necessary steps to bring the health back.  I’m not saying that you’ll be back in “honeymoon” form (even though that’s not a bad thing so I won’t discourage it). What I am saying is this TRUTH:

The choice to live with “sexual atrophy” is damaging to the oneness of your marriage. 

Here are some necessary steps to help bring the health back: 

1 – Prayer. Most people wouldn’t think that prayer and sex go together. I can’t say it’s foreplay that will get the motor revving. I will say, it will put your heart in the right direction. Pray for him/her by yourself. Ask the Lord to bless them and change you. When you are with your spouse, pray WITH him/her.  Take anything of selfishness out of your prayers and let your spouse hear you speaking over them. Pray over your intimacy. God’s not embarrassed.  He created you, your body parts, and the pleasure that comes from them joining together.

2 – Communication. Do you and your spouse talk about ? Is that conversation always one-sided? Are your minds already made up before the talking takes place? Does your spouse feel heard?  How do you know your spouse feels heard?  Have you communicated the hurt/concerns behind your lack of desire?  Have you told him/her what you like in bed? Does your spouse know the foreplay that you enjoy?  Does you spouse know what turns you off?

These are simple questions to begin the conversation between you two. Some might feel awkward. But too many couples are experiencing “sexual atrophy” because of a stupid word called ASSUMPTION. Don’t assume. Communicate!

3- Frequency.  It’s difficult to fix “sexual atrophy” if you don’t attempt sex.  I agree with fellow blogger, we live in a oversexed society full of undersexed marriages. Sexual frustration is high for men and women for a growing number of reasons (I’ll save that for another blog). I can’t hand you a magic “frequency number.” It will change over time and through seasons of life. I do ask that you find balance. Again, I’ve never dealt with sexually active couple that lacked joy, strength, and health.  Plan date nights that include sex…or just plan sex nights. It’s up to you. Don’t fall for the trick that “planning” isn’t romantic.  The reason why “planning” works great for couples is it take the pressure off of the other days of the week. Does it mean “unplanned sex” can’t happen?  Nope…that’s called bonus sex. (cha-ching)

4 – Desire. My wife and I have dealt with this quite a bit.  Like many couples, I (husband) have a stronger desire than Anne (wife).  It’s not the rule. We know couples that are the opposite.  In helping a wife, Anne spoke some great words of wisdom that I want to include here.  Anne says,

“Does your husband have a similar sex drive (zero desire)? How do you know? Have you asked him lately if he wants more sex? I never have to ask because I know Dave wants more. (LOL) As a woman I understand where there is “non-interest” or a not a huge sex drive. But if your husband is needing intimacy, you need to fulfill that need. This might be a deep issue that is not said because there’s no communication on the subject. If he has more of a drive, he missing out and he either is not communicating or doesn’t feel like he can. Is he settling for your drive because he doesn’t want to “rock the boat.” If he IS missing out on what he needs, it will, eventually, come back to weaken and hurt your marriage.”

As spouses, our desire has to come from desiring our spouse’s desires.  I can’t tell you how many games Anne has sat through and how many “chick-flicks” I’ve watched.  We (Anne and I) did it to please our spouse, and, in turn, brought us pleasure to see them happy.  Imagine if we approached sex in that manner.  The sexual experience wouldn’t just feel better. It’d be more fulfilling.

5 – Help. Don’t feel like you are alone.  You’re not the only one dealing with this. I’ll share another TRUTH: Atrophy isn’t a death sentence. It’s not weakness to ask for help.  It’s weakness to, out of pride, NOT ask for help.  Find a Christian counselor. Why not a non-Christian counselor? Psalms 1:1 warns us not to.  Get someone who will be open, honest, AND be scriptural based.

Anne and I were at a marriage seminar a few years back and the couple leading it said, “If you’re suffering from a lack of desire, don’t be afraid to speak to your doctor.  Don’t let fear ruin your marriage bed.” Anne turned to me and said, “I hope every lady in the room heard that.” The truth is, every man and woman needs to heed that advice.

To wrap up, if you or your spouse is suffering from “sexual atrophy”, it should be a loud warning bell that something is wrong in your marriage. I realize that sex is, many times, a symptom rather than the problem, but the deficiency of sex is an indication that something is wrong. Couples, or spouses, who ignore this, are ignoring a warning that their marriage could be in trouble.

It’s not just sex. It is an indication of the overall health of your marriage.

Ecclesiastes 9:9 says,“Live happily with the woman you love through all the days of life that God has given you under the sun. The wife God gives you is your reward for all your earthly toil.”

Thanks for letting me ramble…

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