Sometimes sex in marriage doesn’t feel good.
Over the years, I’ve talked to women who don’t enjoy sex and some of their reasons can be traced to intimacy being an unpleasant experience.
From experience, the right information, can make the difference between working through the problems with some level of optimism or being stuck at a bad place.
In this post, I will share some insights that will help you better navigate seasons when sex in marriage is uncomfortable, painful, or just doesn’t feel good.
We’ll approach it from two different angles – the physical and the psychological/relational.
Intimacy in marriage is meant to be an enjoyable experience, savored by both husband and wife. When it’s not, we owe it to ourselves and to our marriage to figure out how to make it better.
Let’s dive in
Physical reasons why married sex doesn’t feel good
Sex is a physical activity, and so when we experience problems, a lot of them are bound to manifest physically.
So let’s talk about some of the physical reasons why sex in marriage might be unpleasant for the wife
1. Rushing through newlywed sex
As a new wife, I didn’t understand that the desire and arousal process for men and women is different.
I used my husband as the measuring stick for what was “normal.” Suffice it to say; I felt broken.
Newlywed couples often don’t have the education and knowledge of the mechanics of sexual intercourse.
They assume sex will be easy and immediately satisfying to both partners, leaving them with more questions than answers when what they knew unravels.
The best newlywed sex starts with relaxing and slowing down. When the husband and wife accept they are, indeed, on Day 1 of intimacy school, the pressure to perform falls away, and they can work on discovering and enjoying each other.
Not taking time to relax can lead to tears and injuries and other emotional and psychological scarring.
According to this medical report, Vaginismus is a medical condition involving spasms of the pelvic floor muscles. The condition is an involuntary contraction of the muscles in the vagina that make it difficult, painful, or impossible to have sexual intercourse, have a gynecological exam, or even insert a tampon.
Married women who experience vaginismus might feel broken, hurt and confused.
They might attempt to continue trying to have sex, but according to research “when intercourse is impossible or painful, additional sexual attempts reinforce the muscular response, further ingraining the negative mind and body reaction. This response is a limbic system reaction: an associative response signaling the body to brace and protect itself.”
If you suspect that you are suffering from vaginismus, please (please) make an appointment with your doctor or OBGYN immediately.
Please note: New brides, especially those having sex for the first time, might experience pelvic/vaginal tightness when attempting penetration for the first time.
Sometimes, the normal since your muscles are doing something they have never done before.
In my book The Wedding Night, I talk about the importance of slowing down and relaxing and how it might help alleviate discomfort on your wedding night.
While it might feel counter-intuitive to slow down when you want to speed up, the body, especially the woman’s body, has it’s own time-clock and trying to speed up foreplay can lead to more anxiety, which makes it harder to relax.
Overall, be sure to talk to your doctor when penetration is impossible or painful.
Urinary Tract Infections, yeast infection, or any number of STIs can be a reason for why sex in marriage is painful or uncomfortable. Source: NHS
The vaginal will likely be more sensitive and raw when infected, and friction can further irritate it.
If you suspect an infection of any kind, seek medical treatment immediately.
4. Hormonal interrupters can be a reason why married sex doesn’t feel good
Hormonal interrupters mimic our body’s natural hormones, throwing our systems out of whack. They are commonly found in food, cosmetics, toys, pesticides, and hormonal contraceptives.
Also known as endocrine interrupters, these can affect all of our body’s systems including our reproductive systems and brain function.
The interrupters can affect your body’s natural sexual arousal responses, leading to less lubrication and painful intercourse.
One of the best ways to deal with hormonal interrupters is to carefully research what chemicals are in the products and food you purchase. Read your labels, do your research, make wise decisions for your health.
For more information on how hormonal interrupters interact with our body, here’s a post where I shared my journey with contraceptives and birth control.
(It’s also important to note that natural hormonal changes, such as menopause, can cause the same symptoms.)
5. Resuming sex too soon after childbirth
Most couples are recommended to abstain from sexual intercourse for at least six weeks after the mother gives birth. The pelvic floor muscles go through a lot during childbirth and need proper time to heal.
Hormonal changes that a mother experiences after childbirth mean the natural bodily processes may take some time to resume, such as lubrication and libido.
In her post, 10 things to know about postpartum sex, Rebecca Lindenbach writes,
The six week mark is the bare minimum that doctors recommend to be put aside for recovery before having sex. The minimum. That means many women may (and do!) need more. And that is perfectly okay.
6. Forced sex
It surprises many people to learn that a woman does not give up the right to say “no” to sex when she gets married.
I am not talking about gate-keeping or always denying sex but a God-given fundamental right to choice. (I should write a post on that!)
The Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence defines marital rape as “any unwanted intercourse or penetration (vaginal, anal, or oral) obtained by force, the threat of force, or when the wife is unable to consent.”
When sex is forced, it can cause serious physical, emotional, gynecological and psychological trauma.
If your husband is forcing, threatening or coercing you to have sex, he’s being sexually abuse. Find help. Talk to someone. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline – 800.656.4673 (United States)
(Quick addition: A woman’s natural sexual response system can kick in even where sex is forced. Her response doesn’t make the act consensual. “People can have orgasms during non-consensual sexual violence. The type of arousal that leads to sexual pleasure and the type of arousal your body experiences during fearful and stressful times are working with the same neurological system.” Source
Now let’s talk about the psychological/relational aspects of why sex in marriage doesn’t feel good, is painful, or just generally unpleasant.
7. Psychological causes of vaginismus
Though vaginismus is a physical condition, it often has a psychological and emotional component to it.
The vaginal spasms and constrictions are automatic, bodily responses to real fear, anxiety, or trauma. The body is attempting to protect itself from a potential threat.
Please see your doctor or OB\GYN immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment.
In the case of abuse, the threat is genuine, even if it existed in the past.
Especially if the violation was sexual in nature, the trauma could leave wounds that can affect your ability to have or enjoy any type of intimacy in marriage.
You might love and trust your husband, but the wound you experienced can create natural bodily responses that hinder your ability to cultivate a satisfying sex life.
If you have experienced abuse of any kind, I highly encourage you to work through those wounds with a licensed counselor.
If you have been a victim of assault, read this article on how God heals and restores our broken places.
9. Sexual activity before marriage can be a reason why married sex doesn’t feel good
If you were sexually active before you got married, you might bring those experiences into your marriage, and they can have a negative impact.
Shame, guilt, unrealistic expectations can hinder your ability to enjoy sex in marriage.
These emotional and psychological reasons can affect your sexual response systems, making sex unpleasant.
If you are struggling with shame, guilt, and other difficulties because of past sexual experience, please seek counseling or talk to a trusted mentor. Your past doesn’t define your present or your future.
10. Poor body image
For many women, feeling attractive is important. If you have a poor opinion of your own body, you struggle to believe that your husband likes your body or even finds you attractive.
How you view yourself directly affects what you believe your spouse thinks of your body. Poor body image can affect your libido, which makes sex an unpleasant experience.
Some things you can do to improve body image
- Know and start to believe what God says about you
- Limit your time on social media or looking at magazines: unfollow those people online that make you feel self-conscious
- Choose form flattering clothing
- Treat your body well by eating nutritious food and getting regular exercise
- Use positive self-talk and affirmations.
11. Poor sex education
Most couples are thrust into married life with very few tools to navigate this new, deeply intimate experience.
We come from “don’t have sex!” to “have sex!” Or “sex is bad and is to be avoided” to “sex is a good and beautiful thing that should come naturally.” It seems we are set up to struggle.
This is why I wrote The Wedding Night: Embracing Sexual Intimacy as New Bride, to help wives (and husbands) enjoy intimacy in marriage by giving them the right tools and information to navigate this new season of their life.
As a new bride, intimacy was not what I had expected. It was exciting, (finally, sex!) but intimacy was so new and oh so uncomfortable.
Based on my own experience, the type of questions I had, and talks with other women, I wrote this handbook to help new wives navigate intimacy in marriage with clarity and confidence so they can enjoy their relationship.
What if wedding night sex doesn’t have to mean wedding night stress? What if we could lessen the learning curve and get you enjoying intimacy with your husband sooner, not later? Check out The Wedding Night: Embracing Sexual Intimacy as New Bride Amazon I I Nook I PDF
The Christian culture needs to be more accepting of conversations around sex. We need to hear more of “sex is great within marriage” and none of “sex is very very bad. Stay away!”
Let’s share that accurate picture. That way, we create a healthier view of sex among the unmarried.
Which means more people walk into marriage with less baggage as far as our view of sex is concerned.
12. Newlywed adjustments
Many people don’t understand that getting married and learning to live with and love another person is a huge transition.
Since we’ve been looking forward to marriage, checked off the premarital counseling box, spent a lot of time together, we assume the actual marriage is a breeze.
But then we get married and discover there’s more to the union than “having endless sleep-overs with your best friend.”
All these stresses can add a strain and overwhelm the sexual side of the relationship, the result being that married sex won’t feel so good. As a new couple, accepting that you are in transition (and everyone transitions differently) is key.
For example, if you are working through deep relational issues and your body is shutting down sexually, you need to know that you don’t have to force yourself to have sex. You don’t have to fix every area of your life at the same time.
Make sure to engage in some type of post-marital help with a counselor, pastor, or mentor to help you navigate the new season of your life with have clarity and balance.
13. Relationship strains
Physical intimacy stems from emotional intimacy, especially for women.
If there are conflicts and other problems that exist in your marriage, the sexual aspect of the relationship generally follows suit.
Issues like broken trust, pride, conflicts surrounding household chores, money, and unmet expectations can lead to a lack of sex and painful sex if attempted.
Sex is not just a physical connection, it’s a relational connection, and when the friendship is broken, our bodies tend to switch off too.Sex is not just a physical connection, it’s a relational connection, and when the friendship is broken, our bodies tend to switch off too.
When sex married sex doesn’t feel good, make sure to look at your connection. Get honest about your thoughts and feelings so you can heal from the roots up, not throw band-aids at symptoms.
Now, there are many reasons why sex in marriage might not be pleasant.
My list of reasons why married sex doesn’t feel good is not exhaustive, but I hope the ideas help you know where to start.
Please make sure to talk to your doctor or a counselor about any problems you are having.
For my readers who don’t have immediate access to either, please talk to a close friend who has a bit more experience in marriage. Speak to somebody. Don’t assume there’s something wrong with you that cannot be fixed.
Other helpful posts on this topic
Your turn – What did I leave out? What else can a wife do when married sex doesn’t feel good? Lets chat in comments!
Learn how God wired you for sexual intimacy in marriage!
So you can feel close to your husband and enjoy lovemaking! The Wedding Night: Embracing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage is no-fluff, down-to-earth book to help the newly married and engaged woman become sexually confident in marriage. Plus, it teaches you how to keep sex fabulous beyond the newlywed years! Buy the book Amazon I Nook I PDF