Q&A: What if I Don’t Feel “In the Mood?”

Q&A: What If I Don't Feel "In The Mood?" // jessconnell.com

Q: I would like to see practical tips for how to make it a priority and how to feel ‘in the mood’ when I am so tired…

A: Well, since you asked a straight question, I’m going to give you a straight answer. :)

I think waiting and hoping to feel “in the mood” may be part of the problem.

I have a few thoughts on this–

#1- Help your husband know how to “help” you be in the mood… for example, if you’re distracted by dishes, invite him to help you… “Hey, if we get these knocked out together, we’ll get to bed sooner with me less tired.” Or, “it’s hard for me to relax at the end of a long day; would you mind rubbing my shoulders for a bit?” Or, “if you’ll get the kids to bed, I’ll hop in & take a hot bath & be ready to go (wink/smile) once we’re both finished.” Etc.

It’s OK to ASK for things that will help you connect with him.

#2- Decide in advance that you’re going to expect it to happen. Some friends have shared that it helps them to go to bed each night with the expectation that something will happen. I think that’s a good attitude. I’ve found it personally helpful as well. Unless one of us is sick, it helps when I mentally expect that we will (more often than not) be together. It doesn’t always *happen* with that regularity, but I expect it and then am almost never caught off guard.

#3- Mentally set your attitude toward–

  • a desire to be affectionate & connect with your husband at all times
  • gratitude that your husband desires you
  • the truth that your body belongs to him
  • a willingness to be amenable to his desires
  • the same feeling you would want him to have toward you (serving you in love and with genuine heartfelt affection) if there’s something you desired from him.

And then decide in advance that you will act in line with those truths.

I’ll never forget when I first heard Carolyn Mahaney teach about being amenable. In her wonderful teachings on Titus 2, she encouraged wives that one way to love our husbands is to be amenable. Being willing to go along with their ideas is one of the ways that we defer and show kindness. Not because of some twisted creeped-out idea of being a doormat, or a pushover, but because we LOVE them and want to show them kindness and preference and tender affection for them.

From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

Simple Definition of amenable

  • willing to agree or to accept something that is wanted or asked for

Synonyms

willing, disposed, fain, game, glad, inclined, minded, ready

And this idea of amenability applies to physical intimacy as well as what to make for dinner, or how to drive to the park. Most of us, I think, can work at being more amenable than we currently are. 

Even when you don’t physically feel the bells and whistles going off (which, truth be told, I think few of us do when things BEGIN), choose to act in line with those truths. For many (most? nearly all?) women, we’ll find that our physical bodies can warm up to being “in the mood” if our hearts and minds are set toward loving affection.

#4- If physical response is an issue for you, I’d be glad to e-mail more specifically with you about that challenge.

Or you might benefit from these helpful books on the topic:

I’ve found each of the previous books to be helpful in regard to discussing and understanding practical, physical processes as well as other dimensions of sexual experience– how past sin/abuse/hurts affect our experiences, how we can relate to one another and minister through the sexual relationship, etc.

#5- For couples who are in a “rut” or for whom the wife never experiences climax/physical sexual fulfillment, I’d encourage a few things:

  • If there is any past sexual sin, molestation, or rape, I would strongly encourage BIBLICAL COUNSELING. Yes, there’s a reason I said biblical counseling (ACBC or CCEF are great places to start), rather than Christian counseling, or just counseling. Sharing from my own personal experience, there really are ways to work through the shame and hurts that come from sexual sins against us, and sexual sins we’ve committed. It is possible to come to a place where you can not only “survive” the sexual relationship but truly enter in to the physical relationship with delight and heartfelt joy, without an ever-present sense of guilt, shame, fear, humiliation, or bitterness. Let me encourage you, if you have ongoing issues in one or more of these issues, to take time to deal with the baggage. There is no shame in counseling. In fact, going to biblical counseling may be the first step in letting go of your shame.
  • Perhaps things need to be purposefully SLOWED DOWN. The saying “men are a microwave; women are a crock pot” can apply here… sometimes the relationship settles into a rut of “quickies” and times when the wife is not “into it” and it becomes “dull.” Instead, by taking more time for a shoulder rub, conversation beforehand, spending time (as perhaps happened more frequently in the early days) kissing, snuggling, hugging, all the foreplay activities that help us women “warm up,” we can often find that we get “into it” much more easily than we thought possible. Make room for your sexual relationship by allowing plenty of time, without the pressure, to be together.
  • Finally, I’d encourage you to take time to EXPLORE & FIND WHAT IS PLEASURABLE. For couples where the wife has never experienced sexual climax, purposefully set aside a time (weeks/months/a year?) to thoughtfully explore what physical sensations are pleasurable to the wife, and even potentially use physical/sexual toys/tools to further that process. Some couples too quickly believe that “she can’t have an orgasm” or she can believe, “sex just isn’t pleasurable for me”… where, in actuality, with some combination of counseling & physical exploration, she might find her way to enjoy physical pleasure (and even experience orgasms) over time. Sometimes just the act of giving up on the search makes this entire aspect of the relationship feel “rote” and dull for the wife who then is resigned to a physical relationship with no prospect of enjoyment for her. It doesn’t have to be that way, and with some work and input, there could be much enjoyment ahead!

#6- One final, practical thought: Take naps! It’s so easy to use nap time to “get stuff done” because the baby is finally sleeping, or whatever, but it’s worth it to prioritize this part of our relationship so that we can connect with our husbands over the long-haul.

(I would also let him know this is what you’re doing. “Hey darlin, just want you to know; I’ve been a sleepyhead lately, but I’m gonna start taking naps on Tuesdays and Thursdays so we can make love on those nights.” He’ll be thankful for those times, and for your desire to make HIM a priority in your heart & day.

#7- Actually. One more. Talk with him about this. Openly.

“Hey. I’m overwhelmed with the new baby… or since we started homeschooling… or with the increased laundry load since adding a third baby… or with all these hormones from menopause… and I just want you to know, that mentally, it’s difficult for me to make “space” for sexual stuff when I’m thinking about curriculum, or know the laundry pile is staring me down, or whatever… but I want this to be a priority.

So, could you help me by not making me feel guilty about the laundry pile… or by hearing me out about the math curriculum dilemma I can’t make up my mind about? (Or whatever?) ”

For my part, Doug & I have found that if I’m mentally preoccupied with something, I find it extremely difficult to set that stuff aside for intimacy. But with anywhere from 5-30 minutes of conversation beforehand, we can connect sexually without me experiencing NEAR as many mental “distractions.” Actually, that mental “braindumping” can happen at any point in the day (not just “right before” sex), but it often does need to happen in one way or another before we spend that sort of intimate time together.

So for us- a huge part of getting sexually in-tune with one another was figuring out that I often need that time for a mental brain dump, so I feel that soul-connection before intimacy.

If your “thing” is that the dishes haven’t been done, or that the 13-year-old won’t stop sassing you and you’re discouraged, or that you aren’t sure what to do about the 3-year-old’s new variety of tantrums, talking honestly about those things with your husband, listening to his suggestions, or even just “being heard” may be a key part of connecting with him and helping him understand the mental/physical “hurdles” you’re facing down as you seek to connect with him intimately.

OK, there’s my brain dump on that. :)

 

IN THE COMMENTS: What’s YOUR advice to a gal who wants to feel “in the mood?”

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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8 Responses

  1. Kami says:

    This is SUCH an important topic to talk about as wives. Thank you Jess for addressing it. I was challenged some more by reading it. I wish someone had talked to me about this early on in our marriage.

  2. A Male Reader says:

    I apologize, but there has been more than a little devastation in my own marriage, so I’ve tried to learn what I could.

    IIRC there has been a discovery (‘research finding’) in recent years that some percentage of wives actually need (require) physical touch first to be able to feel “in the mood” second. The percentage was so large this was considered a ‘normal’ situation but had been almost completely overlooked.

    Breathtaking how this fits so incredibly well with God’s Word.

    If a married woman whose response functions this way is purposefully amenable — she allows his approach, shares her body as belonging to her husband, etc. — everything works beautifully. Allowing her husband’s touch first turns out to be the very key that unlocks the entire process.

    But if one of the many women whose response works this way regularly turns her husband away — on the grounds that she isn’t “in the mood” — there will be almost surely be a significant breakdown in this part of the marriage.

    It seems very likely some women might not recognize or even guess this about themselves because of our culture, which is so “self-first” that our culture would steer us away from ever thinking of this idea.

    I hope these comments will turn out to be a blessing. If someone wants to but has trouble finding this research, I can’t guarantee that I can take time to do it, but might be able to retrace my steps and try to find links or references.

    Even as Christians in Western culture we are susceptible to think we’re too educated, too modern, too smart, and too independent to actually apply God’s instructions. We actually worry about all the bad things that would happen if we actually obeyed. And we think far less about the awful things that do happen because we figure, as policy, that obeying God is a bad idea (and so we come up with our own systemic solutions that avoid using His solutions).

  3. Jennifer Collins says:

    Lots of good thoughts.
    I have found that it’s better for me to be intimate with my husband (while prayfully setting my preoccupations aside.) Then, my husband is much more relaxed and tender towards me to listen to my concerns about my life. Thanks for talking about this sensitive but CRUCIAL topic.
    Blessings!

  4. Erin says:

    Communication is so key. In my marriage communication is required. I take medication that, as a side effect, lowers my libido. I have tried switching meds or even not taking meds because of this side effect alone, but my husband and I both agree that I need the meds. Therefore, he has to communicate to me that he needs/wants intimate time – in a very verbal and straightforward way. I would say about 50% of the time, I am able to get in the mood just by being intimate with him. And the other 50% of the time, I do it FOR him.

    Also, we have found that time of day is HUGE. We are afternoon people. We are both too tired in the evening and in the morning we just don’t feel lovely. We take time for each other on weekend afternoons (mom and dad’s “nap time” and kids quiet time – about an hour) and a few days a week when he gets home from work we take 30 minutes of “adult time.” My kids are just old enough that they can quietly entertain themselves for 30 minutes so we can have that time.

  5. Amanda Sundby-Banry says:

    Often times when I can tell my husband is in the mood, and I’m not, I try to pretend I don’t notice his attraction and purposefully stay “busy”. If that doesn’t deter him I use the lame excuse that I’m too tired. Recently I began praying as soon as he first touches me, “God please help me to relax and enjoy my husband’s touches, please give me erotic feelings towards my husband right now”. It has helped so much. As each tense and uncomfortable feeling eases with each quick prayer, I begin to enjoy his advances. Each time I begin to get distracted from enjoying sex, I immediately ask for God’s help. I have actually been able to enjoy sex again by praying during the beginning. I think we forget that it’s something God created and wants us to enjoy. It may sound like a weird prayer at first to ask God to “Please help me feel sexually aroused towards my husband.” I speak from experience though. God loves us and designed us to be able to enjoy a sexual relationship with our husbands, whereas satan has done so much to destroy the sacred sexual relationship between husband and wife. (My negative feelings towards sexual touch stem from a violent rape that happened to me as an adult).

    “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

    I think the desires of the spirit are for a husband and wife to enjoy sex. The desires of my flesh are to withdraw and cringe.

    • Jess Connell says:

      I love your bold honesty. Thank you for sharing so clearly. I think this is very very common among women.

      I, too, have found that prayer and making a deliberate choice to respond in the way I know I should makes a big difference and does eventually lead to me not just “going along with it” but actually enjoying it.

  6. J says:

    How do we deal with postpartum hormones, tired from crying baby, just not desiring/wanting it or to see anything related to it, so hard to switch from mommy to wife in bed? Ordered “Celebration” from your list of recommended books. But my real problem is not wanting to open myself emotionally, be free, etc. What am I afraid of?

    • Jess Connell says:

      Oh J, my heart goes out to you. I can’t say with certainty what *you’re* afraid of, but I’ll share some of the things that have hampered me in that season:

      * wanting sleep
      * not feeling a personal need for more touch because I’d already held a baby/nursed/dealt with kids all day long.
      * feeling like I had to WANT it in order to be willing
      * feeling like he needed to __________ in order for me to be willing (i.e., there was a “price” he had to pay)

      On that last point, I want to be clear: I would never have phrased it that way. I didn’t even realize that’s what was happening. But looking back, it’s clear… if dishes were done, I felt more willing. If we’d had a quiet evening where he held the baby and I didn’t have to (so much), I felt more willing. If he talked to me for X amount of time, then I felt more willing.

      And in some ways, that is absolutely normal. That is relationship. That is a GOOD thing– part of the way God has built us… we WANT to have the house in order, we WANT to see our husband connect with our baby and not be the only one holding him/her, we WANT to talk and connect with our husbands.

      But in other ways, we can take desires that are good, and turn them into a “price” that must be paid. And, I’ve come to believe that (for me) that is wrong.

      Some things that have helped me:

      * just getting started… (same principle as exercising at 6:30 am when we don’t “feel” like it; or going ahead and moving toward the fridge to start dinner even though we have no idea what we’re gonna make and would rather sit on the couch)
      * talking specifically with Doug about it– telling him what helps me feel in the mood (at one point in our marriage, he took over bedtime, so that I can use that time to sit quietly, take a bath, zone out, work on something that matters to me, whatever) so that he can partner with me in working on this area of my heart.
      * praying/asking for God to HELP me ****DELIGHT**** in my husband’s affection… not just receive it with a “meh”, “ok”, “sure”, “all right, I will” sort of attitude… but a “YES! HE DESIRES ME! HE IS WORKING TO CONNECT WITH ME! HE IS NOT TURNING TO ANOTHER, EVEN IN THIS WORLD FILLED WITH SO MANY SEDUCTIVE WOMEN– HE!!! WANTS!!! ME!!!!”
      * making sure I’m taking my thoughts captive and counseling my own heart rightly. I NEVER NEVER NEVER NEVERNEVERNEVERNEVER want to entertain sexual thoughts of other men. When they come up, I work to root them out. I never want to nurture a “celebrity crush” or fantasize about a book character, or some man at church who does X for/with his wife. I want to constrain my heart to never desire things outside of what God has given me. So then I need to counsel my own heart rightly.

      That sounds like:

      *** “God has given this man to me. Out of all the men God ever made, in all of time, in all places… He made this man for me. He is the right one– physically, communication-wise, spiritually, relationally, emotionally… I can be at rest with who he is and recognize– GOD INTENDED THIS for us both.”

      *** “Men are bombarded constantly with images and sexualization in this world. That is a fact. I will work to be a delight to my husband in this way… just like if he was a chef in a world-class restaurant, constantly surrounded by gourmet meals, I would take whatever resources God has put at my disposal and lovingly, delightedly, serve up healthy, tasty, exciting meals to entice and please him. Thus, I will do that in our bedroom as well.”

      *** “My husband is a good man. He works hard. He comes home each night. We are both tired. I am not alone in tiredness. We can get through this season and we will be better off, 20 years from now, when this child is (likely) gone from our house, for having sexually connected on a regular basis, than we will be if I gave into my tiredness.”

      *** “I have experienced XYZ things that make me timid/scared/reserved/nervous/disgusted about sex. But I will not let past experiences dictate my present choices. I will work to see those things through a biblical lens so that I can grow in this area that is so important for my husband and I’s relationship. These things do not have to control me, and I can increasingly take on God’s perspective of sex: that it is GOOD, that it is UNITING for us both, that it is FOUNDATIONAL to a family’s stability and joy, that it is a GIFT.”

      *** etc.

      Whatever my issues/hangups are, I try to take them captive and counsel myself with truth and God’s Word.

      I love your question and I want to be a help to you. Is any of this helpful? Want to go deeper about any of it? Shoot back more thoughts! ~Jess

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