marriage bed symbol

marriage bed symbol

Friday, December 30, 2016

Does Fibromyalgia Mean the Death of Sex? – Tips for LDS Married Couples



Our bodies are a gift from Heavenly Father[i]. Unfortunately, many couples find that, when bodies don’t work as they should, they can feel more like a curse, especially when physical problems cause pain during sex. Generally, no one wants to associate sex with chronic pain all the time.

In this article, we focus on couples who struggle with fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a condition marked by pain in the soft tissues of the body, such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. Touching can be painful, and this can extend to even the muscles and the tissues in and surrounding the vagina.[ii] Other symptoms include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, chemical sensitivities, migraine headaches, or irritable bowel syndrome.[iii]

Any one of these symptoms can make intercourse difficult, and hardly enjoyable for the sufferer. Many of these symptoms together can make sex seem impossible. An additional danger is when every attempt at sex causes the sufferer to subconsciously associate sex with unpleasant pain. When this happens, the subconscious will influence the individual to do everything possible to avoid the pain.

There is hope, however. I would like to offer you some suggestion of what some couples (who suffer from fibromyalgia) have done that have helped their sex life, as well as some recommendations from health professionals and ecclesiastical leaders.

If you as a couple have found yourself in such a situation, the following inside-out suggestions may help if you’re both willing to try:

*Mentally change your focus
There is no pain or discomfort that the Savior cannot help us with. He may not remove it, but he will help us carry it if we ask. If you haven’t already heard it, President Nelson’s Conference talk in October 2016, “Joy and Spirital Survival” has some useful information in this regard – about the number one way to find joy through difficulty:

“My dear brothers and sisters, the joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”[iv]

*Commit to teamwork.
Have honest, open discussions about your intimacy needs in the relationship, and figure out how both spouses’ needs can be met while facing physical limitations.

If you’re experiencing stress or tension around this, a counselor or coach may be able to help guide your discussions and help you put together a success plan.

“Nevertheless, says Dr. Cynthia Lawrence-Elliott …when it comes to this disorder, it is important to follow what she calls the ABCs of a healthy sensual life.
"A is acceptance and adaptation," says Lawrence-Elliott… "B is for learning the basics and for doing what it takes to boost one's self-esteem. Ignorance coupled with fear are common enemies of sexuality. C is connect and challenge."
By connect, Lawrence-Elliott means that one must shed any shyness when discussing one's body with a physician or spouse. By challenge she means that it's necessary to challenge oneself to do so, even when the issue is embarrassing.”[v]

*Throw out every cultural expectation
It’s okay if your sex life looks different from other people’s sex lives on television, movies, romance stories or otherwise.

Adaptation doesn’t make you less of a person – rather, the opposite is true. It’s heroic to never give up hope in the face of difficulties.


“A number of people distinguished between intimacy and sex, and said they and their spouses focused on closeness and mutual caring. One wrote, "Sex is important in a relationship, but I don't feel that it is the most important. I think all of the little everyday things that we do for each other and being supportive of each other is what really makes a marriage."[vi]


*Regular dates to reinforce relationship
If dating has gone away, continuing the courtship goes a long way toward building intimacy, even if sexual intercourse is not involved at first.

“For starters, if you haven’t had sex in a long time, it’s important to find ways to re-establish your feelings for each other, as well as a sense of trust and closeness between you.

One way to do this is to touch each other intimately without the goal of having sex or experiencing orgasm. For example, perhaps your wife would enjoy a whole body massage from you with warm massage oil. Incorporate gentle manual stimulation to her breasts, nipples, labia and clitoris. Focus on making her feel good, not bringing her to orgasm.”[vii] ~ Dr. Mitchell Tepper, 2011


*Get Some Rest
Lack of sleep is a major libido-killer, and medication or hormonal disturbances are a big factor in sleeplessness. It’s definitely something to consider.



*Exercise
Gentle forms of exercise such as yoga, swimming, walking, stationary bikes or elliptical trainers go a long way towards alleviating fibromyalgia. It may hurt more initially, but the endorphins released during exercise help ease pain long-term, and reduce symptoms.


“Another great tip is improving your self-care regimen. Grooming and physical activity can help you look and feel your best, and as a result help enhance your libido. Involving your spouse in exercise furthermore enhances sexual intimacy, so go for a walk with your spouse.”[viii]


It may seem ironic but, sex itself also releases endorphins that reduce pain – sometimes couples neglect the very thing that could help; usually out of fear or miscommunication. Keep that in mind as you work towards modifying your physical intimacy.


“Think of sex as therapy. Remind yourself that sex is nurturing for you and your spouse. And it boosts endorphins, your body’s own natural painkillers. The more you have, the better.”[ix] ~ Gina Robert-Grey,2015



*Relax! It’s a Game.
Anything you can do to take the emotional edge off and help with stress levels is a good thing. Try making a game out of your intimacy.


“Luckily we discovered early on the power of intimacy. And being who we are, set out to make it a game. It was called "20 Minute Time", and when one of us hollered those words we had to high tail it to the bedroom…”[x] ~ Leah Tyler,2012


*Try on a different kind of moist heat first
A warm bath or shower can ease sore muscles, and can be a great preliminary to sex.

“Heat increases blood flow… and decreases stiffness, a key symptom of fibromyalgia. Regular moist heat applications or warm baths may help temporarily to alleviate muscle pain or tender point pain, reduce muscle spasms, and decrease inflammation.”[xi] ~ Dr. Melinda Ratini, 2016


*Truly, madly, deeply experiment
You never know what might work for you until you try new things, so keep an open mind, and look around for what techniques or sexual positions or ideas might help. A good marriage relationship – one that supports both spouses – is worth working for.

*Appreciate the efforts your spouse is making
Holding back so as not to hurt someone while filled with desire is hard. Likewise, choosing to share a body that hurts is a deliberate choice that really shows love. Try to appreciate every effort the spouse is making, no matter how small, and accept it for the sacrifice of love that it is.


“When you are in love with someone and she is in pain all the time, when she wants to have sex with you in spite of it, it means she really wants to have it. You feel chosen and special."[xii] ~ Aina Hunter, 2008


The frustration of living with a chronic condition is a heavy burden to bear, but not an impossible task. We can find ways to not lose that special bonding tool in our marriage, with help from the Lord and trust in each other. Don’t give up.

All of these suggestions came from the experiences of people who suffer from fibromyalgia and what they’ve done to help their sex lives. Feel free to click on the links in the references to read their full stories.


[ii] “Fibromyalgia leads to pain in the muscles; this creates pressure and squeezing in the pelvic area and in the lower back.
During intercourse, these muscles cramp, creating a lot of discomfort for the individual. As a result, sexual intercourse becomes associated with negative physical sensations and is avoided.” – Lloyd, Stacy. “Fibromyalgia and Sex”. EmpowHer – Improving Heath, Changing Lives. http://www.empowher.com/fibromyalgia/content/fibromyalgia-and-sex
[iv] Nelson, Russell M. “Joy and Spiritual Survival”. LDS.org. 2016 Oct. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2016/10/joy-and-spiritual-survival?lang=eng

[v] Hunter, Aina. Ibid.
[vi] Campbell, Bruce. “Illness and Sex: Six Strategies for Improving Intimacy”. CFIDS and Fibromyalgia Self-Help. http://www.cfidsselfhelp.org/library/illness-sex-six-strategies-improving-intimacy-0

[vii] Tepper, Mitchell, Ph.D, MPH. “Sexual Health Questions and Answers”. 2011 Sep 12. https://www.sexualhealth.com/my-wifes-fibromyalgia-means-we-never-have-sex-what-can-we-do-to-solve-this-problem_question_235/

[viii] “Fibromyalgia and Sexuality”. Fibromyalgia-Symptoms.org. http://www.fibromyalgia-symptoms.org/fibromyalgia_sexuality1.html

[ix] Robert-Grey, Gina. “Don’t Let Fibromyalgia Ruin Your Sex Life”. LifeScript. 2015 Nov 13. http://www.lifescript.com/health/centers/fibromyalgia/articles/dont_let_fibromyalgia_ruin_your_sex_life.aspx

[x] Tyler, Leah. “Sex and the Fibro Girl”. Chronicles of Fibromyalgia. 2012 Jan 10. http://chroniclesoffibro.blogspot.com/2012/01/sex-and-fibro-girl.html

[xi] Ratini, Melinda, DO, MS. (reviewer) “Fibromyalgia and Sex”. WebMD. 2016 Jul 30. http://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/guide/fibromyalgia-and-sex?page=2

[xii] Hunter, Aina. “Chronic Pain and Sex: A Couple’s Gentle Battle with Fibromyalgia”. ABC News. 2008 May 14. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/PainManagement/story?id=4841319&page=1

Friday, December 23, 2016

CTC Night (At Home) - Caroling

A very merry continue-the-courtship night to you!

Okay, this one isn't exactly at home, but it is cheap and one you can do if you have small children.

Go Christmas Caroling!

You don't have to go far. Just bundle the kids up and sing 2 or 3 Christmas songs to  your neighbors and friends.

Finish it off with some hot cider or chocolate and cuddling by a fire or favorite Christmas movie.

Happy Dating!


Thursday, December 15, 2016

CTC Night (At Home) -- Our Christmas Song

A very merry continue-the-courtship night to you both.

One of the best things about being married is creating your own traditions together.

If you're both musically inclined, no matter what the instrument is, you can write your own Christmas song together, then perform it for your extended family and kids.

Make it a tradition to sing it every year.

Happy Dating!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

CTC Night (At Home!) -- Getting Your Ginger Up

Happy Continue-The-Courtship night!

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to buy one of those cheap gingerbread house kits at the grocery store and decorate it.

So here's a fun little holiday date idea.  Build a gingerbread house together.

Find an activity to keep the kids busy for a couple of hours, and then reserve the dinner table for just the two of you.

Break out your cheap gingerbread house, train, or village kit and decorate it together.

To help kick off the conversation, ask each other this one, "tell me about the sexiest dream you ever had. Did the dream happen more than once? What do you think it meant?"


Happy Dating! 


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gospel Doctrine or Cultural Myth: Children Take Priority Over Everything



“There’s no doubt that motherhood is the best thing in my life. It’s all that really matters.” – Courtney Cox (underlining added)

When a woman becomes a mother, it’s a momentous change in her life. Suddenly there’s a helpless little human that needs her night and day, for feedings, diaper changes, affection – for life itself.

Ideally, children are the representation and final result of the physical love expressed between two people committed to building a family together. Ironically, children place a lot of stress on that same loving relationship, and sometimes end up destroying the love that brought them to life in the first place.

Is this the children's fault? Never.[i]

When children come to a married couple, a somewhat difficult transition takes place. The mother starts to focus in on her new responsibility. Her physical chemistry, if not interrupted by depression or undue stress, changes in a way that helps her bond with her child. This bond is important to the well-being of that child.[ii]

It can be a great temptation to a woman to think that her life now is all about this new baby, and that she must give everything she has, and more, to ensure this new little person that she loves so much will have the best life she can possibly give it. Both she and the father should make these loving sacrifices of time and attention…right?

Wrong.

But how can you say that, some might say. It says so right in Church doctrine:

““Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations….Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.”[iii]

See? It says so right there in the The Family: A Proclamation to the World. Children are the most important thing in a family, right?

Children are very important, but making children the most important priority is counterproductive to their best good. At this critical juncture in a marriage, the best thing new parents can do is to make God and their marriage (and especially their physical relationship) the top priorities, just as it was before the children were born. It needs to continue to be a priority, and one that remains greater than the children.

In our modern culture, specialization is favored over generalization. Specialists in their fields are paid more, and more often recognized for their contributions. But the Lord is not interested in making all of us specialists. If anything, He seems to want parents to remain generalists by developing their whole selves, instead of developing only one aspect of their lives to perfection over all others.[iv]

Mothers are ‘primarily responsible for the nurture of their children’, yes. But what happens if a mother focuses in on this one role and neglects the others? The father may feel forgotten, as his importance in his wife’s eyes diminishes and his only outlet to fill his love bank leaves him out to dry. He may feel jealous of his own children; an ugly circumstance. If the mother is too tired to spend time with him at the end of a long day with the children, he is left lonely and tempted to find attention elsewhere. The children feel the resentment in their home, and the love in the family starts to disappear.

This is not meant to warn the mothers alone, because the fathers have a similar temptation to work on themselves. A new father may look at the Proclamation to the Family and see that ‘…fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”

This is also good and right, but if a father focuses in on just this one task to the neglect of everything else, what happens? His wife is lonely and unfulfilled while the father works longer and longer hours, and she is left with a large workload at home. Her love bank also drains and the passionate intimacy he is doing all the work for can run dry. The children miss out on his attention and stabilizing presence. The love in the relationship starts to die as well, and with the love goes the passion.[v]

It would not be appropriate to tell a wife in such circumstances to ‘suck it up and stop whining’, any more than a husband is appropriately told to ‘suck it up and stop whining’. If one spouse is feeling neglected, something is off in the family dynamic, and it needs to be lovingly addressed.[vi]

“In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners….”[vii]

It’s hard to go out on a date and leave your precious little infant with a babysitter, even for just a few hours, that first one or two times. It may be challenging to work around the baby, so that you can focus on each other and meet your regular intimacy desires.

However, the results are much more positive. When a couple’s intimacy is strong, the children benefit in every way. The parents get renewed strength and commitment to be better parents. Children feel much more safe and secure in their own home. When children leave home, the spouse is not left there with a stranger they married years ago, but with a lover and a friend, and the children are emotionally free to create their own families, confident that they can recreate the blueprint that was modeled for them.[viii]

“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other AND for their children.”[ix] Notice the order in this statement.  It is the order of heaven for our homes here on earth.

Answer: Cultural Myth


[i] D&C 68:25, 27-28
[ii] “Oxytocin is a particularly important hormone for women. "Oxytocin is a peptide produced in the brain that was first recognized for its role in the birth process, and also in nursing," said Larry Young, a behavioral neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.
The hormone causes uterine contractions during labor and helps shrink the uterus after delivery. When an infant suckles at his or her mother's breast, the stimulation causes a release of oxytocin, which, in turn, orders the body to "let down" milk for the baby to drink.
Oxytocin also promotes mother-child bonding. Studies show that "female rats find pups to be aversive if [the females are] virgins," Young told Live Science. "But once they give birth, the brain is transformed, so they find the pups irresistible," he said. And similar findings are seen in humans. 
A 2007 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that the higher a mom's oxytocin levels in the first trimester of pregnancy, the more likely she was to engage in bonding behaviors such as singing to or bathing her baby.
Although maternal bonding may not always be hardwired — after all, human females can adopt babies and take care of them — oxytocin released during pregnancy "does seem to have a role in motivation and feelings of connectedness to a baby" Young said. Studies also show that interacting with a baby causes the infant's own oxytocin levels to increase, he added.” – Pappas, Stephanie. Oxytocin: Facts about the ‘Cuddle Hormone’. LiveScience.com, 4 Jun 2015; http://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html

[iii] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, first read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his remarks at the Women’s General Conference in September 23, 1995.
[iv] Read Matthew 5:48, substituting the word ‘perfect’ for the word ‘complete’, as was used in the Greek translation (see note b in the footnotes)
[v] “You should express regularly to your wife and children your reverence and respect for her. Indeed, one of the greatest things a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” – President Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, Nov 1994
[vi] “Often parents communicate most effectively with their children by the way they listen to and address each other. Their conversations showing gentleness and love are heard by our ever-alert, impressionable children.” – Elder Marvin J. Ashton, Ensign, May 1976
[vii] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, ibid.

[viii] “Perhaps the best gift parents can give their children is to love each other, to enjoy each other, and even to hold hands and demonstrate their love by the manner in which they talk to each other.” – Elder LeGrand R. Curtis, Ensign, Nov 1990
[ix] The Family: A Proclamation to the World, ibid.