Whether you’ve been married a day, a decade, or half a century, if your sexual relationship is marred by pain, tension, or disappointment—you are not alone. Thousands of couples struggle with sexual problems that keep their marriages from being all that God intended them to be. But there is hope!
Now, sexual therapists and best-selling authors Joyce and Cliff Penner share their proven methods in this comprehensive, easy-to-follow book of detailed explanations, realistic anecdotes, and clearly written exercises. Providing the biblical basis for the sexual relationship, as well as helpful diagnostic aids, the Penners help you improve communication and educate yourselves about your God-given sexual response. Then they lead you step-by-step through creative (and fun) sexual-retraining assignments to help you overcome various problems.
The Penners provide straightforward advice and reassuring encouragement to help you start restoring the pleasure to your marriage. Beginning counselors and pastors will also find this an invaluable resource for helping others overcome their sexual barriers.
Related collections and offers
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Restoring the Pleasure
Complete Step-By-Step Programs to Help Couples Overcome the Most Common Sexual Barriers
By Clifford L. Penner, Joyce J. Penner
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2016 Clifford and Joyce Penner
All rights reserved.
Are You Talking About It?
We live in the era of the post-sexual revolution. Sex is so freely displayed in magazines, in movies, and on all types of electronic screens that people think sex should be easy to discuss. But for most people it's not easy at all. The sexual revolution has not necessarily made us better informed about how to function sexually either. Rather, it has just made us more comfortable in viewing sexual activity and hearing sexual terms used boldly. It also has made society more tolerant of a great range of sexual activity. But if you're like most people, being exposed to increasing sexual explicitness has not helped you as a married couple experience a comfortable, informed approach to sexuality. You may still lack the tools for sharing the inner struggles of your sexual relationship.
If this is the first time you have ever talked openly about your sexual concerns with your spouse, you may feel some initial discomfort, which can sharply raise your anxiety level and insecurity. To ease your discomfort, we will guide you through this process carefully and gradually so each step leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and gives you the courage to move on.
Jerry and Ann sat across from us in our office. They had come because Ann was not completely happy with their sexual life, but she couldn't get Jerry to talk with her about her concerns. They had come to see us upon her request. Aware of his discomfort, we eased into the topic of sex and kept the discussion more general and less explicit than usual. Even so, Jerry changed positions frequently and looked away when he answered our questions regarding their sexual activity. Even the question "How is kissing for you?" was met with a sigh of disbelief that we would ask anything so personal.
As Jerry and Ann left that session, we were concerned that even our most tactful approach had violated Jerry's sense of privacy so much that we would never see them again.
To our surprise, as we got up to the podium to teach our sexual-adjustment seminar in a church in the greater Los Angeles area the next weekend, we spotted Jerry and Ann in the audience. As we openly shared our own sexual journeys, along with much of the educational content of part 2 of this book, we could see that Jerry was becoming more comfortable. Our presentations were followed by individual writing and reflection times for each participant (as the two of you will do as you follow the step-by-step guidelines in this book). Then participants shared their thoughts on each topic with each other using the Communication Format (see page 16).
By the end of the seminar, Ann was ecstatic. Jerry had become familiar with sexual terminology, shared his inner experience of sexuality, and listened actively to Ann's feelings. They had made an about-face and were heading down the road toward sexual retraining.
They did come back to our office, but only to review with us what had happened for them when they started communicating. They were able to continue building their sexual relationship by using the tools we had given them at the seminar and our book The Gift of Sex (Thomas Nelson, 2003).
Many couples have found that communication is the key that opens the door to sexual pleasure. Some communicate by reading The Gift of Sex or The Way to Love Your Wife out loud to each other. Others discuss our video series, The Magic-Mystery of Sex.
But for other couples sexual communication without step-by-step guidance is difficult, if not impossible. In the next two chapters we will give you this easy-to-follow guidance, just as we would if you were coming to our offices for sexual therapy.CHAPTER 2
Sharing Your Secrets
So why do we have to talk about it?"
"There's too much emphasis on sex these days. What's the big deal?"
Maybe you share some of these sentiments. As Joyce's grandmother wrote to us in 1982 when she was in her mideighties, "I don't think what you're doing is necessary. Adam and Eve didn't need it. Abe and I didn't need it. So I don't agree with what you're doing, but I love you just the same."
We believe that effective communication between a husband and wife about their sexual lives and feelings is not only appropriate; it is necessary! Increased openness will not destroy the romance and mystery; it will help keep the spark alive over the decades of intimately sharing your lives together.
Throughout Scripture the sexual relationship between a husband and wife is used as the symbol of God's relationship with his people. In the New Testament, Christians are talked about as the bride of Christ. If we do not communicate with God through reading the Bible and praying, our relationship with him quickly becomes boring. Similarly, if you do not take time to communicate with each other about your sexual worlds, your sexual relationship will rapidly lose its vitality and passion.
We hope we've convinced you that open communication is the key to restoring and maintaining sexual pleasure. But we know that some of you may still be uncomfortable or unable to actually start to communicate openly. It's understandable that old habits and attitudes are hard to change.
"Even though our sexuality is basic to who we are as human beings, we may harbor unexpressed issues of sexuality inside ourselves. These issues can be our most private secrets. We have difficulty sharing them and revealing what we really think and feel. We lack knowledge, and feel inadequate and unsure of ourselves." Thus, you need to open your inner worlds to each other gradually and safely. In this book we will provide the tools and the structure for that adventure of self-disclosure.
In his book The Transparent Self, Sidney Jourard wrote about self-disclosure as the "portal to man's soul." To reveal oneself takes both courage and knowledge of oneself, said Jourard. We can only know each other as we know ourselves and make that self-awareness known to each other. This is definitely true when it comes to sex. You must first know yourselves sexually: What do you believe, think, and feel about sex? Until you are able to sort out your own sexuality, it will be difficult to communicate openly with your spouse so that your sexual relationship can flourish. That is why we will ask you to complete each communication exercise individually, separate from each other, before you share your reflections with each other. Take plenty of time to ponder and explore your inner worlds of thoughts and feelings as you respond to the questions or statements of each exercise.
More secrets exist in the sexual realm than in any other area of life. To open your sexual world, you must reveal some of those secrets, whether they are about fantasy, pornography, adultery, inadequacy, or desires. You may find this difficult to do because, like all of us, you have probably been taught that it is wrong to tell secrets. You may also feel intense discomfort, worrying that your public image is at stake if your spouse does not keep your secrets private. Thus, the danger of sharing your secrets is very real. Fear about your spouse's reaction is also real. Hence, because of anxiety or lack of trust, you may have difficulty sharing certain sexual secrets.
Because sex is very private and very personal, anything that has to do with the sharing of details about your sexuality makes you feel vulnerable. It is hard enough to discuss intimate sexual issues you feel confident about; sharing sexual failures is almost impossible. What you share sexually reveals much about you beyond the sexual data. It indicates the kind of person you are, the values you believe in and live by, and your secret, inner world. So it is completely understandable that you feel hesitant to talk about sexual problems. Yet this hesitancy must be overcome if the two of you are going to get past the sexual barriers you are experiencing.
Sharing Past Hurts
One major consequence of opening your sexual world is that this may bring up past hurts such as sexual abuse, a negative body image, past sexual experience, low self-esteem, or other problems.
Childhood sexual abuse. The pain of past sexual abuse is the most obvious example of a past hurt that can affect your sex life. Estimates vary as to the percentages of people who were sexually abused as children, but it is commonly accepted that this kind of abuse does occur. For some, those memories have been so totally repressed they cannot be reported. For others, the feelings about past abuse may be so vague they have not faced them directly.
If your memories are so vivid that they haunt and plague you, reliving those instances will seem like dragging out a dead corpse, a reminder of pain. You want to be rid of the memory and to avoid talking about it, so it is frightening to discuss it openly, digging up the ugly past. Yet the very difficulty that is causing problems in your sexual relationship may be identical to the pain you experienced as a child. Getting relief from the current difficulty requires undoing those past hurts, yet the discomfort that comes with sharing those hurts will obviously nudge you toward resistance. You must gently yet persistently encourage each other to explore and share such abuse so that you can release the grief and reduce its impact on your present sexual life. You will probably need professional help with this part of the sharing process. Groups are often available in churches to work through past abuse.
Negative body image. A negative body image may be another source of past hurt that contributes to your difficulty in talking about sex. You may have struggled with a physical handicap, obesity, or an accidental or congenital deformity. Or you may be attractive by all external standards, but because you were labeled, teased, or abused as a young child, you have a negative view of your body.
Past sexual experience. Past adult sexual experience may be painful to share because it was hurtful to your own self-worth, your conscience, or your image, or because learning about the past experience may hurt your spouse. Be cautious! The value of this sharing may not be worth the possible hurt and destruction it causes. Get outside guidance to help you decide when and how much to share about your past sexual activity. If you became pregnant while single, you may have suffered the embarrassment of an obviously quick marriage, or you may feel guilt about giving up the baby for adoption or trauma from having an abortion. There may also be guilt from premarital sexual activity or self-deprecation because of long-term failure in your own sexual relationship.
Low self-esteem. Self-worth is determined in part by how you perceive yourself as a sexual being. Self-esteem, both general and sexual, will influence how freely sexual details can be shared. Your sexual self-esteem may have been hurt by something that was said to you during dating, by myths that you believed, by past experiences, by lack of knowledge, or by your relationship with each other.
Sexual issues are important, so important that they must be talked about in detail. God intended for men and women to have sexual fulfillment in marriage. The only way for you to gain this fulfillment is to share your anxieties and difficulties. In order to build positive sexual self-esteem and establish new sexual patterns, you must first understand your old patterns and perceptions. And you must be clear in describing how you each have experienced your sexual interaction.
So often when we interview spouses separately, they tell us completely different stories. One will say their kissing is great and passionate, while the other will say all they ever have are little pecks. One may report having sex as little as twice a month, while the other spouse may say it's as frequent as twice a week. Afterward, we sometimes joke that we must have mixed spouses in the waiting room. But we know that when a couple hasn't talked about sex, their views of what is actually happening can vary greatly. We predict that you will find it fascinating to compare your own responses to the Defining Your Sexual Experience form and see how each of you views what has been happening in your sexual times together. We hope this will be an exciting and rewarding adventure even if you must blast through some painful barriers and revelations as you grow together.CHAPTER 3
Hearing Each Other
So often with those we love — spouses, children, friends — we behave as though the most important part of communication is getting our point across, saying what we want to say. When you are frustrated with each other over a difference of opinion, what are you feeling? If I could just say it so he or she could understand. Many times we repeat the same words over and over with increased intensity and emotion, hoping we will finally be understood. If only we could know deeply and practice consistently the most effective skill to being heard — active listening!
"But that doesn't make sense," you may be saying. "How can I be heard while I am listening?" Read this carefully: As you are able to listen to each other, reflecting what the other has shared, in a way that lets the other know that you understand what he or she thinks and feels, you will communicate a care for each other that will draw you closer. That closeness will then open the door to allow you to hear each other and understand each other's feelings.
Please reread the previous paragraph until the concept described above sinks into your inner being. Hearing each other is the key to effective communication, which opens the door to sexual pleasure.
What's so difficult about communicating? Your emotions, your word choices, and your past experiences all affect how you send and receive messages. That's why one message can have different meanings for each of you. We all know the frustration of trying to communicate a simple, but important, message and not being heard accurately. That is when the natural tendency kicks in to keep repeating the same words with more intensity. When you notice that happening, STOP! Back up and follow the process visualized for you in the Communication Model on page 15 and described in more detail in the Communication Format, page 16. The Communication Format will provide the most benefit if the two of you read it out loud together now and before you share your responses to each of the Communication Focus exercises.
Communication Focus exercises will appear throughout the book. These are the tools you will use to gradually open your inner worlds of sexuality to yourself and to each other. They begin with a more general tone and gradually increase in the detail of personal data they are designed to reveal. This helps you learn effective sharing, listening, reflecting, and clarifying skills before the sharing gets too intense. These skills will be of great benefit as the intensity increases.
The Communication Focus exercises have been used with thousands of people in our "Discovering Greater Passion and Intimacy in Your Marriage" seminars and in sexual therapy in our office or by telephone. We find that the benefit of each exercise varies greatly from one couple to another, depending on your individual issues and conflicts. The more difficult the exercise, the more work will be needed in the tension-producing areas of that particular exercise.
We recommend that you decide together on a scheduled time and date to share your responses to each Communication Focus exercise. It may be difficult for you to be aware of what is going on inside yourself. You may have grown up in a home where you were not encouraged, or even allowed, to know what you thought, felt, believed, or wanted. You may have gotten the sense that it was not safe to share your real responses with your spouse. There may be such pain at the core of your being that you have chosen not to open yourself to those feelings. You may need help from a supportive friend or a mental-health professional. Or you may be ready to take the risk of opening yourself with your spouse. Proceed at your own pace.
Excerpted from Restoring the Pleasure by Clifford L. Penner, Joyce J. Penner. Copyright © 2016 Clifford and Joyce Penner. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Figures, Forms, Tables, and Assignments ix
Introduction: A Minor Change Can Make a Major Difference xi
Part 1 Communication: The Key for the Door to Sexual Pleasure
1 Are You Talking About It? 3
2 Sharing Your Secrets 6
3 Hearing Each Other 11
Part 2 Education: The Door to Sexual Pleasure
4 The More You Know, the More You Enjoy 25
5 Sex Is Good and of God 36
6 Sexual Curiosity Is Natural 51
7 Sexual Response Is Automatic 59
8 But Sex Doesn't Just Happen 89
9 Mutual Respect Is Absolutely Essential 99
Part 3 Sexual Retraining: The Steps to Sexual Pleasure
10 What Is Sexual Retraining? 115
11 Assessing Your Sex Life 118
12 Sexual Retraining 141
13 Overcoming Barriers 197
14 Overcoming Couple Dissatisfaction 199
15 Overcoming Problems of Sexual Desire 208
16 Overcoming Problems of Sexual Arousal 228
17 Overcoming Problems of Sexual Release 241
18 Overcoming Intercourse Barriers 280
19 Controlling Sexual Addictions 311
20 Beyond Retraining 339
Resource List 349
About the Authors 359
Scripture Index 367