Unmet Expectations: Rewriting Your Story

Jennifer: “…excuse me, Pastor.  But when are we going to get to the good stuff?”

Pastor: “The good stuff?

Michael: “You know, the good stuff.  As a part of our premarital counseling, we’ve discussed finances, parenting, and all other things marriage.  When are we going to talk about sex?  You know, the good stuff?”

Pastor: “Oh, we’re going to get there.  I usually save the hardest topics for last.”

Jennifer and Michael: *laughing*

Jennifer: “What’s so hard about sex?  Honestly, we can’t wait!”

Pastor: “Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be everything you thought it would be, and more.  It’s also going to be everything you never expected it to be.  It’s going to be hard.  I’ve talked with dozens of couples through the years who…”

Michael: *interrupts* “We’re not like ‘other’ couples, you know.  We can’t imagine anything ever going wrong in our sex lives.”


We’ve been married for twelve years.  Twelve.  In the grand scheme of things, we’re still in the adolescent phase of our marriage.  Because of this, we don’t claim to be “experts” in the field of marriage by any stretch of the imagination.  But when it comes to the subjects of marriage and sex, we’ve talked with enough couples to know that before they got married, many of them honestly believed they would always be on the same page when it came to their future sex life.  They didn’t discuss their desires or expectations at length, because, well…they saw sex as the “good stuff”.  They couldn’t imagine this part of their marriage being “off”.  Deep down, they knew the honeymoon wouldn’t last forever.  Still, they couldn’t imagine that one of them would have a desire for sex, and the other wouldn’t.

Nobody told them they may have differing views.

Nobody told them sex wouldn’t always be orgasmic.

Nobody told them this area of their marriage was so emotional.

Nobody told them it would be hard.

In full transparency, we don’t remember much about our premarital counseling 12 1/2 years ago.  But we do remember that when the conversation finally turned to sex, we, too thought we were finally getting to the “good stuff”.  We had talked about the subjects of divorce, finances, yadda yadda yadda.  And now we were finally going to talk about sex.

We were excited!

We were smiling!

We were ready!

And then our pastor said something that neither of us have forgotten.  Unlike the pastor above, ours didn’t mention anything about this part of marriage being hard.  He didn’t warn us that we would both have different desires.  He didn’t have us discuss any of our personal thoughts on the subject.  He didn’t have us share our expectations.  He simply looked at us, gave a thin smile, and then said, “You’ll figure it out.  Now, let’s talk about ____________.”

He was right about one thing…we figured it out.  We didn’t need to have a 9th Grade Health Education textbook on our honeymoon to explain the process.  We were able to “figure out” how to have sex.  All by ourselves.  We even lit candles.  Geniuses, weren’t we?

But within months we discovered that there was a lot more to “figure out” than simply the physical.  Orgasm didn’t always happen.  And the real shocker:

Sexual desire wasn’t always mutual.

Over a period of weeks, and then months, it finally clicked.  We realized that sex really was everything we thought it would be.  But it was also everything we never expected it to be.  We realized we had a lot more to “figure out”.

We know that we’re not alone.  We know that many couples believe sex is always, and only, the “good stuff”.  And to be honest, it can be!  But far too often, it becomes something not so good.  Once the honeymoon high is over, conversations about sex become shorter, not sincere. Sex itself may feel forced, not focused.

While some couples dig-in and choose to “figure it out”, others remain silent.  Those who go the latter route, often experience some pretty harsh consequences.

If the male has a higher sex drive, he’ll become discouraged.  He may begin doubting himself, wondering why he doesn’t turn-on his wife like he thought he did.  Maybe he’ll masturbate, or find some other way to fulfill his sexual urges.  This will ultimately produce feelings of shame, all of which can be traced back to his wife.  To avoid those feelings, he’ll begin avoiding her.  Longer shifts at work.  Perhaps a new hobby.  Finally, when she notices some things seem a little off in their marriage, he’ll give the typical, “I think we’re doing fine,” response.  He doesn’t really know how to tell her she isn’t fulfilling him, so he remains silent.

If the female has a higher sex drive, she’ll begin to doubt her beauty.  To counter, she may go so far as to throw out little hints of flirtation to other men she sees on a regular basis.  She has no real intention of wooing them, she just wants to know that she’s still “got it”.  When one begins to flirt back, she’ll stop, reminding herself of her husband.  Maybe she’ll throw out some sexual hints to her hubby that evening.  Maybe he’ll respond that evening, but unknowingly reject her the next two.  Doubts linger.

The sad truth is that this situation can happen to any couple.

Whether they’ve been married 6 months.

10 years.

30 years.

It can happen.

How can a couple work together to be on the same page?  How can a couple “figure it out”?

Well, here’s one idea…

Take some time to think about the ideal marriage and sex life.  Refrain from thinking of ‘perfection’ (such a dangerous word), and just focus on what would be ideal.  You don’t have to get too specific, just specific enough so that your spouse understands your desires.

How much time would you get to spend together every week?  How often would you have sex?  How long would those encounters last?  Does he recite poetry?  Does she do a strip tease?  What is the lighting like?  The temperature?  Foreplay?  Think through as many of your marital and sexual expectations as possible.

Now, write down your ideas in the form of a story.  Simply title your story, “My Ideal Marriage and Sex Life Would Be…” and write it out.  Keep it short.  Under 1,000 words.

Take as long as you want to work on it.  Maybe a day.  Maybe a week.  The more you think through what you really desire in your marriage and sex life, the more ideal it will be.

Just remember, your spouse is going to be doing this activity as well.  Then, when you’re both ready, come together and discuss your thoughts.  Maybe you’ll both have very similar ideas.  Maybe you’ll be way off!  Either way, focus your conversation around one simple question: “What changes can we make so that these stories are a reality for our marriage?”

As you discuss it, you’re going to write a new story.  One you both agree on.  The story of YOU gets set aside.  The story of US begins to be written.  Not only do you write it down, you begin to live it out.  Sex becomes exotic, not exhausting.  Experiences together become magical, not mundane. Expectations become more than normal, they’re natural.  As you live this out you’ll begin to know and be intimate with your spouse in ways deeper than you imagined.  Continue this story long enough, and you may one day realize you were right, you aren’t anything like ‘other’ couples.

Your story may change from time to time.

It may need to be refined.

In some seasons, rewritten.

But it’s your story, and you’re writing it together.

You’re living it together.

You’re experiencing it together.

Most of all, you’re enjoying it.


This is part 2 in a series on Unmet Expectations.  Read the rest of the series:

Unmet Expectations: Introduction

Unmet Expectations: Rewriting Your Story

Unmet Expectations: Orgasmic Conflict

Unmet Expectations: Better Than The Best

Unmet Expectations: Guilt vs. Shame

Unmet Expectations: Quality Time

Unmet Expectations: Holidays & Family Time

Unmet Expectations: Friends Outside of Marriage

Linking With: Women Living Well, To Love Honor and Vacuum

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