Guest Post by Shannon Ethridge, M.A.
Imagine 8-10 women of all ages, from all walks of life, gathering together behind this door over a 4-day span with one goal – to sift through their sexual and emotional baggage. Why in the world would they want to do such a thing?
Some women come to my Women at the Well 4-day Intensive Workshops because they’ve acted out sexually and are desperately trying to break free from their first affair… or their fourth or fifth. Others have shut down sexually, avoiding their husband’s sexual advances for years… or decades. Childhood sexual abuse, body image issues, pre-marital promiscuity, emotional disconnection, or legalistic upbringings can make it seem too painful to “go there,” even in marriage. Or such trauma can actually make “going there” via an inappropriate relationship seem absolutely irresistible, as we seek to medicate our emotional pain rather than feeling and healing it.
I often describe female sexuality as a “pendulum swing.” Some swing too far to the left, crossing boundary lines they never thought they’d cross. Others swing too far to the right, isolating and insulating themselves from the very connection they once craved. Most women will swing back and forth to some degree throughout her lifetime – feeling like a “hot mama” on some days, and like a “cold clam” on others. Hormone levels and flirty feelings fluctuate as unpredictably as flash flood waters running through a dry creek bed. It can be rather scary, not just for the woman experiencing these peaks and valleys and pendulum swings, but also for the husband who has no idea whether she’s running hot or cold from one season to the next.
I speak from experience on these issues, having graduated magna cum laude from The School of Hard Knocks. After years of pre-marital promiscuity, I honestly thought putting a wedding band on my finger would stop the sexual madness in my own life and give me an escape route off of the “crazy train.” And it did. In fact, the wedding band was my permission slip to shut down sexually altogether after we’d had children, which of course didn’t suit my husband at all.
However, with the help of a professional counselor, I invested six months sifting through the sexual and emotional baggage that had weighed down my life and marriage. It was by far the best investment of money, time, and energy I’ve ever made. And as I write this, my husband’s head is nodding furiously in agreement, flashing his best Cheshire-cat grin.
My emotional healing and restored sexual confidence has not only meant a stronger marriage, but also a stronger ministry, as cheering women on in their own healing journey has become one of my absolute greatest joys!
Has sexual and emotional baggage weighed down your life and marriage?
To help you determine the answer, here are a few questions to consider:
- Do you feel like “damaged goods” because of your sexual past?
- Is it hard to resist the attentions of another man who finds you attractive, even if you know that man isn’t good for you?
- Do you often wish that your husband would be content with just holding hands or talking, rather than expecting sex?
- Are you comfortable and confident in your own skin, or do you feel the need to hide your body from your husband’s eyes?
- Would your husband say he got a “bait and switch” deal – that you seemed amiable to physical intimacy in the early years, but not nearly as much so now?
- Can you enjoy sex with your husband without guilt, shame, or inhibition?
- Do you often fantasize about being sexually or emotionally intimate with a different man than the one you married?
If you recognize that your sexual pendulum has swung too far to the left, or too far to the right, know that you are not alone. Over the past 20 years of speaking, countless women have declared to me, “Wow! Your story is just like my story!” If this storyline resonates with you as well, perhaps it’s time to carefully consider what may be keeping YOU from enjoying a vibrant, healthy sex life within your (current or future) marriage.
If you need someone to help you craft a happy ending to your sexual and emotional story, connect with a counselor, coach, or mentor. Or consider entering through the Women at the Well Workshop door yourself! What will you find inside? Acceptance. Love. Mercy. Grace. Wisdom. Insight. Inspiration. Peace. Confidence. Hope. All through relationships with other women on a similar journey. Because when we’ve been deeply wounded in relationships, we experience deep healing the same way – in relationship with others.
Shannon Ethridge, M.A. is a Certified Life Coach, International Speaker, Co-Host of Sexy Marriage Radio, and Author of 22 books including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman’s Battle series, The Sexually Confident Wife, and The Passion Principles. After being married 25 years and raising two amazing children, Shannon and Greg enjoy an empty nest in Tyler, Texas. Learn more about her books, coaching, and workshops at shannonethridge.com.