I think every guy wrestles with the question, “Do I measure up as a man?” Ever since I was a little kid I know this was a question on my heart, and I would compete constantly to prove that I had what it takes. And by the standards I grew up with I was pretty successful, I was popular and athletic. I dated girls and I had things to do on the weekend. Then shortly after high school I started to take my Christian faith seriously, and I became convinced that a man was measured not by his strength or popularity but by his character. I worked hard to be a man I could be proud of, and by the time I was ready to get married I would have been considered by most a pretty good guy.
My wife and I both saved sex for marriage and as our wedding day approached we both seemed to have made all the right choices. I was really excited that our sex life was going to be free from so much of the baggage that is often brought into marriage. That we’d be free to learn together and share a confidence that comes from exclusivity. And, as my wife points out, I was pretty excited just for sex.
And then we got married, and we had sex. At first it was mostly awkward, uncomfortable, and less than satisfying. And then it stayed that way. Month after month went by and we just couldn’t figure things out. Our frustration grew. My wife wanted desperately to find a way to make things work, and although she told me she still enjoyed sex, I told myself that just couldn’t be true. It was a lie, but I’d tell myself that she didn’t want to have sex with me. And why would she when I felt like she got nothing out of it? I felt ashamed that I wanted to have sex so often, and I felt ashamed that she didn’t. Throughout this time I only told one person about our struggles, and while on the outside it looked like we had everything together, on the inside I felt over and over again that my question from childhood was finally answered. I didn’t measure up. I was unable to please the one person I loved the most. And every time we tried to have sex I only felt reminded of my failure.
It took us almost five years to start to figure things out, and we’re certainly not done yet. I can say that this experience was the most painful of my life, but it’s also been one of the greatest blessings. Nothing could have made me love my wife more, or drawn me closer to her. And through it all I’ve learned a few things.
I learned that we all have baggage. Whether we’re the poster child of having it together or whether our lives look more like a crime scene, we all bring pain, insecurities, and wounds into our relationships. For us our wounds revolved around trust, vulnerability and issues with past relationships. And I think that’s part of what love is all about, because it wasn’t until we were able to recognize our wounds, to share them, and to face them together that they started to heal. But that’s what love does, it heals our wounds. Not always in a romantic comedy way. Sometimes it feels like cauterizing a wound but healing is there.
I also learned that the same things that can drive a couple apart can drive them closer together. Most of the time I didn’t want to talk about my pain with my wife. Most of the time I’d rather just be left alone. And if I would have stayed there, or if she would have let me, we’d be in a much different place than we are today. I thank God that instead of throwing in the towel both of us were stubborn enough to fight for what we wanted, a beautiful marriage, because with enough work we are getting there.
I’ve learned that as cheesy as the saying is, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. (I know, I know, but we wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true). There is new life at the end of our struggles, and we’re better people for the pain that we go through. That’s why I’m able to thank God for the cross of our early sex life. And that’s why I know that love is real, because it helps us overcome the greatest challenges.
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