As people visit this website and ask for my advice, one of the most common struggles is difficulty during sex in marriage even after crossdressing has been left behind. This can be for many reasons. One of the most common is that wives feel betrayed and hurt after finding out about their husbands’ crossdressing activities. I’m sure it feels nearly impossible to enjoy sex with someone you don’t trust. Or these wives may find it very difficult to be close to their husbands sexually because they cannot stop picturing their husbands dressed in women’s clothes in their minds. These wives may find that their attraction for their husbands seems to be gone. This is deeply painful and a real problem for many couples. But that is not what I want to focus on in this post, partly because I don’t feel qualified to give advice on women’s sexuality. Let me save such a post for one of my readers who may be more qualified to write a guest post on that topic. It would greatly benefit the wives who visit this website. If you are a marriage counselor reading this, please consider contacting me to write such a post. I will just offer a third brief points of advice:
- Please go to a counselor to get the help you need. Don’t try to go through this deep struggle alone. Your husband needs help to quit his addiction, but you also need help, care, support, encouragement, and advice.
- I recommend that you don’t interrogate your husband to learn every gross detail of his addiction. Don’t ask him to show you every photo he’s saved of himself crossdressed. Don’t make him show you every article of clothing he has bought and used. You have a right to know anything he has done. But filling your mind with these images will not help you in the long run. You can forgive a husband for his unfaithfulness, but you can’t remove images from your mind and ideas from your mind which might prevent you from being attracted to your husband in the future.
- Be gracious to yourself and to your husband. Change may take time. Trust can be rebuilt. Attraction can come back. Be patient. Focus on the positive aspects of the relationship in the meantime.
I hope those few points are helpful, but I want to focus this post on the ex-crossdressers, on the men who are struggling with marital intimacy. For you, I can offer some advice based on my own personal experiences, my education in pastoral care, the many marriage books I’ve read, and most of all based on the numerous stories I’ve heard from ex-crossdressers in this situation and the time I’ve spent walking and praying through their difficulties with them.
For men who have given up crossdressing, sex with their wives may not be easy, especially if their addiction was really entrenched and they were used to getting their sexual pleasure and release through crossdressing and masturbation. Here are some of the various related problems that I have talked to ex-crossdressers and their wives about:
- Some enjoy sexual intimacy with their wives very much, and are sexually turned on by their wives, but they find it hard to keep intrusive crossdressing thoughts from entering their minds during sex. See for example my post here – Keeping the Marriage Bed Pure.
- Some are attracted to their wives and desire sex but feel they are unable to have sexual intimacy with their wives unless they occupy their mind with crossdressing fantasies which arouse them. They feel like they cannot have an erection unless they turn to the crossdressing fantasies. For some of these men, they are able to be aroused somewhat by their wives, but might later lose their erection if they don’t engage the crossdressing scenarios in their minds.
- Some ex-crossdressers try to have sexual intimacy with their wives, but have problems of erectile dysfunction with or without allowing for crossdressing thoughts during sex. Sometimes this is due to performance anxiety but it could have a physical cause. Sometimes they do not feel attracted enough to their wives like they think normal men would.
- Some ex-crossdressers find they that have no desire for sex with their wives. This may be because they still crave crossdressing so much as their go-to sexual outlet, or crossdressing had become a replacement for their wives even with the sexual element having dropped away. They find sex to be a chore or a burden. Some of their wives are frustrated and lonely and have to pressure their husbands for times of marital intimacy.
To thoroughly respond to each of those four categories individually might be a bit tedious. Let me instead offer suggestions that could help men in these categories generally. Some suggestions may apply to certain categories and not others.
1. Work as a couple to take away the pressure to perform. Research and experience both show that the more pressure you feel to perform sexually, the less likely you are to perform well. The more anxious you are, the more you worry about not being able to sustain an erection, the more you will probably experience failure in that area. If you overthink it, you will kill the experience. See this article from WebMD for more help on this – Sexual Performance Anxiety.
- You can do this by agreeing as a couple that intimacy does not always have to end in a sexual climax. It is okay to simply enjoy physical intimacy, closeness, and/or nakedness. Focus on the pleasure of kissing or making out. Hold hands. Take a shower together. Spoon in bed. Cuddle. Play. Give each other massages. If you take the pressure off by just focusing on these easy things, then you can still enjoy spending time together and being intimate. Over time, as you keep doing this, you will begin to associate time together with ease, pleasure, and relaxation, rather than anxiety and performance. Eventually these activities can lead to sexual intercourse naturally, and you can let it come when it happens. But if it doesn’t come, neither spouse has to feel guilt or frustration because you go into each encounter without an expectation that it has to end a certain way.
- I’ve heard of marriage counselors suggesting 6 months of abstaining from sex together, and just focusing on cuddling and playing until sex can be associated for both spouses with pleasure and fun rather than anxiety. Sometimes it’s not an overnight process. It takes time to relearn to associate sexual intimacy with fun and pleasure rather than performance and anxiety. Consider trying this.
- Intercourse is not the only way to have a sexual climax. Sometimes your erection might not be hard enough to enter your wife, but you could still be close up against her and still ejaculate, and you can in turn make sure to pleasure her in the way she wants as well. Don’t stress yourself to have intercourse each and every time.
- Focus on pleasing your wife. This takes away from your anxiety and performance. Make it less about your erection and climax, and more about just trying to make it to be a good time for your wife. Massage her. Manually stimulate her or give her oral sex. Do for her what feels nice for her. What you might find is that the more you get the focus off yourself, the more you will enjoy yourself.
- You can also try having sex in the middle of the night. If one of you wakes up in the night, especially if you wake with an erection, and you are close to each other in bed, holding each other, you can gently start caressing and massaging. If the spouse responds well to being woken up like this, you can have a good time of martial intimacy. (Make sure you know your spouse well, so they don’t get annoyed if you wake them up!). Often this kind of interlude in the night means that both people are at rest and their minds are potentially very free from distractions, stress, and anxieties. A relaxed body responds better.
- You might know you need sex and intimacy with your wife but you don’t always think about it or pursue it. Suggest to your wife she initiates sexual activity together from time to time, but then when she does so, respond kindly to her advances. Doing this can also take off some of the pressure you might feel with performance anxiety. It puts some of the responsibility on your wife to make a move, rather than you feeling like it’s all on you as the man.
2. If you have a problem with erectile dysfunction, there could be physical causes. Consider seeing your doctor – Erectile Dysfunction.
3. Think about what your wife can do or wear that may turn you on more, and have a frank discussion about it. It’s not a good idea to pressure your wife to do something she is uncomfortable doing. If you really want her to give you oral sex, but that is really uncomfortable from her, don’t try to force her. But perhaps there are small things she can do that will be exciting or attractive to you.
- Maybe there is a type of lingerie that you would love to see her wear. Maybe there is something she can say to you during intimate time together that would really help and make you feel good. Maybe wearing a nightgown for those nights rather than pajamas will really turn you on. Maybe painting her toenails. Whatever it is, those little things can help a lot. But let me give a caution. Be careful you don’t become fixated on her objects of femininity, rather than she herself. See this post – Lusting after female objects. But I wouldn’t feel guilty if such objects make your wife more attractive in your eyes. After all, that is why normal women wear such clothing to attract normal men. There is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t become fixated on the objects alone. They are meant to decorate “your wife” to draw your attention to her. They are not meant to be the object of your attention and desire.
- Consider asking your wife to give you manual stimulation with her hands until you have a solid erection when you have trouble. Some men might be more visually oriented and others more physically oriented when it comes to sex. But even if you normally would be turned on by the visual look of crossdressing, the physical feel of spooning your wife or having her manually stimulate you may be enough to still give you an erection.
4. Exercise and rest. This is good for both the husband and the wife. Of course it’s good to be attracted to one another with the way that you both really look, and not be paranoid about appearance, diets and losing weight. On the other hand, most people do look better and feel better when they are fit and healthy and exercising regularly. You will likely be more attractive to your spouse, and you will feel better about yourself and have more confidence. You will likely enjoy sex more with a healthier body as well. At the same time, make sure you get enough sleep. (And by the way exercising can help you to sleep better). You need to have enough energy and enough rest. Make real concrete changes to your lifestyle and schedule so that you can have a more balanced life, and so that you are not physically exhausted when your wife needs cuddle time.
5. Don’t lie to yourself that you can only be turned on when you think of crossdressing thoughts. I doubt that this is true for anyone. After all, crossdressing sexual pleasure is a distortion of heterosexual sexual pleasure and attraction. It seems pretty unlikely that any man who gets sexual pleasure from crossdressing would be 100% completely unable to take pleasure from seeing a real woman, or being touched sexually by a real woman. Remember also that there are many homosexual people who are happily married to people of the opposite sex and able to have sexual intercourse with them. If you deceive yourself to think that you can only have an erection if you think about crossdressing, then you will be limiting yourself through your own thoughts from enjoying true sexual attraction to your wife. Remove that lie, and begin to allow yourself to cultivate attraction to your wife, and enjoyment of her touch.
6. Make a rule to never allow crossdressing thoughts in the bedroom. It’s not okay to justify sin because you think it will result in some good result. That is the road to destruction. God’s ways don’t work like that. Even if you feel like the sinful fantasies get you the good result you want, you will feel guilty and dirty afterwards. Instead of a pleasant finish and a loving feeling towards your wife, you will feel contaminated or that you have contaminated her. You will end with feeling guilt and frustration. The most common reason ex-crossdressers turn to crossdressing thoughts is that they lie to themselves that they can only be turned on if they think such fantasies. But the reality is that this can only entrench your performance anxiety and make things worse, especially if you haven’t made an agreement with your wife that it’s okay for an intimate episode not to end in sexual climax. Just relax. Don’t make an idol out of sexual fulfillment to the point that you are willing to sin in your heart and mind just to make sure you climax. Ex-crossdressers who have fought against this mentality have made a lot of progress in marital sex. Some started by using crossdressing fantasies as a crutch whenever they felt like their erection wasn’t firm enough. But the problems wouldn’t go away. But once they worked with their wives on getting rid of performance anxiety, and just relaxing in the moment, they were able to lose the anxiety. Now they tell themselves, – “If the erection goes, it’s okay, I’m not going to sin. We can still enjoy intimate time together.” This can easily have the long term effect that the anxiety goes away and the whole problem of not having an erection goes away too. They find that not only are they no longer sinning with crossdressing fantasies in their minds, but they feel no need for them anymore.
7. If crossdressing thoughts come up during sex, unbidden and unwanted, and unnecessary for your erection, don’t panic. Acknowledge to yourself that the thought came, that you don’t want it and don’t need it, and simply choose to dismiss it. Then refocus your attention on your spouse. Focus on the feel of her body. Or look into her eyes. If you panic, or get wracked full of guilt, or start worrying, you can destroy the intimate time together. And the panic and worry can actually prevent you from getting rid of the thoughts. Don’t take these thoughts too seriously. Change doesn’t happen overnight. So don’t let them discourage you. Over time, with continued abstinence from crossdressing, those thoughts will come up less and less. This is the experience many have had.
8. Don’t hesitate to fantasize about your wife during sex. Ideally you would be turned on just by your wife in that moment, but I don’t see any biblical reason why it would be wrong to fantasize about your wife being in a different situation with you, or wearing something else. Maybe you remember the day your wife wore that red dress and high heels and you never forget how beautiful and feminine she looked that day. Feel free to picture that in your mind if it helps to turn you on. That good memory is still a part of the complete picture of your love for your wife and your attraction to her.
9. Some people have low libido. It’s normal. Grappling with this reality as a couple is very important. It may be the wife who desires sex much less than the husband, but it may be the husband who desires sex less. In some ways it is easier if it is the wife who desires sex less. Our culture and stereotypes make it harder for most people to deal with the man being the one who wants less sex. Men in this situation feel unmanly and messed up, and their wives often cannot understand how their husbands are so different from the stereotypes.
- Accepting the reality of mismatched sexual desire in a marriage is really important. Ideally the two spouses would be matched well, but a mis-match is not a good reason to bail on the marriage. I tend to think God has put things this way in many couples because God is more concerned about our relationship with him, our sanctification, and our learning to sacrifice and love our spouse as a lot more important than our sexual pleasure. We all need to learn contentment in the marital situations we find ourselves in. Whether you are the spouse who isn’t getting as much sex as you want, or the sex that is having to serve the other spouse by having sex more often than you want. This kind of situation is hard and painful. It is a real struggle and trial in life. But it can also be a way to grow in your dependence on God and your trust in Him. It is a way for one spouse to learn to sacrifice and serve by giving up meeting their every sexual desire at every time they want, as well as learning self control in the process. And it is a way for the other spouse to learn to sacrifice and serve by having sexual intimacy even when they do not have that desire.
- Don’t use this as an excuse to get a divorce. Persevere through the struggle. God will use it for good! That is his promise in Romans 8:28. Honor your marriage covenant. Keep your commitment whether it’s an easy or a hard time in marriage.
- Almost every marriage book gets into these issues of mis-matched sexual desires. Read them and get help from them, especially the books written by Christian pastors or Christian counselors. Note however that most of these books stereo-typically show the wife as having the lessened sexual desire. Instead of getting angry at the unhelpful stereotype, find and apply the good lessons and principles to each spouse.
10. To those men who feel absolutely no desire for sex with their wives, I don’t have a perfect solution. I’d recommend talking to your doctor about your lack of sexual desire. And I’d also say that you need to give yourself a long period of abstinence from crossdressing in order for the desire for your wife to start regrowing. If you have lived a life full of crossdressing for years, it’s not easy to immediately make a switch. But I do believe strongly that your body can relearn to be sexually turned on by your wife. Our brains can be wired for certain things, which is why pornography is so addictive, it actually rewires your brain. But that also gives hope. You can rewire or recondition your brain to be attracted to your wife again, as you were at the beginning of your relationship. But first you have to starve it of the unholy crossdressing addiction. See Your Brain on Porn for more about how pornography changes the brain. Read the testimonies at sites like Your Brain on Porn, to read about guys who after their pornography addiction could no longer have sex with their wives. They couldn’t be aroused. But in the testimonies they share how they are finally able to be turned on to their wives again after getting help to overcome the addiction! There are hundreds if not thousands of such testimonies. You can experience that change too. You could also read this post about being satisfied by your wife – May her breasts satisfy you always.
11. Be patient! You may not experience radical change over night. But the good things in life, the important things, the meaningful things, they take work and perseverance. Don’t give up immediately. I think you will experience change, I would really love to guarantee it. But I don’t know if you will or not. But what I can say is that for most people the change comes gradually. Prepare yourself, and your wife, for a journey together. And don’t give up. Rewards will come with time. Think in terms of months, not days. But the rewards are real! And worth it.
12. Last and not least, you need to pray.
- I pray for my wife every day and pray for my marriage every day. Pray for your wife, and pray about your problems of sexual intimacy. Pray about it alone, and pray about it together with your wife. Ask God for his help.
- Pray before times of intimacy. And don’t just pray that you will “get it up” and have sexual pleasure. Pray that God would help you to bring pleasure and satisfaction to your wife. Pray that God would be glorified in your time together as you are obedient and trying to serve one another. Pray that God would be honored by your time together, whether or not you get the finish that you want. Pray that God would use the time to bring you closer to your wife.
- Pray during sex, silently. I often pray, “Lord, thank you for my wife. Bless my time of playing with her. Help me to enjoy her and her body. This is the woman you gave to me, and I’m grateful.”
- And after the time of sex, pray again and thank God for the time and what he allowed. If it didn’t go as well as you hoped, remember God’s biblical promises that he is always working for our good, even through trials. Thank him for the work he is doing in you both, even when sex is not turning out to be everything you were both hoping it would be. Continue to trust in Him that he is working in your lives and continue to walk in obedience and worship.