Guest Post: Dr. Jennifer Degler (Answers from an Expert)

Dr. Jennifer Degler and I don't technically know one another, she's the only person I don't know personally that is participating in this series. I wanted it to just be people I knew I could trust to handle such a personal issue. But even thought I don't know Jennifer, I sure do respect her and believe in her ministry. I am a HUGE FAN of www.cwives.com and have been so thankful for the advice and tips offered! I am hugely honored that Jennifer would agree to share her wisdom with us! Consider this a free seminar or counseling session! 

Note: She answered some of the most commonly asked question in regards to intimacy from last year's Sex Q&A and this year's Sex Q&A
Most women struggle with getting in the mood (which is crazy because before marriage we couldn't get out of the mood). What are some ways we can fix this problem?
Women typically don’t ever think about sex unless prompted to do so. It just doesn’t flash into our mind like it does for men, so we have to intentionally think about sex, plus make sure those thoughts are positive—not “it’s been a while, I guess I better do it tonight even though I don’t want to and will be tired.” It helps to remind yourself of all your husband’s good qualities and the good times you have had together, clothed and unclothed. Instead of worrying about the purity of your husband’s thought life, direct that energy toward transforming your own thoughts about sex.
It also helps to get more sleep. While you are sleeping, your body is replenishing the hormones necessary for sexual interest and pleasure. More sleep = better sex. Take a nap, go to bed early. I cannot overemphasize the importance of adequate sleep when it comes to sexual interest and response in women.
Here’s a tip I have heard from many wives: take a shower before bed. It will wake you up, relax you, wash off the “kids have been crawling all over me all day” feeling, and help clear your head. While you are in the shower, switch off your “auto-pilot” and focus on reconnecting with your senses: smell the shampoo, feel the warmth of the water and the slipperiness of the soap, listen to your favorite music, etc. Tell yourself that you are coming out of the shower feeling refreshed and revved up for some husband and wife time together.
Being an initiator of sex also helps women get in the mood. The CWIVES Dare of the Month can help you initiate sex in a creative, fun way.
We all want to learn how to be a better lovers but don't know a clean and safe place to find tips. Do you have recommendations?
Cliff and Joyce Penner’s books, such as The Gift of Sex: A Guide to Sexual Fulfillment are helpful. They are Christian sex therapists. If you go to the Resources page on the CWIVES website, you will see links to several websites that offer tips for better sex.
My husband loves my body, but I don't. Do you have any tips for how to feel more confident in the bedroom?
Confidence in the bedroom is a mind game. It’s not about the size of your thighs or the firmness of your abs. I’ve met model-thin women who confess that they lack bedroom confidence, and I’ve met plus-size women who feel very confident when it comes to sex. What do you say to yourself about your body? Negative self-talk will destroy your confidence regardless of your body shape and size. Practice positive self-talk about your body. You aren’t bragging—you are building your confidence. Even if those positive thoughts don’t feel true at first, keep saying them to yourself repeatedly. Over time, you will lay down new neural pathways associating your body shape and size with positive feelings instead of negative feelings.
Also, if you struggle with body image, limit your consumption of media images of “perfect” bodies. It’s easy to slip into the comparison trap, and you’ll always lose because those “perfect” bodies are air-brushed, photo enhanced illusions. No one really looks like that.
I hardly ever orgasm. Is this normal? How can I increase this? It makes me feel like such a failure in the bedroom.
I could talk for days about female orgasm, but here are a few key points:
1) Women’s sexual response is varied and complex. Don’t compare yourself to your husband. The typical male sexual response is predictable: one orgasm during intercourse. Only 25% of women follow the male model of a single orgasm during intercourse. In any given month, it’s normal for women to experience all of these: nonorgasmic, singly orgasmic, and/or multiorgasmic. If she has an orgasm, it’s normal for her orgasms to occur anytime during sex: foreplay, manual or oral stimulation, intercourse, or afterplay.
2) Most women do not have an orgasm at each sexual opportunity.
3) Many women find it easier and more satisfying to be orgasmic with non-intercourse sexual activity, such as manual or oral stimulation, or with multiple stimulation during intercourse. You are not “less of a woman” or “missing out” if you don’t orgasm during intercourse. One in three women never experiences orgasm during intercourse.
4) Common causes of orgasmic difficulties include performance anxiety, anger, and feeling emotionally distant or alienated from your husband. Emotional inhibitions or conflicted feelings surrounding sexuality can also cause orgasmic difficulties. If your husband raises his voice at you, makes you feel inferior, or insinuates that you don’t measure up (these are examples of verbal abuse), you most likely will not trust him, and this will interfere with your ability to orgasm. You can download a free document about verbal abuse on the Resources page of my website here
5) It gets easier for women to orgasm as they enter their 30’s and 40’s, so if you are in your 20’s, please know that the best is yet to come (no pun intended).
6) Clitoral contact is key in producing female orgasm. If you aren’t using a lubricant in that area, add one. You may need much longer intervals of stimulation to achieve orgasm. Don’t rush yourself through the process. The female above position increases the likelihood of clitoral contact.
7) Consider talking with a sex therapist to help you learn to orgasm. Part of your treatment may include learning to produce an orgasm by self-stimulation so that you can then teach your husband how to bring you to orgasm. Please note that the ultimate purpose of the self-stimulation (also called masturbation) is to promote oneness in the marriage relationship. That is an important consideration when you are judging whether an activity/sex toy should be a part of your sexual relationship: does it promote oneness or does it lead to separateness?

Is it wrong to use sex toys? I have heard others suggest these to spice things up, but it seems unnatural? I also don't want to become dependent on those to get turned on. What are your thoughts?
The Bible doesn’t directly address sex toys. Some couples find them a fun addition as long as they don’t become the focus of the sexual relationship. On the Resources page of the CWIVES website, there are links to Christian websites that sell sex toys but do not include nudity. Click here
Here are some guidelines for Christians to follow as they decide on sexual behaviors:
1)         See what the Bible has to say about the sexual behavior under consideration. There are sexual behaviors that are prohibited in the Bible, including sex before and outside of marriage, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, threesomes or orgies, and sex with immediate family members or animals (see Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 18:7-23, Romans 1:27; 1 Corinthians 5:1, 6:9-16, 7:2; Proverbs 7:4-27). If the behavior is prohibited in the Bible, then it should be avoided.
2)         Consider whether the sexual behavior under consideration would be beneficial or harmful to the husband, wife, or the marriage. If it would cause unwanted emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, financial, or sexual harm to either spouse or to the relationship, then the behavior should be avoided.
3)         Consider whether the sexual behavior under consideration would involve anyone else other than the husband and wife. If the behavior involves someone else (and yes, looking at pornography together involves someone else in your sexual relationship) or is publicly viewed by others, then it should be avoided in order to keep the marriage bed pure as instructed in Hebrews 13:4. The Message puts Hebrews 13:4 this way: “Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband.”

Do you have any specific resources you recommend to enhance your sex life?
Buy a Christian sex manual and read it out loud to each other in bed. Some good ones are: The Gift of Sex by Cliff and Joyce Penner, and A Celebration of Sex by Doug Rosenau. If you prefer a very conservative approach to the subject, try the classic Intended for Pleasure by Ed and Gayle Wheat.
I speak to couples and to women about enhancing their sexual relationship and have created audio CD’s/MP3 downloads of those presentations. The one for couples is called “Passionate Intimacy.” The one for women is called “Understanding and Enhancing Your Sexuality” (2 CD’s), and while I do this presentation to a female-only audience, I highly recommend that your husband listen to it. He will learn about female genitalia, how they work, how important sleep is to a woman’s sexual response, and other valuable information you wish he knew. These are available on the Store page of www.jenniferdegler.com at http://www.jenniferdegler.com/?page_id=1354. They come with printed outlines.
I've heard about your monthly dares, what all does it involve?
The CWIVES Dare of the Month is a fun, free resource for helping wives more frequently and imaginatively make the first move. You can go to http://www.cwives.com/?page_id=10, and sign up in the box to the right to receive a monthly email containing the Dare of the Month. You will receive a confirmation e-mail that you must reply to in order to confirm your subscription.
The subject line in the email will say “Dare of the Month,” but the email message will be rated PG or PG-13, so carefully consider the email address you use. If your email is a business or family account and you don’t want your boss, husband or kids to read the Dares, consider setting up a free web-based account solely for receiving them (e.g., Google Mail).
The Dares will not be available for public viewing on the CWIVES website because we don’t want a husband to read them in advance and then miss out on the joy of being surprised by his wife.
The Dare of the Month will be just that—a dare for you to choose to either take or not take. If you take the dare, you will be initiating some type of sexual encounter with your husband. You might be dared to buy a box of Red Hots and leave them in your husband’s car with a sexy note attached, or you might be dared to plan a picnic for just the two of you in your bedroom.
Sometimes, there will be a Double Dare as well. For example, the dare could be the bedroom picnic while the Double Dare could be to show up naked for the picnic. The dare will not be overly graphic or rated R or X. It’s supposed to get you started, and then you can figure out what to do next.

Jennifer Degler, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist, life coach, and co-author of No More Christian Nice Girl: When Just Being Nice—Instead of Good—Hurts You, Your Family, and Your Friends. A frequent speaker at women's events and marriage retreats, she also maintains a counseling practice in central Kentucky. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and the founder of CWIVES, an organization devoted to helping Christian wives enhance their sexuality (www.cwives.com). She has been interviewed by Women’s Day.Com, Moody Radio, and numerous other media outlets. Jennifer and her husband, Jeff, live in Lexington, Kentucky, with their two teenage children. Visit her Web site at www.jenniferdegler.com.

Check out some of the other 2012 relationship guest posts: 
Erin DuBroc (Why things had to change: Part 1 & Part 2)