When I was newly engaged (and long before that), I expected sex would be the easy part of marriage. Expectations cause so much trouble, don’t they?

I wonder if I’m the only one who had this idea. For me, sex was a giant mystery, and I loved mysteries. In our marriage preparation, I read tons of books about marriage, some of them which dealt with lovemaking. Most, though, dealt with getting used to the idea, not the issues that would come once the wedding cake dried out.

True to life, my expectations were not met. First, many of my friends married in their early twenties. Fascinated, I listened to their little innuendos and even the occasional bemoaning that their husbands were quite interested in … spending time together.

So, when I FINALLY married in my later twenties, I expected things would be the same as my other friends. But they weren’t. We were older, my husband older than myself. Second, we moved several times in the first year and both changed jobs. And we did not have the energy of people fresh out of their adolescence. And I had expectations not based on reality brought from movies, books, and the things I had heard. This left me with hurt feelings and bitterness.

One year into our marriage, I was told I would be infertile. Yet … the news had barely begun to sink in when I found myself ragingly ill. And pregnant. While I know not many people get to have this kind of turnout, it took me for a spin, especially when I was very sick all the time, feeling the worst at night. Any movement of the bed sent me stumbling into the bathroom. You can imagine how all these changes and issues affected our love life.

After that came bed rest. Then birth. Then nursing, constantly having another demanding human attached to me in some form or fashion. And the sleep deprivation. I began to think about soldiers in enemy camps, awakened every few hours as a form of torture. I would pray and cry during the day, begging God to help my libido. I would get so worked up that by nighttime I would jump at the slightest touch, afraid of what was to come. Performance anxiety, hubby called it.

Then I found out I was pregnant again. (Obviously once or twice those prayers worked…) This time I was more than ill. I was sick as a dog. And I miscarried one of the twins I was carrying. This meant months of bedrest. Combined with my issues staying pregnant the last time, I spent most of the pregnancy on major restrictions, including sex.

After Rachel was born, I began to wonder if bad guys got the idea of sleep deprivation punishment from having a baby of their own. Between my two little generals and their sleep protests, I was a walking zombie. No matter how I prayed, I  could hardly work my libido into more than a simmer. I remember being mystified at couples who showed any sort of attraction to each other, as though they spoke a foreign language. All I wanted to do in a bed was sleep. I couldn’t even remember what being attractive or attracted felt like.

After I weaned Rachel, things got easier, but then I started having more issues with self-esteem. Child birth, bedrest and sleep deprivation had softened my body. I had no self-confidence. This, combined with the bitterness of our early marriage I still held onto, made sex an internal battleground. I shed many tears.

Still, I tried to fix myself. I read more books, spoke to mentors, prayed more, listened to other wives, and searched out how to fix my problem. More life changes assaulted us. We moved to a new state and I suffered a string of illnesses, including cancer. Again, I thought, wasn’t libido supposed to come easily? Is there any part of marriage that is easy?

Today, at the moment I type this, life is on a bit more of an even keel, although dealing with a special needs daughter who has autism and still dislikes sleep challenges us daily. We’ve had issues where any time our door is shut, she would come running and bang on the door… That makes things easy. Not! And the constant messes around the house are unsettling to me. Add onto that the medication I now take for anxiety that flattens every emotion, including libido, and you can see the problems.

Yet, recently I realized at least half of my problems are internal and emotional. They all go back to expectations. Yes, life throws curve balls all the time, but the biggest roadblock I have is my early-on expectations, brought out of reading too many junky romance novels in my teens and having a Hollywood ideal of the bedroom. I EXPECTED things to be easy and cinematic. And guess what: life isn’t edited. I don’t have a script. There is no director and edit crew. There is only what I imagine in my head, and that causes more problems than anything else.

So, I have begun praying to let go of those early expectations and the bitterness I allowed to take root in my heart. I still struggle often, but I have seen a change in my anxiety toward all things sex as I let go of what I thought was supposed to be and the past I was still angry about. Constant searching of my heart has helped me see that I create a lot of problems in my head, which affects more than just my emotions. It affects me physically, too.