I have been married for 11 years. My husband is an agnostic but I am a committed, Christian. The problem is that I have completely lost my sex drive. I’m in my 40s and finished nine months of treatment for breast cancer a year ago (including a full mastectomy and a reconstructed breast which doesn’t look like the other!). Since then I find it very hard to get enthusiastic about sex and don’t feel at all sensual. My husband is very patient, but is increasingly frustrated at having to make the entire running. I love him very much but could live without sex. He is a very sexual person. I know that ‘the husband is head of the wife’ and ‘do not deprive each other (of sexual relationships)’, but how do I relax and feel like I actually want sex again? I am fit and healthy now (I run five times a week, up to six miles at a time) so there’s no physical problem.

"It’s understandable after the trauma of your cancer and then mastectomy, that you feel you have lost your sex drive. However, if it is lost, then it can be re-found. Your starting point is to decide if you are prepared to search for it. I don’t think it has died, maybe just become buried under the rubble of a mismatching breast that you cannot identify with.

To regain your sex drive, you will have to help yourself feel sensual again. In the past this might have come naturally, but there is no harm in investing in bringing this alive proactively. When Esther prepared to go before her husband to be, King Xerxes, she went through 12 months of beauty treatments, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics! Hopefully you won’t need quite so long, but you should indulge yourself in some good female pampering with the aim of bringing to life your sense of sensuality. Take time by yourself and then when you feel ready, with your husband, to massage sweet smelling oils into your body. Get back in touch with enjoying skin touch. Add to this some creative thought into the clothes you wear to strengthen your confidence in your femininity. When you are going to make love, wear clothes that will enliven your imagination and anticipation at being touched sensually. Take time in advance to imagine this and look forward to it.

You will also have to overcome your own visual and mental sense of sexual deflation around your reconstructed breast. Our minds have powerful switches in them to turn on and off our sexual desire. If you focus on the negative thoughts, this will shut down your ability to get turned on. So instead, focus on anything within God’s boundaries that you can find to be erotic and love inducing. You might focus on how lovely your natural breast is, or on other visual images that could help you feel more turned on. This might be thinking about parts of your body that you feel good about, or your husbands. The two lovers in the Song of Songs did this a lot as they describe in detail each other’s sexual bodies. You may also find that you can reawaken your sex drive by taking time to remember occasions you made love to your husband in the past that were particularly pleasurable or fun. Think about the specifics of what turned you on then and let your mind rove around these memories, both in preparation for being with your husband now and while you are making love.

I also want to ask if you are channelling all your sexual energy into your running? Leave something spare for the two of you together. When you quote that ‘the husband is head of the wife’ and ‘do not deprive each other of sexual relationships’, it sounds like this is your motivation for sexual intimacy. With all respect to Scripture, I do not think this is enough of a motivation to engender the sort of passion the Bible sets before us in the Song of Songs. I want to encourage you to identify some things that will motivate your passions as well as your principles. Yearn to be so close to your husband that you are intertwined; bring your deep love for him to the surface and long for him to feel your love more strongly. Let sex be an expression of all that you feel for each other.

If you used to reach climax when you made love in the past, maybe you could also be motivated to experience this again. God seems to have created the clitoris with the sole purpose of giving sexual pleasure. Ironically it is the male sexual anatomy, not the female one that is built for multi-tasking! As women, God releases us within marriage to focus on pleasure. I’m guessing this will be more motivating than ‘ought to’s’ and ‘don’ts’.

Why don’t you take a few weeks to apply some of these ideas by yourself, then surprise your husband in some way that has taken your fancy in the preparation! All the best."