Godly Sex Is Complex

I received a comment to my Sex and the Pity post a couple of weeks ago. Its message was a poignant one. I want to share it with you and then respond.

From Anonymous:

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“I love your posts. I read them because this is an area I am working on in my marriage. But sometimes I feel like you over-simplify. No, I’ve never had an orgasm while folding laundry either, but I also rarely have them during sex, quite frankly, and neither do many other women. At least at the end of doing laundry I feel a sense of worth. At the end of sex I just feel fat, ugly, conquered, vulnerable in a bad way… So yes, it’s a chore: it’s a ‘routine and unpleasant task.’ My husband can be cruel in many ways. I have begged him to stop. I have prayed that he would stop. Then I prayed that God would change me- that I could be more resilient and more patient and loving with him. Some women would say that I married the ‘wrong man,’ but I know that when I said, ‘I do’ before God that I made a life-long commitment to him being the ‘right man.’ Interestingly, all the Christian marriage books say that more sex will make your husband the man you want him to be. But I’ve given up on him  hanging and now just pray that I can be a woman who can withstand his behavior and protect our children from the damage. It’s just not always as simple as you make it to be.”

My response to Anonymous: I agree. I do simplify things because to cover the complexities of having a fulfilling, long-term, God-honoring sex life with your mate requires more than the 500-1000 words I try to keep it down to each post. So I hit at THIS one time and THAT another, hoping that each post will touch someone out there wanting information, struggling, or needing encouragement. My heart genuinely goes out to spouses who have been hurt in area of sexual intimacy in their marriage.

In one way, sex is simple. Intercourse requires inserting Tab A into Slot B, remove, and repeat.

But a healthy sexual relationship requires much, much more. However, I believe that barriers to a healthy relationship primarily exist in one of three areas.

Unhealthy Attitude. The issue that Anonymous brings up in stating that her husband can be cruel and won’t stop highlights his bad attitude. In fact, this is where healthy sex MUST begin. You can hear oodles and oodles of fabulous fixes and techniques, but if one spouse approaches the other and marital intimacy with an unhealthy attitude, such ideas won’t bring about a fulfilling relationship.

The biggest barrier to a good attitude is self. It can be the self-pleasuring of a mate who spends hours looking at online pornography, the self-focus of being too tired or too body conscious to make love, or the self-preservation instinct of someone who was molested in their childhood years. Yes, this is a wide range of issues, but a healthy sexual relationship must begin with prioritizing relational intimacy above one’s self. Let me be clear: These are not all selfishness, but they are about self. For some, putting the marriage first means a simple attitude adjustment; for others it requires deep self-examination or therapy to heal from a painful history.

Perhaps the toughest situations I hear about are those in which one spouse has worked hard to have a great attitude toward sexual intimacy in marriage and the other one is a selfish blockhead (as described by the commenter). No amount of sex education will make make him a terrific lover because godly sexuality isn’t ultimately about arousal or orgasm; it’s about expressing and fostering mutual intimacy through deep physical contact.

Specific Sexual Problems. Some people want to have a better sex life, but they have specific issues that need to be addressed. Perhaps a spouse has low desire, difficulty with arousal, a pornography addiction, physical exhaustion, interrupting kids, a lack of knowledge about the human body, etc. There is a myriad of barriers to a fulfilling sex life that have to do with addressing something specific in the person or the relationship.

At times, I have dealt with such issues, such as sex hurting or mistreatment in your past. Many problems can be tackled with awareness and effort. Yet, some require the intervention of a counselor or physician. The first step here is being able to identify what problems you have in your specific relationship. Your marriage is not exactly like anyone else’s. However, for just about every specific problem, there is a fix. It may be a quick tweak or a long-term program to get things right, but there are couples everywhere who have overcome all kinds of difficulties to become sexually intimate and satisfied in their marriage.

I encourage you not to give up on working toward something better. I have known some wives whose physicians dismissed their inability to become aroused, to which I would say, “Find another physician.” Look for answers. Find help. Making your sex life a priority means trying to tackle the barriers to marital intimacy.

Failure to Nurture. Having planted the seed of a good attitude toward marital sexuality and then seeing sprouts come up as you deal with specific problems, married couples cannot simply relax and expect to reap a never-ending harvest of sexual satisfaction. Intimacy must be nurtured.

Couples must make time to engage in sexuality; if they don’t, work, household, children, church activities, friends, recreation, and more will crowd it out. You must stay in communication with each other about what you want from your sex life — which may change. What felt great five years ago to your mate may not be the same now. Moreover, physical changes in your body (pregnancy, age, etc.) may present challenges that need to be dealt with.

We need to remind ourselves of the importance of sexuality and make efforts to deal with issues that crop up over time. We need to keep our attitude toward our spouse and our marital intimacy where it should be.

Thus, information and encouragement, as well as knowing and applying the Word of God to your sex life, can help substantially. If you wistfully recall your first year of marriage being a veritable sex feast and simply sit around and wonder what happened to the delicious goodies, then you will never achieve the long-term marital intimacy God desires for you. You must nurture your relationship, and that nurturing will look different in different seasons.

So yeah, it’s complicated. Godly sex is complex. Because there are so many ways in which Satan attacks us in our sexual lives — with poor attitudes, annoying and serious problems, and complacency.

Since I — and no other author, speaker, therapist, etc. — can see directly into your sex life, it is up to the married couple to figure out where the barriers are and how they want to move past them. I will be here to deliver information, support, a little humor, and prayers that husbands and wives out there will work on their intimacy and discover God’s beautiful gift of sexuality in marriage.

Those of you who continue to struggle pierce my heart and make me fall to my knees. I know that our Heavenly Father wants to the best for His beloved children, and that includes you. It is my sincere hope that my blog helps to shine light on the blessings our Lord has for us.

15 thoughts on “Godly Sex Is Complex

  1. Anonymous

    You missed the mark on this one. Your reader’s comment was a desperate voice of a victim of cruelty and emotional abuse. It is Impossible to have an intimate connection in that situation.

  2. Anonymous

    This is a good reply. I think you have hit one nail on the head and it is the “bottom line” for me…”couples must make time to engage in sexuality”.

    This doesn’t go to this lady’s issue – her’s is an abusive situation and she needs to get immediate assistance.

    But for me, this is the bottom line – both partners have to engage in the sexual part of the marriage. I am a frustrated husband. I have read all these blogs and they do help. I have talked to my wife over and over and she is getting good Christian counseling for many things she is dealing with. She says it will get better but shes been saying this for 15+ years. I love her dearly. I will continue to fight for her. But this is what is missing – she either can’t or simply refuses to engage in her part of our sexuality. If it is a priority, it is totally up to me.

    It is like budgeting, getting in shape, or parenting, both partners have to be bought into this. Wives just cannot “wish away” sex. It isn’t going away. They can’t dump it on the husband as his responsibility. She has to nurture it. She has to own it. She has to be creative and inventive and she HAS to communicate. As a husband, I am telling you that I crave her to be bought into the process of our sexuality. I don’t crave sex. I crave HER. I crave intimacy. I crave her desire for this and for her making this part of our life a priority. The “you can hop on if you want to (but i’m not participating)” doesn’t work.

    Ladies – sex should be a priority in your life and your marriage. You cannot relegate it to “I guess we need to have sex tonight” nor can you just wish it away. God knew what he was doing he designed human sexuality. He knew we’d both need it. He knew it has healing powers. He knew a great sex life helps make a marriage glorious. But the enemy has stolen this design and wrecked it. Eve has bought many of the lies – that my husband is too focused on sex, that my body isn’t attractive, that i’m too distracted for sex, that it is just too messy or takes too long or that none of my friends like it either. All of these are creating a lot of problems in good marriages – just like the pornography and selfishness in men are creating tons of problems.

    But this is to the ladies — please do your part to make sex a priority. Your husband isn’t a selfish pig (for the most part!) who just wants you for sex. He loves you and craves oneness with you. He craves for you to “own” your sexuality and to be engaged.

    P L E A S E….

    1. Anonymous

      I agree with the husband about his wife I have the same problem but it is my husband we have been married for 29 years I have asked pleaded for him to understand how I feel .he says he understand but nothing ever changes. I do a lot of crying and I resent him and I am mad all the time I just want to have a healthy sex life. I crave oneness with my husband.

  3. J

    Anonymous – Where did I miss the mark? I agree entirely that this reader has been mistreated (as have many others). In fact, I had hoped to make it clear that if your spouse has a terrible attitude, having more sex with them isn’t going to create marital intimacy as God intended. No technique, encouragement, etc. can get past the pain of a selfish blockhead spouse abusing the sexual relationship. Please let me know what I said that indicated otherwise because my heart really does break for people in such situations.

  4. J

    I just tweaked the post a little to make sure it was clear that I am pinpointing this commenter’s HUSBAND’S poor attitude. If you are in a marriage with a physically or emotionally abusive spouse, having a little more sex IS NOT going to lead to godly sexuality. In fact, I strongly believe that women in particular must feel safe to be vulnerable in the bedroom.

  5. Anonymous

    Before you tweaked, that was not clear. I believe where you miss the mark is once again coming through when you mention in your comment: “….abusing the sexual relationship.” Obviously I don’t know for sure but it seemed to me that your readers original comment was not about sex directly. It seemed that the continuing cruelty of her husband is what is hindering their intimacy. I don’t think just making sex a priority or trying to improve self-consciousness issues or carving out time will do anything to repair the deep scars of a cruel spouse.

  6. J

    Thank you, Anonymous, for helping me sort out the thoughts and tweak accordingly. I think it is abusing the sexual relationship to treat someone with cruelty outside the bedroom and then expect them to be vulnerable with you in the bedroom. I agree that the entire marriage is at issue when cruelty exists. I suppose that since my specific blog focus is intimacy in marriage, I tend to speak to that area most. Thank you again for your comments.

  7. Christy

    I think your response was right on. I agree you can’t cover all the “hard, complicated” parts of marriage because everyone is different in their struggles and you can’t see inside our individual sex lives. I think the saying,”It takes a village to raise a child” holds true to our marriages as well. It takes time, lots of time and help to have a healthy marriage. We CAN NOT do it on our own. We all need help, counseling, guidance etc. at some point and often more than just once in our journey to have healthy, Godly marriages. It takes time, help and being on our faces before the Lord. Its hard, Marriage is a full time job and we are by nature selfish people. I think your blog helps many people and often it just gives me comfort knowing I’m not the only one thinking about some of things you covered.Makes me wish I had made my blog anonymous. LOL!

  8. Gregory Donner

    Frankly, as single, this is what frightens me–the stark reality of marrying, only to find out your wife has no desire for intimacy. And I dare say no-one in their right mind married knowing that intimacy wouldn’t happen for them. So instead of being 2 miles away from intimacy (single), try being 2 inches away from it and being denied.

    Yes, I deeply long to be married and to enjoy everything that God designed it to be. But the tough truth is that there are no guarantees. There are worse things than being single.

  9. J

    Gregory – Your concern is understandable, given the problems many married couples face regarding sexual intimacy. However, I will point 3 things out: (1) You can determine attitude somewhat before marriage. Is this person comfortable with the concept of godly sexuality and are they willing to tackle problem areas in a relationship before the vows? That will likely carry over. (2) Premarital counseling can go a long way toward having an intimate relationship. In my experience, those couples who specifically prepared themselves for a fulfilling sexual relationship before marriage fared well. (3) There are numerous married couples with fabulous sex lives out there! It is a beautiful experience to have a sexually intimate relationship with the one you love.
    That said, take your time. I found my hubby when I was far less worried about romance and more into seeking God. Praying that God blesses you in singlehood and eventually marriage! – J

  10. Joan

    Hi,
    I just came to this blog today and I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments on this post. It seems to me that most of the people reading this blog have been married for over 10, 15, 20 years. I’ve been married only seven years so my issue is slightly different.
    The first six years of my marriage was great. I’ve always enjoyed sex with my husband and the act was wholesome, fun, fulfilling, etc. I was brought up to know that sex within marriage is a good thing. The only issue at that time was that he had a preference for “quickies” while I wanted lots of foreplay, time to cuddle, and a slow build-up. For some reason, it seems men cannot just understand that aspect of sex is VERY important to their wives. Without foreplay, sex is just a mechanical act, uncomfortable and sometimes painful too! Several times, I had an argument with DH about it and told him that I would rather have no sex, than bad sex. I even told him that sometimes I felt as if I’d been raped, just to satisfy him cos I got no pleasure from it AT ALL. So PLEASE let all men (young and old) know that romance and foreplay are a necessary part of sex for women, not just something they have to do to get to the “good part”. Slow it down!

    Anyway the main reason I decided to comment was because we had a baby recently and this has completely changed our marriage, including our sex life. I think because we had been married for six years without a child, and with regular sex, DH just assumed that the baby will pop out and life will remain the same. I had a fairly easy pregnancy so we were able to have sex up until I was 7 months pregnant. But as I got bigger, sex became uncomfortable and even painful. But he wouldn’t let up! He continued to demand sex as often as we used to, until one night I broke down in tears afterwards because I was in so much pain. When he saw my tears, he grumbled that I made him feel bad, but at least he backed off and I was so relieved that I could finally get some sleep at night with my huge bump.

    I then had a rough time at birth and eventually had to have a c-section which took a lot out of me. Coupled with the severe pain from the wound and the epidural, the sleepless nights, exhaustion and breastfeeding round the clock, I was certainly not in the mood to have sex. Somehow DH did not understand this factor either, and he kept pressuring me and asking WHEN we would resume sex again. Sigh.

    I know that men have libidos and all that, but can they not understand that things have changed (temporarily at least)? That pregnancy and childbirth means that their wives have just gone through a lot physically and mentally? And it will take some time before their sex lives resume? I’m not talking years here – my baby is only seven months old, but DH has been making such a big fuss about it that one would thing he has been starved for 25 years!

    I found myself wishing and wishing he would just leave me in peace – travel to a foreign country for a year or something. I was also very angry because I felt he did not appreciate what I was going through but just focusing on his own needs. And I wished someone in the church, maybe an elder or pastor would have given us some advice on what to expect when a baby comes into the picture. Discussions about sex during pre-marital counselling are ridiculously silent on this aspect. PLEASE let men know that sex changes with pregnancy and childbirth. PLEASE teach men to be patient with their wives until things settle down a bit after a child has just been born. PLEASE let the men know that the arrival of a baby is very hard on the woman’s time and energy and sex is not necessarily high on her agenda at this time. And that it doesn’t mean she has stopped loving him. I think that perhaps if my DH had been prepared beforehand, a lot of our issues now would have been much easier.

    One more thing: I was given a contraceptive that completely killed my sex drive so things have a long way to go….

  11. J

    Thank you for so honestly sharing your story, Joan. Children are a game-changer, no doubt about it. Your situation sounds tough in that you have tried to explain your feelings to your husband, but he doesn’t get it. I hope that he can listen, and you two can work together toward a solution.

    As for what you can do in the meantime: If you are having discomfort with sex, I encourage you to talk openly to your doctor; I had low estrogen post-childbirth, and only on my 3rd visit did the doc understand how painful sex was for me and prescribed something which helped enormously. Also, consider taking care of hubby’s needs w/o penetration; some couples swear by hand jobs or oral sex (if you are comfortable with that) when intercourse cannot occur. You may need to schedule sex also; it doesn’t sound as romantic, but if you and hubby know that Wednesday nights are reserved for intimacy, then you can do things to prepare yourself mentally (lingerie, bubble bath, candles, whatever to set the mood) and he can relax a bit knowing that he will get to have sex on that night. Those are just a few suggestions.

    Of course, you know your situation better than anyone. I appreciate your take on all of this. Very helpful to others. Blessings.

  12. hurt in nc

    I have an issue with my husband respecting me on certain things when it comes to sex. He has cheated on me 2 times and im finding it difficult in trusting him and being intimate with him. Like someone said in earlier post, i am a victum of mental and emotional abuse from him plus i was mulested growing up so i dont know what or where to turn.. ive given it to God but it really hurts and i want the hurt to stop..will i or can i ever be happy is th there hope for me.. 42yrs of Hurt….

    1. J

      Your situation is such that I highly recommend you sit down with a pastor or Christian counselor face-to-face to try to sort through where you are and where you need to go with your marriage. Your history can definitely play a part in how you view sex. It should be a blessing in marriage, but thus far it seems that you’ve been hurt by it. That’s not God’s will.

      You’re in my prayers. But please seek local help. Consider this pain like you would physical pain; if your body was injured or diseased, you wouldn’t ignore it but rather get medical help. Your marriage has been injured; you need more than a bandaid here.

      Blessings! My heart goes out to you.

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