How Families Affect Your Sex Life

In my umpteen years of marriage, my husband and I have spent quite a bit of conversational time trying to explain our own family to the other. You see, our families of origin are quite different:

  • He grew up in a church-once-in-a-while family. I grew up as the daughter of a preacher man.
  • His family considers watching TV together a reasonable bonding activity during holidays. My family plans intricate recreational calendars that engage us conversationally.
  • His family grew up pinching pennies. My family grew up flipping pennies, as in “heads, I’ll buy this, and tails, I’ll buy that.”
  • His family finally owned a radio when it came standard in their car. My family boomed music through a well-coordinated stereo system, and we all danced and sang in response.
  • His family says 30 words a day. My family picks up their slack and says 3,000,000 words a day.

You get the point.

You’ve likely experienced the point. You and your husband came from different families, whether that includes big variations or minor quirks. And sometimes those differences require explanation or present challenges to work through.

So what about when it comes to sexuality? Have the differences in your families’ approaches to sex affected the current intimacy in your marriage?

Blocks spelling FAMILY

Photo Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Some families were open and vocal about sexuality; others never, ever talked about it. Some families valued modesty; others let it all hang out. Some families preached purity before marriage; others said something like, “Just use a condom, son.” Some families taught that sex wasn’t all that important; others made too big a deal about it.

Whatever your parents’, grandparents’, and other relatives’ approach to sexuality in general, and more specifically marriage, it likely has had an effect on you. Even if that effect is to do the absolute opposite. That’s still an influence. When that impact is vastly different — when one of you grew up hearing one thing, and the spouse grew up hearing an entirely different thing — you may end up with differences and misunderstandings you need to work through.

You may need to explain what your family’s philosophy and morality was, how it affected you, and how you want things to be similar or different. You may need to listen to your husband explain his experiences growing up in his home.

  • Was porn prevalent in your home?
  • Did your mother talk about sex negatively?
  • Was staying sexually pure before marriage a strong value?
  • Did you feel comfortable asking questions when you needed answers?
  • Did you feel shamed for having sexual feelings and urges?
  • Were you aware that your parents remained sexually active?
  • Was sex in marriage considered a gift from God?

These are just a few of the questions you can ask. But a conversation about where you came from and how your family’s perspective impacted you can help the two of you now get on the same page in your own marriage.

Your upbringing is not destiny. Childhood experiences certainly play a role in who we become, but we have a choice. In Joshua 24, before the Israelites enter the Promised Land, their leader Joshua reminds them of what God has done for them, how their ancestors frankly blew it by going astray, and how they have a chance to select their own path: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . .” (v. 15).

If your family left you with a legacy that is hurting the intimacy of your marriage, it’s time to talk that out with your spouse and seek a better way.

If you were left with a positive impact, then discuss what they did right and how you want to continue that legacy for your kids. The Bible encourages us to teach our children and their children about the faithfulness of our Father (see Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalm 78:4), which includes His generous provision of physical intimacy in marriage.

How has your family of origin positively or negatively affected your current marital intimacy? Have you talked about these differences with your spouse? Have you chosen to do something different as a result?

10 thoughts on “How Families Affect Your Sex Life

  1. John Wilder

    For far too many women, churches and their overly negative messages about sexuality (it is bad, dirty and wrong and “good girls don’t do it”) negatively impact women often for life from fully embracing their sexuality. This often shows up on “little girl inhibitions” that have no place in a mature married woman’s sex life.

    For example I had a minister friend who had a beautiful young wife. He desired for her to wear frilly lacy lingerie with color for him. Her reasoning is that only “slutty women” wear lacy frilly lingerie and since she was not a slut she was not going there. She continued in her white cotton granny panties and utilitarian bras and never did change.

    Churches never teach all the “sex positive messages” from the Bible to the detriment of everyone in the church.

    1. J

      I agree that this has been a problem in the church, John. I would stop at saying “Churches never…” Some churches are doing an excellent job of dealing with godly intimacy now, and there are more and more voices added to this important topic each day.

      Blessings!

    2. Anonymous

      Actually our church promotes all sex within the marriage and refers to it many times during our weekly services. However, as per the Bible, it preaches it within the confines of a marriage….and not extra marital or outside of the marital vows.

  2. Jon

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    | It’s a bulls-eye!
    J’s post ——->|
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    It’s ironic that this post comes out now for my wife and I. Just last week we had a major breakthrough after over 7 years of marriage. She is still currently in her barrier years but has acknowledged the problem and attributes a lot of her sexual insecurities to the way she grew up. Her parents not only showed little physical affection to her and her brother, but also to each other. A kiss on the mouth when he got home from work to his wife and that was the extent of it (at least of what they saw). Very few “I love you”s. No hand holding. No snuggling on the couch.

    As I said we’ve been married 7 years (2 kids – mine is the one that calls it a “round thing” from a few weeks ago) and she is still uncomfortable to be naked in front of me. When she takes a shower she walks into the bathroom fully dressed and comes out fully dressed. Because that is the way she grew up. She has trouble letting go and being free with me.

    She finally decided that it was a problem that only she could fix (aka you can take a back seat and not try to “fix” me anymore…honey). She said she wanted to buy some cute underwear and bras. I said go to good ole Victoria Secret and don’t even look at the price tags. She also agreed to have sex every other day. I nearly passed out when I read the text message. Needless to say this has been a great 11 days!

    All that to say this is a problem that I’m sure many girls could face if they don’t have a good example at home. I think it is important for kids to see parents being loving and affectionate. I think parents should make sex a big deal because it is a big deal! My mom told me that if I waited to have sex before marriage when I was 15 that I would be so much happier the day I got married. She explained that it is fun to “learn together”. I met my wife a year later at 16. We dated 6 years and had sex for the first time as husband and wife. It wasn’t for lack of desire or lack of opportunity – we made a commitment to ourselves and to God that we would wait. It wasn’t easy, but I think we would have even more frustration today if we had gone down that road.

    Great post J! Another bulls-eye. Thanks again for being awesome!

    -Jon

    1. J

      I’m so excited for you both! I pray that your wife can really live into the blessing that sexual intimacy can be in your marriage.

      And you also made me feel awesome. 🙂 (Although I know from experience that it’s really GOD, the Creator of marital intimacy, who’s got it goin’ on.)

    2. Jon

      My bulls-eye did not come through the way it was on the comment 🙁

      It was all spaced out to look awesome (and actually make sense lol). We are a work in progress, but we’ve jumped a major hurdle (thanks be to God) and I’m really encouraged.

      Yes it is God, but He is working through you and that’s pretty cool.

  3. Anonymous

    My hubby grew up in a broken home where sex was dirty, the wife hated it and the man repressed it. He grew up with porn in his teen years and locker room style education on sex. Though he hasn’t said yes or no to this, I am quite sure he had sex with at least one other woman before we met. He has also been to strip clubs and had a fair amount of girlfriends.

    I grew up in a home where sex was dirty, but ok for a husband and wife. My parents had an active sex life, but all sex was repressed outside their doors, even healthy, normal marital sexuality discussions and talks on puberty and birds and bees. I grew up curious and ignorant. Porn was non existant except for some accidental discoveries during the early years of internet. I was a virgin with no real dating experience before I met hubby.

    Hubby complained about his mom refusing his dad and he originally took charge of the sexuality in our dating relationship. I drew the line at not losing my virginity until marriage. Ironically, my husband is the repressed, refuser in our marriage and I am the adventerous one begging for more sex! He nearly fell over when I told him sometimes I need climax twice a day! (I’m lucky to get it once a week, and that’s through self stimulation. Hubby very rarely actually makes the effort to give me orgasm).

    I thought for sure our sex life would be fun, mutual, rich and fulfilling. Instead, it is empty, wanting, selfish, and using. He thinks I’m the problem.

    1. J

      It sounds like you have some issues to tackle! If communication about where the problems originated isn’t working, try focusing on what he would like your sex life to look like and what you want it to look like. And, as with any other issue in marriage, you two need to hammer out a win-win scenario.

      If you can’t get him to hear you, it may be time to talk to a pastor or counselor. My heart goes out to you! I know it hurts to be rejected that way. Most refusers really don’t understand the damage it causes. Praying for you.

  4. rockhisworld

    Great article, never thought of it that way, but we all need too!

    I think my favorite line was, “Your upbringing is not destiny.” It does influence us, but it does not enslave us. We can break free of it when we need to.

    I know I need to apply these thoughts to my life and to teach it to my kids!

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