Ask me who my favorite fellow intimacy bloggers are, and it’s easy to answer with Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage high on my list. Julie writes her blog to encourage Christian women toward healthy sexuality in their marriages. But now her wisdom also graces the pages of a new book, The Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage, co-authored with Jeff Murphy.
After reading and enjoying it, I got to interview Julie Sibert about the book and her views on marital sex.
The Pursuit of Passion covers a lot of ground – from a theological viewpoint to practical tips to sexual Q&A. Why do you believe couples need this information? What’s fresh about your approach?
Think how many people come into marriage with skewed views about sex, either because of what they’ve been taught or because of their past sexual experiences. I am passionate about peeling back those layers and replacing weak theology and skewed views with a healthier attitude about sex.
As far as what’s fresh, we are comprehensive and conversational at the same time. This is a book that is easy to dig into. Both my co-author and I have seen and heard the heartache from countless couples who struggle with sex, so we set out to write a book that gives couples hope. I believe this book can change marriages for the better.
Early in the book, you show concern with the way the church has historically addressed sex. Where has Christianity been wrong in our handling of this topic? What do you wish churches would do instead?
We as a body of believers have put an extraordinary amount of focus on telling teenagers and singles about the sin of sex outside of marriage. “Don’t have sex” is a generalized message we’ve pounded into young people. I understand why we share this message, but I think we need equal airtime for talking authentically about why sex in marriage is so amazing and how to make it amazing.
It’s no wonder that so many Christians struggle sexually in their marriages – the church hasn’t done a good job of helping them genuinely address those struggles, as well as actually see sex in a positive light. I know married women who still can’t get past seeing sex as a sin – even in their own marriage bed.
Those of us who are married need not be afraid of speaking more openly and positively about sex. This isn’t about revealing our own intimate details. It’s about offering a view of intimacy that is better aligned with God’s truth and heart. Sex was His idea. We need to embrace it and present it as the gift it is.
As you mention in the book, the other extreme is how the world addresses sexuality. What messages are widely sent and largely accepted in the secular world that have harmed our marriages?
Honestly, it’s not until married Christians start to really enjoy sex in their marriages that we collectively as a body will be able to better discern the emptiness of sexual promiscuity. Obviously, we live in a “friends with benefits” culture. But how do we expect that culture to stop settling for false intimacy if we as married couples are not savoring authentic intimacy in our own relationships? I’ve long believed that one of the best hopes for a lost world is married couples having soul-drenching sex. Sounds crazy, I know, but I believe it.
You point out a few times the amazing inclusion of a clitoris in the woman’s body. Why do wives need to hear this message, that their Creator gave them this special body part?
Climaxing really is such an indescribably good experience. Sadly, I think many wives are afraid of pleasure or see it as wrong or sinful. This is so ironic, isn’t it? God created the clitoris in a woman, and I have hard time believing He did it just as an afterthought. I think the reason many women view sex as a chore is because they have downplayed the value of their own orgasm. Truth be told, sex without orgasm is a bit of a chore! A better approach is that a husband and a wife both learn what it will take for them each to experience sexual pleasure – and that they see it as a tender privilege to bring that kind of pleasure to the person they love.
How does the health of a couple’s sex life reflect the health of their marriage? Why is sex so important?
I think sex is one of the most accurate gauges for predicting the climate of the rest of the marriage. If a couple is intentional about nurturing their sexual intimacy – they both initiate, enjoy sex, and are selfless lovers – then they generally are better equipped to navigate and savor the rest of their marriage. There is something about that kind of deep intimacy that endears a husband and wife to each other. Plus, by taking care of their marriage, they demonstrate to their children that marriage is full of boundless strength and possibility.
You and your co-author seem to strike a good balance on what’s permissible in the marriage bed. Do you think this question of what’s okay and not okay has become more prevalent? Why?
I certainly think it’s a question that’s more prevalent among Christians. And that’s a good thing. A couple does need to dig into God’s Word and seek the Holy Spirit and together discern what is right for them sexually. I will say this, though… I think God gives a married couple much more freedom than they realize within the exclusivity of their marriage bed. I think God wants a couple to not be afraid of being uninhibited with their spouse and thoroughly embracing passion and pleasure.
You’ve always been transparent and authentic about your own story of a failed marriage and a thriving second marriage. What message for wives does your own experience convey?
Sex matters. My first husband and I had many struggles, particularly with frequency. I remember thinking, “We’ll figure this out someday.” Well, “someday” never comes on its own. Some people try to claim that sex is not a necessity in marriage, but reality and good old common sense tells us otherwise. Countless marriages struggle with sex. There’s a reason God tells husbands and wives to not withhold their bodies from each other. And in Proverbs we see that powerful verse about a husband delighting in his wife (5:18-19). I like being transparent about my own story, because I think my story inspires people to grasp the importance of sex.
And because I’m me, what’s a funny story about your own sex life? (You know, something you can actually share publicly.) How has sex been humorous in your own marriage? What makes you two laugh?
Oh my goodness! We do laugh! We laugh that as we age, there are just some positions that are more comical than arousing (we’ve tried quite a few for sure, but hey, I’m just not as flexible as I was when I was 20!)
Also, because we are so comfortable talking about sex, we enjoy being playful with plenty of appropriate sexual banter. Just the other night, we celebrated New Year’s Day with our friends, and our children were there as well. I mentioned that someone texted me on New Year’s Eve at midnight to wish me a Happy New Year. My husband sulked and said, “I didn’t get anything at midnight.” To this, I laughed and smiled and said, “Well… you got something at midnight.” Our 15-year-old heard it and wryly said, “You know, I’m right here?!!” Eye roll included for free. Too funny!
Julie Sibert is authentic and godly in her approach to Christian sexuality, and I encourage you to check out her new book.