Praying for Unity in Your Marriage Bed

On Saturdays this year, I’m talking about praying for your marriage bed. One of the first questions is How can we pray for their marriage bed? What do we pray for?

Immediately, it popped into my mind that we should pray for what Jesus prayed for us: unity (see John 17:11-23.).

Praying for Unity in Your Marriage Bed with word "PRAY" behind the title

Not ironically, this is the biggest problem I hear about from couples who write me and comment on the blog. Husband and wife simply do not see eye-to-eye on some issue of sexual intimacy, or maybe even the whole kit-and-caboodle. For many couples, if they could just come to some kind of agreement, a plan to move forward in the right direction, they would experience both relief and hope.

Instead:

  • One spouse sees a problem, and the other ignores it.
  • One spouse pursues selfish pleasure in the bedroom, and the other feels neglected.
  • One spouse engages in sexual sin (e.g., porn), and the other feels powerless.
  • One spouse continually refuses sex, and the other feels devalued.
  • One spouse continually demands sex, and the other feels used.

You could probably list other scenarios, but all these are marriages at odds on what’s even going on. The opposite of unity is happening: frustration, resentment, anger, conflict, stonewalling, and shutting down altogether.

And yes, all this happens over sex.

Not because we’re selfish beings who want our fleshly pleasure, but because God specifically designed sex to be a physical, emotional, and spiritual bond between husband and wife. He said it was for unity: ” ‘And the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mark 10:8). Consummation, and continuation of that practice, are integral to covenant marriage.

How can we achieve unity? How can our marital bedrooms become places of peace? How can we live into the design of one flesh?

We’re told to seek and pursue peace (1 Peter 3:11, Romans 14:19), to strive for it (Hebrews 12:14), and to let it rule in our hearts (Colossians 3:15). Those all require intention and action on our part.

We should also follow the example of Jesus, by praying for peace, for unity, for one mind.

And not just “my mind.” Let’s be honest: This is how we often pray for unity regarding our sexual intimacy. Please, God, let him stop asking for sex so much. Or Please, God, increase his sex drive so he’ll want sex as much as I do.

Look, I’m not opposed to your spouse making changes. Odds are, they need to. But once we start praying for unity, it’s quite possible — rather likely — that God will want to change us. He might want us to do more to seek, pursue, and strive for peace. He might start working on our hearts so that peace can rule there, instead of the mountain of frustration we’ve hoarded over the years. He might expect us to speak up, reach out, seek help. He might need to smooth over our rough edges so that we can better fit into the one-flesh design He created.

So when we pray for unity, our prayer should be: God, guide me to know what I can do to pursue true peace in my marriage and unity in our marriage bed. Give me the right attitude in my heart, righteous wisdom in my mind, and the courage to take action when needed.

Mind you, “true peace” is not absence of conflict. You don’t have conflict with lots of people in the world, because you don’t have a relationship with them. So simply avoiding conflict doesn’t make for unity or peace. You might need to friction upfront to get to unity on the other side. But the Bible emphasizes the word one. Pray for that.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

Q&A with J: How Do I Express What I Want in Bed?

Last week, we talked some about difficulty reaching orgasm, and we’re back at it again today. But it’s a different issue with this wife, who needs some specific tips. Read on:

Do you have any tips for communicating with your husband during intercourse? Hubby and I have been married less than two years, and with most of that entailing some pretty serious physical issues, let’s just say orgasms for me have been hard to come by. We’re finally getting back on track, but still struggling with getting me “across the finish line.” I know we’re supposed to give our husbands in-the-moment feedback, but I literally can’t even figure out how to use words to describe what I want! And what words I can come up with, just the act of thinking and then speaking completely derails any momentum we had going, so end up either frustrated or bored trying to figure out how quickly I can wrap things up! I have tried guiding hubby’s hands but that ends up being more awkward and cumbersome than trying to speak! We talk outside of the bedroom, and I still have a hard time conveying specifically what I might want. And when I tell DH to try changing things up or experimenting a little, he seems to just go back to exactly what he’s used to doing! i love my husband dearly, but it’s like if I don’t give him point by point (by point by point by point) instructions he will always default to the same non-effective thing. Is it really completely my job to completely figure out and explain everything? (If you say yes I’ll believe you J 🙂 any tips for us?

Fessing up, I think communicating verbally during sex is one of the most awkward things I’ve done. Have you ever watched a lovemaking scene on-screen where someone said, “Hold on, I need you to move your hand a little to the left. Okay, there. Softer”? No. No, you have not. What do the scripts say? “I love you,” “You’re beautiful,” “You’re my soul mate,” etc.

And that’s all great. But sometimes you’re right in the throes of passion and intensity is building, and you know — just know — that if he could touch you differently, just a bit, you’d plunge into the orgasm pool with a great big aaaaah. So how do you help him know what brings you the greatest pleasure?

Let’s start with the last question this reader asked: Is it really completely my job to completely figure out and explain everything? No, it’s not. Ideally, you figure out together what works best for you. For instance, even though I’ve encouraged women to explore their own sexual organs to see what feels good so they can then translate that knowledge into the marriage bed, your hand and his hand feel different. So you still have some discovery to do together.

This is actually pretty cool, the way God designed sex. Rather than viewing it as an obstacle, it’s an opportunity take a guided tour of your spouse’s body and explore this amazing territory. What happens when I touch you like this? Do you like it when I kiss you here? How about here? What are your most sensitive places? How can I stir your sensuality and satisfy your senses? What can I do to take you over the edge?

So how do you do experiment and find out what works? Because that’s the first step. You can’t tell somehow what you like if you’ve had no experience with what you like. And it sounds like you two are doing this in the midst of making love. Maybe you need to step back, put intercourse on the back burner for a bit, and actually have a session of exploration, experimentation, and experience.

When you’re not focused on having intercourse or reaching an orgasm, you can slow down, take your time, and see what feels good. If you can swing it, it might be worth you stripping down but him leaving on his clothes, so that the focus is totally on you and your pleasure. Do this once, twice, or a few times, and it might be rather eye-opening for you both.

But even when you’re in the middle of exploration or foreplay, how do you know what you want? Do you really want more pressure or less? To be touched higher or lower? To have him go slower or faster? This is a mindfulness exercise for us women. We have to be very focused on what’s happening with our bodies. We have to mentally concentrate on the sensations we’re feeling and then think, What might feel even better?

It’s often very intentional at first. You purposefully set out to think about what you’re feeling, what might feel good, ask for that, then adjust — moment by moment, touch by touch. But it’s like learning anything else: after a while, you get better and know more quickly and intuitively what you like. Also, most husbands begin to read their wives better, recognizing certain kinds of tension in her body or sounds she’s making indicate greater pleasure.

But what words do you use? It depends somewhat on your own communication style. But, like you, I’ve found that forming words during lovemaking can be difficult at times. So I think a limited vocabulary can help in getting what you want. Keep it to single words and short phrases you can quickly get out and he can quickly respond to. Like softer, harder, faster, slower, up, down, deeper, etc.

Mind you, you might have to use opposite words in a row. Like if you say harder and he gets too rough, you’ll need to say softer to get him to back off little. By the way, hubbies, this is not a critique of your sexual performance. We’re actually more impressed with your lovemaking when you’re willing to listen to our suggestions and help us figure out how we can experience the most pleasure. Good lovers listen and learn.

Good lovers listen and learn. Click To Tweet

What about your momentum? Yeah, it’s interrupted. Once again … at first. When you start talking during lovemaking, it feels awkward and can disrupt your flow. But trust the process. Just because you’re playing scales now doesn’t mean you won’t be mastering Bach tomorrow. In fact, you have to play the scales first.

So let it be awkward. Even be playful about it. Faster, slower, there — yeah, baby [insert giggle here]. Feeling free enough to be a little off-kilter in the moment with your spouse increases intimacy. Because you’re sharing in this discovery, these private moments, and your eventual success.

One final thought: It’s okay to add yourself to this mix. I have encouraged wives to simply move his hand where you want it (hard to ignore that signal). But you can also put your own hand where you want to be touched and say here. Or even take over the direct stimulation, so that he can do something else that arouses you — and together, you bring yourself to climax. Not only is that okay, some husbands find it exciting to see their wives touch themselves. It shows them how into it she is.

I believe you can make this work and experience intimate lovemaking and amazing climaxes. May God bless your efforts!

What’s Your “Porn”?

Have you noticed the trend to add “porn” to unrelated topics to garner attention? Surely, you’ve heard of food porn, the visual presentation of foods that look so delectable you have an immediate visceral reaction.

One of Merriam-Webster‘s definitions of pornography is: “the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.” I suppose this is why the #foodporn hashtag is so popular on Instagram and Twitter, and there are hashtags for #bookporn and even #weddingporn.

We overuse that word. True porn is in a category all its own, forging a destructive path with a wide wake of broken people left behind. I would never equate the tempting of a decadent chocolate cake to prostitution on the screen.

However, we might underestimate how damaging some of our habits are to our sex lives. And for some of the same reasons as porn.

What's Your "Porn"? Picture

You see, watching porn causes a release of brain chemicals that help to form habits and even addiction. For instance, dopamine controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, and it surges while watching porn. Some studies have shown changes in brain chemistry and structure for porn addicts that mirror those of cocaine addicts. The real effects of viewing pornography are still being researched, but it seems pretty clear that engaging in this habit takes sexual energy away from your spouse and your marriage bed.

And that’s where I wonder: What’s your “porn”?

Because those who aren’t watching porn might still be setting up something else as a substitute for engaging in the marriage bed.

It can be easy to feel self-righteous about not being involved in the tornado of pornographic temptation. All the while reading erotic romance that fixes your senses and heart on a fictional character instead of your husband. Or setting up social media and its images as your dopamine reward system, thus giving your husband the short shrift. Or maybe it’s the love affair you have with your vibrator when he’s not around (let’s be honest, ladies — someone out there is dealing with this). It could be chick flicks and TV shows depicting steamy romances that make you less willing to engage with your real-world husband, who is nothing like those strong and sensitive heroes you’ve been watching.

I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s fair to ask: What’s your “porn”?

Or really, since the word porn gets overused, and even abused, I’m asking what’s taking you away from your marriage bed. What substitute have you chosen over your husband? What idol have you unwittingly erected in his place? What temptation are you struggling with?

If you’ve formed a bad habit that’s threatening the sexual intimacy in your marriage, it’s time to fess up and do something about it.

  • Separate yourself from the temptation. Turn off that TV or computer, toss out that book or sex toy, get that bait out of your sight.
  • Pray for strength to refocus. You’ll need extra doses of willpower and perseverance, and God can deliver.
  • Commit yourself to your marriage bed. Create a goal to engage more frequently and enthusiastically in sexual intimacy with your husband.
  • Give yourself time to retrain. Don’t expect the thoughts and temptation to disappear overnight. You may need time to reconnect fully to the authentic sexual experience.
  • Keep turning your mind and energy toward your husband. Practice mindfulness by turning your straying thoughts back to the moment you’re in with your husband, continually.
  • Talk positively to yourself and your husband. Share appreciation with him for the pleasure you experience, and use self-talk that encourages a positive view of real sexual intimacy.
  • Recognize that authentic sex is messy. Sex isn’t dirty, but it is messy. Messy in how it’s done, in the awkwardness that sometimes occurs, in the efforts to coordinate our desires and rhythms.
  • Understand that authentic sex is beautiful. Messy, yes, but far more beautiful as well. The Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, the Great Barrier Reef — these are not tidy per se, but they’re among the most wonderful natural landmarks in the world. There is God-given beauty in authenticity.

Let’s step away from our crutches, whatever they might be, and embrace something even better. It may take some time, but we can get back on track. We can rediscover authentic sexual intimacy and lean into God’s design for our marriage.

Praying to Your Heavenly Father: Do You Have Daddy Issues?

In my blog, I often refer to God as my Heavenly Father. But I have to admit that was one of the hardest names to attach to God.

Praying to Your Heavenly Father: Do You Have Daddy Issues? with PRAY in background

Despite the occurrence of Father as the name for God more than 150 times in the New Testament, viewing Him in the dad role was a stretch for me. You see, I loved my father greatly, but when I was younger, we had a contentious relationship. Chalk it up to us both being strong, opinionated personalities or him being wrong and me being right (see? opinionated! 😉 ), but whatever the reason, it was not smooth sailing for my teen and young adult years. We were often at odds with one another.

Right at this same time, I was coming into my own with my faith. And I looked at this term Father and realized all the baggage I brought with it. How could I view God as my father, my pops, my dad?

I’d love to say that I immediately saw the error of my ways in not honoring my earthly father, made perfect peace with the man who raised me, and skipped off into the sunset praying, “Dear Father, oh my beloved Father…” But I didn’t. I just tended toward other names, like Lord, Savior, and God.

I know — just know — that some wives out there struggle with seeing God as their loving father. So when I talk about how He’s listening to you as a Father would, wanting to give you the kind of gifts that a Father gives (see Matthew 7:9-11), and comforting you like a Father would his beloved daughter, it’s hard for you to relate.

Maybe you experienced not merely an unharmonious relationship with your dad, but an abusive one. Or he was simply absent. How much more difficult is it then for you to pray to God as your Heavenly Father who wants to bless your marriage bed?

Look, I don’t have daddy issues anymore. My father and I long ago made peace and ended up with a beautiful relationship that culminated in my being at his bedside and holding his hand as he left this life last year. But I know wives who will never have that peace with their earthly fathers. And when they try to imagine God as Father, that image brings with it baggage and emotional pain. That difficult experience ends up hindering your prayer life.

So how can you start praying for your marriage and your sexual intimacy? Believing that God will be the loving father who gives beautiful gifts to His children?

Recognize He knows your struggle. God’s not upset that you’re not calling Him Father and seeing Him as the loving gift-giver He is. At least not in a personally offended way. He’s upset that you are going through this struggle and wants to help you understand who He is and what a truly loving Father looks like.

Use another name in prayer. Like I said, for a time I used other names. As I grew comfortable with one, I stretched my comfort zone to add another. There are many, many names of God in the Bible, and He answers to those names too.

Make peace with your father. Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Suck it up and go make peace with the man who gave you life. As best you can. No, this doesn’t mean you let anyone walk all over you; rather, you establish a healthy adult relationship with grace, boundaries, and love. Making peace with your earthly father might help you make peace with the idea of God as father.

Find other daddy images. If your father was abusive or absent, consider other fathers you’ve come across who were excellent dads. Was there an uncle or grandfather or male family friend who reached out to you in your youth? Do you have a brother who has become a wonderful father? What about your husband? Some people have even said that fictional images of fathers helped them understand what a good, healthy dad looks like. Whatever the source, think about the great dads out there, because they do exist. And they are hints of the kind of father God is.

Realize that God is the Perfect Father. Your dad is a flawed father, your God is not. While the mental image of father gives us a good sense of our relationship to God, it doesn’t begin to describe His perfection. He’s all the best traits of dads, and none of the bad ones, put together in one person, then amped up to an eleven. He’s Father Knows Best on steroids. He’s in a category all His own. There is one Heavenly Father, and growing closer to Him helps us to understand what that looks like.

Believe that He wants to bless your marriage bed. Going back to my analogy, yes, our Heavenly Father gave a gift to marriage. He said, “Hey, kids, I need to give you a way to reproduce, so I’m creating sex. But you know what? I want it to be different from animals who mate to continue their species. Because you are made in My image, I want your sexuality to reflect the kind of relationship that I value, so I’m going to make this gift even better. It will be for the exclusive, covenant bond of marriage, and it will give you great pleasure and deep intimacy. And children, when you enjoy the gift I’m giving you, I will be smiling like a proud dad.” Okay, He didn’t say that. But I think that’s His intention and His longing for us — He wants to bless our marriage beds.

As I go through this prayer topic on Saturdays, and on my blog generally, when you encounter Heavenly Father, check yourself to see if you have a positive or negative reaction to that name. Open yourself up to what that really means when it comes to God. And what it means for your marriage and your sexual intimacy.

Prayer Challenge This Week: Write down 3-5 different names of God and pray about the sexual intimacy in your marriage with each of those names. Which one or ones are most comfortable? Which ones do you struggle with? Ask God to help you see Him as He really is, without our baggage about earthly father relationships or even men generally.

Related post: What Dads Teach Their Daughters about Intimacy

Q&A with J: Does He Know How Your Orgasm Works?

Just so y’all know where my Q&As are, my email inbox is full with stories and questions. I read all of them, I pray about you, and I wish I could answer every one of you. But I can’t get to every one. If you have a severe issue in your marriage, keep pursuing answers and find help where you can get it — your personal physician, local pastor, or Christian counselor.

With that in mind, today’s question has been sitting in my inbox for months. But I’m eager to answer today, because this wife’s story illuminates some challenges in many marriage beds:

I have been married almost 8yrs and have never had an orgasm, this is frustrating to both me and my husband because he feels like he isn’t good enough and that he isn’t pleasing me. Even though I tell him time and time again that I do enjoy sex, and I do get a lot of pleasure even though I don’t orgasm. Sometimes I feel such intense pleasure that I think I’m going to and nothing happens, and he finishes, sometimes I feel like if he could last a little longer that maybe I could orgasm, but I don’t know (he wants to get a fleshlight to try some exercise to make him last longer but I don’t feel comfortable with it). I feel like he has given up on me, that he doesn’t even try to please me anymore, that sex is all for him and it makes me want to cry, there is hardly any foreplay anymore. I tried to talk to him, to tell him that I need foreplay to get wet, and I tried to explain that I read that some women need a lot of foreplay and clitoral stimulation to orgasm and that I want to try some new things. He took this as me being selfish and only wanting to do what I want by saying “I need this” that I only care about my pleasure and not his. But he does get pleasure and he does orgasm and I don’t, I just want to try to orgasm. He told me to try masturbating but I just don’t feel comfortable doing that because of how I was raised. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even want to bring it up to him anymore because I don’t want to upset him (he suffers from depression and self esteem issues, no he is not abusive).

Q&A-with-J-Does-He-Know-How-Your-Orgasm-Works with woman's hand grasping edge of bed

Starting with her issues about reaching orgasm, let me first share some of what I’ve written about that topic, and you can read whichever posts seem to apply to your situation:

What’s So Great about an Orgasm?

Why I Sometimes Don’t Care about the Orgasm

But I Still Can’t Orgasm! What Next?

Q&A with J: “I Just Can’t Seem to Orgasm”

Q&A with J: Your Pleasure & Orgasm Matter

Julie Sibert of Intimacy in Marriage also keeps a running list of posts about orgasm on her aptly named The Orgasm Page. It’s a terrific resource.

And the best treatment I have about reaching climax is in my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, where I walk through attitude, technique, and tips to help you achieve that marvelous peak of pleasure.

Now in this question, there seems to be a core issue that the husband doesn’t really understand how his wife’s orgasm works. And I hear that a lot.

Your spouse’s arousal isn’t like yours. We walk through life with the lens of our own experience coloring everything we see. When it’s relatively easy for you to orgasm, it can be hard to understand why it’s so difficult for your spouse. It takes intentionality and empathy to imagine what someone else is going through and to respond accordingly. But the beauty of God’s design is that you are required to get to know each other better, more intimately, to experience all the pleasure you can have in your marriage bed.

And it sounds to me like hubby just doesn’t know what her orgasm looks like. Because it isn’t like his. Or like he’s heard. Or even experienced with someone else. (I don’t know their history).

Once the wife learns more about how her pleasure and climax work (see resources above), then she can better teach her husband. But ultimately, it requires patience, communication, openness, exploration, and respect. Yep, respect. Respect that the wife’s body is its own beautiful creation and needs to be treated with wonder and, at times, perseverance.

Now I understand the appeal of a sex toy to help things out. That’s what a Fleshlight is, for those who don’t know. It’s a toy that simulates a vagina for a man to “practice” increasing his stamina. But in addition to my objections about the Fleshlight website (don’t go there—the “eye candy” is bad for you), I doubt this will achieve what you want. Because while it might increase his stamina, it still doesn’t help him figure out what works for your body. And your issue doesn’t seem to be him not lasting long enough. (By the way, if stamina is an issue, there are several techniques you can use to increase his time to climax.)

Also, while masturbating might get you there, ideally you want to experience him giving you such pleasure that you reach orgasm. I’m not opposed to adding your hand to the mix during a sexual encounter to finish out strong, but it is a lovely feeling to have your beloved husband get you all the way there.

With all that in mind, here’s what your husband needs to know about your orgasm. (You can even highlight and print the following and then hand it to him as a summary.)

Wanting orgasm isn’t selfish. God intended for both spouses to experience a great deal of physical pleasure and emotional bonding during the sex act. And while neither spouse has to climax every single time, it should be a regular occurrence that both of you complete your pleasure with that exciting peak. What’s selfish is to expect to achieve orgasm after orgasm after orgasm while your spouse pines to have even one.

Women usually don’t know their sexual organs as well as men know theirs. It’s a fact of life that men have easy access to their sexual organ from infancy, and they are intimately familiar with what it looks like, how it feels, and what it does. Women are more mysterious — with their sexual organs tucked in like the interior of a flower that must bloom for you to see and experience the beauty fully. Meaning we’ve got a learning curve to figure out how our bodies best respond sexually, and a husband can help a great deal with exploring and discovering all of her natural wonders.

It takes you a lot longer than it takes him. Typically, that’s true. Not necessarily once you’re both in the throes of passion, but most wives take longer to heat up to that point. We need romance, arousal, foreplay, pleasure. It’s why the number one tip I give husbands over and over is slow down.

Vaginal orgasms are the hardest to reach. Penetration is the best way for a man to climax, but not for a woman. Stimulation of the clitoris is required for a wife to reach orgasm. However, that stimulation is indirect during sexual intercourse, while it can be directly applied with manual play for her or oral sex. If you want a man’s view of how to approach things, Paul Byerly of Generous Husband has a detailed post for husbands on performing orgasmic massage.

Hopefully, that information and all the links in this post will help.

Finally, I know that you “don’t even want to bring it up to him anymore because I don’t want to upset him.” But what’s the alternative? Are you planning to continue the status quo? Because that seems rather unacceptable.

God wants you both to experience pleasure in the marriage bed, including the orgasm. Maybe you could read my post on talking to your spouse about sexual problems and figure out a way to bring up the subject gently, supportively, lovingly.