Category Archives: Sexual Intimacy Encouragement

Too Much or Too Little of a Good Thing

This past week has been a big fat WOW. I live just south of Houston, the fourth most populous city in the United States that turned into a sea with the massive rainfall supplied by Hurricane Harvey. My suburban town received over 50 inches of rain in just a few days.

Believe me, when your street looks like a river and you know friends are already flooded in their homes, rain is the last thing you want to see. And yet, it kept coming.

J standing shin-deep in water on her street

After the worst of the rain, on my street

Having been deluged by water for days and knowing people who had to be rescued by a boat, it would easy to assume that I never want to see rain again. All that water, quite frankly, sucked.

But…

I know that’s not true. God created water and rain, and they are more often beautiful blessings in our lives. For example, sitting on a beach watching the ocean is inspirational to me — just soaking up the majesty of the sea, billowing waves that trickle down to a tide that tickles your toes as they sink into the sand.

Or have you ever danced in the rain? Just waltzed with your beloved or boogied on your own? It’s a liberating experience, like Gene Kelly dancing in Singin’ in the Rain.

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How about this best example? Two weeks ago, one of my sons was baptized. Believe me, that day water was a real blessing.

Are you wondering when I’m going to get around to the subject of sex? Well, here we go: The amount of a good thing matters.

If you spent your whole marriage obsessed with sex, constantly living for the next romp in the sheets, then you’d be flooded. You would have made sex an idol in your life, and too much of a good thing ain’t always good.

Now God is incredibly generous about how much sexual pleasure you can and should have in your marriage. Song of Songs 5:1 says, “Eat, friends! Drink, be intoxicated with love!” Intoxicated is a lot of love. But no gift from God should ever be treasured more than God himself. Some spouses sadly put so much emphasis on sex that they ignore other important experiences.

More spouses, however, are dealing with the opposite — not enough sex.

Believe me, people who have been dealing with a drought in their region would have liked the Houston area to send them a few inches of our rain. (If only we could have…) When you are nowhere near having enough, you are all too aware of how needy you are.

Let me simply assure you that hardships usually last longer than we think is fair. There was definitely some yelling at God down here while we were desperate for sunshine and all we kept getting was rain. But the skies eventually stopped dropping water. And although damage has been done, everyone I’ve talked to is hopeful that we will recover. (I really want to add #HoustonStrong here. 😉 )

You might be in the drought longer than you want, but I certainly know couples who came out of a long dry spell, found true sexual intimacy on the other side, and absolutely recovered. And I think many of you can too.

Keep pursuing a better sex life, whether it’s working on your obsession with sex or the drought your marriage is going through.

And remember: Baby steps count. Indeed, there was rejoicing here with every inch that receded after the flood was over. Just get going in the right direction.

***

I hope to be back on Thursday. But for now, the Harvey deluge has been replaced with neighbors helping neighbors salvage what they can and discard the rest. A large portion of people’s homes fit in that “rest” category, with furniture, appliances, flooring, sheet rock, and insulation forming truck-sized piles on curbs for trash pick-up. 

My family is doing what we can. Here I am yanking nails out from stripped studs in a church member’s house:

J crouched and removing nails from a house frame stud with a crowbar

When I told my podcast partners I wanted to exercise more, this is not what I meant.

If you want to donate to the relief efforts, fellow blogger Jason Graves of My Beloved Is Mine recommends Christ In Action, a charity he knows well. I’m also partial to our local Lighthouse Charity Team, which has been feeding first responders.

My Favorite Feeling During Sex (And It’s Not Orgasm)

Contrary to some opinion out there, I don’t walk around thinking about sex 24/7. Outside of this important work I do, I’m just as likely to be thinking about the lyrics of a David Bowie song or wondering how laundry breeds like rabbits or listening to a politics podcast as I am thinking about the sexual intimacy in my marriage.

But I do sometimes evaluate how things are going, as I believe all spouses should. And the other day, I was thinking about our most recent lovemaking session and how it had made me feel. A strange thought struck me — surprised me really — and I thought it worth sharing with y’all.

My favorite feeling during sex isn’t orgasm.

Blog post title + woman throwing arms out in excitement, sunshine shining on her

WHAT?! How can that be? Isn’t orgasm the pinnacle of sexual pleasure? The aria of the opera? The chocolate syrup on the sundae? The Wonder Woman of superheroes?!

Haven’t I written several posts about orgasms, including What’s So Great about an Orgasm? and The Amusement Park of Orgasms? Aren’t I one of the biggest fangirls of the Big O?

Yes. Yes, I am.

While I recognize that not every wife experiences orgasm as an earth-shattering event, and certainly not every orgasm is as terrific as every other, it is a pretty lovely gift from our Father. It’s typically the peak moment of sexual pleasure, thus earning its name of climax.

But when I thought about it, I realized it still isn’t my favorite feeling. Because my favorite feeling when we make love is…

When my husband enters me.

It’s this moment that makes me feel the best about our marriage bed, the closest to him, the most grateful for this experience called sex. Because, to me, it’s then that one flesh really happens in a physical way. I’m not only reminded, but I physically experience these truths:

We fit together. The man-part fits inside the woman-part. If you study the anatomy of how our genitalia are designed to come together just so, it’s pretty amazing. God managed to design all shapes and sizes, and still those two parts almost always fit together.

Maybe that’s why Genesis 1 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (v. 27). And then the next verse is: “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number…’” (v. 28). We’re made male and female, and since those two parts fit so perfectly, we can be fruitful together.

We meet each other’s longings. If a man and a woman grew up alone without any outside knowledge of sex, I think they’d still figure sex out. Why? Because once a man becomes aroused, something in his mind triggers the notion that he wants to put that erection inside something … or rather, someone. His physiology clues him into the idea that it would feel really good to penetrate his beloved woman with his penis.

Meanwhile, once a woman becomes truly aroused (which, by the way, is often after things get going), she can experience a strong desire to have something inside her … or rather, someone. Her physiology triggers the thought that being filled up in there would satisfy a biological and emotional longing.

If we’re attuned to our sexuality, we experience a desire for what the other one has. When that longing is met, through penis-in-vagina (PIV) penetration, something deep inside is also sated. As if you’re both filled by what the other offers.

We’re totally connected. Sexual activity can be pleasurable in so many ways, and there are many delights to be experienced. But there’s something in particular about intercourse that demonstrates physically the connection we have emotionally and relationally. You’re literally linked together in one particular part of your bodies.

In that moment, you can feel like you’re a part of the other. His penis belongs to her, and her vagina belongs to him … representing physically how you belong to each other. No, of course people don’t get this feeling with just anyone they have sex with, and unfortunately not every marriage has this sensation. But it’s what God intended. When you feel deeply connected in your marriage, sexual intercourse is a physical confirmation of that connection — that intimacy.

So what if you don’t feel these things, but you want to?

First off, if you’re experiencing problems having intercourse, check out my latest post on Q&A with J: “He Goes Hard and Then Soft.”

Second, ask how your whole relationship is going. Because you’ll feel these things far more readily when you two have been investing in your friendship, your partnership, your romantic affection. Then this deep connection is an outgrowth of what exists outside the bedroom.

Also, consider how attuned you are to your sexuality and — perhaps more so — your sensuality. How much do you allow yourself to really think about the sensations you’re experiencing during sexual arousal and pleasure? Are you aware of what your body telling you about how it wants to be touched? If you struggle with this, my book Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design gives lots of tips for focusing your mind on what’s happening with your body.

Next, talk about whether you’re spending enough time doing those things before intercourse that make PIV penetration a welcome experience. Some wives need more time individually to prepare themselves, by stepping away from work or household or mothering duties for a while before engaging in sex with hubby. You may also need more flirtation throughout the day or connecting conversation with your husband. Many most wives need more prolonged foreplay to really get to that point where they long for their husband to enter them. You should be very wet — on your own or with the handy-dandy help of your personal lube — and your inner vaginal lips swollen to 2-3 times their normal size. You might even feel that longing more intensely if he gets you to clitoral orgasm first, through manual play, oral sex, or whatever works for y’all.

Finally, ask how your whole view of sexual intimacy is going. Do you see it as a positive thing in your life? Many do, but many struggle as well. For various reasons, so I don’t have a one-size-fits-all suggestion here. But if you don’t feel good about sexual intimacy itself, it’s unlikely you’ll experience that sense of one-fleshness with intercourse in your marriage. I know you can’t flip a switch, but you can be honest about where you are and take steps in the right direction to resolve the obstacles you face. And you can use that search bar up top to see if I have posts addressing your particular problem.

I’m praying that every couple can experience the beauty of being linked together in this special and amazing way. It’s my favorite feeling in my marriage bed, and I want you to know its distinct pleasure as well.

Why You Feel Worse Than He Does about the Premarital Sex

Blog post title + woman curled up with head to knees

Did you have sex before marriage? Either with your husband or someone else? Or maybe several someone elses?

Welcome to the majority. Statistics show that 97% of Americans have sex before marriage. In highly religious groups, that number goes down to 80%, which is quite a difference. However, that’s still 4 out of 5 devoted Christians who didn’t wait until the ring was on the finger, the I Dos were spoken, the deal was sealed.

Waiting for sex until marriage is God’s design and desire, but the reality is that many of us didn’t achieve that goal. And if messing up was the end of our hope, not a single person could make it to Heaven. Rather, there is forgiveness, redemption, and clean slates through the saving work of Jesus on the cross.

But a reader recently emailed me saying that he hadn’t gotten the sense that my premarital promiscuous past came with any real consequences for me or my marriage: “I came to the conclusion that your premarital ‘adventures’ had not affected you at all.”

Wow. If I have left that impression, let me correct it right now. I have not talked about all the specific consequences of my past, poor choices — my sin — because some are quite personal and painful. But having sex before marriage remains my greatest regret.

I do not carry the guilt of my sin, because through the blood of Jesus, I have been washed, sanctified, and justified through Christ and the Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:11). Still, if I could anything in my life over again, that would be it.

Many wives feel similarly about their past promiscuity. They hate the choices they made, they ache over the consequences, they wish they could go back and do it differently.

Some of that emotional baggage follows them into marriage, like dragging an invisible suitcase filled with heavy heartache. But when these wives try to talk to their husbands about the issue, their feelings are sometimes batted away with “That was so long ago” or “I don’t care about those guys; you’re with me now” or “Why are you dwelling on the past?” The husband doesn’t really understand why the issue still impacts her view of her sexuality and her openness in the marriage bed.

But it does.

For many wives.

So why do you feel worse than he does about premarital sex? Why is easier for him to move on from his past? Why doesn’t he understand what you’re going through?

Apparently, there’s a gender gap in sexual regret.

Apparently, there's a gender gap in sexual regret. Click To Tweet

Looking specifically at teen sex, one study cited that 72% of girls who engaged in sexual intercourse wished they’d waited. That’s nearly three-fourths of young ladies who regret the sexual choice they made. But what is the percentage for teen boys? 55%. While still a majority of guys, that’s a substantial drop.

What about adults? The Norwegian University of Science and Technology and the University of Texas at Austin together interviewed 853 Norwegians and 466 Americans. They wanted to know if religiosity influenced sexual regret after casual sex, with Norwegians representing far less attachment to religion than Americans professed. They didn’t find much difference on the religiosity scales (although I could argue with what they defined as “religiosity”), but they discovered an interesting outcome that women experienced far more sexual regret than men.

Then there’s the National Marriage Project, which surveyed a thousand single Americans and then studied them for five years. Among the 418 who got married during that time, 23% who only had sex with their spouse prior to marriage reported higher quality marriages than those who had additional sexual partners in their past. Even more revealing was that the more sexual partners a woman had before marriage, the less happy she reported her marriage to be. But the researchers didn’t find the same thing about men.

So are our husbands all too happy to collect sexual partners before marriage with no regrets at all? No, I don’t think that’s true.

Plenty of husbands also say they wish they’d waited for their wives. But they don’t always carry residual regret the same way.

I suspect that’s more about how men target their focus and compartmentalize events. Many husbands don’t feel their prior mistakes or sins have a bearing on how they feel about their wives. Simply put, they’re often better at putting the past behind them with a that was then, this is now attitude.

That’s a great thing when you consider that husbands are not comparing their wives to other women from their past. They’ve flipped that page and moved on.

Now I’m not at all trying to diminish the weight of sin. Because that is what our poor choices were. But I am saying that there’s a gender gap in sexual regret likely based on gender differences in our brains.

But that doesn’t solve this disconnect — that she continues to carry baggage from her promiscuous past and he doesn’t fully understand. What can a wife (and husband) do?

Admit your sin.

The first step in clearing your state is being honest about your failings. That may sound like I’m encouraging you to dwell in the past, but nothing could be further from the truth. Admitting our sin is simply a first step. As 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That’s a big if there at the beginning, one we’d be well-advised to heed.

Embrace His forgiveness.

I was recently asked if there was an aha moment for me in my marriage — that moment when I let go of my past baggage (as awful as it was) and embraced a different future for my marriage. For me, it was finally, fully understanding this passage:

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Ah, the beauty of that past tense. The sexually immoral is what I was, but I also was washed, sanctified, and justified in Christ Jesus. Believe it, cling to it, embrace His forgiveness.

Identify your baggage.

Be honest about what messages and concerns you’ve brought into your marriage based on your past. Much of what we think about ourselves, our husbands, and our sexuality can be tainted by our prior sexual experiences. What errors in thinking and behavior have you adopted based on your previous sexual choices and how you were treated by those other men?

To replace your erroneous thinking with God’s truth about sexual intimacy in marriage, you need to know where you’ve bought into lies. Here’s a common lie: That you don’t deserve full pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed because you screwed up before. Not true. You are in a married wife now, pursuing God’s plan for sexual intimacy, and He longs to bless you and your husband.

Share your struggle.

Your husband doesn’t have to fully understand, and he may have a different way of looking at past promiscuity. But explain your own thoughts and feelings as best you can. You might also want to use a line I once used with my husband when he told me, for the millionth time, not to worry about something: “I literally have no idea what that looks like.” I went on to explain that while he can shove something in a mental box and tuck it away, I cannot. It’s just not how the female brain typically works. If your husband can begin to understand, you can enlist his help to push through your sexual regret and enjoy the full blessings of a healthy marriage bed on the other side.

Husbands: Support her journey.

All of my other tips are for the wives, but this one is for you men reading. Research has shown that women struggle more with this, so please recognize it’s not some flaw in your wife that she can’t quickly and easily let go of the past. If you want to really help your wife, don’t belittle her feelings, dismiss her struggle, or shut down conversation. Rather, reassure and comfort her, help her embrace a new perspective, and make sexual intimacy a beautiful experience for her too. Just be her Barnabas; that is, her encourager as she journeys toward a healthy and holy view of sex in your marriage.

Do sex God’s way.

For a while after I embraced God’s design of sex, I still struggled. I ruminated about my sinful past, carried personal labels like slut in my mind, and felt a fair dose of heartache from time to time. But over time, my husband and I logged so many positive, one-flesh sexual experiences that those outweighed everything that came before. The scales tipped, and “sex” in my mind became equated with this holier and deeper version of sexual intimacy. In some ways, “just do it” is good advice. And by it, I don’t mean sex itself, but sex God’s way.

Have you struggled with your premarital promiscuous past? How have you embraced God’s way instead?

Same image as before...sized for Pinterest

WaitingTillMarriage.com – 4 Cool Statistics About Abstinence in the USAStatistic Brain – Abstinence StatisticsPubMed.gov – Trends in premarital sex in the United States, 1954-2003; Verily – Sex Regret Isn’t about Religious Guilt as Much as Biological Instincts, New Research Shows; Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation – Teen Attitudes Toward Sex; The National Marriage Project – Before I Do; Verily – Regret Is Not the Same as Slut-Shaming

Forget What You Look Like While Making Love

I no longer care what I look like when my husband and I make love.

Let me clarify. I do care about being clean, shaving my legs, wearing something sexy, etc. But I used to be so self-conscious about the expressions my face made or how my body might appear to him in certain sexual positions. I wanted to look beautiful throughout — just like how lovers look so attractive throughout the sex scenes in movies.

I confess to even sucking in my tummy or lying at an angle that made my breasts look more perky or posing in what I considered sensual ways. You know what happened? I just made it harder for myself to get fully involved in the experience. I was taking a part of my brain and focusing it on my looks rather than the sensations I was feeling, or his gaze-worthy body, or the intimacy we were enjoying.

How about you? Are you too aware of what you look like while making love? Are you self-conscious about your body and your facial expressions? Do you feel uptight in some way as you try to control how you come across to your beloved husband?

Blog post title + illustration of woman making satisfied expression

I suspect he’d rather you stop all that worrying and get far more into enjoying the experience. Just keep a few things in mind:

He’s in love with you, not your glamour shot.

Look, it’s great to spruce up for your husband and present yourself in a way that makes him feel special and you feel confident. But at the end of the day, your husband knows what you look like. You’re not going to fool him by sucking in every time he walks into a room, or he’s going to start wondering why you always look constipated.

If he’s interested in or responsive to making love, then your husband knows he’s getting the whole you — not the you from your 1990s glamour shot. And honestly, he’s no glamour shot himself. We are real people with real bodies, and our desire for sexual intimacy in marriage goes beyond what you look like in any particular moment. It’s about the life you have together and nurturing an even deeper connection.

Enthusiasm trumps appearance.

Husbands often tell me that they want their wives to express themselves fully in the marriage bed, untethered and with enthusiasm. What makes you look good to your husband is the expression on your face showing that you’re enjoying what’s happening and the shifts in your body that might make some parts less objectively pretty but show that you’re “into it.” He wants you to let go.

And I almost hate mentioning this, but I believe a big part of the appeal of porn for men is just that these women seem so eager and excited about sex. I am NOT saying you should be your husband’s porn star (jeez, I hate that saying), but it’s informative about what men intrinsically desire. What God intended is surely not for any man to use porn to satisfy these longings, but rather for a covenant husband and wife to be enthusiastic in their marriage bed. Just read how the wife in Song of Songs speaks: “Take me away with you — let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers” (1:4). She’s in a hurry to get busy, because sexual intimacy is part of her intense love for her husband.

Sex is funny.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Sex is a funny activity. It’s funny-peculiar and sometimes funny-ha-ha. Of all the ways God could have gotten this procreation thing done, we have to get naked, get into positions you don’t really use for other activities, and then make movements that are really quite amusing if you think about it. Personally, I think this shows that God is in favor of joy and fun for His creation, and we should embrace the humorous part of sexual intimacy in marriage.

Once you accept that as part of the whole deal, it frees you up to be more playful and vulnerable in the bedroom. Suddenly, when you grunt like a wild animal in the middle of sex, you’re not embarrassed, but rather tickled by how much you were getting into it. (Likewise if it’s him doing the camel grunt.) You don’t mind the funny facial expressions, because that’s part of the whimsy of lovemaking. Hey, even if you fart right in the middle, you two might just laugh rather than freak out (yes, it’s possible).

If you learn to lean into the experience, not stressing about your appearance, then you and your husband will enjoy lovemaking even more. And I’d bet you’ll look really good to him, all excited about having sex together.

But if this all sounds like a tall order for you — forgetting what you look like while making love — my book, Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, has more tips on preparing for a night of vulnerable lovemaking and letting go in the moment.

How to Pray for Sexual Intimacy in Your Marriage

I’m out this week at church camp, where I volunteer one week every summer and teach a writing class as well as Bible content to kids. With my time limited and the internet spotty at my location, I’m re-running a few favorite posts this week. Enjoy!

Blog post title + woman praying (just hands and torso showing)

Yeah, I totally get it. It feels so awkward the first time you pray about your sex life. Perhaps you prayed before marriage about avoiding sexual sin and maintaining purity.

But you’re legit now. God created sex for you — a wife in a committed, godly marriage. So once you’re married, it’s time to shift your prayers to inviting God to bless your sexual intimacy.

So how do you pray for sexual intimacy? Consider addressing the following areas:

Healthy body image. You should feel good about the body that God gave you and the delight that it can bring your husband. If you feel shame about your appearance or unveiling yourself before your mate, ask God to help. Pray something like: “Lord, help me to see myself as You see me. Help me to also see the beauty that my husband sees in me. Guide me to be confident and open in sharing my body with the mate You’ve given me.”

Healing from the past. Many wives bring sexual baggage into the marriage. Perhaps at one time you were molested or promiscuous or taught that sex was a bad thing. Whatever your past hurts, bring them to your Lord and ask for healing: “Father, release me from the faulty ways I’ve viewed sex in the past. Give me strength and peace to trust Your plan for healthy sexuality in my marriage. Help me to replace that painful perspective from my past with Your truth.”

Pleasure. A common struggle for wives is learning to truly enjoy and surrender to the experience and sensations of sex. God made you to be a sexual being in the context of marriage. He doesn’t want you to merely endure sex with your husband, but to discover your mate in an intimate way, to enjoy the physical sensations, to fully embrace the experience. Pray something like: “Lord, help me to surrender whatever mental and emotional obstacles are in the way of my experiencing sexual pleasure. Help me to relax and rest in the security of Your plan and in my husband’s arms. Awaken my senses so that I can delight in the ways that my husband touches me and the way this body you gave me responds. Help me also to give my husband pleasure.”

Communication with husband. If you have problems in this area of your marriage, you may need to communicate with your husband — explain how you feel, what you desire, and discuss how to achieve your mutual goals and God’s design for marital intimacy. But for some wives, talking to your husband about sex can feel even more awkward than talking to God. What will he think? How will he react? Take that concern to God in prayer: “Holy Father, give me the courage and the words of wisdom to approach my husband and discuss our marital intimacy. Give him an open ear and an open heart. Help us to pursue being of one accord in our sex life together.”

Easy peasy, right? Well, maybe not at first. But give it a shot. God is ready and willing to hear whatever you want to talk to him about … including sex.

Post first run September 13, 2013 on Unveiled Wife.