Category Archives: Sexual Intimacy Encouragement

Are You (Too) Content with “Better Than It Used to Be”?

I recently wrote a pretty unfiltered post about the problem many of us wives have with being contentious in our homes. Sometimes I think God has me write things so that I’ll pay attention to where I need to grow in my marriage.

Because after that post, I had a couple of different conversations in my home on that topic. One of them involved my older son, an adult man now, and how his personality and mine differ in expressing emotions. Now, if you’ve been around Hot, Holy & Humorous a while, you know that I’ve compared my husband to Spock, in how logical and non-expressive he can be.

Well, our elder spawn has taken on more personality traits from his father and could well be Spock Jr. So you can imagine when emotionally expressive mom gets frustrated (as all normal moms periodically do), she can take on a “tone” which doesn’t play well with the Vulcan species in her family.

But as we calmly talked about this issue, I pointed out how much better I am than I used to be. I wanted major credit for having lowered my volume a few dial settings and holding back on the contemptuous body language (such as eye rolling) that I used to display. I felt like it was unfair to say that I needed to improve a lot because “Hey, this is way better than it used to be!”

Guess who shows up then? Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was the Holy Spirit, poking me in the ribs to tell me that better ain’t good enough. Better does not meet “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Jeez, Jesus, that’s a really high standard to aim for!

My conclusion was that I still have some issues to work on.

Blog post title with illustrated couple giving "okay" hand gesture

However, I thought about this with the sexual intimacy in our marriages as well. I periodically hear from couples say that things are better than they used to be. Now I’m 100% sure we should celebrate that progress, those victories, those shifts in our marriage that strengthen our bond and honor God’s design for sex.

But are you setting down Ebenezers to mark progress along your path, or settling in for good with the attitude of “good enough”?

If you don’t know what an Ebenezer is, it comes from the story of the judge Samuel who sought God’s help in fighting the Philistines. After Israel’s army defeated their attackers, 1 Samuel 7:12 says, “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.’” Since then Ebenezer has come to mean “a commemoration of divine assistance” (Merriam-Webster).

Samuel’s use of “thus far” is apt, because by 1 Samuel 12, the Israelites are back to fighting with the Philistines. It’s many years before King David finally defeats the Philistines for good, and in between are many battles in which the Israelites seek God’s help to win. Every hard-fought battle is a step toward eventual victory, but along the way were many moments that called for Ebenezers.

Like the Israelites versus the Philistines, I suspect many marriages are in a constant battle, fighting to reach God’s design for sex. But it’s easy to become complacent, to settle in and say, “Okay, that’s good enough.”

Do any of these describe your marriage?

  • “We used to have sex once a month, but now I give it to him twice a month, which is enough.”
  • “She never had orgasms before, but now she has one every few times we make love.”
  • “I show up regularly — what more does he want?”
  • “I’ve only looked at porn a few times this month.”
  • “I tried communicating about our improving our sexual intimacy, but he didn’t want to talk about it, so I gave up and decided our sex life was fine.”

God’s not a fan of good-enough in the marriage bed.

God's not a fan of good-enough in the marriage bed. Click To Tweet

Two of my favorite Bible verses about sex are:

A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love” (Proverbs 5:19).

Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” (Song of Songs 5:1, ESV)

There are many warnings in the Bible against gluttony and drunkenness, but sexual love in a marriage is one place where God throws out the concept of “enough” and tells us to go overboard — to get intoxicated.

Isn’t that amazing?

Now of course, you can make sex itself into an idol. You should ask whether you’re seeking a truly better, more intimate sex life with your spouse or merely seeking your own pleasure or some unrealistic fantasy.

But I stand by the idea that we can continue to make progress throughout our married lives. And like Samuel, we can ask for divine help.

Indeed, if we ask for God’s design for sex in our marriage, that’s where our Lord is generous. What that looks like might not be what you think (e.g., lots more sex), and He usually expects us to start with ourselves, but He wants our physical intimacy to deepen so that our whole marriage can be strengthened.

We shouldn’t stop pursuing godly sex in our marriage. We shouldn’t cease improving our own attitudes and theology about this beautiful act of love. We shouldn’t settle for “better than it used to be.”

Thinking back to the Ebenezer story, what’s particularly interesting is that the constant battle with the Philistines came from the Israelites saying “good enough” long before Samuel was around. After the Israelites moved into Canaan, there is this passage:

When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, ‘You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron…‘” (Joshua 13:1-3). 

God told Joshua there were still places to be conquered. But the Israelites didn’t follow through. What places regarding our marriage have yet to be conquered? Will we follow through?

Q&A with J: When Your Groom Is Anxious about Sex

Today’s question comes from a lovely woman on the brink of new marriage. With just weeks until the vows, here’s what she wrote:

hi, im getting married in [a few] weeks, my husband to be has usually been a little reluctant to talk about sex which we always said was good to keep us from going too far before married. we did some sessions of premarital counseling a while ago and our pastor suggested looking at the site the marriage bed shortly before our wedding. I have read quite a bit on their site as well as yours which has helped me be less scared about sex, but now that he has read some things on their site he says he is super weird about the idea of sex. I asked if there was anything in particular that scared him and he said “putting my hands and face where they don’t belong.” I told him that I will never make him do anything he isn’t comfortable with but just the idea of sex is still scaring him. he is a very very logic driven person so has a hard time understanding why anyone would want to do any of the things he read about (even just normal sex). …

I don’t want him to be scared of sex and both of us have a really good understanding that sex is a good thing from God and its not dirty, it just is best within marriage. do you have any suggestions on ways I could make him less scared? I have told him its ok if we don’t have sex right away, we can spend time just becoming comfortable with each other and I will wait until he feels ready. I want to know how to love him best.

Blog post title + midsection of groom looking at his watch

I love that last line: “I want to know how to love him best.” Isn’t that a great way to approach your spouse, no matter how long you’ve been married?

But I wanted to tackle this question because it gets at a few issues that people often don’t consider.

Men also absorb the purity message.

Last year, Sheila Gregoire wrote 10 Things That Scare Me About the “Purity” Culture. One of those ten was “The Purity Culture can make women afraid of sex.” Now Sheila was writing specifically to women, but her point is valid for both genders: Well-intentioned Christians can preach sex as such a huge no-no that they create fear about engaging in the act even when married.

Here are clues that suggest this young man has been exposed to, and absorbed, some purity culture messages:

1. He’s highly uncomfortable talking about sex, but then they decide that’s a good thing so that they won’t go too far.

Except that talking about sex generally and talking about sex specifically are very different. As Christians, we need to be able to comfortably talk about our sexuality, our temptations and challenges, our longings for the future, etc. Silence isn’t always golden. Indeed, teens that have parents and mentors willing to discuss sexuality honestly and in the context of values tend to wait longer to have sex. 

When and how should much should you talk about sex before marriage? Check out this guest post from Eric and Heather Viets of Preengaged.comHow Much Should You Learn about Sex before the Wedding Night? Also, Lauren Hanna also guested here with Let’s Talk About Sex, Shall We?

2. He’s worried about “putting my hands and face where they don’t belong.”

Who said they belong there? I’ll deal with this issue more thoroughly below, but suffice it to say that I wonder if he’s absorbed the sense that godly sex involves a pretty narrow repertoire. It’s a message you get in some Christian circles, but it’s not what God’s Word says.

3. The questioner insists that they don’t believe sex is dirty, just best within marriage. That might be a completely innocent comment, or it could be that this young man is still trying to convince himself.

You know how we do that — tell ourselves something over and over so that we’ll eventually believe it. But if the belief is embedded deep, it can be harder to genuinely feel something is true, even when you know logically it is.

Men are simply not immune to the messages many Christian singles received about sex — that it’s dangerous territory. As being such an off-limits activity or even discussion before marriage, it’s hard to flip the switch after the vows.

What can you do? Here’s my go-to on this one: “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). To me that means that we get what we want when we want what God designed for us to have (see Aligning Your Sexual Desires with God’s Plan). You, as a couple, must learn to delight in God’s design for sex. That can take some time, but it’s worth the study, communication, prayer, and perhaps even counseling you may need.

Sex IS weird.

Let’s just be honest: The act of sex is a strange thing. You get naked, put yourselves in all kinds of positions you wouldn’t get into otherwise, and you match up body parts in unusual ways. I’ve often wondered what God was thinking when He created this act. Wasn’t there an easier alternative?

But if you think we‘re weird, go look at the animal kingdom. I’m fascinated at all the ways reproduction happens among creatures, like the female praying mantis that sometimes eats the head of her mate after copulation or the argonaut octopus that has a detachable penis. You can really get lost in articles about the strange mating rituals out there. I don’t know why God made it that way for some species, but it sure makes me grateful He chose our way of doing things for the creatures made in His image.

It might make your fiancé feel better to just accept that sex IS weird. But just because something is strange doesn’t mean it isn’t also natural and enjoyable. There’s a lot of strange stuff in nature that’s pretty cool. (See Travel & Leisure’s World’s Strangest Natural Wonders.)

So yeah, sex is weird, but give it a fair shot … because it’s also quite wonderful.

Where do your hands and face “belong”?

I grew up on the rural side of Corpus Christi, Texas, where my high school let out for the local livestock show and rodeo because too many students were involved to continue holding class. Those of us not involved still attended to check things out and cheer on friends.

After one livestock show ended, a friend shared how she’d been walking past the hog stalls where two hogs lay head to toe. A romantically involved couple just ahead said something like, “Hey, those pigs look just like us!” (referring to the 69 position). My friend was way creeped out and ranted for a while about oral sex, wondering why anything would do such a thing … right up until a married woman nearby calmly responded, “You’d be surprised what you’d do.” You could have heard a pen drop … or maybe me snicker — one or the other.

Anyway, it’s not unusual for sexual acts to seem really strange as well and even off-putting before you do them. Hey, I remember wondering when I was young why people would touch tongues together and how that could be enjoyable. Turns out, French kissing is quite enjoyable, but I didn’t know until I tried.

Of course not every sexual act is a good idea. So how do you know where your hands and face really belong — from a Christian viewpoint? Here’s the upshot:

  • God clearly wanted penis-in-vagina intercourse to be part of sexual intimacy in marriage. Just think of the number of times something like “he knew her, and she became pregnant” occurs in the Bible.
  • The vast majority of our bodies is hygienically clean enough for hands and mouths. One exception is the anus, but our skin and genitalia are pretty much fair game. It’s a wide, wide playground God gave us to work with.
  • If oral sex is among the concerns, I — and quite a few others — believe it’s specifically referenced in Song of Songs: “In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (2:3) and “Let my beloved come into his garden and taste its choice fruits” (4:16). Check out Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design for more in-depth treatment of oral sex and other sexual activities.

Essentially, your hands and your mouth belong on your spouse’s body where God says it’s okay, where your spouse says it’s okay, and where you want to go. God gave us a lot of freedom in the marriage bed.

God gave us a lot of freedom in the marriage bed. Click To Tweet

How do you deal with your mate’s genuine anxiety in the bedroom?

Actually, I think you’re on the right track. You need to nudge, but not pressure; communicate, but not nag; request, but not demand. The beauty of sex in marriage is that you get a lifetime to figure this whole thing out.

Unfortunately, some people think their first few experiences of sex together represent the destiny of their married sex life. And they don’t.

Just because of how life works, you’ll have seasons when things are better and when things are more challenging. But you also have the opportunity to grow together in intimacy in all areas, including the physical.

However, you need to be intentional in pursuing a good sex life together.

You need to be intentional in pursuing a good sex life together. Click To Tweet

In addition to what you’re already doing, I’d suggest that you read a few books together, which you can probably do now since you’re so close to the wedding. For couples, here are a few recommendations:

While I wrote it for wives, it could also be very beneficial for you two to go through my devotional book, Intimacy Revealed: 52 Devotions to Enhance Sex in Marriage. Each devotion is brief, steeped in a biblical perspective, and includes questions that can help you communicate better and find out where you need to grow.

Take it slow, but don’t stop progressing. And many blessings for your upcoming nuptials!

What Makes Sex Intimate? Try Affection.

I had an interesting conversation with my husband recently about casual versus committed sex. Why is committed sex so much better? Casual sex can actually feel quite physically pleasurable, but it lacks the intense satisfaction that marital sexual intimacy provides.

One reason research has revealed is that men get a wash of feel-good chemicals during sex that isn’t nearly as strong in casual relationships as it is in committed sex. Another study showed that men responded positively to the faces of their partners, over images of other women, due to the presence of oxytocin, a body chemical released in especially high doses during lovemaking. And of course, hubby and I discussed the deeper emotional and spiritual meaning of sexual intimacy in marriage.

However, I recently came across another interesting aspect that didn’t surprise me, though I was happy to see it show up so clearly in the research: One primary reason that sex feels so good is the affection we receive from our partner. It’s not just the arousal sensations but the closeness and physical touch we get when we make love.

Couple lying in bed and holding hands with blog post title

This particular study used three different methods to look at what the link between sexual pleasure and affection might be. First, they conducted a survey that showed “a strong correlation between sex and positive emotions, but only when affection was factored into the equation. When affection was removed, the link almost disappeared.” You hear that? If it’s just about the sex, without genuine affection, you don’t get the positive-emotion payoff.

The researchers also had 200 participants, mostly marrieds, keep a journal tracking their sexual frequency and “erotic feelings,” as well as times they had non-sexual intimacy and affection with their mates. The result? “Sex correlated with positive emotions almost exclusively when it also led to affection (more than 90% of the time across all of the couples’ journals).”

Finally, the study asked 60 couples to track their sexual and non-sexual affection in real time on their smartphones. Participants reported affection after sex, but also hours later — demonstrating that affection was a positive consequence of lovemaking.

So are we having sex in part to get affection? It seems that’s a factor. Is sex more meaningful when paired with affection? Absolutely.

Of course, I believe all of this is God’s design for sex. Marriage provides the perfect context for daily affection as well as frequent lovemaking. From this research, it appears that the affection might be more important than the sex in giving you the positive emotions of intimacy with your spouse. However, when both are present in your relationship, they feed each other. Sex increases affection, and affection leads to sex.

Sex increases affection, and affection leads to sex. Click To Tweet

That is God’s beautiful design.

How should you use this information in your marriage?

Well, some of us are more naturally drawn to affection, and some are more drawn to sex. And oftentimes, people from different categories marry each other. And then there are those who have simply shut down both affection and sex in their marriage. Be honest with yourself: Do any of these sound familiar?

  • “I’m not having sex with him unless and until he spends a lot more time on romance and affection with me.”
  • “I’m tired of him wanting to be cuddle but not wanting to have sex. If he wants to touch me, why can’t he arouse me too?”
  • “I try to turn her on, but she takes too long to orgasm. So I just go after my own climax.”
  • “It’s been months since we made love, and we rarely touch anymore.”

Those are just a few examples, and I’m sure you could come up with others, but they illustrate what I’ve heard from various marriages. Some spouses are aching for more affection, and some spouses are aching for more sex. And some marriages are desperately in need of both.

But I’m not sure it matters as much which comes first: sex or affection. Or maybe it does matter, in that you should figure out what your spouse desires and try to meet that. Great marriages arise from spouses who make an effort to satisfy their mate’s deepest longings.

Great marriages arise from spouses who make an effort to satisfy their mate's deepest longings. Click To Tweet

Of course, it’s best if both of you are putting forth that effort. However, one spouse can ignite change in a marriage. So rather than thinking about what you’re not getting, maybe you should consider what your spouse longs for.

Because if it’s affection, providing that might lead to more sex. And if it’s sex, that might lead to more affection. And all of that will produce more positive emotions about each other and your relationship — that is, a greater sense of intimacy.

Regardless, most of us marrieds could spend more time on affection during sex. That is, we could slow things down and spend more time touching.

So ask yourself: Where do I need to invest? Affection, sex, or both? Then go do that. My prayer is that positive emotions and intimacy will follow.

Sources: Forbes.com – The Reasons Why Sex Makes Us Happy May Not Be What You ThinkPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin – More Than Just Sex: Affection Mediates the Association Between Sexual Activity and Well-Being; WebMD – How the ‘Love Hormone’ Works Its Magic

Using a Blindfold during Sex

Blog post title + woman lying on bed with blindfold onVisit any online marital aid retailer, and you’ll see that blindfolds are one of the items available for purchase. Why are they popular?

Let’s talk a little about using a blindfold during sex.

Why use a blindfold? When you block one of your five senses, you tend to become more aware of the others. Since we usually rely on visuals during sexual intimacy, it can be an interesting experience to wear a blindfold and see what else you notice instead.

You might find that you hear more or smell better, but the most appealing sense is probably touch. Since you can’t see it coming, your husband’s touch could be an arousing surprise when it settles on your skin. Also, not being able to track his touch with your eyes, you might simply lay back and attend to the sensation itself.

I recognize that some use a blindfold in sex as part of sexual domination. Sexual domination is not a practice I encourage. I don’t buy into heavy power plays in the marriage bed, but you can see my thoughts on that issue here.

Yet most couples who use a blindfold during sex are simply wanting a different experience, and blocking your sight can result in different awareness in the marriage bed.

What can you use for a blindfold? Like I said, online Christian marital aid stores stock them. Some people simply use home items like a necktie or bandanna. You can also purchase a sleep mask from the personal care section of your grocery or discount store.

What you want to make sure is that the blindfold is comfortable on your head, so that your attention isn’t drawn to tightness, bulkiness, slippage, etc. Also find material that feels good on your skin and eyes. Blindfolds stocked by marital aid stores do an especially good job with this, but you can find other options as well.

Be sure the mask will cover your sight entirely. It could end up being more distracting if a sliver of light or images peeks through a gap between the blindfold and your body. You want your eyes totally covered.

What should you do once the blindfold is on? It’s really about what the sighted spouse should do. Because it’s the one not wearing the blindfold who can take extra steps to make sure this is an enjoyable experience.

Slow down the touching. I doubt you want to be unexpectedly grabbed and groped; rather, you want to be stroked and savored. Taking it a little slower will let the blindfolded spouse focus fully on the sensations.

Communicate clearly. You can’t see each other, so you have to use words or moving the other’s body parts to coordinate. You may need to be a little patient with getting into position or your partner responding to your requests.

Introduce new sensations. Grab a feather, an ice cube, a small massage roller, a satin scarf, or anything else with an intriguing texture and have the sighted spouse stroke the blindfolded spouse with the object. Again, go slow to get the full effect.

Let hands explore. Have the sighted spouse lie back whiled the blindfolded spouse explores with his (or her) hands. Take time to get to know your mate’s curves and angles and sensitive places, all with the sense of touch. It might help you “see” each other’s bodies in a different way.

How does a blindfold add to marital intimacy? So far, I’ve talked about the pleasure involved with using a blindfold during sex. But while I believe pleasure is a marvelous part of sex (thank you, God!), the highest goal in the marriage bed is intimacy. What, then, can be gained in the intimacy department by using a blindfold?

Two things, I believe: One, the sighted spouse has the opportunity to bless their mate. If your husband is the one wearing the blindfold, you can focus your attention on his pleasure, basking in how his body responds to your touch and finding unanticipated ways to arouse him even more. Many husbands also enjoy flipping that around and giving their wives focused pleasure.

Two, the blindfolded spouse must demonstrate trust. Sex is vulnerable, no matter what. But if you can’t see what’s happening, you feel even more at the mercy of your mate. You don’t know what’s coming, so you can’t object or prepare for it. But it’s a beautiful thing to trust your husband so thoroughly that you know he will treat your body with respect and care. And to know that he trusts you.

You might try using a blindfold during sex and see what you think. If you don’t like it, you can always take it off. But you might discover some interesting, intimate sensations.

A Great Sex Life Requires Effort

I’ve been reading up lately on sex research, so you’ll probably see more of that on my blog. I’m in favor of well-conducted research about sexuality, because good science will confirm God’s design. He’s the one who created this universe, so if something’s true it should show up in the facts, even though faith is an important component of putting it all into practice.

One caveat: Not all scientific research is well-done. Sometimes researchers go in with a set of expectations and use a confirmation bias with the results. That said, we can learn a lot from well-performed studies. And today, I want to highlight one that goes right along with biblical principles.

Blog post title + couple helping each other up a mountain

As reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers at the University of Toronto set up a study to uncover the secret to a happy sex life in long-term relationships. Of course we all want that secret, right?

They wanted to see if it made a difference whether couples viewed satisfaction as the result of “sexual destiny” or “sexual growth.” One researcher defined these terms as follows:

“People who believe in sexual destiny are using their sex life as a barometer for how well their relationship is doing, and they believe problems in the bedroom equal problems in the relationship as a whole.”

“Whereas people who believe in sexual growth not only believe they can work on their sexual problems, but they are not letting it affect their relationship satisfaction.”

I bet you can already guess which one I think is going to win this tortoise-hare race. And you probably won’t be surprised by the results either.

Basically, the sexual satisfaction for both sexual destiny and sexual growth couples is high in the first two to three years, with no real difference. It’s that honeymoon phase we all talk about, when you can’t imagine wanting to do anything more than hang out in your beloved’s arms and stare into his soulful eyes.

And then you day, you wake up and realize that your spouse is a truly flawed and rather irritating human being. And you just signed up to have this person as your roommate for life.

Okay, I exaggerate. But the shine does tend to wear off a bit for most. It’s just what happens as our lives get complicated. Seasons bring new challenges, our bodies change, our expectations alter, old baggage comes for visit and wants to stay, busyness takes hold, and much more.

So now what? Is your sex life likely to taper off, or even take a nose dive?

Apparently, it depends.

Based on the 1900 participants in the study, researchers concluded that those who had a sexual destiny perspective showed less satisfaction and ability to work through problems in their relationship. Those who expected sexual intimacy to require ongoing growth fared much better.

This all makes sense because if you think something will be easy and then it’s not, you’re far more likely to think it wasn’t meant to be. Whereas believing that something will require effort means that you aren’t caught by surprise when challenges arise; rather, you were primed to expect them and be willing to work through them.

Sexual destiny believers sound like those who promote the idea of sexual compatibility. Many claim you need to sleep with someone before deciding to get married because it would be terrible if you discovered post-nuptials that you’re sexually incompatible. But we’re not static people all through life, not even in the bedroom. Rather, what singles should do is (1) adopt a sexual growth philosophy, and (2) marry someone else with a sexual growth philosophy. Then you’re both willing to put forth whatever effort you need to have satisfying sexual intimacy for the long haul.

And if you’re already married? It’s not too late! These researchers influenced participants’ beliefs by sharing information that either supported the sexual destiny or sexual growth perspective and then studied the results. Since we now know that sexual growth is the way to go, you can adopt self-talk that promotes that view.

You now know that if sex isn’t easy or satisfying or exciting right now, it doesn’t have to be that way a year from now, a month from now, or maybe even tomorrow. It certainly doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed. You and your spouse can grow!

Take to heart just this sampling of messages from the Bible about the rewards of exerting effort in the right direction:

“From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward” (Proverbs 12:14).

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

If things aren’t peachy keen at the moment, don’t give up! Don’t accept the status quo. And don’t doubt the love you have for each other. Rather, convince yourself and communicate with your spouse about the effort you need to exert to achieve a happy sex life, one that satisfies both of you and honors your Heavenly Father.

Choose sexual growth.

Source: Science Daily — Study reveals secret to a happy sex life