Tag Archives: sex in marriage

Are You a High-Maintenance Lover?

In one of my favorite movies ever, When Harry Met Sally, this scene defined well the concept of being low or high maintenance:

Yet here’s the thing: I don’t think we’re all low or all high maintenance. It’s possible to be low maintenance in some areas and high in others.

For instance, in my marriage I am low-maintenance in the romance department. My husband doesn’t have to woo me a whole bunch and I’m proactive in letting him know what kind of romance I need.

Meanwhile, I’m more high-maintenance in the listening department. Because I talk a lot, and he has to be willing to hear me out while I ramble. (Poor guy.) I’m even a ranter at times, requiring him to dig through my blah-blah-blah to get to the point. (Again, poor guy.)

I could name his low-maintenance and high-maintenance areas, but since Spock won’t necessarily admit the latter one and I want my day with him to go well, I’ll refrain from posting that publicly on my blog.

But I’m sure you and your spouse could do the same exercise: naming your high-maintenance and low-maintenance areas for each other. How about if you tried that same thing about how you are in the marital bedroom?

Blog post title + couple in bed arguing

Because I’m just going to say it: Some of you are high-maintenance in the marriage bed. Really. High. Maintenance.

Some of you are high-maintenance in the marriage bed. Click To Tweet

And like Sally up there, you may not realize it. You may think you’re low maintenance but you’re high maintenance. You might even make the case: “Well, I just want it the way I want it.”

Except that, when it comes to sex, your spouse shouldn’t be like your personal waiter having to fill your complicated menu order.

Let’s take an honest look at how we approach sex in our marriage. How many hoops does your mate have to jump through to get your participation in the marriage bed? Here are some common high-maintenance requests:

  • You can’t make love until all of the day’s chores are done, the kids are fully asleep, and you’ve got your to-do list made for tomorrow.
  • The lights must be out, or the room at least in extremely low light, because heaven forbid your husband see you naked.
  • You don’t want to take extra time to get your spouse all the way to climax, because that takes too long.
  • You have a short window in which sex must happen, because the rest of the time you’re exhausted and not “in the mood.”
  • You want your spouse to perform a specific sexual act, and you’re resentful if you don’t get it.
  • You can’t have sex if there’s any chance whatsoever that your child might hear a peep of what you’re doing.

I bet others could add to my list of examples.

But what I’m talking about is getting so persnickety about how sex must unfold that it’s hard to know when would actually be a good time for you to relax and make love.

Now, if it isn’t good for you, I’m not saying to just do it anyway. God’s plan is for you to enjoy the sexual intimacy in your marriage as well. That’s one reason I wrote Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, to help you become more confident and excited in the bedroom, and I included a chapter on achieving orgasm — because your pleasure matters.

Hot, Holy & Humorous book ad

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  iBooks, Christian Book & Kobo

But the status of quo of “meet my demands or no sex” isn’t tenable for very long. It creates resentment for your spouse and keeps you from pursuing this blessing God longs for you to have.

Whatever the obstacle is — whatever unreasonable demand you’re making — take steps to address it. If you struggle with body image so that turning on the lights is a horrifying thought, check out my Feel Beautiful series or our Sex Chat for Christian Wives episode on Body Image. If you’re rarely, if ever, “in the mood,” check out Sheila Gregoire’s low libido course.

The answer isn’t to simply stay in high maintenance mode, but rather to work on sex in your marriage becoming more maintainable.

And if you’re married to a high-maintenance lover, it’s tempting to start catering to every little request just so you can “get some” already. But the better question is “how can I make this experience one s/he’ll want to repeat?”

Whether you’re the more demanding spouse or married to one, put some effort into transforming high-maintenance into high satisfaction. For both of you.

Same image as above, sized for Pinterest

Q&A with J: “Our Marriage Bed is a Mess” Part 1

My inbox is filled with questions from spouses telling me about their hardships regarding sexual intimacy in their marriage. I have maybe 100 such emails, and I often feel bad that I cannot get to each and every one. I imagine these individuals finallypainfully telling the details of their concerns and hoping to find some answer that will set them on the right path.

Yet my time is limited, my own marriage and family require attention, and God doesn’t expect any one person to do it all. I’m just one finger, or maybe just a toe, in the Body of Christ. I take heart that even Jesus sometimes turned away from the demands of people to keep His focus on the primary mission: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:15-16).

Since I don’t have the time and resources to answer each of those emails, I want to share six responses that come to mind when reading various stories of marriage bed difficulties. These are for the people who write me to essentially say, “Our marriage bed is a mess.”

Blog post title with unhappy couple in bed

I’ll cover three today, and three next week. Perhaps one of these touches on your particular situation.

And, by the way, I’m going to be really candid. No mincing words.

1. You’re married to a selfish jerk.

Sadly, some of you are living with a selfish spouse who dismisses your beliefs, belittles your feelings, and/or thinks your body belongs solely to them to be used as a sexual tool. Perhaps they also pursue sexually sinful practices and expect you to get involved or to look the other way.

If that’s your situation, you have to stand up for you! Set some boundaries. If you don’t know how to do this, go read Boundaries or Boundaries in Marriage by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Then follow through.

If your spouse’s attitude and behavior reaches the level of abuse — verbal, emotional, even physical — you have to stop allowing and enabling that. Even walk away, for your safety and wellbeing. And please no one tell me that suffering through abuse is somehow analogous to Christ suffering on the cross. Jesus allowed Himself to be mistreated then for a specific and higher purpose. But two other times, He escaped people wanting to physically harm Him:

At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds” (John 8:59).

Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp” (John 10:39).

A selfish jerk likely won’t change unless you throw a wrench in the gears, meaning you stop playing your part of the system. Instead, calmly oppose mistreatment wherever occurs, to others and to yourself. That’s biblical.

Learn to do right; seek justice.
    Defend the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17a).

2. You are the selfish jerk.

Sometimes the spouse who writes me is the selfish one. They complain about how they’re not getting everything they want in the marriage bed and explain how they’ve whined and argued with their “beloved” about how they’ve been mistreated without any progress. Wow, I’m sure that makes you a lot of fun to be around. 🙄

If you’ve given your spouse the clear impression your only interest in them is getting exactly what you want sexually, why are you surprised they don’t want to sleep with you? If you’re always complaining, often angry, or only touching them to get sex, you’re not an appealing lover. Kevin A. Thompson wrote a great post about this: I Wouldn’t Sleep with You Either.

Your answer is to remember what you did while you were dating, falling in love, first married. Are you doing those things now? What kind of person are you to be around? Do you need to focus on giving your spouse the gift of happiness? Are you making sex all about you? What about your spouse’s needs and desires? Ask yourself some tough questions, and then pray for God’s help and guidance on what you can do to be less selfish and move loving. (I’ll give you a hint: It looks more like Christ.)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus….” (Philippians 2:3-5).

3. You have a poor theology of sex.

Theology is “the study of the nature of God and religious belief.” More specifically, it can refer to “religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed” (Oxford Dictionaries). One core part of my ministry is correcting erroneous beliefs about sexual intimacy; that is, throwing out our wrong thinking about sex and replacing it with God’s design for sex in marriage.

Unfortunately, too many Christians still have beliefs about sex that aren’t in line with how God our Creator made sex. And those ideas of what sex really means, how it should practiced in our lives, and what to do when we face challenges impact our marriage beds. What plenty of spouses need is an adjustment in their theology.

So when people write me and say that they heard something was wrong or something was right when it’s really the opposite, I wonder if we shouldn’t simply open our Bibles more and see what our Lord Himself had to say about it all. Of course, some people don’t know where to look, and that’s something I’ve tried to address often. It’s also a problem that our churches and pastors don’t talk enough about sex and marriage. Sometimes what we spread is just off-the-mark, like my recent post for Crosswalk.com on 10 Myths about Sex You Heard in Church.

If this is where you are — not really knowing what part sexual intimacy should play in your marriage — then continue reading my blog and check out other responsible Christian marriage blogs like To Love Honor and Vacuum, OysterBed7, Heaven Made Marriage, The Forgiven Wife, Calm.Healthy.Sexy, Awaken Love, and the like. A part of me would also like to tell you which sources to avoid, but instead I encourage you to study your Bible more so that you will be “be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).

Also, read books that cover this subject well, like my Hot, Holy, and Humorous: Sex in Marriage by God’s Design, Sheila Gregoire’s The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and Julie Sibert and Jeffrey Murphy’s The Pursuit of Passion. And listen to my podcast with three other marriage and sex bloggers, Sex Chat for Christian WivesGet others around you reading and listening these resources so that you have allies. Ask your pastor and/or elders to introduce more resources for married couples. In short, seek truth. I know there are a lot of voices competing for your attention, but truth is out there for those willing to pursue it.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it….” God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day” (Genesis 1:27-28, 31).

I have three more overall answers to many questions I’ve received, which I’ll cover next week.

If you’re one of the readers I haven’t specifically answered, please know that I appreciate you writing me, my heart does go out to you, I wish I could clone myself and do much more, and I’m praying for you and your marriage.

Don’t Have Time to Read about Sex? Then Listen.

I recently posted something on my Facebook page about the Sex Chat for Christian Wives podcast, and one commenter responded: “Wait you have a podcast? I didn’t realize!!”

At first, I thought: Really? You didn’t know? Because this is the header on my Facebook page:

Facebook Banner with photo of my book and podcast logo: "Check out the Book and the Podcast"

Then I thought about how often I scan stuff or don’t recall what I’ve seen. Not to mention that I’ve heard about a gazillion times that people need to see something repeatedly to remember it. I admitted that my fairly new podcast could have easily gotten lost among the noise of life.

So I wanted to make it easy for y’all, in case you haven’t listened yet. Below are links to all the episodes we’ve done. And by we, I mean this group of ladies:

Sex Chat for Christian Wives Facebook Banner: showing J, Bonny Burns of OysterBed7, Gaye Christmus of Calm.Healthy.Sexy, and Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife

It’s not my podcast. It’s a podcast in which four marriage and sex bloggers — me, Bonny Burns of OysterBed7, Gaye Christmus of Calm.Healthy.Sexy., and Chris Taylor of The Forgiven Wife — sit around a virtual kitchen table and discuss various topics. You’ll see the span of stuff we’ve covered so far below.

  1. Episode 1: Getting in the Mood – We launch our podcast with a conversation about getting your mind and body ready for sexual intimacy
  2. Episode 2: Sex Positions – Going beyond the missionary position, we talk about how and why to try new positions
  3. Episode 3: 50 Shades of Here-We-Go-Again – With the release of the second movie in the Fifty Shades series, we talk about this phenomenon and what wives should know
  4. Episode 4: Stress & Sex – Stress impacts our ability to engage in sex in marriage, so we discuss realistic ways of dealing with this obstacle
  5. Episode 5: Sex Scheduling – We talk about putting sex on your calendar, whether and how you should do it, and what benefits it might have
  6. Episode 6: Women’s Sexual Response – Discussing how our sexual response really works and what many people misunderstand about female arousal
  7. Episode 7: Exercise and Sex – Talking about why exercising is important for your sex life, not to mention your health and wellbeing
  8. Episode 8: Sex Toys – Covering what benefits, drawbacks, and concerns are involved with the use of sex toys
  9. Episode 9: Listener Questions –  Chris, Bonny, and Gaye answer questions about honoring feelings, multiple orgasms, and erectile dysfunction
  10. Episode 10: Tending Your Garden – We talk about taking care of your “garden,” aka your lady parts; hygiene, grooming, and decorating
  11. Episode 11: Introducing the Podcast Team – Digging deeper into who we are and why we do what we do
  12. Episode 12: Guy Talk – The Importance of Sex – Chris interviews men from the Christian Marriage Bloggers Association core team, and we comment afterward about their male perspective
  13. Episode 13: Mismatched Sex Drives – We chat about the challenge of differences in sex drives and how to handle the mismatch

And tomorrow, look for a new episode with more Guy Talk.

I’m planning to add a fourth day to my blog every other week, in which I share the new episode so that you won’t miss it! But the best way to make sure you are plugged into our (fabulous) podcast is to subscribe to new posts through our RSS feed, and/or find us on your favorite podcast provider. We’re on iTunesiHeart, Stitcher, and more. I personally listen to podcasts on the Pocket Casts app, and I had no trouble finding Sex Chat for Christian Wives.

Now and then, we encounter some audio issues, because (1) we’re recording the episode via Skype phone call and (2) we are not audio engineers. But we have purchased better equipment, continue working on our editing skills, and try to provide the best episodes we can. Regardless, we believe our content is absolutely worth your time.

We’d love for you to listen, leave a review on iTunes or other podcast provider sites, and share our podcast with others. We want to spread the message about God’s gift of sexual intimacy in marriage and address the challenges we wives face in embracing that gift fully.

Also, as someone recently said to us, “it sounds like y’all have fun.” We really do. We enjoy one another, our conversations, and the experience of inviting other wives to slide their own chair up to the virtual kitchen table and listen in.

Screenshot of Skype phone call, with all four of us smiling

Having fun on the podcast!

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?

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