In my umpteen years of marriage, my husband and I have spent quite a bit of conversational time trying to explain our own family to the other. You see, our families of origin are quite different:
- He grew up in a church-once-in-a-while family. I grew up as the daughter of a preacher man.
- His family considers watching TV together a reasonable bonding activity during holidays. My family plans intricate recreational calendars that engage us conversationally.
- His family grew up pinching pennies. My family grew up flipping pennies, as in “heads, I’ll buy this, and tails, I’ll buy that.”
- His family finally owned a radio when it came standard in their car. My family boomed music through a well-coordinated stereo system, and we all danced and sang in response.
- His family says 30 words a day. My family picks up their slack and says 3,000,000 words a day.
You get the point.
You’ve likely experienced the point. You and your husband came from different families, whether that includes big variations or minor quirks. And sometimes those differences require explanation or present challenges to work through.
So what about when it comes to sexuality? Have the differences in your families’ approaches to sex affected the current intimacy in your marriage?
Some families were open and vocal about sexuality; others never, ever talked about it. Some families valued modesty; others let it all hang out. Some families preached purity before marriage; others said something like, “Just use a condom, son.” Some families taught that sex wasn’t all that important; others made too big a deal about it.
Whatever your parents’, grandparents’, and other relatives’ approach to sexuality in general, and more specifically marriage, it likely has had an effect on you. Even if that effect is to do the absolute opposite. That’s still an influence. When that impact is vastly different — when one of you grew up hearing one thing, and the spouse grew up hearing an entirely different thing — you may end up with differences and misunderstandings you need to work through.
You may need to explain what your family’s philosophy and morality was, how it affected you, and how you want things to be similar or different. You may need to listen to your husband explain his experiences growing up in his home.
- Was porn prevalent in your home?
- Did your mother talk about sex negatively?
- Was staying sexually pure before marriage a strong value?
- Did you feel comfortable asking questions when you needed answers?
- Did you feel shamed for having sexual feelings and urges?
- Were you aware that your parents remained sexually active?
- Was sex in marriage considered a gift from God?
These are just a few of the questions you can ask. But a conversation about where you came from and how your family’s perspective impacted you can help the two of you now get on the same page in your own marriage.
Your upbringing is not destiny. Childhood experiences certainly play a role in who we become, but we have a choice. In Joshua 24, before the Israelites enter the Promised Land, their leader Joshua reminds them of what God has done for them, how their ancestors frankly blew it by going astray, and how they have a chance to select their own path: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . .” (v. 15).
If your family left you with a legacy that is hurting the intimacy of your marriage, it’s time to talk that out with your spouse and seek a better way.
If you were left with a positive impact, then discuss what they did right and how you want to continue that legacy for your kids. The Bible encourages us to teach our children and their children about the faithfulness of our Father (see Deuteronomy 4:9; Psalm 78:4), which includes His generous provision of physical intimacy in marriage.
How has your family of origin positively or negatively affected your current marital intimacy? Have you talked about these differences with your spouse? Have you chosen to do something different as a result?