Monthly Archives: May 2014

What’s the Foundation for Your Views on Sex?

I’ve been giving this question a lot of thought lately — what people use as their foundation on views about sex. Plenty of Christians proclaim a strong belief, read the Word of God, and try to live godly lives.

However, when it comes to the bedroom, we may be tempted to base our beliefs on traditional viewpoints about sex, our guttural feelings about the issue, or secular teachings about sexuality. Let me take each of these in turn:

The way it’s always been done. I’ve got nothing against tradition. There’s definitely a role for it. Indeed, if something has been successfully done a certain way for a number of years, we should take notice that we may want to do the same. That approach is the basis of the Proverbs in the Bible — godly people sharing hard-earned wisdom. However, our traditions can often get off kilter. After all, Jesus was on a constant mission to rid His people of traditions that didn’t make sense and led to undue burden.

I hear this at times from people who are extremely uncomfortable with Christians talking about sex or advocating things like different positions or oral sex. Or from wives who don’t want to rock the boat of men-like-sex-women-don’t and prefer not to be told they can enjoy it too. It comes from believers who don’t think the word “sex” should be mentioned in church or that Song of Solomon is a legitimate sermon topic.

The basis of their objections seems to be tradition — that traditionally sex was hush-hush, primarily for procreation, and a wife’s duty rather than her pleasure. These people likely wouldn’t describe their views as such, but tradition plays a huge part in how they view sex and what they’re comfortable with. To them, anything outside of that realm seems distasteful or even anathema. “Why can’t we do things like we’ve always done them?”

What I feel in my gut. I could easily stand on my soapbox and rant about all of the nice-sounding but somewhat ridiculous sayings our society has spread. Such non-gems as “follow your heart” (see Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-22), “do what feels right” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25), and “be true to yourself” (Luke 9:23; 1 Corinthians 10:24). It’s a common belief in our society that our minds, hearts, and guts will clue us into the right decisions — that if only we’ll listen to the still voice inside us, we’ll know what’s right.

Sometimes, we even cover our Christian tracks by talking about “having peace” about something — which is fine if your peace is entirely in line with God’s will, but we can misinterpret as well. (“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.” Proverbs 14:12)

Of course, we can train ourselves through study of the Bible, time with God and His people, and prayer to have more godly discernment. However, our guts can still get things wrong at times. After all, even the Apostle Paul’s gut told him to go preach in Bithynia, but he was wrong; an angel had to point him in the right direction of Macedonia (Acts 16:7-10).

Look at all we now know about sex! The secular world has exploded with information and advice about sexuality. Not to mention aids and products to assist our arousal and satisfaction. Certainly, there are good research studies, quality advice, and helpful aids for marital intimacy. However, there are many horrible ideas and suspect recommendations. It’s fairly easy to spot the horrible stuff, but not as obvious when a suggestion trumpeted by secular society is subtly bad — undermining God’s plan for sexual intimacy or causing damage over a long period of time.

Indeed, I’ve been personally disheartened by a few Christian authors and speakers who address sexual intimacy in a way that gives far more credence to psychology and human sexuality experts than their faith. Perhaps lip service is paid to biblical teachings, but as long as something isn’t strictly, word-by-word, forbidden in the Scripture, not much biblical study is involved and the sexual experts are taken as the definitive voice.

I’m not arguing with those responsible Christians who differ with me, or others, on particular points here and there. I’m simply contrasting those who look at the world through a biblical lens, and those who look at the Bible through a world lens.

Marriage Bed with different possible foundations: Tradition, My Gut, World View, God's Truth

Ultimately, the foundation for our views on sex should be the Creator of sex Himself — God. And He reveals His plan and purpose in His Word — through direct teachings on marriage and sexuality and through instruction on how to honor Him and treat others well.

It took me a long time to realize the importance of starting with God’s truth. Even when I was sexually sinning prior to my marriage, I was a believer and merely rationalized my choices. I applied my own beliefs to the Bible, not the other way around. Since then, I have time and time again seen the wisdom of setting God’s Word as the foundation for my life, including sexual intimacy.

I understand that my interpretation and someone else’s can differ on various theological and practical points, so we may not always reach the same conclusions. However, those who begin with God as their foundation will look first for answers in His Word, they will apply biblical principles to the marriage bed, they will align their sex lives with Christianity and proclaim the Gospel even in the marital bedroom. In doing so, they will reap the rewards of having sown good seed.

Likely, their sexuality will reflect God’s intention for their lives, their spouses will feel their Christ-centered love, and their marriages will be better for having taken the higher, narrower road. Because it’s the best road that leads to the right destination: That moment of “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

So what’s the foundation for your views on sex? Have you laid the right groundwork for sexual intimacy in your marriage?

When Your Sex Life Is Under Time Pressures

woman frustrated while man works on laptopMy husband has been working crazy hours. He recently turned in a time card that was equivalent to two jobs, and he stayed up one night until 2:00 a.m. to finish a project only to wake up at 6:00 a.m. to go to a business meeting.

It’s not so easy to fit sex into that.

We certainly prioritize sexual intimacy in our marriage. But our usual routine has been thrown off by the constant demands of his workplace and the stress that comes with it. It’s a temporary situation, fueled by a major project and a lovely co-worker’s maternity leave shoving more work onto my husband. (Best wishes and many blessings to her!) But it still means our marriage and sex life are under real time pressures.

So what do you do when you’re temporarily getting less frequent sex than you desire? (For permanent issues, check out Help for Higher-Drive Wives and Two Words Your Higher-Drive Spouse Needs to Hear.)

Grab those crucial moments of affection. I don’t let my husband leave before I get a goodbye kiss or come home without a welcome kiss. That doesn’t always happen in our marriage, but now that our overall time is more limited, I really want to savor those moments of touch. Even if somehow you can’t make time for fifteen minutes of sex, you can likely find 15 seconds for a loving embrace or a passionate kiss. Or make it 30 seconds and do both! Staying in touch, literally, also releases a bonding chemical into your body, linking you to your mate, and reminds you of what you’ll be enjoying once this brief interruption in your normal routine is over.

Believe in the quickie. A quickie is any sexual activity you can fit into a short period of time. When life is handing you too many to-do’s that you simply can’t get to the long lovemaking, you can still connect sexually by treating each other to brief intimate interludes. It can be intercourse, oral sex, a hand job, digital manipulation, etc. — but find ways to fit a little lovemaking into your crunched schedule. To make this work, you’ll probably need to get your head in the game in advance, grab the lubricant if needed, and focus fully on pleasure. You don’t want an entire marriage of quickies, but it’s a great way to stay intimate when time is temporarily hard to find.

Count down the days. I know approximately when the madness will end, and, believe me, I’m eager for it! So why not tick off the days in anticipation? Not only that, plan something you can look forward to. Maybe you can plan a romantic vacation, a weekend getaway, or even a special date out or at home. Mark the date on the calendar and then watch the time get closer and closer. At first, it may seem so far away, but soon you’ll see it coming closer and closer. When you finally reach 3 – 2 – 1 – here!, you can truly celebrate with some extra lovin’.

Pray for your patience. We all know it’s hard to want something now and not get it. Including sex. Moreover, God has given us a natural sexual desire for our husband; thus, sex could qualify as a “need” of sorts. But we can wait. If we simply cannot have sex this very moment, even though we desire it, we can pray for our patience. A temporary break in our sexual intimacy is a bit like a sexual fast. As long as we know we’ll partake soon, we can hold off for a little bit. Couples separated by military service, business trips, or mission work deal with this very challenge. If we bring to God our longing and ask Him to bless us with patience, I believe that He will be faithful and encourage us right where we are. Our circumstances are not ideal, but they are do-able — with God’s help.

What are your tips for hanging in there during unavoidable yet frustrating time pressures on your sexual intimacy?

3 G-Words to Improve Your Marriage

I was recently chatting with a fellow marriage blogger, the marvelous Sheila Gregoire, and talking about my own marriage story — how my relationship went from terrible to terrific. I’ve written before about what made the difference in my own marriage. The summary version is I stopped merely seeking changes from my husband and praying for God’s intervention, and instead prioritized living out God’s Word day-by-day.

Did I do it perfectly? Of course not. I still struggle in many areas. But through the years, I’ve learned how important is to attend to three actions that all begin with the letter G.  So here are 3 G-words to improve your own marriage.

Wedding Rings & Cross

Grace. Your husband isn’t perfect, and he will not meet all of your expectations or desires. For years, I piled up the slights, the neglect, etc. I felt my husband heaped upon me, and then asked him to change and prayed God would make him. Couldn’t my husband see how much I needed his help, his reassurance, his romance? Why instead did I get his clutter, his frustration, his avoidance?

Strange isn’t it? How I wanted grace from my husband, but I wasn’t offering grace to him?

I’ve learned the beauty of giving your mate the benefit of the doubt. If your husband has an annoying habit, it likely isn’t personal; he’d forget things or leave his stuff out or fail to match the kids’ clothes whether you were there or not. He may not handle your stressful day well because he had a stressful day of his own. He may not want to hang out with you if you’re always nagging the poor man. Thinking about how I treated my husband when we were at our worst, I wouldn’t have wanted to be with me either.

When I turned my heart to giving him grace, a weight fell off my own heart, and I began to see my husband in a different light. He was struggling like I was and needed my love and reassurance. I no longer saw all his failings, but his effort and care for me. We receive so much grace from our Heavenly Father, can we give a little grace to our spouse?

Generosity. I love the mission that Paul and Lori Byerly, Generous Husband and Generous Wife, have made of bringing this concept to the forefront. All too often in our Christian walk, we ask how much we must do. And in our marriages, we ask what minimum actions will get us what we want from our spouse. But the attitude God calls us to is generosity.

In my own marriage, I was stingy in certain ways. I didn’t want to pick up extra slack around the house for fear of being taken for granted or treated like a doormat. I didn’t offer help when his hands were full, because he hadn’t done everything I wanted that last time when my hands were full. I didn’t have sex with my husband on those days I stored up anger about something he’d done (whether or not he knew it).

Ah, but the wondrous rewards of going the extra mile! (Matthew 5:41-42). When I shifted in my marriage to looking for ways to show love, I discovered the joy of serving, I took personal pride in being my hubby’s helpmate, and his appreciation of me increased. I was no longer doing only what I had to do, but demonstrating that he was important enough for me to be generous with my time, my efforts, myself. That generosity even spilled into the bedroom, where I became freer with letting him see and touch me and with touching and pleasuring him.

Luke 6:38 says, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” We tend to focus on that first sentence, the promise that if we give it good, we’ll get good back. But look at the measure we’re supposed to use in how we treat others: “pressed down, shaken together, running over” — such that’s it pouring out over the sides. Now that’s generosity. Do we use that measure in our marriages?

Growth. You’ve got three choices in marriage: Your relationship is getting worse, stagnating, or getting better. Now believe me, I understand the desire to just hang in there at times — to batten the hatches, hunker down, and ride the storm. I’ve had those moments in my marriage. But sometimes we people of faith settle for staying in our marriage, when we should be striving for building our marriage.

We should expect to steadily grow toward better understanding of one another, deeper intimacy, and maturing of our faith and relationship. Indeed, growth is one of the benefits of being married (“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” – Proverbs 27:17).

You will likely have ups and downs in your marriage, but if one were to track the whole of the marriage, there should be discernible growth. Maybe your years would be a timeline like this:

Ups & Downs of Marriage - timeline

Despite years of struggle, I can definitely say that we are more mature, more intimate, more satisfied in our marriage now than we were when we began. We have sought and experienced growth. And it’s been well-worth our effort.

I wouldn’t be on this blog chatting it up about marriage if I hadn’t learned a thing or two about making one work. And really applying these biblical principles of grace, generosity, and growth can make a big difference in a flailing or stagnant marriage. Or even improve a good one.

What guiding biblical principles have helped your marriage improve?

Still Nervous about Giving Him Oral? Yeah, I Get It.

Nervous woman with hands over mouthYou want me to put my mouth where?!!

That’s the gut response of many wives when they first contemplate giving oral sex. It seems natural to match up genitalia, but when it comes to your mouth, that’s a whole different story. Sure, you love his manhood and all, but you wonder: Is that allowed? Is it healthy? Is it sanitary? Is it biblical? Is it worth it?

Not every wife feels this way, but enough that I want to address the issue. Because if you’re still nervous about giving him oral? Yeah, I get it.

Let’s talk girlfriend-to-girlfriend and break down some wives’ concerns.

Is oral sex okay with God? There are plenty of fringe sexual practices out there, but oral sex doesn’t seem to be one. There is no biblical prohibition on oral sex and at least two possible references to oral sex in the Bible. One is man to woman, and the other is woman to man: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved among the young men. In his shade I took great delight and sat down, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (Song of Songs 2:3). “Fruit” is a euphemism, of course.

Looking at God’s design of the body, there’s nothing inherently harmful about oral sex. Using lips and tongue on genitals is not far different from hands or fingers on genitals, and semen is not problematic to ingest. Indeed, one study even suggested it has antidepressant qualities. (Go figure.)

Of course, you must discern for yourself and live by your own conscience, but study what the Bible says. Most who have done so with an open mind and open heart believe oral sex is okay with God.

Is it hygienic? This is a big concern for many, especially since the penis is also used for peeing. It can seem unsanitary to put your mouth where urine has been. However, when a man ejaculates, a muscle contracts in the neck of the bladder preventing urine flow into the penis — meaning a man cannot shoot semen and urine at the same time.

Besides (not to be gross here), even if a minuscule amount of urine did enter your mouth by some off-chance, it’s still not bad for you. Urine is mostly waste-filtered water and, while you definitely don’t want to be ingesting much, a teeny bit isn’t harmful.

Still, you may feel it’s not all that sanitary. Or that his groin area can sweat during the day, making it less clean and inviting. If cleanliness is your concern, there’s a simple solution: Have him wash. Ask hubby to take a thorough shower before you begin or simply wash his genitals. You can even suggest a bath together, and do the washing yourself so you know that area is spic-and-span.

Oh, and hair. If that bothers you, plenty of husbands — believe it or not — “manscape.” Your husband might be willing to trim a bit, just like he’d trim a mustache or beard. It doesn’t hurt to ask. But getting his hair in your mouth is still the same as getting any of his other hair in your mouth (which has happened a time or two when I’m lying in bed, my husband rolls over, and suddenly his head of hair is in my face).

So yes, it’s hygienic. The notable exception is that sexually transmitted diseases and infections can be passed by oral-genital contact, so if that is an issue in your marriage, be aware.

Is it worth trying? In a recent survey from The Marriage Bed, 42% of husbands reported they would like to have oral sex much more often. I suspect that’s typical of many marriages, with men desiring their wives give oral sex a go or make it a regular practice. So the first thought is that your husband may think it well worth-trying. And certainly, we want to consider our spouse when it comes to the marriage bed.

However, the question remains whether you think it’s worth trying. If you don’t have moral or hygienic objections, what holds you back? It could be nervousness about what it will feel like, concern you won’t do it right, worry that you’ll gag, or fear of him expecting you to swallow. Let me take some of the pressure off, ladies: You don’t have to stick the whole thing in and swallow semen to give your husband oral sex. Oral sex can involve any contact of your mouth with his penis, meaning you can start slow. In fact, explain to your husband you’re willing to try, but you need to go slow and stay in control of how this goes.

Use your lips and tongue to tease the tip of his penis, or kiss or run your tongue along the shaft. Suck on the very top, putting his penis into your mouth only as far as you can while still breathing comfortably. Let him express what feels good to you, and be willing to adjust according to what he likes and what feels okay with your mouth. You may discover that the skin really isn’t that different from other parts of his body (except how soft it is) or that you’re also excited by how effectively your mouth arouses your husband.

You may enjoy it. If so, you can always do it more. If instead you feel awkward or uncomfortable, you can take break, breathe a little, then try again. Or you can suggest turning to another sexual activity to finish, like a hand job or intercourse. Trying a new sexual activity once doesn’t mean you have to do it again and again, but you might find out that, with an open mind and some practice, you like giving him oral sex — that it arouses you as well. So yeah, it could be worth trying.

What are your concerns about giving oral sex? Is anything else holding you back?

I address oral sex more fully in my book, Sex Savvy: A Lovemaking Guide for Christian Wives.

3 Things You CAN Learn from Love Scenes

There’s a danger in turning to movies and novels as examples of how romance and sex work in the marital bedroom. I’ve written about the myths of romance novels and the problems of films in how they depict this intimate act.

However, I’m a fiction reader mostly. While there are plenty of great nonfiction titles I’ve read and want to read, I tend to gravitate toward a great story.* Recently, I was reading an historical novel in which a love — okay, okay, sex — scene appeared. (Let me be clear this is was not erotica, but sex does appear in many mainstream titles and this was one scene in a long book.) And I started wondering why women eat this stuff up. Why do romance novels appeal to us gals so much? Are there common threads in these love and sex scenes that reveal something deeper about our desires?

Man and Woman Kissing on BeachSo while I’m not encouraging you to pick up steamy romance novels, and certainly never erotica, I want to talk about what you can learn from love scenes — about what we women tend to value when it comes to sexual intimacy.

The couple shares amazing kisses. The emphasis on kissing in many romance novels is unmistakable. A curl-your-toes kiss can take up paragraphs or even pages of description, as something both the character and the reader savor.

All too often, when it comes to our marriages, we push kissing aside. We might trade pecks or soft kisses, but do we engage in passionate make-out sessions like we used to? Perhaps your husband views kissing as a pit stop on the way the real destination of sex. Which can leave a gal longing for that sweet sensation of a sexy, sexy kiss. The sort romance writers describe so well.

Oddly enough, after many years of marriage, we should actually be better at this than any fictional characters who stumble into that first kiss. We should have it down pat. But maybe it’s neglected in your marriage. And maybe that’s one reason why women crave reading about intense kisses — because we want to experience that again. And yes, with our husband.

He’s in charge. Whoa, whoa! Before I flub this all up, let me explain what I mean by “in charge.” The hero of a romance novel is typically in charge of the situation and of himself. He comes across as confident and capable. He knows how to pleasure a woman (although this is one of those rather silly expectations in fiction, since the character doesn’t know this woman and we’re not all cookie-cutter, thank you very much). He is in control of his passions, releasing them freely when she is receptive and waiting patiently when she needs more time. He gauges how his actions come across and adapts readily to what she desires. He takes the lead yet makes her feel safe and valued.

Romance heroes are masculine. Whatever you want to do with that word, I can tell you I have writer friends who have been flat out instructed by editors to make their hero taller, to lose the “nerdy glasses,” to change his occupation to a more manly pursuit, etc. before the novel is published. Because, by and large, female readers want a confident, masculine love interest.

And maybe that’s what you want from your husband too — for him to be confident and capable in lovemaking. For him to be a leader when it comes to sexual intimacy, though certainly not aggressive or demanding. Indeed, the husband who is constantly begging and pressing may appear even less in charge, of his emotions and desires and relationship. But do we encourage our husbands to live up to this masculine standard? Do we build him up into the man God wants him to be? Do we encourage his leadership, confidence, and capability? Do we help stay in control of his passions and direct them appropriately in the marriage bed?

She climaxes. It’s sort of a joke how easily women climax in novels and movies. Even first-time-out virgins readily hit the peak of passion — oh, and in perfect synchronicity with their sexual partner. It’s rather ridiculous, since most women have a learning curve when it comes to climax. It’s not quite the given that it is for men. So while you can safely ignore how easy fiction makes it look, one interesting takeaway remains.

Her climax is seen as important. Almost every romance novel and chick flick approaches the sex scene from her perspective. And you know what? In this scenario, her pleasure matters. Wives want to feel that height of passion, to reach the pinnacle of lovemaking, to feel their bodies melt into that moment and find complete satisfaction in the marriage bed. Indeed, many wives who don’t want to have sex have never felt that excitement, so they don’t get what the big deal is. Even stranger, some of these women read romance novels and have never made the connection: Sex is also for you, sweetie!

Now of course, your husband isn’t merely there to send you up to the rafters in an orgasm that leaves you floating for hours. This is a mutual, one-flesh thing in marriage. However, there’s something to be said for making sure you enjoy it — that you make your pleasure a priority as well. You may not care about climaxing every time, but learning what arouses and excites you can go a long way toward helping you feel more engaged and eager about lovemaking with your husband. God wants you to enjoy this gift He gave — thus, the clitoris and the orgasm.

So here are three takeaways from romance novels: kissing, his capability, and your pleasure. But of course, the best news is that with commitment, communication, and sure, practice, our Christian covenant marriages should enjoy far better than any make-believe romance. We can have the full range of intimacy with our husbands. What are we doing to encourage exactly that?

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— For your love is better than wine.” Song of Songs 1:2

*By the way, best love story ever? Jesus.