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My Awkward Marriage Class Moment

Roadsign saying "! - Awkward Moment"My husband and I have twice taken the general marriage course provided by Joe Beam’s Marriage Helper and offered at church. It’s based on His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley, which posits that there are 10 primary needs in a marriage relationship. Five of them lean more toward husbands, and five lean more toward wives. As you might expect, the His Needs list includes “sexual fulfillment,” while the counterpart for Her Needs is “affection.”

However, the course recognizes that individuals may not follow the typical pattern, so each spouse takes an Emotional Needs Questionnaire to determine his/her own top five needs. When you come back together in class, you share your list with the group. The first time I took the course, I was the only female who had sexual fulfillment in my Top Five.

It was awkward. Like really awkward to stand up in front of a group of people and admit that sex was super-high on my list. (It was #3, in case you’re wondering. And by the way, sexual fulfillment was #1 on several husbands’ lists.) When I announced my results, it felt like this moment from A Knight’s Tale:

Yep, for some in the classroom, I might as well have been speaking gibberish. A Christian woman who really “needs” sex with her husband? It was a bit like the speech from this guy. When I finished my statement, there might have even been crickets.

Recently, I’ve been thinking and talking about the need to discuss sex in churches — whether from the pulpit, in Bible classes, or in specialized programs like marriage courses and retreats. I suspect my story is one of the reasons we just don’t go there sometimes. It’s flat-out awkward.

And we worry we’ll end up revealing something that paints us in a strange light. Or even learn something about others. We could learn about the sexual struggles of people we see every single Sunday. We could discover others are having better sex lives or worse sex lives or no sex lives, and we don’t know what to do with that. We might end up admitting that we experience conflict over this topic or don’t understand how to reach godly sexual intimacy in our own marriage.

We don’t want to hear or reveal information that makes us feel like we’re stuck back in that junior high classroom where the video of How Your Body Is Changing plays on the screen . . . and you’re either in that group doing everything you can to avoid eye contact or the group cracking jokes and snickering because it stirs up jitters you don’t know what to do with.

Interestingly enough, the second time I took the course, I had a compatriot — another wife who placed sex in her Top Five. Her presence felt like that moment in the film clip when the second man yelled “Yeah!” and his encouragement started a crowd uproar.

Frankly, I think that’s what we need in order to get past all the awkwardness — just some voice or voices from the crowd saying “Yeah!” As in “Yeah, we’re all in this together!” Because as Christians in the Body of Christ, we are.

Of course, what happens in your marital bedroom is a private matter! I don’t need details of your stuff, and you don’t need details of mine. But our marriages matter in the larger context. You and I both having fruitful marriages contributes to the well-being of our families, our churches, and the effectiveness of our message to the world. I feel invested in you making it! And I have tangibly felt others supporting my marriage as well.

Once that first “yeah” comes, it’s surprising to find that it really wasn’t a big deal. In the marriage classes I’ve been in, we all had different needs, and they were all important. They all contributed to healthy marriage, and we all wanted to thrive in being all we could be in our marriages — to fulfill our covenant love to our spouses and to honor God and His beautiful design.

Maybe the awkward moments are what we need. Maybe it’s okay to stand up and be the one to admit what’s going in your marriage and where you need help. Maybe we need to confess that sex is a strong part of our relationship to our spouse, and sometimes we need the prayerful help and godly wisdom of other Christians. Maybe we can move past the awkwardness toward openness, conversation, and health.

Maybe we need more marriage-focused learning opportunities in our churches, ones that involve the subject of sexual intimacy.

Have you been to a marriage class or retreat in your church? Did you deal with the subject of sex? Were honest comments welcomed and respected? What do you wish your church would offer when it comes to learning more about marriage and sexual intimacy?

15 thoughts on “My Awkward Marriage Class Moment”

  1. Its good to know you are not the only one. Our marriage mentor told us to write down our 3 first needs in our relationship. Of course I had sexual intimacy in the 2nd place… My husband’s second place was to PRAY together!!!!! Awkward!!!

  2. Great article & so true. There’s a sense of “disconnect” that takes place when sexual intimacy starts waning.

    Would love wisdom from those of you who have been in a similar situation, married for a long time, or otherwise have godly truth & life to speak in to this situation…

    My husband & I married this past summer, me as a virgin & him with a lot of sexual baggage. This haunts me in our marriage. He’s an incredible man of God now who chose wrong decisions in several situations prior to our relationship. Now, I don’t see sex (what I’ve waited to share with my best friend/husband me entire life) as a gift. Instead, I’m left feeling like something has been stolen or lost many times after sex. He didn’t use discretion in the past, so the enemy plagues my mind & thoughts with recollections of that. Therefore, leaving me feeling objectified, used, & sometimes dirty. I’m left wondering how in the world to take back what was stolen from me & given to so many other girls. How do I take captive the enemy’s voice that says, “he’s not been selective in the past, why should you feel like you’re a prize? He slept with each of his girlfriends, gave in to sexual desires & temptations, had a one-night stand, etc. You’re not even what he longs for, you’re just a guilt-free means to an end that he’s chosen to make himself satisfied with because you now have entered into a covenant marriage together?”

    1. Here what I can say to you: I was not lily-white on my wedding day. And believe me, NOTHING compares to the sexual intimacy I’ve developed with the love of my life — my husband. I know my past was ugly, and I brought it before God, found redemption, and moved into His design for sex within marriage. Honestly, I never, ever think specifically about those prior experiences. I have many years of marriage under my belt, but I believe that if you and your husband can focus on and grow into satisfying sexual intimacy, the past won’t haunt you both as you feel it does now.

      It may take some time, reassuring self-talk, and communication with your hubby about what was reassure you from his end, and yeah, I’d infuse that with some deep prayer, but you can get there. And the holy covenant that surrounds your marriage bed makes it a far more desirable and healthy place. Blessings!

      1. Thank you SO much. I know the enemy’s ploy is to rip a part what the Lord joined together, & he’s great at manipulating our thoughts towards that. If he can keep spouses from being “one” in all ways, he wins. My husband is truly a phenomenal Godly man & leader of our home. I just need to be more diligent in recognizing the limited schemes of the enemy, take my thoughts captive, & speak truth into the situation. Thanks again for your words & your blog…life changing! 🙂

  3. J, knowing you’ve shared in past posts how you often encounter wives who have a negative view of sexual intimacy, did you sense that this was the case in your marriage class? IIRC, other marriage bloggers have noted that about only 1 in 4 wives have a drive higher than their husbands; which seems to beg the question: what percentage of women have a positive view of intimacy? Is there any official percentage or statistics on this?

    1. GREAT question! I’m actually not even sure that all other wives in the classroom didn’t feel as I did; a few may have held back in the way they answered questions so that sex didn’t rank so up there. And just because a need doesn’t make the Top 5 doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy it. For instance, recreational companionship didn’t hit my list, but it hit my husband’s…and I greatly enjoy doing things with him. I don’t yearn for that activity like he does, but when I’m there, I’m having a great time!

      I think the awkward moment had several sources — inside me as I actually said it aloud; from wives who totally didn’t understand; and from spouses in general who hadn’t heard a wife rank sex so high. Even if one’s marriage is fine on this count, some people buy into the larger societal myth that all husbands want it all the time and (almost) all wives are reluctant to oblige.

      As to stats, I don’t know one specifically for that. We don’t even have really good numbers, that I know of, on how many marriages have a higher-drive wife (estimates I’ve seen range from 15 to 30%). I do believe that positive views of sexual intimacy are higher among practicing Christians (regular churchgoers, Bible readers, prayer sayers). I need to find that source, don’t I?

      Thanks for the question, Greg!

  4. Good for you for being willing to stand up. This post actually hurts my heart bc I think far too few women don’t realize they need sex with their husband too and just how fulfilling it can and should be. I used to be one of those ladies largely bc I didn’t know any different. I think a lot of our issues from porn to women being captivated by 50 shades stem from a lack of understanding. It breaks my heart the church can’t be a better place to do that. The past year or so I certiably have tried to be more vocal even when at first awkward. Kuddos to you for standing in the gap and thank you for yor very realivant ministry 🙂

  5. We’ve taken the same class and facilitated several times, too! It was a life changer for us. Only one class ever had a woman who said sexual fulfillment was #1. We only had a couple men say it was their #1, which I found surprising. Anyway, for me, finding a way to meet my husband’s number one need led me to re-thinking where my needs fall. In our last class, I moved sexual intimacy into the top 5.

    Yeah, we are working hard here to dispel the ‘awkward moments’ of being real about godly sexuality. Thanks for sharing, J!!!

  6. The thing is this doesn’t just happen in church group talks about sex. My husband and I have taken a personal finance class at church. We started at one church, moved far away and started it again in another. One group was very large, another much smaller. But in both of them no one was really willing to share, except us. And people would just stare at us like we were weird, but hey we were all in that class because we needed financial help. I think there are just some people like you and us who don’t mind sharing our personal experience to help others – we have what some call a heart of a teacher. Perhaps, just perhaps some of those people though felt they could identify and in some small way our sharing of our awkward stories helps them in some small way.
    Now that I think about I’ve had the similar cricket chirping response when I have asked tough questions in a ladie’s Bible group. The stares are like “I can’t believe you would ask that and question the great men of the Bible or even God…” There is something about bringing people out of their comfort zone. But hey, you know what Jesus did a lot of, he shocked people and pulled them out of their comfort zone. So you go girl, they are awkward moments for Jesus’ glory. LOL. Keep it up!!!

  7. I think more women are in your position than want to admit it. In our pre-marriage counseling 19 years ago, one of our sessions was on “Expectations”. Beforehand, we were supposed to write out a list of things we expected from/in marriage to talk about during that session. It was a great “pre-emptive strike” exercise that I highly recommend. The only problem is that I was too chicken to talk about the very FIRST thing on my list, “Have sex every day”! BOY, would that one little piece of honesty have saved a LOT of problems in the first couple of months of our marriage!

  8. Yes, yes, yes! I love this article. I’ve had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Love and Respect book because I feel like it limits both men and women a little bit in the expression of their needs. Sex is high on my list also, but my list of needs changes often (like, possibly, even weekly). There are days when sex is one of my highest needs and other days where it would be nice, but it isn’t necessarily in my top five that day.

    I certainly think we need to talk about this more in church and am alway glad to read that people are doing so!

  9. This is so true it would be 1st or 2nd on mine, but I feel so alone in this,,so ackward and I’m a believer and married to the same man for 27 years!! But I need it a lot much more than he even does. Thanks for the article made me feel like singing hallelujah!!!

  10. Thank you for having the courage to share so honestly.
    I think sometimes in Christian culture there is a myth that is perpetuated that women don’t really want or need sex, it’s just something we do to get love. As I have gotten a little older and my children are older, sex is a lot more important to me and it is definitely important.
    I think it goes along with the myth that men are visual and women are I guess more emotional.

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