Is Mutually Satisfying Sexual Intimacy Simple or Difficult?

We tend to have a few core beliefs that guide our life. Hopefully, among them are the beliefs that God loves you, that Jesus died for you, and that trusting in Him is the way to a better life, even if that better life isn’t always clear in the moment. I certainly believe all that, but I also believe that life is hard. That is, we live in a broken world, so you can’t expect unicorns and rainbows all the time. (Actually, you can’t expect unicorns any time.)

That brokenness is why so many struggle with discovering and maintaining true sexual intimacy in marriage, and why I have for 12 years written and spoken about those challenges. And yet, one of the problems is that we often complicate the answers.

What if having mutually satisfying sexual intimacy is simpler than we think?

What if having mutually satisfying sexual intimacy is simpler than we think? via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

An Example from My Own Life

Last fall, my husband and I sold the house where we raised our kids from elementary age to adulthood. We immediately ordered a house to be built (downsized, but new) and were told that would involve 12–14 months of waiting. We used that time to live near a sibling of mine, to visit France and England this summer, and to stay with my gracious son and daughter-in-law. But while we should be moving in about now, we were recently informed that we won’t be in our house before Christmas. To say that I’m struggling with how long we’ve been displaced would be an understatement.

But of course, this is the sort of scenario that falls into the first line of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr, theologian

Despite citing that prayer to myself plenty, having written about stress quite a few times (like here, here, and here), and repeatedly discussing the importance of self-care on our podcast for wives, I didn’t do what I needed to deal with the stressors in my life. Not merely being displaced, but work challenges, health concerns, and relationship tensions. It all came to a head with a bout of heart palpitations that made me check my blood pressure and see a number I hadn’t seen before.

I’m okay, but it was a wakeup call. Though, to be fair, it was more like an alarm I had kept snoozing—not really addressing what I needed to address. EVEN THOUGH I KNEW BETTER!

It wasn’t that I don’t know how to manage my time, health, and stress better. I just didn’t do it because…it’s not easy.

Revisiting the Serenity Prayer, I had neglected the parts about having courage and wisdom.

Two Kinds of Difficulty

You see, there are two kinds of difficulty:

  1. Difficult to understand
  2. Difficult to do

Sometimes we confuse difficult to do with difficult to understand. For instance, we know that we will lose weight if we burn more calories than we consume. Easy, right? Easy to understand, but much, much harder to do.

Another example is understanding that one shouldn’t always go for the sexual innuendo joke, but it’s hard. It’s so hard. (Sorry, not sorry.)

The way to a better sex life is really not that difficult to understand. But it’s quite difficult to do. Because it’s one thing to mentally grasp what a good sex life should look like and another thing altogether to put forth the committed effort to reach that goal. And then, to sustain that effort over the long course of a marriage.

Is Mutually Satisfying Sexual Intimacy Simple or Difficult? "The way to a better sex life is really not that difficult to understand. But it's quite difficult to do." via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet

None of us will get it right all the time! Not one. And this broken world is often pushing back against our best efforts. Which is why we need (1) a Savior, and (2) reminders, encouragement, accountability, courage, and wisdom.

Getting Back to Basics

A student once asked theologian Karl Barth if he could sum up his whole life’s work in a sentence, and Barth presumably answered, “Yes, I can. ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.'” That’s getting back to basics.

But Jesus got there first by saying:

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12

Wait, that’s it? That sums it up? Why, then, are there over 31,000 other verses in the Bible?!

Because while the tenets of our faith are fairly simple to understand, they are much more difficult to apply and consistently do. We live in a broken world, and so much pushes back against doing the right and righteous thing.

What are the basics of having a great sex life? How could that be summed up? Well, probably with the same verse, but here are a few key tenets:

  • Embrace that God designed sex to be a blessing in marriage
  • Address history, teachings, and health challenges that keep you from having good sex
  • Pursue healthy personal behaviors that honor your own body and your spouse
  • Practice all four Greek loves in your marital intimacy: friendship, familial, erotic, and agape (self-sacrificial, other’s wellbeing love)

If you both do all that consistently, you’ll never need to hear from me again.

It’s Not That Simple

But it’s not that simple. Understanding the basics doesn’t mean you know how to apply them in all circumstances. Moreover, these tenets are very difficult to live out day after day, year after year, challenge after challenge. We need reminders, encouragement, accountability, courage, and wisdom.

I pray that whatever wisdom I provide is God working through me, but I can’t give you the wherewithal to make it happen. That’s entirely up to you and God’s power, the same power that resurrected Christ from the dead (see Ephesians 1:18-21). It’s difficult to do, but “with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

We can start, though, with what we do know, with inviting God to exert that power and authority in our life, with returning again and again to what love demands. Even that is simple to understand, difficult to do.

Love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous; love does not brag, it is not arrogant. It does not act disgracefully, it does not seek its own benefit; it is not provoked, does not keep an account of a wrong suffered, it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it keeps every confidence, it believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

3 thoughts on “Is Mutually Satisfying Sexual Intimacy Simple or Difficult?”

  1. First, glad to hear that you are taking care of yourself and addressing the impact of added stress in your life. There are many things out of our control that can raise those numbers on the blood pressure reader.

    There is very little that involves more than one person that is simple in action. This includes relationships with church members and committees, co workers, children, parents, in-laws (now that is a tough one), etc. Something as intensely meaningful, personal, and vulnerable as intimacy in marriage makes it messy, full of questions and doubts at times (even after decades of marriage), and most often difficult. There are rare days when everything just falls into place, but that is not the norm. Most days I have things on my mind or my wife has things on her mind or we are both preoccupied with the many stresses in life, even while the kids are all adults now. Plus, I only control half of the equation. Actually, not even that, since while my wife controls part of the other half, a call from the kids about a difficulty in life can effectively squash the goal of spending intimate time together. One never stops worrying about their kids. This is where grace comes in, though our grace is not limitless like God’s grace is. If intimacy does not become a priority, the relationship will eventually suffer. So yeah, it is often full of difficulty.

    1. I just agree with all of that. And this hit me in particular: “One never stops worrying about their kids.” So true.

      May you find moments of peace, calm, and intimacy this holiday season!

  2. Thank you that is so encouraging, true and sensible!
    It is hard to do but well worth it!
    I have found that having been married for 46 years, in the last four my wife and my relationship has blossomed by applying the things that yu advocate.
    It s hard work but well worth it!

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