I’m a resolutions maker. Not always a resolution keeper. But I find that setting out some goals or a theme for the year get me on a better track than doing nothing. Not that there’s anything independently special about January 1, but that turn of the year feels like a chance to take stock, imagine the future, and figure out next steps.
One can do that in various areas of life: career, family, faith, health, organizing your office into something that looks less like a tornado came through. (Is that last one just me?) But what about sexual intimacy? Yeppers, that’s why you come here—because I turn nearly everything back to the topic of S-E-X. But hey, it’s a good question! How is your sex life going and what would make it better in the coming year?
Casting a Vision
Have you heard of a vision board? It’s just a collage of images—photographs, magazine clips, quotations, and other visuals—that represent your goals and dreams. I’m not big on making a real one, with posterboard or what-have-you, but a mental vision board strikes me as a good idea.
For a moment, imagine what an intimate marriage with mutually desired and satisfying sex would look like.
Wait—we have to interrupt those images for a moment to pull some of you back from the fantasy world that we’ve been inundated with. Recalibrate and think intimacy, not whatever misguided notions may have come from pornography, erotica, or just regular M-rated TV shows. We’re talking intimacy with two real people who have backgrounds, strengths and flaws, ongoing stressors, and self-doubts.
What images would represent genuine intimacy between you and your spouse? A smiling couple wrapped in a warm embrace after making love? A husband and wife flirting in the kitchen long before anything might happen that evening, or the next morning? A spouse naked into the bedroom, knowing that s/he be greeted with a grin and a compliment? A heart-pounding climax shared by married lovers who take as much delight in the other’s orgasm as their own?
Those are a few mental pictures that might represent a positive image of sexual intimacy in marriage, but they’re not the only ones. And they’re not specific to you and your beloved. How about casting a vision for your own marriage? What would a healthy, intimate sex life look like for both of you? What are you aiming for?
In a recent Facebook post, I asked about setting goals for the New Year, and one wise commenter responded:
I try to focus more on habits and prioritizing them. What new habits do I want to incorporate in the new year? So not necessarily a goal to be met but habits that will be beneficial toward a certain trajectory.
I LOVE that! In fact, I’d been thinking recently about how my productivity is best when I don’t have a set schedule but rather routines. Having routines (aka habits) keeps me focused and proactive. The same could be said for sex in marriage!
What are your habits in your marriage regarding sexual intimacy? Do you have a habit of flirting? Initiating regularly? Setting aside time on your calendar for lovemaking? Have you habitualized saying “no” more than “yes”?
And by the way, have you made a (bad) habit of pursuing your own sexual desires ahead of your spouse’s? Or do you have a routine of checking in with your husband or wife and asking what their vision for sex in your marriage entails? And then following through?
Luke 22:39 reports about Jesus: “Then going out he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him.” I hadn’t really paid attention to that before—that our Lord made a habit of going to the Mount of Olives, likely to pray as he did the night before his death. But that wasn’t His only routine. He regularly went away to pray by Himself, to go the synagogue, to eat in people’s homes, and to heal those who needed it. Christ was a man of worthwhile habits.
Of course, we should establish habits of prayer, church attendance, and fellowship, but in marriage, prioritizing sexual intimacy is a godly habit as well.
Change rarely happens in giant leaps. Rather, you reach your destination simply by putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again. And, like a young child, if you fall down, you get back up and try again.
While you’re aiming to create better habits, remember that it’s a process. You won’t go from A to Z in a day, a month, or even a season. Everyone I’ve known who made lasting improvement in their marital intimacy says they didn’t feel the turnaround until around a year later. But boy, were they glad they made that effort!
Set your vision, yes. Create good habits, yes. But remember that change takes time. Take one step at a time, celebrate your progress, and then take the next step. When things start to really go better, you’ll be able to look back and see how far you’ve come.
For some marriages, change won’t happen until large barriers are brought down, brick by brick. The vision of true sexual intimacy is blurred by past trauma, current sin, physical challenges, or relational conflict.
The path to progress begins with getting outside help. It could be a physician that diagnoses a health condition, a trauma-informed therapist who walks alongside an abuse victim to help them reach healing, a support and accountability group that addresses unwanted sexual behavior, or a marriage counselor who works with a couple to draw them closer. Whatever the route, the destination is the same: two healthy people pursuing healthy sexual intimacy in their marriage.
If you’re facing daunting obstacles, you’re not alone, and there is hope. Seek out answers. Get past your misguided pride and admit you need help. Make this the year you reach out and get the support you need. Those initial steps will be hard, but a few months from now, you’ll be so glad you did it.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Galatians 6:9:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
That short verse packs in a lot of truth. We can so easily become weary of doing the right thing when it doesn’t yield immediate results. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you exercised once and dropped five pounds? That would really spur you on. But no, it doesn’t work that way. Rather, it takes a steady practice of working out before the results are felt and seen.
Likewise, it can take time to see the results of your devoted efforts toward a better sex life…and marriage. You may change your habits and find your spouse doesn’t respond for weeks or even months to your changes. But don’t become weary! Keep going. There’s a gap in time between sowing and reaping—often much longer than we want. We must persevere, doing the right thing whether we see the results or not.
In fact—and I kinda hate to have to say this, but it’s true—you may not see the results you long for this side of Heaven. In terms of a thriving sexual relationship with your spouse, that is. After all, you’re only half of the equation. But loving your spouse is never the wrong choice.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.John 13:34
Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.Romans 13:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.1 Peter 4:8
But you may also be suprised and find that your efforts yield a beautiful harvest if you do not give up.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.Proverbs 13:12
Leaning on God
I’ll be honest, leaning on God is hard for me. I want God + _______.
It’s much easier to follow God when He brings tangible blessings to our lives. I have a personal testimony of how following God’s design for sex in marriage yielded pleasure and intimacy beyond anything I foolishly pursued on my own before.
But it’s not perfect. This side of Heaven, it never will be.
While pursuing the best for your marriage, lean on God. He knows. He loves. He comforts. He heals.
But I pray—you have no idea how often I’ve prayed!—that your marriage will discover, embrace, and maintain healthy and holy sexual intimacy.
May it all happen for you this coming year!
Here’s one opportunity to focus on healthy and holy sexual intimacy this coming year!