Hot, Holy & Humorous

To Be Vulnerable in the Bedroom, We Need to Feel Safe

One of the personal Bible studies that stuck with me most is when I did a deep dive into what God has to say about trust. While I found numerous passages telling us to trust God, I couldn’t find verses telling us to trust others. Rather, when it comes to human-to-human relationships, the emphasis is on being trustworthy. It jumped off the page to me that God is already trustworthy, so of course we’re instructed to trust Him. But God protects us by not encouraging us to trust those who don’t show themselves worthy of it.

Trust is a big issue for marital intimacy, including the sexual kind. How can we trust our spouse and be completely vulnerable when we don’t feel safe?

I tackled this idea way back in 2011 with the following post. I’ve edited a bit to be clearer and to fill out a few thoughts with wisdom I’d gained in the last decade-plus. I pray it makes us think about safety, vulnerability, and trust in our marriages and how we ourselves can be trustworthy.


Sexual intimacy, as God created and desires for marriage, requires vulnerability. Most women understand that sex requires vulnerability, since our bodies are literally invaded by another person’s body part. However, vulnerability is an issue for men as well.

To give yourself intimately to your spouse, you must lower your defenses, get naked, allow someone to touch and kiss the most private parts of your body, and join yourself physically to another. There is an emotional and spiritual unveiling of yourself in all of this too.

When a Spouse Doesn’t Feel Safe

As an analogy, let’s think about stage fright. To perform for an audience, you have to feel comfortable that you have something to say or can actually sing or whatever; you must feel okay about yourself. You must also feel that you have some possibility of connecting with your audience; you must feel okay about them.

But what if you knew going out there that the entire crowd would shout insults and boo? Would you take a single step onto the stage? Would you pick up the microphone? Would you feel like saying one word or singing one note? Would you more likely think, Forget It, and pass up the chance of a shining moment to express yourself to others?

It is so much more vulnerable to engage sexually with someone you love than to say a five-minute speech or sing a two-minute song to people you don’t know. But what if your spouse criticizes, belittles, and basically boos you in other areas of life? What if their criticism extends even into the bedroom, as they comment about your looks or feelings or expectations?

What if when you try to discuss how you feel about your sex life, you are greeted with indifference or insults? What if your heartfelt feelings are dismissed with “You shouldn’t feel like that”? (In my opinion, one of the least helpful things to say to another.)

Marriage expert Gary Smalley and his team did extensive research into the importance of creating a safe environment within marriage so that love can flourish. If a spouse does not feel safe, he or she will not communicate freely, give trust, and participate fully in the relationship. Why share your thoughts or feelings when you know they will be shot down, as they have been in the past?

Is there any way to get past this?

Consider How Bad the Mistreatment Is

Does it rise to the level of abuse? (See Are You in an Abusive or Destructive Marriage?)

Do you feel mistreated because your expectations are simply not being met? Or are you a moving target in your own home? Is it “He doesn’t appreciate me like he should” or “He tells me I’m stupid, ugly, and worthless several times a day”?

If you are not sure, get wise counsel to make a determination. Speak to a mentor, a trustworthy minister, or a counselor.

Pray for Wisdom

If you are in a terrible situation, go to God.

You may even be angry at Him right now for what you’re going through, wondering why He won’t intervene and stop it. (See Is It Okay to Yell at God about Your Marriage?) However, God has promised to be with you through the horrible times.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 43:1b–2

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3–5

Jesus knows what it is like to be mistreated and can relate to hardship. Continue to bring your concerns and sorrows to the Lord and ask for His help to sort through your feelings and your options.

Talk to Your Spouse

If you have not approached the subject, do so. If you have done so before and believe you can bring it up again without reprisal, try again. (See How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse.)

However, if your environment is unsafe and you simply cannot talk to your spouse, don’t. Your physical safety must be assured to experience emotional and sexual vulnerability.

Seek Help

If you are in an abusive or emotionally destructive marriage, you are not the wife or husband we are talking to when Christian marriage authors encourage more vulnerability, frequency, or playfulness in the bedroom. You need outside help to get clarity, establish proper boundaries, and get your life back on track. Speak with your minister or a counselor in confidence and let them know what’s going on. Ask for resources. Seek out Christians who will support you as you try to deal with a marriage that has gone down the wrong road.

God desires that you, His beautiful child, be treated with gentleness, respect, and love. Remember your worth.

If you’re not in an abusive marriage, you may still need or want outside help to improve the sense of safety, and thus vulnerability, in your marriage. You could seek counseling, go through a quality marriage book together, or attend a conference or retreat. Maybe your church offers a marriage class or you could suggest that they do.

Regardless, if you’re struggling to be vulnerable because you don’t feel safe with your spouse, take steps to address that.

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