Tag Archives: Art of Manliness blog

Waiting for Sexual Intimacy

Photo Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

Photo Credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

I read a very interesting article last week from The Art of Manliness. Being thoroughly female, I still enjoy many of the posts from this male-directed blog. Last Monday, the article How Delaying Intimacy Can Benefit Your Relationship looked at studies on why it’s not such a good idea to jump into bed willy-nilly and why one should wait until the relationship deepens.

Now this wasn’t a Christian-based article, and I strongly advocate waiting until the real commitment of marriage vows. However, the studies cited support the church’s position that couples should wait. Here are two interesting findings.

Old Habits Die Hard

Repeated behaviors “train our minds to think and act in certain ways” — even to the point of rewriting our brain circuitry. The way you act over and over becomes a pattern that is very difficult to change. So the notion that you’ll settle down later, when you get married, and keep to one lover, and focus on deeper intimacy, etc., that’s not so easy to do. As researcher Dr. Busby says, “Every relationship we have, however brief and insignificant, influences every other relationship we have, and the patterns that we repeat across relationships become very difficult to change.”

If you pursue casual sex before marriage, it’s hard to make that shift to deeper intimacy in marriage. That’s not the message we usually get from sources around us. The romantic version often espoused in our culture is that something just shifts inside you when you meet “the right one.” But old habits die hard. It may not be personal — you may love and adore your mate — but you can have a hard time shutting off the way you’ve trained your mind to think about sex and introducing a different perspective.

The best option is to start right here, right now, establishing the habits you want to carry into the rest of your life and your marriage.

Oxytocin: It’s Not Just for Sex Anymore

I, and many others who write about sex, have mentioned the importance of Oxytocin in lovemaking. Oxytocin is a bonding hormone that reduces stress and fosters trust. It’s best known as a substance mothers release when they nurse their babies.

However, it is also released in men when they climax. For this reason, many believe that Oxytocin is key to the argument that sex is a bonding activity. But that’s not the whole story.

Oxytocin comes around during sex, but it also appears in non-sexual but affectionate activities, like hugging, touching, smiling, listening. Moreover, right after sexual climax, Oxytocin apparently takes a nosedive. So if the sex-made Oxytocin is all you’re working from, those bonding feelings will go pffft as soon as you’re done. Essentially, you need ongoing non-sexual Oxytocin-producing behaviors to really feel connected to your lover and then experience sex as an outgrowth of that bond. That’s what should happen in a marriage — ongoing interaction and bonding that makes the sex all the more meaningful.

From Martin Robertson, researcher: “Frequent, comforting feelings are important in maintaining strong bonds . . . . The more dependable the flow of Oxytocin via daily bonding behaviors, the easier it is to sustain a relationship. In contrast, a passionate one-night stand allows lovers’ innate defensiveness to snap back into place pretty much as soon as Oxytocin drops after climax.”

While else should you wait? I wrote posts for Preengaged some time ago explaining other reasons why couples should wait until marriage: Sex Before Marriage Part 1 and Sex Before Marriage Part 2.

What Does It Mean to Be Masculine?

Man in suit

Photo credit: Microsoft Word Clip Art

I recently posted on Man Up & Take Me! Alpha Male or Beta Hubby? and a conversation flared in the comments section about whether the term “alpha male” was appropriate for Christian husbands and whether masculinity includes taking charge in some way. After all, wasn’t Jesus the ultimate man and he was humble, meek, and sacrificial as he gave his life for us on the cross?

Without getting much into my use of the term “alpha male” — which I intended in the more colloquial usage than the scientific definition — the post made me think more about what we wives want our men to be. We want them to be masculine, right? But what traits are masculine traits?

I’m hardly the only one asking these questions. Bestselling books like Iron John: A Book about Men by Robert Bly, Wild at Heart by John Eldridge, and the recent The Book of Man by Bill Bennett indicate that people are reevaluating what a “real man” should look like. Stu and Lisa Gray of Stupendous Marriage mentioned another book, Point Man by Steve Farrar, in their podcast just last week. I also recently discovered a blog called The Art of Manliness, which covers topics as wide as writing love letters to your wife, waxing your car, and understanding retirement accounts; its motto is “reviving the lost art of manliness.” But what is manliness, or masculinity, anyway?

Dictionary.com defines masculine as “having qualities traditionally ascribed to men, as strength and boldness” and manly as “having qualities traditionally ascribed to men, as strength or bravery.” Surely, though, strength, boldness, and bravery are not merely male qualities. I can think of numerous women who possess them — women who are not manly in the least.

So what is this elusive set of traits? What does it mean to be masculine?

Jesus is indeed the ultimate example.

Sculpture of David

By jimmyweee (Jerusalem Uploaded by russavia) via Wikimedia Commons

For this post, however, I want to look at the person about whom the Bible says: “God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do'” (Acts 17:22). Don’t we want our husbands to be men after God’s heart?

So what was David like? Here’s what I see from the life of David.

He was a protector. David was raised to be a shepherd, protecting his father’s flock. He watched over the sheep and, if they were taken by a lion or bear, he rescued the sheep from its mouth. In the same way, David protected Saul’s life twice when he had the opportunity to take it, but he waited instead on God’s timing and protected the king God had put on Israel’s throne.

He was a warrior. David fought the giant Goliath; he delivered the foreskins of 100 Philistines to secure marriage to Saul’s daughter Michal; he forced the Philistines out of Israel; he defeated Moabites, the Edomites, the Ammonites and the Arameans. About him, the Israelite women sang, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

He was a lover. David had eight wives and pursued each of them. He liked women and how they looked. That’s how he ended up committing a huge sin with Bathsheba. Yet, it wasn’t his desire for a woman but the wrong context that was condemned.

He was a leader. Before becoming king, David was given command of 1,000 men and led troops in their campaigns. When King Saul pursued David, four hundred men gathered around David and “he became their leader.” He garnered the loyalty of his men such that three of them risked their lives merely to bring David water when he thirsted.

He was an artist. David played the harp and was so good that he worked in the king’s palace playing for him. He wrote over 70 psalms and collected more. His prayers and songs express heartfelt emotions and honesty before God that have touched generation after generation. David danced before the Lord with freedom and passion.

He was a friend. The story of Jonathan and David is one of an incredibly close bond between friends. Later, the Bible tells of another friend, Hushai the Arkite, who infiltrated Absalom’s camp on David’s behalf and warned David to save him from an attack.

He was a provider. David spread his kingdom and attained wealth that he shared with family, friends, and citizens throughout his reign. But one of my favorite stories of David is how he sought out Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, and gave him a seat the king’s table to provide for him. After Absalom defiled David’s concubines, David kept them in the palace and provided for them without sexual relations; he didn’t have to do that, but he did.

Certainly, these characteristics can be found in women as well, but I think that the way David made them a priority and how he carried them out demonstrates something about true masculinity. Make no mistake, however: David wept; David grieved; David showed his emotions. At no time did he lose his manliness by wearing his heart on his sleeve.

I think David’s life can teach us a lot about manliness. The one time he is rebuked harshly in the Bible for his actions is when he became selfish and allowed his manly desires to get out of control. The prophet Nathan then brings him to task for taking what was not his to have. In that moment, David was not a protector, a provider, a friend, a leader… When he sinned with Bathsheba, he was a man, but not a manly man. And he humbled himself and was contrite before God for using his masculinity for self-gain.

All of these roles I see in the life of David (and in Ephesians 5) suggest a balance. Indeed, those things that typically make a man (higher levels of testosterone, greater body strength, competitiveness, etc.) are all traits that can be focused into being a man after God’s own heart or being twisted by Satan to become heartless.

Leadership can be twisted to become subjugation.
Strength can be twisted to become violence.
Protection can be twisted to become control.
Sexual love can be twisted to become forbidden lust.
Even self-sacrifice can even be twisted to become someone’s lapdog or doormat– not God’s intention at all.

So what is masculine? I can’t exactly define it. I know it when I see it. I see it in the life of David, Jesus, and — thank you, Lord — my husband.

I know when my husband is being a leader — in a man’s way, not in my way; a provider — in a man’s way, not in my way; a lover — in a man’s way . . . you get the point.

Also, he kills the bugs. I do not (not, not) like cockroaches, but he doesn’t bat an eye as he slays those exoskeletal dragon-like creatures for me. I don’t know if that’s technically masculine, but I like it. It makes me want to say, “Oh yeah, that’s my man!”

Your turn. I’m opening this up for you to tell me what you think masculinity is or looks like. I consider this an ongoing conversation, so let’s see what you all come up with. What makes a male a man? A godly man? A godly husband?

Sources: Jewish Virtual Library, Devotions for Growing Christians, Bible Gateway

Man Up & Take Me! Alpha Male or Beta Hubby?

Q&AI’m back at it again — answering readers’ questions from my Q&A with J at HHH post. Today’s topic is about the approach that a husband takes toward his wife as he pursues, or doesn’t pursue, his wife sexually.

Here’s the question from an anonymous commenter:

I’d love a post on the fact that an overly “beta” husband is a real libido killer in most wives (or at least this one!!!). Our society, and especially the church, seems to groom men to be so sensitive and attentive and egalitarian in their approach with us. Don’t get me wrong–I love all the kitchen help and back rubs and love I get from my honey. But I want to feel like he is stronger than I am, that I can have a bad day and be bossy and he will stop me, he will push back when I go too far, he will be tough enough to stand up to me without backing down.

I don’t know if this makes sense, but I guess I’m asking if I’m crazy for wishing my husband didn’t cater so much to me? That he would aggressively tease me during the day, and that night say, “Take your clothes off, because I am not sleeping till we have made love…and I want you to Xxxx…” rather than try to be snuggly and pet on me and hint around and be all hesitant. Am I weird? I’m so grateful I’m not married to a brick who doesn’t care what I feel, but I’m so eager and willing to follow, if he would just be more…manly?? about it.

And don’t get me wrong. We have a great marriage and lots of sex, prob 4-5 times a week. He leads in lots of areas, and I just can’t understand why he gets so hesitant when I haven’t turned him down for sex in years and enjoy it a lot.

Am I unwittingly doing or saying something to cause this?

This was a particularly interesting topic since my husband recently read some study showing that a majority of women fantasize about being “taken” sexually. (I cannot find the source he originally saw or I would cite it here.)

Then there is the current reading trend toward sexy and erotic romances which often include a more aggressive (if not outright dominant) male love interest. I won’t go into that topic here (it’s been well-covered by several fellow marriage bloggers). However, while I do not believe that women are attracted to being dominated in some of the ways these books describe, I wonder if such stories tap into many women’s deeper desire for men to take the lead in the relationship.

Indeed, I found plenty of research and reports indicating that a top sexual fantasy for females is to be sexually ravished. Let’s be incredibly clear here: This is NOT talking about rape. Emotionally healthy women do not fantasize about being forced to have sex. However, wives often enjoy the notion that their husbands are stronger and more assertive in personality than they are and then experiencing that intensity in the bedroom.

It’s true of much of the animal kingdom and the human species: The alpha male is appealing.

As an aside, I feel for men out there. You guys get mixed messages all day long. You are supposed to be strong but not aggressive, leading but not dominating, romantic but not sappy, sexual but not sex-crazy. You’re supposed to know what we feel before we say it and say what you feel even when you don’t know. Now you’re supposed to ravage your wife, but not pressure her for sex? Good gracious! How’s a hubby to walk the tightrope here?

Gone with the Wind kiss

Rhett & Scarlett from Gone with the Wind

That said, I pretty much agree with the commenter above. Beta husbands are not all that attractive. Scarlett O’Hara might have thought she wanted Ashley Wilkes, but she — and every gal in the theater — knew that Rhett Butler was the catch in Gone with the Wind.

So how do we wives bring out the Rhett in our men? Every man has a tiger in him somewhere. We want to bring out that roar without bringing out the teeth.

I consulted with a man on this post. My husband said, “She should tell him to take her.” Wow, Honey. How profound. Admittedly, my husband believes that women can best communicate with men at all times by using as few words as possible, getting to the point, and, if possible, drawing a diagram. His advice is a good start, though. So we’ll begin there.

Talk to your husband about what you like. If you haven’t shared what you like in the bedroom, approaching the topic may be as awkward as that first foray onto the junior high gym dance floor with the guy you had a huge crush on way back then. But you didn’t die from that, did you? You can survive this too.

Don’t talk about what you want while in the bedroom or even close to the time of the act. Find a different place, a different time, and make sure it’s private and relaxed for the both of you. Then throw out there what you love about your husband’s lovemaking. Don’t describe it in a Marilyn Monroe tone that gets his engine revving and checks his brain out. Instead, be conversational. For instance: “The other day when you kissed my neck for a while, I loved that” or “I was thinking about how crazy my body gets when you watch me undress” or whatever. Let him respond. Maybe you can both share things you already like.

Stroke his manhood by honestly expressing what you enjoy about the way he makes you feel in your relationship and in the bedroom.

Share your fantasies. Then suggest what you might want to try. “Sometimes I wish you would be more assertive — you know, like telling me what you want or turning me in the direction you desire.” Think about how you want to say this part. Don’t describe the person you want your husband to be; give him an action to try. Since we gals are confusing at times with what we want, husbands can be hesitant to “be more assertive” without knowing what you mean by that. What if he doesn’t do it right? He’ll feel worse than before! But if he knows that you want to try X, Y and Z, he knows what “assertive” (and not aggressive) looks like to you.

Be clear about this for yourself too. In the question, the commenter did this with the wish that hubby would say, Take your clothes off, because I am not sleeping till we have made love…and I want you to Xxxx…” I don’t know what “Xxxx” is, but I bet she does. Define what you want as specifically as possible. Yes, you’re looking for an attitude, but you can likely come up with specific actions that express that — like your husband shutting up your whining session with a well-planted kiss or interrupting your get-ready-for-bed routine and undressing you himself. Figure out what would make you feel like he’s taking the lead and being the man and then tell him.

Set up a plan. Try to come up with a time you’ll give it a shot. It can be a specific time like “Let’s try that tonight after the kids go to bed, lover” or more general “I want to be with you in this way sometime next week.” However, I recommend a deadline of sorts here. You don’t want this conversation to fizzle and two weeks later, he’s lost that boldness from your words and feels awkward again. If you want him to take the lead, you could say, “Sometime in this next week, honey, I want you to initiate and try this. Whenever you choose, I promise that I will go along.”

Encourage his manliness. When your husband does engage in manly, sexy behaviors, reward him with positive words or expressions of pleasure, touch and physical stimulation, and/or returning the favor with sexual or merely kind gestures. What do I mean by all of that? Examples:

When he exerts decision-making: Let him know you appreciate his wisdom and courage. Follow him where he leads. Give him your trust and respect. You can help him feel like a man by treating him like the man you know he can be.

When he makes a move on you: Don’t push him away. If you can’t engage at that moment, tell him what the obstacle is (“I have to get this casserole done and take it over to the sick neighbor,” etc.) and suggest another time in the near future. Accept the offer. Then explain that his initiation turned you on.

During lovemaking: Express your enjoyment! Whether this is gasping, moaning, or yelling, “Superman!” right in the middle, make a guy feel awesome. I am NOT saying to fake orgasm. Do not fake orgasm. But express genuine pleasure. If he does something particularly nice, tell him. “Ooh, I like when you do that” doesn’t take much effort to say but goes a long way toward making a hubby feel like he’s potent in the bedroom.

Post-coitus: “You made my body shiver all over.” “You are an amazing lover.” “I am going to be thinking about that all weekend long.” What guy wouldn’t want to hear that? Or go into the bathroom and prepare a warm, wet washcloth for him to clean up afterward. Get him a drink from the kitchen. Yes, I know you’re not his maid; these are merely small acts of service that express love and appreciation.

A few more creative ideas: When he’s not around, slap on your sappiest smile, snap a photo, and then text or email it to him with a message like, “This is what my face does every time I think about last night.” Tuck a pair of your panties into his briefcase or glove compartment (you’d better know he’ll be the only one around when it’s discovered, though) and add a note like, “Guess what I’m not wearing.” Write a note on his bathroom mirror with a permanent marker (it comes off with alcohol) saying something like, “You’re my bedroom hero!” or “I’m Team Hubby.”

Don’t criticize him. I feel the need to remind the ladies out there that the worst thing to do to a guy is get him naked and then insult him. Would you want that? So telling your man he isn’t man enough for you in the bedroom isn’t going to help your marital intimacy! It’s going to make him far less likely to feel that necessary emotional security so that he can assert his manliness with you in the bedroom and expect to be accepted for who he is.

Thus, avoid telling your husband:

  • What you haven’t liked in the past. He hears: You were doing it wrong.
  • What you saw or heard or read about someone else doing. He hears: You’re not as good as he is.
  • That you aren’t satisfied. He hears: You aren’t good enough.
  • That you won’t be happy unless he “mans up.” He hears: You better get it right or else.

Who could perform under that pressure?

You have to find some way to maintain an encouraging, supportive, safe atmosphere so that you both feel free to express yourselves and come to a mutually satisfying experience.

Why this all might work. You may recognize two psychology things happening here. One, the Sandwich Technique. This is where you ask for something different or an improvement by sandwiching the request (meat) between positive comments (bread). It’s Bread (love what you’re doing), then Meat (wish we could try X), then Bread again (let’s give it a go/you were awesome).

Two, Behavioral Modification. I’m not treating your hubby like Pavlov’s dog, but trying a new behavior and having a good experience tends to reinforce the behavior and increase the likelihood that it will be repeated. Over time, your perspective of the situation changes such that if you exercise enough and get tight abs, eventually you enjoy exercising (or so I’ve heard). In this case, if hubby has a good experience with taking charge in the bedroom, he becomes more likely to take charge in the bedroom in the future and then feels like a take-charge kind of guy. It becomes a reinforcement loop.

A note for hubbies. Despite my ongoing attempts to understand your breed, I don’t know what it’s like to be a man. Not fully. However, when I read a recent post from the blog The Art of Manliness, my initial thought was, “How can I get every man to read this article?” Here it is: Want to Feel Like a Man? Then Act Like One. If you want to be the Alpha Male in the bedroom, act like one. Be sure you understand the biblical definition of a “real man,” of course. Do not treat your wife like your doormat or your sex toy. That’s not real manhood. Paul Byerly over at The Generous Husband does a good job as well of giving tips for what a godly husband looks like. There are other sources for biblical advice as well.

“Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.”

Song of Songs 1:4

Note: In the first rendition of this post, I used the word “forceful” a few times. As I stewed over the post, I decided that word “forceful” does not best convey my meaning. So I have replaced it with “assertive,” which I think better describes the approach wives often desire from their husbands. My apologies if I communicated a message I did not intend. Blessings!