Tag Archives: focusing on sex in marriage

Q&A with J: Engaging Your Mind in Lovemaking

A while ago, I talked about having over 300 emails in my inbox. Through various efforts, I’m now down to 69 messages. (And yes, I do see the humor in that.)

Slowly but surely, I’m trying to get to the remaining questions either directly or through posts. And today’s question is from (gasp!) May 2017. But it’s such a good one, I wanted to cover it today. Here’s what the reader asks:

I have a question about “engaging your mind.” I’ve read from various Christian intimacy bloggers that many women need to engage their minds in order to be aroused. I feel like this is true for me, but I’m uncertain how to do it in the holiest way. I often feel guilty if I visualize anything because it usually involves other people (not specific people just general other people), or other situations, think anything that doesn’t necessarily involve being happily married. I know it’s a flesh desire, and I have learned, whether I meant to or not, that the arousal from that thinking is very fleeting and doesn’t help me feel close to my husband. So I don’t allow it, but then I feel like I can’t let loose. So what does it mean to engage your mind without turning to something sinful?

Blog post title + silhouette of woman with colored lines swirling through her head

I periodically talk about all the myths that romance novels perpetuate, and I’m no fan whatsoever of erotica, but there are some things the romance genre gets right. And here’s one: Not once have I ever read a love scene where the woman was mentally going through her to-do list, fantasizing about some random guy she saw in a movie or a magazine, or thinking yeah, that feels okay, but I’d rather be watching Netflix.

Oh no — if you’re going to write a romantic, passionate, or even sexy scene, your main character is going to be into it. Seriously into it. Sure, she might think about how she wishes she hadn’t worn the granny panties tonight, but most of her thoughts are about what she’s seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and touching. She’s sinking deeply into her senses, as well as her emotions about the man with whom she’s making love.

Much as I hate to grab any wisdom from the pages of a bodice-ripper, I think they’re onto something here.

But wait a minute… God was way ahead of the romance section of your bookstore! Thousands of years ago, He made sure we have examples of what it means to engage in your mind in lovemaking with your spouse. Together let’s visit a book I’ve mentioned quite a bit on my blog (and in my books): Song of Songs, a poetic exchange between husband and wife, lover to lover.

God was way ahead of the romance section of your bookstore! Click To Tweet

It begins like this:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
your name is like perfume poured out.
No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
Let the king bring me into his chambers.

What’s her mind doing here? She’s thinking about the sensations and taste of her husband’s kiss and his oh-so-appealing scent. Also, how much she loves him, and even how his stellar reputation is alluring. She imagines getting whisked away by this particular man to make mad, passionate love!

Whew. Wipe off your brow, y’all — that was sexy.

Now as much as I’d like to go through the remaining 7¾ chapters, breaking down all the amazing takeaways, that would be an insanely long blog post. Instead, I encourage you to go read it for yourself. And notice where and how these lovers engage their minds.

Focus on your five senses.

Instead of fantasizing about someone or something that’s not in the bed with you, how about paying attention to the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches of lovemaking. There’s a bounty of all that going on, and you can train yourself to tune in to it.

While making love, ask yourself what your senses are experiencing, and revel in those sensations. This practice is really what people now call “mindfulness,” where you increase your awareness of what’s right around you and learn to attend to it more fully.

Here’s an example from the husband in Song of Songs attending to the senses:

Your lips drop sweetness as the honeycomb, my bride; milk and honey are under your tongue. The fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon” (4:1).

Open your eyes.

It’s harder to think about someone or something else when you’re looking your spouse in the eye. Or really, anywhere on their body. Oftentimes, we find it uncomfortable to keep our eyes open, because there’s vulnerability in that — especially given that our facial expressions during sex can be rather curious, shall we say.

But looking into one another’s eyes, taking in the sight of our beloved, and even watching intently where and how your bodies connect can also be beautifully intimate. And it can help your focus remain right there, on the wonderful husband with whom you are making love.

Here’s one example of how the Song of Songs wife gazed at her husband:

His eyes are like doves by the water streams, washed in milk, mounted like jewels.
His cheeks are like beds of spice yielding perfume.
His lips are like lilies dripping with myrrh.
His arms are rods of gold set with topaz.
His body is like polished ivory decorated with lapis lazuli.
His legs are pillars of marble set on bases of pure gold.
His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as its cedars (5:12-16).

Use your voice.

It’s also hard not to concentrate on what’s happening right here and right now if you have to describe it. So speak up and talk about what you’re seeing, what you’re sensing, what you desire. Express the depth of your feelings for your husband through everything from “I love you” to “You rock my world, baby!”

All of that can keep your mind preoccupied on coming up with relevant thoughts and translating that into words. Besides, verbal expression can also increase the arousal factor in your marriage bed.

Consider this was something the husband in Song of Songs requested:

My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely” (2:14).

Keep on trying.

One reason we fail when we try to engage our minds is we give up too soon. Distractions invade, and we push away the first one or two, but then others come and it feels hopeless. How can we ever stop getting sidetracked? And especially if those rabbit trails lead to greater arousal?

But retraining your mind isn’t a one-day workout program. You’re in a marathon, girlfriend. When that first stray thought comes in the middle of lovemaking, push it aside. Then push aside the next one, and the next, and the next…and so on. Replace each with the kind of engagement discussed in previous points — for instance, shifting your thoughts from that one general guy to gazing into your husband’s eyes. Do this again and again, and you’ll build a new habit. And your pleasure will be even better because it will be all you and all him engaging intimately in the marriage bed.

Remember this verse from Song of Songs:

Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away (8:6-7).

Your marital love is unyielding. Lean into that — mind, heart, body, and soul.

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What Are You Thinking During Sex?

I am a recovering perfectionist. I hate getting things wrong, but I’ve learned through the years quite a bit about my fallibility and my need for humility. Thus, it should be no surprise that I might have messed up with Monday’s post, Q&A with J: “He’s Going Into His ‘Spank Bank.’ “

The querying wife explained that her husband closed his eyes during sex and was “going into his spank bank” for past porn images to maintain his erection. My answer addressed him doing just that. When there was another possibility: that he was closing his eyes for reasons that had nothing to do with past porn use.

Honestly, my automatic acceptance of the wife’s explanation was influenced by how damaging ongoing pornography use can be to an individual and a marriage. But I might have had this situation wrong, and it’s unfair to draw firm conclusions without more information.

Indeed, I often encourage spouses to give their mate the benefit of the doubt and extend grace wherever possible. It’s a bad idea to assume what your spouse is thinking, feeling, wanting — even if you believe you know them so well after umpteen years of marriage. We just can’t know everything going on in between each other’s ears.

The comments to Monday’s post revealed that we could be thinking all kinds of things during sex. Which brings me to my question: What are you thinking during sex? Does it even matter?

I think it does.

What Are You Thinking During Sex?

What wife wants her husband thinking about some other woman, even if she’s orgasming off the charts? What husband wants his wife picturing her latest book boyfriend while he’s pleasuring her? Or even from a non-third-party perspective . . . What wife wants her husband solely thinking about his own climax and not her pleasure? What husband wants his wife mentally sorting through her to-do list rather than paying attention to their intimate time together?

Of course, the entirety of our sex lives together is not comprised of I’m all about you thinking. Stray thoughts zoom in, and some overstay their welcome. It could take a while to shut down all of the mental activity of the day to focus on what’s happening with your bodies. You could be going and blowing with some fabulous foreplay, and suddenly you remember that your son’s science project is due tomorrow and do you still have poster-board in the house? You might be midway through a rockin’ good time, and all of a sudden your leg cramps and your only thought is Ooowww! Real life intrudes into our minds. Constantly.

But we can train our minds to focus in the right direction. That’s a biblical principle, you know. (See Romans 12:2, Philippians 4:8). What is the “right direction” in the marriage bed?

It’s a little easier to define the wrong direction. Because I think we have a pretty wide range of acceptable thoughts when making love with our mate. You might be thinking about any of these:

Practical concerns

  • How your body looks and feels
  • How his/her body looks and feels
  • What you want to do or don’t want to do
  • Whether you’ll reach orgasm and how to get there

Fantasy-type thoughts

  • Picturing yourselves in an exotic locale
  • Remembering the first time he/she touched you this way
  • Considering all the possible activities and positions you can try
  • Imagining what actions or words can stimulate your lover even more

Pleasure-focused matters

  • How attracted you are to your spouse
  • What’s turning you on at the moment
  • How the physical sensations feel to your body
  • The effect your body and actions have on your mate’s pleasure
  • What you can do to increase your pleasure and his/hers

Deeper meaning feelings

  • How grateful you are for this unique connection to your spouse
  • The depth of your love for him/her
  • God’s approval of this unity of your lovemaking
  • How amazing it feels to be “one flesh” with your beloved
  • Why sex binds you so closely together

Sometimes we think about small stuff, sometimes big stuff; sometimes solely about our beloved, and other times our own pleasure. Our minds can go all kinds of places that keep us committed to healthy, godly sexuality.

But while you know what you are thinking during sex, you don’t know what your spouse is thinking. Unless he/she tells you.

Of course, you can ask. Just like with any other moment in your marriage, isn’t it a valid question to say, “What’s going through your mind right now?” They might share or might not, but it’s an innocent enough question in the right context and with the right attitude. I’ve asked during sex, and the answers my husband has given are always interesting. I’m happy to share what I’m thinking too.

You can volunteer what you’re thinking to your spouse. Tell them how turned on you are, how good something feels, or how meaningful this experience is to you. Or hey, inform your spouse that something doesn’t feel all that good and you’d like to try something different. Communication can be key in creating a mutually satisfying sexual experience.

If your spouse honestly has difficulty concentrating — because their work day was horrible and they’re still stressed, or whatever — maybe it’s good to know that and help them get their head back in the game. For myself, even if the answer was “I’m struggling with old images popping in my head, although I really want to be here only for you because you are the one I love,” I’d be okay knowing because then I could walk alongside my husband and help him find ways to be wholly and thoroughly in the moment. I believe that his battle is our battle.

Must you share what’s going through your minds? Of course not. My hubby and I usually don’t — although I pretty much assume it’s good stuff — because we’re kind of busy doing other things. (Also, sometimes I can’t entirely form words, but I’m pretty sure he knows what I’m thinking in those particular moments.)

Sometimes, when we do share, it’s not sex-focused. It’s some stray thought out of nowhere, and these days that usually makes us laugh. “What? You had a thought about the Republican debate?” *laugh* “Well, I’ll get your mind off that right now.” And then, we do! Because we know we’re ultimately focused on one another and this precious time together.

What do you think about during sex? Is it different from what your spouse might expect? Do you struggle focusing on what’s happening in your marriage bed? What has helped you get your “head in the game”?