A wife recently wrote to me saying that she’d had my book, Pillow Talk: 40 Conversations About Sex for Married Couples, on her list of things to check out for a while. But she thought it was just a book of topics to talk about and getting over the weirdness of saying words like “sex” and “naked,” whereas she wanted to go deeper.
Once she downloaded the sample, this wife was amazed how much information and communication the book included. She purchased her copy right away and thanked me several times over.
Yep, notes like those are really awesome! But her statement also gave me a V8 moment. (And those of you who don’t know that a V8 moment is suddenly realizing something you should have thought of before, you’re making me feel old.)
Why had I never shared a sample chapter on my blog?!
The introduction to Pillow Talk is a guide on how to use the book. But right after that comes a chapter titled Ground Rules. Since it begins, “Whatever you do, don’t skip this chapter,” let me at least summarize what I said there.
Each conversation chapter consists five sections:
- Introduction—a single paragraph introducing the topic.
- Ask and Listen—three questions to ask of your spouse and then listen to their answers.
- Read and Consider—scripture to read together and thoughts on that passage.
- Touch and Pray—an invitation to hold hands or embrace and pray over what you’ve discussed and learned.
- Go and Do—two activity options to help you apply what you’ve learned.
That second section, Ask and Listen, is where we can fall prey to misunderstanding our spouse, insisting on our perspective, and wading into arguments. To avoid that happening, follow some ground rules.
First, choose a good time and place. Pick a time when both of you can focus and don’t feel too tense, as well as a location that seems neutral and isn’t loaded with distractions.
When it’s your turn to answer.
- Be honest and vulnerable. “There is no great gain in intimacy without vulnerability and authenticity.”
- Consider how you express your concerns. How you express something matters as much as what you express.
- Keep your requests reasonable. For example, don’t demand a strip tease if your wife won’t undress until it’s dark. Ask for progress that can reasonably happen.
When it’s your spouse’s turn to answer.
- Listen. “Do not interrupt, do not correct, do not contradict, do not defend, do not criticize.” (See Are You Listening to What Your Spouse Says About Sex?)
- Stay calm. Easier said than done, but the book has more tips on how to maintain a cool head.
- Seek clarification. If you don’t understand or something feels like an attack, probe a little. Your spouse may not be saying what you think.
- Accept their feelings. Just because you don’t or wouldn’t feel the same way doesn’t make your spouse’s feelings invalid. Even if their feelings are based on error, that doesn’t make them illegitimate.
- Think through their answers. It’s tempting to react quickly, but let your spouse’s words sink in and mull over your response before you speak.
Each of these points is further explained in the book, but those are the basic guidelines.
The first chapter of Pillow Talk is about praying for your sex life. While I believe in the importance of starting there, I’m actually sharing chapter two below, because I think it’s more representative of the book as a whole. Also, this conversation could really help some couples open their eyes to their similarities and differences regarding sexual intimacy in their marriage.
Below is Chapter Two: What We Learned About Sex. Or click the button for a downloadable version you can print out.
How we grew up hearing and thinking about sex can make a big imprint on our perspective later in life. Unfortunately, few Christians report having received thorough, positive, Scripture-based instruction about sexuality. How has what you learned impacted your sexual intimacy?
Ask and Listen
- What’s your earliest memory of sex? When did you learn about it, and what did you learn?
- What messages about sex did you get from your parents, mentors, and the church as you grew up?
- What, if anything, that you learned about sex as a child has negatively affected your view of physical intimacy now?
Read and Consider
Read together Deuteronomy 6:6-9.
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
God’s pronouncement to the Israelites in this passage involved teaching the children who God was, what He had done for His people, and how they should honor Him by living according to His commands. This foundational education was to be an ongoing practice, saturating their daily existence.
Within the law of Moses, they were expected to follow commands about sex which showed God’s desire for it to remain holy and mutually satisfying in marriage. But many of us weren’t taught what God’s design for sex really was. Instead, our parents and church leaders were silent, ignorant, or negative. Often they hadn’t received godly instruction themselves and didn’t know how to teach us.
It’s not too late to learn. God’s Word can still teach you what it means to experience intimate, meaningful, and pleasurable sex as God intended in the covenant bond of marriage.
Touch and Pray
Holy Father, You are the creator of sex, the designer of pleasure and intimacy in the marriage bed. But we have struggled with messages that make it difficult for us to fully embrace the gift You long for us to enjoy. Help us to align our understanding with Yours.
[Pray specifically for the issues you brought up in your conversation.]
In Jesus’ blessed name, Amen.
Go and Do
1. Take a sheet of paper and make two columns. On the left side, write down underlying messages about sex that you got from the teaching you received. Those can be anything from “sex is good in marriage” to “only bad girls want sex” or “sex is for the man.” In the right-hand column, counter any negative messages with your growing understanding of what God says about sexual intimacy. You don’t have to believe these yet, but record what you think is the right answer. Finally, put a star by those erroneous messages you struggle with most.
2. Trade lists. Yes, this is a vulnerable exercise. But let your spouse see where you’re struggling, so they can help and pray for you. In turn, promise to help and pray for your spouse.