As this is the month of love, I wanted to take some time to give a few practical points of encouragement and advice, as well as resources, to the married readers out there.
This will be an overview of some of the most common issues that arise in couples’ sex lives. I hope to provide some practical tips and resources that may be beneficial. I also hope to normalize some of the very common struggles that arise. As one of my good friends would often say, “Two of the most healing words in the English language are, ‘Me too.’ ” Know you are not alone in any problem or struggle. Many have walked through it before you, and you have Emmanuel — God with us — by your side every step of the way. With that, let’s dive in!
Practical Advice to Improve Your Sex Life
1. Discuss what is pleasurable and appealing to both partners.
Talk about your sex life with one another! For some reason, we often think sex should just come naturally and we don’t need to communicate about it, but that is so untrue. We need to talk to our spouse about the things he does that arouse us or the things he does that are, well, not-so-arousing.
This conversation is best had after the heat of the moment where it can usually be received with more grace and less embarrassment or offense. Giving each other insight into your experience allows it to be more pleasurable for each of you. There is freedom in the marital bed to explore, learn, and have fun. That being said, 1 Corinthians 6:12 (CSB) states, “Everything is permissible for me — but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me — but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Freedom must always be balanced with self-control. To me, this means that if both couples cannot say “yes” with their whole heart, then it does not have a place in the marital bed. No sexual act should ever cause a spouse to feel used, less than, or hurt. The marriage is about a partnership, and we are called to love one another as Christ loves the Church. He loved us so much that He died for us. If we are forcing our spouse to do something they are uncomfortable with or do not feel peace about, we are placing our needs before theirs and possibly causing one another to sin.
2. Make intimacy the goal, not orgasm.
If there was one message I could share about sex, this is it. To me, this encompasses so much of God’s heart. While I believe He gave us orgasms as a complete gift (fun fact: they are completely unnecessary to reproduction and most living creatures do not have them), I do not believe God ever wanted them to be our focus. He knows our hearts so much better than us and created us to be in community.
While orgasm may help us to feel close to our spouse, the nearness does not last near as long as a deeper intimacy. This type of intimacy is fostered both inside and outside of the bedroom by mutual submission, service, quality time, and a foundation in the Lord. I encourage you to check your heart’s motivation as you engage sexually with your spouse. I so often find myself feeling like an encounter was a failure if one or both of us did not experience an orgasm, but that is such a deceptive way of viewing that interaction! I end up feeling more distant from my husband than close to him, which I believe is exactly where the enemy would like us to be.
Orgasms can be impacted by so many things — stress, hormones, and performance anxiety to name a few. This cannot be the standard by which we measure our sex lives. I believe God’s standard is intimacy, yada sex — truly knowing and connecting with our spouses. Seek pleasure with your spouse within that covering and make intimacy and honoring one another the ultimate goal.
3. Talk about frequency.
Again, talk about it! I cannot tell you how much this simple conversation changed my sex life with my husband. We too frequently put unrealistic expectations on ourselves or on our spouse that could be greatly changed by some clear communication. In every couple there is going to be what is called a desire discrepancy — essentially one spouse is going to want to have sex more often than the other. That is because we are uniquely created human beings, so we are rarely going to spontaneously desire one another at the exact same time (as much as the movies and TV shows would lead us to think otherwise).
It differs in each couple which partner has the higher desire. Both roles present their own unique blessings and challenges. The most important way we can avoid conflict and hurting one another as a result of this discrepancy is to communicate about it and lay out our hopes and expectations. Instead of assuming that you know what your partner wants, ask him!
I will never forget when I finally got up the courage to ask my husband what he desired and expected regarding the frequency of sex — it was so different that what I thought and lifted such a weight off my shoulders! I had been placing an expectation on myself that was unrealistic and constantly had me feeling like a failure. Discuss your desires and set achievable realistic goals. Keep in mind that these goals will likely change with seasons of life. Also, if you are the lower desire partner, begin to recognize receptive desire (saying “yes” to your higher desire partner’s initiation) as desire. Just because you may not be the initiator the majority of the time, does not mean you do not desire sex.
4. Don’t push through the pain.
Pain is a very common issue in sex. It is important that if you are experiencing ongoing pain during sex, you do not just try to push through it or accept it, but seek help, whether it be through reading resources that give tips for better understanding or seeking counseling from a Christian sex therapist. This is important because when we try to push through pain, we stop associating sex with intimacy and pleasure and start associating it with pain and disappointment. This then decreases our desire for sex, which can become more painful if we are less aroused.
For a practical tip, I greatly encourage you to use lubricant if you are experiencing pain during sex and see if that helps. Wet is a great one to try and PreSeed is a great option if you are trying to conceive. (Don’t lubricants just have the best names?) Keep in mind that some lubricants can make it more difficult to conceive, so do your research if that is your stage of life. If this does not help, please refer to some of the resources I will provide or seek counseling. There is victory for you in this — please do not give up!
5. Seek help if you are struggling with the aftereffects of sexual abuse.
It is heartbreaking to know how common this is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2006), statistics show that 1 in 3 girls will be abused and 1 in 6 boys. As I discussed in my first article, sex is an incredibly powerful act and the enemy will do all he can to use what God created for good to bring about pain and destruction. But we serve an even greater God who is faithful to redeem and heal. He says, “I will repay you for the years that the locusts have eaten” (Joel 2:25).
His testimony in you will be great. I encourage you to seek healing through discipleship, small groups, counseling, and Christian sex therapy. God often chooses to heal us through His people, and this is a journey that is so difficult to recover from alone. Press into the more He has for you, friend. He weeps over your pain and seeks to heal the hurting places. He will honor your bravery as you take courage and seek the healing He offers.
6. Make an effort to keep things fun!
I know this can sound so cliché, but it truly is a challenge for most of us married couples. We get into our routines and sex can often become an afterthought or just something we need to check off our weekly to-do list. It can become something we dread if there is no excitement or fun in it. Some ways to incorporate more fun into your sex life:
- Be willing to try new positions or plan to be intimate in a different room of the house if possible.
- Plan a vacation or a mini-weekend getaway. Make sure that where you go and what you do are things that are refreshing and relaxing to you as a couple so that you have the energy to invest in time making love. For most women, our bodies are very sensitive to stress, and it can shut down our sex drives when we are overwhelmed. (Now, how often are most women in modern-day America not stressed?) Taking time to re-connect and enjoy one another’s company will likely help your body get ready for intimacy and make you more attracted to your spouse as you connect more deeply with him.
- Prepare yourself and allow the Lord to stir desire in you for your spouse. This is sometimes a strange concept to grasp because we often want to think that God is somehow separated from our sexuality, but as we have discussed in the past two posts, He is the One who created our sexuality and intended sex as the ultimate way to connect with one’s spouse — mind, body, and spirit. That being said, I believe God is very faithful to answer the prayers of a wife who longs to enjoy sex and please her husband. What a blessing it is to our spouses when we enjoy the intimate act with them! Invite God to stir up desire in you and to bless your sex lives. Also, practically prepare yourself. For women, this may mean making time to shave your legs that morning or having a cute pair of underwear on that make you feel attractive and sexy. I have become convinced that lingerie was invented as much for women as it was for men because it reminds us that we were created as sexual beings, which can often be a part of ourselves that goes unnoticed or is pushed back behind work schedules, children’s needs, meal planning, running errands — you name it. Spending this time to prepare and invest in your sex life can make a huge difference.
- Set the atmosphere — that may mean dimming the lights, putting on clean sheets, lighting up that favorite candle. Anything that helps you relax and be present goes a long way.
Bless you, sweet friends! It has been a privilege to come alongside you for these past few weeks. I pray that God would continue to mold us and our relationships increasingly into His likeness as we seek to know Him more intimately and honor Him with our thoughts and actions. Thank you for taking the time to read (or listen!). May He continue to whisper sweet things to your hearts as you trust in Him.
A few of the Christian resources Amy recommends to help you navigate issues related to purity, sex in marriage, struggles with homosexuality, sex abuse, etc., to aid you in whatever season of life or stage you find yourself in:
A Celebration of Sex, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau
A Celebration of Sex for Newlyweds, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau
When Two Become One: Enhancing Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, by Christopher and Rachel McCluskey
The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide to Survivors of Sexual Abuse, by Wendy Maltz
Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under God’s Control, by Elizabeth Elliot
A Celebration of Sex After 50, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau and Dr. Jim and Carolyn Childerston
Homosexuality and the Christian: A Guide for Parents, Pastors, and Friends, by Dr. Mark A. Yarhouse
Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, by Dr. Kevin Leman
Soul Virgins: Redefining Single Sexuality, by Dr. Douglas E. Rosenau and Michael Todd Wilson
If you need to find a certified Christian sex therapist in your area, check out the following link: http://abcst.sexualwholeness.com/abcst-therapists-list.