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I hear a lot of heartache and trainwreck in the emails I get.
It debilitates me and motivates me at the same time.
And though each marriage is unique -- and the sexual challenges therein are unique -- I've come to believe there are 5 primary ways we've complicated sexual intimacy and marriage.
And by "others" I mean the whole slew of people and societal noisemakers that perpetuate lies about sexual intimacy in marriage.
Did some well-meaning Christians along the way tell you that sex is mere duty or that it is gross or that it is always sinful (even in the marriage bed) or that it is only important for making babies?
Yeah. They lied.
Sure, they maybe didn't mean to lie (and let's face it, they probably were just projecting upon you their own messed up lens of sexuality).
But the fact still remains. They lied. Fed you a bunch of nonsense that is not biblically based and is probably wreaking havoc in your marriage.
And don't even get me started about society and advertising and the entertainment industry that would have you believe all the good sex is casual hook-up sex or "friends-with-benefits" sex or adulterous sex or perfect-body sex.
In the same breath, they tell you too that sex in marriage is destined to be routine, predictable, boring and/or non-existent.
Well, no matter where the lies have come from, it's time you stop believing them.
Try God's Word instead. For that matter, try God instead.
He is the author of sex. The clitoris was His handiwork. Orgasm for a husband and a wife was His gift to married folk.
And nowhere does He say that sex is just for procreation. Or that it is supposed to be boring. He says the opposite actually. And desires that you find extraordinary sex in your ordinary life.
Better to listen to His truths rather than everyone else's lies.
Sexual intimacy in marriage is unique in that it is the one form of intimacy that clearly a person biblically can get only from their spouse.
I'm not saying emotional betrayal is not a real thing -- when one person builds an unhealthy emotional connection with someone of the opposite sex who is not their spouse. Those boundaries, though, are not as clear cut.
But sexual pleasure -- well, there's no mistaking when this boundary has been crossed, right?
Sadly -- yet not surprisingly -- someone often steps outside this sexual boundary after having first wandered over the emotional intimacy boundary.
Here's the deal. Sex is part of marriage.
If you have forgotten that or never comprehended that -- or if you simply always viewed it as a negotiable, a "take it or leave it," a fringe benefit that you may or may not get around to giving and receiving -- well, that perspective is robbing your marriage.
Marriage is different from any other human relationship, and sex is one way God ordained to set marriage apart from your other relationships.
If sexual refusal or indifference has been your mantra to your spouse, I encourage you to humble yourself, ask for forgiveness and express a desire that the two of you intentionally build something healthier going forward.
I'm not saying you don't need godly boundaries.
If your spouse is suggesting bringing a third party into your bedroom or wants you to partake in viewing porn or wants to do something sexually that is physically or emotionally painful, then certainly you need to express your concerns firmly. God's Word offers wise instruction and your first allegiance is to what He says about sex.
But if you are getting all melodramatic simply because your spouse suggested oral sex or a different position or a little more playful foreplay or even just more sex, pa-lease -- for the sake of your marriage -- stop being so easily offended.
The solution? Talk more about sex in your marriage. Communication is the pathway to healing miscommunication. Is that hard work? Well, in some cases, yes. But it's not revolutionary. It's not impossible.
Mutual sexual satisfaction is built. It doesn't materialize all on its own.
Selfishness can show up and engulf a marriage bed in a variety of ways.
Sometimes it looks like bartering ("I'll give my spouse sex if they do this, this and this.")
Sometimes it looks passive aggressive ("He's not getting anything for a long time. And I'm not going to tell him why. And I'm not going to be more mature and actually work on our struggles.")
Sometimes it looks like the sins of adultery, promiscuous flirting with others and porn addiction.
Other times it looks like a one-sided pleasure trip, whereby one of you is sexually satisfied at the expense of the other's lack of sexual pleasure.
No mutuality. No paying attention to what it will take for the other person to enjoy sex. No going out of your way to take to heart 1 Corinthians 7, which tells you to not withhold your body. No love-drenched sex offered.
Sexual selfishness can be a tough one to slay. But the couples who figure out how to slay it -- especially at the foot of the cross -- well, they discover instead a sexual availability and passion that is foundational to the health of their marriage.
This is a serious one. And I don't take it lightly, because I am immersed in a topic that is wrought with its own propensity for sin and pain.
I have long believed that the degree to which God designed sex to be sacred, beautiful, pleasurable and bonding to a marriage -- the other side of the spectrum shows us the degree to which we have a propensity to immerse it in sin.
Sexual promiscuity. Sexual abuse. Sex trafficking. Adultery. Shame from unplanned pregnancies. Shame from having multiple sexual partners. Shame from premarital sex.
(Shame, by the way, is the work of the enemy who wants to separate us from God. Holy Spirit conviction, on the other hand, is the work of the Lord trying to compel us to repentance and draw us near to Him.)
Wherever there is tragedy in your past with regard to sex -- whether it was inflicted upon you or was the result of your own decisions -- God wants to speak hope and healing into those tender areas. He doesn't want your past to define sex in your marriage now.
But He asks you to partner with Him in that healing path.
If that means getting professional counseling, then do it. If it means attending a support group, then do it. If it means journaling or pouring yourself into His Word or seeking the counsel of mature Christians, then do it.
Though your sexual pain of the past is a tragedy, it would be a greater tragedy if you allowed that pain to continue to sabotage sex in your marriage.
The above 5 ways that we've complicated sex and marriage are not insurmountable.
Baby steps count. No, you can't control what your spouse does, but you can control your own actions. And you can pray for your spouse and your marriage and your sexual intimacy.
Walking in the direction of healthy patterns takes courage and tenacity -- and sometimes you have to do it in the face of many challenges -- but what's the alternative?
A mediocre marriage?
A heart full of regrets and could-haves and should-haves?
Yeah, none of that sounds good.
Copyright 2014, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.