Well, my short answer is that God designed sex, so in its right context, it's a gift; and because God designed it, Satan hates it, so in its wrong context, it's a burden and sin.
But let's face it.
The short answer has rarely wrapped up the conversation for us. If it had, we'd have sex all figured out, always celebrating it in its right context and always avoiding it in its wrong context.
Generally speaking, we are easily confused by the things of God -- until we aren't confused and we discover and decide God's way is indeed the best way (even if the larger society tells us otherwise).
I hear from many people who reach a point where they get it -- they get that God designed sex to be a blessing, not a burden.
Sometimes it's a light bulb moment, but more often it's something for which they had to fight hard, on their knees in prayer, at their fingertips through God's Word, and with their ears and heart in dialogue that is more often painful and awkward than easy.
So, let's dig into the long answer.
Marriage is a covenant relationship God designed (a relationship that, not ironically, is what He uses to remind us of His love and oneness with His body of believers).
"This is where you are starting the long answer, Julie? Marriage is a covenant relationship?"
It's vital to the discussion.
When we see a marriage that is strong and healthy (not perfect, mind you, but overall marked by mutual love, compassion, faithfulness, forgiveness, gratitude, honor, intimacy, companionship, etc.), we usually find two people who individually and together recognize that marriage is a covenant.
It's different from all other human relationships. The stakes are higher. The investments greater. The payout -- or fallout -- significantly different than other relationships.
Interestingly, even in a marriage where the two people are not Christians -- but they hold to the covenant attributes I listed above -- we will find a marriage that looks strikingly similar to a strong Christian marriage.
(Regardless of whether two people acknowledge Christ, I still think we are God-designed, and as such, intuitively we long for identity that reflects Him. This sometimes plays itself out in actions, even if the person doesn't claim God as the source. It's how someone can be moral without necessarily being Christian).
Obviously, having Christ at the center of our lives and our marriages is what God desires. BUT do you see how sometimes there is evidence of God's covenant design of marriage where we don't necessarily see evidence of Christian faith?
I think that alone further confirms that marriage is divinely different from any other human relationship. It's like how the Word tells us God's fingerprints are all over the place, leaving us without excuse (Psalm 19:1, Romans 1:20, Luke 19:40).
Anyway. I kind of digressed there.
But it's still vital to my point.
Why does sex cause so much pain and so much joy (and every other thing I listed at the top of this post)?
Because we simply can't escape the undeniable truth that sex is not merely a human issue; it's a God issue.
I think we will never fully wrap our heads and hearts around the depth of the joy or the depth of the pain until we wrestle with the truth that sex is a God issue. What we do sexually matters to God, not in an abstract removed sort of way, but in an intricately connected sort of way.
So where does Satan fit in?
Well, like I mentioned at the beginning, God designed marriage, and that fact alone makes Satan loathe it. He'll do whatever he can to sabotage it.
I don't really want to give the enemy too much air time here, but I encourage you to consider that whenever sex happens outside of marriage or is mishandled within marriage, Satan is within close proximity, pouring lies and confusion into the mix.
Word to the wise, one of the best things you can do for your marriage and your sexual intimacy in marriage is to renounce Satan in the name of Christ. Kick Satan out of your bed. Tell him he's gotta go.
I'm convinced that whether we are trying to heal from sexual pain and injustice or we are trying to thoroughly enjoy sex in its right context, we are best equipped to do that with God.
I know. This post doesn't exactly make for light reading. Or light reflecting. Does it?
Maybe a better way to make it all relevant is to ask you this, "What does sex cause in your heart and in your marriage?"
Take a moment.
Think before you answer.
Yes, I know, many marriages face huge challenges sexually because of monumental betrayals of abuse, adulterous affairs, pornography use. And maybe your marriage is one of those.
I also know many other marriages suffer sexually for no other reason than sexual apathy by one or both spouses.
And, of course, there are marriages where sex is mutually valued, passionately pursued and ravenously enjoyed.
Where you fall on the spectrum with your answer is not near as important as what you do going forward.
My hope is that if sex is a healthy and enjoyed aspect of your marriage, you'll keep heading in that direction.
And if it's not? My hope is you'll do all you can to seek God's heart on how things can get better. Probably not easy, but definitely worth it.
What is sex causing in your marriage?
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
She sent me a copy and offered an additional one I could give away (because honestly, I'm not giving up my copy!)
Keep reading to the end of the post to find out how you can enter for an opportunity to win the free copy.
Here are three things that are astonishingly profound and beautiful about this book:
It's comprehensive without being cumbersome.
Seriously, this is what first caught my attention by the time I was 2-3 chapters in. Juli tackles tough questions and strikes the right chord between saying too much and not saying enough.
She doesn't gloss over tough topics, which makes me think she put a lot of thought into her word choices. She makes every word count. The end result is that in every chapter, she gives us deeply needed points and clarifications -- without drowning us in lengthy hard-to-follow paragraphs.
It's an "easy" read, so to speak, yet doesn't back down from the challenging questions where many women are hungering for solid feedback.
Make no mistake, she drenches this book in God's love and in His indisputable Word. Juli humbly recognizes that without God's wisdom, generosity and truth, we cannot frame sex and intimate love in its right context. We simply can't do it.
If we want to follow His plan, we are left with no choice but to align ourselves with His heart and Word. What we do with our bodies and our relationships matters.
She does a great job conveying all that with grace and love.
The first two points I made are obviously deal-breakers for me if I'm going to recommend a book, but this last one is what really piques my interest.
Is the book conversational? Do I read it and feel like I'm having coffee with this woman?
This is why I think this will be a book that can spur great conversations across generations.
It would be easy to assume the book is geared only toward younger women, but I believe it also would be an ideal book for a women's book club or small group, no matter the ages of the women.
I also think it would be a great book for a couple of single female friends to go through together to help encourage each other and hold each other accountable.
And no doubt it has nuggets of insight for women who are engaged, as well as those who have been married for quite awhile.
So, all that being said, you want to read this book, right?
Or, if you're patient and want a shot at winning the free copy, you can do this:
Simply comment on this post by sharing one question you would love to ask about love, sex and intimacy. (Or maybe it's a question you wish you would have asked long ago).
You can do this anonymously (just put "anonymous" in the name section or make up a name), but be sure to include a real email address where I can reach you (this address won't appear with your comment, but I can see it on the admin side).
On Dec. 1, I will randomly pick a number, and whichever comment that number matches up to, that will be the winner! I'll then email you to get your address so I can have the publisher send you your book.
IMPORTANT: I moderate my comments, so if you make a comment, but don't see it right away, that's because I have to go in and hit "approve." I do this to protect my blog from all those icky links and fake comments that tend to fill blogs if not moderated. I write about sex, people. So you can imagine some of the icky links trying to sabotage my site!
Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, author, speaker and host of the weekly radio program Java with Juli. She is also the cofounder of Authentic Intimacy, a ministry passionate about reclaiming God's design for intimacy. Juli and her husband, Mike, have been married for over 20 years and are raising their three boys in Colorado.
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
I receive more emails and comments from men than I do from women.
This does not surprise me.
What did initially surprise me, though, when I began blogging is the depth of pain expressed in these emails from men who hunger for more sexual intimacy in their marriage.
Notice I just wrote "sexual intimacy," rather than using the word "sex."
Nearly all the communication I receive from husbands clearly shows that sex is not just sex to them (contrary to what popular culture and stereotyping would lead us to believe).
They aren't just looking for a release.
Because let's face it, they could get that from their own hand. Sure, some resort to secret masturbation on a regular basis, because they see no other option afforded them. Yet most would gladly admit that what they really want is to make love to their wife.
Sex is never just about sex. It's about wanting to feel connected, affirmed and one with the person to whom you've pledged your life.
Some marriages are high on conflict about sex and incredibly low on resolution and healing. Two people slowly drift away from each other sexually, either because healing the disconnect is not a shared value or because one or both spouses believe the marriage is irretrievably broken sexually.
My God, marriage is hard, isn't it? I get that. I know.
I don't minimize the challenge it is to build an intimate marriage. Being married is a high and holy calling and it is hard, hard work. And so much impacts sexual intimacy, from hormonal and physical issues to relationship struggles to betrayal to life circumstances to skewed views about sex.
The list goes on.
But it is tragic commentary in a marriage when either spouse has prayed for God to take away something that is inherently woven into the very design of marriage. God's design for marriage.
I am grieved any time I read an email or comment where a husband has resigned to defeat, thinking there is no longer any viable option but to pray -- even beg -- for God to take his sexual desire away.
The devastation of laying next to a woman who neither pursues him sexually nor responds lovingly to his initiation is just too much. Too much.
To frame this in another perspective, consider if you as a wife are feeling emotionally neglected by your husband.
Do you pray that God remove your desire for emotional oneness with the man you fell in love with and married?
Some of you may pray this, but my guess is that most women in that situation do not wish for their desire for emotional connection to go away.
They would rather see the relationship healed and strengthened, right?
Deep down when a husband has prayed God take his sexual desire away, what he is really screaming from the caverns of his soul is that he desperately wants the relationship healed and strengthened.
He wants -- genuinely wants -- authentic sexual intimacy with the woman he married.
If there are struggles in your marriage about sexual frequency, do you ever wonder if your husband has prayed for God to take his sexual desire away?
Well, here's the deal.
God probably isn't going to answer that prayer with a yes.
And even if He did, would we really consider that a victory for your marriage?
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
As someone who blogs about sex, I see common storylines revealed through the comments and emails I receive.
Yes. I know.
Every marriage is unique with its own details, history, circumstances, plots and perplexities.
But today I want to talk about marriages where there are no huge struggles -- except for sexual intimacy.
One spouse wants sex more often. The other spouse couldn't care less about sex.
Maybe sex happens every now and then, but usually in these marriages, weeks or months will go by with no sex. Obligatory sex makes its appearance occasionally, just to keep the peace.
But eh, not always.
What then? Well, maybe you see your own marriage peek out from this sexual dynamic:
The refused spouse responds to the ongoing refusal by taking a practical approach. They logistically think that if they can just "win" their spouse over with good deeds and romantic gestures, the natural response from their disengaged spouse will be more sexual interest.
Sadly, that usually doesn't happen.
So then the refused spouse tries to address the issue in a more direct way through conversations or questions about "what may be wrong" or "why don't you want to have sex" and so forth.
This usually garners a bit of defensiveness from the spouse who is doing the refusing.
The spouse who doesn't see sex as a priority starts to throw into the arena questions like "Is that all you think about?" and "It's just about sex, isn't it?"
A back-and-forth battle ensues. it's intermittent, though, resulting in discouragement and anger, but rarely humility and hunger to draw close.
Classic passive aggressiveness from both sides may arrive on the scene too. Silent treatment. Manipulation. Withholding sex as a way to punish a spouse. Lack of respect. Sabotaging things that are important to one another.
The emotional chasm is like a sleeping giant just below the surface. It begins to define their new normal of little or no sex.
And then, if all of that doesn't compel some positive change, they arrive at a crossroads.
I say "they," but what I really mean is that one of them -- the rejected spouse -- has arrived at the crossroads. The spouse doing the refusing is oblivious that the crossroads is right beneath their feet (or right in the middle of their bed, as the case may be).
At this crossroads, the refused spouse makes a decision -- to either shut down completely sexually (setting up unspoken emotional distance and boundaries at the same time) OR to begin begging for sex.
Shutting down. Or begging.
That's usually the decision happening at the crossroads.
So, my question to you is, if the above scenario feels painfully and eerily familiar (like I'm literally describing what's going on in your marriage right now), what is happening at that crossroads?
Is the refused spouse shutting down? Or are they begging for sex?
Those two options are not good. Like not good in a "huge red flag" sort of way.
None of us stands at an altar and imagines a day when we will shut down emotionally and physically to our spouse. Or a day when we will have to beg -- literally beg -- for sex.
These are hard hard things. I know.
You may be the spouse doing the refusing. Or you may be the spouse being refused.
Regardless, the status quo is unsustainable.
My hope is that somehow the two of you will move TOGETHER toward healing and strengthening your marriage, including your sexual intimacy. This blog post may just be your wake up call.
So, wake up. Please wake up.
"A year from now what will you wish you had done today?" -- Liam Linisong
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
Things are getting nice and steamy when suddenly, out of nowhere, the thought pops into your head: "I think we're out of vacuum bags."
And then you start wondering what else you need at the store.
And the mood is gone.
Most of us women are by our very nature multi-taskers, probably more so by necessity than by choice.
At any given time, a woman must mentally and sometimes physically keep tabs on a barrage of specifics.
You could be making the grocery list AND preparing a proposal for work AND checking on the child’s homework. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on in your world.
Now, to be fair to the men, I think they too juggle quite a few details. It seems, though, the tasks many women must focus upon have daily urgency, especially if you are in charge of the calendar and anything associated with the children.
After awhile, all that multi-tasking can take a toll! And maybe it’s taking too big of a toll on sex with your husband.
It’s just hard to step back from a relentless “to do” list and gain perspective, because honestly, sex feels like one more thing on the list.
It’s not that you don’t want to offer your body and your undivided heart and mind. It just feels impossible to give him the whole package on any given day.
If that describes how you feel, what can you do to stop the negative impact multi-tasking is having on sex in your marriage?
Here are 4 ideas:
1. Recognize it’s an issue.
Nothing will dig you deeper into a hole than denial. We like to tell ourselves we can do it all well, but truth is that some things suffer.
You have to start counting the costs. Maybe instead of juggling so many balls, let a few fall – the ones that don’t have big consequences.
The health of your marriage is vital, so that’s one you don’t want to leave to chance.
Take an honest look at what you have expected from yourself as a mother, homemaker, volunteer and employee. If you have set the bar unreasonably high (maybe even bordering on perfection) in some of those areas, decide to give on a few things.
The energy and focus you will have for intimacy with your husband is worth it.
2. Enlist the help of your man.
You may think I’m going to say get him more involved in wrangling some of those details, so they are on his plate and not yours. Well, that’s not a bad idea, but that’s not exactly where I’m going.
What I really mean by “enlist” his help is be frank with him about what you need to de-program and reset your mind for getting busy beneath the sheets.
If you know that a hot shower or a hot bath will relax you, then tell him that’s what you need – and ask him to help you make room for that.
If you need more foreplay to redirect your mind toward sex, then tell him you need more foreplay.
If you need to go for a walk after dinner so you can just vent all the things that are on your mind and get them out, then tell him! I explain it to my husband like this:
"Inside my head are all of these different pinballs, just like on a pinball machine, going back and forth, rattling around in my brain. If I'm going to be able to enjoy sex tonight, I've got to get those pinballs out first!"
Sure, your brain's default is to multitask. But that doesn't mean it HAS to multitask. You just have to fight back!
And the way to do that is to get out of your brain and start focusing on your body. When you're making love, ask yourself, "What feels good right now?" Or "Where do I want him to touch right now?"
That may sound clinical, but here's what often happens to us women:
We start making love, and nothing feels that great because we're thinking of a thousand different things. We figure that if our husbands do just the right thing and are perfect lovers, they'll get us out of our heads and they'll make us feel good. So until we feel good, we'll just make a grocery list.
But your body can't feel good -- no matter what your husband does -- until you concentrate on it, because our sex drives are almost entirely in our brains. If our brains aren't engaged, our bodies won't follow.
So the answer is not for our husbands to be perfect lovers (though that can't hurt!); it's for us to fight against the grocery list and start thinking about our bodies.
That gets our brains thinking below our necks, and helps our bodies to engage. When you ask yourself, "What feels good right now?", you may just realize that something does!
And then you can go with that feeling.
Oh, and if you do figure out that something wants to be touched -- tell him!
4. Stop thinking sex is just for him.
One last thing: as busy as we are as wives and mothers and workers, sometimes we think that sex is “just for him.” As long as you show up, all is good, right? Wrong.
Sex is for you too. And beyond the obvious benefit of strengthening your marriage, it also has other awesome effects.
It helps relieve stress, contributes to your general sense of well-being, and releases healthy endorphins into your system.
And besides all that -- it helps you sleep! How many times did I say, "Not tonight, honey. I'm just exhausted," only to lie there and toss and turn because I know I've disappointed him, I'm ticked because he's ticked, and we're both not sleeping?!
But when we have sex, I sleep like a rock! So now when I'm tired I say, "Come put me to sleep, baby!"
Plain and simple, nurtured sexual intimacy can help you have a better outlook on your crazy busy life. Sex isn’t just good for your marriage. It’s good for you. And you’re worth that kind of investment.
Looking back on some of the above ideas, what are you inspired to do differently going forward?
Google defines skew as "make biased or distorted in a way that is regarded as inaccurate, unfair, or misleading."
We’re surrounded by skewed sexuality.
Porn skews the thinking of men and a growing number of women. Various non-porn magazines teach all kinds of inaccurate things about sex.
We get sexual messages from TV, our friends, church, and our culture in general.
So many sexual messages, and virtually all of them are inaccurate, unfair or misleading.
As a part of our modern culture, you’ve had a number of skewed sexual beliefs piled on you. Even worse, it started long before you were interested in sex.
Your thinking about sex was skewed before you were really thinking about sex. We’re like fish who have no idea we are in water because it's always been there.
Are those skewed beliefs destroying sex in your marriage? They certainly are not making sex great!
More than a decade ago, a missionary to China told my wife and me a very sad story. Western-style porn had become available in China, and those who watched it tended to decide what they saw was how sex is supposed to happen. Husband and wife would watch porn, and then try to emulate what they watched.
Unable to do what they saw, they blamed each other. At best this led to frustration and anger; at worst, it led to divorce. Skewed sexual beliefs destroyed not only their sex lives, but also sometimes ended their marriages!
We tell ourselves we're more sophisticated than those folks in China seeing porn for the first time. We tell ourselves we're less easily influenced by skewed sex messages. Perhaps both of these are true, but only to a degree.
Some of the most dangerous skewed sexual beliefs are the negative things we get from our family of origin and the church.
These range from subtle hints that sex is overrated to blatant proclamations sex is just for men. Mothers "warn" their daughters to protect themselves from their husbands, rather than encouraging them to enjoy sex with abandon. They pass their disappointment and frustration on to the next generation, setting up another marriage for sexual problems.
God says sex is good.
He says both men and women should greatly want and wildly enjoy sex.
In the Song of Songs and elsewhere in the Bible, several passages talk about sexual abandon using words normally applied to being intoxicated with alcohol.
God is not calling us to limited, orderly sex; He’s calling us to wild, uninhibited enjoyment of His gift of sex in marriage.
Any beliefs at odds with what God says are skewed beliefs. If you want a better sex life, root out skewed beliefs and reject them the way you would reject any other kind of posion!
“Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love!” [SS 5:1b ESV]
Paul has been blogging about marriage since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. He blogs to men on The Generous Husband, to women on The XY Code, and writes about all things sexual with his wife Lori on The Marriage Bed. He and Lori recently set out on an adventure to become full-time RVers.
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
I'm probably going to frustrate a few people with this post.
Or maybe not. I'm not sure.
At any rate, soldier on in reading, even if you are tempted to stop. Where I am going may surprise you.
Sometimes I hear from husbands who are not interested in sex because their wife has "let herself go" -- not shown interest in being healthy, wearing attractive clothing or embracing her femininity.
Sometimes it is wives who are emailing me about their husband who has put on some extra pounds, not paid attention to his grooming like he did when they were first married and stopped embracing his manliness.
And sometimes the emails are from people lamenting not about their spouse, but about themselves, claiming they "let themselves go" and this is the reason for the intimacy woes that are plaguing the marriage.
Whether someone is complaining about their spouse or complaining about themselves, I think this whole "let yourself go" issue is not really the issue.
Because let's be honest. For the vast majority of people, your body at 40 or 50 is not going to look like your body at 20.
It's just not, what with that thing called aging (not to mention carrying and birthing and nursing the little tykes for us women).
That's not to say you can't aim toward being physically healthy, dressing in appropriately fitting and attractive clothing, and so forth. Yes, this is all well and good.
BUT, the real issue, in my opinion, is your attitude about sexual intimacy and your willingness to have healthy confidence in yourself (not just in your body).
Do you want to know something about those scenarios I shared at the beginning of this post? The ones where I hear from people complaining about their spouse "letting themselves go"?
Those emails by far are a tiny percentage compared to the number of emails and comments I receive, particularly from husbands, who actually have a different quandary.
What torments these guys is their wife has let go of her sexual confidence, despite the husband's repeated encouragement and affirmation.
You see, these men don't care about the extra pounds their wife has put on. And they don't care that she doesn't look like she did when they first married.
What the husband hungers for is a wife who wants to make love, wants to be close and wants to give him the privilege of seeing her naked body.
But she is resistant, even belligerently self-defeating when it comes to nurtured sexual intimacy and sexual passion in the marriage.
The husband isn't hung up on what she perceives as having "let herself go."
If you are still reading, this may well be your come to Jesus moment as far as what has truly been sabotaging intimacy in your marriage bed.
Maybe you have. And maybe it has nothing to do with your body.
I hear from countless guys who say that what they find incredibly sexy is sexual confidence.
Given the choice, they would be more excited about a wife who maybe has put on some extra weight and has a few wrinkles YET still has interest and enthusiasm in bed than a wife who looks like a Victoria Secret model YET has zero interest in sexual passion with her husband.
I could do a "man on the street" survey (because, honestly, that sounds like fun). You know where I would arrive with that survey?
That a wife's sexual confidence is sacred ground -- thoroughly enjoyed by husbands whose wives exhibit it -- and coveted by countless husbands whose wives don't have it (and have no interest in having it).
I'm just not so sure this "let yourself go" argument is really about what we have too often made it about.
I think the deeper issue is about sexual confidence. Not the extra baby weight.
If you're going to let go of anything, let go of this idea that you first have to lose the extra weight or get in better shape before you build sexual confidence.
A better approach just might be to build sexual confidence now.
What do you think?
And for more reading, check out my favorite post on "body image" at this link.
And I might catch some grief for sharing the below video, but it has an incredibly powerful message (warning though, especially for guys, it does contain subtle nudity).
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
I am so grateful for Cassie's willingness to be a part of this series. She offers great insights on the reality that it is often the small grievances that turn into huge roadblocks in our relationship.
When Ryan and I started dating. we made an agreement to deal with issues as they arose.
In past relationships, we hid our true feelings, pushed concerns back and dealt with problems once they became big enough that they couldn't be ignored. Those past relationships in part did not work out because of those reasons.
We wanted our relationship to be different, to be genuine.
We will soon celebrate our 4th anniversary. I feel like Ryan and I have done pretty well with our agreement. We have had very few big issues because lack of communication. But to be honest, it's the small things that I constantly have to check myself about.
I must be willing to forgive the little things or else they become big things. Big things that can start destroying our sex life.
How can unforgiveness destroy our sex life?
There are certainly big issues in marriages that cause unforgiveness. However, for me, and for others, they are typically small disappointments.
We weren't asked if he could help with dinner.
We wished they would have spent more time with us this weekend.
She didn't do something she said she was going to.
These are small disappointments that can easily be talked over and forgiven. But instead, if we focus on those unmet expectations, we can become angry. Our anger can turn into bitterness and then resentment.
In return, staying resentful then makes us come to a stage when we just don't care anymore.
When you "just don't care" anymore it is hard to connect in general, but even more so during sex.
Sex was created to be an intimate action to draw closer together as husband and wife. If we have walls build up from hurt, unmet expectations, anger and unforgiveness, we tend to either avoid sex or complete the act disconnected. Both of those will destroy our marriage sex life.
Ways to overcome unforgiveness to benefit our marriage bed
It comes down to the simple, but not easy, fact that we have to forgive. Forgiveness is not an option, but a must. God forgave us for our sins; therefore, we are called to forgive others of theirs.
Here are some tips to help your heart to genuinely forgive:
Personally, staying focused on the fact that sin is sin can also be helpful. That all sin is equal. And all of my sins were forgiven by God who loves me unconditionally.
That is what helps me to forgive and love Ryan even when my human self doesn't think it is possible. It is not in my own strength that I am able to forgive, but with the strength of God.
Cassie Celestain is a wife, mom, runner and a marriage and family blogger at True Agape. She believes respect, trust, understanding and willingness creates happy marriages and families. She strives to keep those things the main focus in her daily life and wants to challenge others to do the same.
Occasionally, I receive an email from someone who is beyond frustration (and somewhat exasperated) by the fact that they have never had sex in their marriage.
Usually the person I hear from is the one being denied sex, and they don't know how to resolve this.
One husband who wrote to me said he and his wife had been married 7 years and never once had had sex. Seriously. 7 Years.
Most emails I get about this topic, though, are desperate cries for help from people who have been married less than a couple of years.
Regardless of how long a couple has been married -- a few months or a few years or even longer -- it is not okay that one person (or sadly, in some cases, both people) have completely avoided consummating the marriage.
Sex is part of marriage. No matter how anyone would try to argue or justify otherwise, God and His Word are not vague about this. Sex is intricately woven into the design of marriage.
Yes, in some instances, there are medical reasons that make it difficult for a woman in particular to have intercourse. She likely was a virgin when she married, and understandably didn't know these challenges even existed until she and her husband tried to have sex.
I'm not downplaying physical challenges.
In those instances, I know it takes courage for a woman to reach out to doctors, but that is what she needs to do. The impact of physical challenges, such as vaginismus, often can be eliminated or at least minimized through the right physical therapy and medical assistance.
If you think there is a physical challenge that is preventing you from having AND enjoying sex, please do not delay in seeing a gynecologist. If you have to, get second and third opinions. Don't give up.
If there is not a physical reason for sex being painful or extremely difficult, then what could be some of the other reasons sex hasn't happened?
If you are in a marriage that has not been consummated or if sex has happened only a few times, do any of the below resonate with you:
1 Do you have skewed views about sex?
Did you grow up hearing that sex is always wrong, dirty or gross? Sadly, Christians perpetuate these lies the most, particularly Christians who never saw the value of sex in their own marriages.
Or did you simply hear "don't do it" so often in your teen years and early 20s, that now it is difficult for you to see sex as permissible, even though you are married? Oh my, I hear from many married women who don't know how to "flip the switch" and now see sex as something to pursue rather than something to avoid.
I encourage you to dig into God's Word and reliable Christian resources that will help you see that sex is a totally good and needed experience in your marriage. God designed sexual pleasure and sexual oneness for a husband and a wife.
It's time to put lies and half-truths behind you and get down to the holy business of being married, including enjoying sex.
2 Are you scared that you don't know how to have sex?
If you and/or your spouse were virgins when you married, you may feel apprehensive about sex, because you aren't sure how to have sex.
There's a lot to be said for trial and error -- simply exploring each other's bodies and offering good feedback to each other about what feels good. Give yourself permission and room to learn and grow in your sexual confidence.
Don't rule out books, websites, etc., that give solid Christian guidance on enjoying sex.
3 Do you have relationship struggles outside of bed?
If you and your spouse are already having a hard time enjoying each other's friendship and company while you are clothed, it is no wonder that getting naked and vulnerable beneath the sheets feels impossible.
Don't ignore the disconnect and problems you are having in your relationship.
The more you shed light on those problems and seek to resolve them, the more likely your intimacy (sexual and otherwise) will grow.
4 Are you stuck in the "no sex" routine?
Sometimes when I hear from people who haven't had sex yet in their marriage, the scenario looks something like this:
The wedding was so exciting and exhausting and incredible. Then the honeymoon was eagerly anticipated, yet the couple was still exhausted from all the wedding festivities. Then they came home to settle into life together, go back to work, and write thank you notes.
And. Still. No. Sex.
Before long, they fell into a routine of "no sex," all the while thinking, "It will happen someday."
Someday never came. And then weeks and months (and sometimes years) passed, and someday still never came.
And now the two people are paralyzed (and possibly embarrassed) in knowing how to finally have sex.
If that describes your situation, time for a heart-to-heart with each other. Time to get real. This situation isn't going to fix itself.
The two of you are going to have to get outside your comfort zone, get outside your routine and start exploring a sexual relationship with each other.
You are husband and wife. You need to be having sex.
5 Were you sexually abused in your past?
Your hesitancy about sex could be rooted in the tragic experience of past sexual abuse.
Sometimes people know full well they were abused and other people have repressed these experiences, only to have them then resurface during intimate encounters during their marriage.
If you were sexually abused in any way, I hope and pray you know that those people who wronged you and committed the abuse are to blame, not you. While healing from and moving beyond past sexual abuse can be a difficult journey, that kind of healing is vital for the health of your marriage.
There are resources available to help you face and heal from that pain, including counseling, books, seminars, blogs, etc.
The reality is that as a married person, you are left with a choice. You can either continue to let that abuse wreak havoc and devastation in your life or you can find ways to embrace sex in its right context of marriage and enjoy it.
Don't let past sexual abuse continue to rob you and the person with whom you fell in love. Sexual abuse has already taken enough from you.
The above 5 reasons are not exhaustive, but they cover quite a bit of ground as to why a couple possibly hasn't had sex yet.
For some couples, this is a real issue. And they would never dream of talking about it, even to their closest friends or family, for fear of feeling like a failure or being seen as an oddity.
But I want to shed light into those dark places and speak hope into your discouragement and paralysis.
If there really is no reason you shouldn't be having sex (like illness, injury or extended separation because of military deployment or work commitments), then you need to be having sex -- and finding ways to fully enjoy it.
You are worth it. Your spouse is worth it. Your marriage is worth it.
Copyright 2015, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.
Jennifer also is author of the book The Unveiled Wife, which I reviewed here.
Finances are one of the greatest contributions to marital stress.
Many conversations and even arguments are held between couples regarding how money is spent. It is one of those necessities in life that influences and affects us in many ways, including our emotions and attitude.
I believe finances can be a source of contention in marriage because our expectations of how we experience life are dependant upon them.
When I became a wife, I desired a nice home with nice things. The reality of our situation was that we decided to put that kind of life on hold to travel as missionaries. However, in our second year of marriage, we returned to our hometown because we were low on funds and my husband’s debt came looking for payment.
We lived with my family for two years, as we put every penny we earned toward paying off my husband’s school loan. I did not always have a good attitude about how much money we were sending away.
Truth be told, I emotionally kicked and screamed, blaming my husband for his debt being the cause of misery in our marriage. I was angry that our financial situation was so bleak and I dwelt on all the things our money could buy instead of getting out of debt.
I harbored bitterness in my heart toward my husband, because we always seemed so low on funds. I was convinced I had made a mistake getting married and that the life we had together was not the life I wanted.
My attitude and the negative thoughts that stirred in my heart kept me from being intimate with my husband.We already had intimacy issues in the bedroom, but this was just one more reason as to why I never initiated sexual intimacy.
Our finances were destroying our sex life!
It was not until I grew in maturity and in my understanding of how important it was for our future to be debt free that I was able to embrace being a team with my husband to knock out the debt together.
It required that I changed my attitude and my perspective of our situation. It required that I sacrificed the things I desired during the time we were striving to get debt free, so that we would have the means to build the life we desired.
Once I was able to accept the responsibility of being one with my husband in the area of finances and agree to the budget we set up, I was better able to embrace true intimacy with him in other areas of our marriage, namely sex.
I believe there are many marriages where couples are so torn apart in an area such as finances, that they are hindered in their sexual intimacy. We need to recognize the importance of being a team with our spouse, especially in finances.
We need to be willing to communicate about the state of our money and keep each other accountable to reaching specific financial goals. As we do this, we will see the positive impact it has on our intimacy.
My challenge for you is to have a transparent conversation with your spouse about the state of your finances and make a plan of action that you both can keep each other accountable too as you strive to reach your goals.
Be open about how your finances and the way each of you spend money makes you feel. Also, be sure to listen just as you desire your spouse to listen. Be willing to come to agreement about your budget, including the sacrifices you may need to make now for the benefit of your future.
And lastly, encourage each other in the area of finances and communicate about your budget daily to avoid letting bitterness settle in your hearts.