5 Ways We’ve Complicated Sex and Marriage

complicated sexual intimacy

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.

Do you see yourself in any of these…

1.  Have you believed the lies of others?

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.

2.  Have you forgotten that sex is part of marriage?

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.

3.  Are you too easily offended?

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.

4. Are you sexually selfish?

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.

5. Are you unwilling to do the hard work of healing from your tragic sexual past?

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.

22 thoughts on “5 Ways We’ve Complicated Sex and Marriage

  1. JustWant2BOne says:

    Wow, Julie!! Just reading this blog post nearly took my breath away.

    You hit the nail on the head. It makes me very tempted to print this out and put it someplace where my spouse could or would read it, but then again, he would probably take it the wrong way, but since it seems past conversations regarding issues seem to have been unsuccessful at creating change in an area that definitely needs changing, I am often at a loss as to how to bring about positive discussion and change to where things are more balanced and it’s about both of our pleasure, not just his. Reading your blog over the past few months, has been a true inspiration to me. We are several years out from recovery from a very painful past situation and I vowed in my head that I wanted a more intimate, closer marriage than we had, before the breakdown and subsequent death of our old marriage. We had to start over brand new and I vowed in my head that I wanted a more intimate marriage where we both would experience a deeper level of marital satisfaction. Still working on that one. Thanks so much for your willingness to be an advocate for healthy sexuality in marriage.

  2. A Jardine says:

    “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.”

    This is exactly the problem that has plagued our marriage for many years. No sense of responsibility on my wife’s part to invest in this part of our marriage. Sorry, but I cannot do it all myself. You wanted me to be interested in the kids and spend time with them. I was and still do and your friends remark on this and wish their husbands were like this. You wanted me to be active in church and to take the lead in all things spiritual, and I did. You wanted me to (list a very long list). Sorry I couldn’t do everything on the list just when you wanted and as you wanted. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested in the yard, it just had to take its proper place in the heiarchy of needs and it still got a B+.

    But the first 18 years of our marriage I initiated at least 98% of the sex, probably more, and was turned down at least three times for every acceptance, and many of those were grudging. I left home many days sexually starving. It is not my impression that you are very sorry about this. If you were you would have changed your behavior, a lot, not just a little. You wanted me to care deeply about the things that were important to you. And I did. I needed you to care deeply about this, and about me, but you did not.

  3. LatterDay Marriage says:

    There are other things a person may need to heal from. Being betrayed, being rejected, feeling inadequate or unloved. There are lots of wounds you can pick up without ever sinning against God yourself.

  4. One Year In says:

    This is great. I’d like to add that one way I think some Christians have complicated sex is by making it sound like it’s great immediately. We all signed “true love waits” cards and thought that because we waited, it would be amazing!

    I think that pressure makes us a bit dishonest. When I was trying to figure things out, I tried confiding in a couple close friends (also newlyweds) and they acted like sex was perfect and easy, so I quickly shut up about it. I felt like a failure! No one wanted to admit that it didn’t come easily! Finally, a friend confided in me that it took work and got better with time and patience! I felt so much more relaxed and comforted knowing it didn’t have to be perfect immediately…and she was right, it slowly got better! And although I don’t go tell everyone about my sex life, if another newly married lady asked me about sex, I would swallow my pride and be honest. Just knowing it takes work and you aren’t the only one learning how things go is a comfort!

    The lies I was told was not that sex was boring, but that it was perfect and would be easy. It’s a lot of fun, but like any other fun activity, it took a little figuring out!

  5. Proud Woman says:

    I certainly agree with all these, particularly #2. I have a slightly related one – I truly would urge couples to embrace what they enjoy as long as it’s not prohibited, and don’t get caught up in wondering or worrying about it’s the norm or not.

    For instance, my husband and I really prefer more aggressive lovemaking. Foreplay is delightful, but when we get to the sex, I want it pretty hard. Make that very hard.

    We love to up the ante and try to make it as intense and powerful as possible, and when we lighten it up, we find we go back to the intense. That’s us. That’s who we are, and that’s fine!

    I hope that makes sense, but I’d really advise couples to embrace what they love.

  6. Daniel says:

    1. Have you believed the lies of others?

    Yes. I believed the lie that sex was part of marriage. I believed that a spouse in her thirties would still be interested in sex.

    I should have listened to the naysayers who said, truthfully, that your marriage vows mean the end of sex for you, not the beginning.

  7. Anonymous says:

    My attitude toward sex any more is like number four, but in reverse. I would be happy to never have sex ever again.

    My husband and I are good friends. We are excellent parenting partners. He works to provide a roof over our heads, and I educate our children and make sure dinner is on the table when he walks through the door each evening. We have a marriage if mutual benefit.

    However, since I am educating our many children, sometimes I get behind on housework (our house looks lived-in, not needs-to-be-condemned-because-it’s-so-gross-like-those-hoarder’s-houses), and sometimes I would like him to pay for fun extras like sports for our kids, I feel the need to make up for where I’m lacking by having sex with my husband. I don’t want him to think that there’s no reason for him to stay since he has a wife who doesn’t bring in an income and can’t even keep up with the laundry, and on top if all that, she keeps refusing sex.

    So, it’s less “if he does this, I’ll have sex with him,” and more “because he does so much I feel I need to reward him with sex.” It’s hard though, because I don’t like sex. It’s too much work, another chore. But I do it for him. Marriage is full of sacrifices.

  8. Rejected30 says:

    Dear Anonymous

    Your husband already knows you are just going through the motions and believe me it hurts him very deeply. Pretty soon he’ll stop initiating sex and fall out of love for you. He will keep being a responsible husband but he will stop showing any affection, will clam up about his life, try to limit conversation with you. He’ ll find hobbies and other interests to occupy free time. Masterbation and porn will fulfill his sexual needs. You have hurt him very deeply by not showing him any true desire. You have sewed the seeds for a rotten marriage. Been there. Doing that.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Okay, “Rejected30,” I’m assuming you’re a man, so from a man’s POV please tell me why showing up isn’t enough? I only tell him no during that time of the month, and he’s okay with that since he’s not into that sort if thing. I figure never saying no, whether I’m into it or not, is a million times better than those women who only say yes one time a month or once every six months.

    My question is, why isn’t showing up a few times a week good enough? He’s getting off so why should it matter if I’m into it?

  10. Ireland says:

    Anonymous, you sound just like me, except I did say no, all the time. He worked, I stayed home with the kids and kept the house. Sex was just one more chore but we were so distant I ccouldn’t bring myself to say yes. I had so much guilt about not being that outlet for him but it was all about him, nothing for me and I felt used and objectified. I would ask myself “Would I want my daughters to let themselves be used this way, even with their husbands?” Of course not. So I got a job. It changed my life. I was contributing to my family, had control over our finances and my guilt was gone. Our relationship is too far gone to be repaired and we still have a sexless marriage but I am healthier for the choice I made and he respects me more. (There is a flipside to that; being a parent is the most important job and deserves enormous respect but, I digress.) If at all possible I encourage you to find a job, even part time. It will change your perspective and maybe your husband’s as well. Best wishes to you.

  11. JustWant2BOne says:

    Anybody want to give any thoughts on praying with your spouse prior to intimacy?? Thoughts anyone? Julie?

    Reason I am asking is I spoke with a friend today who is also a counselor and was blessed with some free individual therapy. She told me to ask my spouse to pray with me prior to intimacy the next time and if he wouldn’t, she told me to say a brief prayer and what specifically about (based on the situation I shared with her). I am not sure I am “comfortable” praying before intimacy, even though I do remember I asked him if we could on our wedding night and we did way, way back then. I am not sure I am up for this challenge to pray with my spouse briefly prior to marital intimacy. I am afraid of what he is going to think of me asking for a brief prayer prior to, per the advice/challenge of a friend.

  12. Larry B says:

    Many Christian marriage bloggers have written on the importance, value and benefits of prayer in marriage. And, this applies to sexual intimacy in marriage. It would not hurt to suggest this to your spouse. If your spouse does not want to pray with you before intimacy, you could still pray by yourself either immediately before intimacy or throughout the day. At the very least, with regular prayer, one is frequently reminded to be patient with one’s spouse as intimacy issues are worked through.

    If the lovemaking is one sided and is not mutually pleasurable, then more open and honest communication is needed. By honest, I mean not holding anything back. If there are problems in sexual intimacy, these need to be brought to light and discussed. There are many husbands who are truly concerned with their wife enjoying their lovemaking. Sadly, there are some husbands who do not value their wife’s pleasure and fulfillment in lovemaking.

  13. Sheila says:

    “If the lovemaking is one sided and is not mutually pleasurable, then more open and honest communication is needed. By honest, I mean not holding anything back”

    What if it would sound like this: “Intercourse is painful, I’m too ticklish for oral or vibrators, and doing my own self manually is 20 times better than when you do it even though you understand female anatomy and try your best to follow my directions, so I’d rather just fly solo. You are obese, passive, timid, boring, have little life energy, no passions, and I can only seem to get aroused by thinking about other men.” How does that help anything? Sometimes it’s better just to shut up and put out.

  14. Eric V says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    You may not realize this but few men like ‘duty sex’ and unless I’m mistaken, that’s how you are portraying it. I wouldn’t find that fulfilling. I’d find it sad if your husband is satisfied with that and I’d feel rather used if I were you.

    How do you feel when you hug someone and they stiffen up like a board or otherwise don’t hug you back? Does it feel mutual?

    For me, it’s the same with duty sex. We want to be desired and it hurts if our wives don’t want us as well. Has sex ever been good for you? If so, that may a good place to consider.

  15. Sharon Mavis says:

    Dan Allendar says that it is very difficult to grow up in our society without being sexually injured in some way. My husband is a pastor. In our work in emotional healing groups, we have found this to be true.

    Thank you for encouraging the hard work of healing. It is much easier to stuff and avoid the pain, but if a wound is not lanced, it festers and does not heal. Healing is so worth it. Sexual healing is worth it, for both husband and wife.

  16. Jon says:

    Wow, so many people have just given up on sex, and don’t see that giving up on sex is on par with giving up on marriage… Sex is such a beautiful part of a committed relationship and I genuinely feel sorry for everyone who’s spouse is unenthusiastic (or worse) in that regard. I honestly believe that the key to successful sexual intamacy lies in communication with each other. Explain your point of view and ask to hear theirs, don’t settle for a simple “I need more sex” or “I don’t like sex” really talk, get down to the cause and then work together to resolve it. It’s hard and takes time but it’s the key to a fur filling relationship. If you can’t communicate with your husband/wife is it really a marriage? Are you really one if you can’t openly discuss issues that really affect one an other. My wife and I have worked through so much over the years, infedelity, emotional absence, lack of intamacy and so much more. While it’s not always perfect we still have an immensely furfulling relationship and sex life (even if it’s not as frequent as I would like) and it’s all down to communication. Without that we would have failed, without that nothing will ever change. And remember always meet them half way, never lose your temper or belittle them and when the other half makes an effort tell them how great it was, how much you appreciated it how good they were at it, give them the confidence to keep things going. There’s is always room to grow, time to change and more ways to love.

  17. Rock and Hard Place says:

    Really struggling with temptation at the moment – and after reading Proverbs Chapter 5, I think the theory sounds great – but what is a guy supposed to do when his ‘cistern’ has run dry?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Ireland- Thank you for your suggestion, but there’s no way I can work outside the home. Homeschool and after school sports take up the majority of my days, and I need sleep so I can be am effective teacher, so an overnight job is out of the question.

    Eric V- yes, we’ve had good sex. It was more frequent earlier in our marriage, and now it’s a couple times a year. But in order for it to be good, so much work is involved, and it’s so dang time-consuming, that it just doesn’t seem worth it to me. I’m working from the time I get up until right before bed. The last thing I need is more work when I just want to sleep.

  19. J.Z. Howard says:

    I like how direct your statements are. The directness of “… Nowhere does He say that sex is just for procreation. Or that it’s supposed to be boring…. (He) desires that you find extraordinary sex in your ordinary life.” There is so much power in declaring the truth. And that power, if used to confront the lies and nonsense and plain old misinformation we’ve heard spewed in our ears when growing up, can eventually break down the strongholds that hold us back. Sexual pleasure between spouses is okay and encouraged, even by God himself. Yay!

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