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I have a friend who never heard positive messages about sex from her mother.
Her mom said it was nothing more than a gross duty of marriage. Any time her mom spoke of sex, the word “gross” was in close proximity.
Another friend clings so tightly to the purity message she heard as a teenager that now enjoying sex in her marriage feels like an insurmountable mountain. She was so entrenched with saying “no” to sex that it feels almost sinful to now offer up an enthusiastic “yes” with the husband she loves.
Other women and men tell me how the sexual promiscuity of their past continues to warp their hope for authentic healthy sexual intimacy in their marriage. Women, in particular, have even told me they think they don’t deserve enjoyable sex in their marriage because of the ways they were so careless sexually in the past.
And not surprisingly, the countless people who have been sexually abused at some point in their life find it almost impossible to see anything positive about sex — even if they are now in a loving relationship with their spouse.
Other people who immersed themselves in pornography have convinced themselves there’s just no way sex can be redeemed in their marriage as something holy and passionate.
I want to speak hope and encouragement into your plight, because the God I know is a redemptive God. And He is all about equipping people to shed what is sabotaging sex in their marriage.
Look closely at the negative ideas you believe about sex. Don’t just do it in your head, but actually write them out in detail on a piece of paper. It’s easier to address a target we can see. Once you have them listed on a piece of paper, next to each one write the source of that negative idea.
When did it take root? Who led you to believe the idea? Who continues to feed it? In other words, where did this negative viewpoint about sex come from and why do you think you are so loyal to it?
Once you have the source of each idea listed, then ask yourself if that source’s perspective aligns with what God says. And I’m not just talking about what He says about sex, but also what he says about forgiveness and redemption.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes the source is just operating from their own past hurts and projecting those on to you.
Take my friend, for example — the one whose mom always portrayed sex as gross. The mom was painting sex with broad brush strokes based on her own lens. Instead of dealing with her own past hurts, she took an easier route. She projected onto her daughter a negative perspective on sex. That is so messed up.
But guess what? My friend can choose to forgive her mom for the faulty message and at the same time embrace a healthier perpsective.
You don’t have to stay stuck in someone else’s sexual muck. (Even if that someone else is a person you love and admire).
What if the source is you? What if you are the one who has conjured up all these skewed ideas about sex? For example, think of the purity message. It’s not that the purity message many teens hear is wrong; it’s that it isn’t balanced with a realistic and godly image of how sex in marriage can be nurtured and enjoyed.
The purity message you heard as a teen doesn’t have to continue to box you in. You’re not that teen anymore.
You’re a grown up with grown up privileges in a grown up marriage. Be the grown up, okay? So even if the purity message didn’t do an adequate job of helping you understand healthy marital intimacy, then seek out that healthy perspective now. That’s what grown ups do.
As for your past sexual promiscuity or past sexual abuse that was inflicted upon you — let’s talk about those for a moment. What God means for good (in this case, His design of sexual intimacy) can indeed be warped by sin. There’s no question about that. But that’s true with all sin, not just sexual sin, right?
So if we say that something tarnished by sexual sin (whether it be someone else’s sin or our own) can never be redeemed, what we are really saying is that God can’t redeem anything. Do you honestly believe Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross means nothing?
“Well, of course not, Julie! That’s not what I’m saying.” But if you are saying God can’t redeem what is sexually broken in your life, then actually that is what you are saying.
Not only may you be your own worst enemy when it comes to righting the ship on your sexual perspectives, but Satan is more than willing to jump in there and partner with you. Why does he want you clinging to your messed up views about sex? Because that is victory for him. That fuels the divide between you and God (and between you and your spouse), and if anyone wants division in your heart and relationships, it’s the Enemy. Division is his go-to strategy. In marriages. In churches. In homes. In friendships. In companies. You get the point.
A better approach is to consider the source. Hold your skewed ideas about sex up to God’s truth and Word and heart and see where you arrive. My guess is you would never tell another person that the sexual pain or confusion or misunderstanding in their life is not redeemable. So why on earth would you tell yourself that?
This is so important. Sometimes the reason our messed up thoughts about sex have such a fierce hold on our current experiences is that we choose to stay stuck in patterns that fuel the negative thoughts.
For example, if having sex in the dark triggers difficult sexual memories from the past, then don’t keep having sex in the dark. Some people always have the lights off during sex because they think that’s the way sex is supposed to happen.
But what if having sex with your spouse in the dark is reaffirming pain for you rather than releasing you into joy and pleasure? Guess what? You don’t have to keep having sex in the dark. Turn on a closet light or find another way to allow some light to shine in the room.
Keep your eyes open more when you make love and look at your spouse, the person who loves you. Talk more during sex so that you associate sexual intimacy with your spouse, rather than sexual experiences of your past.
While we are meandering on this idea about shedding light, are you doing that figuratively, too? Does your spouse know about your struggles? The more you can be real about your struggles, the more likely your spouse will be all in on helping you heal and grow.
How many stories have all of us heard of someone’s pain propelling them to something great in their life? You can be one of those stories. Your skewed views about sex — no matter how agonizing and ugly they are or where they came from — can indeed be the crumbling rock on which you build a healthier foundation.
Another way we set ourselves up for sexual success is we give more room in our hearts and minds for positive information about sex. Rather than be guided by your faulty ideas about sex, why not nudge that stuff out and replace it with better information?
Dig into God’s Word. Make the counseling appointment. Read Christian books about sexual intimacy in marriage. Listen to a podcast or two. Cruise through a few blog posts. There are married Christians like me who are huge fans of sex in marriage and we are more than willing to offer up helpful insights.
Be tenderly honest with yourself. Are you clinging so tightly to your skewed views about sex that you haven’t considered what that’s costing you right now?
And I’m not just talking about what it’s costing you in your most sacred human relationship, your marriage (huge costs, by the way).
I’m also talking about what negativity about sex is costing you in your own emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing; in the stability within your own home; in the messages about marriage and sex you are conveying (directly or indirectly) to your children. I could go on, but those are some of the big ones.
There is a lot at stake.
So ask yourself if it is worth it. What gives you a better chance at sexual healthiness now — holding onto your sexual negativity with a death grip OR humbling yourself and entertaining the idea that there is a more positive approach? I am not a betting person, but I think you know how to bank the odds in your favor here.
What are you gaining with your skewed thoughts on sex? Write them out on paper and then decide if they are truly gains. Some people hold onto their unhealthy perceptions about sex because they want to protect themselves from being hurt. But sadly, if you do that in your marriage, you simultaneously rob yourself (and your spouse) from being adored, treasured and sexually desired.
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t camp out with your skewed thoughts and at the same time enjoy the benefits of authentic sexual passion. It doesn’t work that way. Loyalty to one always will sabotage the other. You just have to decide which you are willing to sabotage.
Are you going to consider the source of your skewed ideas about sex and see if those sources align with God?
Are you going to set yourself up for sexual success?
Are you going to count the costs?
You are worth this. You are. You are worth enjoying sexual pleasure and passion with the person you married. And your spouse is worth it, too — you know, that person you fell in love with and pledged your life to.
There’s that old saying that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago and today. You can’t change all the steps you’ve walked to this point, but you can plant something beautiful now and nurture it.
The choice is yours. What are you going to do? If this is your wake-up call, walk as if you are now awake.
Copyright 2019, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.