Always on the lookout for solid resources on sexual intimacy in marriage, I was excited to read “Married Sex: A Christian Couple’s Guide to Reimagining Your Love Life” by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta, M.A., LPC.
Having read the book in its entirety, I have no doubt it will be a valuable resource for countless married couples.
I believe the book is biblically sound, emphasizes mutuality in intimacy, and honors the complexity of marriage.
I’m going to unpack those three points in more depth further in the post, but considering the flurry of things being said about this book on social media, I want to start someplace else. (If you want to skip right to my review of the book, click here).
Because I am speaking favorably of the book “Married Sex,” I anticipate I will receive a barrage of negative reaction on social media. I guess only time will tell if my anticipation in that regard is warranted. To get ahead of any potential backlash, though, I ask you hear my heart on this…
I completely support the freedom we all have to comment about what we like and don’t like about something. Not surprisingly, social media has created a vast platform for freedom of speech. Sometimes the back-and-forth commentary is productive.
Unfortunately, it often isn’t.
Because social media is a sea of sound bites, it’s not always a haven of respectful discord. Things go off the rails pretty quickly, and before long, everyone is vying for their sound bites to catch the most attention. And, of course, because most of these sound bites are shared at such a rapid cascade, it’s almost impossible to determine the accuracy of what’s being said.
When people passionately believe they are right, the divisiveness screams to the forefront. Instead of people respectfully disagreeing, the narrative and especially the tone can turn ugly. People don’t just express their concern or disagreement with an aspect of a person’s work; they maliciously attack the person’s character, heaping on them wide-sweeping attributes that are not true.
I believe this is what is happening with Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta, as well as some other Christian authors and speakers.
Sadly, in some camps of the internet, Gary in particular is being wrongly painted as someone who supports abuse and the marginalization and objectification of women. It’s the most baffling maligning I’ve seen, particularly about someone who has written so extensively about marriage and has widely been respected as a voice for marriage that is healthy, respectful, God-honoring and mutually-edifying for a husband and a wife.
Gary Thomas’ most recent book before “Married Sex” was “When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom from Toxic People.” If you read that book in its entirety, it’s clear he is adamantly against abusive relationships.
Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta have individually done extensive professional work in helping couples build healthy marriages. They have comprehensive resumes, but still remain humble and relatable in their approach, recognizing they do not have all the answers. They are much-needed voices in a world where the Enemy is ever bent on destroying marriages.
I love speaking and writing on sex, and Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta feel like kindred spirits to me. I respect, though, that some people may have a different viewpoint of their work.
I imagine now that I have spoken up positively about the book “Married Sex,” I too will be wrongly characterized as someone who supports the abuse of women. Maybe my entire body of work will be thrown under the bus, too. So be it.
Those who know me and have followed me know that for years, I have said the key to great sex in marriage is authentic friendship, exclusivity, mutual respect and trust, transparency, vulnerability and a willingness to learn from each other.
I and so many other writers have been positive voices speaking favorably of healthy sexual intimacy. We’ve written and spoken extensively about the importance of orgasmic pleasure for both a husband and a wife, the importance of mutuality in sexual intimacy and the need to nurture intimacy at all levels—emotional, spiritual and physical.
And we have respectfully disagreed with each other on some aspects, recognizing that not all advice is applicable or helpful for all marriages.
I and so many others also have acknowledged that abuse is devastating whenever it occurs. It is an arduous process to heal from sexual abuse, the damage of pornography and infidelity, and any other indiscretion or violation that causes trauma for individuals and marriages. On numerous occasions, I have encouraged people trying to heal from traumatic experiences to seek professional help from counselors and resources that are adept at helping people who have experienced trauma.
I know Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta share those sentiments, and they too are adamant about the value of doing what it takes to heal and overcome sexual trauma and move toward experiencing healthy sexual intimacy.
So if indeed I’m attacked on social media for daring to have an opinion that is contrary to someone else’s opinion about the book “Married Sex,” let the frenzied attack on me begin. I won’t be chiming in, not because I don’t think there’s value in my perspective, but because my perspective will not sway the people on social media who are bent primarily on attacking and maligning.
I have been in the camp for a very long time that I trust readers to discern for themselves if a book has anything in it that could have a positive impact on their marriage.
Because no two marriages are alike, I regularly encourage people to read a book with a discerning heart, ask the Lord for guidance, glean the nuggets of insight that are relevant to their marriage, and let the rest go.
No one author has the corner on truth; but more often than not, there is something positive you can glean from a resource. Two people can read the same book and walk away with different positive and negative perspectives. We don’t have to trash people who have a different perspective. We can simply voice our concerns and, at the same time, accept that others have a different perspective or experience. We also can recognize that everyone is on their own journey. Growth, revelations and healing are uniquely personal. It’s a great opportunity to walk out Colossians 3:12-14.
If you have heard lots of rumblings (good and bad) about “Married Sex: A Christian Couple’s Guide to Reimagining Your Love Life,” I encourage you to read it for yourself. Then decide if your marriage could benefit from anything in it. Here’s why I like the book…
3 Reasons I Recommend “Married Sex” Book By Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta
1. It’s biblically sound
This book is chock full of scripture that is relevant to marriage and sexual intimacy in marriage. The authors go to great lengths to emphasize that God is the creator of healthy sexual intimacy in a marriage, and when we sway from His heart and vision, that is when sex becomes skewed and misused.
When a wife and a husband seek the Lord, pray for their marriage and for each other, confess and repent of their sins, and seek to genuinely be transparent with each other, they create an atmosphere conducive to profound emotional, spiritual and sexual connection.
Mind you, all of that effort is typically messy, wrought with challenges and drenched in ebb-and-flow. Yet that is what the book “Married Sex” invites people to do—look at your relationship, your behaviors and your attitudes, and hold them up to scripture. Where does your relationship need grace and forgiveness? Where does it need boundaries? Where does it need healing? Where does it need renewed passion? Where does it need growth? Those are all biblical concepts.
2. It emphasizes mutuality
Sex is for both a husband and wife, and as such, they both must be stewards of it in a marriage. Both share in building respect and trust, addressing issues, and owning where their actions or attitudes have harmed intimacy in the relationship. Passionate lovemaking doesn’t just happen. It is built through transparency, teachability and genuine love.
This thread of mutuality is echoed time and time again in “Married Sex.” Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta unpack the importance of intimacy at all levels, and they offer specific insights on ways to actually get to that depth. Not only do they talk about the relational aspects that impact intimacy, but they also share the need for a husband and wife to learn their spouse’s body.
Yes, sex is emotional and spiritual. No doubt about it. But it is also physical, and a husband and wife lovingly dedicated to exploring the touches and techniques to give and receive pleasure will indeed find incredible sexual pleasure with each other.
3. It honors the complexity of marriage
Like all good writers on this topic, they do what so many of us writers do—acknowledge that not every piece of insight works for every marriage. They clearly offer disclaimers that they are writing in the context of average every day marriages; not marriages where abuse is occurring. At the same time, they include insights on how to recognize abuse and egregious transgressions and to seek professional help beyond the scope of what they offer in their book.
Every marriage is unique. There are a wide variety of circumstances and issues that can negatively impact intimacy. Some of those issues are deeply traumatic and some are less severe. Some are easily solved and some take exhausting effort.
I love that the authors appropriately and transparently share from their own marriages. They also share stories from other couples who have voluntarily allowed their experiences to be shared (with their names changed, of course). This is a book about sexual intimacy in marriage. The stories included are not shared to exploit, but rather to effectively illustrate real life examples of couples in real marriages. I can’t think of a Christian book on sexual intimacy in marriage that doesn’t do this, because readers better grasp concepts when there are examples.
The book “Married Sex” overflows with the acknowledgement that marriage is a complex landscape. I think anyone who is married or who has ever been married can definitely relate to that sentiment.
I recommend “Married Sex” because I believe it can help usher couples into authentic intimacy on all levels. But don’t take my word for it. Consider getting the book for yourself and gleaning what you find helpful.
Copyright 2021, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.