Disclaimer: The following blog is written using generalities. It may not apply to every man, woman, or couple. Further, it is written with a typical, emotionally, and physically safe marriage in mind. If you are in a sexually or physically abusive relationship, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 or National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 for immediate help.
Sex is one of those topics that everyone has an opinion about. Love it, hate it, repulsed by it. Scared of it, scarred by it, addicted to it. It’s beautiful. It’s confusing. It’s everything. It’s nothing.
Whatever your take on sex is, that opinion has been formed over time and maybe even started at a young age. When you think about sex, consider these questions: When did you learn about sex? What did you learn? How important is it?
If you’re anything like me, the answer to these questions may not be something you’re exactly proud of. Depending on your background, sexuality may have become separated from a larger experience of relationships and life or even Christian spirituality altogether. In return, selfishness and disconnection may define your sexual experiences or perspectives.
Commonly, we take these skewed perspectives into marriage, allowing sexual myths to form and dictate what’s healthy and acceptable. Although there are many myths about sex in our culture, here are a few common myths that find their way into marriage.
1. Myth: Being in love means great sex.
While God designed us to be loving and to be sexual, fulfilling and satisfying sex is not the direct result of being in love. Too many couples think a happy sex life only comes from passion and excitement rather than commitment and learning about each other.
The reality is that great lovers are not born; they are made. It requires deep intimacy, mutual understanding, and great commitment. When sex is new, either to a person or relationship, it could be great, but usually, that’s because it’s new and new to us is usually exciting. This is one reason one-night stands are so damaging. If they are sexually satisfying, they create a false expectation to which marital sex will be compared. The feeling of being in love can start things off well, but great sex happens as each person commits to learning and growing to understand themselves and their spouse over a lifetime.
2. Myth: Men are supposed to initiate sex.
While some couples will feel most comfortable with a more traditional sexual style (man initiates, woman responds), this approach doesn’t quite encompass the best understanding of God-designed sex. Commonly, men are almost always available and interested in sex. If a man feels required or encouraged to initiate based on his natural desire, his poor wife will find herself saying no more than yes.
For most women, desire comes before arousal (men usually experience desire and arousal simultaneously). The key here is for women to experiment and enjoy their sexuality in marriage by responding and initiating sex when they sense their own desire for intimacy, knowing that arousal will follow later.
Initiating sex should not be the responsibility of just one spouse. Take turns or be clear about signs they’re available and interested. Men, you should place your wife’s pleasure and enjoyment above your own. This might mean recognizing tonight’s not the night. Women, make your choice to initiate sex, respond wholeheartedly to his initiation, or communicate love when sex is not desired or possible. Both people are responsible for creating a growing sexual love and satisfaction in the relationship.
3. Myth: If it enhances pleasure, it’s good.
Marriages have been destroyed in the pursuit of enhancing sexual pleasure, and pornography is a good example of how this myth plays out. Couples introducing pornography use is becoming more common, but research is showing us that while using pornography may increase sexual interest and frequency, those effects are short-lived.
In the long run, pornography becomes counterproductive to building the intimacy you may have originally desired because it creates false expectations of what one should look like, act like, and sound like. Then of course, no one can live up to those, and what you end up craving is the pornography itself, not your spouse.
The sexual desire that drives us to our spouse is a powerful, God-given force, but it must be limited to certain confines. This desire left unchecked is most vulnerable and abused, easily leading to harming ourselves and others. You can think of this desire as a fire that needs to be contained within a fireplace. If it breaches its limits, destruction will occur.
Also, it’s been said that “the strong waves of the river of passion bring life, but once they have escaped the banks, they bring death.” Whatever way you think about it, the point is that sexual desire, even within a marriage, needs boundaries and limits.
With that being said, it must be restated that God created sex and gifted it to us as the means of reproduction and as something to be immensely enjoyed (read Song of Songs!). Creativity and variety are healthy and pleasing to God in the marriage bed. Simply consider the guidelines He’s put in place for honoring Him with our sexuality.
So, as you think about your perspectives on sex, be mindful of the ways you have been educated and influenced. Are their misconceptions or myths that have built up over time that maybe you need to explore? If so, you’re strongly encouraged to do this with your church family.
If sex is God-designed and God-given, then the church should be one of the most comfortable places to talk about it! Depending on your approach to all of this, there are a couple options that might make sense for you. If you’re in need of restoring yourself or your marriage as a result of damaged intimacy (or you just want it to be even better), check out our Marital Support Services.
If you’re wanting more resources for relationships and looking for ways to strengthen your marriage, sign up for the Family Now Conference, a one-day gathering where we will learn practical skills for a healthy home life!
*This blog entry was heavily influenced by the writings of Jason Cusick in Love3 (2011). Please check it out for deeper learning on the subject of love and sexuality.