Romance is really a recent development in marriages. It was seldom thought of or even expected until Byron and Shelley broke onto the scene with their silly romantic poetry and sonnets. Well, except for scriptures written around 900 years before the birth of Christ. Song of Solomon is a full book of scripture dedicated to romance and sexual love.
The Act of Marriage is the title of a book published in 1998 and was one of the original attempts at a Christian discussion concerning sex. It leaned towards boring and is not one of my favorite books. However, I love the title.
The expression of our sexuality is one of the key “acts” we engage in when we marry. If people were honest, they may admit that the sexual drive was one of the things that made marriage desirable in the first place. Even the scripture tells us that “if you burn with desire you should marry” (1 Cor 7:9). Sex allows us to connect in an emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental way like no other act can. Sex is a powerful drive designed by God to connect and continue to connect two individuals in a marriage in a deep and meaningful way. It is so important that God gave us an entire book of the bible on this topic.
In marriage circles sex is one of the most discussed topics. This week we will be posting a couple of posts on sexuality, sensuality and romance. Each of these topics make up the triangle of the act of marriage. While a great sex life does not in and of itself result in a great marriage, it can be thought of both a thermometer and a thermostat in regards to your marriage. On one hand a great sex life reflects a strong and intimate marriage. On the other hand developing a better sex life can result in a stronger more intimate marriage.
On most marriage podcasts a large percentage of questions circle around this topic. How often should we “do it?” Why is he always thinking about sex? Why does she get so angry when I turn down their sexual advances? Is that all they think about? Deeper questions include why do I feel rejected as a person when he is not interested in sex. What baggage do I carry in regards to sex? What are the activities I am engaged in that prevents intimacy and sex.
There are a few reasons why sex is such a huge issue in marriage and why many fights surround this issue. First, baggage we bring into a marriage concerning sex is often confusing and sometimes painful. One in three women have been sexually abused in some way. This abuse ranges from unwelcome pressure from boyfriends in a woman’s developmental years to rape at some point in a person’s life. Additionally, the Christian mantra historically has been; “sex is dirty, shameful and disgusting and should be saved for the one you love.” This baggage causes confusion and pain in the area of sexuality and can create significant barriers to intimacy.
Second, men and women respond in significantly different ways concerning sex. Barring physical issues and stress, a man is usually ready for sex at any given time. A sexy smile, a light touch on the arm or even a bumpy bus ride and a guys is ready. Men have a biological drive towards desiring sex more frequently due to high levels of testosterone. Women, on the other hand, have been created differently. They are generally slower to warm up and sex is often a secondary issue that follows children, work, budgets, housework, and time on Facebook.
Finally, we live in a sex addicted world where pornography makes sex about a physical need at best and twists it into a pathological drive at worst. In general, pornography sets unrealistic expectations, demeans women and men alike, and twists a person’s view of sex into something that is neither intimate or loving. Many people think that pornography shows too much concerning sex, in reality it shows to little. It reveals something about the physical but omits vulnerability and intimacy. In short, sex is not just about genitalia. In her book, A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, Sheila Wray Gregiore, says it this way:
Sex is not just about genitalia. It’s about relationship. When God said “the two shall become one flesh,” He didn’t mean it only physically. Only focusing on the physical neglects the real power sex has to bod two people together in other ways, not only physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as well.1
Further, God, in his wisdom, designed sex to be contained and controlled within a covenant relationship. What this means is that the only person that can minister to my desire for sexual intimacy is my spouse. Since there will often be one person who desires sex more than the other, there may be one who has to make the choice to serve the other by providing for sex when they are not really in the mood. Or, there may be one who has to show patience with the other when they are not in the mood and decline your sexual advances. Sex is a place where we are often asked to exercise the fruit of the spirit, either through sacrificial love, sacrificial service, sacrificial patience or sacrificial gentleness.
In this post I would like to provide a little, straightforward insight into how guys view sex. It may not apply to your guy, but I think it applies to most guys. Afterwards, I will do the same for the guys concerning women.
For Women Only
When sexual needs are met, men are better at being human…
The sex drive in men, especially younger men, is a powerful force to be reckoned with. When sexual desires are not being met we simply do not always think clearly, are more likely to succumb to the temptation to isolate and withdraw, and can sometimes just be mean. This drive is a combination of the need to be emotionally connected and the physical need for release. These two driving forces are connected in a way we simply do not fully understand. It is difficult to control our tendency towards frustration and anger when we are sexually frustrated.
Much like women, men have cycles too…
Testosterone build-up in the blood system will create an increasing need for sex. I know, not very romantic, but it is a drive that men have very little control over and the emotional results can often lean towards frustration that presents as anger. Understanding his cycle, how often he desires sex, can have a significantly positive influence on every aspect of your marriage. When women do not understand this and fail to plan accordingly, men lean towards withdrawing when our needs are not being met.
Like women, men have a need and a desire for intimate connection…
While you experience this through conversations, time spent on activities, holding hands etc., men feel most intimately connected during and immediately after sex. While his desire is physical and often presents that way, when he walks by and runs his hand over your posterior, it is also a call for intimacy, not just sex. Pay attention and learn to read between the lines and learn your man’s moves.
When you reject his advances, he feels like you are rejecting him…
I know nothing could be further from the truth, and it may seem childish, but there it is. It can be deeply painful, especially if it happens often. Again, from the book Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex quotes from husbands in her research:
“I don’t feel loved because my wife doesn’t want sex. I feel like she doesn’t want me personally.”
“You know there is a lack of interest, but you don’t really know why. You start to think, What is wrong with me?”
“I feel rejected, like my wants, needs, and desires don’t matter.” “It really hurts. I feel like a failure and a horrible husband because she almost never lets us have sex. It doesn’t make sense, but it’s how I feel.”
Men do know, at some level, that you are not really rejecting them. We understand you my be exhausted, distracted or simply not feeling “sexy.” As Christians, we know that even if we were being rejected that we are still loved, accepted and valued by God. However, it is sometimes extremely difficult to assimilate that truth when we are feeling sexually frustrated.
When you initiate sex he feels like you want him, are satisfied by him, and love him…
“I don’t have to remind you that you like chocolate cake. You enjoy chocolate cake so you eat it when it is around. The cake does not have to remind you that you like it. If you really enjoyed sex…” So started a coaching conversation about sex. Ladies, he really does not understand that sex is not a thought that crosses your mind 227 times per day, because it probably crosses his. He thinks if you really enjoyed sex you would initiate more.
Initiating sex lets him know you think he is sexy, that you desire him and that he is your “Thor.” I know you can’t make the thought of initiating sex cross your minds 2-3 times a week, but you can set a reminder on your phone.
He wants sex to be exciting…
Try something different every once-in-a-while. Have you ever made out in a state park; spent some time fooling around in the guest bedroom; wore a cowboy hat or a superwoman cape to bed? Have you ever had the police respond because the neighbors called in a loud noise complaint when the kids were at grandma’s? I am not encouraging activities that would land you in jail, but you can have some fun and do something different every once in a while.
For Men Only
Have a Reality Check…
Women do not see sex the same way you do. They need time to open up emotionally and this means you get to spend some time talking with her, going on walks holding her hand, etc. Remember, love is patient and kind. Show her some of that patience and sacrificial love and learn what she needs to prepare for sexual intimacy. While sexual attraction is more physical for men, sexual desire is more of a mental thing for women. In addition, learn what she enjoys and what she does not enjoy. Learn to serve your wife through sex just as you serve her in other ways in your marriage.
Dude, Show Some Self Control…
I know that the gentle pat on the bottom is a way that you show affection. However, she is probably not going to take it that way, especially if you take the opportunity to do so 12 times a day with one of those times being at the grocery store on the baby food isle. It makes her feel like a piece of meat. Cut it out.
Bring the Romance…
While you may be ready for sexual intimacy at the drop of a hat, it may take a little longer for her. Let her know you are thinking about her during the day. Text or call for no reason but to say you love her. I know you think about sex 15 times a day but you need to actually express it to her. Just thinking it does not communicate intimacy.
Plan a date each week. Yes, it’s your job. Try for at least 1 time per week, even if it is just a brief lunch. Put away the phone and actually pay attention. If your not a natural romantic, get a book. It is a skill you can learn.
Learn How to Express Your Needs…
Quit pouting when you don’t get your way. Withdrawing to your room and playing video games will most likely not result in her getting hot and bothered and jumping you in the middle of Call of Duty 12. When you are feeling disconnected, let her know. When you are feeling lonely, let her know. It is in sharing feelings that a woman feels connected.
Brush up On Your Approach…
“Hey, you wanna do it” is probably not the best approach when you want intimacy. Learn how she wants to be approached, what she needs to feel secure and loved, and then watch the sparks fly.
- Open the homework questionnaire and answer the questions from your perspective. Set a time one evening later in the week to share and discuss your answers. Try and set aside some time where you are not interrupted.
- Listen to the Podcast from In This Together regarding “Talking to Your Spouse about Sex.“
- If you want another podcast to listen to, check our the Fierce Marriage Podcast as Ryan and Selina Frederick discuss the “Five Anchors of Sex.”
Gregoire, Sheila Wray; Gregoire, Sheila Wray. The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex: (And You Thought Bad Girls Have All the Fun) (p. 205). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
There is no shortage of advice that can be found concerning marriage. Advice that ranges from learning how to effectively listen to your spouse to how to spice up your sex life with nutritional additives. People mean well and many times the advice worked out well for them. In fact, many counselors base their advice on what has worked in their relationships more than on scripture and longitudinal research. However, there is long term, longitudinal studies that provide insight into how we interact as men and women in an intimate relationship. I often refer to scriptural truths as Capitol “T” truth (what God says) and scientific evidence as little “t” truth (what science says). I love it when both of these “truths” align and can shed light on what works in marriage.
The Four Horseman of the Apocalyptic Marriage
If you have been to one of our Love and Respect Workshops, you have heard the facilitator, Dr. Eggerich, refer to research from the University of Washington. This research, that spans 4 decades, time and time again supports what God says in his word. Especially the scripture in Ephesians that deals with the need of a woman to be sacrificially loved by her husband and the need of a husband to be sacrificially respected by his wife. Time and again his research points out how kindness, gentleness, forgiveness and being tenderhearted provide a significant defense against what he calls The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in regards to marriage. The four horseman are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Every marriage has at least a small dosage of these poisons in them. However, when any or all of them run rampant, a marriage veers towards destruction.
Ephesians 4:32 is not what we would consider a “marriage” scripture. It is a call for all brothers and sisters in Christ to treat each other as God has treated them. If you have an accurate understanding of how much God loves you, is kind to you, is tenderhearted towards you, and how much God has forgiven you; if you understand his grace towards you; you will find that it is easier to treat others in the same way. If we are called to treat our brothers and sisters with forgiveness and kindness, how much more are we called to treat our spouse in the same way.
Do you regularly express thankfulness to your spouse? The first horseman, criticism, often takes place when expectations are not being met and disappointment sets in. It often starts with complaining, which is how we express ourselves when needs are not being met. However, when these complaints are not effectively communicated we sometimes shift from the problem being the problem to our spouse being the problem. When that happens criticism of our spouse often follows. A healthy complaint might be “I wish you would hold my hand when we walk because it makes me feel secure and loved.” Criticism would sound like “You are so insensitive, why don’t you hold my hand like Jim does when he walks with Kim?” In essence, you start criticizing the character of your spouse. This creates underlying disillusionment and resentment. The answer to criticism is thanksgiving. Last week we ended with a challenge of expressing thanksgiving. Thanksgiving helps us keep things in perspective and allows us to be thankful for what we have, work on what we desire, and prevents the horseman of criticism from galloping over our marriage.
Are you open to the problems and complaints in a marriage or have you crossed over into contempt, the second horseman. Contempt often surfaces when expectations go unmet and no attempt at working on an issue takes place. People become frustrated, angry and can sometimes just be mean. When complaints turn to criticism, and people start attacking each other’s character, it is like driving a stake into your partner’s heart. People then become hard-hearted and withdraw to a defensive position. The opposite of this is empathy. A person with empathy sees a problem but instead of attacking the other person, they commit to attacking the problem. They understand that both partners in the marriage have baggage, that both partners are being “transformed” into the image of Christ, and that they are part of that transformational process. They are there to sacrificially love the other, being patient as God works out the changes that need to take place.
As the third horseman, defensiveness, surfaces in a marriage, individuals may begin to build their defenses in an effort to reduce the pain involved in resolving issues. Defensiveness surfaced when couples start blaming each other for the problems in their marriage. They may each attempt to take the high moral ground claiming their individual perspective is accurate or “right.” They may defend themselves with scripture, something they read in a marriage book or something they heard in a TED Talk. Most of the time defensiveness is rooted in pride and is the result of forgetting that both partners are influenced by sin. Your spouse is not perfect, and neither are you. God is in the process of perfecting us but all of us have a ways to go. Understanding this, and understanding what you have been forgiven for in Christ, allows you to approach marital problems with forgiveness. The greatest growth in a marriage comes from repenting (turning away from sinful behaviors) and forgiveness. Confessing, or realigning your perception with the reality of God’s word, is key to this cycle. It is this that protects you from being defensive and then stonewalling your partner in a bid to protect yourself.
Stonewalling, the last of the four horsemen, often surfaces after there have been unmet expectations, resentment, criticism and defensiveness in a marriage. Working to prevent the first three horsemen often prevents the fourth from surfacing. However, if that stage has already become the norm for your marriage it may be time to look outside of your marriage for a coach, counselor or pastor to provide help and insight.
While it is often easy to focus on the horsemen, this week I am going to challenge you to focus on the treatment. How are you (in Christ) fighting criticism with thanksgiving? How are you (in Christ) fighting contempt with kindness? Have you withdrawn to a defensive position, stonewalling your partner or are you (in Christ) committed to deal with your problems with confession, repentance and forgiveness?
This week we would like to introduce you to the Lasting App. This app distills over three decades of research into 5 minute “bit size” activities that you and your spouse can engage in every day. While provided in small chunks, the content is massive and the paid subscription gives you access to tons of topics including communication, sexuality, conflict, appreciation, etc. Linking your phone with your spouse’s phone allows you to share responses from surveys that are often revealing and insightful. You will find that though it is based on a number of longitudinal studies, the designer of the app is a christian so the content is generally consistent with scriptural truth. Try the free portions of the app and if you feel it is helpful consider the subscription, which is generally lower in cost per year than one session of therapy. While it may not be a replacement for therapy when needed, it can be part of a regime that can prevent the need in the first place.
God Bless and have a great week guys.
ABC Reviews Lasting
Are Your Expectations Realistic?
I personally love the science behind marriage – communication, sexuality, emotion, and commitment all work together to create a unique and exciting marriage. As believers, we also need a strong understanding about what scripture has to say about the covenant marriage.
Many times problems surface in a marriage because we have unrealistic expectations of marriage due to television, movies, books, social media, etc. It is therefore important to explore this topic. Let’s take a look at what scripture has to say about the purpose of marriage.
Your Marriage is Not About Your Marriage.
A strong marriage is not an end to itself. A strong marriage creates a foundation from which to minister and serve. A strong marriage reflects the image of Christ and the Church. A strong marriage creates a fellowship between two people that strengthens both partners and allows them to better express their giftedness and talents. A strong marriage forms the foundation of a stable family and therefore creates a stronger foundation for the church, communities, cities, states and countries.
The Purpose of Your Marriage is Fellowship.
In Genesis we see the first purpose of marriage, fellowship. God created the heavens and earth, placed man in the garden, gave him a job and said “It is not good for man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) It is the first time that God created and did not say “It is good.” This is often referred to the “pregnant pause” in creation where God focuses on his preparation for woman. He puts Adam to work naming animals. As Adam does so, he finds that there is a female for every male, “but no suitable helper could be found.” (Genesis 2:20) God made sure Adam knew what it was like to be alone so he would appreciate the fellowship of his wife. When she was created, he was so happy he actually broke out into song.
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.” (Genesis 2:23)
Additionally, marriage is about woman being created for man as a loving partner (Genesis 2, Proverbs 5:19), a wise adviser (Proverbs 31), and as a family manager (1 Timothy 5:14). Husband and wife together, acting as best friends, serving one another in unique ways, makes up the fellowship of marriage.
The Purpose of Your Marriage is Procreation and Sexual Purity.
One of the first commands God gave man was to “subdue the earth.” (Genesis 1:28) For this purpose God created a sexual drive for the purpose of intimacy and procreation, usually stronger in men than women. As with many things, the enemy uses this drive, originally meant for good and blessing, to tempt people into sexual sin. Paul, writing to the Corinthians, recognizes this and says that the answer is for each man to have sexual relations with his own wife. (1 Corinthians 7:2) Paul goes so far as to tell each spouse that their body is not their own and that they cannot withhold themselves from one another unless there is mutual agreement and for a short time. (1 Corinthians 7:5) Marriage is the place where sexual expression, child-rearing, and the nuclear family dynamic is held together for the glory of the creator of the family, God.
The Purpose of Your Marriage is Sanctification.
I can say it no better than Tim Keller, Author of The Meaning of Marriage…
“What, then, is marriage for? It is for helping each other to become our future glory-selves, the new creations that God will eventually make us. The common horizon husband and wife look toward is the Throne, and the holy, spotless, and blameless nature we will have. I can think of no more powerful common horizon than that, and that is why putting a Christian friendship at the heart of a marriage relationship can lift it to a level that no other vision for marriage approaches.”
Later he writes:
“Within this Christian vision for marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’” Each spouse should see the great thing that Jesus is doing in the life of their mate through the Word, the gospel.“1
Marriage is about God utilizing the joy of marriage to teach you appreciation and thanksgiving, and using the struggles of marriage to teach you sacrificial love, respect and patience. In short, he uses us as a couple, both in our obedience and in our rebellion, to grow the image of Christ in each of us.
Challenge: This week think about the blessings of your marriage. This may be difficult for about 25% of us because 25% of couples are stressed and challenged at any given time. Do it anyway. Give thanks to God for the blessings you have (1 Thess. 5:18) and give a word of encouragement to your spouse for what they bring into your life (1 Thess. 5:11).
1 Keller, Timothy. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God (p. vi). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
Remember, if you are attending 7 Weeks to a Better Marriage, your second assignment is to listen to the In this Together Podcast located here.
Melanie and Tucker Moore had a great wedding. The venue was nice and I loved the option of an evening wedding so everyone was not sweating in the sweltering heat of Texas in June. One of my favorite pastors officiated and Russ was authentic, humorous and wise. The ceremony was short and sweet and we soon returned to the air-conditioned reception hall for dinner, visiting and dancing. Before long the bride and groom arrived and took the floor for their dance. They were a great looking couple.
Afterwards, the DJ called all married couples to the floor for the anniversary dance. Two dozen couples started the dance. The DJ called out years and slowly couples who had been married the least number of years left the floor. At five years a few couples stepped off. Then he called out ten years, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty and then thirty-two. Only five couples remained. At thirty-five Patty and I stepped off with four couples remaining. In the end it was a close tie between three couples, all of which had been married just over thirty eight years. The DJ identified the couple who had been married the longest, applause was given, and then the DJ asked the couple what advice they had for the new couple. All of a sudden I was glad it was not us. I am not sure what I would have said in the moment. The pressure!!!
This morning I woke up with the answer. The next time, if we are left on the dance floor, this will be my advice.
Enjoy the Journey
One day you will look back over your marriage and there will be a story being told. Think about what you want that story to be and start writing it today. Look for opportunities to make memories. Be able to tell stories about mountain climbing and Kayak trips, visits to Thailand and making out in the back yard. Be able to tell stories about kids and camping, home purchases and water heater leaks. Your marital story will be made up of moments grand and small. Give thanks for these moments each day and enjoy the journey.
Choose Each Other Every Day
Marriage is about choosing to love every day. Each morning I get up and put on two rings. On my right hand is a James Avery rendition of the wedding band Martin Luther’s wife gave her husband. It shows the story of the cross and reminds me that God pursued me and paid a high price for our relationship. The second is my wedding band. It reminds me that I am given the chance to pursue and love Patty every day. It is not about feeling like I am in love; it is about getting to show love every day in ways big and small.
Love Face to Face and Fight Back to Back
Take the time to look into each other’s eyes and express your love for one another. Swim in the romance and passion but be prepared to fight. Nothing good comes easy and a great marriages take a rumble now and then. Just remember, when you fight, the enemy is not your spouse. Fights will happen as two people choose to merge their lives. Just make sure you are fighting for your marriage and friendship instead of against each other for your own way. Your spouse in not your enemy. However, your marriage does have an enemy and when he attacks, you need to be fighting back to back. Never Give Up; Never Give Up; Never Give Up!
Thanks for the invitation and we hope you have an amazing honeymoon and life together. Blessings to you and your family.
You have to give it to Dr. Tripp, he can really hit the nail on the head. We missed the first couple of weeks of “What Did You Expect,” a marriage study based on the book by the same name. I have read the book twice and been convicted and challenged with every turn of the page. Last night we discussed how sin is basically self centered and anti-social. When we allow sin to influence us, our relationships become less about us and become a means of simply getting what we want. And we want a lot. You may have heard the analogy that this type of relationship become like two ticks and no dog. We are so needy and when we go to our spouse to meet all those needs we start to suck them dry. Two people doing that in a marriage will soon find themselves at a crossroad with their needs being left unmet.
However, when we focus on God as our source, he provides all we need and more. As we turn to God to meet our needs we soon discover that he calls us to focus less on our needs (he is meeting them anyway) and focus on the needs of others, including our spouse. As we pull from the infinite source that is God, he uses us as a resource to love, delight in, respect, value, appreciate and serve our spouse and others. It is when we turn to God as our source that we start down the path to a joyful marriage.
“He has invaded your marriage with his powerful love and transforming grace.”
― Paul David Tripp,
Shout out to Reb and Tammy Bowers. Great job leading the class last night. You guys rock.
Sites We Recommend
Fierce Marriage – Ryan and Selena Frederick started Fierce Marriage to help them process through marriage’s trials as well as celebrate its joys. They are in our 16th year of marriage and they have learned a ton about what works and what doesn’t. They hope that as they share openly it will help you grow and cultivate a truly Christ-centered marriage.
In This Together-Dr. Josh and Christi Straub want to enjoy their marriage and be the best adults they can be for their kids. In This Together is a podcast dedicated to topics helping you live, love, and lead well—as a spouse, a parent, and a human being.
The Naked Marriage – A podcast dedicated to undressing the truth about sex, intimacy and lifelong love. The concerns and questions most couples have in marriage often go unspoken, until now. Hosts Dave and Ashley Willis bring wisdom, vulnerability, and humor to even the toughest marriage topics.