It’s time to rethink your foundation of knowledge of sex and how it is setting the tone in your marriage.
When our three sons were little, one of their favorite toys was LEGO bricks. I spent practically every Christmas morning for over a decade helping them build castles, spaceships, and villages. The worst thing about a building block set is realizing that somewhere along the way, you got a step wrong. Misplacing just one piece in the building process will distort the whole project. Often my sons and I would find ourselves carefully deconstructing what we had worked so hard to build to discover where we went wrong in the building process.
Your sex life is a lot like this. You can tell that something isn’t right. Maybe you can even pinpoint a specific problem like past sexual trauma, the impact of porn, body parts that won’t cooperate, or a huge difference in sexual appetites. But underneath those problems is most likely, a faulty foundation upon which you’ve been building your sexual relationship.
When I talk with married couples, they often want solutions to the obvious problems they are experiencing in sex. A wife asks, “I’ve never enjoyed sex. How do I get into it when I’m exhausted all the time?” Her husband wants to know, “How can I get my wife to be more adventurous in bed?” As a couple, they want help recovering from infidelity or navigating body image issues. These are important and practical questions. But before dealing with the practical aspects of sex in marriage, couples need to do some deconstructing to ensure that they are building from the right foundation.
To put it bluntly, I have the sneaking suspicion that you may be working with a wrong understanding of the purpose of sex in your marriage. Why? Because I certainly was. I was raised in a wonderful Christian family, attended solid churches and Christian schools, and earned three advanced degrees in psychology, giving me practically every advantage in my early marriage. Even so, it has only been within the past decade that I’ve learned a framework for sex that has revolutionized how I approach this topic in every area of life, including my marriage.
No matter what challenge you and your spouse are dealing with in your sex life, your framework for how you understand the gift of sex is absolutely essential for addressing the real-life questions you are asking.
Friend, you, and your spouse cannot solve the problem of sex until you have the right perspective of what it’s supposed to look like in the first place. You can’t do sex right in your marriage until you think about sex correctly in your marriage. And most likely, your backstory has muddled your perspective of what it means to be a sexual person.
Whether or not you are aware of it, sex was rich with meaning before you ever said: “I do.” Even the avoidance of sex has a purpose. Sex is not just two bodies connecting, but involves the complex interchange of everything sex has come to mean to both you and your spouse. Your backstories live beneath the symptoms of mismatched sexual desire, a request for “kinky” sex, and the longing for what you can’t quite grasp.
We use templates or narratives to try to make sense of why sex is so difficult, how to solve our problems, and whether or not it’s even worth trying anymore. Most Christians view sex through a combination of both the secular culture’s perspective of sexuality and a simplistic version of religious teaching on the topic.
The culture’s story of sex is all about experiencing personal pleasure. Sex is supposed to be great! To be a truly happy person, you must be with someone who is consistently meeting your romantic and sexual needs. If you and your spouse are fighting about sex, you may simply be sexually incompatible.
While sex in our world has been cheapened, at the same time it has been elevated to represent our identity, our value, and our happiness.
Rather than viewing sex as something that God has created for His glory, our culture tells us that sex is a morally neutral aspect of what it means to be human. Our greatest good is to be sexually fulfilled and satisfied.
While the culture’s story puts a lot of emphasis on having great sex, it misses the beauty of a far deeper intimacy that sex in marriage calls us to pursue. The culture’s greatest fault is not in that it over promises on sex but that it under promises. It teaches us to think like three-year-olds who become so fascinated by the wrapping paper that we never think to open the true gift.
Over the years, I’ve met countless women and men who describe the impact the Church has had on their sex lives. They all say something similar: “All I ever heard was ‘save sex for marriage,’ and somehow I was supposed to flip a switch on my wedding day. Well, I’ve never been able to flip that switch.”
Contrary to what has been taught, the Bible says a lot about sex, and it’s actually good news for your marriage! I am thrilled to see Christian leaders begin to address sexual issues with candor and the richer message of the Bible. But I don’t want to skip over the fact that most of us have to deconstruct some LEGO-like building pieces related to how we view God and sex.
I love God’s Word. By calling you to “deconstruct,” I by no means am suggesting that you move away from a biblical understanding of sexuality. I’m encouraging you to press more deeply into it. If you believe that God can never truly bless your sex life because of past sin, the Bible has great news for you. If you think that God doesn’t care deeply about your sexual pain, I challenge you to rethink your understanding.
My friend, God is not a barrier to a fulfilling sex life in your marriage, even if you have received hurtful and incomplete messages from the church. In fact, understanding God’s heart for sex is the key to unlocking the power and beauty of this great gift in ways that you may not even be able to imagine.
Adapted from God, Sex, and Your Marriage by Dr. Juli Slattery (©2022). Published by Moody Publishers. Used with permission.
DR. JULI SLATTERY is a widely known clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and broadcast media professional. She hosts a weekly podcast called Java with Juli, and blogs regularly at www.authenticintimacy.com.