Sex + Barriers
I picture the garden of Eden and all of its beauty and perfection. It really was good. God said it was! Adam and Eve were in complete peace with our Father. Adam and Eve were both naked, and they felt no shame. Yesterday, Mel and Becky discussed sex being a taboo topic among Christians and I believe there is a reason why we want to hide the topic. The same reason Adam and Eve were hiding. Sin + Shame.
"Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden." Genesis 3:7-8
How has something that was good become so shameful? Sin. Whenever I look at our wedding pictures of me just shy of turning 20, I can't help but smile and shake my head at how naive I was. My future husband and I had been dating for five years and felt we had waited and waited and struggled and persevered for this special day - "my beloved is mine and I am his" - to be united! We had gone through the mad years of early infatuation, tempted by the adolescent mind that feeling trumps reason. We were under so much pressure to "don't have sex" that we thought once we were married all the physical aspects of sex that we were waiting for would just happen naturally. How couldn't they? That was our expectation. Was it realistic? We fell for the lie that we wouldn't have to work at our sex life. ever. It didn't take long after our honeymoon baby was miscarried that a wall of barriers were built to make me want to hide under the covers. I felt hurt, angry, and shameful. I certainly didn't want to get hurt again.
Sin has invaded all the good that God has created, including sex.
Can it be talked about in a positive way - absolutely! And please let's do. But today I will share some common barriers that separate us from this gift of sex that can be so good.
1. Thinking that sex in marriage will come easily and does not take work or effort
The passionate letting 'one thing lead to another' kind of sex is great but will likely not happen every time (or most, sorry). With married adult life comes work, possible infertility, children, stress, postpartum depression, tired schedules, health concerns, distractions; all reasons that make physical intimacy difficult. You will likely have sex when you don't feel like it. If everything has to be perfect (shaved legs are nice but not a requirement ladies!) or a checked off list before you can open your heart to sex - it will rarely happen.
Your husband may have a stronger desire to have sex than you OR you may have a stronger desire than they do. Learning how to communicate as a couple about your sex life in a positive way (without blame!) is essential for a healthy sex life. Words are powerful. Words can make another person feel secure to open up and be vulnerable or shut them down. Remembering that your spouse isn't there for your satisfaction alone but you also for them can bring you closer. There are some nights where we have to put what our spouse wants or needs before ourselves. This isn't whoever has the strongest feeling wins. Not at all. Does it take you awhile to get revved up for sex? Does a glass of wine, bath, text messages throughout the day, music, having sex at a certain time before you are exhausted help? Discuss this with your husband and see what helps him too.
"The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." I Corinthians 7:3-5
Communicate to each other your needs, insecurities, hopes, and expectations. If you still feel conflicted or talking about sex with one another is uncomfortable, pray about it together and seek counseling. You are not alone in this fight and it is so worth fighting for!
2. How sex was talked about or depicted to you as a child/young adult
Hopefully your parents talked to you about sex before your grade school friends did. Some of us hens did not receive 'the birds and the bees' talk from our parents and we missed out. Trying to flip the switch from thinking that sex is wrong to believing sex is good in one day of getting married is not easy. I'll never forget that the morning after our wedding my aunt came up to me at gift opening and asked in a hush, "So now do you feel like a married woman?" with a little smirk that made me blush to my toes. I felt shame. Where was the sex conversation before we got married?
Please, don't just tell them "don't do it!" but fill in the why beyond "God says not to!" Simply telling our kids to not do something because we or God say so is equal to telling a toddler not to touch the hot pan with fragrant fresh cinnamon rolls on it. Without building a relationship of trust and respect with our children, they will likely reach out and get burned. Lead sons to be men that respect women as sisters in Christ and not as objects of physical pleasure. Dads, your sons are watching your example - show them! Tell daughters that they are worthy of love and are loved regardless of their appearance or sex appeal. Moms, your daughters are watching and listening to your words about yourself!
If we do not speak to your children about sex, their perceptions will be formed by someone or something else. There are plenty of sitcoms, music videos, songs, magazines, movies and even children cartoons and characters that are becoming more sexualized that sell to our sons and daughters every day. Someone tell me what happened to "My Little Pony" please! Let's be alert! We can't place our kids in a bubble but making good choices within our control as a family is important. Let's talk sincerely with them about the blessings and pleasures of sex along with the real threats and consequences of sex. There are plenty of bible stories that show direct consequences related to sexual sin. We should consider sharing with them our own personal stories - they will remember these and it may allow them to open up more to the topic as well. One of the biggest ways to show our children the blessings of marriage is by letting them see us kiss, hug, argue, makeup, and prioritize our marriage by dating after saying "I do!"
3. Past relationships In Naomi Schmidt's "The Proverbs 31 Woman" bible study I remember her calling attention to Proverbs 31:12 - "She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life." Naomi makes the point that this passage isn't just talking about bringing good to our husbands once married but even before a woman is married we should consider our choices and how they may affect our future husband later on. Are my choices with this boyfriend honoring God? Will these choices honor my future husband? Even if the choice is to be physically intimate with your boyfriend that ends up being your husband there can be negative consequences. It can be more difficult to resist the temptation of sex and you may carry guilt into your marriage.
What if your spouse had several relationships before you that were sexual? How does that make you feel? Comparing yourself with the other women may affect your self-esteem and ability to focus only on your spouse during sex instead of his past. Let me encourage you to be honest about your past relationships with each other and remind each other that you are forgiven by Christ and by each other. Looking at each other through the eyes of forgiveness and love will create a better restart for your sex life. "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins." I Peter 4:8
4. Our health choices in eating and exercising
First let me say that talking about eating healthy and exercising in the context of sex is not to pressure women into stretching, running, or lifting weights to make themselves more attractive for their husbands. Not that it is wrong to be attractive to our spouses but that shouldn't be our sole motivation. Our identity isn't in what our husbands, media, or our mirrors tell us is beautiful but rather that God finds each of us beautiful in Jesus. We are daughters of the King!
"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." I Corinthians 6:19-20
Honoring God with our daily choices when it comes to diet and exercise trickles over into a myriad of aspects of our life. Eating a healthy diet and exercising increases a women's energy and desire to have sex. When we overeat or eat foods that are not good for us a woman can experience physical bloat, moodiness, and guilt which make a girl feel less than desirable and NOT anywhere near sexy. Women FEEL sexuality - meaning it has everything to do with our sense of self-image and little to do with the words our husband tell us about her beauty. If we don't FEEL beautiful, we will not be convinced we are, regardless of what is said to us. But most of the time, this lack of self-beauty of low self-image is not communicated to our husbands. So our husbands think, "She doesn't want to be intimate with me because of something I did or didn't do." When it actuality it had NOTHING to do with him.
Talk to your husband about making exercise a priority for yourself and if he isn't already exercising this could be an area where you could encourage each other. Even if you spend just three days a week walking with a friend, having a dance party with the kids (bust a move!), participating in a gym membership, or exercising along with a DVD at home - find something that you enjoy to get started towards a more healthy and energetic couple!
5. Unresolved conflict or abuse
oh boy. Here's a big one. Remember how #1 is about sex in marriage taking work. This is where it gets even more difficult. What happens when there are deep wounds or conflicts that haven't been resolved? Not only does our sex life suffer but the entire future of our marriage is at risk. God warns us about this, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold." Ephesians 4:26 Did you catch that?... Do not give the devil a foothold. The devil wants to destroy our marriages. Watch out for conflicts that start to add up: money, quality time, parenting, major life decisions, health, faith, in-laws and so on. Over time holding on to resentment and bitterness will lead to rage that will be destructive to our marriage and our children. If you or your spouse have done something wrong to hurt the other begin the habit of not only saying you are sorry but confessing your sins to each other and asking for forgiveness. Again, pray together! Ask close friends and family to pray with you. At the end of the day he will need to hear you say “I forgive you” and mean it. You will need to hear this from him too. There is no greater gift that you can give each other than the reminder of Christ’s forgiveness.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." James 5:16
For large threats to marriage such as pornography, adultery, abuse and addiction - seek professional help. If your husband does not agree to go to counseling with you go on your own. You will need support. Again, going to counseling does not mean that you are failing at something but rather that you are working hard so your marriage can thrive and hopefully be restored.
Sin has invaded all the good that God has created, including sex. Conflicts and barriers to sex in marriage can be overcome with the Lord's help (John 16:33) and can still be a blessing. Sex is not something we need to hide. Sharing our own sex struggles may let another woman know she's not alone and can get the help her marriage needs.
Read more from our Sex+God series below: Sex + Taboo by Mel & Becky
Sex + Intimacy With God - by Katy
Sex Q+A (Part One) - - Sex just hasn't been the same for me since having a baby. Any tips? - My husband has struggled with an addiction to pornography for most of his teen and adult years. How can I get past that? Sex Q&A (Part Two) - How did your religious education affect your view of sex? - What did your mom tell you or what do you wish she would have told you about your wedding night?
Sex Q&A (Part Three) - Is it normal for your husband to desire sex more than you? - I struggle with the sin of masturbation. I think there MUST be another woman or two struggling with this out there, and would like for them to not feel as isolated as I do. But how does one simply bring it up in conversation...?