Sexual intimacy in your marriage happens in proportion to the transparency you embrace.
I hope my last post, Great Sex is Not Natural, didn’t discourage you about the prospects for your sex life. My goal was actually to encourage you by opening your eyes to some wrong assumptions you might have, particularly with respect to the many sexual differences between you and your spouse.
By pointing out that great sex won’t necessarily come easily, I hope to give you some new insights into how you might strengthen this important area of your marriage. Even though it doesn’t just happen naturally, there are actually concrete steps you can take to build deeper, more fulfilling sexual intimacy.
One of these concrete steps in building your sex life, one that often doesn’t come naturally, is vulnerability through transparency.
Fully Known, Completely Loved
There are three related truths about intimacy in marriage that I want you to consider:
- Intimacy reaches its pinnacle when we are fully known and completely loved.
- The level of intimacy in your marriage will be capped by the level of vulnerability and transparency in your relationship.
- In the face of being fully open with each other, you both must experience unconditional love (without judgment) if transparency is to be sustainable.
While these statements apply to all kinds of intimacy, they are especially true when it comes to sexual intimacy. Transparency and vulnerability do not come naturally for most of us, especially in the bedroom where fear and shame are powerful forces.
Fear and shame can’t coexist with intimacy. You don’t have to look any further than the Garden of Eden to see this truth in full force. What do Adam and Eve do when sin and shame crash in on them? They hide because they are afraid. They put on fig leaves in response to their shame. They don’t want to be seen. They had previously walked freely and joyfully naked with God and each other, but suddenly intimacy is shattered by their fear and shame.
It’s the same in marriage.
I understand that vulnerability and transparency are a challenge for most couples when it comes to sex. But without allowing your sexual self to be fully known, you aren’t going to experience all of the freedom, passion, and intimacy God has in his heart for your sex life.
It’s true. God has dreams in his heart for your sex life.
Getting Real In Bed
The choice is yours. You can stay bound up in fear and fig leaves or you can choose to get real with your spouse.
What does getting real in the bedroom look like?
The first step toward vulnerability is to decide that intimacy is worth the risk. Decide that the reward of deeper sexual intimacy is worth the cost of transparency.
We have to be willing to be seen. A man needs to risk rejection in acting on his desire to be with his wife sexually. A woman needs to allow her husband to enjoy her visually, even if she lacks confidence in her appearance.
We have to be willing to voice our needs and desires in non-demanding ways, and we have to be open to hearing the needs and desires of our spouse. We have to be willing to talk about what is working and what isn’t in our sex lives without imputing motive or getting defensive.
Communicating About Sex
When you and your spouse talk about your sex life, it is important to frame your conversations accurately. Improving your sex life is primarily about growing in intimacy with each other. It’s not just about pleasure, preferences, or practices. Those are tools to help you toward the main goal of intimacy and connection. But always keep the main thing the main thing.
If communicating about sex has been a struggle up to now, talk about how and when to do it. Would it be easier to write each other letters or emails than to talk in person? If you want to talk in person, pick a time and place when things are relaxed and when you have total privacy, without the chance of an interruption. Some might prefer talking over the phone.
Jenni and I have different communication preferences. I like writing out my thoughts. She like processing things verbally. So something that works for us is for me to write out my thoughts and then for us to sit down and talk through what I’ve written.
Find what works for you both.
If you need a framework for talking about sexual preferences, I highly recommend my post, What’s On Your Sexual Menu?
The Importance of Grace
I want to reiterate point 3 of my truths about intimacy. Especially when it comes to conversations about your sex life, it’s very easy to respond with defensiveness and/or accusation. When your spouse discloses his or her sexual desires, keep your response centered in grace, love, and unselfishness. Nothing shuts down vulnerability in the bedroom like feeling rejected or judged.
Tim Keller, in his book, The Meaning of Marriage, says it this way:
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything.
It’s exactly what you need in the bedroom.
Ground everything in prayer. Yes, you can pray for your sex life! Agree with heaven that unimaginable sexual intimacy is in your future. Ask God for creativity and openness. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide every conversation.
We’ll talk more next time about how the spiritual and sexual are not nearly as separate as we often make them out to be.
Until then. Good luck getting real.