Although it doesn’t necessarily come easily, every marriage has the potential for a great sex life.
God is hugely pro-sex! He invented it and made our bodies to enjoy the pleasure of it. And while the physical mating of body parts is pretty straightforward, actually having great sex doesn’t come nearly so easily.
If you believe what you see in the movies and TV or what you read in novels, great sex is as easy and natural as two warm bodies falling into bed together, and boom, total bliss leads to instant simultaneous orgasms.
It’s a lie, of course. It’s pure fantasy, and you shouldn’t be duped by it.
Dictionary.com defines natural as
any person or thing that is or is likely or certain to be very suitable to and successful in an endeavor without much training or difficulty.
Sorry if I’m bursting bubbles here, but having a great sex life won’t come naturally. It’s complex. It requires effort, education, skill, and vulnerability and it happens best in a marriage that has a solid foundation of emotional and spiritual intimacy.
In this post and the next one, we will examine ways in which great sex is not “natural” and what you can do to overcome the inherent challenges.
Men and Women Are Different
It would be natural to assume that your spouse’s sexual nature would be similar to yours. Natural, but wrong.
If you didn’t know it before you got married, you’ve no doubt figured out that men and women are pretty different creatures. So why would you expect your spouse, who is so different from you in so many other ways, to respond sexually like you do? Not only do we have wrong expectations in that regard, but we can tend to denigrate each other for these differences.
One of the most obvious differences is in the area of sex drive. Husbands frequently ask, “How come you never want sex?” and wives tend to ask, “Is sex all you think about?” In about 20% of marriages, those questions are reversed. In my Sexual Satisfaction Survey, which ran a few years back, less than 10% of couples reported having an evenly matched sex drive, and these couples reported a significantly higher sexual satisfaction. Conversely, the higher the degree of mismatch in drives, the greater the likelihood of reporting sexual dissatisfaction. So, the 90% majority of us are going to have to be more diligent when it comes to nurturing our sex lives than that lucky 10 %.
Another important difference between men and women is their sexual response cycle:
- Men tend to become aroused much more easily than their wives. Many women do not even become aroused until they are actually engaged in sexual activity.
- Men are visually stimulated. Women tend to be stimulated more by their emotions.
- Most husbands feel arousal just from thinking sexual thoughts, which come easily and frequently for them. Wives, on the other hand, have to purposefully choose to think sexually.
These differences in sexual response cause a great deal of misunderstanding. Wives may interpret their husband’s ready arousal as being all about physical urges, discounting how deeply emotional sex is for him. Husbands may accuse their slower-responding wives of not being sexually engaged or even frigid. Such accusations create serious barriers to sexual intimacy.
Differences in personality traits also play out in the bedroom. Men tend to be more adventurous and “thrill seeking.” Women tend to place more emphasis on the security of a close emotional bond. A man’s need to feel respected definitely spills over into his sexuality. A woman’s need to feel loved and cared for directly affects her ability to respond sexually.
Every Man or Woman is Different Than Every Other Man or Woman
It is true that the general sexual differences between men and women bring unique challenges to couples. As if this weren’t enough, it is also true that each man or woman is a unique sexual being, with different sexual histories, different biases, and different preferences. Your spouse is a unique sexual mystery to be solved.
Stereotypes may point to some typical truths about men and women, but ultimately, when it comes to sex, there are very few absolutes. There are some great resources available to inform and encourage you toward a better sexual relationship, but ultimately all advice needs to be filtered through the realities of your own marriage and through you and your spouse’s unique differences.
While both sexes have some basic common physical characteristics, each persons’ body is totally unique. Body shape and size, the location of erogenous zones, physical flexibility and stamina, and the sensitivity of one’s sexual anatomy to touch and pressure all directly impact what “works” and what doesn’t in your particular bedroom.
The uniqueness of you and your spouse requires you to work at sexual intimacy and to be a lifelong student of each other. Yes, apply general advice where it is helpful, but be willing to adapt, learn and modify the advice to suit your relationship. This will require open, honest communication, good listening skills, flexibility, and open-mindedness. And don’t forget the important role of prayer and the Holy Spirit.
Dealing With Differences
The first step in addressing sexual differences is to understand them. Talk about your differences in drive level and sexual response. Discuss how your personalities play out in bed. The goal here is information and understanding. Don’t accuse or assign motives. Listen more than you talk. Echo back what you think you have heard from your partner. Keep going until you both feel understood. Assume the best. Be gentle with each other. This is deeply vulnerable stuff.
(Note: when you sign up for my blog posts you will get my free ebook, How to Have a Succ-Sex-Full Marriage, which details the results of my Sexual Satisfaction survey, with feedback from over 400 couples. The book includes key takeaways and helpful discussion questions that will help you communicate more easily about sex.)
Your different sexual pasts can seriously affect your sex life. How you were raised can be a significant influence on your view of sex. Sexual wounds such as trauma, abuse, infidelity, premarital promiscuity, and porn use in your past need to be dealt with and healed. Dealing with such issues may well require more than just conversation, such as the involvement of a pastor, mentor couple or trusted counselor., and most of all, the Holy Spirit.
Before you can successfully navigate your differences, you have to learn to value those differences. Rather than disdaining your higher drive spouse as oversexed, appreciate that his or her desire is for more of you, not just for more sex. Rather than blaming your slower-responding spouse for being “frigid” or unresponsive and getting stuck in disappointment, realize that she (or he) may simply place a higher priority on the connection and relational intimacy sex affords.
Moving your marriage toward a better sex life starts with accepting and loving each other as you are. View current struggles as opportunities to work together to deepen the sexual intimacy you share. It’s not one spouse against the other, it’s the two of you jointly pursuing a healthy, vibrant sex life.
If you want your sex life to grow, neither partner is allowed to remain entrenched where they are. You need to grow toward each other, and that usually requires change. Better sex often means finding the middle ground, sometimes with one person moving further than the other. It’s not a competition to see who can get the other to change. It’s a competition to see who can be the best at meeting the needs of the other. You are the only sex your spouse will ever have. Don’t you want to be all that they could ever desire?
Learning to navigate sexual differences is rarely easy, but it is ultimately extremely rewarding.
Once You Have It All Figured Out…
Congratulations! You have invested the required time and effort over months and years, and you’ve figured out how to successfully navigate your sexual differences. You’ve learned each other’s bodies and how to bring absolute pleasure to each other. Your sex life is firing on all cylinders, and things are good. You’ve got it more or less figured out.
Get ready! Things are going to change. And you will need to go back into learning mode all over again:
- Kids are born and hormones go out of whack, not to mention the abject exhaustion of child-rearing.
- Aging means our bodies don’t respond in the same way they used to.
- Illness can create physical limitations.
- Major life stresses such as a job loss, moving to a new city or having your in-laws move in with you will throw things off too.
Life changes are to be expected and celebrated. And along with those changes will come new sexual challenges that you get to work through together that will ultimately build tremendous intimacy in your marriage.
It’s Worth It
I’ve spent this entire post trying to convince you that great sex requires great effort. My purpose is not to discourage you. Not at all! My purpose is to spur you to action and to give you some strategies for how to grow in sexual intimacy. I also want to encourage you that if you have sexual struggles in your marriage, it’s for good reason. Believe me, you are not alone.
Working together on the sexual intimacy in your marriage is worth every bit of effort you put into it. I believe that intimacy is the highest goal of marriage, of which sexual intimacy is a key component. God made sex for our enjoyment and not just for procreation, and He made it the ultimate form of intimacy, one that only husbands and wives can enjoy.
I believe that every marriage has the potential for a vibrant sex life, and I believe that is just what God intends for all of us.
Next in this series: Getting Real in the Bedroom