When is the last time you heard some information about sex that gave you insight into your spouse’s desires in the bedroom? For most couples, this information comes from anywhere but their own marriages. We read blogs, listen to podcasts, watch TV and movies, and look at the headlines of magazines as we wait in line to buy groceries. But, an overwhelmingly small number of couples actually talk about their own sexual desires with one another. This is disappointing, because I really believe Christians should have a fulfilling sex life.
Talking about sex is hard!
One of the reasons we struggle with this talk is because we’re under the impression that sex should come fairly easily for couples who love one another. Newlywed couples expect that they are the only ones that have problems. Those married for a while start to believe that an unsatisfying sex life is such a norm for them that they have no expectations for change. Both of these situations makes the sex talk hard.
You’re not alone if you want sex to be more enjoyable than it currently is, but you just don’t know how to bring yourself to express those desires. We all have a tendency to run and hide when it’s time to face a difficult conversation. We get in patterns where it is much easier to hide from the rejection we’re sure we’ll face if we honestly talk about our needs and desires in the marriage. This is especially true when it comes to sex. But, couples who are able to talk openly about their sexual relationship report a higher level of marital satisfaction and closeness. What a good reason to have that uncomfortable conversation!
Marital intimacy begins every morning when you wake up.
We can get so stuck on the physical piece of the relationship that we fail to remember that intercourse is only one expression of love. In fact, intercourse itself is not even the most important act couples use to express love and commitment to the relationship. While sex is an important act, in the grand scheme of your lives together, sex doesn’t occur nearly as often as eating together, taking care of the bills, saying goodbye as one or both of you head off to work, taking the kids to their activities, and on and on.
Again — sex is an important part of the marriage relationship, but intimacy is so much more than the physical behaviour of intercourse. When Scripture talks of us “becoming one” it was not limited to only the act of sexual intercourse. Before you can truly see a positive change in the physical act of sex, you must work on connecting throughout the day.
Pick an appropriate setting.
Have you ever heard someone say, “location, location, location” to emphasize how important it is to pick the right place to live or build? The same mantra can be used for sexual communication.
Make sure that when you talk to one another, you do so in an environment that doesn’t feel intimidating and that feels secure and quiet. You and your spouse are going to be sharing information with one another that nobody else should be privy to. Even when these discussions are had in the privacy of a therapist’s office, boundaries should be set so that each of you feels safe disclosing information to one another.
If you’re at home, send the children away for a while so you can talk privately. Turn off the phones and TVs so you can focus on one another. Grab a cup of coffee and make the conversation as casual as possible. Start with prayer so you can both remember that your goal is to love one another well, and not be critical in any way.
Start with the positive.
The “sandwich approach” is helpful anytime you have to speak about change that needs to occur in your marriage. With this approach, you start with the positive, followed by the change you’d like to see, and then some positive statements. In the case of sexual intimacy, your first positive could be anything that you really enjoy about the sexual relationship (or even the relationship in general). Follow that with something that is happening that you’d like to see change. You could end with a thank-you to your spouse for being willing to talk with you about your sex lives.
Let’s start with the positive. What do you love about your marriage and intimacy? Is there something that your spouse does (even if it’s only on occasion) that reminds you of how positive you feel about the relationship? Is there something that your spouse does that gets you in the mood for physical connection?
Some friends of mine talk about “chore play” as a way to feel more connected to one another. For many women, having a spouse that does some house cleaning can help her feel appreciated and loved. For women and men alike, being appreciated can be a huge factor in sexual satisfaction. What specifically does your spouse do that makes you want to get physical?
Talk about a change you’d like to have.
Before we go too deep here, remember that even if you’re bringing a complaint of some type your words should speak life to your spouse. Make sure that what you say is with kindness in your heart. The Bible reminds us to be humble, patient, and gentle with one another (Ephesians 4:2).
What specifically is not working in your sexual relationship? Are you not giving yourselves enough time to feel aroused? Does sex feel rushed? Are either of you inactive during intercourse or not fully present?
Talk a little about your process of sex. Who initiates? Is there a specific cue you give one another? Do you feel as though the process is exactly the same each time? Do you know how many kisses you’ll have and every step thereafter until you’re finished? Talk about what you’d like to see change. Change can be as simple as asking in a different way than usual or touching or kissing an area of the body that often gets ignored.
Don’t forget to thank your spouse for having the conversation. Remember the sandwich method. Make sure that you let your spouse know you are grateful that the two of you are talking about improving the physical relationship.
While uncomfortable, many couples can start this conversation by themselves. However, if you find that you really struggle to have this conversation, consider seeing a Christian sex therapist.
I pray that God will richly bless your marriage and help you to feel more connected!