Disclaimer: In this post I discuss critical subjects surrounding sex and sexuality. I do not dodge popular issues. The Church and sex-ed, for the most part, have done enough dodging. Instead, I use direct language to address these matters. I use words such as porn, orgasm, masturbation, and libido. If this sort of candor causes you to feel discomfort or offense, I lovingly encourage you to spend your time elsewhere.
Perhaps I should finish that story I began in Momgerie and Other Sexy Thoughts.
Ryan leaned in and offered me a soft kiss on the cheek. He complimented my momgerie, and we laughed. I told him I loved him as he drew me into his arms. I leaned in to kiss his handsome face and, as if on cue, the hallway echoed with the cry of our baby.
We sighed in unison. I reached for the monitor. My face aglow with the picture of our teething, fussy child, I had ten thousand thoughts run through my head:
“I want to sleep,” was admittedly my first thought. Then, I thought about how I wanted to connect with Ryan and the sound of Summer’s cry wasn’t quite the romantic backdrop I craved. I slugged out of bed and down the hall toward the nursery. Another night ending not in a trivial argument, but in a tired, failed attempt at connecting.
“I must ask them,” I thought to myself as I rocked the baby. “I must find out the secret to all of these sex related questions people keep sending me. Namely – how can one practically have sex when life is constantly crazy and you are tired? I should reach out to some of the ladies who have gone before me. They’ll tell me.”
So, as promised in my previous entry, I have partnered with several women and my husband to address 6 common, sex-related questions. Spoiler alert: there really are no secrets. But, I do present wisdom and creative ideas to address these frequently asked questions and qualms.
“Sex” in Hebrew is “Yada” which means to know, to be known, and to be deeply respected. A secret-less, passionate, unhindered intimate connection.
1. What is the greatest barrier to a healthy sex life?
Was sex and sexuality considered shameful in your family of origin? Was it under discussed? Was there sexual abuse or manipulation in your past? Did your parents openly display affection? When and how did you first learn about sexual intercourse? Were you ever exposed to a display of sexual intimacy that did not align with “yada?”
The answers to these questions begin to show us the bricks that build up our barricade to enjoying “yada.” Often, these barriers include one or more of these 4 issues:
Lack of Communication
It is imperative that we openly and honestly talk about sex. This may be challenging for individuals whose families of origin did not openly discuss this topic.
If one has suffered sexual abuse, it is important to get professional help. It is also important to let one’s spouse know that sexual abuse is part of his or her history.
Talk about what you enjoyed about a particular sexual encounter. Describe what you felt emotionally and physically during the experience. Express what you look forward to during your next intimate moment.
One rule of thumb is to immediately communicate when one feels uncomfortable or in pain during sex. There should always be permission to say “stop,” and permission to “rain check.”
Unreasonable or Mismatched Expectations
A conversation about expectations is necessary. It is helpful to revisit this conversation regularly.
How often do we need to have sex to feel connected? Where is the best place to have sex? What time is best for us to connect? What do we need to feel romanced? What do we want our intimate connections to look and feel like?
What may be spontaneous during one season, will need to be planned during others.
Misunderstanding of “yada”
A poor picture has been painted by popular media of sex. We miss the fact that “yada” is considered a form of worship. It is a moment during which two unique expressions of God’s person come together as one. That is powerful.
An orgasm is not just a momentary high, it’s a brief glimpse into utmost elation – a feeling I cannot help but assume is a reflection of how heaven may feel.
Sex is not shameful or dirty. It is holy, true, undiluted beauty.
According to one study, 70% of American men ages 18 to 34 admit to viewing porn once a month. It’s not just men. One out of every three visitors to pornographic websites are women. The average age one first is exposed to pornography is age 11.
Porn is partnering with other subtle messages of our world today to reiterate the most destructive lie: I can do it myself.
From the terrible twos, to the tyranny of teenagers, to the autonomy of adults, we are plagued with the expectation and encouraged by the possibility that we can, indeed, do everything on our own. The need for others is interpreted as weakness. In reality, God allows weakness to make space for connections.
This independence is robbing us of connection. Beginning with the shallow satisfaction of pornography and masturbation, and ending with broken hearts and an inability to engage in an unhindered, trust ridden, satisfying, yada, connection.
This lie often begins before marriage as one attempts to satisfy his or her physiological craving, assuming the need to do so will subside when the individual finds a partner.
Then, when one finds a partner, he or she is surprised when the temptation to indulge in pornography and/or masturbate does not dissolve upon entering into marriage. Instead, these temptations and struggles drive a wedge between the bride and groom as one relies on oneself to satisfy this most holy and sacred craving instead of his or her spouse.
2. When one’s sex life is not at its best, what can be done to make it better?
Make the necessary changes to feel better about yourself and make your bedroom more comfortable.
The most sexually satisfied marriages include those in which both partners take care of their bodies. Many women need to intentionally carve out time to feel pretty. Buy new panties, take a bath, practice self-care, and get dressed.
Also it’s important to continually open the door to ideas for new ways of connecting and experiencing sexual pleasure. Do not laugh or cast judgment when your partner presents an idea. Instead, be brave and share a wild and crazy idea yourself!
Don’t get stuck in a rut. Try new positions, experiment with various lubricants or products, or even consider playing some fun games (games and ideas. Warning: use wisdom and discernment when searching online for these).
Do not be afraid to laugh and talk while having sex. While one should never laugh at his or her partner, there is always permission and invitation to laugh together!
3. What is the greatest misconception about sex?
The enemy of Love is seeking to convince the entire world that sex with one person for life will breed discontentment. It’s funny that we have even coined the term “yada, yada yada” to mean boring. Yada is anything but boring – it is awesome!
A common misconceptions about sex is that it is always going to be wonderful and fulfilling for both partners.
The truth is, like worshiping through song and memorizing scripture, sometimes the act of sex does more in the spiritual realm than we can sense in the physical. We need to give credit to the unseen shifting that may be happening within our hearts and spirits.
An added delusion fueled by media is that sex will always play out as Hollywood suggests. In reality, sex is messy. It sometimes involves morning breath and unsexy apparel. It often looks like two partners climaxing at separate times. Rose petals, soft music and candles are not always part of the scene. There is not always time for a massage to kick things off. And, it takes time to learn one’s partner.
4. How does one communicate sexual needs and desires to his/her partner with emotional sensitivity?
It is necessary to discuss what one’s body needs in order for sex to be the best it can be for both partners. The four key elements to approaching these sensitive conversations include timing, word choice, approach, and honesty.
Timing – The best time to have these conversations is after sex (perhaps not immediately after, but within the 24 hours following the intimate connection). This is because both partner’s physical needs are fulfilled so each will be better able to hear and process the conversation.
Words – Use positive language. For instance, instead of saying “I do not like it when you do ___,” say “I really like it when you do ___,” and ask for more of what you do enjoy rather than concentrating on what is not enjoyable.
Approach – Sometimes these conversations are best started with a neutral question, “How do you feel our sex life is going? Is there anything you want more of or less of?” It’s important to enter into this conversation expecting feedback, too, remembering that the ultimate goal is connection, not correction. Neither partner is doing anything wrong (unless someone is experiencing physical pain, or if an encounter is nonconsensual, but that’s a different issue).
Honesty – Sex is the glue of a strong marriage. It is worth the tough conversations.
Ultimately, it is necessary to communicate openly and honestly about the physical needs and desires one has, even if it hurts feelings. All a person can do is choose an uplifting tone, kind words, and a respectful approach. If the spouse is approached in humility and with pure intentions, God will go before and behind you.
Sometimes these conversations come easier when they are built into an intentional rhythm. Perhaps there are a series of questions a couple reviews every two weeks, or every month on a special date night?
5. How can a couple maintain sexual connection amidst busy schedules, children, and overall fatigue?
Holding appropriate expectations for the season of life in which you sit is important.
Not always will consistent sex be possible. There will be seasons when sex is not physically doable: after the birth of a baby, after a medical procedure, deployment or business travel, or in the midst of intense sleep deprivation (cough – infants – cough), etc.
Simply because sex does not happen regularly does not mean a marriage is failing. In fact, this can be a great reminder that sex is not the focal point of one’s marriage.
It is important to note, though, that these busy seasons require intentionality.
Scheduling sex and planning ahead are key strategies to maintaining a healthy sex life in the midst of a chaotic season. Be creative with times and places and be intentional about resting-up for these intimate moments when possible.
Some women have found it helpful to set a timeline with their spouse for how long they feel comfortable going without sex. For each couple, in each season, this is different. I have heard women report this being anywhere from 3 days to every 3 weeks!
The gauge for a healthy sex life is not found in comparing one couple’s experience to another’s. It is discovered as each couple gets in tune with their own needs, and expresses them clearly.
6. How does a couple manage when one individual has a lower libido than their partner?
Discern the reason for low libido. Is it because of a busy schedule? Stress? Fatigue? Or does one partner feel emotionally disconnected?
If we are able to identify why our sex drive feels low, then we will be able to take steps toward restoring it. If it is a busy schedule, we can slow down. If it is stress, we can practice better self care and soul care and come up with healthy ways to manage the chaos of life. If it is fatigue, perhaps we can find ways to rest more. If it is emotional disconnection, we can involve a counselor or bring in additional resources to restore our emotional and social bond.
Medical professionals point to a strong libido as a sign of overall health; stating if a libido is atypically high or low, it is likely a sign of imbalance in the body.
Scripture tells us that our thought life is powerful. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we can cast down vain imaginations (false assumptions about or lies about ourselves, or our partners) and pick up thoughts that promote our spouse.
In a book I read years ago, a wise woman was sharing about her challenge of not always wanting to be intimate at the end of a busy day after chasing and shepherding 4 small children, working, and maintaining the home.
She and her husband scheduled sex for one night a week and she actually programed her phone alarm to go off every few hours on this particular day to remind her to think about sex. Her phone would buzz “T.S.” (“Think about Sex”) and she would pause for a moment and consider what she adored about her husband. She would meditate on his entire person, and also on their last sexual encounter.
These thoughts helped prepare her mind and body so that she was both present and excited for their time of connection.
If your libido is suffering, consider your overall health (mind, body and spirit). Try various methods of mindfulness and improve your diet and exercise regimen.
It is critical to pursue a medical assessment if you continue to struggle with low libido after these efforts. A strong and healthy marriage needs yada connection.