Sex in a Christian Marriage

The benefits of marriage (over serial dating, cohabitation, and divorce situations) have long been studied: it's pretty much agreed upon that married people have healthier kids, a longer lifespan, & healthier lives. A book was even written about it in 2001, called, The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially.

And what about sex? Various research will tell you that married people do it more, less, better, or worse than their unmarried counterparts. Though you can find various viewpoints, research more frequently supports the notion that married people have considerably more sex and better sex than sexually-active singles.

I've written previously on freedom within marriage, and freedom in the marriage bed. But today, I want to examine and debunk the myths and feelings that can and do harm Christian marriages. Here are some of the common ones. Though not often spoken, these underlying beliefs negatively affect sexual intimacy between couples.

(1) "Sex is sinful."
This belief ultimately stems from a faulty view of God.... namely, that He didn't design, intend, and bless the sexual union of a married man and woman from the very beginning.

Satan did not come up with sex. God did. In fact, Satan has never come up with anything good. He is not a creative being. He is created. The only thing Satan has ever done is pervert and twist God's designs. In the beginning, the Holy God designed a beautiful garden; Satan perverted it into a power-struggle and convinced humans to defy God's laws (namely, "don't eat the fruit of that tree") and see for themselves what God was withholding from them. All they got out of it was death, shame, and broken fellowship with the Creator. The Holy God designed a beautiful garden of pleasure for husbands and wives to enjoy together; Satan has perverted it into a recreational activity and convinced humans to defy God's laws (namely, one man, one woman, for life) and see for themselves what God has been withholding. But all we get out of it are death (of spirit and sometimes body), shame, and broken fellowship with the Creator, as well as the possibility of broken fellowship with our spouse.

We must stop viewing sex as sin, and instead view it as a special gift, a set-aside package meant to be opened by two people, together, at an appointed time.

(2) "Men want it, women don't."
This can be the case at times, for chemical reasons, particularly as a woman nears the menopausal years. But the reverse of this can also be true, as it is often the case that a woman's sexual drive heats up about the time the man's sexual drive is cooling down.

But I am of the opinion that far too many women rely on this pervasive belief to beg off from intimacy, when really, a little good conversation would warm them up quite nicely. Oftentimes, the problem lies in a lack of communication. Women often need to tick off their mental list before they can relax in the arms of the one they love. Sharing these thoughts (which Shaunti Feldhahn likens to a pop-up window that won't shut down until it's dealt with) helps a woman feel connected to her husband, and more likely to be "in the mood." So if men can learn to be good listeners, and women can open up and share their heart with their husband, belief #2 will no longer be a reality.

For women, sharing their hearts leads to physical intimacy, for a lot of men, physical intimacy is a primary way that they share their hearts. So 'a little less talk' doesn't necessarily lead to 'a lot more action' in reality. Instead, more talk can lead to more action.

We also need to be aware that many, many marriages struggle silently with the opposite of this issue. Despite the increasing frequency of prescription drugs that target helping men boost their libido, there is still a difficulty for men in our culture to admit to just not wanting it. They've been told all their lives that that's "all they think about"... so when they don't want it all the time, it can lead to all sorts of problems in a marriage. Both partners have no framework for how to deal with this particular issue-- they've never been told it could be a difficulty. If not dealt with, it can lead to shame, bitterness, and as 1 Cor. 7:5 tells us, a stronghold for attacks from the enemy.

No matter which partner is "not wanting it", it needs to be addressed and overcome (whether through biblical counseling, medication, or just sheer determination) so that both partners do not feel deprived.

(3) "Christians have boring sex." (a.k.a. "Good Christians can't have good sex.")
I've elaborated on this in the other posts (referenced above), but let me just sum up here with a little parable: when you're in your own backyard, playing with your best friend, there are no limits to the fun you can have. Fenced in, with complete freedom, there is ultimate safety and ultimate privacy that awaits you in this most incredible and sacred place. That's how God designed it. So, play (be intimate) to your hearts' content, with your best friend (husband or wife), within the fence (boundaries) God built for you.

(4) "Sex is to be enjoyed when you're young, and should taper off after the first couple years of marriage."
In what other arena of life do we hold this to be true? Do we really think that a tee-baller could play in the major leagues? I mean, technically, they're playing the same game, but the technique and talent are vastly different!

Why have we as Christian men and women bought into the lies of the world that only swinging singles can have good sex? That sex can't get better over time? We need to realize that, just like baseball, chess, or gardening for that matter, the longer you do it, the better you are, and the better you are at it, the more fun it is! And like playing doubles in tennis, the more time you spend playing with that one partner, the better you'll be together! When we marry, to harken back to the earlier analogy, God has given us a backyard that's more fun than Six Flags- full of delight, surprises, and thrills- and He's given us a lifetime pass. Why not explore the whole park, ya know what I'm saying?

(5) "I __________ before I was married" (fill in the blank with whatever it was: fooled around, was molested, raped, had sex), "and I'll never be able to forgive myself or get past it."
This one affects more women and more marriages than we realize. Some statistics set the number at 1 out of every 4 women that have been sexually victimized. And with reports
showing that 95% of Americans engage in premarital sex, sexual history is, more than ever, an issue that Christian marriages must face.

Concerning the person who
has the history (of being raped, molested, or having been promiscuous), whether it is the man or woman, this has the potential to greatly affect their views of intimacy with a spouse.In cases of promiscuity, it can put flashbacks or pop-ups in the mind of that person that can significantly interfere with intimate moments in the marriage relationship. In the cases of abuse, it can taint or even eliminate the physical pleasure because of the mental and emotional associations with intimate touch.

Coping With Past Sexual Sin
I'm no psychologist, and I don't even play one on TV, so I'm not going to try to examine all the possible problems that can arise from this kind of sexual history. But while it is of a more personal nature than most difficulties one faces in life, and certainly can affect someone throughout his or her life, as a Christian, it doesn't have to. Our God is the Great Physician, and that's not just for physical hurts... Our God is the Comforter and Counselor... and as our Creator, He knows each of us better than anyone else ever could! He is trustworthy and we can pour out our deepest hurts and the scars of our souls to Him and rest in His faithful arms. We can be healed of bad memories, painful abuse, or any other sexual issues that we have.

The Bible tells us to take each thought captive in obedience to Christ Jesus. If we are intentional about taking each thought, each memory, each picture in our minds
captive, in order that we might instead have a joyful marriage relationship and keep the marriage bed undefiled, God will honor that obedience on our part. He will give aid when we need it. He will purify our minds, over time. He will turn sadness or pain into joy, if we are faithful to ask. That's the kind of redeeming God we serve.

There are emotional issues that may come up when your spouse has a difficult sexual history, and questions may surface like, "do you compare me to him when we're together? " "Did you do this with her?" "When I do this, does it make you remember ____?" And while this, too, can be very difficult, as Christians, we have options as to how we face such difficulties. Jesus told His disciples to forgive seventy times seven... we are to be forgivers. That is not to say that these things ought never be talked through, but a good marriage is made up of two good forgivers, and this is very true of past sexual sin.

However, let me say, there is no biblical reference that tells us to forgive ourselves. Once a human being has been forgiven by God (and sought human forgiveness if there is a need), there is no higher authority who can hold sin against him or her. Not even ourselves- we do not sit in the judgment seat. God does. And if we have confessed our sin to Him, "He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9) Once we have been cleansed of sexual sin, we must walk in that purity and not allow the enemy to dredge things up from the past that have been forgiven by God Almighty.

The Bible tells us that, in marriage, we are not to deprive one another of our bodies (1 Corinthians 7:4-6) except for instances of prayer (and that even then, we are to reunite quickly so that Satan will not tempt us in our lack of self control). We are not to claim ownership rights over our own body, though modern psychologists, feminists, and talk show hosts would have us believe that we should. When you choose to become one with another person by entering into marriage, your body does not belong only to you, but now it also belongs to your husband or wife.

Our marriages can be a way that others see Christ in us. The old song says, "they will know we are Christians by our love", and this biblical principle can play out in our marriages. The way we love each other will show our unbelieving friends and neighbors just how good God is.

Just think! He can take two broken people, with possible abuse and sin, and turn their physical relationship into a gleaming example of intimacy. The sexual union of two Christians can give a glimpse into what it will be like when Christ raises Christians up to spend eternity with Him. When we turn our thoughts and our hang-ups over to Christ, stay within the boundaries He's given us, and remember that our body is not our own, our sexual lives can honor God and bring joy and fulfillment into our marriages and our individual lives. May it be so for you.


Kim said...

I am so glad you posted about this. It really helps me to keep my eye on the prize, and not look at the way the world works and think that it's okay.

So thanks. (big hugs and kisses)

How's your beloved doing? Did he get to come home for Valentine's Day?

EmmyJMommy said...

Praise God!!! Glory to Him!! You have spoken so many tough truths in this post. I am grateful that you have the courage in Him to post about something so personal on so many levels. It is great to consider the many lies we struggle with, and Satan has a tendency to win, that with the truth of the Word we are able to break free of those lies.

Thanks for your continued love of the truth of the Word...and your faithfulness to it!


Paula said...

First, applause for speaking out on a subject with such boldness and eloquence on a subject that NEEDS to be spoken about to today's Christian woman!! I know that I suffered through sex as just something that was supposed to be endured in marriage. Unfortunately an attitude I had gotten from my mom. Then I read a book called Intimate Issues by Dillow and WOW my eyes were really opened to what GOD had to say about sex. I can only thank the Lord for bringing that book into my life (although I wish I had read it MUCH sooner in my marriage) because we now truly enjoy each other the way God intended us to. :)

Jess Connell said...

First off, I'm so glad you ladies took this article in the right spirit. I know talking about "it" can offend some people. But frankly, we can be in the world (aware of sexuality) without being of the world (saying "anything goes").

Paula, those Dillow books are excellent, aren't they? So many women have had experiences similar to yours. Some women are still shackled in that... and that's what it is... like a prison sentence, when we don't view intimacy the way God views it.

I'm so thankful to get responses from people. Sometimes when I've brought up sex, it doesn't get responses, so I'm really thankful to hear that this is helpful.


Anonymous said...

I really appreciate all of your wisdom Jess. Thank you for sharing your insight online. God is a merciful God and a very gracious God. He has blessed me greatly, despite of my past choices. I made a lifestyle choice to fulfill my own desires and not pursue God in anything. I ended up with a lifetime of guilt. I have been sexually abused as well as promiscuious. Those scars run very deep and I have been praying for the past 3 years that God will heal me from the memories and pain. God has brought me so far from where I was because I surrendered to Him and put Him in charge of my life and where He wants to lead me. He has blessed me with two beautiful children and has transformed me into a loving mother. I have obeyed Him through some hard circumstances and trusted in His wisdom and He has blessed me with a wonderufl man who, God willing, might become my husband very soon. Matt is more than I could have ever imagined for myself and is so full of grace and wisdom and insight. I had to learn to forgive myself of my past failures. It was incredibly difficult and was intertwined with my self-worth. I do think that forgiving one's self of their past sin is important to move on with their life.

Anonymous said...

Nice article. Very true, my sister. Sex is a gift given by God to be enjoyed and celebrated within marriage. We Christians should be practicing hot monogamy!

Rick said...

Wow! Great post. God created the sexual relationship so Christians should have a leg up -- at least that's what I think. I very much agree that the sexual relationship should improve as we grow older and get to know each other's needs, wants and desires better, and it definately should not be boring. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article which is such a blessing. It covers everything that I needed to be set free. This bondage was holding me back from enjoying what God has intended to be wonderful. After 7 years of marriage! I pray all married couples that are struggling in this area read this Article. God Bless you!

Connecting to the soul said...

It is so nice to have found a christian view on marriage and sex at a time I was struggling with it. God really does bring us to where we need to be or answer our deepest questions. I look forward to reading more- Deb from Kansas

Anonymous said...

Something that has caused us problems is #1. Growing up having people tell you "sex is bad! Resist! Don't give in!" has rather given us complexes... We need to find a way to raise our teens that doesn't have harmful lasting effects! The other day my husband of 3 years told me how he still hasn't fully gotten past the idea of sex not being a sin. We are both in our 20's and went to church as teens and he still has guilt about this.

Daniel said...

Thanks for a fabulous post Jess. You are so right, and many Christian marriages struggle under a misconception about sex in a Christian context. It is so good to hear a balanced and liberated attitude based on the Scriptures that encourages great relationship, and great love making!

Bethany said...

Wow! Your post really encouraged me. I am not yet married, but hope to be soon. This was really helpful to me, as I want to have a healthy understanding about marriage and everything it entails. :) Thank you for being open and sharing the pieces of God's heart you have discovered with us.

Carl Gregory said...

While reading the myth #3, i realized marriage is like a home. It's like a place for two people to experience each other in the supernatural-naturalness that Holy God made it to be.
Thanks for the post. It's encouraging for me to read as I'm heading toward marriage myself.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. I just googled "christian marriage, dealing with past sexual sin" and I came up on this. Your article was enlightening and uplifting. :)

thedatinghusband said...

This is a great article. I am so glad someone is bringing light on these myths. I wholeheartedly believe that as Christians we can have better intimacy and fun in our marriages than anyone else. Thanks for this post!

Charlotte said...

Thanks for this article Jess. It's great insight. May Jesus continuously bless you for the seeds you plant around you.

Charlotte said...

Thanks Jess.
May Jesus Bless you!

Josh Steffey said...

Thank you, Jess

Months back I was baptized, thanks to a friend of mine, and felt very motivated to learn more about the word of God. Questions after questions build up, even things relating to my single life about happy marriages and intimacy. Again, thank you for the elaborate and informative blog.