If you grew up in a family where sexual morality is strictly taught, the first twenty-something years of life were a lengthy list of prohibitions. The finer points differ somewhat from family to family, but the prevailing rule where sexual relationships were concerned was “not allowed.”
So how does a thirty minute wedding ceremony erase all those years of conditioning? How does a woman go from working hard to keep sexual desires suppressed to allowing and even enjoying them with her husband. For some, it’s quite a leap. According to Christian psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery, the key to transitioning into the role God designed for you in marriage may be found in identifying the lies that our culture has heaped upon sex.
Lie #1: Sexual pleasure = sexual immorality
God, in His role as our Creator, designed our bodies and brains to enjoy sexual contact. It’s only when those experiences are carried outside the safe—and sacred—confines of the marital relationship that they become wrong. Our culture has hijacked this gift of marital sex and carried it into arenas where it was never intended to exist. In these unintended uses, sex does become laden with negative consequences and guilt.
As married women, we have to be intentional about acknowledging and celebrating the gift of pleasure and intimacy God designed for husbands and wives, reclaiming it from a culture that has greatly distorted it. Read the Song of Songs—one of the greatest evidences that married sex is intended to bring great pleasure.
Lie #2: There are no boundaries for married sex
A group of psychologists did a study involving fences and anxiety in children. A group of children were allowed to play on a playground with no fence, and for the duration of the playtime, they stayed nervously near the center of the playground. The same group of children was set free on a playground with a fence around it, and they played much more freely, enjoying the full space available to them. The fence made them feel safe.
The same phenomenon can take place in our bedrooms. God has given us some “fences” around the marriage relationship. Outside stimulation in the form of pornography, etc., can have the unintended consequence of reintroducing guilt and confusion into what was designed to be our carefree playground. Our reliance on these outside sources of pleasure are evidence of our believing the lie that the pure gift of sex God designed is not enough.
Obviously, the bible is silent on many of the questions that may arise about what is and is not allowable in the marital bedroom. There is a risk of drifting into legalism in trying to define it. However, there are over-arching principles of mutual respect and love that can help us discern where the lines are. If a particular practice feels wrong or questionable, that may be the red flag that it’s not healthy for your marriage.
Lie #3: Sex is All About Men
Many wives find themselves in a place of feeling as if sex is a service they provide to meet the needs of their husbands, with little or no relationship to their own pleasure. But God designed the experience to be mutually pleasurable, and couples who approach it with that expectation find greater satisfaction.
Sex that becomes one-sided can cause resentment on the part of both spouses. That alone is evidence that it wasn’t supposed to be this way! Married sex, pursued with the desire to build emotional and spiritual intimacy through physical closeness, keeps a husband and wife connected on a deeper level. Talking with your spouse about what aspects of sex bring you the greatest pleasure can equip him to love you in the way you need to be loved, and will inspire you to return the favor.
You can read more of Dr. Slattery’s advice for couples in No More Headaches: Enjoying Sex and Intimacy in Marriage (Tyndale House, 2009).