Tag Archive: how much sex in marriage

brett FISH and tbV

the other day i posted an answer to a ‘how much sex in marriage?’ question that someone left after a ‘Singleness’ blog post and it got a whole lot of attention… realising that Sex in Marriage is a bit of a Taboo Topic that doesn’t get much attention, this felt like a healthy conversation to continue and so i had an online chat with Val about some of the stuff that came up in the comments section, so we could share it with you:

[Brett]: Hey Val, so when you read through the comments section on the ‘How much sex in marriage?’ blog, there were one or two things that got your back up. What would you say was the biggest of those that caused a reaction in you?

[Valerie]: Hi B. I think for the most part I appreciated the comments and agree that sex (or at least one or both partner’s interaction with it) can be an indicator of deeper issues in a marriage. I think my biggest issue was the implied suggestion that a lack or reduction of sex is indicative of marital problems. This comment in particular got me: “I think that if a relationship is done properly, and both people are happy, comfortable and secure in the relationship, sex will follow, however if there are issues elsewhere in the relationship, sex will illustrate that.”

[Brett]: Hm, interesting. I agree that if there are issues elsewhere in the relationship then sex is likely to be one of the places where that will be picked up. But I imagine you are more hesitant about the idea that if things are good in a relationship that sex will naturally follow? Is that right or what exactly is it about that statement [in the context of what you’ve said about problems with sex can be an indicator of deeper issues within a marriage] that you are taking issue to?

[Valerie]: I think what I heard some folk say is that a lack of sex is ALWAYS an indication of deeper issues and marital “rot”. I don’t like the idea that the natural result of happiness, comfortability and security is SEX! The implication being that sex is directly correlated with happiness, comfortability, security and general health of a marriage (the more you’re having the better it is; the less you’re having the more “in danger” you are.) My concern here is that this plays strongly into the dominant role sex plays in our culture, both within the church and without.

For many churches, the prime focus on relationships before marriage is sex. Don’t have it!

And the prime focus on relationships after marriage is sex. Have it!

So sex dominates our understandings of relationships, marriage, love, mutuality, fulfillment, sin and right living, and health – in the church. Meanwhile, outside the doors, sex dominates too. We have a culture driven by sex and sexuality – it pervades our music, movies, the market place, books, magazines, and is placed at the forefront of relationships.

I feel uncomfortable with this preoccupation with sex both in and out the church, both before and after marriage. is all

[Brett]: I hear you on that and definitely agree with you. The church could definitely improve their stance on sex in terms of the way it is presented and spoken about [and not spoken about]. Ultimately if the church is not speaking about sex, then we have to turn to the other voices on it which will primarily be the media and Hollywood, not great proponents of healthy attractive sexuality.

Karen seemed to have a similar opinion to you on sex not being at the centre of marriage, but also spoke of how it can be a good indicator if something is not healthy.

“Many counsellors and leaders in churches that I know, when helping couples will ask what the sexual relationship is like to get an indication of the health of the marriage. So although it is not the be all and end all and both parties should be happy with the amount of sex that happens in the marriage, we have to make sure our marriages are healthy, that our relationship with God is healthy so that we lack nothing, that He fulfills our needs and makes us happy, so that we don’t expect our spouses to make us happy.”

Is that something you would agree with? That a good marriage is not defined on how much or little sex you are having [other commenters mentioned things like emotional issues, abuse in the past and other aspects which can affect your sex] but that it might be a warning sign, a smoke alarm if you will, to the possibility of there being a fire needing to be taken care of?

[Valerie]: In short, I don’t think the strength or health of a marriage should be defined on how much or little sex is happening. But, if one or both parties are finding the amount of sex (shall we leave the quality to the side for now?) an issue, which I believe is where the first blog post started, then by all means that needs to be addressed. And I think the first blog did that well – in essence you flipped it on it’s head from “how much am I entitled to” to the deeper issues that could, and often do, underlie a question like that. The back-story if you like.

My main concern is that we don’t perpetuate the myth that sex is the pinnacle of a relationship. It’s what we tell Christian young people before they get married and create in essence a mythical “IT”, much like Hollywood does. When the newly-wed couple eventually gets down to it we have bogged them down with so much guilt, shame, expectations and assumptions along with an idealized vision of “IT” which, let’s be honest, has little to do with the actual messy, fun, awkward, emotional, vulnerable, experience of sex-in-real-life that it’s little wonder they get so easily entangled in the complexities of it.

And I’m worried that similar discussions of sex and it’s place in marriage do essentially the same: elevate sex to being the “IT” of marriage – the purpose, the indicator of health, the thing we should be striving for (more or better of), the reason why we do the things that make our spouse feel loved etc (ooh, and that last one especially, the “I’m buying you flowers because I love you, but secretly I’m really just earning brownie points and we both know it.”)

[Brett]: Yes, exactly. You’re talking about the ‘No sex til marriage’ whip that is held above Christian young people [which becomes completely guilt-inducing every time they mess up in any way sexually] and then at some stage they get married and are instantly meant to change to a “sex is allowed and great” mentality. That is such a confusing thing we do to people and it can take years to work through that one.

Sex in marriage IS great. But you know what is also great in marriage? Cuddling. And cooking a meal together. One of my favourite things [and I think yours] is to lie next to each other at the end of the day and just talk about life and ‘solve all the world’s problems’ [well, most of them]. Also playing board and card games together. Watching a series we both enjoy. And so on. I think this is a message that could be given out a lot more on this one – that sex is great alongside a lot of other things that are great.

[Valerie]: Totally. We follow up the “no sex outside marriage” whip with the “sex in marriage” whip (that’s another story!) that creates a lot of guilt about how much is being had, shame about what is and isn’t allowable now that the general veil has been lifted, expectations about what it’s going to be like. So phrases like “if a relationship is done properly, and both people are happy, comfortable and secure in the relationship, sex will follow” just add guilt on guilt and shame on shame and resentment and disappointment and even blame at its worst. Yes, it IS wonderful. It is messy and awkward and vulnerable. It is fun. But it is also one – yep, just ONE – of a myriad things that make my relationship good and fun and healthy and fulfilling and satisfying and comfortable and secure and and and. Let’s get a little perspective in here, yo!

We would LOVE to hear your thoughts and comments on our thoughts and comments and any follow-up questions you might have…

[to read the original blog post that started this all, click here]

little did i know when i responded to someone’s comment about how much sex should take place in marriage [ironically in the comments section on a blog i posted on ‘Singleness’] that this would get as much attention as it did…

…and not just people viewing it, but people talking about it and i appreciated some of the comments so much that i felt like they deserved their own blog and so i am simply copying and pasting as is, some of the responses the ‘How much sex in marriage?’ blog received, and hope to do a follow-up post myself sometime soon as this feels like something we are interested in knowing more about…

Joel had this to say:

I like the way you tackle these difficult questions, thanks Brett. As a newly married guy I can stand behind your sentiments about having the right focus in terms of getting away from ‘me-centered’ attitudes towards sex or anything else. When I think of petty arguments my wife and I have had they are usually because one of us is being very selfish, and lets be honest selfishness is not attractive and is not going to get you anywhere sex-wise.

Leanne shared this:

I enjoyed this response. I think I might have something to add. When one partner feels they are not getting enough sex, let’s say its the man as that is more common, he tends to see himself as sexually unfulfilled, a victim, and his wife as the problem. Perhaps he even sees her as selfish or manipulative. What I think is important to remember is that both partners in a marriage should ideally be sexually fulfilled . This means the wife too. Is she not losing out just as much as her husband even if she has no interest in sex? Should her husband not have compassion on her and be aware that she too is suffering and missing out on the joy of sexual fulfilment? In this kind of situation it is important that the husband realise that he is not the only one short changed and that his wife is not the problem, at least not of her own volition and certainly not in isolation. Sensitivity is needed to understand the problem, be it biological (lack of libido, depression, discomfort etc), psychological (poor self image, upbringing etc) or relational (resentment, not feeling safe or loved etc).

I think very few women with a healthy libido in a loving marriage would withhold sex. And by that I don’t mean to say that there is no place for sex when you’re not in the mood sometimes. That’s for another conversation. I’m not saying that a woman can’t be sitting with a strong libido and deliberately withholding sex from a loving, sensitive husband, just that it’s far from the default explanation.

The problem needs to be addressed with sensitivity by both partners, seeking to understand more than to be understood, with the humility to expect that there may be another perspective to one’s own. And that the problem is likely to be far deeper and broader than it first appears. Having a fulfilling sex life, even if it’s not what you thought it would be, is something worth fighting for but do fight for your partner on this issue, not against them and be prepared to adjust your expectations and to be very patient… these things absolutely cannot be rushed and the long-term goal is key.

Richard added his thoughts:

I think the most important thing here is not to focus on the sex.. Someone once said to me that sex is a good indicator of whether or not there is a problem in the relationship. I think that if a relationship is done properly, and both people are happy, comfortable and secure in the relationship, sex will follow, however if there are issues elsewhere in the relationship, sex will illustrate that.

The question to ask yourself is, what is wrong (other than the sex) and what can I (yes you, not the other person) do better in order to meet the other person’s needs, because if they are happier in the relationship, sex will usually follow. Unless you have married someone who has never been attracted to you, at one stage you were attracted to each other, so what has changed? Find out what the real issue is, fix that, and the sex will fix itself.

Unfortunately, we are all taught from an early age to look after ourselves first. that does not work in a marriage. If you look after your spouse first, they will in turn find it easier to look after you first, and then you will truly know what it is to love someone.. Then there will be no sex-issues.. I know it is hard work, and not as simple as it comes across, but the idea is a simple one, the practice is very hard.. But well worth it!

Karen had this to add:

Hi. Thanks Brett for your thoughts, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I have been married for 17 years, separated for 3, not willingly, my husband says God gives him free will and he is exercising that. But that’s a whole different topic. With regards sex in marriage, I always felt that it was not the be all and end all of a marriage and that marriage was made up of so many more facets than just sex, but what I can say, in my humble opinion based on walking the journey of discovery of a broken marriage, and that is that sex life in marriage is an indicator of how healthy the marriage is, if I had known that, we could have sought counselling long before the marriage broke, instead I was accepting of my circumstances and the husband God had given me in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, etc….and therefore I did not use this as an indicator that there were serious problems. Many counsellors and leaders in churches that I know, when helping couples will ask what the sexual relationship is like to get an indication of the health of the marriage. So although it is not the be all and end all and both parties should be happy with the amount of sex that happens in the marriage, we have to make sure our marriages are healthy, that our relationship with God is healthy so that we lack nothing, that He fulfills our needs and makes us happy, so that we don’t expect our spouses to make us happy. We should have a firm and solid relationship with God and from there the fruits of the spirit will flow not only to the world out there, but definitely to our spouses. We are to communicate as soon as possible to the problems we feel exist and not ignore them for years on end. A happy and healthy person, makes a happy and healthy spouse and with God as the centre, a happy and healthy marriage with the right amount of sex for both.

Sedrico jumped in with this experienced wisdom:

Brett, being married for almost ten years now has been a roller coaster….it’s never a plain sail experience. The minute a man sits down with himself the better. He needs to admit that sex get less. Yes man, that’s the truth! Men don’t talk about it. They want to either let their buddies know that its cooking in the bedroom. Maturity in a marriage relationship is noticing the how, when and where especially when children are around. Also many couples have stressful jobs and sometimes just a cuddle, a long hug or a massage with no benefit to you is the best sensual experience your wife needs. It is frustrating for us, cause we want that physical thing. So sit down with yourself ‘young man’ study your wife and her moods and study the things she love: I know my Hazy loves Hazel nut chocolates, Monday bbm messages on her deadline day (she is a journalist) and me just being there and saying nothing on those off days. Like that song : More than words, you don’t have to say you love me cause I would already know….

Aidan had this to say:

 I think that it is possible to have a good marriage without too much sex if the love is there. If a marriage is based purely on sex, it will only last as long as the sex is there. Once that ends, the marriage will probably end if there is no love. However; a marriage based on love and respect will last no matter if sex is there or not. Ideally there is both.

They say that for all newlyweds, you can mark on your bedpost the number of times you have sex in the first 2 years of marriage and in the years after that, you will probably never reach that amount in the next 50 years of marriage. This is not to say that the marriage is breaking down. It is only natural that it would drop off.

In the natural and Biblical sense, people would marry, and then soon after kids would follow. The roles would change from a courtship type of phase to a more adult and parenting phase where sex is secondary and raising and supporting a family are of primary importance. In today’s environment, we see many young couples on contraception and this interferes with the natural order of things. We are of course living in modern times and people prefer to plan nowadays. The libido is not meant to be at an all time high continually. It is cyclic.

The question we should ask is whether sex in marriage is always an indicator of a bad marriage? I do not agree that it is. Libido is primarily physical for men and more emotional for women. If it is purely emotional then the marriage probably does have a problem. If sex is based on say 50% physical then it is not necessarily a marriage problem. It may be a health problem. It may be hormonal (men and women) and a lot of other purely physical factors.

I believe that when there is not enough sex in a marriage according to one partner, then they should both seek to 1. Improve their diet (zinc, avocado, vitamins) 2. Take up physical activity 3. Actively try to work on it. If that fails then there is probably a deeper emotional problem which would be more complicated to fix. For men, there is also Viagra which could be used if there is a physical problem.

It is important to communicate and try to find the source of the problem as a couple. Both are in it together and should find a solution together.

Fred brought up this point:

Problems with sex in marriage (and this take a number of forms, eg. wanting too much, only enjoying kinky sex, having sex but not ‘being there’, or no sex at all) can sometimes be connected with abuse earlier in life, in this case it is likely that help from professionals trained in sexual counselling (such as Relate in the UK) can help and patience will be required to pull through.

Then Julie came on and asked a number of questions that were largely around what type of things are permissible in marriage such as different positions and styles and in response to her, someone identifying herself as ‘A Friend’ shared some of her story:

Dear Julie,

I understand your frustration. Sometimes, you just want somebody to give you a yes or no answer to matters that aren’t specifically laid out in scripture. I think you’ll find, though, that God is pretty clear about several things: that marriage (and sex) is meant for His glory, and that He cares deeply about you and fulfilling your life purpose (living an abundant life in Him). He also gives us the Holy Spirit to guide these questions. So, I really encourage you to seek God’s will in this area, to find out if certain aspects of sex are sinful and self-serving, or if they are pleasures for us to enjoy with our spouses. You might find that you feel distant or close to God in these areas of life- and that might be an indication of the Holy Spirit’s leading.

My husband and I are newlyweds (5 years now), so I can’t claim a lot of wisdom on this. But, I have found that the more honest we are with each other, and the more we aim for each other’s pleasure and not our own, the better. I was assaulted many years ago, before I was married, and we have learned (through trial and error and many conversations) that it helps if my husband asks before even touching me. If I dream about my attacker, he wakes me up to hold me and to tell me that it is him, my husband, and that I am safe. We also learned that sex is better in the morning, during broad daylight. We learned that for me, a couple of times a week seems like a lot, and for him, a whole week between sex seems like a long time. It also helps him to know that when I don’t feel like sex, its often because I feel unlovable, not because I am not aroused by him. I had to tell him that (he doesn’t read minds- weird huh?). Because he is privy to this information about me, he validates me without expecting sex in return, which makes me love him more. He now feels very loved and appreciated when sex happens more often than i have expressed an expectation for. These observations are unique to us. Other couples have different strategies. But, we would not know these things if we had not explicitly talked about them.

It might seem unsexy, awkward, or an extreme mood killer, but talking about your expectations for sex (preferably when you’re clothed and not in the moment) has been really helpful to us. We have both been surprised at how deeply and overwhelmingly we have felt loved by the other because of this honesty.

there are a lot of interesting and, for the  most part, helpful thoughts and ideas here and so thank you to everyone who came on and commented [including a bunch of others i didn’t use] – i definitely think i will have some more to share about this, but there is plenty of food for thought here already and lots of space in the comments section below to engage with the ideas that were shared here. i think one important thing to note is that each marriage is made up of two very unique individuals and so sex for them will look different and although we can find helpful principles and guidelines to make it easier or better, it is not likely that we will find a blanket ‘this is how sex works’ to cover each and every sexual relationship out there.

how about you? was there a thought or idea that particularly resonated with you? was there something said that you strongly disagreed with? something we left out?

please come and have your say.

[for some more thoughts on your thoughts by Brett Fish and the beautiful Val, click here]

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