Tag Archive: sex in marriage


For this final part of my series on lies I believed about sex I want to talk about the false expectation many people are given that because sex is intended for marriage, as soon as you get married you will be able to fully express yourself sexually without experiencing guilt or shame. Of the four things I touched on in my Relevant article, this was the one people seemed to resonate with the most.

Many of us who were raised in Christian communities heard some version of this line in an attempt to convince us that sex before marriage wasn’t worth the potential baggage. We were told stories of people who had sex before marriage and how this negatively affected their sexual relationship with their spouses. The message was clear. If you don’t wait, you are setting yourself up for heartache in your future sex life. If you wait, you will enter marriage guilt and shame-free and be able to enjoy sex the way God intended.

I’m not saying that this isn’t true to some extent. I’m incredibly grateful that my husband and I haven’t had any sexual experiences apart from one another. I think it’s a sweet and sacred part of our relationship and I love knowing that it is something we two have uniquely shared only with each other. But in many cases, our hyper-vigilant attitude towards pre-marital sex is very hard to shake once we’re married and it can take a great deal of time to get over the emotional barriers we put in place before marriage.

My struggle with guilt and shame wasn’t because I went into marriage believing that sex was dirty. I had been told since I was a teenager that sex was intended to be a beautiful thing. But when you spend so much time and energy trying to avoid it or being afraid of it, it’s hard not to let those experiences override simple statements like, “Sex is intended as a beautiful thing.”

If you think about it from a basic psychological standpoint, it makes no sense for us to expect people to be able to make such a huge change all in one instant. Many Christians have spent years – from the day they hit puberty until their wedding day- focusing their energy on keeping their sex drives in check. Then suddenly, in the space of just a few hours, they expect to be able to stop feeling like their sexuality is something they must carefully control and instead be able to express it freely. And not only that –but express it freely with another person.

Many of us have programmedourselves to feel guilt towards sexual feelings – this is how we keep ourselves in check throughout our dating relationships. But that “red light” feeling we train ourselves to obey doesn’t always go away just because we’ve spoken some vows and signed some papers. I have always enjoyed having sex with my husband, but it still took me several months to stop having that sick-to-my-stomach guilty feeling every time we were together.

As bizarre as it seems, I was actually embarrassed that I was no longer a virgin. Even though the whole reason for being a virgin was to enter marriage as a virgin, it had become such a crucial part of my identity that it was hard for me to give up. I had to tell myself over and over, “It’s ok. You aren’t supposed to be a virgin anymore.” But there was a part of me that was sure people were looking at me differently. If losing my virginity before marriage would have made me “like a piece of chewed up gum”, unsuitable for my future husband, how was losing my virginity to my husband supposed to feel different? Wasn’t I just my husband’s chewed up gum? (This is one of many disturbing and objectifying analogies I’ve heard before about why it’s important to save yourself for your spouse.)

Not everyone experiences these feelings,but for the many people who do, it is terribly isolating. Because, once again, we are experiencing something our churches and communities never acknowledged as a possibility. And we feel alone and broken and filled with a profound sense that this isn’t the way it’s meant to be.

Several people commented on my original article to say, “This is why you shouldn’t wait. Why would anyone want to live that way? It sounds like this totally ruined your ability to enjoy sex.”

I would say to those people that the problem isn’t with the waiting. Waiting, in and of itself doesn’t cause any of this. The problem is this huge gap between how we talk to teenagers and young adults about sex, purity, and abstinence and the expectations we put on marital sex. My husband’s and my difficulties in our sexual relationship stemmed largely from taking what we’d been taught about sex as teenagers and trying to apply it to a marriage.

The problem is two-fold. First, I think our churches need to re-examine how they communicate with teenagers and young adults about this (which I touched on in Part 2) and secondly, churches need to find a way to address the gap between “Don’t do that,” as a young single person and “Sex is the greatest” as a married person. In many churches, there is no mature discussion of sex directed at adults and no conversation whatsoever about how we move from the way we treat sex as singles to the way we’re meant to treat sex as married adults. By not addressing it, we act like this transition will happen naturally, leaving a lot of people isolated, hurt and confused when it doesn’t.

We need to start doing the hard work of addressing these issues instead of ignoring them.

[Lily Dunn is an ice cream connoisseur, a Disney fanatic, and a fellow raiSIN hater trying to live an authentic, grace-filled life. She lives and teaches with her husband in Daegu, South Korea and blogs at https://lilyellyn.wordpress.com. Follow her on Twitter @LilyEllyn]  

 [To catch up on the rest of this series, click here]

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So i now have a few great things written about this topic and was struggling to find the best place to put them so i thought i would create this space over here:

Let’s Talk about Sex – my friend Lily Dunn exposes ‘4 Lies the Church Taught her about Sex’ 

Sex Before Marriage – one of those topics that keeps coming up that there are a variety of opinions on – with input from Jamie the Very Worst Missionary

Sex During Marriage – this is a topic we hear a lot less about and some friends of mine graciously share their stories with us.

How Much Sex in Marriage – cos, you know, we like numbers

Let’s Talk About Sex [To Our Children] – a shared blog from Anne Marie Miller that went viral because this is something parents want to know!

 

Marriage through the Years: Stories, tips and advice from couples who have been married for different numbers of years.

How to save your marriage [before you need to] [Series]

How to Love your spouse better [Series]

Marriage is not for you! [a great read for married people!]

How marriage to the right person is highly recommendable

An excellent blog on the so-badly-called “Honeymoon Phase” of marriage for newly married folks in particular [by my beautiful wife, Val]

The importance of being intentional about romance in marriage in year one, and year ten, and year forty.

Sex in Marriage [also a really good read for those of you who are not married]

Ten Ways to Love Well

What my Single Friends would like their Married Friends to know

The Best Wedding Ever?: A glimpse into the drum beat thick wedding march

Steve and Helene

Val and I met Steve during our time at the Simple Way and although we have spent a really short amount of live time together, he has quickly slotted into my folder of ‘Favourite people.’ Steve is someone who really strives to live out the Good News of Jesus practically and is an absolute inspiration. He jumped at the chance to share his story here and I hope that it will encourage and challenge many of you as it has me… On his second visit to the Simple Way we got to meet his lovely wife, Helene. Here is a glimpse into their story from Steve’s point of view:

My pastor has a saying: “Sometimes you have to let a dream die before God will resurrect it.”

I became a Christian shortly before my 19th birthday. Being somewhat of a high-school nerd I had still – had my virginity intact without much threat to it as I entered my college years. Truth be told when I became a Christian it was mainly because I wanted to date a girl who would not date non-Christians — we were best friends and there always seemed to be the ambiguous friends-more-than-friends paradigm/angst to our relationship. Of course, it was me who usually had the more romantic interest in her. Needless to say that romantic part of our relationship never worked out with any longevity, but being close Christian friends we made a covenant with each other that we would remain virgins until we found the person that we would spend the rest of our lives with. And we would wait until we married that person. She held up her end of the covenant while I did not. I was close, but I blew it. Of course she did get married in her early 20s, while I would wait until I was nearly 40 to have God give me the person that I will spend the rest of my life with.

Finding the woman that I would marry was the number one goal of my twenties. It was frustrating to see my male friends that were not holding to my standards of sexual morality fall in love, and get married. I would pray and ask God, “My friends are sleeping around and getting rewarded with wives. You know this is the desire of my heart, I am not sleeping around with anyone – Okay I did buy that Penthouse magazine, but geez I threw it away the same night I bought it and even went back to the store clerk and confessed that purchasing it was wrong—so when do I get rewarded with the woman that I get to spend the rest of my life with?”

By the time I was 29 I had had it! Most of my guy friends were married and my closest friend who I was living with had just gotten engaged to a possessive and jealous woman and I had to move out and our friendship eroded quickly. In the process of this, I began dating a non-Christian woman who I was up front with about waiting until marriage before having sex. She was fine with this agreement. But my anger and resentment toward God for not giving me what I deserved with my chaste lifestyle boiled over. I still remember the night that I had sex for the first time. I remember my girlfriend honoring me – three times she said “You don’t need to do this if you don’t want to. Are you sure?” I was sure! It was obvious that God was not for me and if God was not for me, than I was not for God.

I had heard stories about how if you have sex before marriage you will wake up feeling guilty the next day. This was not the case for me at all — I woke up feeling great, in control, and like a man! However, our relationship would begin to fall apart soon after this decision. Despite me being the initiator of sex, I gradually began to lose respect for her and I think that was the primary factor that led to me breaking off the relationship.
It would be two years before I would have another relationship at the age of 31. Christina* was a divorcee, 6 years older than me, a recovering alcoholic, but a Christian. We both agreed to wait until marriage to have sex. We also agreed that we would date for at least a year. While we never had intercourse, I would not exactly say that were not sexual. Regardless, we were dating for 11 months and I was beginning to think about buying a ring when she abruptly cut the relationship off. I was devastated—It was one of the most difficult times in my life — God had again shown that he is not for me.

Somehow, I took to heart one of the things that Christina told me when she broke up with me. If you want to understand me you should attend Al-anon — a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. I don’t know why I would take the advice of the woman that just broke my heart but I did. Al-anon literally saved my life. It was in the Al-anon meetings that I began to realize how egocentric I was! For a solid year I was at Al-non twice a week and on bad weeks more! One of the biggest turning points was on Good Friday — I attended a meeting that I did not normally attend because it was just a really hard week for me. I remember gushing tears after that meeting and going up to Val, who was always knitting through the meetings, and flat out told her, “I am unlovable!” She immediately gave me a hug and reassured me saying, “You are totally lovable.” She meant those words and somewhere inside of me I knew she was right.

Things did not get instantly better after that night but that was the turning point. I began the process of realizing God is for me — a process that continues today. Somehow, it occurred to me that maybe I was not meant to get married. I decided for the first time in my life that I would trust God with this. If I was meant to be married God will make it happen in his timing, but I was really willing to accept that maybe I might be called to be single for the rest of my life. That latter scenario was a bit hard to swallow but I was okay with it. I was okay with it until gradually I started to really enjoy it.

I would not go on another date for more than six years! I had gotten used to single life and I was loving absolutely every minute of it! And then bam! I asked a woman that I barely knew if she would like to share gas money to a river festival. This was the time when gas was more than $4.00 a gallon, I was driving a gas-guzzling SUV and the festival was three hours away! We were both avid whitewater kayakers and would be able to hang out with our respective friends once at the festival. Helene was a “safe” option — I was sure of it!

God had other plans! It did not take long for us to realize on the ride up that there was a connection between us. We talked the entire way without either one dominating the conversation at any point. I remember being excited and confused at the same time. Needless to say, the river festival was the catalyst to us beginning a relationship. The big problem for me with this though, was that Helene was an atheist, had a promiscuous past and had also recently dated a good friend of mine. Again, I laid out the boundaries of no premarital sex and was shocked to find another non-Christian agreeable to this.

I was committed to loving Helene for who she was and not for what she believed. I was very hands off with respect to sharing my faith with her. I was open to sharing what I believed and why I believed what I believed and would recommend books that had influenced me — mainly so that she could better understand me. Regardless, God began to enter her life.

I happened to be what is commonly termed as “dechurched” at this time. Al-anon was still serving that purpose for me at the time, albeit more like 2 times a month. Helene heard about an Alpha group at National Community Church (NCC) in Washington, DC and started attending. Before long she was going to services and then this atheist girlfriend started asking her Christian boyfriend why he did not go to church — weird how God works sometimes! God uses atheists to get Christians into church — NCC is still our church home today!

It was not long before our relationship would fall into the trap of what I call the “Bill Clinton” school of sexual abstinence. Everything but intercourse is not waiting until marriage, but it would take us a while until we realized this. We dated a little less than two years before we got engaged and moved in together not long after. About 8 months before our wedding we went through a six week prepare group with our church for engaged couples. The group leaders are empty-nesters and they are awesome and they do a great job with the group! However, it would be the week after the group ended that I would pick up Lauren Winter’s book, ‘Real Sex,’ off of my wife’s bookshelf. I will not go into details about the book other than to say that it was the kick in the butt that I needed and that it is a great read for dating couples! I read the book in a few days and immediately gave it to Helene and said, “You need to read this and then we need to talk.”

We agreed that waiting until marriage to have sex is not about doing everything but intercourse. We were cheapening what it means to honor God with how we were approaching our physical relationship. We set up an appointment with the leader of the prepare group and he let us have it. At that meeting, we agreed that I would move into the spare bedroom starting that night. The only problem was the Helene’s mom was visiting and staying in the guest room at the time. So instead we agreed that I would sleep in our bedroom but on the floor on a camping pad until Helene’s mom’s visit was over. We very specifically agreed on body parts that were off limits to the other until we said “I do.” We also wrote confession letters to each other that we would burn together as well after reading them aloud to each other.

The decision to do these things was paramount for the health of our relationship. Showing love physically is easy. It can be a challenge to show love in other ways. Helene and I had to be creative. Notes around the house—putting them in sneaky places where one would least expect it was one thing we did. Reading Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages and learning what those are for each other was also good for us. Moreover, the decision to step away from the physical aspect of our relationship was a step of faith in trusting that God knows what is best for us. Instead of seeing God as wanting to take away the fun things in our life–in this case sex—I decided to go all in (no pun intended) with trusting Him!

I will admit that it was not always easy but it was certainly amazing! I gained more respect for Helene. I gained more respect for myself. It was a catalyst for me to allow God deeper into my life. I also learned how to make Helene feel loved beyond the scope of just being sexual. And I felt redeemed — even all the mess that Helene and I created with keeping God at arms-length in our premarital sex life — God was able to redeem it once we invited Him in!

God had truly resurrected the dream that I had let die!

[*Name Changed to protect the innocent]

[To follow Steve’s musings in his regular blog ‘Steve G’s Eclectic World’, click here]

[to get a glimpse of part of Helene’s story, click here]

Wow! So this one should get people clicking on it. It may seem like a bit of an unusual topic to list under ‘Taboo Topics’ which after all was a series designed with the aim of talking about some of the issues that are very prevalent in the world, but that the church [and often even the outside-of-the-church world] rarely speaks about, or into. But think about it for a second. Preaching about sex in church? In any context other than the ‘Thou shalt not!’ of pre-marital sex… I certainly can’t remember the last time i heard a good preach on how to have good sex in marriage.

I know what a lot of you might be thinking – of course not, how inappropriate would that be, that is something for a counselling sesssion… or something like that.

It certainly is something for somewhere. And if the majority of married people are not receiving any form of counselling, then chances are it is not being spoken about. At all. Does the bible have anything to say about sex? Absolutely, and it definitely has a lot to say about how we should be treating each other.

So I wanted to get the ball rolling and so i sent out a general email to a bunch of my married friends, and Steve and Helene responded almost immediately and having read their stories i am so excited to be able to share them with you as there is so much Love and Grace and Redemption within them, that I really believe these are going to change lives and hopefully share a bit of an ‘I get it’ with some of you who may have felt as if you are the only one who understands what you’ve been through. While each of our stories is different, sometimes it just takes hearing the story of someone who has gone through something similiar, to be able to feel a little bit encouraged and have a lot more hope that this can turn out alright…

I should say before we begin that I really do believe that marriage is the place God created for a man and a woman in a committed relationship to have sex in. That is how God designed it to be. Although at the same time, it is important to acknowledge that we do live in a broken world and we live with a lot of that brokenness in us {which God is bringing to redemption], and so it doesn’t always end up that that is where sex happens. Fortunately we have a gracious and loving God who is able to enter into our stories where we have messed them up…

This was the original blog post and two responses that invited the whole focus on this topic – click here to read ‘How much Sex in Marriage?’

Click here to read the story of Steve Graybill and his wife Helene Scalliet

Click here to read the story of Helene Scalliet and her husband Steve Graybill

So i got this comment at the bottom of the recent ‘Singleness’ Taboo Topic posted and approved it and started replying, but then thought that responding to ‘How much sex in marriage?’ on a Singleness post might be stretching the boundaries of love and sensitivity and so i decided to deal with is directly as a separate post… [singles are welcome to read, because maybe this will help]. So the comment i received is below, as it came through:

Can you do an article on “how much sex” in marriage? Say you are married, then hopefully it comes naturally and everything is great. BUT what if it does not. You are both Christian, and it says in the Bible that the woman must give herself to the husband. What if your wife is not being reasonable and you are not having sex too often. Say months go by, what is a man to do? If the wife is not willing to work at things from her side, then what should he do? Should he just wait, one, two years if need be or longer? Try to get professional help – but only if she is willing which may be difficult in some cases. It is not the all that ends all, and the love should carry the relationship. But a man has needs.

So if one partner is not up to meeting the needs of the other then what can you suggest from a Christian standpoint?

And let’s be honest, just doing this because I knew how many people would come and read this post due to the title alone [you guys!]

[to read the continuation of discussion on this topic between Brett and his wife, the Beautiful Val [tbV] click here]

sex-starved-marriage-2

But ja, a very interesting question and ‘Sex in Marriage’ is definitely a Taboo Topic that could do with being handled as that is certainly something you don’t get told much about in church.
[The ‘No sex til marriage’ mantra seems to be it as far as sex and the church is concerned]
This is not the kind of topic that is brought up a lot at the dinner tables i hang out with, but i do imagine i would find it a particularly difficult one to invite my friends to share my stories on as well for this blog.

so let me try and deal with this by speaking a little more generally, by specifically looking at some of the key issues which i think underlie the question. and hope that some of my cool friends will add their thoughts in the comments section afterwards.

i think i would put the ‘how much sex in marriage?’ question alongside the ‘how far is too far before marriage?’ question in suggesting that both of those might be the wrong questions to be asking.

and it might help to more properly frame the question i am hearing you ask in this example, which is ‘how much sex can i get in marriage?’ because it doesn’t sound like your concern here is for your wife. this is a very me-focused question, which is fine to ask [we all have me questions] but i think it is more important to be asking a ‘her’ question first. i don’t think the me question is a good place to begin, otherwise that shows a misunderstanding of marriage.

this passage from Ephesians sums a lot of it up for me powerfully:

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church — 30 for we are members of His body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

# it speaks of a mutual submission and so that is an important thing to notice – this passage has been used by many to somehow try to show the woman as being under, or less than the man, but it starts off with verse 21 which boldly states this is a two way thing [and it’s done out of reverence for Christ!]

# then, what is interesting, after you get past all the woman submission stuff, which a lot of women have found difficult to take or understand or hold on to [again because of a lot of damage that has been done when this has been misused causing understandable hesitance to embrace this piece] is the description of the man’s responsibility. the woman is meant to submit, yes, but the man is meant to love ‘just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.’

how did Jesus show His Love for the church? By dying for her.

um. wo. now wait a minute there. i don’t remember that being in my vows. [well it was there, if you took the time to read the finer print]

so if we go back to your question in the context of this statement, does that change how it looks at all? if we make her the subject of the question, then it looks a little more like, ‘what are her needs? and how are you meeting them?’ ‘are there some needs she has outside of sex that you are maybe not meeting, which may possibly be having an affect on how much sex she is being open to? [this is really difficult to say in terms of your situation, because i don’t know you and so i just have to ask questions – you will be able to ask them more specifically and on target] ‘have you tried discussing this area of your marriage from a her point of view or only from a ‘this is what i need/want’ point of view?

i just think there might be some different questions to ask. what is the end point you are looking for? you being sexually fulfilled or the two of you having a real, authentic, honest relationship? and is it possible to have both [hopefully]. but i would suggest the latter is more important? have you listened to her at all on the topic or have you simply presented your side and your needs?

so those are my thoughts which feel very scattered as to some extent it feels like i am addressing a hypothetical question as i don’t really know any of the people involved, but there are some key questions and principles here which all of us can grab hold of strongly for marriage. and so hopefully there was something helpful and if anyone else has some helpful thoughts, as always please chime in…

is it worth getting help for your marriage? absolutely. and that can come in various shapes or forms. is there a married couple that you both respect that you could ask to sit down with both of you and give you space to talk out some of this stuff with them? is there a pastor or leader you both trust enough to be able to meet with you both individually to hear both sides and then together to give you a chance to share your feelings with each other? or maybe even a professional counsellor who may be able to help.

i say this cautiously, but my thinking is that if in some way you have made sex and being sexually fulfilled the centre of your marriage or the focus of it, then you are likely to be in some trouble and this will not be easily resolved… if, however, you have made your wife the centre of your marriage [with God the foundation, of course], then it will be a lot easier to figure this one out, and every other one that comes along.

Love her well, look after her needs, go out of your way to spoil her and treat her well just for the sake of her feeling good [not for what you might get] and who knows what might happen as a result…

Love strong

 

[I ended up taking a whole bunch of the comments below in response to this blog and compiling them in a separate post which you are invited to read here]

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