“I just don’t want a good sex life,” said no one. Ever.
God created us as sexual beings and to experience the pleasure of sexual intimacy in marriage. But sin has darkened and distorted things for us so that now, what should be easy and natural, actually takes quite a bit of effort. One could even go as far as to say that it takes a fight. But, like anything that is part of God’s explicit will for our lives, joy in sex is worth fighting for.
Recognize the Issue
As in all relational issues, introspection is key to starting the fight for your sex life. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:3-5:
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Before engaging with your spouse on the topic of how to improve sexual intimacy, ask yourself what your role is in the issue.
- Are you dissatisfied? Ask yourself why.
- Does your spouse feel cold or distant? Ask yourself if and how you may have wronged them, or if there is anything for which you need to ask forgiveness.
- Is past sexual sin or abuse playing a role in your current difficulties? Remind yourself of the gospel and how God’s grace restores and redeems the most broken parts of our souls. Prepare yourself to speak vulnerably with your spouse about these issues. Pray through Psalm 139, asking God to search your heart and expose any selfish or sinful motives as you consider the state of your sex life.
Communicate With Your Spouse
While self-examination is key, it can only get you so far. Just as the act of physical intimacy requires both husband and wife, so does its improvement. Speaking tenderly, graciously, and honestly with your spouse - something that can only be achieved after thoughtfulness and prayer - is the next step in the battle for sexual intimacy as God intended it. Set aside time with your spouse to have the discussion, a time when you won’t be interrupted or rushed.
A warning: do not attempt to have this talk immediately following a failed or disappointing physical encounter. It’s hard to think of a situation with more raw vulnerability than that moment, and the potential for emotional injury and setback is just too great. There will come a day when communication about your sex life will take less planning and occur more quickly and naturally, but it’s only after the good work of laying the foundation of care and trust has been completed. As in all communication with your beloved, seek to understand, not to be heard. Listen. Clarify. Ask questions. Assume the best of your spouse.
Invite Others In
Believe it or not, community can and should play a role in sexual intimacy. In this group of people - who love you, your spouse, and the Lord - you have a wealth of wisdom, resources, and support. These people can shed light on what may feel like a dark, confusing situation. They can gently admonish when they see sin creeping into your hearts. They can make suggestions and advise you and your spouse when you just feel stuck. They can provide accountability when you decide to embark on a new discipline or resolution for the sake of marital intimacy.
Finally, an important - and often overlooked - value of community comes in the form of celebration. Just as we confess sin to one another in an effort to expose darkness and the depths of our hearts, so should we share progress and achievements as we see positive changes in our sex lives. That way, when things get challenging (and they will!), and you say nothing has changed or God isn’t listening or moving in your marriage, the brothers and sisters with whom you’ve locked arms in this life can joyfully say, “That’s not true!”
Get to Work
Introspection, communication, and community are key tools in the fight for joy in sex. Ultimately, however, fights are physical in nature. Plan, strategize, and prepare all you like, but wars are won on the battlefield. There are several (potentially infinite) next steps that you and your spouse could take. Perhaps your struggle is purely physical in nature; listen carefully and speak openly about improvements that could be made, and implement your ideas as soon as you’re able (in other words: have sex).
Do you need to regain a biblical perspective of sex? Study Song of Solomon or read some of the many great books written by trusted authors on the subject (see our resource list below). Is there past sexual sin or abuse that needs to be fully processed? Consider attending one of Watermark’s recovery ministries such as Shelter or re:generation. Seeking additional counsel might be a good option for you and your spouse, as well. Above all, cultivate a willing heart. Be willing to try new things, have hard conversations, and ask for help.
It’s His Fight
As you work and fight, however, take care not to forget for whom you are fighting. Yes, you want to personally experience the joy of sex. Yes, you want to be able to give your spouse the highest levels of satisfaction and pleasure in your marriage. But ultimately, we seek these good things because they honor the Lord. It pleases and glorifies Him when we enjoy His good gifts and praise Him for it. It exemplifies the gospel when we feel His forgiveness and restoration in our own lives and extend it to our spouse. We experience a taste of the union of the Trinity when we can be fully known, vulnerable, and one with our beloved. Taking your eyes off yourself and your desires and lifting them to God and His will may just be the motivation you need to boldly, passionately, and humbly take up arms and begin to fight for joy in sexual intimacy with your spouse.
Read this post, share it with your spouse, and discuss it together. What’s one step you will take to fight for your sex life?
The Book of Romance by Tommy Nelson
Sex and the Supremacy of Christ by John Piper and Justin Taylor (editors)
Restoring the Pleasure by Joyce and Clifford Penner
The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler
Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus