Bringing back the hope and excitement to intimate moments
By Sheila Wray Gregoire
The messages that we hear in Christian circles about sex in marriage sound like huge guilt trips.
Take this one, which many marriage books lob at women: “Men are totally visually stimulated and are tempted all the time. They truly need sex, and so women should give it to them, at least every 48-72 hours. Otherwise you’re just throwing him to the lions.”
That’s about the most unsexy thing anyone can say to me as a woman. “Hey, honey, you had better have sex with your man, or else he’s going to explode with lust over anyone in a tight sweater.” Sorry, but that just doesn’t turn my crank.
But I think you guys get equally guilt-tripping messages, and they go something like this: “You need to love her as Christ loved the Church, and never expect anything from her. Remember that she isn’t going to be interested in sex unless you first do the dishes, sweep the kitchen, give the kids a bath, pray with her, lead her in devotions, and maybe agree to paint the bedroom pink.”
That’s hardly sexy either, is it?
Here’s what these messages say: he wants sex all the time, like he’s some kind of lizard who can’t control himself. She’s some kind of frigid version of Queen Victoria who demands much from her subjects if they want to receive her favour. He’s oversexed, she’s undersexed, and both of you have an obligation to tie yourself into a pretzel.
Anyone other than me find that extremely depressing? Besides, it’s not necessarily even true. In the surveys I did for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I found that in a quarter of marriages, wives have the higher sex drive, not husbands. So not all guys are sex-obsessed reptiles, and not all women are frigid ice queens.
But that’s not the worst of it. What really irks me is how defeatist we are about the whole thing. This is how he is, and this is how she is, and nothing can be done about it.
Isn’t the Christian message supposed to be the exact opposite? Jesus didn’t come so that we’d be stuck; He came to give us life, and to give it to us abundantly. Jesus came to make us into holy but also totally passionate people! Why, then, do we give couples these “obligation” messages about sex, rather than exciting, hopeful messages?
If I could rewrite the Christian script, this is what I’d say to women: “Making love is something totally stupendous, and God wants you to have great passion in your life! So don’t settle for less.”
And if I were talking to men, I’d say something like this: “God made sex to meet our deepest need for connection. Making love is a beautiful thing, and make sure, as you pursue your wife, that you’re reveling in all the levels of intimacy, and not just searching for the next physical high.”
Do you see the difference? It’s challenging us to get more of what God wants to give us. That should be the central Christian message in all areas of our lives: God wants to transform us. We’re okay with that message when it comes to teaching our kids not to lie, or learning to be more generous with our money, or stretching ourselves to get along with people at church. Yet somehow the idea that our sex drives are not fixed—that God may actually want to do something to redeem them—seems so foreign.
But I think that’s exactly what He does want to do! In fact, I think that’s the primary reason He made us with different libidos—so that we would have to become more Christlike to get our needs for connection met. Feeling rejected by your spouse is an awfully uncomfortable feeling, and so these differences, which often cause friction and distance, can also be the catalyst for change. To bridge that gap, we have to start thinking about what our spouse needs. If we’re naturally more self-controlled, we need to develop more passion. If we’re naturally more passionate, we need to develop more self-control. And both passion and self-control come from God!
Guys, if you’re the higher libido spouse, and you’re struggling with sexual temptation, I understand—as much as a woman is ever able to understand. But 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God always provides a way of escape during a temptation. So, please, don’t blame your wife for your problems. Own them, and ask God to make you more self-controlled.
And if you’re the lower libido spouse, don’t say, “that’s just the way I am,” because that’s a complete cop out. If God made you to experience great passion and oneness, and you settle for less, you’re depriving your spouse, but you’re also depriving yourself. Pray for passion, because experiencing unbridled passion is also a part of knowing God.
God is in the change business. Maybe it’s time, then, that we changed our central messages about sex. We aren’t animals, forever destined to be polar opposites in the bedroom. Let’s all admit that God has a lot more work to do in us—and then let’s let Him do it. That’s a far greater recipe for a good sex life than laying a huge guilt trip on your spouse.
Sheila Wray Gregoire is the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 31 Days to Great Sex.
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