When Times Are Tough

When sexual intimacy in a marriage gets frozen, it can be easy to believe there isn’t anything that can be done to make things better. Here are five simple, though not necessarily easy, actions you can take to rebuild sexual intimacy in your marriage. 

1. Make time for sexual intimacy.

As you will see, these suggestions for change are not revolutionary or complex. They’re simple and doable. One simple thing couples can try in order to rebuild sexual intimacy (or any kind of intimacy, really) is to make time for each other. A date night is not going to solve all your marital intimacy problems, but carving out special time for uninterrupted and unhurried conversation can go a long way toward cultivating intimacy.

2. Talk to your spouse.

Part of what carving out time for your relationship does is create space to talk. In an age where we can be chained to our phones and devices, there is something quietly revolutionary about simply talking face- to- face with your spouse.

The Song of Solomon is interpreted in a variety of ways, but what is undeniably true, whatever your interpretation, is the role of language and communication to convey love and intimacy. As Solomon and his bride speak to one another, you quickly realize this conversation is passionate, intimate, sensual, and provocative. There is freedom and generosity in how they speak to one another. Their praise is effusive; their lovemaking anything but stale or boring. There is a thoughtfulness and beauty that attends their complements of one another.

I remember a recent conference I attended where a well- known speaker commented about the role of conversation in his marriage. While not denying the pleasures of sex with his wife, he related how good it was simply to talk and enjoy his wife’s company. A bit tongue- in- cheek, he shared that in some ways their talking with one another was better than sex . . . that’s how enjoyable, deep, and meaningful their time together was.

I give couples questions to have a more pointed conversation about their intimate life. They can work on these together in the privacy of their relationship, and discuss with you any problems they bump into:

  • Do you and your spouse view your sexual intimacy as an overall part of the way you glorify God through your marriage?
  • How often do you initiate sexual intimacy with your spouse?
  • When was the last time you and your spouse were able to get away for an overnight trip?
  • Have you and your spouse had a conversation recently about your sex life?
  • What would be one thing you could do to improve your sex life?
  • What is one thing you could stop doing to improve your sex life?
  • What obstacles, roadblocks, or sins are hindering you from having a meaningful intimate life with your spouse?
  • What are ways you are introducing variety and spontaneity into your lovemaking?
  • Do you engage in nonsexual, affectionate touch with your spouse?

3. Be quick to forgive.

A variety of reasons were discussed that can contribute to intimacy struggles in marriage. One issue that bears special mention here is the practice of forgiveness. A lack of forgiveness leads to a spirit of bitterness; both will kill marital intimacy.

A lack of forgiveness leads to a spirit of bitterness; both will kill marital intimacy.Click To Tweet

It should not be assumed that a wife is the one to whom this admonition is given. Some mistakenly believe that a wife will be more prone to become unforgiving, and thus sexually unavailable or cold to her husband. I have seen a number of husbands hold a grudge or maintain an unforgiving spirit toward their wives which has, in turn, affected their desire for intimacy.

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One area where a spirit of bitterness can arise with husbands relates to who initiates sex. Generalizations in marriage can be misleading, but in my experience, a majority of husbands feel they initiate more often than their wives. After being rejected, a husband can become embittered with his wife for her apparent lack of interest.

When husband and wife commit to a daily habit of confessing sin and forgiving each other, a positive implication will be a stronger relationship of honesty, security, and trust. When those elements are present in a marital relationship, physical intimacy can thrive and flourish.

4. Cultivate nonsexual, affectionate touch.

A practical way couples can rebuild marital intimacy is through cultivating nonsexual, affectionate touch: sitting close to one another on the couch, hugging, holding hands, loving kisses and caresses. I counseled one couple who struggled with a variety of issues, one of which was their intimate life. The wife complained about how every time her husband wanted sex, he would begin to rub her feet. What began as something enjoyable became a dread to her because it signaled the fact that he wanted something from her.

For some couples who have experienced a bit of a drought in their sex life, engaging in sexual intercourse can seem like a bridge too far. Help them get there by encouraging them to simply embrace and touch one another. Affectionate embraces from a spouse can communicate deeply of care and love in marriage without the encumbrance or burden that every touch signals one spouse’s desire for sex.

5. Enjoy sex now because it’s temporary.

Whenever I officiate a wedding, I remind couples of two things: marriage is temporary, and thus, sex is temporary. I don’t say this to be a killjoy, but to introduce a bit of reality and levity into the ceremony. For most couples at the altar, sex is at the forefront of their minds (or at least the husbands’). It is good to remember that sex doesn’t make a marriage. Is it good? Absolutely! But is it the ultimate thing to pursue in marriage? Absolutely not. Sex, like all of God’s gifts to us, is not an end to itself but is intended to point to the Giver of the gifts.

Taken from Counsel for Couples by Jonathan Holmes Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.

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