Sex has the potential to be the most profoundly satisfying and rich part of a marriage. Sex the way God intended it to be expressed — within the context of a loving, serving relationship between a husband and wife — is a mysterious and sacred act that knits a couple together in ways that are beyond description. We can talk about the deep, toetingling pleasure of orgasm, but words fail when we try to describe the oneness that a husband and wife feel after giving their bodies to each other. The Bible tells us that this oneness is a reflection, a mirror, of the oneness between Christ and his body, the church: “?A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.”
Although sex can lead a couple into some of the most intense pleasure in a marriage, sex also has the potential to lead them into pain. Why is that true? First, the very mystery that we just described can lead to misunderstanding between husbands and wives. When we conducted a survey for our book The Five Love Needs of Men and Women, we learned that intimacy was the number two need expressed by both husbands and wives. However, we learned that men spell intimacy s-e-x and women spell intimacy t-a-l-k.
Second, most of us come to our marriages with unrealistic expectations about sex, expectations built on media images of sculpted bodies and steamy seductions. We measure our own experiences against what we see on our television and movie screens or what we read about in books, and we feel disappointed. Maybe even cheated. Third, our sexual lives can cause hurt because we too often see sexual pleasure as something we get rather than something we give; we are more focused on our own needs than on our spouse’s. A great sex life leaves no room for selfishness.
Deeply satisfying sex occurs when husbands and wives connect the physical with the spiritual, emotional, relational, and psychological sides of sex. When all these facets work together, couples enter the mystery of the oneness God intended.
God created men and women to be sexual beings. Yet very few topics are as confusing as the role of sex in a marriage. When we teach about sex at conferences, the atmosphere in the room changes. Some people can’t wait to hear us talk openly about a topic that’s often not discussed. Others are curious, almost as if they’re trying to figure out what is normal. Still others can’t believe we are going to talk about sex in a mixed audience; for them, the topic is taboo, something Christians do not discuss — certainly not in public and more than likely not in the privacy of their relationships either. Many couples experience guilt, shame, or confusion. Some feel resigned to the idea that sex will never be what they expected or desired.
If we took seriously the glimpses that movies, television programs, and books give us into people’s bedrooms, we would conclude that singles or people in extramarital affairs have the best sex. Well, they don’t. Medical studies have discovered that married people have the best, most satisfying sex. They enjoy sex more often and have the highest levels of physical and emotional fulfillment. In fact, 88 percent of married people receive great physical pleasure from their sexual relationships, and 85 percent report the same positive experience emotionally.
The gold standard of research on sex in America is a 1994 national survey conducted by a team of University of Chicago researchers who interviewed 3,400 people. When the researchers asked respondents how sex makes them feel, married people outscored single people in every measure of delight. “Not only are married people the most emotionally fulfilled — telling researchers they feel loved, wanted, and taken care of while in each other’s arms — but they also report high levels of physical pleasure. Far from considering monogamy monotonous, 91 percent of husbands and wives say they aren’t just satisfied with their sex lives, they’re ?thrilled.'”
Sex is extremely, intensely satisfying — when it’s used the way the Creator designed it. That’s when it works best, when it lasts longest, when it brings strength to a relationship, and when it elicits ecstatic responses from husbands and wives.
Would it surprise you to know that some of the most erotic writing about sex is in the Bible? The book called the Song of Songs records King Solomon’s conversation with his beloved, and he spares no detail in describing his intimate love for her. God loves great sex. And if he’s placed his stamp of approval on it in the context of marriage, then that must mean it’s something worth doing — and pursuing.
Great sex isn’t just a grope, a grab, and a romp in the sack — although at times it can be. Great sex involves a lifetime of study and practice. It requires commitment and discipline.
Disappointment about Sex
Even with all of the statistics about how great married couples do in the bedroom, in Gary’s work as a counselor and in our work coaching people through our ministry America’s Family Coaches, hosting our national radio program, and speaking at national conferences, we’ve seen literally thousands of people who have problems with sexual intimacy. In many households, couples are confused and disillusioned about sex.
When we meet with people, we hear lots of disappointment and dissatisfaction. We keep asking ourselves why married Christians are struggling so much with sexual intimacy. Of all people in the world, they should have the best, most incredible sex lives. After all, they worship and serve the great creator and designer of sex! But it is clear to us that Christian couples are struggling just as much, if not more, than their non-Christian counterparts.
There’s one thing we want to be clear about right up front. When we discuss sexual needs, we do not necessarily define them the way many other authors do. Many books discuss specific techniques or other options relating to what takes place during intercourse. We define sexual needs as what goes on both inside and outside of the bedroom. What is or is not going on outside the bedroom has a profound impact on what goes on inside the bedroom. You can make sure you and your spouse have the kind of sexual intimacy you’ve always longed for. And the good news is that it’s never too late.
If you are dealing with a sexual issue in your marriage — no matter what it is — we want you to find the hope, encouragement, and healing to pursue great sex. If you and your spouse are not experiencing a satisfying sex life, then we want to set you free from what is holding you back, lead you to an open discussion, and ignite a desire to seek God’s best in your bedroom.
We want you and your spouse to have a winning relationship. If you’re going to run a race, you don’t want just to say you ran a race — you want the trophy!
Before you read any further, think about your sexual relationship. How would you rate yourself as a couple? Are you generally satisfied but want to kick it up a notch? Are you disappointed, left wanting a deeper sex life? Are you in serious trouble?
Write down your response to these four questions:
1. What are your top five sex needs?
2. What would your spouse say are your top five sex needs?
3. What do you think are your spouse’s top five sex needs?
4. What would your spouse say are his or her top five sex needs?
Each of these questions is important. Not only is it important for you to understand your own needs — how can you communicate your needs if you don’t know what they are? — but you need to understand your spouse’s needs too. Not just what you think his or her needs are, but what they really are. Most of us live with a Golden-Rule mentality in our sex lives: If I treat my spouse the way I want to be treated, then we’ll be happy and have a fulfilling sex life. But as you have probably discovered, men and women are different, and they have differing sex needs. Only when we understand these unique needs — our own and our spouse’s — will we be able to have deeply satisfying sexual relationships in our marriages.
As you can see, this exercise will take some careful thought and some open communication. Some of you will be ready for that; others of you won’t. When you talk to each other, be respectful. Sex needs are not easy to discuss. Listen with the goal of understanding, not judging. Ask clarifying questions.
When you read the results of our survey, you may agree with the majority of the respondents — or not. The point isn’t whether or not you match up with the survey; the point is to help you grow in your awareness of your spouse’s needs and of how you can meet them. You or your spouse may have needs that don’t even appear in our list of top five needs. Does that mean you are weird? Probably not. Each of us is unique, a one-of-a-kind creation of a loving and wise God. Understanding your spouse’s uniqueness and committing yourself to meeting those unique needs should be the goal of a satisfying sexual relationship.
The underlying principles apply to a variety of needs. Even if your needs are not quite the same, read through each of the chapters. We know you will learn things that will challenge you to make different choices, to ask probing questions, to take steps toward becoming sexually one with your spouse.
From 5 Sex Needs for Men and Women
Copyright © 2007 Barb and Gary Rosberg. Used with permission. Published by Tyndale House Publishing.