Before reading this post, please take a moment to note:
- In my belief, these views apply to sex in a healthy, married relationship.
- If you have been a victim of sexual assault, abuse or pain, I, by no means, and implying that those experiences should be looked at through this lens. You didn't deserve what happened to you and it is not your fault.
In seventh grade, I went to a weekend retreat with my church. On Saturday afternoon, the keynote speaker opened her presentation with this: "Sex is gooooooooooood!" She had every single seventh and eighth grade kid in the room either blushing or laughing instantly. She went on to talk about the beauty of sex in a healthy, married relationship.
But then what happened? We left the retreat and I never heard sex talked about in this capacity at church again. I heard stories of abstinence and waiting, but none of its pure beauty and joy.
One of my long term goals as I continue to work with women is to change the way Christians are talking about sex.
The truth is, it's not just the middle schoolers who need to talk about it differently. For so many women, by the time we reach adulthood, we have a lot of shame around sex. As more and more people share about the assault they have experienced, it is evident that sex, which is meant for glory, is so often used to inflict pain.
Even for those who haven't experienced sexual trauma, it can carry a lot of heartache and shame. Many women I know struggle with similar feelings around sex:
- Difficulty letting go of past choices they made, when the message of abstinence was pushed so hard.
- Not enjoying it and feeling like it's an obligation to their husbands.
- Body shame; feeling fat or unattractive.
These are just a few of the barriers that keep us quiet, but there is no reason to feel embarrassed about struggles with intimacy. The majority of couples, no matter how strong their marriage, will have highs and lows in their sex life. Obviously, it's incredibly intimate and delicate and I'm a huge believer that we should only share what we (+ our partners) are comfortable sharing. But, when we struggle silently, we begin to live in silos, convincing ourselves we're the only ones who have challenges. This is a lie satan uses to keep us from speaking up.
One of my hopes is to shed light and give greater voice to the topic of sex. If the subject remains taboo, we don't create room for healing. The only way to force the darkness out of a situation is to shine light on it.
Something I realized with Chris is that sex is an actual gift from God. It's a connection tool, a communication tool and a way to draw near to one another. I'd never known this about sex because, in the past, I had not experienced it in a healthy, whole relationship. What I learned is that, when you are in a healthy place in life, sex can help heal the remaining soft spots around old wounds. It can be a spiritual experience between the two of you.
Yes, sex is lovely. But, here's what else I want you to know:
It's OK if you don't want to do it all the time.
And you know what else?
It's OK If HE doesn't want to do it all the time.
Women are so often taught abstinence (say no), while men are taught the idea of restraint (respect her no), which has created a culture where we feel the decision is always on us, as females. But, men don't always want sex either. There is no shame in initiating sex, as a female, and being turned down. Don't buy into the lie that men are always in the mood - they get tired, stressed and feel bloated sometimes, too.
Sometimes, you've just got to do it, even when you aren't 100 percent in the mood.
Sometimes you need the connection. Sometimes, you're a little bit at each other's throats and it's time to release physical tension. Sometimes you're both sad and there aren't enough words to cover the way you feel.
Sex is a connection tool and a communication tool. It can bridge space between us like almost nothing else can.
Without sharing too much about our personal sex life, I did want to share a few tips that we deploy from time to time:
- Schedule it! Plan ahead so you can get in bed early, wake up early or set aside a few minutes before your date. If it makes you feel good about your body, wear your good bra and underwear. People always laugh when I tell them we schedule sex when we're really busy, but it helps guarantee you're making the activity and connection a priority.
- Make a playlist. Sometimes, it's hard to get yourself in the right mindset. Create a playlist for setting the mood and reserve it only for intimate activities. Sort of Pavlovian, I realize, but don't knock it till you try it.
- Set expectations. Talk about how often you both expect to and would enjoy having sex. Before we got married, we both shared how often we thought we'd partake. It's a number you can always adjust and recommunicate as life goes on, but it helps set a healthy baseline.
- Talk about it! Create safe space for intimate conversation early. What do you like? What isn't working for you? What is OK to share with your friends about your sex life? What needs to stay between the two of you? Every single person is different and it's unfair to yourselves, and each other, not to be honest about your desires and expectations.
You might find this post embarrassing, or, perhaps, think I should feel embarrassed. That's OK! Sex is super delicate and intimate and it's great to know your boundaries. But I'd encourage you to find ways to create safe spaces in your life to think about and, if you'd like, discuss the topic, because, in and of itself, is not embarrassing or shameful.
If this is a topic that interests you, I highly recommend Matt & Lauren Chandler's Mingling of Souls on-demand conference. Chris and I watched it before our wedding and found their honest dialogue around sex to facilitate a safe space for us to have a similar conversation. I've heard the the book is similar, but haven't read it - and, honestly, really enjoyed Lauren's perspective.