If you are married, there is a very good chance that you and your spouse have different sexual appetites. This not only applies to how often you want to have sex, but also to how adventurous you would each like to be in the bedroom.
A healthy sex life has aspects of both routine and adventure: If a couple builds sexual excitement by always searching for that next new experience, sex becomes less about intimacy and more about pursuing the physical high of sexual novelty. On the other hand, if a couple settles into a routine that never varies, sex will become mundane and lose the element of fun and passion that make the sexual relationship a special retreat from everyday life.
In the Song of Solomon, the bride tells her husband: The mandrakes send forth a fragrance, and at our door is every delicacy, new as well as old, that I have treasured up for you, my beloved.
Through this veiled language, we see that this woman was able to delight in both new sexual experiences as well as appreciating the old.
Science tells us that our bodies respond differently to new sexual experiences than they do to having sex in a routine fashion. Novel sexual experiences are likely to be powerful and memorable as they cause our bodies to release the neurotransmitter PEA (a natural opioid) and adrenaline. Think about God’s plan for a new bride and groom, seeing each other naked for the first time. They were meant to be intoxicated with love as these powerful chemicals washed over their brains.
When a couple has sex over the years, they may undervalue the beauty of the patterns of foreplay they’ve developed and how they routinely touch each other. While our bodies respond with a less potent cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters during these “normal” sexual experiences, they also have a great benefit for a married couple. Notably couples experience a surge of oxytocin, a powerful bonding hormone. Their brains also release natural endorphins which promote relaxation, boost immunity, aid sleep, and give a general sense of well being. (Who doesn’t need that??)
How do you as a couple build a sex life that enjoys the benefits of both “new” and “old” sexual treasures? Here are a few thoughts that may help:
Mix routine with spontaneity.
Practically every couple will admit that sex isn’t likely to happen if they are not intentional about establishing a routine. The best of intentions are likely to be extinguished with the realities of children, job stress, and entertaining distractions. Even if the morning began with flirting, by the end of the day, one of you is likely to simply be too tired.
Like any other healthy practice in our lives, routine sets the stage for consistency. Sunday signals a time for rest and worship. Morning and evening remind us to brush our teeth. Couples who want to build intimacy in their marriages need to establish routines that make sexual intimacy a normal part of their lives together. They may agree on certain mornings or evenings during the week or even put time for sex on the calendar as they prepare for the week.
Remember: Routine doesn’t have to mean inflexibility! Taking a weekend away from the kids, meeting for a special rendevous during your lunch break, and waking up in the middle of the night to have sex are not practical routines, but can ignite your sex life with excitement and adventure.
Mike and I had been married for about 10 years and had three young sons. Sex had become only a necessary routine for us—and not an enjoyable one for me as an exhausted mother. I was so frustrated by my lack of passion that one day, my thoughts went like this, “Mike and I have been married about ten years. We have sex an average of twice a week. That means about 1,000 times … my bedroom ceiling just isn’t that fascinating!” I knew we were in a rut and needed help to get out.
For three months, I asked the Lord in my own private prayer time to help me learn to enjoy sex. I looked for Christian books and studies that would help get us out of our rut. Even though money was tight, we committed to a date night every other week and challenged each other to take turns being creative.
There are times when you need to make sexual intimacy a focus of your marriage, and not just when there is an obvious problem. Too often couples play “defense” against sexual temptation without realizing that we also need to play “offense.”
Understand the difference between pushing comfort vs. conscience.
When sex becomes adventurous, you and your spouse try new things. You venture outside of the bedroom, try new positions, and look for ways to “spice things up.” Invariably, you will end up with questions like, “Is God okay with us doing THAT???” Here is a blog that will help you sort through how to answer those questions. Your sexual relationship can have a lot of grey areas, not just in whether or not something is ok, but also in whether or not something is enjoyable. In some cases, one spouse is comfortable doing something that his or her partner is not.
In these situations, it’s important to distinguish between comfort and conscience. To grow in any area of life, we need to push past what feels comfortable and be willing to try new things. This is also true of sexual intimacy. If a man or a woman says, “I’m only willing to have sex in this position and in this room,” that couple will be limited in experiencing the joy of the gift of sex in their marriage. Learning to love each other sexually requires getting out of your comfort zone. You might even find that you like something that you originally thought you wouldn’t!
Having said that, there are some sexual acts or choices that violate your conscience. Before God, you just don’t feel that you have the freedom to engage in that act. For example, a wife might not feel free to use a sex toy during lovemaking because she views it as triggering for memories of sexual abuse. In that situation, her husband should respect her conscience. Paul taught that we never want to use our freedom in a way that would cause someone to stumble or to violate their conscience. As a couple works on their sex life together, it’s healthy to lovingly challenge comfort, but to always respect conscience.
God has designed sexual intimacy in marriage to be a journey, filled with many different facets of love throughout the years. There are seasons of explosive passion, seasons of desperately fighting for intimacy, and also seasons of resting in the comfort of familiar love. Like much of life, the secret to joy is to appreciate the beauty of every phase of marriage.
You may also find the following resources helpful:
- Java with Juli #262: Experiencing Sexual Pleasure, Part 1
- Java with Juli #406: Every Couple Has a Sexual Dance. What Does Yours Say About You?
- Why I Care About Your Sex Life (blog)