I got a real kick out of an exchange on Twitter yesterday.
I’d been thinking about an attitude about sex that says it’s extra. After the chores are done, after the bills are paid, after the important stuff is taken care of—only then is sex allowed. Sex is pleasurable, and therefore it can happen only after the work was done. From this point of view, sex is extra—it isn’t the main dish, it’s just the topping that makes things nice and tasty.
To me, sex is the defining act of marriage—it’s the thing that makes it marriage and not a roommate agreement or a business transaction. (Note: I recognize that medical conditions can interfere with sexual activity, but that is the exception rather than the rule. I have a friend who never had intercourse with her husband in their ten years before his death, due to medical conditions they both had; however, they did manage to give each other sexual pleasure regularly.) You can stay single and go into business with another person, or you can share a house. But sex is the one thing you can morally do only within the marriage relationship. To me, that isn’t extra; it’s fundamental.
When I look at the change that has taken place in my own marriage, it all goes back to sex. The shared and intimate experience of sex, along with the development of sexual trust, provided a new foundation on which we could build the rest of our marriage. I’ve seen this happen in other marriages as well. Once the problem of sex was addressed, spouses had the space and support to do the other work needed to strengthen their marriages.
This had been on my mind, so on a whim, I sent out a tweet on Twitter a few days ago:
Forgiven Wife @forgivenwife Sex is not the gravy of the marriage; it’s the potatoes.
I got a couple responses and then forgot about it. Then yesterday, The Marriage Bed retweeted it:
Discussion ensued, with lots of people trying to understand what I meant. One person helped explain this way:
*salad vs vinaigrette* essence vs optional embellishment*RT @forgivenwife: Sex is not the gravy of the marriage.
Late yesterday afternoon, I saw a sweet exchange between a wife and her husband. (I’ve edited their Twitter handles, since they probably didn’t figure on all my readers seeing their tweets.)
A short time later, he tweeted:
I got a huge smile on my face. I love that this couple values sex and isn’t ashamed for anyone else to know it.
But that got me thinking, too….we all know that sex is a part of marriage. So why is it something that is so hard to talk about? While I agree that it’s a good idea not to give so much information that you etch a permanent picture of you and your spouse doing the horizontal tango (or vertical, or upside down, or whatever) in someone else’s mind, sex is too often hush-hush.
Years ago, I was in a prayer group for women. One night, one woman shared that her menopausal symptoms were causing problems in (here she turned beet red) her intimate life. I was the youngest women in the group and had no clue how menopausal symptoms might affect sexual intimacy, but the older women in the group also turned red and made vague comments to her like, “I’ll write down the name of a product I know about” or “you should talk with your doctor.” These wonderful women could talk about their struggles in believing in God, but they couldn’t use the words “vaginal dryness” in a group of women.
Something is wrong with that. A group of Godly women, in a small group of other married women, couldn’t talk with each other about a simple sexual challenge. A marriage needed help, and the woman was given a name of a product and told to talk with her doctor. Is this how a church supports marriage? This was eighteen years ago and we are in a different church now, but things are no different now.
In “Grass-roots Marriage Movement,” The Generous Husband said, “it will take a grass-roots effort to change the marriage culture in our churches, communities, and country.” Now, he is writing about marriage, not just sex (I think), but are you willing to do your share? It needs to be okay to talk about sex.
We need to celebrate what God has given us for our marriages. That doesn’t mean we walk around announcing how many positions we used in last night’s sexual encounter or whether oral sex was involved, but it does mean that when someone asks you if your upcoming anniversary weekend will include much sight-seeing, your response should include a big smile while you say, “That all depends on how much sex our middle-aged bodies can stand!” (And yes, I said this to a group of young married women at work several months ago.)
We can all sing, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…Hide it under a bushel? No! I’m gonna let it shine.” Now, just imagine that your little light is a happy married sex life. Don’t you just get a big ol’ smile on your face as you sing it now?
What are you doing to let your little light shine and change how those around you view sex in marriage? Sex matters; are you doing your part in helping the others in your life see just how much?
And if you are one who still thinks about sex as the gravy rather than the potatoes, perhaps that is where your own grass-roots effort needs to begin. Work on shifting your own views about the role of sex in your marriage.
My husband and I will be alone for dinner tonight. I will be making one of his favorite meals: meatloaf, a salad, and mashed potatoes. And then, for dessert, I think we’ll have “potatoes.”