Can you learn to enjoy sex for you?

It’s taken me a long time to understand that sex is for me just as much as it is for my husband. Some days, I really get it, deep in my bones. Yet there are times when I still struggle with the idea.

When Belah Rose at Delight Your Marriage asked me to chat with her about how wives can learn to enjoy sex for themselves and not just for their husbands, I thought, Yikes, I have absolutely no idea what to say.

And it kind of turns out that I was right. Read More →

How can we learn to embrace our God-given sexuality?

God designed us as sexual beings.

We have sexual urges. We have a clitoris which serves no other purpose that providing a woman’s sexual pleasure. We get tingles when we are touched in certain ways. Even many of us who usually resist sex find that there is a particular time in the month when our hormones make us want to sexually connect with our men.

God made us with sexual parts, sexual feelings, and sexual pleasure.

So why does our sexuality make so many of us uncomfortable? Read More →

It’s time to be intentional about claiming your sexuality and your sexual desire.

In theory, I know that God created me to be a sexual being. I know that I experience arousal, desire, and orgasm. I know that some things are more likely than others to lead to an orgasm for me.

In theory, I embrace my sexuality and rejoice in it.

In practical terms, though, I have a lot of work to do. Read More →

Do you allow yourself to experience the vastness of God's designed for sex?

I was at church camp the first time I slept under the stars. I’d slept in tents plenty of times, so I was used to the sounds and feel of nighttime.

I was excited about the prospect of sleeping without a roof over my head–until I got to the big meadow where we would be sleeping, scoped out a good spot, and looked up. Read More →

sexual_freedom

Many women acknowledge that they have “control issues.” Maybe they were required to suppress their emotions in childhood. Maybe they grew up in a family with out-of-control behavior. Maybe they are in a season of life with a lot of struggles and they need to feel like the bottom isn’t falling out of everything. Maybe they just like to be in charge (that would be me). Read More →

cherries

When I posted surveys a couple months ago about women receiving oral sex, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I wrote an introductory post about it. Seven hundred survey respondents later, I had a clear indication that my initial thoughts were pretty much on target. Read More →

RockWorld

Twice in my life, I’ve experienced earthquakes. They weren’t the big dramatic kind that get shown on the news and cause major disruption in people’s lives. They were both the kind where everything feels shaky and rocky for a few minutes, like your entire foundation is shifting—and then it settles and life feels normal again but somehow you know something happened. I may have experienced another seismic shift this past weekend, and it was in our marriage. Read More →

Words_

On the playground, time and time again, we would chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I would say that sometimes to another child who said something mean to me—but inside, I would be thinking, Words do too hurt.

I remember my mother sitting with me at bedtime when I was four years old, reading to me from her old Bobbsey Twins books. The words wove a new world for me, one that captured and shaped my imagination. The words showed me things I hadn’t yet thought of.

Language →  Reality

As much as language reflects reality, it also shapes our reality. The words we use affect how we think about things. In fact, several academic disciplines (philosophy, sociology, and communication come to mind) have a theory of knowledge that includes the premise that language is the primary means through which we construct our reality. That may sound like a bunch of intellectual mumbo-jumbo to some, but while I don’t completely agree with social constructivism, I don’t want to dismiss the idea that language shapes thought and our perception of reality.

The words we use, to speak and think, shape our feelings and attitudes. That’s the whole idea behind positive affirmations and the “I think I can” mantra of the little engine that could.

Words can affect us negatively, too. Consider some of the words we use relating to sex and sexuality. When we talk about naughty and nice in the bedroom, “naughty” refers to the things that are a bit more sexually adventurous. If we use an earthy, one-syllable Anglo-Saxon word for sexual intercourse, we are “talking dirty.”

And then there’s the “slutty” costume craze. Walking through the store a couple months ago, I saw a whole section of “slutty” clothes: slutty vampire, slutty nurse, slutty princess, etc. These costumes involve dressing in sexy clothes. The pictures on the packages show women in sexual poses, with come-hither looks on their faces. Looking sexual is termed “slutty” rather than “sexy.”

Think it’s no big deal? I disagree.

Slutty vs. Sexy

The word “slut” refers to a promiscuous woman. A slut is not a wife. Behavior that is often described as slutty is actually just sexual–it is sexually confident, sexually assertive, and maybe even sexually aggressive. To say that a woman who exhibits this sexual confidence is promiscuous (or is acting promiscuously) is to perpetuate the idea that wives should be sexual doormats, doing only what their husbands want, when they want.

To be quite blunt, for a brief time in my life, I was a slut. I dressed, acted, and spoke sluttily–but it is important to note that it wasn’t the behavior itself that was slutty; it was the fact that I was engaging in this behavior outside of marriage that was slutty. By naming the behavior itself as slutty, that behavior becomes viewed as something that is done only by promiscuous women. “Slutty” costumes reinforce the idea that it is the sexual behavior and appearance that is promiscuous, not the fact that the women on the pictures are not wearing wedding rings.

When a wife feels sexual and wants to be sexually assertive, if she thinks of that behavior as slutty, she may begin to think about herself or that behavior as negative or inappropriately sexual. This is a message that the church too often communicates already. Far too many women have struggled with their own sexual response and behavior simply because they believe it is inappropriate to enjoy their sexuality.

We women have enough challenges in embracing our sexual selves. We have body image issues. Our sexual response is different from that of our husbands, and it certainly isn’t like what is portrayed in media. Women who had casual premarital sex may have the burden of their past behavior weighing down on their sexuality. Women who maintained sexual purity before marriage learned to suppress certain feelings and ideas before they married and perhaps then struggled to release that which they had suppressed. Embracing and expressing our sexuality is something some wives are simply not well equipped to do (including me for most of our marriage). Negative words not only don’t help they can hurt.

When we strive to be good and godly in all we do, words like “slutty,” “naughty,” and “dirty” can muddy our reality. If we are strong in our sexuality, these words can be fun and add some spice to the bedroom. When we are weak or uncertain in our sexuality, however, these words can take hold and shape our understanding of sexual behavior as not appropriate for wives.

Our husbands have heard these words, too. They are just as much the recipients of church and society teaching about sexuality as we are. A young man who is exposed to sexual images labeled as slutty or dirty may well associate the behavior with promiscuity and will think that it is not appropriate for a wife. So what happens when he marries and his sexually confident wife is the one who introduces a new sexual activity? Men may have learned that sex is for them and not for their wives and that because good girls don’t, wives don’t either.

I’ve known too many women who don’t learn to be sexually expressive or confident—because they assume their husbands will think it’s slutty, because their husbands have explicitly said that behavior is slutty, or because they simply don’t know that strong sexual behavior in a wife is godly and appropriate.

Reframing Our Thinking

Instead of inhibiting our sexual expression or confidence because we have a negative association with it, maybe we need to reframe our own thinking that this is WIFELY behavior, not slutty behavior–and think about how to help husbands with these negative associations work toward this healthier understanding as well.

I occasionally receive emails from women who are trying to make positive changes in their marriage beds and then get stuck. They figure out how to increase frequency. They allow themselves to fully engage. They even get comfortable initiating every now and then—but they do this for their husbands, not for themselves. As soon as they get to the point of moving their sexual changes to the level of wanting sex for themselves and not just for their husbands, they don’t know how to move forward. One woman wrote, “Is it really okay for me to want sex sometimes because I’m horny and not just because my husband wants it? Is it even okay for a Christian woman to think of herself as horny?”

The problem isn’t the behavior; the problem is our attitude toward that behavior. Yes, it is okay for a Christian woman to feel horny and to want sex for her own sake and not just for the sake of her husband or her marriage.  Rather than try to suppress our sexual behavior because it’s slutty, dirty, or naughty, let’s work on growing our understanding of that sexual behavior as wifely and designed by God.

I challenge you to think about the words you use in speech and thought. When you see a low-cut top at the mall, do you go right past it, thinking it’s too slutty for you to wear? Or, do you take a second look and think about how it would show too much cleavage to wear in public but it sure would look sexy to wear just for your husband? If your husband wants you to be more vocal in bed, do you freeze up because you couldn’t possibly say dirty words, or do you try to think of all the sexy words you know? If you buy the low-cut top and say the words, thinking that they are slutty and dirty, how does that make you feel about yourself sexually?

How we think about ourselves sexually shapes how we feel about ourselves sexually—and that affects how we are sexually with our husbands. How we speak to others about sexual behavior and appearance shapes their views as well. How do you speak to your children and others about sexual behavior? Do you use positive words to discuss what happens in the marriage bed, or do you use words like “naughty” and “dirty”?

Words can hurt. Words can also heal. Which words do you use when you think about your sexuality?

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 

Note: This post is long—and that comes from someone who already writes long-ish posts. I tried to break this down into several shorter posts that could published throughout the week. I just couldn’t make it work.

desire_power

At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy realizes that all along, happiness had been in her own back yard. She’d had the power to go there the whole time.

From adolescence on, I wanted only a few things from my husband (even before I knew who my husband would be). I wanted him to feel connected to me. I wanted him willing to slay a dragon for me. I wanted him to want to care for me. I wanted him to want to be part of me emotionally, not just physically. These are unrealistic expectations, of course. But even after I knew this, there was part of me that still hoped.

As we settled into our marriage and I saw that the man I’d married was not what I had expected husband-wise, there were moments when I could feel the resignation in my own bones. The process of accepting the husband I had was a process of letting go of my youthful heart’s desires and learning to deal with reality (which I really didn’t do so well). The dragon-slaying knight in shining armor who would cherish me might as well have been in Oz.

Like Dorothy on the yellow brick road, I meandered through life, trying to stick to the path in front of me, never knowing what to expect, distracted along the way. I was searching for my heart’s desire.

Many women have craved a stronger emotional connection with their husbands, yearning for intimacy, a bond, a sense of completeness that goes far beyond a physical need. I had a deep yearning for an emotional connection, yet my husband only seemed to want to connect with me sexually. We both were frustrated in these desires, time and time again, year after year, neither of us finding our desires.

Inviting husbands to share

In my recent survey of husbands about duty sex, I asked only three questions:

  1. Which is better—duty sex or no sex at all?
  2. Duty sex provides you with a physical release. What physical, emotional, or spiritual needs are left unfilled by duty sex?
  3. If you have experienced sexual encounters with your wife in which she fully participated (NOT duty sex), please describe the emotional benefits to you of these encounters.

I intentionally asked about emotions because that is how many women have shared they want to be able to connect with their husbands. Inviting men to respond in the language of emotion makes it easier for us to see their hearts. So I asked, and they answered. At the time I am writing this, more than 175 men have responded to the survey.

With exactly one exception, every single man has decried duty sex for being nothing more than a physical release that they could just as easily (well, more easily, in many cases) accomplish with masturbation. Yet they crave so much more than that physical release. So much more.

Oh, dear sisters, do you have any idea that you have within you the power to hold your husband’s heart? All I ever wanted from my husband is mine. If your husband is anything like the men who answered the survey, you, too, have your heart’s desire right in front of you.

Processing this survey has been an emotional experience for me. I guess that’s no surprise to anyone who’s ever visited this blog before. For years, my husband shared his sorrow that we didn’t have intimacy in our marriage. I thought he was just trying to make sex sound like it was more than it was.  Dressing it up so it sounds all emotional doesn’t change the fact that it’s really just about you wanting an orgasm, I would think.

He wanted my body. I thought it was because my body could offer him orgasms. I was wrong. My body contains so much more than the promise of orgasm. My body contains me. It contains the promise of unity, of connection.

When things are going wrong

When things aren’t going so well, it’s easy to think about what’s wrong. My husband would tell me how he was negatively affected by my refusal and gate-keeping. If I had been less selfish, this would have been enough to get me to make some changes.

When I learned about these negative effects from the voices of other refused husbands and wives, something finally broke through my stubborn and selfish heart. That got me started on this journey. I wanted to be able to share some of these negatives here for other women to read, and that’s why I asked the first two questions on the survey about duty sex. I wrote about some of that in this post.

There were times, though, when I found myself wondering if there was anything in it for me. I was doing hard work on myself, and I knew my husband and my marriage would benefit. But sometimes I wondered what my goal was. How would I even know when I had arrived at my destination if I didn’t know what was waiting for me down the road?

As I continued to read and learn, I began to see forum discussions and blog posts that described the joy and connection available in a healthy Christian marriage bed. I saw husbands and wives who were mutually generous, describing how love-making helped them actually make (create) more love between them. I saw emotional connection, contentment, and fun.

Is that possible for us? Could we ever have that kind of marriage?

It was when my eyes opened to the joy that could be found in marriage that I understood that I was on a journey that included a destination. It was when I made a commitment to keep growing. I wanted some of that joy. I was flooded with peace as I realized I was finally doing what God wanted me to do in my marriage.

This “carrot” is why I asked what I think is the most important question on the survey: If you have experienced sexual encounters with your wife in which she fully participated (NOT duty sex), please describe the emotional benefits to you of these encounters. I expected that most respondents would indicate that fully participatory sex is better than duty sex—but I wanted to know why. I wanted to know what happened in the hearts of husbands when their wives willingly and fully share their sexuality with them.

Our husbands’ voices

Our husbands benefit

Husband’s descriptions of the emotional benefits seem to fall into four broad categories: primal, emotional, bonding, and transformational.

Primal benefits include things that get at the core of manhood. Many men commented that they feel more masculine when their wives participate in sex—particularly when she experiences orgasm.

  • “I feel as though I am fulfilling part of my purpose as a man.”
  •  “Nothing makes me feel more like a man.”
  • “One of the important things a man does is provide his wife with an orgasm. We too feel unfulfilled when we fail to or aren’t given opportunity to.”
  •  “I feel loved, desired, wanted, needed, and I feel more like a man knowing that I have been able to satisfy.”
  • “There is nothing that builds a man up on every level like being fully, passionately, ravenously desired by his wife.”
  • “I feel accepted in total.  Like I’m worth more than the work I do, or the service I provide my family.  I feel like I’m left without any further needs for a while.  Totally satisfied with everything in my life.”

Several words were used by quite a few men to describe this area: strengthened, affirmed, respected, admired, satisfied, successful, and desired.

Emotional benefits include such things as feeling loved, at peace, joyful.

  • “It is like hitting my emotional reset button. All is well with the world.”
  • “I feel so much more fulfilled, satisfied and I’m even able to see past my raging sex drive and become aware of other relationship issues or issues in myself that I could not see before.“
  • “All is right with the world!  Feel loved, appreciated, respected, and joy that she is enjoying what I give to her.”
  • “I feel joy in a way that nothing else on this earth can provide.”
  • “The emotional connection is much greater.  I feel loved rather than tended to.  It’s like having someone cook you a three course meal versus buying you fast food.”
  • “I opens my heart up to her. I have told her several times that I am most open to deeper communication in the “afterglow” of that time together. I am much less sensitive about subject matter or criticism (for lack of a better word) because I am confident in the security of our relationship.”

These first two areas are clearly things that directly benefit our husbands. When my husband feels more manly or joyful, those things are mainly about him. I read some eloquent descriptions of emotions, although none of it surprised me.

Our husbands are more connected to us

Quite a few men talked about relational benefits. It is here that we can start to see how wives benefit more directly from what happens in our husbands’ hearts when we fully participate in sex. Most men made some comment about how they feel more bonded with and connected to their wives after fully participatory sex, using words like connected, oneness, sense of wholeness, and completion.

  • “It’s transcendent. We are joined not only in body, but also in minds and spirit. We are generous with one another and it echoes for days after.”
  •  “The difference is that duty sex is all one sided. Making love (not duty sex) is the best outcome of the marriage act and what keeps the marriage the marriage strong. Who would ever want a one sided relationship? That is not what the Creator intended.”
  • “You feel more like you’re one with her!!”
  • “We are closer to being of one flesh not just a couple in the same bed.”
  • “I feel connected, appreciated, like the two of us together is the only thing that matters at that moment in time.”
  • “It is difficult to overstate how emotionally and spiritually connected this can make me feel with her.”
  • “I feel at one with her.”
  •  “There is no comparison. Full participation is a whole-being experience. Emotionally I feel so connected to her when I know she has fully given of herself. I love to please her and that is my goal in our intimacy. I get pleased as a byproduct.”

Our sexual love transforms them

There was one category of responses that have me overwhelmed. Dazed. Blown away. Floored. Stunned. Astonished. Amazed. Humbled.

I expected men to say that when their wives were fully sexual with them, they felt more masculine. I expected to find that they felt happier and more content. I even expected to read a lot about connections and the feelings of one-ness.

In As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson’s character Melvin says to Carol (played by Helen Hunt), “You make me want to be a better man.” When I saw that movie, I thought how romantic that sounded. It didn’t occur to me that this statement might ever apply in my own marriage.

Sisters, when you fully participate in sex with your husband, sharing your sexuality with him, you transform him. You change him. You make him into a better man—or at least a man who very much wants to be better for you.

  •  “I feel on top of the world, like I can conquer the world.”
  • “I feel bullet proof. I can weather any storm at work or with our family life. I am more capable of trying things I am uncertain of doing well, because I don’t have to rely on that success for my self-worth. I have a wife who loves me.”
  • “I feel like I can do anything, get any job, paint the house.”
  • “I feel I could conquer the world for her.”
  • “You want to do whatever it takes to please her. It makes you want to be her hero.”
  • “Oh, the freeness! It is the best sex EVER and had very little to do with physical release. When she is fully present I can do anything in life! I am capable of doing whatever she asks of me and I would!!”
  • “I feel like protecting her and bending over backwards to meet her needs.  I feel like I’m the king of the world.”
  • “Closest thing I can imagine to Heaven on Earth.”
  • “Able to conquer the world (especially the next morning).”
  • “It is wonderful to feel wanted, desired, sensing her pleasure in our union. I begin to understand what God intended sex to be and ho it models Jesus’’ love for His church. The pleasure continues long after the sex act is over.”
  • “I could take on King Kong, Godzilla and all the rest of them bad boys. There was such a feeling of harmony, oneness, peace and fulfillment.  I wanted to go out of my way to bless her. The weight of being the husband/father was no longer a burden or heavy yoke but a joy. It generates a strength that maybe only other men can really relate to.”
  • “I go to work the next day on a high. I seem to think more clearly and am able to focus better. It is easier to deal with challenges. I know that no matter what happens, I have a safe place, a refuge at home in her arms. I am her man and she is mine…accepted just as I am.”
  • “When my wife really gives myself to me, I feel loved totally, I feel like I can face the dragons in my life.  I feel like I have been validated as a man, as a spouse.”

My body contains my sexuality. And that can change my husband into a better version of himself.

Our sexuality is our superpower

All along, I’d wanted my husband to feel connected to me. I wanted him willing to slay a dragon for me. I wanted him to want to care for me. I wanted him to want to be part of me emotionally, not just physically.

My early expectations of my husband were unrealistic. No husband can do all those things—not all by himself. With his wife’s sexual love and participation, he can become these things. Her sexual love can transform him into someone who feels capable. He can conquer the world. He models Jesus’ love for the church. He can take on monsters. He can face the challenge. He can slay the dragons.

Like Dorothy, I’ve discovered that I had the power to find my happiness all along. In fact, I’ve learned that I have a superpower. The willing sharing of my body makes my husband into a different man. My sexuality is my superpower. With it, I make my husband feel all the things I’d been wanting for years.

Your sexuality is your superpower. Sharing your sexuality with your husband has the power to transform him into the husband your heart has craved.

While I don’t actually believe in superpowers, I can think of no other way to describe the effects of our sexual sharing on our husbands. God designed us to become one flesh in marriage. When we allow ourselves to fully participate in God’s design for us, sharing our sexuality with our husbands as they cleave unto us, good things happen. We experience the ultimate physical and emotional pleasure possible in these bodies God created for us. Even more, we become part of what God provides in helping our husbands grow into the men He wants them to be.

So, ladies, go get yourself a cape. Put it on (and very little else), and go get started transforming your husband.

In this morning’s sermon, our pastor talked about the battle to stay faithful, especially when being faithful means setting aside old ways. He said, “We all have days when the past threatens to reach up and pull us down.” It is too difficult to engage in the future, which is unknown and scary, when our past ways are just reaching out to us.

He talked a bit about 12-step programs (several meet in our church building) and how they teach us the value of 1) taking just one step at a time, and 2) being faithful in the present moment. Too many of our present moments are caught up in the effort to not be like the past or to worry about the future. Just be faithful, right now, one day at a time…or one hour at a time….or one moment at a time.

The effort to change a sexual relationship to bring a marriage closer to God’s best for us is the same way. Too often, we are caught up in the past (previous sexual experiences, bad teachings about sex, dysfunctional families) or questioning the future (will sex tonight create an expectation of sex tomorrow, how will we pay the bills, will I ever be able to clean a room and have it stay that way for an entire hour). We need to remember the value of living our marriages in the present moment. Right now, what can I do about my marriage? Today, how can I let my husband know I will have sex with him? Tonight, can I make the decision to roll toward him with open eyes rather than roll away with my eyes squeezed shut? It doesn’t mean to ignore the past and disregard the future–but don’t let those times become so huge that you cannot live, and love, in the present moment.

Tonight, when you go to bed next to your husband, how will you live in the present moment? When your old life and old habits threaten to reach up through your efforts and pull you down, just keep fighting your battle, one night at a time.

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