Physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of sex

For so long, I considered my husband’s desire for sex only in terms of the physical release and pleasure.

I really didn’t understand why my husband needed me for that. If he was in such need of physical release, why couldn’t he just go take care of himself through masturbation and leave me alone?

At the same time, though, I resisted the idea that sex was about physical release. I wanted sex to be, well, grand and special and emotional—every single time. When my husband and I did have sex and it ended up being quick or without extended murmurings of love and kissing and a big emotional build-up with sufficient afterglow cuddling time, I was heart-broken.

My husband’s sexual initiation, by word and by action, almost always spoke to only the physical aspect of sex. He rarely (I remember a scant handful of times throughout our marriage) expressed a desire for the whole of me.

I relegated my husband’s desire to nothing more than the physical experience of an orgasm all while wanting a big emotional connection (along with an orgasm) when it came to my own desire.

I elevated the spiritual and emotional aspects of sex and completely ignored the value of the physical aspect of it.

The Big “Powerful Picture”

In “More Than Great Sex,” Dr. Juli Slattery tells us, “Sexual intimacy is a powerful picture of the gospel and the degree of intimacy and ecstasy we are capable of having with God. The Christian marriage is designed to be the showcase of this masterpiece.”

God’s design for sex amazes me at times. It is the avenue through which we become one flesh. It bonds us. It provides comfort. I allows us to share the experience of pleasure.

Sex is spectacular in the way it connects us emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Sexual ecstasy and intimacy are where the emotional, physical, and spiritual aspects of sex unite. They are all important.

The problem is that when we value the emotional, physical, or spiritual aspects of sexual intimacy at the expense of others, we lose out on the full experience of this “powerful picture,” as Slattery calls it.

We need all three. However, that doesn’t mean that every single sexual encounter has to do all these things.

Sexual encounters occur within the larger context of a sexual relationship—and  the whole of the sexual relationship connects us as well as each individual encounter.

A healthy sexual relationship does many things: it unites, it connects, it strengthens the relationship, etc. It also provides a safe and loving place for plain old get-your-jollies sex—sexual encounters that are about that physical release and the pleasure that accompanies it.

A sexual relationship is more than just having great orgasms—but the sexual pleasure part is important, too.

There is nothing wrong with just wanting to have a fun orgasm-focused romp with your husband. Sex is fun and feels great physically, after all!

Even when an individual sexual encounter is just about sex, it isn’t just sex—because it is part of a larger sexual relationship.

Shared Experiences

Over the lifetime of a marriage, we may have thousands of encounters. It is all these encounters, collectively, that help to build the fully nuanced intimate connection between spouses.

Encounter upon encounter, memory upon memory, the sexual encounters throughout your marriage build your sexual relationship.

Everything gets knitted together in that part of ourselves that involves sex:

  • sharing a variety of sexual experiences together
  • trying to figure things out
  • learning what gives you pleasure
  • finding out the things that most please your husband
  • trying new things
  • not having things work sometimes
  • trying to finish up before the kids finish the Veggie Tales video
  • seeing each other across the room at the church potluck and remembering what you did together before church in the morning
  • the times you cry because the connection is just so amazing that you think you just got a taste of the joy of heaven
  • the frustrations of the times your bodies don’t seem to work
  • the shared experience of working through those frustrations
  • the first time you have to explain to the kids why the bed was squeaking in the bedroom
  • the time you managed the quickie in the bathroom while your mother was in the other room
  • the time you had sex on the hood of the car in the garage or the time your father-in-law walked in on you and your husband busy on the kitchen table
  • the time your mother caught you and your husband in the closet
  • the time you laughed hysterically together at the noise your bodies made as they were slapping together
  • the first time you tried oral sex
  • the best orgasm of your life
  • falling off the bed
  • the time you tried dancing for him and felt completely silly until you saw your husband’s reaction
  • makeup sex
  • sex that comforts after a crisis
  • sex that comes after a time of hurt, when you wonder how on earth you’re going to be able to actually go through with it and it turns out to be wonderful—or it doesn’t, and you realize you need a bit more healing
  • the time you realized that you just dropped a $100 on something that was going to be used for sex

The sharing of experiences builds intimacy in marriage. Each time you and your husband are together, the lifetime of your sex life is right there with you.

Your sexual relationship is comprised of all these things that you and your husband have shared with each other.

My husband and I have had times when we have come together because we have needed the comfort of the emotional connection. There have been times when we have needed the spiritual connection that unites us. And there have been times when it’s really been more about the physical pleasure than about anything else.

Although for much of our marriage my husband expressed only the physical desire, I understand now that he also craved the other aspects of sexual intimacy. And as much as I focused on the emotional connection, there were times when I just wanted to have fun.

Three Cords

Each individual encounter contributes to the totality of a sexual relationship. They are the ties that bind.

Even if most of your encounters begin with a desire for a physical connection (which may be the case for many couples), the lifetime of experiences that you and your husband share continue to build the emotional and spiritual intimacy.

If you ignore the sexual, emotional, or spiritual aspects of sex all the time, you see only part of the picture.

Allow yourself to experience all three of these aspects of sexual intimacy. They are all good, and they all are part of God’s design for sexual intimacy. Focus on the pleasure. Make a point of making love. Pray about your sex life and during sexual activity, thanking God for this truly amazing gift.

Experience all these things throughout the life of the sexual relationship within your marriage—and watch these three cords as they are woven together into what God has designed sexual intimacy to be for you and your husband.

 Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at



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2 Thoughts on “The Ties That Bind

  1. I'm His on October 23, 2014 at 8:19 pm said:

    Yes. Yes. Yes.
    Honestly, I could have written most of your Shared Experiences list, and I count that as a very good thing. I’m especially fond of the times that have us laughing hysterically, whatever the reason, and whatever the outcome. The longer we’re married, the better the “glue” that sex can be.

    • Although I did write the list, there are a few items that came from friends’ marriages rather than my own. Shared laughter is one of my favorite things with my husband. Laughing together while naked is incredibly intimate and joyful.

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