I had no idea how desperate Christian women were to find satisfying physical intimacy until I heard a radio program interviewing Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh on the book series Fifty Shades of Grey. Even though the series is a twisted, abusive love story, many women—even Christian women—are defending it mainly based on the idea that it helps with their love lives.

I have never read Fifty Shades of Grey, so I’m not about to tackle a topic I know nothing about. So instead of going on a rant against the book, I would rather explore the need for satisfying sexual intimacy without any shadiness. You can have a steamy sex life inside the bounds of marriage without any “outside” help at all, and that’s something I do know about.

For the sake of my friends and family, I won’t go into details, but let me just say that my husband and I are both mutually happy with our intimacy. And I don’t mean I’ve just settled into a way of life. I mean, he satisfies me both as a husband and lover.

But this isn’t accomplished by accident. It takes mental work.

Even though I’m no expert, here are some things I’ve learned along the way to help me enjoy the lovemaking process, both mentally and physically.

1. Take every thought captive.

A person’s thought life controls her body. Jesus said the words “that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man” (Matthew 15:18).

The mind and body are inseparable. If you think about food, your mouth begins to salivate. If you read a scary book, your heart may begin to race. If you are forced to face a fear, your muscles may tighten or your body may break out into a sweat, even when you are in no real danger.

The woman’s sex drive is no different. How you think about your husband will determine how much you enjoy being intimate with him. As wives, our critical and judgmental thinking can spin out of control if we’re not careful.

Because married couples’ lives are so intricately intertwined, it’s not hard to see the other’s problems and mistakes, something all human beings are riddled with. But those critical thoughts will make you withdraw emotionally, and your body will follow.

In order to have a healthy love life, you need to be in the right frame of mind toward your husband. The Apostle Paul encourages Christians to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). When you start hearing your mind rant about your husband’s inconsiderate habits and hurtful mistakes, train yourself to stop and consider if his “problems” are really all that bad.

2. Admire him.

This does not necessarily come naturally, even for women with really great husbands. Women have a lot going on and many people to worry about—aging parents, bosses and co-workers, friends at church, multiple children. And sometimes we take our husbands for granted, especially if he is healthy and busy with his own life. So you might go hours without thinking about him in a loving way.

If that’s the case, you must practice focusing on loving and admiring thoughts about him from time to time. What do you still find attractive? His eyes, arms, smile, kind heart, funny jokes, tender embrace? Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Even if you’ve completely lost that “lovin’ feelin'” you can think of somethinggood about this person. Start at any point. And then express that admiration verbally or even in written form, like a text or Facebook post. You will start to believe in your heart what you think and say from your mouth.

3. Put your mind in the mood.

Throughout the day, think about making love to your husband. Think about it before bed. If it would help you feel sexy, take a shower or spray some perfume. Put on a silky gown. Put your mind in the mood and your body will follow.

Then during your intimate moments, concentrate on what’s going on, not your schedule tomorrow or worries of life. Relax your body—that alone can make the process more pleasurable for women. Do your best to ignore distractions, like insecurities or fears.

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There are parts of a woman’s body designed by God to feel good sexually. Refer to the book Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by William Cutrer, M.D., and Sandra Glahn for more information on this. It’s a very appropriate and practical book on the sexual behavior of married couples from both medical and biblical perspectives.

4. Concentrate on being with your husband.

I heard a woman once tell a friend that if she’s having trouble in the bedroom, she should just imagine the face of a sexy actor on her husband’s head. That may seem like a harmless prop, but Jesus took our thought life a lot more seriously. He said, “…Everyone who looks at a [man] with lust for [him] has already committed adultery with [him] in [her] heart” (Matthew 5:28). The Christian women who defend Fifty Shades of Greysay it makes them think about sex, which improves their sex life. But the problem is that when you immerse yourself in the story of this erotic novel, your thought life involves someone other than your husband.

Consider this: When you are in the middle of lovemaking, do you want your spouse to be thinking about a porn star or about you? Your husband wants your body andyour mind! You should be thinking about hislove, hisface, hisembrace—whatever you find attractive. If you can’t make love to your husband without thinking of someone else, fiction or non-fiction, that’s a problem. It’s time to overhaul your thought life and consider what you’re allowing to come in.

5. Talk to your husband about slowing down.

It usually takes a while for women to warm up sexually. That’s just the way God made us. Most husbands want to please their wives, but most wives are embarrassed about telling their husbands what they really want.

Find a way to talk to your husband about this. Explain that you want more romance, cuddling, kissing, caressing—whatever you like, and tell him not to finish before you even begin. There is a lot of caressing that he can do to get you ready, so that when he’s ready, you both get satisfied. And then enjoy it. Don’t just rush through or consider it a chore to check off your to-do list.

These five guidelines have helped me keep a deep connection with my husband on the most intimate level without help from anything shady—figuratively or literally. We don’t use porn, erotica, props, or any other so-called “helps” to heat up our love life. It’s just a man and a woman who appreciate and accommodate the physical satisfaction of the other—pure and beautiful.

I realize there are a whole host of other issues for people in the bedroom, but for the average woman, having a healthy, thriving love life is a matter of the heart and mind. For more in-depth reading on the subject and for more help on specific issues, I recommend these books:

Copyright © 2017 by Sabrina Beasley McDonald.