I remember exactly where I was when I got my first sexpectation: in a bar full of Navy pilots.
Two air jockeys in leather bomber jackets made their way toward an open bar stool near a pretty blonde. They feigned an argument to garner attention. One of the guys threw a “punch” and the other one ducked right beside the blonde bombshell. Then the one who threw the punch revealed a microphone and began singing, “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips…”
After a few choruses of the Righteous Brothers’ song, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” the fake pugilist received an invitation to the bar stool, a phone number, and a few days later, found his way into her bed.
If you were born before the 1990s, you know I wasn’t near the bar, but munching obscenely buttered popcorn while watching Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun. But at 16, the “sexpectation” took root in my brain: all you need is a leather bomber jacket, a cheesy love song, and a charming smile, and beautiful women you meet for the first time are more than willing to pull back the sheets.
When did you first start developing sexpectations, or expectations about sex?
What do they look like now that you are married?
Sexpectations in marriage
Some of our sexpectations are formed by our culture—by the films and television shows we watch and by the attitudes of our friends. And some are just the result of the natural differences in marriage—shaped by gender, family background, childhood experiences, personality differences, and much more.
I’ve found that in marriage, it’s easier to have unspoken expectations about sex rather than real conversations. I expect my wife, Jen, to read my mind: to intuitively know when I’m in the mood, what I want her to wear (or not wear), and that she should “surprise” me with a clandestine rendezvous.
I know Jen has her own set of sexpectations. I would ask her, but I’m concerned they would differ too greatly from mine! But I’ve been married long enough to know they involve touching her heart before I touch her body, making sure the kids are in the fifth stage of REM sleep, and triple locking the doors before we enjoy intimacy.
Unfortunately, when our sexpectations don’t meet reality, what’s left is often frustration, disappointment, and isolation. Two becoming one devolves into two becoming none.
I’m fairly certain God wants us to have great sex. After all, He invented it (and let’s just go on record saying that was a far better invention than the microchip). Out of 66 books in the Bible, He devoted a whole book just to the topic of sex (Song of Solomon). And just after He created Adam and Eve He turned on some Marvin Gaye music and told them to “get it on.” Okay, Marvin Gaye may be a stretch, but I’m pretty sure scholars will tell you that “get it on” in Hebrew is translated, “naked and unashamed.”
Scripture says enough about sex in marriage that I can point to at least three sexpectations God had when He created intimacy between a man and a woman:
- Procreation (Genesis 1:28)
- Recreation (Song of Solomon)
- Proclamation (Ephesians 5:31-32)
In a fallen world, not everyone has the privilege to procreate, but the Bible encourages those who are married to enjoy each other’s bodies (Proverbs 5:16-19; 1 Corinthians 7:3-5) and reminds us that when two spouses become one flesh they paint a physical picture of a spiritual reality (Ephesians 5:31-32). Paul encourages us to think of sex as a metaphor for Christ’s love for the Church. Christ did not sacrifice Himself for a perfect people who loved him well; instead He knows all of our imperfections, and loves us anyway. When I make love to my wife it should remind me that she knows my imperfections—mental, emotional, and physical—and yet still chooses to give herself completely to me. Sex proclaims the gospel of Christ.
Sex is a powerful experience in marriage, but I find it’s easy to allow unrealistic or even harmful expectations to run rampant through my mind. When that happens I need to stop and ask a few questions:
1. What’s fueling them? I rarely come up with an original thought, especially about sex. Most of my sexpectations were seeds planted by some show, book, picture, or video. Instead of questioning the media-generated fantasy, I use fantasy to question and inform my own reality. Whether we fuel our sexpectations from TV shows, films, porn, or erotic novels, fantasy has an uncanny ability to sabotage our reality.
This is why Job made a covenant with his eyes—not to let what he sees mess with what he has (Job 31:1). This is why Paul says, “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). If I don’t discipline the greatest sexual organ in my body—my mind—then it won’t be long before I start humming the words Tom Cruise sang to Kelly McGillis in that bar so many years ago, ” You’ve lost that loving feeling, now it’s gone, gone, gone … whoa-o-whoa-o-o …”
2. What if you shifted your mindset to think about your spouse’s expectations more than your own? If there was any culture in Scripture that lived out of their sexpectations, it was the Corinthians. Paul writes to them, “Flee from sexual immorality …” (1 Corinthians 6:18) and then talks about how our bodies are not our own (1 Corinthians 7:4-5). This doesn’t mean we have a right to control or dominate our spouse sexually—I think it means we have been bought by Christ “for a price” (1 Corinthians. 6:19-20), and we have made a covenantal promise to our spouse to give all that we are to them, including our bodies.
Sexually speaking, that means we should think far more about their sexpectations than our own (Philippians 2:3). Christ told His disciples that when we die to self we actually find life. Perhaps if we died to our own unrealistic expectations, we might renew our sex life as well.
3. When was the last time you had a real conversation about intimacy with your spouse? Our culture loves to watch sex more than talk about sex. We all have desires, expectations, and fantasies. God said that our sex drive is like the very flames of the Lord (Song of Solomon 8:6). Left unchecked, those flames can consume us and our most treasured relationships.
I became aware of those desires about the same time I laughed when Maverick and Goose buzzed the tower in Top Gun. And whether it was with my parents or my wife, it has never been easy to talk about sex. One of my professors from seminary used to say, “We should not be ashamed to discuss that which God was not ashamed to create.”
The word intercourse actually means, “interpersonal communication.” Every couple should make time to have some intercourse about intercourse. Ask your spouse how he or she would rate your sex life. What would make it better? Is there anything you could do help create more satisfying intimacy?
Solomon wasted many years chasing his sexpectations. Toward the end of his days, he passed some advice onto his son: “Rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe, let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19). If you want to get drunk with love over the long haul, you will need more than a charming smile, leather bomber jacket, and a cute song. If you find your expectations about sex are leaving you frustrated, ask yourself what is fueling them, match them to God’s expectations, and try having a real conversation about them with your spouse.
Then go find some Marvin Gaye … or Norah Jones … or anything but the Righteous Brothers.