When you and your spouse married, I’m sure you expected to have a healthy and active sexual relationship together. That’s great—that’s what God intended. Unfortunately, the daily stress of life often gets in the way of sex, distracting the attention of a husband and wife from each other and from pleasing each other.
Sex can become a marital battleground, even in young marriages, because of emotional and mental baggage from histories of sexual abuse, inappropriate sexual behavior in past relationships (or even with your spouse before marriage), or pornography. Even if these experiences or issues do not apply to you directly, our culture’s messages about and portrayals of sex can unconsciously influence the way you and your spouse respond and relate to each other in bed.
To build an intimate marriage, husband and wife must be committed to meeting each other’s physical and emotional needs. Because most men and women have differing ideas, standards, and expectations about sex, it’s no wonder that many marriages suffer in this area. One of the best things you can do is learn about God’s purposes for sex. After all, He is the Designer—He created our bodies. And you may be surprised to know what He had in mind.
The Designer of sex made numerous statements integral to the sexual aspect of marriage. First, sex is the process He gave us to multiply a godly heritage. He commanded us to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28).
But God also designed sex for our pleasure, to be enjoyed in the marriage bed. Sex is meant to be a bonding experience with your spouse. Scripture talks significantly more about enjoying the pleasures of sex than it does about being fruitful and multiplying! As Dr. Ed Wheat wrote, “God Himself invented sex for our delight. It was His gift to us—intended for pleasure.”
The Song of Solomon, though full of spiritual meaning and application, provides an excellent description of God’s intention for a husband and wife’s sexual relationship. According to Solomon, the man has the freedom to enjoy his wife’s body, and the woman has the freedom to enjoy his. Here’s a sample of how the lover and his beloved expressed that freedom in the Song of Solomon. The lover (King Solomon himself) said:
How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter! The curves of your hips are like jewels, the work of the hands of an artist. Your navel is like a round goblet which never lacks mixed wine; Your belly is like a heap of wheat fenced about with lilies. Your two breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. … How beautiful and how delightful you are, my love, with all your charms! (Song of Solomon 7:1-3, 6)
These words give us three points on how to be great lovers:
First, Solomon readily praised the young Shulammite woman, his beloved. He told her how beautiful she was with vivid and picturesque language that communicated his admiration to her. I often ask the husbands at our marriage getaways, “When was the last time you wrote your wife a love letter that praised her and told her how beautiful she is?” Solomon understood how important this is in communicating love.
Second, Solomon was romantic. His poetic words describe his beloved’s entire body as a source of delight. Some husbands have an easy time being creatively romantic, but the rest of us need help in this area.
Third, Solomon’s focus was physical. A wife may be tempted to resent her husband’s sex drive and physical focus, but she should understand that much more than a woman, a man is stimulated by sight. And God designed him this way deliberately.
A lovely lover
What about the bride’s approach to sex? Some of her comments about her lover indicate that she focused on what she saw (Song of Solomon 5:10-16):
My beloved is dazzling and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand. His head is like gold, pure gold; his locks are like clusters of dates, and black as a raven. His eyes are like doves, beside streams of water, bathed in milk, and reposed in their setting. His cheeks are like a bed of balsam, banks of sweet-scented herbs; his lips are lilies, dripping with liquid myrrh. His hands are rods of gold set with beryl; his abdomen is carved ivory inlaid with sapphires. His legs are pillars of alabaster set on pedestals of pure gold. His appearance is like Lebanon, choice as the cedars. His mouth is full of sweetness and he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
She also spoke of how she felt in her lover’s arms (7:10-12):
I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me. Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country, let us spend the night in the villages. Let us rise early and go to the vineyards; let us see if the vine has budded and its blossoms have opened, and whether the pomegranates have bloomed. Then I will give you my love.
Then she revealed her feelings about physical passion (8:5-7):
Beneath the apple tree I awakened you; … Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love; nor will rivers overflow it.
These passages illustrate the two main aspects of a woman’s approach to love: the physical and the relational. The Shulammite woman described her lover’s body as richly and colorfully as Solomon’s depiction of her. But she then focused on him as a total person and their relationship.
Men often make the mistake of focusing only on the physical side of sex. Sex is much more than a physical act that ends in a few minutes. Sex actually brings two people together in body, soul, and spirit. When the soul and spirit parts of sex are missing, the woman will feel empty, undesired, and used. One woman I counseled confessed that her husband approached her only one night a month. “He never shares his life with me,” she said. “He slips into bed with the lights off, we make love, and that’s it.” I will never forget her next comment: “Making love with him is like a bread-and-water diet.” Ouch!
If a marriage is going through a rocky spell, or a spouse is struggling with an emotionally difficult issue, the problems will almost always manifest themselves in the sexual relationship. Sex acts like a gauge, measuring the depth of a relationship. For the woman I just described, the physical experience left her lonely and longing for true companionship. For sex to be truly satisfying for both partners, each has to be totally open and vulnerable to the other. Each person must feel needed, wanted, accepted, and loved sacrificially.
Sexual adjustment takes time in every marriage. Enjoy the process—that was God’s intent when He created this awesome experience for intimacy in marriage.
Adapted by permission from Rekindling the Romance, by Dennis and Barbara Rainey, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Copyright © 2004