Editor’s note: Derwin and Vicki Gray are contributors to FamilyLife’s all-new Art of Marriage™ . Want to know more? Check out ArtofMarriage.com.

Since I (Derwin) was 13, football has been one of the most important things in my life. At that age, I decided football was going to provide a way out of my living situation and provide a better life for me. I dedicated years of my life to the sport, and it paid off with being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 1993, playing six years professionally.

I learned a lot from my NFL days, and I even became a Christian thanks to one of my Colts teammates who shared Jesus with me. My life was changed for the better in many ways by football and the NFL. But one thing the NFL didn’t teach me was about sex. More specifically, what “sexy” means to my wife, Vicki.

Coming out of college, I was a well-chiseled machine. I was 5 feet, 11 inches and weighed a lean 200 pounds. Did I say I was lean? I had those coveted washboard abs all men desire. Forget a six pack, I had an eight pack. I was the epitome of “sexy,” right? 

I just knew I was “that” guy, and I thought Vicki knew it too. Maybe she did, but it wasn’t for the exact reasons I thought.

What I learned outside the NFL

Even if I wasn’t an NFL player, our situation and perspective on things when it comes to being sexy, attractive, and intimate with our spouses is similar to a lot of couples. In those early years of marriage, we love everything about each other, especially our bodies. Many of us are probably in the best physical shape of our lives, and this physical attraction is typically the first point of attraction.

I thought my lean, mean, football-playing body was the reason Vicki found me sexy. I was shocked when I learned that wasn’t the biggest reason she was attracted to me or what led to physical intimacy. To her, one of the sexiest things I could do was wash the dishes. Yes, the dishes. I learned it was sexy to do the laundry. I learned it was sexy to vacuum. Chasing down a 200-pound man running 40 yards in less than five seconds takes a lot more effort than doing the dishes, the laundry, or vacuuming. But those things mean so much more to my wife. That was a revelation!

After I learned that, I began celebrating things like vacuuming and making it known to Vicki. “I’m vacuuming baby, what’s up?” 

Seriously, I learned physical intimacy doesn’t only have to do with the physical aspect of things. It’s her seeing and feeling, “Oh, you care about me and the things that I care about. You’re partnering with me. You are doing things that take a load off of me.” It’s also learning how to love her, how to encourage her, how to be with her.

Touching the heart

Let me (Vicki) chime in here. This is extremely important in year one, but probably more important in the later years of your marriage. We are 30 years in. Our bodies are not in the same physical condition, and Derwin can no longer chase down a grown man running a 4.5-second, 40-yard dash. There are more flabs than abs. Things have changed. We have changed, and love calls us to change with our spouses.

I find amazing beauty in that. This is the reason it’s so important to touch the heart before attempting to take off the clothes. This applies to year one in marriage, as well as year 30. And that’s actually part of the fun in marriage. This gives you more opportunities to let your love grow deeper in more areas—beyond physicality. In these later years of marriage, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy are much more important. And you truly become one in Christ.

And let me tell you something. It gets better at every single level, but what makes it better is a Christ-centered focus and the Holy Spirit’s presence. What a great place to be in your marriage! And as my husband said, it’s something you won’t learn from the NFL or whatever your focus is. But it is something that will last a lifetime and create an intimate, loving marriage.

Create a better story for your marriage with FamilyLife’s Art of Marriage™

Want to draw closer to your spouse?

Consider talking through the following: 

  1. What do you think makes you sexy to your spouse? 
  2. What makes your spouse sexy to you? 
  3. Discuss the “whys” behind what you shared in the above questions.

Follow up with a short prayer. Thank God for making you both “fearfully and wonderfully” made. Thank Him for creating levels of intimacy that aren’t limited to just the physical. Ask for His help in learning the ways you can love your spouse better and in seeing all the wonderful ways He created them. Ask that your marriage would be an act of worship and give Him glory.

Adapted from Drawn Together: A Couples Devotional. Copyright ©2023 by FamilyLife Publishing. All rights reserved.

Derwin and Vicki Gray have been married over 30 years and have two adult children. In 2010, they founded Transformation Church (TC), a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped church near Charlotte, NC. A former NFL player, Derwin received his doctorate at Northern Seminary, and he is the author of several books, including the bestseller, How to Heal Our Racial Divide. Vicki is currently in graduate school at Wheaton College, pursuing an MA in Ministry Leadership.