Marriage and Sex: How to Be a Better Lover
Concerning marriage and intimacy, do you wonder how to be a better lover of your spouse? On FamilyLife Today, hosts Dave and Ann Wilson share how the FamilyLife Sex Assessment helped them and can help you too.
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Wondering how to be a better lover? Hosts Dave and Ann Wilson explain ways they were getting it all wrong–and their “aha’s” about great married sex.
Marriage and Sex: How to Be a Better Lover
Dave: We did something this week we’ve never done before in the area of sex.
Ann: Well, that sounds intriguing. [Laughter]
Dave: That actually didn’t come out right. [Laughter] I mean, what I was trying to say is: we took a sex assessment.
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: It was sort of a marriage assessment; but it was really focused on the sexual part of our marriage relationship.
Ann: I’m not sure we’ve ever done one of those; have we?
Dave: No, that’s why I said it was unique. We’ve never done it before.
Ann: I felt scared taking it; did you?
Dave: It was with FamilyLife—obviously, we are on FamilyLife Today—but it was an online course that FamilyLife has just created. You begin the course by taking an assessment of your own sex life in your marriage.
Ann: So we both took the assessment.
Dave: —not together!
Dave: I took one—“His Survey”—it was called. You took “Her Survey.” We got the same questions; I think they are the exact same questions.
Ann: They were; yes.
Dave: Then you get sort of an assessment at the end: of how you rated happiness in your marriage, your sexual relationship, how you trust one another on a percentage.
Ann: —how you think biblically about it—there were a lot of different areas.
Dave: All I want to know is this—because we haven’t talked about this—so we’re talking about it, live on the air, with thousands of people listening to our intimate conversation about the intimate part of our marriage: “What did you think? What did you think when you were answering the questions?”
Ann: Honestly, I felt guilty.
Dave: About what?
Ann: I just thought, “Oh, I’m failing.” I think I have felt that over the years. I think, with this topic—we have these peaks; we have these valleys; sometimes, it’s just kind of flat-lined; there are times that it’s great—but I just felt like, “I’m not doing very well in this area, and Dave is probably disappointed.” That’s what I felt.
Dave: I felt the same thing.
Dave: Yes; I mean, it was very revealing. As you take the assessment, you start thinking about things we haven’t talked about in a long time. I felt like, “Wow. I’m not doing a good job in this area of our marriage,” for whatever reason. I didn’t feel anything toward you, like, “You are letting me down.”
Ann: I didn’t feel that either.
Dave: I felt like I’m letting you down,—
Ann: That’s so interesting.
Dave: —because the questions get at things: “How you think about this…” “How your spouse thinks about this…” “Are you happy in this area of your marriage?”
Ann: “Do you pursue your spouse?” “Are you affectionate?” “Are you creative?”
You know, I’m like; “Eh,” “Eh,” “Eh.” [Laughter] And we’re super busy right now, which probably, in this phase of marriage, it should probably be the best; because we’re older—we’ve been married 41 years—we’re free—
Dave: We’ve got no kids running around the house.
Dave: No kids waking us up at night. There’s no excuse; that’s what I’m saying.
Dave: That gives me hope for the future.
Dave: This is an area that is really hard to talk about.
Ann: Why do you think?
Dave: It’s so intimate; I think, for me, I’m fearful that I’m not doing a good job—that I’m not loving you as you long to be loved, because you’ve told me—so I feel like I’m letting you down. Part of me is like, “Okay, let’s just not talk about it; because I don’t want to be disappointed. I don’t want to hear you are hurt.”
Ann: That is so interesting, because I feel like I’m failing.
And, too, [the question]: “Like even, physically, how you feel about yourself?” I thought, “Man, I don’t feel very good about myself right now,” and that affects the bedroom; it affects intimacy. I don’t think we’ve really talked about that in a long time either, so we need to talk about all these things.
Dave: I can’t believe we’re doing this on air. This is not—
Ann: What are we doing?
Dave: —this is too intimate of a conversation. [Laughter]
Ann: Honestly, if it would help other people to have these conversations, and even taking this assessment, I think it’s a really good tool.
Dave: Yes, the tool is great; because I knew that as I was taking it: “This will force us—
Dave: —“to talk about this.”
Ann: Me too.
Dave: That’s the good thing, because I think we’re not the only couple that struggles to talk about this. I’ve found—as a pastor, and as a marriage writer, and cohost here—it is easier to talk about it on stage or in a marriage conference—even at the Weekend to Remember® we do a session on it—than it is to talk about it with you in the kitchen or the bedroom.
Ann: That’s been a conflict of our marriage, because you’ll bring things up on air—
Dave: “You don’t have to bring that up now.”
Ann: —on air—[whispering] like, “Why are we talking about this in front of thousands of people?”
Dave: We’re doing it right now.
Ann: I know!
Dave: Yes, but you brought it up. Don’t blame me; this one is on you. [Laughter] But no, I mean, it does [force us to talk about it]. I think couples, like us, struggle in the same way.
Ann: Me too.
Dave: It’s a scary topic. Here is what guys do: we joke about it in the locker room. Do you know why? Because we are afraid to have a really honest, real conversation about it, especially with our spouse. I want to encourage couples to do what we’re trying to do right now: is you’ve got to talk about this.
Again, the assessment asks you questions like: “Do you know what your spouse likes in the bedroom?” If you can’t answer that question, that means you haven’t talked. You are not really honest even, maybe, when you are making love to be that vulnerable with one another. If you are not going to go there, you’re never going to experience the intimacy God wants.
But if you are willing to take those risks that are scary, there is an intimacy that is beyond the physical—that’s beyond the sex part—that is, soul to soul, in your marriage and not just in your bedroom; right?
Ann: And that is God’s intent—that we connect soul to soul—because it’s beautiful; it’s intimate. It’s how God designed us and why He designed the intimacy physically; it really binds us together.
Dave: As you say that, here is one of my thoughts: is, growing up, neither one of us were followers of Christ. We made poor decisions, sexually,—
Ann: —with other people.
Dave: —before we were married with other people. When we started dating, we were like, “We’re going to do this God’s way.” We were in a different place, spiritually. It was the only relationship that we remained virgins until our wedding; but in the other ones, we made bad decisions.
One of the things we had to reset was: “God says, ‘A married couple making love is a beautiful thing; it’s a good thing; it’s something God wants.’” We had always seen sex as something you shouldn’t do, because we heard that from the church; so it felt wrong and dirty to us. Then we get married; it’s supposed to be beautiful and wonderful. It is like, “How do we shift our mind to that?”—right?
Ann: Well, I remember being at the Weekend to Remember getaway the first time we went. I remember them saying,—
Dave: —as an engaged couple [we attended].
Ann: Yes; “Bring God into the bedroom.” I was like, “What?! That is messed up!” That just felt so contrary to what I felt.
Dave: That meant: “Bring God’s heart, bring God’s perspective, bring God’s Word on sex into your sexual relationship.”
Ann: —because he’s the Creator of it.
Ann: Yet, growing up, my past has pornography; it has sexual abuse. To bring God into that, it felt wrong. It felt like God was ashamed of me, and what had happened to me, and what I had done. I didn’t want to bring Him in, because I felt like He would see the true nakedness and brokenness of my soul.
The truth is—He does see all of that—and He loves us; and He wants to repair us; He wants to heal us; He wants to heal our marriages. I think He is the only One who can do that.
Dave: Yes; and that’s one of the reasons we’re talking about this—is, often, the church has been silent; and nobody is giving God’s perspective—that’s why some people are hearing this conversation, and it’s uncomfortable for them because nobody seems to be talking about it. We need to talk about this from God’s Word/to say: “What is God’s heart?” “God created this; God is not ashamed of this,” and “God wants to redeem and restore what’s been broken in our lives, especially in this area.”
He has done that for us. He wants to be a part of this conversation, because He redeems this.
Ann: One of the podcasts that I love to listen to about this topic is Java with Juli, who has been a guest on FamilyLife Today. She’s been a guest on the Love Like You Mean It® cruise. Man, she is just so good at bringing God’s heart and view. She helps us, so we have a clip by Juli Slattery on this topic.
[Audio from The Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex]
Juli: I don’t think God cares that much how great sex is in a moment; but He cares deeply about whether or not we’re becoming lovers, whether we are becoming people who are sharing a journey of intimacy, whether we are learning to listen and understand, and forgive, and have fun. A lot of us have the wrong [idea of] “what” [sex is], and we get frustrated. I think we continually hear the “what” in the wrong way. We hear that sex is all about sexual activity instead of it being about sexual intimacy.
There are some of you in this room, who have been married for decades, and you’ve had sex with each other for decades; but you’ve never been sexually intimate with each other. You’ve shared your bodies, but you haven’t shared your heart and your soul. You haven’t worked through the issues that require love, and listening, and mercy, and sacrifice.
Dave: All I can say is “Wow!” I mean, here is what I’m thinking: “I have missed it so badly in this area—
Ann: What do you mean?
Dave: —“in our marriage.”
What Juli was saying is exactly what I’ve done. I remember we had conflicts about frequency of sex in our marriage, for years, especially when the kids were little toddlers. I would complain that you are not as interested in sex as I am, and it never dawned on me until you communicated—and it took me years to understand—that you are interested; you just looked at sex differently than me. I’m thinking, “Nakedness in the bedroom.” You’re thinking, “I long to be loved—affection, conversation, non-sexual touch—I want you to be intimate with me without just the physical sex part.”
I always thought you’re not interested. What I realize is you are very interested; you were not feeling loved. I was just blaming it all on you. I look back and say, “I was the one missing it; I didn’t understand how to really, really love you.”
Ann: I don’t think I understood anything honestly; I think our pasts are so broken. I think most listeners would say, “Yes, my past is broken too.”
To bring God into it, as Juli was describing that, I thought, “Oh, that is so beautiful; it’s biblical.” Of course, that’s why God created it—because not only are our bodies connected in oneness—our spirit, our soul, our emotions/everything—becomes one. It’s beautiful. I think we long for that; we just don’t know how to get to that.
Dave: Well, talk about what you’ve tried to tell me, over the years, what that means to a woman, that it is beyond the physical; that it’s beyond the sexual.
Ann: I think it can feel like it’s just an act—like there is a beginning, and there is an end—that’s what our physical intimacy is about. But what you’re saying is the same thing I was trying to communicate: I long to be touched, non-sexually; for you to pursue me and to want to be with me—not only physically-speaking but emotionally—all of that together makes it so beautiful. And you are loving me as a whole person, not just the physical part of intimacy.
Dave: Yes, I really sort of balked at that; I’m like, “You don’t want to make love.”
Ann: You felt rejected.
Dave: Yes; and you would say things like, “We haven’t even talked.” You didn’t mean today; you meant this week, this month. There was part of me, at that time, who was like, “Who cares?” I really did; I was like, “So what?!” It was so selfish of me not to understand you were saying, “I long for more than just a sexual touch; I want to be intimate.” It was your way of saying, “We haven’t talked; we’re not connecting.” To go in the bedroom or wherever, and just do the physical act is just an act; and that doesn’t make you feel loved.
Ann: Well, and just to kind of get into background: I think it’s important for us to look into our backgrounds. Growing up [for me], there was absolutely no physical affection in our family: there were never hugs; there were never kisses—
Dave: In your home, growing up.
Ann: —appropriate [for family members]—and there wasn’t abuse in my home; it was outside of the home. As a result of that, the only time I had any kind of physical touch was through abuse. I carried that into our marriage. As we were married for a while, you stopped being affectionate with me, except in the bedroom; so that triggered all of my past stuff.
Let me just say this as well—I remember, when we were going through seminary, and then later, as we were transitioning out of our church—the times that you have been super, super stressed in your life, you haven’t been as interested in physical intimacy/in our sex life, which then made me feel like, “What’s wrong with me? I must not be appealing to you.” Then that takes you to a whole other area that can be really hard, and it feels vulnerable to talk about that; because I felt like, “Oh, am I not good enough?”
Dave: We are being super honest on this topic.
Okay; I think it is time to play another clip—
Ann: Okay. [Laughter]
Dave: —because we have let people into the depths of our—
Ann: Oh boy!
Dave: —marriage, our home, even our bedroom.
So we’re going to go back and listen to another clip from the course. You can get the link to sign up for this online sex course at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Ann: On this course, not only is there assessment, but we will have these clips to be able to listen to.
Dave: Yes; and then you’re going to be able to talk with your spouse about these, like what we’re doing.
Ann: —what we’re doing.
Dave: We are sort of modeling for our listener what they will actually get to do.
[Audio from The Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex]
Juli: Sexual intimacy, instead of compatibility and frequency, is about becoming lovers. What kind of lover are you? If I only looked at your sex life, would I conclude that you are a follower of Christ?—the way you love your spouse sexually? It focuses, instead of on attraction, it focuses on intimate connection.
My husband and I have been married 25 years; and even though our bodies have changed, the journey that we have shared together sexually, over 25 years, is so strong that we are attracted to each other; because we have a history together that no one else shares. It’s just about us. It focuses on that shared journey of even the obstacles we’ve faced, and we faced some significant obstacles. Those are the opportunity to become even more glued together through the fire, to learn to love each other more; and it focuses on: “How do we get our needs met? How do we serve each other both in and out of bed?”
Dave: Boy, I thought what Juli said about: “Could I tell you are a Christian by the way you are as a lover?”
Ann: Yes, what did you think of that?
Dave: Well, I mean, my first thought was: “In the bedroom, you should be selfless. One of the distinct qualities that God transforms in our lives, when we come to Christ, is from selfishness to selflessness.” I’m not saying we have no selfishness left in us; but that is one of the distinct marks that should be there of a Christ-follower: is it’s no longer about me.
Boy, when you bring that into your married bedroom—“It’s not about my pleasure; it’s not about me. It’s about laying down my needs and desires to love and serve my spouse,”—to bring joy to her, as a husband. That is a beautiful thing. That’s what married sex, in the covenant of marriage, as Christ-followers, should look like.
Ann: As you say that, the thing that popped into my head was—I mean, I don’t even know if this is right or wrong; I’m just kind of/this is off the top of my head—but I thought, “If you, maybe, give yourself away in the bedroom—but in the home, your spouse is super negligent of you, of your kids, of your family—but then he gets into the bedroom, and he is a servant, I am like, “Oh.”
Dave: Are you talking about me right now?
Ann: No! I’m just saying—
Dave: I think you are. [Laughter]
Ann: —this could be for anybody—but I’m just saying, “It all bleeds.” I don’t know if it does that for men; but as a woman, it bleeds into one another.
Dave: So you’re saying: “For a woman, it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just be a servant in the bedroom if you’re…”
Ann: I mean, it is awesome.
Ann: I’m saying, “That is awesome.”
But if one of the things that she was saying in the beginning—she said, “If I only looked at your sex life,”—and you continued to where she was going—“what would it tell me about your spirit life?”
I was thinking, “If I only looked at your sex life, what would I conclude about your marriage?”—which is interesting. This is the part—and I don’t know if this is just me, and I don’t want to make any generalizations because we are all different as men and women—but if our marriage isn’t doing well: if you are gone all the time; if you’re not invested in our relationship, in our family—that affects the bedroom. That is what I am saying.
So if you come into the bedroom, and you are a servant; you want to please me—but you haven’t pleased anywhere else, that gets tricky; because—I don’t know if men do this—but my relationship with you is so tied to everything.
Dave: Are you also saying that: “A great marriage can lead to a great sex life”—not the other way around?—in other words: “A great sex life doesn’t lead to a great marriage”?
Ann: Maybe, a little bit. I mean, I think both are important; but yes, I think having a great marriage produces a great sex life.
Dave: —which I think is the opposite of what the culture will tell you—
Ann: Oh, absolutely.
Dave: —almost like: “Man, you can be hot in the bedroom; it’s going to lead to this great marriage.” It’s like: “No; it doesn’t always/it hardly ever works that way.”
It’s like a great relationship—where, like you’re saying, a husband is laying down his life to serve his wife as Christ did the church—Ephesians 5—where a wife is honoring and affirming and respecting her man—and there is this real connection outside the bedroom, that leads to a lot hotter sex life in the bedroom.
Ann: Yes, let’s say somebody hooks up with someone before they are married—you know that happens all the time—and it was amazing. They think, “Oh, yes, this is going to be—let’s get married—it’s going to be great!”
But we all know, once you get into marriage—and you have the stress of life, and jobs, and kids, and the struggle of getting along—it’s not going to be like that first time, necessarily—it can be—but life affects our desire, sexually.
Dave: Even listening to Juli, it reminds me of what you’ve said many times: “I want to be a great lover outside the bedroom,”—
Ann: —a servant.
Dave: —which means, “I want to love you in a way that you feel loved,”—and you’ve told me—“And you know what? If that has affects in the bedroom, great; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. That is what I want to do; that is what I’m called to do.”
By the way, I know how it will affect the bedroom: it’s going to be a good/much better if you are feeling loved outside the bedroom. I think what we’re really trying to say—it’s right where we started—this is an area that deserves you giving your all; that doesn’t just mean in the bedroom. Obviously, we’ve spent this whole time saying a lot of that is outside the bedroom. Give your marriage everything you’ve got; and be willing to go to a scary area, which is talk about this area of your marriage.
Ann: I would add: “Before you talk about this in your marriage, talk about this with Jesus.” I would bring Him into the bedroom; talk to Him about all of these areas—what you are thinking, what you are feeling, your insecurities, your fear, your frustration—then I think that always helps, in your marriage, to pray with one another about this topic.
Dave: Yes, it’s an area you never think of praying about—
Dave: —with your spouse; but why not?!
Ann: Why not?
Dave: You pray about other things you do together. Why don’t you ask God to bless this as well?
Bob: Because we live in a culture that has so perverted and so distorted what healthy, married sexuality is supposed to look like, it can be easy for all of us to approach this subject, thinking we are dealing with something that maybe we shouldn’t even be talking about. And then there are couples, who are dealing with issues of shame and regret, that make it hard to have conversations about the whole area of marital intimacy and married sex.
This is one of the reasons why, at FamilyLife, we’ve put together a course—it’s an online course that couples can take together privately—you do this on your own, as a couple, and learn, and grow, and interact, and help resolve some of the issues that you may be facing when it comes to marital intimacy; help your marriage be all God intends for it to be in this area. The online course is called The Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex. It features Ron Deal and Juli Slattery. There are five sessions; there is an assessment that couples take before you begin watching the sessions together.
There are activities to do; there is a devotion for couples to work through; there are other resources that are made available to you. All of this is something, again, you do together on your own in private. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about how you can enroll in The Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex from FamilyLife. There is a link available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have any questions, give us a call at 1-800-FL-TODAY; and we trust your time as a couple, engaging with this content, is going to enable you to have the kind of marriage God wants you to have, especially in this area of marital intimacy.
We hope you have a great weekend this weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church. We hope you can join us on Monday when we’re going to continue to talk about the distorted and confused picture of sex that exists in our culture and talk about how we engage with our children on this subject, because the culture is having the conversation with them. So what do we do? How do we interact with them? How do we know what to say? Sean McDowell joins us Monday. We hope you can be here as well.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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