Marriage and Sex: What No One Is Talking About
Wonder why people struggle with marriage intimacy, if it's supposed to be so natural? On FamilyLife Today, hosts Dave and Ann Wilson share some of the most important things about sex you've probably never heard.
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If sex is supposed to be natural, why’s it so — complicated? Hosts Dave and Ann Wilson share some of the need-to-know about sex that no one’s talking about.
Marriage and Sex: What No One Is Talking About
Dave: I always love talks that start this way: “What no one is telling you about…”
Ann: Me too.
Dave: Don’t you?
Ann: Yes, because it hooks you in.
Dave: It’s like you’re going to get backstage; you’re going to get inside the truth, when everybody is talking about, but no one is telling you this! Today, we get to do that about a very sensitive topic—what nobody is telling you about married sex—are you excited?
Ann: Um… [Laughter]
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: I don’t ever remember hearing God’s perspective, or even what God’s Word says about sex,—
Ann: Oh, me neither!
Dave: —growing up.
Dave: My mom/basically, I went to church almost every Sunday with my mom. I remember one sermon, when I was a kid growing up, from the pastor on Sunday morning about sex. Here is all I remember—he said it was wrong; it was dirty; it was bad—if you do it, you’ll go bald. [Laughter]
Ann: He did not say that!
Dave: He didn’t say the bald part, but I remember the other part. By the way, I am pretty bald, so what is that telling you? [Laughter]
Ann: That’s so funny.
Dave: Anyway—yes, I think that is a funny joke—I tell you: when you talk about this topic, sometimes, you’ve got to bring a little humor; because it’s not always the easiest thing to talk about,—
Dave: —especially as I’m sitting here, looking across at my wife, who we have been married 41 years. This has not been an easy topic to talk about, even in our own home.
Ann: Why do you think that is? For most couples, I think that’s true.
Dave: I think it’s scary.
Dave: There is a fear that: “I’m not enough for you,” “You’re disappointed in me.”
Dave: Again, it’s not an easy topic to talk about. It’s hard for us, as parents, to talk about with our kids; and yet, it is critical.
Ann: Because the culture is talking about it constantly.
Ann: They are talking about it in ways that we would say, “Oh! That’s not the biblical viewpoint; because God does have a game plan, and He has a purpose.” We had never heard that before, so I think this is a great thing to talk about.
Dave: Yes; so we’re going to talk about it for two days: today, what no one is telling you about sex. Tomorrow, you get to take an online assessment that FamilyLife has put together for an online sex course that is very helpful—that we’ve done—that we’re going to walk you through what that looks like.
But today, let’s talk about what no one is telling you about sex, which is really: “What are the lies? What are the truths about sex?” Here is one interesting statistic: “Married couples are having less sex today than ever in the last three decades.”
Ann: We’ve seen that because we’ve been speaking at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway for 30 years, and I think that is very true.
Dave: So why?
Ann: Yes, what do you think?
Dave: I’m asking you.
Ann: I’m asking you.
Dave: You’re going to throw every question about this topic back to me.
Ann: Oh, I’m totally doing that. [Laughter]
Dave: I think there is a lot going on in our culture today. I think porn has a lot to do with that—that there are some struggles in marriages—where men and women are looking at porn outside the bedroom.
Ann: So there is self-gratification.
Dave: I think that, and I think it’s just something that is very difficult to talk about. That’s why we’re talking about it. It’s like, “Okay, what is God’s heart?”
Let’s just give a couple thoughts, in the time that we have, to sort of debunk some myths. Here is one that I think would shock most people: “If you want to have great sex, go to church.”
Ann: Like, “What?!” People just said, “What?!”
Dave: Now, I don’t mean go to church and have great sex. I mean, if you want to have great sex, you need to bring God’s perspective—God’s Word; God’s heart—into the bedroom/into this area of your relationship. When I say, “Go to church,” I mean, “Get God’s heart around this.”
It’s really interesting; there have been several studies done over the decades that asked, basically, American couples, “How is your sex life?” Here is what is really interesting. Almost every one of those studies have found that the best sex—and again, this is a couple saying, “We enjoy our sex life,”—
Ann: They are both—the husband and the wife—are saying they both enjoy it.
Dave: —the best sex, being had in America, is by Christians. Now, that’s shocking!
Ann: How would you define Christians?
Dave: Followers of Christ—people who go to church; they say: “I believe in God,” “I believe in the Bible,” “I believe what the Bible says about sex,”—they are in a covenant of marriage. They [Researchers] are saying they [Christians] are the most happiest in their marriages in the bedroom than other couples.
Ann: Now, let me just—some of you are listening, thinking, “Okay, I was really hurt by the church and what they said about sex,”—because we had a recent conversation with Juli Slattery and Ron Deal about the whole purity culture time, where some people felt hurt and, maybe, they were told: “If you stay pure until you are married, it will result in the perfect sex life.” That’s not always the case.
Dave: Yes, we’re not saying that, if you do everything exactly the way God wants you to, it’s going to mean instantaneous, wonderful, miraculous sex once you get married, which was some of the belief of that whole movement. In a lot of ways, there is a lot of good in that. We talked about that when we talked about the purity culture; but there was sort of this: “If I do this, I get this…”—which means—“Sex will be easy and wonderful in marriage.” That’s not what we are saying.
Dave: But what we are saying, when you bring God into the bedroom and do sex His way, couples are saying they are happiest in their marriage, which is a beautiful thing.
Dave: It’s really interesting. One of the passages that you look at—when you think about: “Okay, what is God’s perspective on sex?”—is found in 1 Corinthians, where Paul is writing a letter to this church in Corinth, which, by the way, was having all kinds of issues with sex outside of marriage.
He is trying to say, “Okay, let me help you understand God’s perspective of this.” He says, “Sex is reserved for the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman.” He puts boundaries around it and says, “You can do whatever you want; but I’m telling you the best sex is going to be done the way God wants it: one man, one woman, covenant of marriage for life.” That’s what—when you do research—you find out what couples are finding out: “Yes, that’s the way God wants it to be done.”
You look at 1 Corinthians 7—now, listen to this—I want you to respond to this.
Dave: He says, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife; and likewise, the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.”
If you are trying to take that prescription from God into your married life, and your sexual relationship, how do you apply that?
Ann: I mean, I’m looking at that, thinking, “This is important to God.” Personally, I think between the two of us, when this is a regular rhythm in our lives—I mean, just love making/sex—
Dave: Everybody is saying, “What’s regular? How many times a the week?” We’re not going to give you a number.
Ann: Right; but when it’s a rhythm in our lives, there is a closeness. There is an intimacy that’s beautiful—it’s a spiritual intimacy; it’s a physical intimacy—and it’s beautiful. When there is a neglect in this area, I feel distant from you. I think that is what God is saying, like, “This is important. It’s part of the covenant of marriage; it will bring you together.” God never gives us instruction that will cause us harm. It’s like, “This will be for your good, and it will be for the good of your marriage.” I really believe it is bringing Jesus into every area of our lives and our marriage.
Dave: Yes; and I think one of the things we don’t always understand: when you bring God into your bedroom, or you bring God’s heart and perspective into your sexual relationship, it changes everything; because it puts a covenant around your marriage. It puts selflessness—hopefully, God is transforming your heart into the bedroom, which leads to better sex—if it’s not about me, it’s about you; and it’s about mutual pleasure, not just my pleasure. It changes everything. I think that’s why couples would say, as Christ-followers, they are having a better sex life.
Ann: What if one of you is like, “Yes, I want to do this; I want to bring Jesus into this”; and the other one is like, “No, I don’t care about that. This isn’t important, and I’m not really about bringing God into the bedroom”?
Dave: My first thought is: “You cannot control your spouse; you can only control yourself.” I would get on my knees and pray that God would change my heart and pray that God would change her heart or his heart.
Ann: I mean, that is what I would do too. If there is any kind of abuse going on, then that’s a different story; but we’re talking about good-willed people. I would definitely be on my knees, praying/talking about this, saying, “I desire this area to be great.” So yes, I would say the same thing.
Dave: This would be one of those areas in your marriage that we often don’t pray about. Why not?!
Dave: Pray about your sex life. If your spouse will pray with you about this, pray about that together. I mean, that’s a very intimate thing.
The first thought is: “If you want to have great sex, go to church”; in other words, “Bring God into your bedroom.” The second thought that I don’t think anybody is telling anybody about sex is: “Your marriage bed is crowded.” Again, that is just our way of saying what we have to understand—and Galatians 6 says this—“What a man sows, he will therefore reap,” which also means: what a woman sows, they will reap.
In other words, what you’ve done in the past, what you’ve been taught in the past—
Ann: —what your parents taught you.
Dave: —in other words, all that stuff in the area of the sexual relationship—ends up in the marriage bed. It’s like a crowded bed.
I know that is a strange way to say it; but if you’ve had past sexual experiences, you think they are just in the past. Here’s what our culture says: “Have sex with anybody; it’s just a hookup—hookup culture—it’s no big deal. It’s not going to affect you in any way; it’s just a hookup.” Oh, yes; it will affect you. Am I right?
Ann: Oh, yes; I mean, this is the point I want to cry about, because we experienced it in our marriage. I mean, I’m thinking about my exposure to porn, from four years old through high school; past sexual abuse—I brought that into our bed—people/like people that I had sex with, before I was married, at age 16.
Then I become a believer, and I’m following Jesus. I’m thinking, “Oh, Lord, I give You this area,” not realizing that all those things affected the way I view sex, the way I respond, the way I see you [Dave], the way I see our marriage. There is a beauty to it [with God’s healing]; like it sounds awful. I think one of the other things is I didn’t know that you had a problem looking at women; and there was a very brief time, at the beginning of our marriage, that you struggled with porn. Talk about making our bed crowded—like all of that is so hard—and yet, as we talked about it, we dealt with it. I mean, I had some counseling classes. We read books about abuse of how that affects your marriage. That made us better when we talked about it, prayed about it, asked God to heal it; and it certainly didn’t happen overnight; but man, it created an intimacy more than just physically; it was emotionally and spiritually.
Dave: Yes, and I think what the culture is not telling you is that. They are telling you a lie, which says, “It’s separate: what you did in the past—if you looked at porn—it’s like this separate part of your life. Like it’s over there, but it’s not really going to affect your marriage bed.”
Now, you’re married; you are in a covenant. The truth is—what no one is telling you is—“No; all of that is connected, because sex is more than physical. It is soul; you are bringing your soul. So all of that is connected in your bedroom.
It is interesting—again, back to the book of Corinthians, what Paul wrote about this area—very interesting. He said, in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “Everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial.” In other words, we have freedom—God gives us freedom to live—but that doesn’t mean everything you can do is going to be beneficial. Then, he talks about the sexual relationship. In verse 18, he says, “Flee from sexual immorality.”
The actual word there is porneia—that means any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage—“Flee; run from it.” It says, “All other sins a man commits are outside his body; but he who sins sexually sins against his own body,” which I think is a way that Paul and God are saying to us, “You don’t understand. Sexual sin is uniquely different, because it’s soul. There is a heaviness to it that you’ve got to understand that, man, when you make bad decisions in this area, it comes into your marriage bed.”
But with all that being said: “God redeems;—
Dave: —“God forgives. God takes the mess that we’ve made in our lives and miraculously makes something beautiful.” You said it earlier; we’ve experienced that because we brought bad decisions into our bedroom, not realizing—even in year one; we experienced it in year one of our marriage—decisions we had made in the past with other people were affecting our marriage and our marriage bed.
Ann: Well, talk about what your seminary thesis was.
Dave: Well, I mean, I decided to study the effects of premarital sex on married happiness—
Dave: —because I had seen it in our marriage. Not too many seminary theses are written on this—and it didn’t even get finished—but the study I did highlighted what we were seeing. The reason I wanted to do it is we were experiencing this: “Is this common?” Yes, I found out it is very, very common. What I didn’t know—and now, I know then and, now, 40 years later—is God meets you right there. He redeems our lives from the pit. He can bring beauty to your marriage and, even, to your sexual relationship in your marriage.
I mean, you went through sexual abuse—and God—it came up in our marriage.
Ann: Oh, yes.
Dave: It was something you [Ann] had to deal with. I had, as your partner, to come through and say, “Okay, I’m going to walk with you through this as well.” Now, we look back and say, “God is a healer; God is a forgiver. God meets us.” It was actually something that was very hard but beautiful in our marriage; right?
Ann: Yes, I think it’s so important to talk about these things. If you decide to do the sex assessment, it gets into some of this—into the past—I think it can just create some good conversations to have.
Dave: Okay, we’ve got time for one more. But just to review the things that no one is telling you about sex: the first one was: “If you want to have great sex, go to church; bring God’s heart and perspective into your bedroom.”
Secondly—was so important—“Your marriage bed is crowded”; in other words, “What you’ve done in the past is going to show up in the present.” But I just want to highlight—so no one forgets this—“God redeems; God heals; God forgives. Don’t you ever forget that. That is the beauty of God turning ashes to beauty.”
Now, the third one: “Great sex is really hard work.” “Great sex is really, really, really hard, hard, hard work,”—I’m kidding, but I’m not kidding—it’s like it’s this lie or this myth—and we believed it; or at least, I did—it’s like: “Oh, are you getting married?! Sex is going to be awesome; it’s going to be wonderful. It’s going to be easy, especially if you do it’s God’s way. If you save it for the covenant of marriage, and then you get married, it’s like, ‘It’s going to be awesome.’ And it isn’t always that awesome and that easy; it’s really, really hard work.”
Ann: It’s so funny. One of our sons—it was our first son [who] got married—and he was in the bathroom, getting ready. His younger brother came in, who was still in high school, into the bathroom. I think he was maybe a junior or sophomore; and he said to his brother, “Man, do you realize what’s going to happen tonight?! You’re going to get to start having sex like several times every single day of your life.”
I was just walking past them, and I heard that conversation. I was like, “Oh no! I need to have a conversation with him.” I remember later, saying, “So, when you get married, do you think that is going to be happening every day?” He goes, “Well, several times a day!” I said, “Oh, it would probably be good for all of us to have a discussion about the reality of what that looks like—because that can happen, and it would be great—but man, it’s not always easy.”
Dave: Also, when you have kids—and life goes on—remember the picture they sent us? That same son—
Ann: Oh yes! [Laughter]
Dave: —sent us a picture of their bedroom, years later. They have four little kids now. There was a slide—there was Little Tyke® slide on their bed—
Ann: Yes. [Laughter]
Dave: —into this bunch of pillows at the foot of their bed. I’m like, “Yes, how much sex are they having right now?” I mean, we were there: you’ve got little kids, and they are waking up at night. I mean, it’s hard work at different stages.
But it’s also—one of the reasons that I found out it was such hard work is I really didn’t understand how you [Ann] viewed this. We talk about this at the Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We do a whole session on God’s perspective on sex; and one of the things we talk about is how men and women are different, not just physically, but even in our thinking about this.
Ann: Well, I don’t know—and we’ve shared this before, so some people have heard this—but I don’t know if all women are like this; I feel like a lot of us can be wired like this—where for you [Dave] sex can be in a compartment. Men can be more compartmentalized than some women. So if you think this is happening tonight, that’s the only thing on your mind, where I know this is happening tonight; but I am thinking about a million other things, like: “Do we have milk in the refrigerator for the morning?”
Dave: By the way, we’re not saying we walk around the house, looking at each other, like, “This is happening tonight.” [Laughter]There are just times you know—
Ann: —kind of—that’s exactly what it’s like; yes.
Dave: —you give each other the look.
Ann: So I’m like: “Do we have milk? Do I have enough to pack a lunch?” “My mom is sick,” “I need to get a birthday present for my friend,” “I haven’t worked out in five weeks, and I feel terrible about myself.” So women—a lot of times, we are carrying the load of so much on our mind—“I don’t like my job,” “I feel like I’m not getting along with a friend.”
Here you are, with one thing on your mind; I’m carrying a million different things.
Dave: I mean, I’m in the bedroom, waiting—
Ann: Oh, yes.
Dave: —because I’ve got one thing on my mind.
Dave: You come walking in, with all of these—and when you do this on stage, and some of you have seen it in our Vertical Marriage small group study—you show this with luggage. Literally, you pick up bag, after bag, after bag—
Dave: —to show what women feel like as they walk into the room. They have all this on their mind.
Ann: Yes; and [I’m] thinking, like as I’m crawling into bed, “Did I give the dog water tonight?” So here you are—you’re already in third gear—and I’m cold; I’m like, “I’ve got nothing going on except all of my thoughts.” That’s so frustrating.
I remember sharing this with you the first time; and you’re like, “That’s the most depressing thing.”
Dave: It was. But the thing is, when you share this on stage at our Weekend to Remember or the Vertical Marriage weekends we do, women start cheering as you’re doing this.
Ann: I had a man come up to me and said, “Honestly, I thought my wife was the only one. I thought I should divorce her; like this is horrible.”
Dave: And they are cheering, because—
Ann: —they relate. A lot of women feel that very same thing.
What I’ll say—even to the men, who could be feeling like, “Oh, that’s so depressing,”—“This is where God comes in; and we become selfless, and we serve one another.” I say to the men, “If you just said to your wife, ‘What’s the heaviest thing you are carrying right now?’ and ‘What can I take off your plate and put it on my plate to help you?’ that could be the most romantic thing you could do today.”
Dave: Yes—and the truth is: “Why we say really great sex is hard work,” is—if you are willing to do that work; in other words, when I started to understand that’s how your mind is/it’s carrying all this—at first, I was like, “Come on!”
Ann: And some men do that—let’s just say—
Dave: Yes, it could be men [carrying a lot on their mind].
Ann: —yes, they are carrying a lot too.
Dave: But what I had to learn to do—and this is where the selflessness comes in when Christ transforms you from the inside out—it’s not about me; it’s about: “How do I love you?” The hard work was: “Help me understand that.”
Ann: Yes, I remember saying to you: “Can you just rub my back for like two minutes?” You are like, “What?!” That was a gift to me that I could just unwind and release all the things I was carrying in my mind.
Dave: Two minutes in the bedroom feels like watching The Lord of the Rings. It’s like, “Two minutes?! That’s forever!”—[Laughter]—we’re joking.
But doing the hard work of: understanding one another,—
Dave: —of understanding how our marriage bed is crowded, and understanding God’s heart on this—all the things we just talked about—that hard work is worth the pay off. I’m not just talking great sex, but I’m talking a great marriage relationship,—
Ann: It’s a union of the soul.
Dave: —which is what God wants. More than the bedroom, He wants you to be connected in the covenant of marriage, which will overflow into something beautiful, even in your bedroom.
Bob: I know, for so many couples, the issue of marital intimacy and how we come together as husband and wife is an area that is fraught with challenges/with issues; and it feels like there is no place to go to get the help you need. This is very personal, and so it’s not something you can just talk with your friends about. This is one of the reasons why, here at FamilyLife, we’ve put together a private online course that husbands and wives can go through together. It’s called The Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex. It features Ron Deal and Juli Slattery offering counsel and advice on how husbands and wives can experience what God intends for us to experience in the area of marital oneness and marital intimacy.
There are five sessions in this online course. There is an assessment you take as a couple at the beginning of the course. Then each session includes a video from Ron Deal and Juli Slattery, offering counsel and insight on the subject of marital intimacy. There are activities for you to do as a couple; additional audio resources; there are devotions for couples to go through, and read, and pray together. All of this is available for you to use, privately, as a couple. You can get more information about it when you go online to FamilyLifeToday.com; look for The Nearly Complete Guide to Better Married Sex. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; and the information is available there. If you have any questions, give us a call at 1-800-FL-TODAY; 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, tomorrow, have you ever asked yourself the question: “Does it really matter to God whether we are experiencing oneness in every dimension of our marriage, including marital intimacy/our married sex?” Dave and Ann Wilson will talk about that tomorrow. I hope you can tune in for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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