Embracing the Good Work of Building Sexual Intimacy In Marriage
Much of what I have learned about sexual intimacy in eight years (at the time of writing this post) of marriage has come from reading marriage books and blogs.
I think sexual intimacy is one of those areas where we tend to lean towards self-learning.
While “public” learning through conferences or small groups or talking to a friend is generally appreciated, we default to private spaces for more intimate learning.
If you are like me, you want your sex life to remain as exciting and exhilarating as it was at the beginning (unless intercourse was a challenge back then of course.)
Fresh, firework-sy, flawless.
But days turn into weeks, and weeks to months and months to years and slowly, what was once luscious and easy becomes sluggish and complicated.
You look at your sex life and wonder what happened to the adventure and excitement.
We don’t realize it, especially in the newlywed season, but sometimes, forward movement is not the natural progression of a marriage.
Drifting is. Unless you put your commitment to work, on a daily basis, regression can ensue. Sheila Gregoire puts it this way
“In marriage, we cannot drift together, we can only drift apart. So don’t drift. Be intentional about staying together.”
While it took a while for me to understand that a great sex life requires effort, it took even longer to kick out the discomfort, shame, confusion that can accompany work.*
God invites us to embrace good work (Philippians 2:12) In fact, it is through work we grow closer to Him. As a newlywed or early wed wife, here are two possible adjustments to make as you embrace the good work of building intimacy in your marriage.
1. Change the conversation in your head about sexual intimacy
It is said the largest sexual organ in a woman is the one between her ears; her brain.
Some of the earliest adjustments a newlywed wife has to make comes in the form of learning how to lead her body and feelings, vs waiting for the flighty and mysterious “mood” to whisk her to ecstasy.
When we’re always waiting for our feelings to lead us, sex can eventually begin to feel like a chore.
However, when we change the conversation in our heads and do the internal work of health, intimacy can becomes less of mystery and more of an adventure.
Please note that sometimes, the problem isn’t our perception or mindset. Sometimes, we have relationship or physical problems that make it hard or impossible to enjoy sex. In those instances, we’re not the problem and those other issues need to be addressed. For more on this, check out Sheila Gregoire’s book, The Great Sex Rescue.
If you don’t have other underlying issues, one tip that can help is to recognize who holds the key to your desire. You. Your husband holds a key of course! He needs to prioritize your pleasure. His pursuit and romance and foreplay are vital. But it is our choice to jump in that makes a big difference too.
Once you decide to jump in, the other thing you need to remember is to stay locked in!
As a newlywed wife, I struggled with the whole idea of switching on and staying connected. I talk about it in my book Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After In The Early Years; I tried to keep up with my husband who could switch on at the drop of a hat and stay engaged.
I on the other hand, seemed to need forever to warm up and even after I did, it took a tremendous amount of effort and concentration to stay turned on.
Many newlywed wives fight the same battle. And so we have to change the conversation in our head, accept our differences and understand our distinct paces serve a purpose in marriage.
Another area of changing the conversation involves understanding that what goes on outside the bedroom will affect what happens inside it.
An argument or disagreement can zap out the fuzzies for intimacy.
But you can turn things around by using what goes on inside the bedroom to change the outside.
This is what I mean; if you have unresolved issues, like conflict and misunderstanding that has turned you into cold-woman (which is protective state, nothing wrong) remember it’s okay not to have sex too!
While healthy sex is can be deeply connecting, it should not take the place of healthy communication or connection.
Yes, the sweetness and brokenness of intimacy can soften hearts if you’re already talking, feeling respected, honored and loved, already making progress on a problem area.
2. Remove unreal expectations
So you read about the ways of a wife from five different people, and you want to import it into your marriage all at once. Talk about information overload! Which leaves you frustrated and feeling like you will never measure up.
I am learning (at a much slower pace than I would like, I confess), that God created me to do me. He does not expect me to be like another wife. He does not expect our marriage to be like another couples. He does not expect our sex life to be like something I read in a marriage book; perfection does not exist.
Yes, we should learn to grow but cramming information, trying to measure up with another person will not help me do what I can do. Sometimes back I read of an intimacy thing that was supposed to blow my husband’s mind. I tried it. It fell flat. I was mad at him and even more mad at me.
My confidence was flattened and I felt like a failure. (Especially because the said thing was totally out of my comfort zone.) So here’s what I am suggesting to better embrace the good work of intimacy-building; let us learn to do us. Let’s quit the pretense.
“God meets us where we are not where we pretend to be,” says Dr. Larry Crabb.
It is better to get honest, accept where we are – our pace, personality, season, yes, even our difficulties – than to race this imaginary race which leaves us so wiped out and frustrated that in the end we do nothing.
Be you. You are the only person and couple God expects you to be.
I am not discouraging learning or big goals, (y’all know I love big goals ) but I am encouraging you to operate out of peace, not competition or the sense of “I am not enough.”
Yes, it would be amazing to orgasm every single time you make love, it would be exciting if you never needed extra lubrication but guess what, things don’t always go the way we like them to.
Such is the life; doing good, figuring out ways to thrive in spite of unmet expectations.
Summarizing my thought; relax and enjoy what is working! Don’t miss out on what you have because you are focused on what you do not have. Absolutely work on what you don’t have and need, but if you’re both connected and empathetic and open, also celebrate what you do have.
I hope these thoughts help you as you journey towards embracing the beautiful work of growing your intimacy in marriage.
Some of these tips are basic knowledge to some wives, but to many others, they are in the “breaking news” category! Whatever level of growth you are at, I hope they are helpful! I know I need reminders all the time.
*When you think marriage and intimacy-building is easy, shame and guilt is a typical response when you discover they are not.
I love your words here, “But growth is not the natural progression of a marriage. Drifting is.” Wow! So well said, Ngina. And I also love how you’re focusing on the main sexual organ–our brains. We really lose sight of how much power we have over our sexual desire and enjoyment when we neglect to deal with how we think about it both leading up to our time together and during it. Great job and thanks for continuing to unveil the many myths and misconceptions about sex.