This is the third in a series that I call The Three Loves. In the first we discussed Fence Love, a love that protects marital intimacy. In the second we talked about friendship in marriage. In this article we will think about sexual love in marriage.
For married couples, sex can be either great or a great challenge. Take a moment to read some actual comments we have received from husbands and wives who have attended our seminars:
“We’ve been married only a year and my husband hasn’t touched me in months! I want his affection; I want to make love to the man I married.” (from a Chinese Malaysian wife)
“Asian Women! They are so cold and uninterested in sex.” (from a Chinese Malaysian husband)
“We’re just too busy, too tired, and have too many responsibilities. By the end of the day there’s just no energy . . . and not much desire!”
“My wife was very responsive before we had children, but now it seems they are more important than I am. We seldom have sex, and when we do we just can’t seem to enjoy it.
Those comments, and many more like them, come from nice, normal people. Yet they are frustrated because of the sexual condition of their marriages. It takes a lot of pressure for anyone to talk about something as personal as sex, so I assume the problem is quite serious when they finally do speak to us.
What happened to the passion? Like dew that evaporates in the heat of the sun, sexual passion disappears under the harsh glare of day-to-day realities and necessities. But unlike the dew, it doesn’t always reappear when the pace slows and the day cools down.
Sex? In the Bible?
The Bible has some very special passages for husbands and wives that have the power to ignite their sexual yearning for each other. Yes, the Bible speaks to us about sex. In fact, the Bible has much to say and says it with beauty and passion. Consider the following verses from Song of Songs and Proverbs:
From Song of Songs, chapter four, verse twelve: “My sweetheart, my bride, is a secret garden, a walled garden, a private spring . . .”
Verse sixteen of the same chapter: “Wake up, North Wind and South Wind, blow on my garden; fill the air with fragrance. Let my lover come to his garden and eat the best of its fruits.”
Chapter five, verse one: “I have entered my garden, my sweetheart, my bride. I am gathering my spices and myrrh; I am eating my honey and honeycomb; I am drinking my wine and milk.”
From Proverbs, chapter five, verses fifteen to eighteen: “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.”
Secret, walled gardens with private springs; fragrances carried from the garden on the winds; spices and myrrh; honey and honeycomb; wine and milk. What does it all mean? It means that the biblical writers had some very fervent, very beautiful things to say about the sexual relationship between husband and wife.
God created both man and woman with the ability to give and receive sexual pleasure. We are designed to arouse and to be aroused. Therefore, our sexual relationship should bring pleasure to both husband and wife. The Creator never intended sex to be a pleasure for one (usually the husband) and a problem, or pain, for the other.
Great sex is a gift from God to every married couple. That may seem strange to you, but only because most of us have such a limited understanding of what makes an activity holy. In our minds holy means religious. Thankfully, sex is not religious. But when enjoyed in the covenant of marriage, it is holy.
Some African cultures practice female genital mutilation, a horrible, barbaric, procedure. I mention it for this reason: the purpose of this mutilation is to make it impossible for a woman to enjoy intercourse. They believe that sexual enjoyment (at least for the woman!) is dangerous and could lead to unfaithfulness. The concept is not based on the teachings of any religion that I am aware of.
Using the same reasoning, why not burn out our taste buds so we don’t overindulge in food? Or perhaps we should blind our eyes so we cannot worship what we see. Or puncture our eardrums so we cannot hear music and fall in love with it.
Do you see? Those physical capacities are God-given. They need regulation, but God designed them to give us pleasure. Food tastes good. The sounds of life inspire us. There is beauty, all around, for the seeing. And, for a married couple, there is sexual enjoyment as a gift from a wonderful, loving God.
Private, Therefore Special
What makes the sexual relationship in marriage so exciting? Notice what Solomon said about his bride. She is his secret garden, his private spring. That is the secret. Sex is private, something so intimate that a marriage covenant must protect it. It is the ultimate intimate experience shared by two lovers in a unique marital relationship. Sex is an expression of commitment, not just an opportunity for excitement.
In marriage man and woman give each other exclusive entry to their secret gardens of sexual desire and fulfillment. They share springs of passion with each other which they will never share with any other person. Our marriage covenant creates walls around our private garden.
The husband and wife unlock their secret gardens, releasing the springs of passion in each other. They are refreshed by each other’s springs. The pleasure is theirs alone, for only they have the keys and the permission to unlock each other’s desires.
Some married people use sex as a reward or withhold it as a punishment. To do that is to abuse something which God designed as a celebration of marital unity. How can we give each other the keys to our private gardens, then, as punishment, refuse each other? How much better to forgive each other and celebrate deep love through sexual intimacy.
It would be great for newlyweds to perform a ceremony of the keys. At some point in the wedding service, or perhaps better, on their first night together as a married couple, they would exchange two small, beautifully fashioned keys, perhaps made from gold or silver.
The keys symbolize that they are giving and receiving entry to a private garden. They would vow to never deny one another entry to that garden. They would agree to treat their sexual relationship with honor, tenderness, and understanding. They would assure one another that the keys they have exchanged are one-of-a-kind, never to be copied.
It is the privacy, the uniqueness of sexual intimacy, that makes it such a powerful expression of love. In sexual love, a husband and wife give each other a gift, a lavish gift, that no one else can give to either of them. Couples who give and receive that gift in a mutually satisfying way will always have a secret glow in their marriage.
Since marital sex is such a wonderful expression of love, why do some couples neglect it? Why do we hear the comments you read at the beginning of this article? The answers are many, and often complex, but here are some common problems:
We forget the great value of our sexual intimacy. Unless we know the value of a thing, we will not make time for it. Studies show that couples who are sexually satisfied tend to have happier marriages in every other way, too.
We are always too tired or too busy. True, you may be too tired to make love some nights, but I have a solution for you. Make an appointment! “Sorry, darling, but I am just too tired. How about an appointment? Same time, same place, tomorrow night.” By doing that you create anticipation, an aphrodisiac that is stronger than anything you can buy in a Chinese medicine shop, and much cheaper than Viagra. All the next day you’ll be thinking about the treat that awaits both of you that evening. It works.
Another solution to tiredness is to simply forget you are tired, at least for a few minutes, and make love anyway. You don’t always have to feel sexually alive to start the process. Wise couples learn that sex can be very fulfilling even in the tired times. You’ll probably sleep better, too.
Like the rest of marriage, developing mutually satisfying sexual love means that a couple adapt and adjust to each other. Sexual gratification is a gift they give and receive. They learn how to do that in each stage of their marriage, but never let the fire die because of neglect or distraction. They are the keepers of the flame.
In the sequel to George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, he describes a feeling that many married people will understand:
“She is immensely interested in him. She has even secret, mischievous moments in which she wishes she could get him alone, on a desert island, away from all ties and with nobody else in the world to consider, and just drag him off his pedestal and see him making love like any common man.”
The woman he speaks of is Eliza. The man is a stuffy professor named Higgins. Many husbands and wives want what Eliza secretly wished for. They long for times to forget other roles and responsibilities, if even for a few moments, and just be lovers.
Here’s a true story: a husband and wife climb into bed. The wife snuggles up to her husband, hoping to arouse his interest in making love. But the husband, a workaholic, lays there, hands behind his head, eyes focused on the ceiling, puzzling over some work-related problem. The wife has had it! She pokes him in the ribs to get his attention, then exclaims, “Kick your company out of bed, Mr. Managing Director. It’s just your wife in here!”
Keep the fire alive. Celebrate your intimacy.
As every marriage counselor will tell you, a couple’s sex life is a concentrated reflection of their entire marriage. Because of that, I could not address all possible sexual problems a couple might have. If you and your spouse have deeper problems than what we have addressed here, get some detailed help by reading a good book on the subject of sexual intimacy or perhaps speaking with a trustworthy counselor.
Think, Act, Pray
1. Are you satisfied with the frequency and variety of your sexual relationship?
2. Complete this statement: “Our sexual relationship would be better if . . .”
3. The Golden Rule for Life is to treat others the way you want to be treated. How could a couple apply that rule to their lovemaking?