Growing up in the Bible belt as a pre-teen, sex always seemed awkward or dirty. It was only talked about as an example of the depravity of “that world out there.”
So I was delighted when as a teenager, attending a very typical 1990s youth group, I learned that sex actually was the mind-blowing, toe-curling end-all/be-all of life. The sex I’d have if I waited until marriage, I was told, would be better than anything I could imagine. On your wedding night you will easily enter in to every single fantasy your adolescent mind can imagine about sex. It’ll be yours for the taking.
What I’ve found is that even though my wife and I “followed the rules” and didn’t have sex until our wedding night, sex has not bent the physical properties of the universe and launched us intertwined into some alternate, ecstasy-laden realm. Sex has at times been beautiful, awkward, intimate, frustrating, alienating, amazing, exciting and even funny. I would describe marital sex many different ways, but easy is not one of them.
Every married couple I know feels the same, and oftentimes there’s a sigh of relief when they discover “oh man, I’m so glad we’re not the only ones.” I’m convinced that, especially for those raised in a conservative church culture, we have not been given proper expectations for what sex should be.
So here’s my big idea: sex is supposed to be awkward.
Marital sex is all about intimacy. It’s being in your most vulnerable state in front of the person who knows you most and asking do you accept me? It’s about lowering the walls of insecurity and letting your spouse know and see you as you are. Orgasms in sex are an unbelievable gift from God, but that is quite literally the climactic moment, the capstone that memorializes a husband and wife’s connection to each other. Orgasms are the fireworks celebration of intimacy.
But here’s the deal about intimacy: it’s awkward. And hard. And uncomfortable. For those who have been emotionally, psychologically or physically wounded intimacy is painful. All forms of intimacy – with God, parents, friends, our children or a spouse – involves facing your selfishness and shame and saying “For your sake I want to be better than this. “
Sex with your spouse is that exact same thing, except you’re naked physically too! Is it any surprise then that really great sexually intimacy doesn’t magically appear on your wedding night? I mean, how could it? What I’m driving at is this: I believe God designed true sexually intimacy to sometimes be a struggle. So if sex in your marriage has triggered conflict, embarrassment or shame that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong. It just means you are two normal humans, trying to figure out how to be your most vulnerable selves.
If great sex came easy in a marriage, it would be all too easy for spouses to experience the instant physical gratification of it without having to work through some of their deepest problems. Without oversharing, my wife and I have had to work through a lot of issues in our sex life: competing expectations, awkward conversations, bodily shame, and triggered memories from our pasts. Some of the most shattered pieces of our soul have been revealed as sex forces us into uncomfortable intimacy. There are conversations, expectations, and yes, even fights, that have circled our sex life that we never would have had otherwise. Six years in we are having the best sex we’ve ever had, and it’s not even close. From what I hear, if we moving toward intimacy, it only gets better.
And that’s the great news: the more you press in to the awkwardness, the more you force yourself out of hiding, the more you communicate your expectations, the more you learn to have a voice in your sex life, the more you share with your spouse what aspects of sex are hard, the better the sex gets.
Like I said up front, sex is all about intimacy, and these kind of conversations are intimacy-creation machines. The closer you and your spouse are the more relaxed and safe you’ll be in your sex life. You’ll find eye contact happens easier. You’ll find orgasms aren’t (always) everything. You’ll find that the physical act we call lovemaking works best on the bedrock of a love you've already made.
So here’s your assignment: share today’s post with your spouse and set a time to have an awkward and intimate conversation about sex. What is one thing about sex that’s embarrassing for you? What’s one thing your sex life is missing? What is one thing your spouse does (during or before sex) that makes your sex better? How much shame is associated with your sex life? What is one area in your sex life you’d want to see improve over the next year?
This conversation might get uncomfortable, but it can also be a lot of fun. Remember, God created sex for more than just procreation. He wants it to be an incredible act of intimacy. So close your conversation by praying together that God would lead you in to the best sex he has available for your marriage … and if the answer to that prayer involves some awkwardness remember, that’s okay.