After I graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary, I went back to campus to audit a one-week class on sexual intimacy. One of the first components of the class was an exercise I will never forget. Ten large papers hung on the wall in the front of the class. On the top of each page was written a word/phrase like sexual intercourse, breast, oral sex or masturbation. The assignment for the class: grab some markers and write down all of the slang terms we could think of related to each one of the terms.
A few observations:
- I have never excelled more at a seminary assignment. I realized how poorly I had thought about and discussed the body and intimacy all of my life. The influence of pornography and the discussions I had with friends had clearly distorted my views and the ways I discussed God’s gifts of the body and intimacy.
- The purpose of the assignment was for us to realize how poorly we communicate about sexual intimacy and to help us become more comfortable in discussing intimacy, the parts of the body and different aspects of intimacy.
- The problem for many of us is that we don’t realize we can actually talk about sexual intimacy with one another. And when we discuss it, we can do so using words and phrases that honor the Lord instead of talking about it crassly.
A great barrier to intimacy as God intends is the inability to communicate in marriage about sexual intimacy. In fact, I believe most couples have almost no clue about how to talk about intimacy. Either we don’t think we are allowed to talk about it, or we feel extremely insecure in discussing anything intimacy-related with our spouse.
I believe communication is the most important skill needed for a great sex life, even more important than bedroom tips, tricks, and techniques. We need to learn how to communicate about sexual intimacy. The best book I know that discusses marital communication and conflict is A Lasting Promise, by Dr. Scott Stanley. I have read through this book probably seven times, and this is the book we have all of our newlyweds at Watermark Community Church read as part of our newly married small groups.
The biggest obstacle when it comes to communication? We are fools. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Often when it comes to intimacy, we are more interested in sharing our own desires and needs instead of listening with the intent of understanding our spouse.
Here are a couple of the challenges and why we need to improve in communication related to intimacy:
- Men are, typically, easier to please. There is not much mystery in pleasing a guy physically. Women, on the other hand, are tougher to please. Men don’t know how and we can’t read minds. We need to be told (i.e. communication) what feels good. We need help learning how to understand how to please our wife.
- We all have expectations related to intimacy and we need to learn how to communicate those expectations. Otherwise, we will experience frustration and disappointment.
- Talking about sex in general is very difficult. We need to learn how to ask for or express what we want or desire. This is called assertiveness, not selfishness. We need to create safety in communication with one another.
- To be clear, just because we want something sexually does not mean we should do it. See last week’s post on what’s permissible sexually in marriage.
- Sharing our desires becomes a great way to put our spouse’s desires before our own if we are comfortable doing what they suggest.
- Often we are afraid to hurt one another or we are ashamed to speak about intimacy. Rather, we choose to not communicate instead of taking the time to discuss intimacy. If you talk about intimacy, it doesn’t mean you’re messed up. It’s a good and healthy thing to talk about with each other!
We need to discuss how to get out of the routine and try something new. We need to be able to have fun and try new things. Men often tend to be formulaic. Just because something works one time does not mean it will work the next time you are intimate with your wife. Yet another reason why we need to discuss sexual intimacy with each other.
Can we give feedback and suggestions to one another? Absolutely! Here are a few suggestions.
- Feel free to make suggestions or requests during foreplay and lovemaking.
- Major coaching should be done fully clothed, not during lovemaking.
- Focus on the positives, but don’t be afraid to provide suggestions.
- Focus your coaching on the issue and the behavior, not the individual.
- Dr. Douglas Rosenau in his book A Celebration of Sex provides three suggestions on how to discuss intimacy with your spouse:
- Assertively state your personal reality using “I statements.” For example: “I wish we could try doing xyz.” Or, “I enjoy it when you do abc to me.”
- As the listener, objectively empathize with your spouse’s reality. Seek to understand (Proverbs 18:2).
- Tenderly negotiate a partnership reality. Compromise and don’t seek to create a win-lose situation.
I talking about intimacy is challenging and much more can and has been said on the topic. I am a marriage pastor and am very happily married, but Kristen and I still struggle at times. We have different expectations and comfort level in talking about intimacy, but we know we need to improve in the most important skill needed for a great sex life.
This article on sexual intimacy originally appeared here, and is used by permission.