If you were from outer space and had a subscription to Direct TV, you would think the only way to have enough interesting sex would be to stay single and look for someone new to hook up with on a regular basis. But reality may not be that way at all. Several studies indicate that on average married people have sex more often, enjoy more varied sex, and are more satisfied with their sex lives than single people. And those with a single sexual partner in the past year report the most happiness in general.

That is not the whole story, of course. Some married couples do fit the stereotype of flannel pajamas and sleeping on separate sides of the bed routinely. Not long ago I saw a patient whose husband spent every evening holed up in the basement watching pornography. “He hasn’t touched me in years,” she said. The pain in her voice was real.

Sex is certainly not the only factor in a successful marriage. For any marriage to work, both husband and wife must be more focused on meeting each other’s needs than getting their own needs met. It takes a lot of forgiveness, flexibility, and unconditional love to make a marriage last.

Nowhere are these characteristics more important than in a couple’s sexual relationship. Here’s what healthy sexuality looks like for a married couple when it’s working well:

  1. Unashamed. In marriage, sex and sexy behavior can be uninhibited by shame or guilt. Husband and wife can freely enjoy each other’s body, and his or her own, with pleasure. If shame is present from previous experiences or beliefs, marriage provides a safe place for healing. (See Gen. 2:25)
  2. Mutually satisfying. This does not mean either partner has a right to demand sex any time they want. It does mean that both partners get most of their sexual needs met more often than not. Those needs include sex, but also affection, nonsexual touch, intimacy, and more.
  3. Extends beyond the bedroom. Affectionate words or messages, playful sexy touching, private coded sexy phrases, flirting – each couple has their own repertoire of sex messages. That’s part of the glue that helps hold a marriage together. And understanding conversation and caring kindness are often great foreplay.
  4. Sensitive to change. Many things can impact one’s sexuality: physical health, fatigue, depression or other mental illness, stress, medication, etc. In a healthy marriage both partners accept change in the other, but also work together to overcome challenges that changes may bring to their mutual sexuality.
  5. Topic of conversation. The media talks about it. God talks about it in the Bible. So why shouldn’t you talk about sex with your husband or wife? Is there something you would like to change? Are you worried, embarrassed, or frustrated about your sex life together? Are you understanding your spouse’s sexual cues? Are they understanding yours?
  6. Comforting, bonding, safe. The world offers conflict, pressure, disappointment, performance evaluation, and rejection. Sexuality in marriage can be the antidote. To know and be known – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – and still accepted is one of the most healing aspects of a healthy marriage.
  7. Spiritually affirming. God created us for intimate connection with Himself out of unconditional love. Marriage, including healthy sexuality, offers both a laboratory and an object lesson of what that spiritual intimacy is all about. We only mirror that imperfectly, but with God as the foundation marriage helps us come closer.

How well do those characteristics describe your marriage and your sexual relationship together? If that seems like an impossible ideal, let this stimulate you to work to make things better.

And lastly, invite God into your bedroom. He created the idea, you know!

Your turn: What do you believe are the characteristics of healthy sexuality in marriage? How does sexuality fit into the whole of a healthy marriage? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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