There’s not a couple who comes to marriage with the same sexual desires and expectations. Your view of intimacy is not the same as your spouse’s. Sexual love languages differ. One of the greatest excitements, challenges, and benefits of marriage is exploring intimacy together, including physical intimacy. And for that you’ve got to talk – yes, talk – about sex with your spouse.
Having the sex talk with your spouse does not mean using Bible verses to try to manipulate, demand, or withhold sex from your spouse. Talking about sex is not assuming, hiding, sulking, criticizing, complaining, shaming, or blaming. Talking about sex can be difficult. But that’s why you’re reading this.
Sex can become one of the most contentious and painful aspects of a marriage. Or it can be one of the most affirming and bonding parts of your relationship. One of the best ways to turn sex from something you fight over or avoid into something you anticipate is through talking about it.
God made both of you as sexual beings on purpose. The need for sex is designed to draw husband and wife together, to provide fuel to do the sometimes difficult work of connecting. God also designed intimacy, including physical intimacy, as a picture of the oneness He desires to have with each of us.
Sex, Intimacy, or Both
Intimacy and sex are not the same. Without intimacy sex is – just sex. Even married couples can fall into that trap or routine. True intimacy includes not only being naked and connected physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.
Talking about sex can be vulnerable for both of you. Make sure your heart is open before trying to communicate about sex. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.
Talking about sex must include talking about intimacy. This is much more than talking about techniques and negotiating frequency. Talking about sex won’t get you very far unless you are working on and communicating about emotional and spiritual connectedness also. This is about knowing your spouse, and continually knowing each other better.
Tips for the Talk
Here are a few things to remember when talking about sex.
- Men and women are different. (Well, isn’t that what this is about? Vive la différence!) Men tend to compartmentalize sex much more than women. Women are usually much more sexually modest than men. Men often spell intimacy s-e-x, while women may spell it t-a-l-k. And it’s a rare couple where husband and wife desire sex with the same frequency.
- You both have a sexual past. Even if your husband or wife is your first sexual partner you each have a sexual past. The examples of parents and others, previous relationships (sexual or not), media exposure, Biblical/religious teaching, abuse or molestation – these and many more elements may impact what sex means to you and how you approach sex with your spouse.
- Get past your squeamishness! This may be more difficult for some than others, but it really IS OK to talk about sex – with your spouse. Need a Biblical example? Read the Song of Solomon. Both partners are enraptured with each other, and are free to talk about what arouses them sexually and their sexual relationship together.
- Be vulnerable. It may feel risky to talk about sex and intimacy. If you want your spouse to be open, begin by expressing something about yourself. “I feel lonely when we don’t have sex for a couple weeks.” “I’m grateful for you as my spouse, but I’m worried I’m not meeting your desires for intimacy.” “It’s much easier for me to get in the mood when you’ve had a shower.”
- Listen. Listen. Listen! This is important in any communication, but especially when talking about sex. Consciously seek to help your spouse feel safe enough to be vulnerable with you. Listen without judgment, trying first to understand. If you don’t understand, ask them to explain. Resist the urge to start explaining or fixing or planning. Listen. And then listen some more.
What to Talk About
Since knowing is what sex is all about, talking about these things will deepen the intimacy between you and open the way for more satisfying sexual experiences together. These questions can help get you talking about sex. Start with the question you suspect your spouse will feel the safest talking about.
- “How well does our marriage meet your needs for intimacy – sexually and otherwise?” Listen for both sexual and non-sexual needs. Factors outside the bedroom may play the biggest role.
- “When you feel close to me, what is it that makes you feel that way?” Listen for clues to what opens your spouse’s heart, perhaps things completely unrelated to sex.
- “Are there things I do or don’t do that turn you off?” Listen for anything that tends to close your spouse’s heart.
- “What did sex mean to you before our relationship began?” Listen for pain or trauma from past experiences, unmet expectations, guilt and shame, other intimate relationships, or religious baggage.
- “How safe do you feel in our relationship?” Listen for your spouse’s feelings such as performance fears; a sense of being criticized, unloved, disrespected, or taken for granted; or a sense of failure and not measuring up.
- “How well do I read your sexual signals?” Listen for how your spouse feels about how you respond when they initiate sex or intimacy. You may discover doors to intimacy you never knew were there.
- “How good a lover am I to you?” Listen for what you do that makes your spouse feel aroused (or not) and satisfied (or not), whether in the bedroom or in the rest of your relationship.
- “How could I help you feel closer to me?” Listen for any actions you can take – in the bedroom or in the rest of your relationship.
- “What would help you enjoy our intimacy together more?” Listen for both sexual and non-sexual aspects of intimacy.
- “Is there something you struggle with sexually where I could support you better?” Listen for physical struggles, emotional struggles, and spiritual struggles. You don’t “fix” each other; God does that. But your loving support may make all the difference in their journey – and your journey together.
This is only a start. Talking about sex is something you should do regularly.
Most of all ask God to be present with you, both as you talk about intimacy and in the bedroom. He created marriage. He created sex. Deeper intimacy is worth the challenging journey to get there.
Your Turn: Are you able to talk about sex with your spouse? How can you make those conversations more about seeking to understand? Leave a comment below.
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- Intimacy with your spouse means more than physical nakedness; it includes emotional and spiritual nakedness. That includes talking – yes, TALKING, about sex. Tweet that.
Need a more detailed plan?
Struggling to talk about sex, or anything else, with your spouse is perhaps the most common challenge couples face. It can get better!
Dr Carol’s Guide to Healthy Communication in Marriage will provide you a detailed blueprint to resetting the communication between you and your spouse, and help you move toward a more intimate and satisfying relationship.