If you’ve been raised in church you’ve probably heard this is how it’s “supposed” to be. Boy meets girl, they fall in love, have sex for the first time on their wedding night, and *fireworks!* They immediately enter a fulfilling sexual relationship that lasts for the rest of their lives. But there’s a good chance that’s not your story. And your sexual story impacts your marriage.
Tonya’s mother was raped, and passed down her distrust and even hatred of men to her daughter. Warren’s uncle used pornography to teach him about sex and women. Vanessa had no one to talk to as she discovered the power of her flowering body to attract and manipulate boys. Geoffrey’s mother used him as a surrogate spouse emotionally and eventually physically. The messages John and Janet heard growing up in church made sexual desire sound dirty and wrong.
These are not rare stories. And you have your own unique sexual story. You learned so much about intimacy, sex, and relationships long before you even knew you were learning it.
Your spouse learned things about intimacy, sex, and relationships too. And what he/she learned was almost certainly quite different from what you learned.
And even more important, what both of you learned and came to believe is almost certainly not in line with the truth of what God intended sex, sexuality, and intimacy to be.
So it should really be no surprise that problems around sex and intimacy in marriage are more the norm than the exception. So what is a couple to do?
Your Sexual Story
Love sex or hate it, the issue of sex affects you deeply. If you’re married and you’re a Christian, you probably intellectually believe that God intended sex to be a beautiful thing between husband and wife. So why is it so hard?
There is a sinister force behind your sexual problems. Dr Dan Allender has said, “Evil hates what God reveals in and through the creation of humanity, especially with regard to gender and sexuality. Nothing brings evil greater delight or power than to foul our joy in being a man or a woman through sexual harm or gender confusion on the one hand or dogmatism on the other.” (Healing the Wounded Heart) Doesn’t that have a ring of truth to it in your situation? This is not how God intended things to be!
A lot of the people I hear from blame their spouse for the sexual issues in their marriage. And your spouse may have issues. But just for a moment, assume that 10% of the sexual issues between you have something to do with you. Can you get curious? What might that look like?
A couple examples might help. A woman (or man) who has heard all her life the unstated messages that “Sex is dirty. Nice girls don’t do that!” may struggle deeply once married to feel emotionally that sex is now a good thing. A woman or man who was sexually used, abused, or violated can easily build emotional walls that keep anyone, including a spouse, from getting close. A man (or woman) who has learned that sex is something to be taken, something to use for one’s own gratification, may struggle to engage in the kind of loving intimacy a Christian marriage requires.
Regardless of your spouse’s issues, today I’m talking to you. And I’m inviting you to consider your sexual story.
Here are a few questions that may be enlightening.
- When and how did you first learn about sex?
- What did you see modeled growing up when it comes to sex, sexuality, and intimacy?
- Are there ways in which you have been sexually harmed?
- If you are wanting sex, what are the “under the surface” needs you are trying to fulfill?
- What feelings do you have around sex, sexuality, intimacy? Do you believe those feelings line up with what God intended?
- How have you dealt with issues such as shame, anger, or entitlement around sex?
- What religious messages have you heard around sex? Do you believe those messages line up with what God intended?
- You’re married. So how well are you connecting with your spouse not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually?
There could be many more fruitful questions to ask yourself. The answers tell a story.
And we’ve only alluded to the reality that your spouse has a sexual story too. And when two people with differing sexual stories, differing expectations, differing wounds get married, it’s no wonder things get complicated.
Addressing Your Sexual Story
God has not guaranteed a mutually satisfying sexually exhilarating marriage for everyone. That’s not the promise of the gospel.
But the promise of the gospel is that you can be made whole – regardless of anything around you, including your spouse.
Your sexual story impacts your marriage. But the carrying old baggage, messed-up beliefs, sexual trauma, sexual addiction – all of that can be healed. Jesus offers you transformation from the inside out. And you’re not dependent on your spouse to get there.
And a huge Step One is to deal with your sexual story. That’s where our new online course Sexpectations begins – helping you look at your story with both honesty and compassion. That’s how Jesus sees you and your story.
And then Sexpectations walks you through finding the transformation Jesus offers, so that you can write the next chapter of your story with hope.
Only with that transformation will you truly be capable of experiencing – and inviting your spouse into – the kind of intimacy God intended, the kind of intimacy He created you for.
I’m inviting you to join me in the online Sexpectations course today.
Your Turn: How do you feel about the prospect of looking at your sexual story? Can you see any way in which your sexual “stuff” has impacted your marriage? Leave a comment below.
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- Your sexual story – what happened to you, what beliefs and attitudes you developed, your past sexual experiences – impacts your marriage. And addressing your sexual story empowers you to experience true intimacy. Tweet that.