Maurice and Monica weren’t sure their marriage would make it. They had lived together for a few years prior to getting married, but when they became Christians, they knew getting married was the right thing to do. They started going to church and imagined everything would now be okay. But their misery only increased. Maurice was emotionally disengaged. Monica had an affair. Sex was one of the few things they had in common but it was usually make-up sex. That was better than no sex, but there was no real intimacy between them. They wondered why they couldn’t make marriage work.

Both Maurice and Monica came to marriage with broken mental templates around relationships, marriage, sex, and intimacy. None of the marriages in their families had lasted; all had been marred by infidelity, violence, addiction, and/or divorce. None of their long-term friends were married; all were either shacking up or hooking up. They had no internal mental map of what healthy intimacy in marriage looked like.

Stewart and Sophia weren’t sure their marriage would make it either. Both their sets of parents had been married fifty years and seemed to provide good role models. Stewart traveled a lot as a leader with significant responsibility in a Christian organization. He’d struggled with porn years ago but had successfully put that behind him. He felt blindsided when Sophia told him she was done with sex–for good. Now that the children were out of the house she started improving her physical appearance, hanging out with girlfriends, and was reluctant to go to church with Stewart when he was in town. They too were experiencing no intimacy.

Perhaps real intimacy is far from your marriage, too.

Beliefs and Expectations

Your beliefs frame much of your expectations. And there are plenty of misconceptions or downright lies out there about Christian marriage and sex. Have you bought into any of these?

  • If you don’t have sex before marriage, God will bless you with a wonderful married sex life.
  • If married sex is not good, it’s because you’re being punished for messing up sexually in the past.
  • Sexual disconnection is frequent and normal at some point; you just have to learn to put up with it.
  • The Bible gives you the right to demand sex as a spiritual obligation from your spouse. (1 Corinthians 7, anyone? We will address this later in the chapter.)
  • If you’re both Christians, good married sex should happen naturally.
  • Real Christians shouldn’t want or enjoy sex too much; it’s worldly and ungodly.
  • The goal of the Christian life is a happy sexually satisfying marriage and family.

Oh, you won’t usually hear any of those lies said out loud, and some include just enough truth to give them plausibility. But listen to the subtext you pick up on Sunday mornings, in your small group, at marriage conferences, or from many Christian marriage resources. Marriage has become a kind of god to much of the Protestant church. And marriage makes a very poor god. Nothing temporary can withstand the weight of being a god. Marriage is God’s idea and it’s absolutely worth fighting for, fighting hard for! But it’s not worthy of worship.

Married Sex and Intimacy

Yes, God invented marriage. And married sex. And He considered it good, very good. He intended marriage, including married sex, to be an earthly physical demonstration of the kind of intimacy and love He experiences within Himself and that He desires to have with His bride the Church and each of us personally.

As important as the question “How’s your sex life?” may be to a married person a more important question is, “How’s the intimacy between you?” There’s plenty of married sex going on with no intimacy, as Maurice and Monica are experiencing. Intimacy must be present for married sex to be good. But intimacy is possible even if intercourse is not.

How Married Sex Can Be Good

The above is excerpted from a section of Chapter 8 of my new book Sexpectations: Reframing Your Good and Not-So-Good Stories About God, Love, and Relationships.

This book is not about how to have a better married sex life, though it will certainly help your sex life. This book is about dealing with the matters in your own heart that impact your capacity for intimacy. And that is what can make married sex good.

Sexpectations shows you how to:

  • reinterpret your sexual story with honesty and compassion
  • find freedom from shame, compulsive behaviors, past harm, and hiding
  • redefine the way you look at God, sex, love, and relationships
  • orient your sexuality as God intended and embrace what He has for your future
  • experience Jesus coming right into the middle of your story to bring healing and wholeness

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  • For married sex to be good, the most important question is, “How’s the intimacy between you?” Work intentionally on the intimacy, and your married sex can get better.   Tweet that.