A woman pulled me aside at the end of my bridal shower and whispered, “Just a little tip: if you start to feel irritated with your husband, it might be because you haven’t had sex in a while.” I couldn’t believe she felt comfortable enough to offer unsolicited advice about sex; we weren’t close friends. But I also thought she was crazy. There was no way my husband and I would go more than a day without having sex.
Like many Christian girls raised in the 1990s under “True Love Waits” campaigns, I was fiercely committed to remaining a virgin until my wedding night. But I was also convinced sex would be a daily—and delightful—part of married life. If sex had been built up by so many as an experience well worth the wait then it must be amazing.
I was right and wrong. Married sex is wonderful. But it’s also far more complicated than I ever imagined.
If God Says Sex Is Good, Why Is It So Complicated?
As a young bride, I didn’t always enjoy sex as much as I had anticipated. My husband was kind and loving, but our differing levels of sexual desire and enjoyment sometimes created tension early in our marriage.
Married sex is wonderful. But it’s also far more complicated than I ever imagined.
Then we had four babies in four years, and my desire for sex drastically waned. My body changed. Time was limited. Exhaustion reigned. And sex was often the furthest thing from my mind.
Frustrated, weary, and saddened by these changes, I turned to God’s Word and looked for everything I could find about sex. Instead of the blushing 13-year-old girl or the eager bride-to-be, I approached Scripture prayerfully: “God, if this is in your Word, it must be for my good. Please, help me learn and change me.”
My examination resulted in a renewed perspective on God’s design for sex and the importance of its place in my marriage. Married sex is a good and beautiful God-given gift (Gen. 2:24–25)—and not just for procreation. We’re called to uphold sex within marriage, treasuring and protecting it (Heb. 13:4). Sex in a loving marriage is portrayed as joyful and worthy of celebration (Song 1:2–4). And in some mysterious way, the sexual union of a husband and wife instructs us in our union with Christ, increasing our joy in him (Eph. 5:28–32). Sex is a gift to treasure, pursue, and enjoy.
But just as with every other good gift in life, sin marred sexual intimacy (Gen. 3:16–19). Past sexual sin and a history of sexual abuse can create barriers to emotional connectedness and mutual fulfillment. Health issues, stress, aging, everyday conflicts, and irritability can hinder us from pursuing and enjoying sex. Sex can even be physically painful. And when sex doesn’t produce the new life we hope for, we can grow resentful toward its presence (or the expectation of its presence) in marriage.
But if God can bring healing and redemption to other aspects of marriage, he can also redeem sex. Jesus’s death brings redemption from sin, and the power of his resurrection provides new life (Eph. 1:7, 19–20). Resurrection power affects every aspect of life, including sex. I realized I could wrestle, through Christ’s power in me, against any attempts to destroy this physical union in my marriage.
God Can Redeem Married Sex
Over time, I found joy in married sex by three simple practices.
1. Pray About Sex
I admit, this feels like a strange prayer to jot in your journal. But if we’re called to prioritize sex in marriage (1 Cor. 7:2–5), then prayer ought to play an integral part in the struggle. Here are some prayers I’ve prayed over the years:
Pray for desire. If we’re tired or irritated with our husband, sex isn’t always a high priority. We prefer to remain untouched. Sometimes our husband’s lack of desire can interfere with our own, and we may both become disinterested in sex. When I began to regularly ask the Lord to increase my desire for sex, he granted my request. And if my desire wanes, I return to this prayer and continue to see change.
Pray for the removal of distractions. There’s nothing like a baby’s cry, the reminder of yesterday’s heated discussion, or the threat of your 10-year-old knocking on your bedroom door to prevent joyful sex. If these kinds of things are causing anxiety and hindering sexual intimacy, we can ask God to remove them or to give us wisdom to respond rightly when the interruptions come.
Pray for delight. Ladies, it’s OK to seduce our husbands, it’s OK to be seduced by them, and it’s OK for both of us to like it (Prov. 5:18–19). Mutual enjoyment increases emotional connectedness and builds trust.
2. Talk About Sex
Conversations about sex are some of the most vulnerable ones we will ever have. Even spouses in committed and healthy marriages struggle to speak candidly about their preferences, frustrations, and fears. But these are the exact conversations we need to have.
By approaching these conversations with humility and quickness to listen (James 1:19), my husband and I have been able to recognize our pride and selfishness and the ways our actions affect the other’s sexual experience. Sometimes there are tears and disappointment, and we apologize and extend forgiveness. But the ultimate result is a desire to please one another.
3. Have Sex
It’s a little awkward to admit, but after 16 years of marriage, I can confidently say sex is wonderful and gets better all the time. But I only discovered this by actively engaging in sex.
Sex within a healthy, safe marriage is restorative and necessary. It reinforces our commitment, renews the covenant we made before God, and reignites our desire for, and pleasure in, one of the joy-inducing benefits of marriage.
Sex within a healthy, safe marriage is restorative and necessary.
Sex joins us physically, but its effects also extend to spiritual and emotional intimacy, contributing to a healthy marriage. This intimacy makes the marriage relationship unique, and it’s why God commands the marriage bed to remain pure and “undefiled” (Heb. 13:4).
Married sex is a precious gift, and I’m so grateful someone pulled me aside and encouraged me to pay attention to my sex life.