Beyond the First Dance
“The two will become one flesh" (Ephesians 5:31)
Sexuality may be one of God’s most beautiful gifts to humanity. To welcome the children that result from such a union may be the supreme gift of marriage. The ability to have an emotional connection sets humans apart from the animal kingdom. The difference between “having sex” and “making love” contrasts the physical and emotional aspects so vital to a satisfying, long-term union.
Like many facets of your union, your physical relationship will have its highs and lows. Sometimes you may be on different pages, but that does not mean that sex is any less meaningful or important to either of you. Recognizing your moods and needs, which is central to all communication, is especially true for the sexual aspect of your marriage. As with all facets of your relationship, each of you must take responsibility for knowing what you need and enjoy, and then communicating that honestly to your partner. This is basic to the intimacy of any marriage, and your spouse should not be expected to be mind reader. As awkward or as difficult as it may seem at first, talking together about what sex means to you, how it is expressed, and its frequency, are important parts of marital communication.
After your first years of marriage it is natural that the passion wanes as life picks up new tempo. With a baby, the upkeep of a home, and demands of double careers, you may each be wondering, “What happened to our sex life?” An occasional period of disconnection is normal, but it should also serve as a signal to address the issue, lest it turn into emotional separation. With the invasion of technology, you would be wise to leave media out of your bedroom. Having that space sacrosanct allows for peace and intimacy without distractions from the outside world.
Making love can serve different needs at different times. During great stress, making love may be comforting. On vacation, sex may be relaxing. After a passionate movie, making love can be exciting. When you are raising teenagers, sex may provide a break from dealing with the stresses of adolescence.
To look at the magazine rack in the grocery line you might get the impression that the mechanics of sex are all that is important. You may see titles like, “Where is her hot spot?” “How to drive your partner wild.” Educating yourselves can be helpful, but if your sex life focuses on the mechanics and avoids the emotional needs of your partner, you may notice a diminishing return in the bedroom and even a growing distance in your marriage. Knowing what pleases your partner physically is important, but knowing what is important to your partner emotionally and paying unselfish attention to that is of much greater and lasting importance. When life gets hectic, making the effort to change the pace at home can go a long way in changing the atmosphere. This might mean making a special meal for the two of you that may create a romantic mood, or planning a getaway that gives you a change of scenery. You can surprise your spouse and arrange for the kids to stay with friends or relatives or plan a simple outing like a picnic or a movie to boost those sagging hormones.
Resentment is often the basis for a decline in physical intimacy and can come in many forms. When one partner disregards the feelings of the other, it can result in resentment. For example, the proverbial battle over household chores is a primary irritant in many marriages. We all must attend the mundane tasks of grocery shopping, cooking, doing laundry, changing beds, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the refrigerator, washing the floors, doing windows, raking, mowing the lawn and, for those of us blessed to live in the snow belt, shoveling. As it turns out none of these things are an aphrodisiac. The repetitive chores necessary to maintaining a household often fall along traditional, and sexist, lines. When women were primarily homemakers, they performed 84% of the housework. Now that most work full time outside of the home, they still do 76% of the housework. This comes up as one of the constant and chronic sources of resentment in a marriage. So, the message here is, if your sex life needs a boost, try to help your spouse. Or stated more humorously: “If you want to score, do a chore.”
Another common source of tension and resentment is money. When one partner is overspending and the other is paying the bills, there can be anger about financial irresponsibility. We know that statistically when the wife makes more money in a marriage divorce is more likely. What this suggests is that a sense of inadequacy on the part of one of the two partners in a marriage can lead to bitterness. Because money remains the number one cause for divorce, it is critical to have open communication on this topic. Avoiding discussion on this and other difficult issues will inevitably have unwanted effects on your love life.
The almost obsessive preoccupation with sex in our culture and the emphasis on its importance in marriage can certainly miss the point. It is the emotional connection that needs to be kept alive within your marriage. One marriage researcher notes “foreplay starts in the kitchen.” This wisdom tells us to pay attention to something as simple as how we greet each other first thing in the morning, or at the day’s end, the manners we extend to each other and the small acts of kindness we graciously share. Such gestures form the basis of the desire that leads to physical intimacy. Who feels attracted to someone who is rude, indifferent, selfish or demanding? Paying attention to your daily interactions makes a difference. Just being nice can have an extraordinary effect on your sex life.
Until the next time, be present to each other, and to God, and remember to speak with care and listen with love.