Building a Vibrant Sex Life
Oh, that you would kiss me with the kisses of your mouth,
for your love is better than wine…
Let us make haste! The king has brought me into his bedchamber.
Song of Solomon 1:2-4
Good sex not only makes our marriage better, it makes our prayer better. Good sex opens our heart to the world and puts a spring in our step. So in this blog I’ll focus on how to build a vibrant sex life.
Popular entertainment usually portrays sex as simpler than it is. We’re better off if we accept the reality that experiencing sexual satisfaction doesn’t always happen effortlessly. It requires a whole matrix of virtues like boldness, adventurousness, sensitivity, and patience. Married couples gain these virtues over time, and the result is that sexual satisfaction tends to increase into our forties and sometimes beyond.
One complexity is that your level of sexual desire varies – an so does your spouse’s. Getting on the same page sexually is a process of first establishing emotional intimacy between you and your spouse and then re-igniting it when the time for sex nears. If you’re having a sex problem, it’s often at root an intimacy problem. In this case, the prospect of sex will probably make you anxious or irritated.
A key to building a vibrant sex life is understanding this: exciting, nourishing sex requires an activation of one’s heart. Biological urge alone cannot sustain a vibrant sex life. Most marriages reach a wall when, for reasons mentioned above, sexual desire for each other simply ebbs away. Can it be re-ignited? Absolutely. Step one is to stop blaming your spouse. Mentally you might have fallen into blaming him or her for being unattractive or unwilling, and yes, your spouse can get lazy and give up being romantic or attentive or physically appealing. But before you go too far down that road, ask yourself an honest question: “Have I stopped activating my heart toward my spouse?” If so, that will affect your sex drive. But you’ll be delighted to find how swiftly sparks can rekindle once you’ve reframed the problem as a heart issue. You and your spouse are naturally sexual people, that’s how God made you; so find out what’s happening in your heart and take the risk to talk about it with your spouse. If you handle that well, you’ll find sexual energy returning.
Another complexity for some people is that they have trouble being sexually intimate because of emotional damage from their past. This can be hard to detect at first because it’s your “normal”. Don’t be ashamed of what happened in the past, and don’t give up on having a satisfying sex life. But do explore the damage. God can heal it.
Our level of intimacy is not the only thing that can inhibit our sexual connection; many life situations also can. When you overwork, for example, desire decreases. Or when you feel bad about your body, desire decreases. Sickness, stress, and guilt also make sexual connection difficult. And when children come into the family, energy for romance and sex can become scarce. At times like these spouses can easily disappoint or hurt each other, making sexual satisfaction more tenuous.
Watch out for the rejection cycle. Men need the affirmation that sex brings and thus feel hurt when rebuffed. Women, on the other hand, are usually aroused more slowly and thus need time to be romanced before getting in the mood. As one author says, men are microwaves and women are crock-pots. The result can be the rejection cycle: he always initiates and she always declines. But we can break the rejection cycle. He can learn what she needs for arousal; she can learn to say yes and specify what will help her shift gears and experience pleasure.
Here’s a simple idea: set aside a day together but don’t decide what you’ll do until that morning. Then see what happens that night. Even men often need time to de-stress and re-connect before they feel ready for love-making.
Finally, our sex drive changes as we age. There are exceptions; once a couple in their late 70’s come to me for counseling because “he’s not as interested in me as he used to be.” But normally our sex drive slows a bit as we age. Our need for physical touch and closeness, though, does not slow down and should not. The focus of sex can shift from the intensity of climax to the tenderness of other kinds of touching.
Remember, our culture has handed us an impossible model for what sex looks and feels like. That model has led many to be disappointed with sex. You may need to renounce the fantasy of self-centered romance or pleasure and re-program your expectations according to a truer model.
You can discover a rewarding sex life together. Be teachable as you learn about your spouse’s preferences and desires – and as you learn about your own.