I work with lots of couples looking to improve their marital intimacy. While the actual concern may differ from one person to the next (desire level differences, pain with sex, affair recovery…) there is one big important component to working on your sex life.
Tune in to this video to see just what that is.
Also – if you prefer, you can read the full transcript just below the video. 😉
As a sex therapist, I’ve seen many couples that are looking to improve their sexual relationship. And I’m guessing that the reason you’re watching this video is because you either have an interest in improving your sexual relationship or maybe you want to effectively work with others that are looking for a greater level of intimacy.
I’m Dr. Jessica McCleese, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Christian Sex Therapist and founder of Fully Well. And today, I’m going to give you this umbrella picture or this big picture idea of what it means to start working on your marital intimacy.
Alright, I fully believe that aiming to improve your sexual intimacy is a worthy aim. Even if things are going fairly well now, we can all expect that at some point in life, we’ll have some sort of sexuality struggle. That struggle may be different levels of sexual desire within your marriage, past sexual trauma that’s impacting you today, infertility struggles that make sex feel more like a chore than fun together, or physical conditions like chronic pain, painful intercourse, or erectile dysfunction, and this isn’t even actually all the difficulties that a marriage could experience. But, no matter what the concern is, to fully grasp what it means to work on your seexual relationship, you must understand that there is much more to sex than the actual physical sensations, how often you have sex, or just how good that sex seems to be.
In fact, sex is more of a reflection of the goodness and creativity of a loving God than most people typically think about. And, quite often, sex in your marriage is a reflection of the relationship that you’ve already developed with your spouse. But, not only does sex reflect God and your marriage, your sexual behaviors are also a reflection of your own heart. Let’s take a minute to dive into each of those concepts.
Okay, first of all, Sex is a reflection of who God is:
There is an absolute beauty to be found in a sexual relationship where we realize and honor the fact that Christ is at the center. Paul David Tripp in his book, “Sex in a Broken World” says it this way:
“Sex is glorious, but it was created to be a finger that points you to the one glory you were designed to live for — the glory of God”
See, his premise, which I fully agree with, is that sex can never be separated from God. According to Tripp, Christians must embrace the idea that God is the creator of all things and is at the center of all things. This includes our sexuality.
So, when we get married we have the privilege of enjoying a sexual relationship with our spouse and becoming one with them. This is a divine mystery, that two bodies come together and that we can enjoy that physical relationship, but that at the same time we are literally able to get a picture of the goodness of God based on this very physical human activity.
In his goodness, God uses marriage to take two imperfect human beings, fills them with His Spirit at the moment of salvation, which then allows them to fully unite themselves to Him and to one another. What a beautiful moment it is when couples can look at each other and have a heavenly understanding that their relationship is far more meaningful than how they treat one another or what they do or don’t enjoy about their sex lives. Their relationship is absolutely a reflection of the very nature of God. In His goodness, He allows us to love one another beyond the flaws, to see each other as beings created and loved by God, and to have some understanding that in all we do we are working to glorify our Creator. And, beyond all of that goodness; God also allows us to enjoy the process, have a friend in our corner, and enjoy the many benefits of a holy and fun sexual connection with another person.
Okay, so that’s how our sex lives can and should reflect the goodness of God.
Sex is also a reflection of your marriage relationship:
One of my favorite things about being a sex therapist is the times I get to spend consulting with other Christian sex therapists talking about marriage and intimacy. We often use one another to encourage continued dialogue about the beauty of sex when it’s done the way God intends. I’ve had multiple relationships with other therapists who have continually noticed that the way a couple treats one another when they’re talking to us, is quite often a reflection of how they treat one another in more intimate moments. That’s because these two things; relationship in general and relationship in the bedroom, can’t really be too separated from one another.
Here’s what I mean. When a couple is kind and generous to one another, looking to serve each other when possible and offering grace when needed, that couple tends to be just as loving in their sexual relationship. This is true even when things are not going well or when someone’s needs are not being fully met. On the other hand, couples who have a tendency to get angered with one another easily, hold unrealistic expectations for one another’s behaviors, not easily forgiving when offended, or generally act with selfishness…
The’re quite likely to experience a great deal of negativity in the realm of sexuality as well.
Because these patterns, positive or negative, typically exist in multiple domains in the relationship. This is why working on your sex life will usually mean working on your marriage relationship at the same time.
Sex is a reflection of your own heart:
This could probably more accurately be said, “the way you approach sex is a reflection of your own heart.”
See, there’s this concept in psychology that says that our behaviors and our beliefs or our thinking can’t help but line up with one another. In fact, we call it cognitive dissonance when those things don’t line up. Most of psychology is actually built on this principle. How you think will determine how you act.
Scripture has a similar teaching: Proverbs tells us that “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.”
So, I said that sex is a reflection of God earlier and when a couple has a health relationship, this is definitely true. But, we have also have to realize that sex as a reflection of your own heart is also a reflection of how you see God. See, as Christians, our aim is to be like him.
We have to come to one of two conclusions. Either my life reflects (although imperfectly) who God is, or it doesn’t. But this does depend on who you believe God to be.
Dr. Tim Jennings teaches that our core belief about God informs our basic behaviors toward others. He asserts that if we see God as the punisher waiting for us to do wrong so He can pour His wrath out on us, then we are much more likely to treat others and ourselves the same way. Take for instance the adult that was raised in a home where perfection was expected. This adult has learned that if she doesn’t make an A on her test or if she hasn’t scored the winning goal at her soccer game, her parents will not be proud of her. She should be the best after all. As she gets older, she expects the same of herself at work. She must get the promotion and her income should increase every year. Performance becomes the way she “meets the mark.” But, this same behavior transfers to others. If friends, colleagues, or her spouse don’t continually show improvements in their personal lives, she wonders why they are lazy and unmotivated. Whether she voices her discontent or not, she begins to see them as “less than” herself and not worthy of a lot of grace when life becomes more difficult. She believes that the people around her just need to work harder and life will work out just fine. This also colors the way she sees God. She may quote you John 3:16 anytime you’re feeling down, but in her heart of hearts, she believes that church attendance, tithing, and prayer are the greatest paths to the love of God. For her, a close relationship is predicated on her spiritual works.
Now consider the man who was raised in a home where grace was freely given for small mistakes and shortcomings. He’s fairly gifted in some areas, but for the most part just an average functioning guy. He works in the corporate world and is happy with his job, and while he sometimes struggles with depression that causes him to push others away, all in all he works to repair relationships and show kindness to others. He has a deep conviction that God loves him and others and this deep conviction becomes apparent any time he says something hastily that hurts his wife or his kids. His belief that God is love (John 3:16) encourages him to show loving behaviors to his wife.
Okay based on this assertion, Whether I choose to show kindness to my husband, including in our sexual relationship, is at its core a reflection of what I truly believe is appropriate behavior. If I’m demanding, selfish, or manipulative, then deep in my heart I find that this behavior is justifiable. And, if I truly believe that Christ has called me to be like Him and I’m making that one of my personal aims, then I must believe that those behaviors are somewhat characteristic of God Himself. Understanding the true nature of God who loves us freely and completely, pushes us to show those same loving behaviors to our spouse in every facet of our relationship.
Alright, your turn to think through this a little bit more:
If I’m right, that sex is a reflection of the goodness of God, of your marriage, and of who you actually see God to be, are there any areas that you need to work on?
If so, start by working on being more like Him. I promise you, that is the most effective way to start working on your sex life.
Until next time, God bless you, your marriage, and your sex life.