A brief thought on enhancing intimacy

Jesus said that the greatest expression of love is sacrifice. He showed us what that means by his death on the cross. One of the most significant expressions of love between a husband and wife is sex. So, how do sex and sacrifice go together?

Well, think of it this way: The nature of sacrifice really is to give of yourself. So, in sex you can either be self-seeking, focused only on your own pleasure and desires, or you can be self-giving, doing what is best for your spouse. If we want to follow Jesus example of sacrificial love, then we want to learn how to be self-giving lovers. What does that look like? Here are four thoughts:

  1. Communicate openly. When you don’t know what your spouse enjoys, you can’t very well offer it. Same goes the other way around. Keeping communication open about what is good, what is not so good, and what you want to do together will make it easier to give to one another.
  2. Give up the “I don’t feel like it” attitude. You do plenty of things you don’t feel like. You probably don’t always feel like going to work, or cooking dinner for the family, or calling your mom, or exercising. But you do these things because they’re good to do. So why take a pass on being selfish when it comes to sex? It’s okay if you have to eliminate distractions first (“Honey, I am willing, but can we wait until the kids are in bed?”), but don’t let distractions become excuses.
  3. Learn to step outside your comfort zone. If we’re honest, we all have things we find a little awkward when it comes to sex. Sometimes those things can lead us to say “no” to things that are perfectly fine to do. In most marriages one spouse or the other would like a little more variety, and the other is the more hesitant. You can be self-giving by learning that if God has given us freedom, maybe your comfort zones are your own issues, and its okay to step out of them once in a while.
  4. Keep the focus on each other. It may seem pretty obvious, but in our sexually confused culture it is easy to get pulled away into things like pornography, erotic literature, and sensuous imagery in movies, shows, and magazines. But sex is intended to be an intimate connection between two people, which doesn’t really leave room for that other stuff. So keep it exclusive. You wouldn’t invite someone into your bedroom, don’t go traipsing into someone else’s (even a fictional characters!).

If you’re looking for more solid wisdom on how to enhance the sexual intimacy of your marriage, here is a menu of resources I dropped on my last post:

  • Sheet Music by Kevin Leman: Dr. Leman is a fabulous writer. He’s funny, he easy to read, and he’s incredibly practical. I’ve enjoyed all of his books. In this one he addresses many of the issues that married couples tend to face in their sexual relationship, but does so in a way that is so easy to read and grasp.
  • The Song of SolomonYeah, reading the Bible is kind of a no-brainer here, but specifically the Song makes it evident that God is no prude. It is a good encouragement to be romantic.
  • The Marriage BedA website put together by a Christian couple seeking to help other Christian couples develop deeper sexual intimacy and overcome the many obstacles sin puts in the way. It contains dozens of helpful articles, tastefully written and (mostly) Biblically based.
  • For Women Only and For Men Only by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhaun: While these books aren’t primarily about sex, they shed light on a lot of the issues between men and women, most of which do contribute in some way to the sexual relationship.
  • Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray: All of the books in John Gray’s landmark series are worth reading. While they generalize a lot about the nature of men and women, for many couples the things he says hold true. This one addresses the differences between men and women in the bedroom.
  • The Gift of Sex by Cliff and Joyce Penner: The authors are Christian and the book addresses sexuality from a Biblical perspective. It is a bit more clinical than others, which can be both good and bad. If couples are trying to address issues relating to physical or psychological issues, this one might be especially useful.
  • Laugh Your Way to a Better MarriageThis is a video series presented by a pastor about how men’s and women’s brains operate differently, and how it impacts everything from dealing with stress to how we approach sex. Funny, insightful, and just plain entertaining, it’s well worth watching. Pro-tip: you can find most, if not all of it, on youtube.
  • Covenant SpiceThere is nothing wrong with a husband and wife acquiring products once in a while to assist their sexual relationship, especially when trying to overcome specific challenges. But it is hard to get those products without being exposed to all kinds of shameful advertising. The folks at Covenant Spice are Christians who wanted to help other Christians by offering an online shop without the smutty ads and images. They ship stuff in discrete packaging and are very respectful of the intimacy that exists in marriage. ‘
  • Hot, Holy and HumorousThis is a blog run by a Christian woman who wants to encourage other women (and men too) in god-pleasing sexual intimacy. I have often found her stuff to be some of the best written available online.

True love isn’t always fireworks

I ran across this Huffington Post article the other day: I Didn’t Love My Wife When We Got Married.  The writer is an orthodox Jew, but no, that doesn’t mean that he is writing about being pushed into an arranged marriage or anything. Rather, he writes about the difference between the intense emotions he felt when he got married and the deeper, truer love he feels for his wife when he serves her and acts for her good, regardless of how he feels day to day.

Mr. Nehorai strikes on something very true and very important about love. We romanticize love in our culture and think that it’s about the fireworks and the pie in the sky and the burning feelings inside us. True love is rarely about those things, and really has much more to do with what we do than how we feel. Mr. Nahorai, being a Jew, doesn’t touch on the most significant and important example of true love, which is found in the redeeming work of Jesus. Knowing full well what it would cost him, and knowing full well how desperately we needed him, he sacrificed everything. Make no mistake – that didn’t feel good. It wasn’t fireworks and romance and pie in the sky. It was painful, it was harsh, it was difficult. But he did it anyway. For us. That’s love.

There’s an example for us there. We live out love when we have that kind of sacrifcial love for our spouses. But chances are that you won’t have many opportunities to sacrifice your life for your spouse. But you will have opportunities day after day to live for your spouse. Jesus does that for us too. He rose for us, and lives for us and works for our good day after day. What’s more, he does so despite our constant unfaithfulness. He could just decide we’re not worth it, that our betrayal is every reason to just give up on us. But he doesn’t. He forgives, he restores, and he helps. That’s true love.

We can respond with thanks and love to him. We can also respond by reflecting his love in our lives, starting with our own spouses, by living for each other day after day.