All posts tagged Newlywed

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 9)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

What’s a way to handle one of us saying no to sex? How do you deal with times when you want sex and the other doesn’t? What do you do if you are not having your physical needs met? When the other person is not in the mood and you are – how do you deal with that?

We can begin to answer these questions by saying, “Expect it to happen.” If you read this question with the sense that this is a marital emergency and this post better “fix your spouse,” then chances are you have a bigger problem with sexual idolatry than sexual infrequency. Not every sexual urge will be fulfilled in marriage; no more than every urge for chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream is fulfilled.

If you are shocked or offended by this, then your expectations are unrealistic. But the question is important, because as the adage says, “Sex won’t make a marriage, but it can break one.” How a couple handles disappointment (sexual or otherwise) is one of the primary indicators of the health of their marriage.

In order to proceed well, we will have to address the subject of “need.” So much teaching on marriage focuses on “meeting each other’s needs.” Frequently, it drives couples to begin to emotionally live off of one another for their sense of security and identity in a way that makes God practically irrelevant to a good marriage. In effect, God is only there to meet your needs when you cannot convince your spouse to do so.

This need-language creates a trap. Both spouses can look at areas where their “needs” are not being met (that is what it means to be married to a sinner in a world of limited time and resources). The banter inevitably begins, “How can I meet your need for _____ when you don’t meet my need for _____.” This is a verbal formula that makes any disappointment (sexual or otherwise) relationally toxic. Suddenly the marriage becomes mired in score keeping and everyone has a reason to blame the other person.

At this point, the focal point of the marriage has become on “getting” not “giving.” The Gospel has left the home, and everything is about fairness, rights, and equality. When the Bible is mentioned, it is a tool of guilt, manipulation, or demand. No longer is it used as a book of grace and life. The whole Bible (and marriage) becomes about submission, your body belongs to me, if we’re not praying we should be having sex, and it is not good for man to be alone.

The whole time we are making it harder to come close to one another in a way that makes sex satisfying and something we would want to do frequently. The question that has been lost (and must be regained in content and tone) is: Does our marriage foster an environment where we joyfully sacrifice for the pleasure of our spouse in all things? If the answer is yes, we can navigate the differing timing of sexual urges with grace and unity.

To answer the practical side of the question, I’ll lay out a five step process by which you can evaluate how healthy conversations about declining a sexual invitation should go. As you read, this should serve as a “map” to help you see where your conversations may get “off track.” This progression assumes the decline is not based on verbal/physical abuse or medical reasons.

1. Recognize that sex is good but not ultimate. This is the danger of the word “need.” It makes whatever we designate as a need a matter of relational survival. The interaction about this need begins to overpower each moment when it is discussed.

2. Initiate in a way that gives honor (see blog posts for questions 4 and 5). Sex should not be presumed even within marriage. Initiating sex is an invitation not a demand, otherwise it becomes a functional ultimatum – have sex with me or be punished. Thoughts towards sex being mutually enjoyable (timing and tact) should be evident in every initiation of sex.

3. Decline only with reason and with grace. A married couple does belong to one another (I Cor. 7:3-4). The desire for marital sex is a good thing. Unless there is a reason not to engage your spouse’s desire, it is good to accept. If there is a reason, then the initiation should be received as a compliment of affection (per #2 above) and declined graciously.

4. Receive decline without pouting or punishing. A passive aggressive or angry response to a decline sets the wheels in motion for a sexual spiral. If you’re thinking, “Who cares, I’m never going to have sex anyway,” then you likely need to return to #1 above.

5. Reciprocate initiation within 24-48 hours. If the spouse declines, then he/she should seek to be the initiator of sex within a prompt time frame. This prevents a cycle of begging and rejection from emerging within the marriage and is a way to honor the desire that your spouse has for you.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 6)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How do you overcome expectations you have from past sexual experiences?

This question is packed with scenarios, both positive and negative: the expectation that sex will be used for control, the expectation of a certain energy level or spark in sex, the expectation of “great sex” in a bad relationship or “mediocre sex” in a good relationship, the expectation of inevitable betrayal, or the “practical” expectation of how we will move from foreplay through intercourse to afterglow.

This is also a vitally important question. Foreign expectations (positive or negative) have a detrimental impact on a marriage. No longer is a couple crafting a life that is an expression of how God is making these two individual lives into one unique, mutually satisfying relationship. Rather, foreign expectations mixes oneness with fears, hurts, pleasures, and hopes from other relationships.

We should pause and reflect for a moment on a general dynamic of how sin works. Sin creates false standards and tries to convince us to live within or in light of them. Lying creates the standard (expectation) that the truth is expendable in the name of self-protection or convenience. This effect exists whether we are the one lying or the one being lied to. All future communication is filtered through this lens of convenience and/or suspicion.

Drug usage creates the standard (expectation) of an artificial high and the ability to escape stressful circumstances. “Normal” is now measured as boring or unacceptable. “Stress” is now deemed something that must be chemically escaped. Friends and family now live as if the drug user “cannot handle” things that life requires and begin to make unhealthy compensations.

The same happens with sexual sin (whether you committed the sin or the sin was committed against you). It creates a false standard by which we enter future experience. We begin to overcome by recognizing that this struggle is not exclusive to the domain of sexuality. We have faced a similar dynamic with any sin (and its influence) we have seen God purge from our lives.

After taking the encouragement from this reflection, we need to articulate the falseness of our expectations. The degree of impact our expectations have is determined by the degree to which we believe those expectations to be right and true. Part of “taking every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5b)” is to see the lie we are tempted to believe as false and detestable.

  • The past girlfriend/wife who was a passionate lover is not the standard of a good wife. That reduces what it means to be a good wife to being a sex object.
  • The past girlfriend/wife who punished you by withholding sex is not something to be conquered in this marriage. That imposes a history and motive on your bride that she has not earned.
  • The past girlfriend/wife who cheated on you is not something to be controlled in this marriage. That makes you a fearful slave to something that “could happen” and creates the kind of relational strain that only manifests the kind of awkwardness that confirms your fears.

Articulating the expectation allows you to approach God with it in a new way. We now come unconvinced by (or at least willing to question) our expectations. We now desire freedom from our sin-induced expectations more than fulfillment of them. We no longer view them as “good” or necessary to be “safe.” These expectations only masqueraded as light, but were darkness. We believed they offered life, but now see (or are beginning to see) they offered death. Sin had fooled us again into using these expectations as a God-substitute as the basis for our pleasure, identity, security, or protection.

In light of this journey, we can begin to see that God offers sex in marriage as a portrait of the Gospel and as the standard by which we think about marital sex. Sex is no longer good or safe primarily because it meets our criteria developed from our past experiences, but because it conforms to the design of our Creator who makes sex for our good, our pleasure, and as a portrait of something greater.

This reality of God’s design for sex can now capture our imagination (the source of our pleasurable expectations and fears) in a greater way than our past experiences ever did. This captivation and delight in the Gospel expressed through sex is something that, like all other emotionally-related experiences, have an ebb and flow. Therefore, we should expect this is a process we will go through many times as the expectation fades. But that is what we should “expect” this kind of change to look like based upon Paul’s instructions about these kinds of things in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 2)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How do I keep my thought-life pure leading up to the honeymoon? What about masturbation—is it sinful? How do you navigate from the sin of lusting for your fiancé to the lusting of your spouse (or is that a sin)? How does attraction change when you get married and begin having sex?

These questions are more than (but not less than) practical. They require more than a “how to” answer; they presuppose “what is it” questions. What is the difference between a single person’s lust, an engaged person’s anticipation, and a married person’s delight? What is purity at each stage: dating, engagement, and marriage? Until we define what each of these things are, we will not effectively answer any “how to” achieve or avoid questions.

It is easy to think of purity as the absence of lust or sexual desire. But it is wrong to think of purity as a mere void of activity, desire, or thought. When we think of purity this way it tends to lead towards passivity, legalism, prudishness, and an idea that Christian romance (at all stages) is boring or less than secular romance.

Purity is the full engagement and enjoyment of all that is wise and godly at a given moment. Purity is active, engaging, grace-filled, celebratory, and exciting. We should ask the question, “How has God allowed me to enjoy my fiancé or spouse at this time?” rather than “What won’t God allow me to do yet?” In the latter question, we presuppose that God is holding out on us before we even consider an answer or application.

When we fully engage (body, soul, mind, imagination, emotion, affection, will) and enjoy what God calls good, we are pure. We must remember that marital sex is good; not just the act itself, but all the planning, preparation, anticipation, imagination, and conversation that leads into it. This may even include the thoughts, desires, and conversations of one fiancé towards the other.

At this point, I think we have to introduce a new category of thought in order to proceed well. The conversation is now moving from “what is good” to “what is wise.” We are not talking about pre-marital sex, but about anticipation of marital sex. This anticipation is not wrong. However, the timing, duration, and type of thinking may prove unwise if it leads to sin (sexual activity – intercourse, fondling, or masturbation) or conflict (from sexual tension or trying to change the other’s standards).

I would go so far as to say that the anticipation of marital sex (both for pre-marital and married couples) which does not lead into sin meets every criteria of thought given in Philippians 4:8 – true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. This realization is part of the transition from viewing sex as shameful to viewing sex as good (see previous post in this series).

With this in mind, the principle to be applied is found in I Corinthians 10:23-24.

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

If the exercise of my freedom leads me to sin, it does not take my freedom away; rather I should lay down my freedom to pursue the true life God has for me in the Gospel (Luke 9:23-24). For instance, if anticipating marital sex leads to the expression of sex contrary to God’s design – either outside of marriage pre-martially or self-sex through masturbation – what is lawful (joyful anticipation) is no longer helpful and does not build up.

Practically, this requires giving up something that is permissible to be abstained from until it can be practiced in a way that does not harm another or violate the conscience (that is the whole point of I Corinthians 10:23-33, but there it is applied to food sacrificed to idols). However, no longer is this abstinence rooted in guilt, fear, or shame. Rather, abstaining is now a matter of worshiping God (declaring Him more valuable than the desired object) and love for others.

This is the essence of how attraction changes as you get married. No longer is attraction a mere feasting on the body, voice, and character of another person for my own delight (which is all sexual desire can be outside of marriage) and the satisfaction of my own desires. Now affection is a way to “build up” your spouse through affection and appreciation and to celebrate the unique good pleasure that God has provided for the two of you to exclusively enjoy.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 10)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How do you ensure you and your spouse are having “enough” sex given a hectic and busy weekly schedule? How “intentional” do you find yourself having to be to have a “good” sex life? Are encounters scheduled a la date nights? What is the best way to maintain passion within sex as your marriage progresses?

Take this as a general rule: your sex life will not be healthier (consistently or for long, anyway) than the weakest part of your marriage. If you try to improve your sex life without taking seriously the responsibility to manage the rest of your life well, you will fail.

So the place to begin in answering this question is to challenge the assumption that you should try to begin your marriage with a “hectic” life as a “given.” That is a strong indicator that you are not beginning your marriage with your family as the appropriate priority in your life. Your sex life will only be one of many things that suffer in your marriage if you begin by molding your home to fit the rest of your life.

I would encourage you to take some time and examine how you plan to spend your 168 hour week. How many hours are you reserving for your wife (and eventually kids) that are off limits to the rest of the world and with which you give them your undivided attention? I recommend at least 17 hours (that is a mere tithe or 10% of your time for family). Start with allocating “enough time” for your marriage and then you will have much less concern regarding “enough sex.”

Once you have time protected, then you can begin to examine the frequency of intimacy. Now when the two of you are together you are rested, unrushed, and know what is going on in each other’s lives (assuming you make good use of the time you have set aside). That is a relational environment in which a “good sex life” can thrive.

With this amount of time protected, you can engage in the breadth of interactions that allow for a vibrant marriage: conversation, prayer, going for walks, mutual interest activities, Bible study, flirting, planning, etc… Without time and intentionality, your interaction with your spouse will become monotone and repetitious. It is this variety and quality of interaction that keeps a marriage fresh and passionate. That passion is expressed through sex not created by sex.

Many (if not most) married couples do begin to have some degree of schedule to their sex life. Even with intentionality, schedules have rhythms. There are times during the week when each of you will consistently have more energy. There will be some nights when at least one of you have responsibilities.

Schedule and rhythm should not mean taken for granted and that is one of the temptations that drains the vitality of marital sex. You do not want to begin to “check in” for sex every Tuesday and Saturday at 9:00 pm. This is where I think your date night parallel is effective, but I would emphasize the “forethought” aspect of dating more than “scheduling.” Going on a date implies preparation. So should sex.

If the two of you walk in the bedroom, take off your clothes, kiss for a minute, and then have sex 2.5 times per week for the next 10 years, statistically your sex life will be “above average” in terms of frequency. But I doubt either of you will be excited about it. However, if each of you put thought into how to please and arouse your spouse for one sexual encounter per week, statistically your sex would be “below average” and (probably) much more satisfying.

A satisfying sex life is not created by frequency. A satisfying sex life creates frequency. If you put your energy (which you protected with your schedule) into anticipating and satisfying your spouse, then you (plural) will mutually enjoy your intimacy enough that frequency will take care of itself.

Pour your energy into thinking of new compliments for your wife (don’t let the old ones become stale), ways to make your wife laugh, interesting conversations to have, playful ways to initiate sex, ways to remind her you’re thinking of her throughout the day, how to facilitate her spiritual growth, ways you can help her relax or feel safe, and other encouraging ways to engage your wife. This is the intentionality that fuels the passion of a life long marriage.

Pray that God will give you a passion and creativity in these areas. If you maintain your passion and interest in your spouse, then it will be hard to lose your passion and connection in sex. If, however, you neglect your time and attention upon your spouse outside of sex, then it will be hard to maintain a passion and connection in sex.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 8)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How do we control the carnal nature of ourselves and replace it with selfless love that the Bible teaches with regards to sex in marriage?

I think the most effective place to begin with this question is with the verb “replace.” The verb implies that we need to remove one type of desire, discard it, find another type of desire, and fill the void with this new desire. I would recommend we use the verb “transform” instead.

Let me illustrate the difference with an extended quote from Joshua Harris as he summarizes C.S. Lewis.

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis tells an allegorical story about a ghost of a man afflicted by lust. Lust is incarnated in the form of a red lizard that sits on his shoulder and whispers seductively in his ear. When the man despairs about the lizard, an angel offers to kill it for him. But the fellow is torn between loving his lust and wanting it to die. He fears that the death of the lust will kill him. He makes excuse after excuse to the angel, trying to keep the lizard he says he doesn’t want.

Finally, the man agrees to let the angel seize and kill the lizard. The angel grasps the reptile, breaks its neck and throws it to the ground. Once the spell of lust is broken, the ghostly man is gloriously remade into a real solid being. And the lizard, rather than dying, is transformed into a breathtaking stallion. Weeping tears of joy and gratitude, the man mounts the horse and they soar into the heavens (p. 27-28 in Sex Is Not the Problem Lust Is).

Lewis is portraying that selfish lust is a distortion of selfless love. It is the real thing made perverse. Our goal is not ultimately to destroy the perversion, but to die to it so that God can transform it back into the blessing He intended it to be. It is not the desire that dies, but self. As desire is freed from the bondage of self, it becomes the reflection (image) of God it was intended to be and transforms from a curse (burden) into a blessing.

It is always good to quote C.S. Lewis if you want to sound smart (hence, I quote him frequently), but this concept needs to become more practical if God is going to use it to “transform” our lives. The following list of ideas is meant to help you transform selfish lust into selfless love.

1. Focus on your spouse’s pleasure during sex and foreplay. Getting lost in your own pleasure during sex tends to make the experience shorter and less intense. Watch her eyes and face. Listen to her voice. Give a massage that helps her to relax and prepare for sex. As you massage express thanks for the things she has done to grow tense or tired (see #3 below). Rejoice in the fact that God has allowed you to love this woman in a way that blesses her and brings her joy.

2. Daydream about how to make sex more meaningful and satisfying for your spouse. Daydreaming tends to be a very self-centered practice. We think about what we want most. Then (because our spouse cannot read our mind) we have a tendency to be disappointed. Counter this by allowing your desires to drive you to become a more creative and expressive lover. At the end of the day you are more likely to experience a dream come true if you daydream this way.

3. Verbally affirm your spouse during sex. Sex can be verbal. “I love you. You are my best friend. Thank you for giving yourself to me. You are an incredible blessing. You make me feel very loved. I enjoy loving you. It is a joy to be your husband,” and similar statements should be made frequently. Occasional references to key events in your courtship, honeymoon, marriage, or future dreams can be meaningful especially during foreplay.

4. Do not stop loving your spouse after the climax of sex. It is easy to become selfish again after climax and to retreat back into one’s own world or think the love making is over. Taking time to continue to hold, caress, talk, or look into each other’s eyes is an important way that you were not just engaging is a highly pleasurable form of personal recreation, but that you were making love to a person who is immensely important to you.

If these do not sound exciting to you, then there is some transformative work that God needs to do. In light of these things, I would encourage you to meditate on Luke 9:23-24. Pray that God would allow you to see the Gospel in your marriage (Eph. 5:32) to such a degree that even in sex your greatest pleasure would be found in sacrificing your pleasure for your spouse’s. Trust that when this happens, you will have found the “(sex) life” (v. 24) you were aiming for all along.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 7)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How long is reasonable for my fiancé to get over my sexual past?

This is a good question, but one that is hard to provide a specific, or even a principled, answer. There are so many variables that could play into a given relationship. I will begin by providing a list of influences that could determine the length of time that would be “reasonable” to “get over” a fiancé’s sexual past. Then I will provide some helpful “next steps” for a couple struggling in this area.

  • Was your sexual past during or before your current courtship?
  • What ongoing consequences exist from your sexual past (i.e., child, legal action, STD, etc…)?
  • Was your sexual past confessed or found out?
  • Were you completely honest about your sexual past once the conversation began?
  • Have you been defensive about or justifying of your sexual past?
  • Was your sexual past a onetime event or a pattern/addiction?
  • Have aspects of your sexual past been repeated in this relationship?
  • How have sexual events shaped your fiancé’s family of origin or past relationships?
  • Has your fiancé ever experienced sexual abuse of any kind?
  • How much time has passed since your fiancé learned of your sexual past?
  • What steps have you taken to protect against a repetition of your sexual past?
  • Who else is aware of your sexual past that might create ongoing social awkwardness for your fiancé?

These questions impact what a “normal recovery time” would be in a relationship. It is important to remember that you are asking for more than (but not less) forgiveness. You are asking for trust. More than temporary trust, you are asking for the level of trust necessary to commit to a lifelong covenant and the establishment of a family.

If your answers to these questions reveal that you have compounded the impact of your sexual past with how you have responded to your fiancé, then you need to take those responses as seriously as your sexual past. You are establishing now how the two of you will respond to difficult circumstances. It is your obligation as her protector to ensure that such conversations are had without defensiveness, anger, deceit, denial, minimizing, blame-shifting, or other unhealthy patterns.

When this is a struggle within an engagement it is wise to seek counseling in addition to standard pre-marital counseling. Just because you realize some of the variables that would cause it to “take longer” for her to “get over” your past, does not mean the two of you are equipped to navigate that alone. An important way you can show your fiancé your commitment to a healthy marriage is to seek advice on how to proceed.

If you or your fiancé are unwilling to seek counseling because you do not want to be embarrassed or for other people to “know your business,” this is major red flag. It reveals a tendency to deal with powerfully disruptive matters on your own out of fear or pride. It means that the struggles that the two of you do face will have a strong propensity to compound and fester rather than being resolved effectively.

Hopefully as you go through the process, the goal becomes larger than you fiancé “getting over” your sexual past. The larger goal should be to establish a relationship based upon integrity and trust while establishing a pattern of dealing with sin through honesty, repentance, and forgiveness. If this is accomplished then God will use these painful events (your sexual past and the restoration process) to bless the marriage and prepare it to succeed.

One final note, do not feel like you should rush through this process. In the end there are no “bonus points” for how quickly you navigate this journey. Guilt, shame, and embarrassment often accelerate the pace at which we try to put things behind us. Your patience with your fiancé will be richly rewarded as you lovingly walk with her in this process even at the sacrifice of your own awkwardness and pain. As with every challenge of life in marriage (or preparation for marriage), this is an opportunity to love her as Christ loves the church. Begin now training yourself not to lose sight of that.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 5)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

Are men supposed to “lead” in sex as in other parts of the relationship?  Is there an appropriate balance for initiating intimacy?

This question hinges on what it means for a husband to be a “leader” of his family, and I think intimacy is a needed place for this facet of family life to be unpacked. There are many great questions embedded within these two short sentences. How should leadership be expressed? Does male leadership remove female initiation (not just in sex)? Is “balance” a word that works against biblical role definitions?

These questions beg more questions, but they give us a taste of the arena we are stepping into.  But with the broader context in mind, we will seek to answer these questions and break them down into three pieces.

What does it mean for a husband to lead? This is the pivotal question. If leadership means telling those “beneath him” what to do, then the initiation of sex (and other areas not covered in this post) becomes problematic. I will define leadership in marriage as assuming the responsibility to ensure that key elements of family life have been discussed and that there is a functional plan to accomplish those things that are most important.

With this said, the wife should not be put into a position to “nag.” Conversations should be initiated or invited by the husband as a primary expression of his leadership role. Once the conversation begins, leadership does not imply that the husband will always have the right answer or will assume the responsibility for carrying out the plan agreed upon. Leadership does not mean that the husband never defers his preferences. Often the strengths, weaknesses, and preferences of the one carrying out or benefiting from the plan will trump (because of wisdom and love not authority and hierarchy) the preference of the husband. With these practices in place, the husband will be trusted when times come that someone must have the “final call” on a decision in which there is not unity.

Leadership concludes with following up on how the plans were completed and evaluating what was good, bad, enjoyable, unpleasant, inefficient, new, modified, etc… in the plan. Leadership here is expressed by initiating conversation and then listening. Leadership may only reinforce the messages “you are not alone” and “what happens to you matters.” Leadership may also involve, but does not necessarily include, providing guidance.

What does this leadership look like in the sexual relationship of marriage? After three paragraphs treatment of a subject covered in many entire books, we turn to sex. Leadership begins (and continues) with asking good questions and listening well.

What do you like about sex? What aspect of sex is most affirming or satisfying for you? What prepares you to give yourself to me most freely? What fears or other negative emotions do you experience when we talk about or have sex? What things do you think about when you ponder “do we have a good sex life”? How can I approach you when I’m interested in sex that feels honoring and romantic to you? After sex, how can I affirm that I love you and am not merely enjoying the experience?

The conversations that emerge around these kinds of questions is what enables a husband to lead in the sexual relationship. It is with this information that a couple can be intentional, honor the other’s preferences, and maintain creativity. These conversations show leadership in that they allow the wife to feel protected, heard, and honored. These conversations should be had regularly throughout the marriage.

How does this leadership perspective affect the wife’s initiation of sex? Initiation of specific activities is no longer the focal point of “leadership.” Except for in a crisis, leadership happens long before an activity begins (in the absence of leadership there are more crises and it feels like everything must be settled on the basis of authority).

Both husband and wife should regularly initiate sex and do so in ways that express their desire to be with and bring pleasure to their spouse. When leadership has done its job, then initiation of sex is a form of service. The one who is initiating is demonstrating the willingness to hear their spouse and put their spouse’s interest (preference, desires) ahead of their own (Phil. 2:4).

As the marriage continues and the husband leads in initiating or inviting important conversations, then the activities within the marriage (including sex) remain acts of service done in love rather than demonstrations of authority done to exert control. Sex can be a good place to begin implementing this style of leadership for a newlywed couple, because (1) there can be a prompt, pleasurable experience to reinforce the pattern, (2) it can be an area where neither person has a knowledge advantage, and (3) it can force a couple to talk through insecurities which would affect many other areas of marriage.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 3)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

If sex is painful for my wife, how do I help her through it? How can I practically serve, respect and honor my wife on the first night?

This is a great question from a husband-to-be who gets what sex is about. I would go so far as to say, if you do not naturally ask this question (pre-martially about the first night or martially about each encounter thereafter), you need to pause here. Instead of reading further for an answer for a good question, pray that God would give you the heart of a servant-leader who would seek to serve his wife even in the midst of your own most intense pleasure.

To state the same thing a different way, the first way that you serve, respect, and honor your wife is to let her know that you are concerned about these kinds of questions. Foreplay and sex can be an intense time. You might get a “crazy look in your eye” as you get closer to enjoying your wife. It is important for her to know that you have mentally prepared for her comfort and enjoyment in that moment.

While the advice that I give below will be tailored to the first night and honeymoon, the ideas do not cease to be relevant once you get home and go back to work.

First, in the words of C.J. Mahaney, “We [husbands] must touch the hearts and minds of our wives before we touch their bodies (p. 53 in Sex Romance, and the Glory of God).” On your wedding night you are setting the stage for what your wife can expect of you before and during sex. I would suggest that you take a moment to take out a towel and wash her feet before you begin to consummate the marriage. Tell her, “I want you to feel safe with me in every way, including sex, and know my emphasis upon being a servant-leader is paramount in cultivating your trust.”

Second, always make sure that you allow appropriate time for foreplay so that your wife can physically prepare for sex. Men are physically prepared for sex as soon as they become erect. Women are not physically ready for sex until their intimate region is lubricated. This is why foreplay is more than “being romantic” to woo the heart of your wife. Foreplay is a time of protection when you protect the body of your wife from experiencing pain during intercourse.

Third, (this advice is more exclusively for the early days of marriage) you may only want to partially enter your wife when intercourse begins and ask when she is prepared for you to enter further. This may be frustrating and will require self-control, but remember, you are setting an expectation of safety and other-mindedness in these early days that will allow for a greater experience of freedom and pleasure as the marriage matures.

Fourth, (this advice too is more exclusively for the early days of marriage) to the degree that you are able to express control of it, you may want to climax early during intercourse. This allows whatever stretching or pain that occurs to be briefer. After you climax, you may want to remain inside your wife as the erection fades to allow for the stretching to continue but less intensely. This can also be a time when you learn the pleasure that comes from being together and verbally affirm one another in the midst of an experience that is new to both of you.

Fifth, as you progress through the honeymoon and life, the two of you will learn what frequency of sex is mutually desired and allows for the optimal enjoyment. You can provide protection by openly talking about this with your wife without defensiveness or imposing certain numerical expectations. On the honeymoon, your wife may not be able to withstand the same frequency of sex she will enjoy later in marriage. However, if you set the pattern of demanding or pouting about frequency, the tone will be set that you care more about your pleasure than the marriage or her personally.

Sixth, talk about things you enjoy with your wife other than sex. It is easy for sex, because it is new, to dominate your conversation and thoughts. The danger is that you begin to give the impression that you loved your wife as a person during the courtship and now love her as a body during marriage. Always make sure that you delight in the full character and activity of your bride and not just her body.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.

10 Pre-Marital Questions on Sex (Part 1)

This series of blogs comes from FAQ’s from the guys in Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry. They represent a conglomeration of questions from many different husbands-to-be during the Engaged Discovery Weekend. If you are interested in serving as a marriage mentor or are engaged, click here to learn more about Summit’s “Preparing for Marriage” ministry.

How do you transition from “sex is wrong” to “sex is right”? How do we move from shame into freedom? How do you transfer from guilt associated with sex to pleasure with sex?

It is important to remember that it is not sex that changes. We change when we get married. In that regard, marital sex is like getting your driver’s license. Before age 16, driving a car was wrong (illegal) whether you were good at it and loved the car or not. There was nothing immoral about driving itself. It was only “you” driving that was wrong. When you turned 16 your relationship to driving changed.

So ask yourself, “How did your perspective on driving change once you turned 16?” Chances are you still felt like you were “getting away with something really cool,” wanted to drive frequently, and day dreamed about all the places you could go (although you didn’t have the gas money for half the trips).

Similarly, when you get married sex may feel like you are “getting away with something really cool,” be something that you want to do frequently, and something that you cannot possibly do as much/well as you dream about in your imagination. That’s not bad. That is the natural transition that occurs when an activity moves from being not allowed to allowed; unavailable to available; anticipated to reality.

Admittedly, there is a difference in the general perspective on driving and sex. The association of guilt with driving is not commonly used to prevent under-aged driving like it is to prevent pre-marital sex. So while we may have made a similar mental/emotional transition before, the transition regarding our moral view of sex is more intense than the permissibility of driving.

In this case, I would invite you to read Acts 10:9-33. Here we have Peter, a devout Jewish man, who has been raised to view certain foods (and people) as unclean. God, by bringing Peter into the New Covenant, has lifted these food restrictions, but Peter is uncomfortable (even argumentative) with the transition. In the transition, there are several parts that are socially awkward (v. 25-28). But in the end, there was a greater appreciation for the Gospel that took the primary focus off of food or ethnic differences.

Again, we see parallels to the transition that is in front of newlywed couples. Christian convictions about sex had previously made sex wrong. God, by bringing the couple into the marriage covenant, lifts the restriction. But the couple may still feel a little awkward about the new freedom. Hopefully, however, the greater appreciation for the Gospel that emerges transcends the learning curve and emotional uneasiness that may exist. Use this quote from Ed Welch to help you with seeing the Gospel in the new freedom of sex.

“Our Christian task is to remember that every sexual union is profound.  It always points to the deeper union that we have with Christ by faith.  Sex mirrors the glory of God in the gospel.  It exists because it expresses God’s oneness with His people, His fidelity to us, His ownership of us, His self-sacrifice, and the pleasure we can take in this relationship… Sex is a good thing, there’s no question about that, but we don’t need sex.  Humanness, found in Jesus, is not defined by sexual intercourse.” Edward T. Welch in “The Apostle Paul: On Sex” The Journal of Biblical Counseling (Fall 2005).

I think we can take the example of Peter further on this topic. Peter’s understanding of the Gospel’s transformation of food and race was not final in Acts 10. Peter had times when he doubted this new freedom and fell back into his old mindset (Gal 2:11-14). As a newlywed couple your comfort and freedom in expressing love through sex without guilt may grow gradually; two steps forward, one step back.

The greatest grace that you can offer one another in this process is patience. It would be easy to grow selfish, angry, hurt, or defensive if you new spouse went through a spell of feeling morally uncomfortable with sex. In such moments, it is important not only to return to truth (you are now right for sex) but also to speak that truth with the heart of the Gospel (“I want to share in God’s good gift to us with you” vs. “You are keeping something from me that is rightfully mine”).

But that leads us into the, “How do you deal with times when you want sex and the other doesn’t?” questions, which will be discussed in an upcoming post. Does ending the blog like this make me a tease?

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Sex and Sexuality” post which address other facets of this subject.