All posts tagged Pre-Marital

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 & Intimacy

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.

QUESTION 1: 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?

Click here to read my reply to Question 1.

QUESTION 2: 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?

Click here to read my reply to Question 2.

QUESTION 3: 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?

Click here to read my reply to Question 3.

QUESTION 4: What’s a good way to honor my wife in sex? What common things are dishonorable?

Click here to read my reply to Question 4.

QUESTION 5: Are men supposed to “lead” in sex as in other parts of the relationship?  Is there an appropriate balance for initiating intimacy?

Click here to read my reply to Question 5.

QUESTION 6: How do you overcome expectations you have from past sexual experiences?

Click here to read my reply to Question 6.

QUESTION 7: How long is reasonable for my fiancé to get over my sexual past?

Click here to read my reply to Question 7.

QUESTION 8: 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?

Click here to read my reply to Question 8.

QUESTION 9: 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?

Click here to read my reply to Question 9.

QUESTION 10: 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?

Click here to read my reply to Question 10.

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.

Celebrating Non-Moral Marital Differences

The lifestyle of being a life-long learner will continually reinforce two key truths about marriage and your spouse. First, your spouse is different from you in ways that have no moral significance. Yet, the closeness of marriage tempts us to begin to think of our spouse’s differences as being “bad.” This reveals our tendency to try to “make our spouse in our own image.” It also reveals that we’ve lost the enthusiasm to learn about the person God has blessed us with.

“Worshipping God as creator in your marriage means that when you look at your husband or wife, when you consider your spouse’s personality and gifts, and when you think about how differently he or she is hardwired from you, you will celebrate the glory of God as creator, expressed in who he designed your spouse to be (p. 279).” Paul Tripp in What Did You Expect?

The exercise Celebrating Our Non-Moral Differences is designed to help you think through and talk about this common marital pitfall. If you have been married for a number of years, a fruitful exercise is to use this chart to see how you and your spouse have changed over your marriage. In addition to marking where you are now, mark where each of you were on these variables when you married. Use a blue highlighter to cover the range between where the husband began and is now. Use a pink highlighter to mark the range between where the wife began and is now.

Second, your spouse is being continually crafted by God and you must continually pay attention or you’ll get left behind. Because we will be married to dozens of people over the course of a single marriage, we must commit to a lifestyle of learning our spouse or we’ll be as out-of-touch as someone with a cell phone from five years ago. A huge part of creating a gospel-centered marriage is enthusiasm for learning and participating in what God is doing in/through your spouse’s life.

The longer we are married the easier it can be to view the ways our spouse is different from us as “bad” (moral language) or as a sign of incompatibility (threatening language). This exercise is to help you see and celebrate the non-moral differences between you and your spouse. The attributes listed are neither morally good nor morally bad. Neither side nor the center is necessarily “holy.” If you view these characteristics as moral qualities it will be harmful to your marriage. Your responsibility is to celebrate how God made your spouse and put the gospel on display finding ways to express loving unity in the midst of non-moral diversity.

Instructions: Write your initials where you believe you are on each spectrum. Write your spouse’s initials where you believe he/she is on each spectrum. Compare your assessment with your spouse’s assessment. Talk about (a) ways the two of you have viewed your differences as “bad” and this has caused conflict, (b) ways that your differences complement one another well, and (c) how you have changed over the last few years.

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

Creating a Gospel-Centered Marriage: Foundations

Why?!?

Why do so many marriages that begin with sincere love and the best intentions end in divorce? Why do so many marriages that start with great promise and greater dreams end up just staying together “for the kids” and “living as roommates”? These are disturbingly relevant questions regardless of where we are in our marital journey (i.e., dating, engaged, newlywed, or celebrating an anniversary).

Whatever the answer is, Christians are not immune to “it.” The divorce rate among Christian couples is equivalent to the rest of the culture. If the statistics are true, then much of what we, as Christians, are doing to correct the problem is ineffective, misguided, or possibly even feeding the problem.

What?!?

What does it take to make marriage work? How does our marriage enrichment not degenerate into a series of random acts of kindness driven or distracted by the tyranny of the urgent? How do we ensure that our individual acts of marital enrichment are working together to build a momentum and gather energy from one another?

These are important questions to ask, even if you are not currently discouraged or overwhelmed by the number of seemingly unrelated things that need to be done to improve your marriage. Marital enrichment that feels random is hard to maintain, easily forgotten, and tends to get bumped down the priority chain. This is why we must not allow marital enrichment to remain random.

CREATING A GOSPEL-CENTERED MARRIAGE: FOUNDATIONS
Part One:  Saturday March 16, 2012
Part Two: Saturday March 23, 2012
Time: 4:00 to 5:30 pm or 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free

This seminar is one piece of a five part series of seminars designed to facilitate mentoring relationships for married or engaged couples (one-on-one or in a group setting). Our goal in these seminars is to cover the key subjects that often hinder, but could greatly enhance, a couple’s ability to experience all that God intended marriage to be.

These materials are built upon a central premise – God gave us marriage so that we would know the gospel more clearly and more personally. It is the gospel that gives us joy. Marriage is meant to be a living picture of the gospel-relationship between God and His bride, the church. For this reason, we have two goals for you as you go through this study:

  1. That you would get know and enjoy your spouse in exciting, new, and profoundly deeper ways, so that…
  2. … you would get to know and enjoy God in exciting, new, and profoundly deeper ways.

This series of seminars is arranged around five topics (foundations, communication, finances, decision making, and intimacy) that represent the most common challenges that face a marriage. While the challenges of each area are acknowledged, the tone of these seminars is optimistic. We believe that those things that cause the greatest pain when done wrongly bring the fullest joy when done according to God’s design.

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.