FAQ's Enhancing Your Marriage
(Click on the "+" for answers)
Judy, I am a Bible study leader at a small church so we only offer one study at a time. We did your Raising Responsive Children to rave reviews and are going to start Enhancing your Marriage in September. Several of the women who attend are single and hate to miss several months of study and community. While there are other churches I can direct them to, I was wondering if you could recommend your EYM study to our singles and if so how would it benefit them? Thank you for your time and fabulous studies.
Being married is no pre-requisite to taking the Bible study, Enhancing Your Marriage. Never-marrieds and engaged women have used this study to learn the Truths on which to base their future married lives. Divorced and widowed women have discovered what they wished they had known while married, with hope that they'll be given another opportunity to live out God's principles in a future marriage. And friends and daughters will benefit from those that learn God’s Truth about marriage.
EYM is for every woman who wants to follow God's way in marriage—from those who desire to be married some day, to those who have been married for decades (no matter how good or lacking the marriage has been). As these women study God's Word on marriage, He will not disappoint them--no matter what their marital status is.
I am getting ready to facilitate your Enhancing Your Marriage study. I wonder if you could explain where you came up with the interpretation of "responder". I have trouble teaching this since it implies we can't be initiators in any area. I have never interpreted this passage of scripture in this way.
Whoa, that's a very good question and one I hadn't been presented in my years of teaching EYM! Thank you for sending it along. I used the word "responder" as it was deduced from the Hebrew definition of "helpmeet", which means "one in answer to". This doesn't mean that the wife wasn't created to initiate. In actuality, it means that HOW she responds to her husband and his nature as it was designed by God has a powerful influence on her husband's life and direction. God has granted the wife a powerful place in the marriage relationship. It is intended to be used for good and not harm (See Proverbs 31:10-12; 28-31). Even initiating is in response to her husband's nature.
That God created Eve last didn't mean she was an afterthought or secondary to His purpose. In actuality, she was God's crowning glory, like the crescendo of a symphony's finale. God deliberately fashioned Eve to complete Adam, who needed all the things of her nature to complement his own. In the same way, Eve needed all the things of Adam's nature to complement her own. That hasn't changed for husbands and wives today because God's creation purpose for a man and woman in marriage hasn't changed.
When it comes to a wife's initiating--whether it's sexually, intellectually, socially, emotionally, etc.,--even her initiating is in response to who her husband is. For example, if there is something that's important to him--like sexual intimacy, or a good meal--your initiating says it's also important to you. If however, there is an issue between you, your initiating communication toward resolution is exactly what a helpmate does. To do so PRAYERFULLY and RESPECTFULLY is the job of a loving counterpart. It's the stuff of growth and maturity both as individuals and as a couple. And it works both ways. That's how the two become one throughout a lifetime. Said another way, wives can initiate the good things; but they can also initiate the hard things. If our husbands are in trouble or in sin, we can prayerfully and respectfully initiate discussion or even confrontation toward resolution. That's responding as a loving helpmeet. If we don't, we become part of the problem--enablers, which would not glorify God or benefit our relationship. I must again emphasize two operative words here: "prayerfully" and "respectfully".
Now that's a good question to which haven't given much thought. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul talks about single women remaining single. Many theologians believe that this was b/c the persecution was coming and both men and women who were single at the time Paul would be better off by not complicating/endangering their lives and those of a spouse and children once the persecution hit, which it did within 10 years after Paul's letter.
I don't know of any scripture that specifically addresses women being called into singleness. I know there are many single women currently in ministry (Kathy Triccoli for example) who minister in their singleness while remaining hopeful that God would bring them to Mr. Righteous.
What's important is that no matter what our marital status, we serve God right where we are until GOD changes it. To wish we were in a different marital status (wishing we were married or not married) is a distraction from what God has for us--being conformed into His Son's image—whether single or married. If we're married, we're to serve God in that marriage and family unit, letting Him sanctify us there; If we're not married, we're to serve God wherever He plants us, letting Him sanctifiy us there.
Too simplistic? Perhaps. Re 1 Corinthians 7...the first couple of verses are not intended to convey that marriage is not supported by Paul. He was a huge proponent of marriage. He didn't want Christians to sin against God by pursuing their passions outside of marriage.
Thank you so much for taking the time to ask a very important question. I'll answer from two perspectives: 1. If your husband is an unbeliever, he won't know what it means to make a decision based on biblical principles. This is a time when your respect is of utmost importance. You can influence his decision by respectfully expressing your opinion or concern without hitting him over the head with your Bible or throwing in his face the fact that he's not making the right decision because he's not a Christian or doesn't know the Bible's perspective on an issue. Such an approach would only cause him to dig in his heels and want what you've got even less. 1 Peter 3:1-2 calls us to adapt to his leadership so that if he doesn't obey the word he will be won over WITHOUT A WORD (about the spiritual aspect to his decision-making), but by his wife's respectful behavior/conduct/response. What can this look like in the scenario like you presented above? 2. If your husband is a believer, he should know or is learning what it means to factor in biblical principles to his decisions. This doesn't come automagically just because he's a Christian. Typically, he must learn how to apply scripture to decision-making. Just like we do. So. ..this is a time when your respect is of utmost importance. :-) Referring to how a biblical principle might apply to his decision must be done respectfully. In either case, here's the rub: if a husband is used to being disrespected by his wife (and the disrespect is likely to be very evident in other facets of their relationship, not just in his decision-making), he's not going to be very responsive to her input--especially if it's Bible-based, because deep down, what he needs most from her is her respect. To a husband who lives with a critical, disrespectful wife, Christ is not credible in her; therefore, whatever she has to offer from a spiritual perspective is not credible either. Is it any wonder why God commands a wife to respect her husband (Ephesians 5:33)?
I am currently doing your study on enhancing your marriage. I have been married a year... and I struggle with feeling happy and ok with the way the Lord has made me. My husband recently let me know he struggles with pornography for which he is getting help now, but I don't know how to take it. I already struggle thinking I am fat and such and now this. I feel so lost and uncertain. Can you give me any advice or any help?
Thank you so much for writing. I am so sorry to hear what you and your husband are going through. Know that you are not alone. The enemy is after Christian marriages; but we can't let him win. Don't give up on your husband or your marriage. I'm so glad your husband is getting help. Your husband's struggle didn't blindside God; He knew and He's got the road mapped out for you both. He can lead you both to victory--and you'll both build some strong spiritual muscle along the way. Let me give you this one encouragement: Your husband's struggle is not about you; in most cases porn hooks a man long before he meets the woman he falls in love with. Porn is a strong, evil tool of the enemy, which is why your husband needs you now more than ever. In the study at the very beginning, God created a "helpmeet" for Adam. The word "help" in helpmeet is the same as in Psalm 46:1: The Lord is my strength and my refuge, an ever present "help" in time of trouble." Your guy's in trouble, and you're his helpmeet. God must know that you have within you what your husband needs to help him with his struggle—not as his accountability partner (that's the job of a brother in Christ), but as his wife--his counterpart, the one whom God intends to complete him. Give God time to work--in both of you.
Being creative in your sexual encounters is half the fun, as long as that creativity doesn’t introduce another’s identity into the mix. In other words, your husband is the firemen rescuing the damsel in distress, not Mel Gibson or the neighbor next door. The use of “props” or “toys” or the use of fantasy are not taboo as long as they are intended to enhance your intimacy with your husband and your lovemaking. They are to be mutually agreed upon and are not to violate or dishonor the spouse. Another thought: if you can be aroused only when your mate is pretending to be someone else, or when you are pretending to be with someone else, fantasy ceases to be healthy. We are free to "love" our spouses in any way that doesn't violate them physically or mentally, or compromise them spiritually. Only you and your husband can decide how you fit alongside His standard. If you ask God's guidance, you'll get it. Since God created sex as the ultimate wedding gift, He is quite capable of spicing up our sex lives. Pick His brain.
Prior to August 2010
The Message states this passage in a more understandable way: "For the rest of you who are in mixed marriages—Christian married to non-Christian—we have no explicit command from the Master. So this is what you must do. If you are a man with a wife who is not a believer but who still wants to live with you, hold on to her. If you are a woman with a husband who is not a believer but he wants to live with you, hold on to him. The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be left out; as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God."
“The reason for these couples to stay together (7:13-14) is that the Christian spouse brings holiness to the marriage. There are two views of how holiness is applied to the unbeliever. One view is that there is a moral influence on the unbeliever as the Christian spouse bears witness to Christ and lives obediently to God. The other view is that the Christian, now blessed by God, includes his or her spouse in the promised blessings of the covenant as they overflow to the unbeliever. “Holiness” does not carry the meaning of “salvation”; that is, the unbelieving husband is not “saved” through his wife’s salvation. More likely, the Corinthians had heeded Paul’s advice in 5:9-11 not to associate with unbelievers. They had interpreted Paul to mean that sex with an unbelieving marriage partner would defile them. Paul affirmed the opposite. When believers have sexual relations with their unbelieving spouse, the unbelievers are blessed in a certain way. The marriage and its sexual relations set up or lead into the possibility of the conversion of the unbeliever.”
“The blessings that flow to believers don’t stop there but extend to others. Among those most likely to receive benefits from the godly influence of believers’ lives are their children. God regards the marriage as “holy” by the presence of one Christian spouse. Paul calls the children of such a marriage set apart because of God’s blessing on the family. The believing parent, called upon to raise his or her children in the faith, will hopefully have such an influence that the children will accept salvation for themselves.”—Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary
May I add, that every trait of Christ that a Christian wife displays toward her husband--His unconditional love, acceptance, forgiveness, grace, truth, fairness, etc., exposes him to who Christ is. It maximizes every opportunity for the husband to desire Christ for himself because He is so credible in his wife. The same dynamic exists with our unbelieving children. This is why resembling and reflecting Christ in our daily lives is so important. Others' lives depend on it, and the most important “others” are our family members.
This passage clearly states that a "wife must respect her husband" (NIV). There are no exceptions added after that period, much to the chagrin of many wives. We'd like to read "and a wife must respect her husband if...", or "a wife must respect her husband, unless..." But this is not the case. And it doesn't say a wife must respect the position of husband, but that she must respect the man. And unless he has a psychological disorder, the typical man tends to respond positively (and often quickly) to his wife’s consistent, respectful treatment. God knew this, which is why He requires respect of the wife. God also knows how powerfully a man responds to his wife’s disrespect; he will either withdraw or fight back.
Here's the spiritual rub: God made a husband and wife to become one. If one dishonors the other, both are dishonored. It’s both a mystery and a reality.
With regard to abuse (physical or emotional)and neglect, let me say right off that neither is OK with God. And even if a wife’s behavior is disrespectful, there is no excuse for a husband’s abusive behavior. If a husband is guilty of dishonoring his wife with abuse and/or neglect, he, too, is dishonored. However, the dishonored wife has the opportunity to behave in a way that can maximize Christ’s influence on her spouse’s behavior. Let me explain…
A wife was created by God to be her husband’s helpmeet. The word “help” in helpmeet is the same as in Psalm 46:1~ God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” When we’re in trouble, God is our strong and safe place. We can trust Him to use whatever is necessary to get us back on His right path—even if that journey is painful. We wives, when we depend on the Lord for our strength, can be that, too, for our husbands in times of trouble. And if a husband is abusive or neglectful, he’s in trouble; therefore, it is necessary that she be that godly kind of help. It takes a woman of strength and dignity to face and forthrightly address the behavior that is separating and destroying oneness with her husband. She cannot enable his bad behavior with denial, excuses, and cover up, but prayerfully and respectfully confronts it, using whatever God designs into ending the behavior. The wife must seek God and the Holy Spirit’s leading. She may also need outside help in the form of a biblically-based, Christian counselor who can help her (them) get to the bottom of the abusive, neglectful behavior and how to respond to it. All that said, a wife must protect herself and her children if her husband is physically and/or emotionally abusive. Temporary separation may be necessary while seeking help/intervention. And before re-entering the home, her husband’s repentance and change must be evident with accountability measures in place.
At the same time, it’s important for the wife to reflect on her past behavior as well. When both spouses dishonor the other repeatedly, anger, withdrawal, and lashing out are typical responses. It is fair for the wife to reflect on how she has treated her husband over the years, own up to those shortcomings, and ask God to change her heart. The husband should do the same. And remember, a wife is only accountable for her behavior; and a husband is only accountable for his. Each will give account to Him for ignoring his or her own negative behavior traits while pointing a condemning finger at their spouse (Luke 6:41-42).
Whoa, that's a very good question and one I haven’t received in my years of teaching EYM! Thank you for sending it along.
I used the word "responder" as it was deduced from the Hebrew definition of "helpmeet", which means "one in answer to". This doesn't mean that the wife wasn't created to initiate. In actuality, it means that HOW she responds to her husband and his nature as it was designed by God has a powerful influence on her husband's life and direction. God has granted the wife a powerful place in the marriage relationship. It is intended to be used for good and not harm (See Proverbs 31:10-12; 28-31). Even initiating is in response to her husband's nature.
That God created Eve last didn't mean she was an afterthought or secondary to His purpose. In actuality, she was God's crowning glory, like the crescendo of a symphony's finale. God deliberately fashioned Eve to complete Adam, who needed all the things of her nature to complement his
own. In the same way, Eve needed all the things of Adam's nature to complement her own. That hasn't changed for husbands and wives today because God's creation purpose for a man and woman in marriage hasn't changed.
When it comes to a wife's initiating--whether it's sexually, intellectually, socially, emotionally, etc.,--even her initiating is in response to who her husband is. For example, if there is something that's
important to him--like sexual intimacy, or a good meal--your initiating says it's also important to you. If however, there is an issue between you, your initiating communication toward resolution is exactly what a helpmate does. To do so PRAYERFULLY and RESPECTFULLY is the job of a
loving counterpart. It's the stuff of growth and maturity both as individuals and as a couple. And it works both ways. That's how the two become one throughout a lifetime.
Said another way, wives can initiate the good things; but they can also initiate the hard things. If our husbands are in trouble or in sin, we can prayerfully and respectfully initiate discussion or even confrontation toward resolution. That's responding as a loving helpmeet. If we don't, we
become part of the problem--enablers, which would not glorify God or benefit our relationship. I must again emphasize two operative words here: "prayerfully" and "respectfully".
Another important aspect of initiation: Initiating something that you desire. Example: Perhaps you're the one who desires sex tonight but you're afraid to initiate. If you read 1 Corinthians 7:3-5,
you'll discover how mutually satisfying God intended sex to be: we are to meet each others' sexual needs (verse 3); we each have loving authority over the other's body (verse 4); neither is to deprive the other (verse 5). And what makes each eager and willing to meet the other's need or desire (in anything not just sex) is based on how each has lived out his or her God-ordained role: the man as the servant-leader (Ephesians 5:25-33) and the woman as the respectful responder to that leadership (Ephesians 5:33).
I believe this mutual "give/receive" aspect of the marriage relationship is a wonderful example of what God originally intended in all areas of marriage and at all levels.
Again, we can't minimize God's intent for the wife's role. It's powerful, because it can either complete her husband (if lived out God's way) or defeat him (if lived out with "self" in mind).
I am a fairly new Christian who was not raised in a Christian family. As I work my way through the Bible, I do have many questions. In Deuteronomy 5:9 I read, "The Lord your God is a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me". I don't know how to understand this. Am I going to be punished for the sins of my forefathers? And likewise my children’s children for the sins my husband or I did?
With regard to Deuteronomy 5:9 (also Exodus 20:5,6), John MacArthur writes: "Moses had made it clear that children were not punished for the sins of their parents (Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:19-32), but children would feel the impact of breaches of God's law by their parents' generation as a natural consequence of its disobedience, its hatred of God. Children reared in such an environment would imbibe and then practice similar idolatry, thus themselves expressing hateful disobedience. The difference in consequence served as both a warning and a motivation. The effect of a disobedient generation was to plant wickedness so deeply that it took several generations to reverse." (MacArthur Study Bible, Exodus 20:5-6, p. 124)
As Christians, we may have to suffer consequences of another's sin (example: a father's alcoholism, the consequences of a daughter's out of wedlock pregnancy, a spouse's infidelity, behavioral traits in us that we learned from our parents, and so on). But Jesus in us can turn consequences into glorifying testimonies and impetus for change. God won't waste anything when it comes to growing up His children and showing Himself powerful and effective in their lives and in their circumstances as we follow Him closely all the time, and especially during a tough season.
I have been overwhelmed with the guilt I feel for not being the way God wants me to be. On the list of personal Canaanites (Lessons 3) I found "guilt". Is the guilt I'm feeling really bad? I think it is good to feel bad and guilty for falling short. I remember being told that acknowledgment of a problem is half way solving it. And unless I recognize it and feel remorse and guilt I am not admitting that I have a problem. Maybe I need the meaning of guilt as it is stated on that list.
Excellent question. There's good (constructive) guilt and bad (destructive) guilt. Good guilt is placed on us by the Holy Spirit in the form of conviction for a sin committed. Its intent is to lead us to confession, repentance, forgiveness and then the freedom to keep moving forward in our walk with God. Bad guilt is a tool of the Enemy in the form of accusation and condemnation. Its intent is to keep us "stuck" so that we can't move forward. We'll stay stuck in guilt and shame by continually asking God for forgiveness for a sin over and over, not believing that God forgave us the first time we asked; or we'll turn away from God rather than run to Him because we believe that our sin is unforgivable—a total lie. God wants us to run to Him, clear the air and be free. Satan doesn't. Hence, we need to know our Enemy and His schemes so that we don't unwittingly cooperate with him.
We have been given a new heart (nature) that is now responsive to God's nature. Ezekiel 36:27 says, "I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them". The new heart now desires and is now ready and able to be conformed to the image of Christ—changed—which is not possible in an unregenerate heart. So, little by little, God replaces our negative thoughts, behaviors, conditioned responses, bad habits and behavior (I like your term "flesh patterns"), with His godly traits. And that process will continue until we cross over into glory. What an adventure!
Let’s look closely at what follows Ephesians 5:21: Instructions to the wives about submitting to their husbands (5:22-24); instructions to children about submitting to (obeying) their parents (6:1-4); instructions to slaves about submitting to their masters (6:5-9). As many theologians agree, Ephesians 5:21 does not call everyone to be mutually submissive depending on the circumstance. It’s the introduction to the relationships in which submission is necessary and appropriate for order, whether in the home, the workplace, or in government (Romans 13:1-7).
Even when a wife is right, her submission to her husband can accomplish more for God when her husband realizes his mistake than all the browbeating or nagging in a lifetime. A good example of godly submission is a wife’s deference to her husband’s decision on a financial issue when he shows strong resistance to her correct, and even biblical, counsel. If she nags (which means she lets him know how she feels more than once—OK twice), his resistance will only harden. Or she can become fearful and whine a lot, which drives home her distrust of him. Neither will honor God. If God calls her to submit to her husband’s decision and trust Him with the outcome—even if it hurts—then she can rest in knowing that God’s got a powerful growth opportunity in store for both of them. Her challenge will be to exhibit the grace that assists God in His teaching (usually without a word) once her husband discovers his mistake. “I told you so”—whether spoken, written all over her face, or exhibited in her body language—will kill whatever depth God intended to bring to the teaching and to their relationship through His lesson.
What a great question! The answer was lovingly crafted by Claudia Duff: The wedding night’s a scary thing for a virgin. Most of us were taught to “avoid sex” until marriage rather than to "reverence" the gift and the "Giver" of sex by honoring it with our pure marriage beds. There is a huge difference between the two, although they both produce virgins.
My first thought is, change your mind. Romans 12:2 (AMP) says, "Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you}. You must reject the lie that sex is dirty, and believe the truth that it is beautiful and designed by a loving Creator for His creation to enjoy. The Enemy has robbed the Church of the gift of sex, and we must take it back. Do not allow the Enemy to reign in the place that God has ordained for you and your husband—your marital bed.
My second thought is, believe The Word of God. "When they observe the pure and modest way in which you conduct yourselves, together with your reverence [for your husband; you are to feel for him all that reverence includes; to respect, defer to, revere him-to honor, esteem, appreciate, prize, and, in the human sense, to adore him, that is, to admire, praise, be devoted to, deeply love, and enjoy your husband]! (1Peter 3:2, AMP) Sexual enjoyment in marriage is a part of your submission and reverence to your husband; it is not optional. God expects you to ENJOY your husband. What a great God we serve to command such freedom to us! Now, that’s what I call "free love"!
My third thought is, make no excuses for disobedience. "It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging his headship over her by] calling him lord (master, leader, authority). And you are now her true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you [not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve you]! (1Peter 3:6, AMP) Fear about sexual intimacy diminishes as a factor when you are choosing to walk in obedience to the Word of God. Honor His commands and the fear will begin to lose its grip on your heart each time you choose rightly. God has already made provision for your fear, and He wants you to overcome it by your faith, by walking out His plan.
"Switching gears" is a gracious act of your will and it takes practice. This is where the Principles of Need, Authority and Habit (1 Corinthians 7:3-5) kick in and link up with a servant’s heart. A wife’s choice to respond to her husband’s sexual desire speaks volumes to him. It conveys that she cares, that what’s important to him is important to her, and that he’s necessary to her life, all of which further validate and solidify their oneness to him, and she remains the object of his love. I have discovered that when I do the right thing and respond to my husband’s desire (and need) for sex, the right feelings follow. Both of us are blessed!
If there is a time when you truly can’t accommodate your husband (because you do have that dental appointment, or you truly do have a migraine), make a plan for later in the day or the next day and stick to it.
Actually, the question is what will you do? Much like the answer to the previous question, initiation speaks volumes to a husband. It says, “You’ve got what it takes and I desire it.” A wife’s initiation completes her husband in a very deep place: The pleasure most men derive from sexually pleasing their wives affirms them. This is not macho, self-centered chest-beating, but a natural manifestation of God’s creative design to build oneness. When we as wives flip that switch in our heads from berating our men for their maleness (an increasingly more popular cultural pastime), and begin praising God for how He created our husbands, and that they still desire us, we’ll begin to find pleasure in the pleasure they derive from us. Bottom line: Choose to initiate!
First, get a physical checkup to ensure that all your parts are healthy.
Second, if all is well, start getting “smart” about your body and how God created it to respond sexually. I maintain that one of the biggest deterrents to orgasm is lack of knowledge about our sexual bodies. Another deterrent is not communicating what you learn to your husband. And yet another is taking the time to put what you learn to good use. Christian books recommended for your sex education:
• A Celebration of Sex by Dr. Doug Rosenau
• A Celebration of Sex After 50 by Dr. Doug Rosenau
• For Women Only: God’s Design for Female Sexuality & Intimacy by Dr. Shay Roop
• How the Make Sense Out of the Men in Your Live by Kevin Leman
• Sheet Music by Kevin Leman
• Intimate Issues by Linda Dillow and Lorraine Pintus
• The Act of Marriage After 40 by Dr. Tim and Beverly LaHaye
Learn about your body. Learn about your husband’s body. Learn to enjoy what God intended for pleasure, and unlearn the lies that distract you from being all He intended you to be for your husband. This applies to anything that may inhibit you sexually: guilt, fear, anger, complacency, shyness, frustration, disgust, whatever has you bound. Return to Days Two and Three in Lesson 8 of Enhancing Your Marriage and really do business with God over the Roadblocks and Obstacles that apply to you. If necessary, find a biblically grounded sister who can pray with you and hold you accountable to right thinking and doing.
Third, do not be distracted any longer about not having an orgasm. Begin to praise God for the deep connections you make with your husband every time you’re sexually intimate. Approach your intimacy with no expectations (of orgasm), but enter your encounters with joy at the opportunity of sharing and building your oneness so intimately. Desire to build depth into your love-making.
Fourth, permit yourself to relax. Consciously, before and during intercourse, cause all your muscles to loosen and let down. Stop trying to have an orgasm and start trusting God with the way He created your body to respond to sexual stimuli. Allow yourself to feel how your body responds to your husband’s touch, praising God for each and every sensation. Enjoy getting in tune with your body without the expectation that it will lead to orgasm. This isn’t giving up; this is giving over (surrendering) to God. Have this approach every time you make love.
Fifth, take more time in foreplay with your husband so that your body can respond more fully to sexual arousal. And don’t be afraid to ask him to take the time with you. You both need the practice no matter how long you’ve been married! This is all a part of your growing together as God’s couple. Why is it that when couples marry we can accept that it will take a lifetime together to grow into ever-increasing oneness and compatibility, but we expect our wedding nights to be perfect when it comes to our sexual oneness and compatibility? Growing together sexually is also a lifetime process. The wedding night was the beginning of growth toward sexual maturity, not the goal itself. The goal is in the process.
Last, how fit is your PC muscle? You’ll read in your Christian manuals that God programmed our bodies to work at their optimum sexually. In the woman, the pubococcygeus (PC) muscle extends from the bony part at the front of the pelvis (pubis) to the coccyx at the end of the spine. It not only assists in stopping a stream of urine, but is also capable of heightening sexual arousal. The more we use it, the better it works. After childbirth, many of us have been given Kegel exercises to strengthen the PC muscle for better bladder control. Such was the case for Mrs. Wilson, a patient of Dr. Kegel’s, who suffered with stress incontinence (lack of bladder control). Dr. Kegel gave her experimental exercises. Not only was her incontinence alleviated, but she reported to Dr. Kegel that she had reached orgasm for the first time in 15 years of marriage. The strengthened PC muscle made her vagina more able to automatically exert the pressure and tension required to stimulate the nerves in response to the sexual stimulation by the penis. The strengthened PC also tugs on the clitoris when contracted. You can consciously contract the PC muscle during intercourse, which further stimulates toward orgasm.
Kegel exercises are not limited to women who’ve given childbirth. Young women with no children can have weak PC muscles which can result in their not “feeling anything” during intercourse. The success of Kegel exercises for improving sexual response (as well as bladder control) has prompted its adoption by doctors worldwide. The exercises are simple and can be done even while sitting at a red light (and no one will even know you’re doing it!). You’ll find the exercise described in Rosenau’s, A Celebration of Sex and LaHaye’s Act of Marriage.
Please note the potential here, Ladies! Get to know your own bodies and how they work. Run don’t walk to your nearest Christian bookstore!
There is no prohibition these days to having sex during your period, because we are not under the Law. I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 6:1 in which Paul says, “All things are permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial.” It is permissible to have sex during one’s period, but it may not be beneficial during her heaviest flow because of the "mess" associated with it. Naturally it's less messy nearing the end of menstruation. Therefore, if both husband and wife are amenable to sex during her period, it is not an issue. A towel on the bed works wonders.
The major taboo about masturbation, also called self-pleasuring, is where the mind goes. No one other than our spouse is to take up intimate space in our minds. I would have to copy Rosenau's chapter in A Celebration of Sex to tell you all of his guidance on this subject, but it is good, healthy, balanced guidance. We as couples are free to pleasure each other. We can even discover our own bodies and hotspots by exploring them ourselves or with our husbands (no matter how old we are!) We sometimes need to rediscover hotspots as we get older or after a season of complacency, illness, pregnancy, or menopause. Even medications can affect our areas of arousal.
Dr. Tim and Beverly LaHaye, in their book, The Act of Marriage After 40, write: “All forms of masturbation have to be evaluated, not in the light of the physical experience, but in the mental attitude at the time. Usually, male masturbation is associated with pornography or fantasies that are pornographic, and that’s when it’s detrimental. Masturbation can also become self-addicting…At the end of the day,” LaHaye says, “masturbation is a matter between the individual and God. If you can do it without feeling the need to confess it as sin, the physical function of bringing oneself to orgasm is not in itself a sinful act—it’s the mental thought process that makes it right or wrong.” (The Act of Marriage After 40, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000, p 189)
A warning: Is a husband’s masturbation a wife’s problem? It is if he’s compensating regularly for what she should be providing. If a spouse is remiss in fulfilling his or her sexual responsibilities (in accordance with 1 Corinthians 7:3-5), this may force the other to masturbate out of sheer sexual frustration. God will call a neglectful spouse to account. Masturbation is not to be a primary source of sexual release or pleasure.
Being creative in your sexual encounters is half the fun, as long as that creativity doesn’t introduce another’s identity into the mix. In other words, your husband is the firemen rescuing the damsel in distress, not Mel Gibson or the neighbor next door. “Props” or “toys” are not taboo as long as they do not violate or dishonor the spouse, but are mutually agreed upon.
This question is one of the most frequently asked by my students. Let’s take these two delicate topics one at a time:
Oral Sex: The Bible is “silent” on oral sex to some degree. The Song of Solomon talks about the “garden of spices”, which, according to Cliff Penner, alludes to the genitalia (The Gift of Sex, Word Publishing, 1981, p 228). Eating “choice fruits” from this garden does not have to be an unpleasant consideration, especially if the fruit has been freshly washed. For the mutually consenting couple, oral sex can be stimulating, fun foreplay or full-play (especially for a husband whose wife is incapacitated due to heavy menstruation or childbirth). It's also a loving alternative for couples who may have health issues such as arthritis.
If you have closed the door on oral sex without having experienced it—either as the giver or the receiver—perhaps you can make it a matter of prayer. And learn more about it. Penner’s book and all of the books recommended in Question 9 above deal forthrightly with the topic.
Anal intercourse: Although the Bible is also silent on this activity between a husband and wife, the medical evidence is not. God designed the vaginal tissue for the rigors of intercourse, not the anus. Its delicate tissues tear, bleed, and produce painful hemorrhoids and fissures—not to mention that the act itself can be very painful. Further, the bacteria harbored in the anus and intestines can also be transmitted to the vagina, causing an infection called gardinerella, which is considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It’s treatable with an anti-infective. Information like this can be lovingly explained to an uninformed husband. He may be pressuring his wife for anal sex without the knowledge of its consequences. Again, this information is found in Rosenau’s book, A Celebration of Sex.
This is a tough, and painful, question. There are any number of reasons why a husband doesn't pursue his wife. Unfortunately, perhaps only he knows why. Here are some questions to consider:
• Has it always been this way? If they were virgins when married, was there any indication in their dating that there was strong, mutual sexual attraction. If she was a virgin, and perhaps naive, she may have thought he was being the perfect gentleman who kept himself in constant control instead of being unattracted to her sexually. If they were sexually active, did their frequency take on the same pattern in the marriage as before?
• Has she ever lovingly, yet frankly asked him why he is rejecting her (and she must use the word "rejecting" because that is what is happening here)? Does he understand that’s what he’s doing when he doesn’t fulfill her sexual need? Does he know she has sexual needs, or does she hide it beneath her disappointment, afraid to let him know? If so, what was his answer? If not, she should pray about approaching him.
• Is he a Christian? If so, is he aware of what God says about meeting his spouse's sexual need? If he's not, again, she should pray about lovingly sharing what she's learned in class about the mutuality of married sexual responsibility. (See 1 Corinthian 7:3-5.)
• When he responds to her need for sex, is there any problem with his performance? Can he get and maintain an erection? Is there any indication of sexual dysfunction? If so, his fear of failure (performance anxiety) may keep him from pursuing her.
• What's his background like? Has he ever been sexually abused? Is he generally an angry man? Was his mom domineering and abusive, emasculating? What is his opinion of women in general? There may be a deeply-seated fear/anxiety about his sexuality, upbringing, sexual proclivities, etc. No one knows but God. Perhaps her husband doesn't even know; some things get so buried.
• How’s the rest of their marriage? Is it strained? Is she disrespectful, critical, a nag? Does she convey the message that he’s incompetent or inadequate? Is she frequently disappointed in him just because he’s who he is? All of these would kill any man’s libido.
• Has she ever sought professional counsel on this topic? (It's not likely he would.)
Unfortunately, in some cases, it's "just the way he is". A man's libido is a very sensitive issue, even if it's low. And some men have a naturally low libido.
Here's a nurse's perspective on the unpursuing husband: "Some of the causes are medical in nature. For example, a man can be low on testosterone leaving him without any zing. This can be checked with a simple blood test and is treated with a monthly shot (which I might add are the scariest shots I have ever given since they are as thick as oil). Men can also have injuries to their genitals, perhaps while biking or horse back riding, which they may not even know they have received. Over time these activities can have as deleterious an effect as any crushing injury to what counts most. Finally, and on a social crisis level, there is the issue of homosexuality and the whole plethora of new gender confusion we have in this time. I know a woman going through a divorce that only had intercourse around 6 times in 7 years of marriage. In the end, she discovered that her Christian husband struggled with homosexuality, but could not confess it. I am no expert on this issue, but medically and socially speaking, we could all delve into this problem more so that we can guard our homes against some of these preventable or treatable attacks against what God has called good."
I know these explanations may not be very encouraging. The most important thing a wife can do who suffers in this way is to get smart on the topic of male sexual avoidance. You’ll find it covered in Rosenau’s book (A Celebration of Sex). Remember that the enemy of good sex is silence. If a husband’s sexual avoidance isn’t tenderly approached and discussed, it will never change. How the topic is approached is crucial. Wives in this circumstance should pray in earnest that God would shed light on this darkness and Holy Spirit leading. They should seek solid, biblical counsel. In the meantime, she should continue to pursue growth in her faith, to pursue God (but not reject her husband), to love her husband without condemnation, but with hope for God’s turning point in this issue.
The only specific prohibition that I can find in scripture is bringing another person into your marital bed—physically (the real thing or video) or mentally. We are to remain focused on our spouse as our lover. Even in the bedroom, husband and wife are to be a cord of three strands, the third strand being God, Himself.
If your love life feels like an act, it probably is and he knows it. And if he didn’t love you, he wouldn’t bother asking the question. He’s not secure in how he pleases you sexually. In a man’s psyche, pleasing his wife is a measure of his manhood. So your question goes far beyond the bedroom, and it will require some self-examination on your part. Your husband needs affirmation as a man, a husband, a provider, a lover. As you begin to genuinely affirm him in these areas, your own level of love and appreciation for him will grow. You both will become more secure with each other, and your love making will begin to reflect it.
The toughest part about loving our husbands sexually is replacing the “feelings” with the “facts”. If wives always waited to be “in the mood”, sex would be rare in most marriages. Unfortunately, many women allow their behavior to be guided by their feelings instead of by the Word of God, which can change our feelings, rearrange our attitudes, and course-correct our sex lives. First Corinthians 7:3-5 gives us the principles of married sexuality: The Principle of Need, the Principle of Authority, and the Principle of Habit. These principles are to be mutually bestowed on the other as an act of loving, selfless service. It truly is an act of selflessness. I love how Colossians 3:17 and 24 can speak to this issue: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” I pray prayers of thanksgiving when I’m responding to my husband’s desire for me—thanksgiving that he still desires me after nearly 32 years! I don’t worry any more about “feeling” in the mood. I move out “in the mood”, with praise and thanksgiving, and the feeling catches up.
Actually, I kind of look at it like having a snack instead of a full meal. Both are legitimate, can be tasty, and satisfy a need. (Remember, typically a man’s sex drive is more intense than a woman’s, governed by the level of testosterone in his body. One of the best books on the topic is Kevin Leman’s, Making Sense of the Men in Your Life, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000. Great book!) Our challenge is to recognize our husband’s need and be willing to meet him there because we love him. The Enemy wants us to think we’re being used, but in most marital relationships that couldn’t be farther from the truth. We must decide to believe that.
First, fantasizing is wrong only when it’s about someone other than your spouse. We really can unlearn the habit of fantasizing “elsewhere” and learn to fantasize about our husbands, especially if he’s pleasing our bodies at the time. This is a “discipline of the mind”. You can do this, because we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. Choose to focus in your mind on your husband as he’s making love to you. Open your eyes and look at him, watch him, smile at him. Allow yourself to let him alone please your body and not another in your mind. Easier said than done? Yes, at first. But as with any habit, practice makes the new behavior happen habitually.
Several things are important: 1) Pray about how God can spice up your imagination. The same God of all creation can guide your creativity in your sex life. 2) Give Lesson 9 of Enhancing Your Marriage: A Women’s Bible Study, your utmost attention, since romance doesn’t happen once a week or once a month. It starts the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning. It’s built on a foundation of mutual kindness, respect, and honor. 3) Read other Christian “how-to” books, such as Debra White Smith’s Romancing Your Husband: Enjoying a Passionate Life Together. 4) Ask your husband what he thinks would spice up your sex life. (If you’re afraid to ask, tackle Lesson 10 of Enhancing Your Marriage on communication so that you’ll have the tools and greater confidence in communicating without fear or inhibition.) 5) Buy Doug Rosenau’s book, A Celebration of Sex. Read it together in bed, or share “tidbits” with him as you read it. 6) Then do it! The most important ingredient to spicing up your sex life is to want to.