When Sex In Your Marriage Isn’t What You Thought

If we were honest, we’d say we thought getting married would solve all of our sexual woes. We could finally enjoy sex with our now-husband or wife. We wouldn’t have to have all these protections in place to keep us from “going too far” before we got the pronouncement of husband and wife. We could enjoy one another freely. Intimately. Wherever. Whenever. It’d be a key ingredient to our recipe for marital bliss. She will want me. I will want her. Nothing will stand in our way.

If you’re married, you know this isn’t true.

The freedom to enjoy sex with your husband or wife doesn’t remove sexual tension, it merely transfers it to a different problem. Before marriage, the problem and tension for men and women committed to keeping sex a pleasure to be enjoyed between husband and wife may have seemed insurmountable. Late nights. Wandering hands. Lingering embraces. Prolonged kissing. We’ve been there. We’ve struggled with that. And through it all, the desire to “honor the Lord” was a holy fear that kept us from “going too far.” But many times, it didn’t feel so much like we were honoring the other person. Many times it may have felt like we were simply fearful of God’s disapproval; fearing he would reject us or we’d fall out of his grace.

Sex became a physical problem in our mind; one that God looked down on.

In these days, you may have looked, not to God, but to marriage as the ultimate rest from this physical battle. You looked longingly at your wedding ceremony as the day that, yes you would get to marry the one your heart loved, but also the day that sex was readily available and the tension that seemed to have made its home in your heart, mind, and body since you hit puberty was now done with. Conquered. Defeated. Old news.

 

A Different Kind of Tension.

Yes, thankfully God has created the beauty of marriage — the chance to be fully known and fully loved by another in order to mirror the way God himself feels about us, his Bride, his church, his people — as the home for sexual intimacy. In the same way that God desires his people to commit to him only, to serve him only, to love him above all else, to be in union with him like none other, God designed sex to be enjoyed between husband and wife as an act of enjoyment, an act of passion, and an act of sacrificial love.

But the thing is — it doesn’t always happen this way.

That’s why the idea that sexual tension dissipates after your I Do’s is a farce. Work schedules implode. Dishes get dirty. Kids need their diaper changed. Toddlers have nightmares. Attitudes get nasty. We get selfish.

The freedom to enjoy sex with your husband or wife doesn’t remove sexual tension, it merely transfers it to a different problem.

Suddenly, the thought of having sex with your husband or wife doesn’t really feel like the song on the radio. Intimacy with him or her doesn’t really feel like the movies. I can’t believe she said that. I don’t want to get in bed with her! He really didn’t run to the store like I asked? And now he wants to have a little fun in the bedroom? Is he serious?

What once felt like the green pastures of sexual bliss and marital joy now seem like the battlegrounds of self-justice.

And this is where we live. We live in the day-to-day realities of life. We don’t live in the Netflix Originals. We don’t live in the Shania Twain song. We live in the world that sin has destroyed. And that includes our hearts and souls and attitudes. And it includes our marriage bed. It includes our desires to have sex with the one person we thought we’d want to mix it up with all the time.

This is the new tension.

 

A Source of Reminder.

There is no doubt that God gave us the wonder that is sex to be a source of pleasure, excitement, joy, and passion. Randy Alcorn said it well when he explained that if God didn’t care about our enjoyment of his created order, he would not have given us senses. We know sex is physical — but do we know sex is spiritual? Have we forgotten the imagery in sex that points us back to something greater? We know sex is a monument of fun, but do we understand sex to be a monument of faithfulness? We know sex is a source of pleasure, but do we know and understand sex as a source of providential reminder?

We can get caught up in a dangerous cycle of selfishness when we view sex merely through the physical lens and ask why we aren’t getting out of it what we expected. We must not disregard the spiritual realities present. When we keep the spiritual realities in view, sex within our marriages can be a source of great unity and freedom instead of a ground for tension and distrust.

Yes, sex is pleasing, but have you ever thought about how sex is a reminder to you of something bigger than just you and your husband or wife?

You see, in marriage we are bonded to the one person God has put in our lives that we experience this heightened level of physical intimacy with. We are bare. We are not hiding. We are seen. We are fully exposed. And yet, in this moment of vulnerability, we share it with another. In marriage, we have chosen our spouse the same way that God chose Israel. Deuteronomy 7:6-9 shows us that God didn’t choose his people because they were great in number or more than other peoples. No, Israel was the fewest. But God redeemed, sought after, and loved Israel because he chose to set us love upon them. It had nothing to do with them. It had everything to do with the faithfulness and commitment of God.

Throughout history, until the time of Christ, no other people could claim they were God’s people. This was a deep heritage that only Jews could proclaim and boast of. This was special. In the same way, each spouse is the spouse of their partner, and this is a claim that no one else shares.

You have friends. You have coworkers. But you have one spouse.

So, in the moments of sexual intimacy in marriage, this is a physical act declaring a spiritual reality: you are mine and I am yours and there is no other. You declare, in this moment of vulnerability and exposure, that you have loved, chosen, and committed to your husband or wife. And it’s not because they are skinny, pretty, in the right mood, right about an argument, smell nice, took the trash out. No, it’s because you have set your love upon them in the same way that God has set His love upon you — without qualification and even in the midst of disobedience.

The act of sex in marriage declares in a way what no other act can: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Solomon 6:3)

 

With sex, in this moment of vulnerability and exposure, you declare that you have loved, chosen, and committed to your husband or wife.

 

Because of this, just as God constantly renewed his covenant to a wayward Israel throughout the history of the Old Testament, showing them countless signs of committed faithfulness, that they were God’s people and he was their God, this is what the physical act of sex does and is: Covenant Renewal. In this way, we take the time to show our spouse, no matter the anger, frustration, silence, dislike, how out of the mood we feel — that they are still ours and we are still theirs.

Why?

Because God did and does this over and over again with us, His Bride. He renewed his covenant throughout history in the midst of our disobedience, sealing his covenant promise to be faithful to us forever in the sending, sacrificing, and resurrecting of Christ.

When life is out of balance and we begin to believe the lie that sex is merely a physical act of pleasure, may we remember the beauty of the spiritual truths we proclaim to one another in our marriages when we enjoy the beauty that is sex. That we are on the same team. That we are committed to one another in a way like no one else. That no matter the argument or frustration, we are for one another. There’s no one else in the world that God has allowed us to engage with in this way. For that reason, may it bring us back to one another instead of drive us away.

May we renew the covenant in order to show that we have chosen our spouse not because of how we’re feeling or what they’ve done, but because we have set our love on them because they are ours. May we do this consistently just as God does with us.

This is when we experience the unity and freedom that God designed for sexual intimacy.

 

 

Jonathan C. Edwards (@NotThePuritan)

Jonathan (M.Div, Th.M) is the Director of Curriculum for Docent Research Group. He is the author of "Left: The Struggle to Make Sense of Life When a Parent Leaves," available now!

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