Today we are sharing a guest blog from Dr. Juli Slattery from Authentic Intimacy while Shaunti is in this season of cancer treatments. Enjoy!
I just read a book by Dr. Lisa Wade called American Hookup which describes the sexual culture on college campuses. Sexual activity has been so severed from relationship that kids “hooking up” are discouraged from even talking to the person they just had sex with. One of the foundational truths about sex is that God designed it to be intertwined with spiritual and relational significance. Satan, God’s enemy, works to undo the spiritual and relational connections of sexuality, convincing us that having sex can be an act as morally neutral as what we chose to have for breakfast.
While the hookup culture is an extreme example of this division of the sexual, spiritual and relational, we have all been impacted by the cultural trend to view sex as separate from our personhood. This occurs even within marriage. You can be sexually active without being sexually intimate.
I believe this is far more common in marriage than we realize and can happen for a variety of reasons. Maybe while sharing their bodies, a husband and wife nurture separate fantasies to become aroused. This is oneness in body, but not in heart, mind and spirit. Or perhaps the wife has experienced sexual trauma and has learned to get through sex by disassociating. Her body is there, but not much else. Couples can also have sex without being intimate because of unresolved conflict or simply because they perpetually lack the energy to work on intimacy.
I’ve met with couples who have been married for decades and have never experienced sexual intimacy. They have had sex hundreds of times, but always with invisible barriers that keep them from oneness in mind, soul and spirit. A woman will complain that she feels like a “sex object” and a man will feel like something is missing in his marriage.
God created sexual intimacy to be more than a sensual experience. It is a journey that, when taken together, can forge your hearts in a way that nothing else can. At Authentic Intimacy, our desire is to encourage you on that journey; to help you to fully integrate who you are as a relational and spiritual woman with your sexuality.
If you can relate to the sense that you and your husband don’t experience sexual intimacy, here are three things you can do to grow as a couple:
1. Pray about your sex life. Most Christian couples pray and they have sex, but it never occurs to them to pray about sex. It’s as if God can help us with everything except sex. This plays right into Satan’s lie that sexuality and spirituality are two separate categories. God cares deeply about your sexual relationship and is glorified when you and your husband pray together about it. Pray regularly that God would bless your sexual intimacy, that He would help you to experience true intimacy as you share your bodies and that He would guard your sexual relationship from temptations. After sex, thank Him for the gift of sexual intimacy and for the ways He is helping you and your husband to love each other through it.
2. Share your sexual struggles. The most intimate couples are those who have been in the trenches together. They have built trust to share the most vulnerable of their thoughts and struggles. I think of Justin and Salome who sought healing together for Salome’s history of sexual trauma. Justin didn’t think of it as “his wife’s problem” but as their challenge as a couple. Together, they learned how to identify triggers and how to make their sexual relationship a safe place. Or Lynn and John. In the early years of their marriage, John hid his sexual temptation from his wife. Eventually, Lynn discovered porn on his computer and confronted him with anger and tears of betrayal. What could have torn this couple apart became a journey of intimacy, including confession, forgiveness, accountability and creating a pattern of honesty about weakness and temptation. Every barrier you face in your sexuality is an opportunity to build true intimacy, rather than hiding from your spouse.
3. Save your best for sex. After a full day of work, parenting, and daily life, you’re exhausted. You fall into bed, so excited to sleep only to find that your husband is excited about something else. Inwardly you groan, “Really? Sex is the last thing on my mind.” What do you do at this crossroads? Tell him what you’re really thinking or let him have the “leftovers”? While this kind of sexual encounter is bound to be part of sex in marriage, it shouldn’t be too frequent. Having sex doesn’t take a ton of energy, but sexual intimacy requires that you be fully present. This is one of the negatives of those who encourage women to always say yes when a husband asks for sex. You begin to establish a habit sex around a sexual release rather than a sexual relationship. Over twenty years of marriage, I’ve learned that it’s better to say “yes” to building intimacy, which may mean saying “no” in the moment. To build sexual intimacy, you have to give the best of your time to each other, not just the leftovers.
As I look in the mirror, I don’t exactly love getting older. But one great thing about accumulating years is a growing confidence in God’s truth. It makes me so angry to see how Satan’s destruction of sexuality is being embraced as “normal” in our world. God created you to experience your sexuality as fully integrated with your spiritual and relational longings. Resist the hookup culture, even within your marriage.
Dr. Juli Slattery is a clinical psychologist, author, speaker and the president/co-founder of Authentic Intimacy. Juli earned her college degree at Wheaton College, an MA in psychology from Biola University, and an MS and a Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology.
From 2008-2012, Dr. Slattery served at Focus on the Family writing, teaching, and co-hosting the Focus on the Family Broadcast. In 2012, she left Focus on the Family to start Authentic Intimacy, a ministry devoted to reclaiming God’s design for sexuality.
Juli is the author of ten books and host of the weekly podcast “Java with Juli.” Juli and her husband Mike are the parents of 3 sons; they live in Akron, Ohio.
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