To most people, I’m a writer and copy-editor, but in certain quarters my name is almost synonymous with #MarriedSex. As a passionate advocate of sexual intimacy in marriage, I am often in danger of coming across as if I believe plentiful satisfying sex is what makes for a healthy marriage. I realised this a while ago when I was urging an abused wife of a cheating husband to press pause on sexual relations, and she was staring at me as if someone else had possessed my body. “But I thought…” Eh, you thought what?
Husband is stingy? More sex will open his hand. Husband won’t get off his behind and pull his weight financially? There’s nothing like more sex to motivate and transform a man! Husband is beating you? Satisfy him sexually; men don’t beat women who satisfy them sexually. Husband is cheating? Have more sex with him, learn different styles and tricks – this will save your marriage. Don’t you just wish?
I wonder if anyone counsels men along these lines (your wife is rude and insensitive? Give her multiple orgasms regularly and see if she won’t become more submissive and caring than you could ever have dreamed), but that smelly double standard is another article all together.
Sex is a great thing, it bonds you and connects you in a way that nothing else can. Orgasms even relieve stress, and make headaches go away. As a matter of fact, even when it’s not doing any of these serious things, there’s still no pleasure you can compare to an orgasm, really. Yet the reality is that, while sex is very, very important, it is not what keeps a marriage strong. In fact, there are times when the worst thing you could do or ask a couple to do is “have more sex”. Sometimes sex simply masks the problem temporarily by making you feel closer.
What we often fail to realise is that sex does not begin in the bedroom. This is a relationship, not a one night stand. When you’re emotionally involved with and legally committed to a partner you’re building a life with, “let’s have sex” isn’t a cure for real issues. Having more sex won’t fix abuse, provide long-term solutions to divergent life visions, or make mumu person get sense. It won’t make an unkind person kind, a selfish person unselfish, or an intolerant person tolerant.
Having more sex is not even guaranteed to make painful sex less painful “over time” as many think — your muscles may not stop tensing up until you feel safe enough in your marriage to relax, or you may actually need a doctor’s help if you suffer from vaginismus.
Sex doesn’t solve misunderstandings that spring simply from the realities of parenting together, managing finances, making a home, or dealing with in-laws either.
The danger in looking to sex as a cure-all for marital problems is that it leads a couple to gloss over crucial issues that need to be worked out. I mean, who wouldn’t choose a good romp in bed over difficult dialogue?
There are other more pleasurable things you could both be doing with your mouths than discussing your hurts, challenges and grievances, and coming up with sustainable solutions that will allow old wounds to heal and strengthen your partnership going forward, but guess what? Your problems will be waiting for you when you’re done.
On the other hand, when you’ve successfully navigated the tough conversations, sought counsel where necessary (please note that most pastors are not trained counsellors), put both pairs of hands on deck, and set about putting your money where your mouth is instead of just making empty promises, you’ll understand where people who try to make a distinction between “having sex” and “making love” are coming from. The sex in a marriage like this is on a level beyond toe-curling.
We need to understand, and constantly remind ourselves, that the quality of the relationship determines the quality of the sex, not the other way around. You need to fix your issues, and regularly prune your marriage so it can yield the kind of fruit you want.
Many times we want to make the sex great so that we can be happy and fulfilled in the marriage, but that’s putting the cart before the horse. I can’t say it enough: it’s not the sex that makes the relationship great, it’s the relationship that makes the sex great.