What Does Your Love Life Need?

What do you need in order to have great sex with your spouse?

Chances are that both you and your spouse will answer this question differently (and, your answers likely change from time to time). While one may wish for quick and easy passion, the other may need more time to connect for deeper intimacy. One spouse may hope for a visual display of affection, while their partner needs a certain ambience to set the mood. 

While spouses may approach sex differently, marriage is strengthened when our differences are brought to light and respected together. For example, husbands may sometimes struggle to open up to their wives – but when they feel connected physically, it becomes easier for them to be vulnerable in other parts of their relationship. Meanwhile, a wife might wear her heart on her sleeve, but unless she feels heard by her husband, she is less likely to open herself up to physically intimacy. When both spouses are attuned to caring for one another's needs, a couple can find deep and meaningful connection with one another.

You might be painfully aware that this can be a far cry from the state of intimacy in your marriage right now. Rather than draw us closer to one another, our differences can at times become a point of contention, hurt, anger, or even bitterness. You might want your spouse to go slowly with you, but instead they disregard your needs, and focus only on how they think sex should go. Or, perhaps you are longing for your spouse to express sexual interest in you, but they remain guarded, treating sex as though it is a chore. What God intends to bring two people together may instead drive them further apart. One spouse may want more fulfilling sex and feel frustrated at their spouse's reluctance. A spouse might want less sex until there is more emotional connection for a well-rounded satisfying relationship. So, how to break out of these cycles?

Remember the context

There are factors for both husbands and wives that will either help or hinder the right setting for fulfilling sex. Context can include anything from stress at work, candles and soft music, a foot massage, conflict, or a baby crying in the next room. Any of these things can either create or ruin the right atmosphere for connection. Having a conversation about what helps or hinders the context for mutual sexual fulfillment is a place to start. Write down the factors that create the right context and the factors that have made sex less enjoyable, and then discuss what factors you can control and how you can work together to create the right setting for enjoyable intimacy. 

Affirm your shared desire

If you are frustrated because your spouse moves too quickly, frame this issue in a positive way. Knowing that you both want to pursue enjoyment and satisfaction in the marriage bed changes the conversation from a criticism or attack (“You never spend enough time focusing on me when we have sex!”) to a goal that you both want (“I love having sex with you, and I really want to do what we can so that it keeps getting better!”). Hearing a spouse say that they share your desire for intimacy and look forward to your time together can help you feel valued, even when tonight doesn't work. For most of us, hearing that their spouse is genuinely interested in having a fulfilling sexual relationship will be welcome news.

Assert your need

Assert what it is that you specifically need. This will take some thought beforehand; it might not be enough to say, “I need more foreplay when we have sex.” Think specifically about what it is that you need your spouse to do. Is it holding you while you share what’s happened during the day? Is it setting a timer for a few minutes while focusing only on rubbing your shoulders? It may help to communicate this outside of the bedroom first, rather than in the throes of passion.

Take action

Finally, act on what you’ve talked about. Communication during sex is powerful–it can be a little bit like navigating white water rapids in a raft–it’s even more of a thrill because you are working together towards a shared purpose. Both of you can communicate to the other what you need (“Go slower, that’s feeling really good…”) and ask feedback from the other (“How’s this?”). The end result is that you are not just two people individually seeking your own enjoyment, but a couple, working together to find mutual satisfaction, and this mutuality is precisely how God designed sex to work.

Take delight

The Bible's Song of Songs is a descriptive example of this. This collection of erotic love poetry captures what sexual love between a husbands and wife is meant to look like. Throughout, you’ll notice that both husband and wife are communicating in vivid language what it is that they each desire:

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more delightful than wine” (Song of Songs 1:1).

"I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love" (Song of Songs 2:3-4).

Notice how the woman (both of these verses are spoken by the woman) both affirms what she values (“your love is more delightful than wine” and “I delight to sit in his shade”), and expresses her desire (“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth…let him lead me to the banquet hall”). Much of the rest of this book describes in some imaginative detail how this couple acts on what they have talked about!

Setting the context, affirming your shared goals, asserting what you want, and acting on your plan can lead to enjoying a mutually-connected and delight-filled intimate relationship!

About the author — Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra

Rob Toornstra has pastored a church in Salem Oregon for the past ten years. He has been married to Amy for fifteen years, and together, they are enjoying the adventure of raising two girls and one boy. For fun, Rob enjoys cooking, reading, aviation, and geocaching.  He is the author of "Naked and Unashamed: How the Good News of Jesus Transforms Intimacy" (Doulos, 2014).

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