“Write what you know.” ― Mark Twain
Most of our friends know that my husband and I didn’t start our marriage off in a blissful state of romance. We most definitely weren’t “that couple” who spent their first years of marriage gazing into each other’s eyes while gushing over love notes and feeding each other chocolate on special love getaways. Well, maybe we ate a lot of chocolate back then, but it was more of a coping mechanism than a sign of affection.
So we get it. We get what it’s like to start off and continue in a very difficult marriage. We understand what it is like to strive to stay committed in a relationship that, at times, was not only disconnected but very toxic. Andy and I brought our own damaged viewpoints and perceptions of what marriage should be when we were married eleven years ago. The process in which God brought radical healing to our marriage is too lengthy to go into here, but I can say that we have complete faith for any marriage to experience restoration producing close connection.
The purpose of our lives is to experience a beautifully meshed communion with Jesus. This relationship is at the core of who we are and why we were created by Him. The lie that comes against this purpose is that we are obedient slaves living under the law and not sons and daughters of God. Furthermore, this lie states that, our actions dictate our right standing with God. That we can approach God because we behaviored our way into relationship with Him. Well, that’s religion. Religion puts demands on people that no one can perform. It leaves people without support, let alone transformation. It says you need to act and look a certain way before you are loved yet won’t be there in the process with you.
Religion is a distant God.
Religion is not Jesus.
Jesus is friendship, trust, and intimacy, everything religion is not.
What does this have to do with a healthy sex life?
As my husband and I work with those seeking God’s purpose in their identity, which often involves sexuality, we know first hand there is such a high percentage of Christians who have misconceptions about marriage and sex. Nothing is more upsetting than to see believers settling for religion, duty, and even out right abuse when it comes to sex. Often how people view their relationship with God plays out in their marriage, therefore, manifesting in their intimate times with their spouse.
When two hearts are disconnected, sex becomes an act instead of an expression. Sex becomes a religious duty instead of the deeply intimate connection God created it to be.
Am I saying that unless all moons align, your boss promoted you at work, and that special song comes on the radio (spotify…who listens to a radio anymore), then that’s when your supposed to have sex? Am I saying we only get down and boogie when the feelin is so so right? Absolutely not! However, as my husband and I learned early in this process, sex is the great barometer for our marriage. When we aren’t having sex we usually are disconnected. Currently, when we see we disconnections has settled into our lives, our goal is to face it together and no longer run from conflict. As we work out the disconnection, healthy sex follows. Our discipline is in the connection, which results in a healthy sex life. Discipline in sex without connection first results in religious, lifeless sex. Disconnected sex needs to have no place in our homes. It is the entry point of death. It is the entry point of the enemy who wants to destroy marriages. We see this repeatedly in the people we minister to.
Sexual disconnection and dysfunction in marriages runs rampant at various levels in our churches. It ranges from porn addictions, marriages that have little to no sex at all, infidelity, and abusive situations, just to name a few areas. Sex in marriage is such a broad subject but I’d like to address a few mindsets that are hindering Christian couples in intimacy.
Sex as a means to keep your spouse from sexual sin
All too often spouses believe the lie that their lack of sexual availability to their spouse leads to pornography usage. You’ll notice I’m saying spouse and not a husband, because we’ve seen pornography usage in both genders. I’ve said it a million times, sin has no gender preference. If your spouse seeks sexual fulfillment through sexual sin, it damages your marriage. God desires us to be in connected and safe marriages. I am not responsible for my husband sinning. He is not responsible for my character. You may be unavailable sexually for your spouse but that is a symptom of another issue. Should it stay that way? No, but the fix is not in a sexual act. Sex isn’t the heart of the issue. Nevertheless, regardless of the root issues, sin is never the fault of another person. Assuming blame for someone else’s sin pattern is pride. Effectively you are assuming the role of God in their life. You mistakenly think you can control their choices by engaging sexually with your spouse in order to keep him or her “out of trouble”.
As a spouse of someone who is sinning sexually, your responsibility is to love them. Loving them means knowing that the Lord cares for your heart. If you have an unresponsive or unrepentive spouse (one who’s actions are not changing) you may need to move out. Sometimes love means you don’t enable your spouse to treat you like you’re the reason they won’t allow the Lord to change them.
My husband and I both struggled with porn for many years in our lives and we understand that no one is responsible for our sin choices. The sooner someone realizes that, the sooner they can own the issue and change with God’s guidance. If your spouse blames you for their behavior then they aren’t owning it. I’m responsible for loving my spouse as they seek God’s freedom from the bondages of sin, however, this means that my spouse may have limited access to my heart for a season. This means for some men and women who are recovering from the betrayal of sexual sin in their spouse, it’s ok to say I’m not ready to be intimate until trust is rebuilt. If your spouse is repentive and no longer bound, then it is God’s heart to restore sexual intimacy, but that will take time. The key is to press through the pain and not to give up. You’re not going to be able to see God restore all things in your marriage when there’s been a betrayal in the past unless you take the risk of being vulnerable again after trust is rebuilt.
In a healthy relationship there are times when one spouse wants to be intimate and the other is tired. This is a common issue in homes. However, if you’re the tired spouse and decide to engage sexually it is out of sacrificial love that is yours to give away. It’s from a full heart. A heart that is cherished and respected and a heart that truly can trust their spouse. There’s a big difference between having sex when you’re tired and don’t really feel like it, to having sex when you’re tired and you’re afraid that if you don’t fulfill your “duty” it is license for your spouse to sin.
Sex when you’re afraid
Being connected means you feel valued and safe to respectfully share how you are experiencing your spouse. There’s been times when we have gone to be intimate and things surface emotionally that we didn’t realize were there dormant until we purposed to connect sexually. If you do not feel safe, valued, and respected in your marriage sex is not going to fix that or allow you to work through those issues that naturally come up in a marriage.
The God of the universe sent His son Jesus humbly on a donkey to die on a cross so that He could have a loving and approachable relationship with you. A relationship that was not forced or demanded, but one that invited you safely into his arms, why would you think He requires anything less in your marriage. Love is a sacrifice but not a sacrifice that is demanded. We all get to choose how we lay this down for each other but when someone demands or uses fear to get it – this is no sacrifice at all. It is fear driven. Fear and manipulation are not love. If it is taken, it is not given in love.
Sex is everything
We live in an over sexualized, youth driven society. It says the fitter, prettier, successful, and sexual you are the more you are living life.
Like I have said, sex is a gauge in a marriage, but it is not our identity. I don’t believe that on the day I meet Jesus He’s going to give me an account of how many times I had sex with my husband. “Well Liz, if you would have made it into this bracket [points to number chart] you could have had the bigger mansion. One with a pool…”
Nope. That is other religions.
You can’t quantify love. Religion wants you to quantify. My responsibility is to steward sex in my marriage as a means to love my husband. Sex in my marriage points to my relationship with God. It is a means to love through passionate connection.
It isn’t a competition or trophy as some sort of prize. Whenever I hear people bragging about their sex life with their spouse I pretty much know they probably don’t have a great sex life. When you are secure and honest about your marriage you understand it is a war to stay connected. That sex can be euphoric at times and mediocre other times. There are times when sex is a mountain top experience and times where you go, “well… that was awkward.” It varies as our lives shift and grow in Christ. The goal, however, is to fight for our marriages to stay connected. Great sex is connected sex. Hot sex is Christ centered sex where the Holy Spirit is invited to guide your marriage in all ways.
In all of these sexual areas, one belief seem to be prevalent that keeps Christian couples from experiencing all God has for them. This is the belief that things are hopeless, therefore, they settle. They stop engaging in the battle. They settle for less due to fear, rejection, passivity, etc. Our prayer is that we walk in all that the Lord has for us in our marriage.
If you’re married you need to have sex.
If you are continually afraid or adverse to sex you need to seek the Lord on bringing restoration in your life.
If you have an illness or condition where you are unable to have sex, then get creative. It’s all about the heart connection.
Be intimate and radically love your spouse.
Don’t settle for apathy. Ask Jesus to reveal His heart for your sex life with your spouse and trust that He will guide you as messy at it may feel when you begin to address the mindsets that have kept you bound.
Stay in the Word, stay connected and open to healthy people who can help bring strength to your marriage, say connected to a healthy church where leaders demonstrate healthy marriages, and most of all give the Lord access to your sex life.
2 Corinthians 3:17 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
Liz Flaherty lives in South Carolina with her husband Andy. They’ve been married since 2005, and have spent the majority of their marriage ministering to and mentoring people in areas of sexual wholeness and identity. In her book, The God of My Parents, Liz shares her powerful testimony in which she faced immense grief, rejection, drug abuse, pornography, and homosexuality. Her heart is to inspire the Christian community to address these issues with love, respect and honesty.
Liz and Andy have two cats, named Paddie and Ginger.