Friday, March 5, 2010

Building Intimacy in Your Marriage

I was givin the priceless gift of attending our church's annual Women's Retreat last weekend.  The entire thing was wonderfully encouraging.  All the crying left my eyes stinging for hours after I returned home.  Surly I'm not the only one who loves a good cry and sort of measures the impact of time spent with friends by the number of tears shed or the voice remaining after hysterical laughter.

Each of the sessions spoke to me, but the Intimacy one had a special impact.  I've had a lot of friends ask about it, so I thought a blog post was in order.

Thank you to my friend Connie for leading the session!  You did an excellent job and women throughout the church are still talking about it.

Connie opened with some scripture that gave me a totally new perspective.

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."  Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him."  Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; he shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."  Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed."  Genesis 2:15-25 (ESV)

At this point in time, sin had not yet entered the world...  The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Enter sin...

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"  

This is not exactly what God said.  Eve added "neither shall you touch it".  She embellished the truth. 

"But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and he ate."

Do you see how Satan twisted the truth and that changed Eve's perspective?

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths."  Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV)

Sin can so easily change our perspective of intimacy.

When pornography enters, our view of intimacy is distorted.  When childhood sexual abuse enters, the victim's view of intimacy is shattered.  When temptation and peer pressure enter into the life of a young person, it changes their perception of intimacy and purity.

And what human being doesn't feel the societal pressure to look a certain way?  For so many, those ideals lead to a terribly distorted view of themselves, totally hindering God's design for pure intimacy between husband and wife.

Living in a sinful world, it is critical that we keep this in mind at all times.  We have to be intentional about overcoming the impact of sin and rejecting the world's lies.

***Warning***  From here on out, you might consider the information to be rated PG13.  Just thought I'd give you a heads-up in case you're reading with a 7 year old peering over your shoulder.

Myth busters...

Myth #1 - We shouldn't talk about sex.

Truth - God talks about sex, so clearly He has no issue with us talking about it!  In fact, he desires for open communication between husband and wife.  We need to communicate with one another about all aspects of our intimacy - what works, what doesn't, what's agreeable in the marriage bed, what's getting in the way, medical concerns.  In addition to talking with our spouses, it is important for us to seek medical attention when necessary.  As we age and have children, our bodies change.  Our husbands' bodies change as well.

Myth #2 - If you haven't had an orgasm during sex, it means you can't.

Truth - Statistics show that 10% of women are unable to achieve orgasm, 30% of women can achieve orgasm through penetration, leaving 60% of women (couples) needing to try another source of stimulation.  There are lubricants to meet varying needs.

Myth #3 - I can't do anything to improve my sex drive.

Truth - There are a lot of things you can do to improve your sex drive.  Get some exercise.  Too busy?  Say no to other things so you can say yes to your husband.  Openly communicate what you need with your spouse.  Medications can dramatically impact sex drive.  Allergy meds are drying, birth control pills attribute to hormonal changes, hypertension meds can stifle sex drive, etc...  Read about your medications and talk to your doctor about alternatives.  See a doctor if you have a medical issue - they happen to the best of us.

Myth #4 - He wants sex all the time.

Truth - Most men do not want sex all the time.  They ask for it all the time because they never know when we might say yes.

This led to a discussion on love languages...  For many men "touch" is at the top of their list and for many women (especially mothers) anything but touch is at the top of their list.  Why?  For many moms, it's because we're busy all day taking care of the kids - feeding, schooling, bathing, holding, playing...  And when we're not focused on the kids, we're cleaning house, running errands, paying bills, volunteering, or working.  We're all served out and touched out.  We're exhausted and we have legitimate headaches.  We want to hear uplifting words, we want some help, we want some heart-to-heart time with our husbands.  Sometimes we want to be left alone.  We do not want to do one more thing for one more person.  Yes...  We all-too-often mistakenly consider intimacy a task.

The truth is...  When we let all of our excuses go, intimacy is enjoyable for both husband and wife.  (It can also rejuvenate the tired mother and relieve her of her headache!)  It is especially meaningful for our husbands.  (And we should be flattered and affirmed that they want to be intimate with the woman we incorrectly see as imperfect and unattractive.)  When they get that "yes" from us, they are affirmed.  They are loved and accepted.  And it is amazing to see what a smiley-faced, affirmed, loved and accepted husband is willing to do for his wife!  (insert my own smile here...)  When we embrace intimacy as a part of our lives, a lovely cycle of connection and mutual fulfillment begins.

Myth #5 - Marital intimacy isn't important to God.

Truth - It is most definitely important to God.

"Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: "It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman." But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.  The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 (ESV)

At the end of the day, I am tempted to write this on my bathroom mirror as an important reminder:
"I am the one right expression of my husband's sexuality."

For further reading:

The Fig Leaf Conspiracy:  Revealing Sexuality as it was Mean to Be by Jimmy Evans

No More Headaches:  Enjoying Sex & Intimacy in Marriage by Dr. Juli Slattery

Naked and Not Ashamed:  How God Redeems Our Sexuality by Dan Scott

Every Man's Battle:  Ever Man's Guide to Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker with Mike Yorkey, women's health issues


The Howell Family said...

What a wonderful post! Intimacy in marriage is SO important and exactly the way God designed us! Thank you for being willing to share the information! I wish I could have heard the session on Saturday, but this post is the next best thing!

Kerrie McLoughlin said...

i needed this. thank you.