Nothing like jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire–with both feet no less! But, the truth is the lie: Married Sex Equals Good Sex, is what started me think of this series and I believe it is the number one lie told in the Church. Think for a moment–those of you who have grown up or spent much time in the Church–have you ever heard it suggested that married sex might not be good?
In countless youth groups and purity seminars across the country our children are told sex outside the protection of marriage is wrong, sinful, bad but sex inside the protection of marriage is good. Same act, different circumstances, different verdict. The trouble is they rarely hear what makes sex within marriage good only that marriage some how, magically, makes it so. If we can just get kids to wait we (meaning the Church) think we have done our job. But have we? What makes marital sex good? Is it really just because we “do it” within the confines of marriage?
Please, do not write me off thinking I am talking about technique issues. I am not, not really. The reality of married sex is that at times and for some couples it is mutually fulfilling. It draws the couple closer to one another. It builds their trust and regard one for the other. It mirrors the selfless relationship Christ desires to have with the Church. But all too often, this scenario does NOT describe the sexual aspect of a Christian marriage. And the sad fact is the Church has done little to help couples understand what makes marital sex good let a lone help those whose experience is that marital sex is decidedly NOT good.
Negative marital sexuality includes the problems we eventually run into and those we bring with us. On the one hand, worldly stressors can effect even the healthiest of marriages. On the other hand, our attitudes toward and expectations for marital sex are formed by both our experience and our up bringing. Yet, more and more the solutions to both these issues seem to copycat the solutions the world hands out. We are told to try new positions, use “godly” sex toys, have sex somewhere other than our bedrooms, play fantasy games (you know like letting the wife dress up like a hooker and then having the husband “pick her up” in a bar), or even watch a little porn together. I kid you not, all those ideas “for improving sex in your marriage” came from Christian sources. The real disappointment however is what those kind of solutions reveal about how little our “experts” really understand about marital sex.
We are quick to tell our children, “Wait!” We even tell them, “It is worth the wait”. But often the only reason we say such things is why the world advocates “safe” sex–we are afraid of the physical consequences of not waiting–unwanted babies, abortions, and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, we worry about the spiritual consequences of sex outside of marriage: sin and guilt and falling away from the Church. Yet little is said about the emotional consequences of sex outside of marriage or its impact inside marriage. And even less is discussedwhen: It’s Worth the Wait, turns out not to be a guarantee.
Humanity is wounded. Christians are not immune to this fact. And, we all carry our woundedness into our relationships. When our whole lives we have bought into the message that Married Sex Equals Good Sex and then we get into marriage and find out it is not always good, that at times sex is boring, or frustrating, or abusive. When we have been told sex is beautiful but instead it hurts, or leaves us feeling empty or inadequate. When we imagine we will enjoy an active abundant sex life but discover instead our partner does not want to have sex as often as we do. When we assume our addiction to pornography will go away because now we have a real person in our lives but it rears its ugly head all over again. When we are offended because our spouse lets it slip we are no longer as attractive as we once were and we lose interest in being intimate. When any or all of these scenarios take place in our lives, yet we have it in our heads that Married Sex Equals Good Sex, we become afraid. Afraid to tell anyone else what is happening in our marriage, afraid we are the only ones who have problems, afraid something is seriously wrong with us. Where can we turn, what can we do when we are afraid?
I wish I could say we could turn to the Church. We should be able to turn to the Church. The Church should bethe safest place of all for us to bring our problems, our woundedness. But unless the Church begins to understand how its message that: Married Sex Equals Good Sex, has contributed to the problem the Church will remain an unsafe place for wounded couples to seek help.
Unless we, the Church, begin to build a foundation of grace and forgiveness and lay on that foundation a platform of mutual submission in all the aspects of our lives the idea of mutual submission in marriage, including marital sex, will remain a foreign one. And, unless mutual submission becomes a cornerstone for our marital relationships we can not hope to reflect the kind of marriages, including the kind of intimacy, that Christ desires with His Church.