We’re delighted to have another guest blog from Becky Francis. Becky is a Christian psychosexual therapist working both privately and for Relate in Derby.
How much sex keeps you happy?
This was a headline in the Daily Mirror recently and got me thinking about how any of us view sex in our relationships and indeed, how much sex does keep us and our spouse happy?
I guess the first question we could ask ourselves is what we think sex is?
Perhaps the immediate response to that is penetrative sex, or sexual intercourse, with mutual satisfaction and a harmonious interaction between you and your partner (possibly with harps playing in the background..?). Of course, this may well be your experience and that’s great, however, it often isn’t the case for many. We live in a society that tells us nowadays how we should live, be healthy and enjoy fantastic relationships. The reality is that life isn’t often like that and sometimes we set goals for ourselves that actually aren’t necessarily going to bring the happiness that we are striving for. For example, maybe you connect with your spouse sexually in other ways that don’t involve intercourse. If you are both happy with this, is this a problem? Sex begins with connecting emotionally and interacting with physical affection or verbal communication. So sending an affectionate text or giving an affirming and loving hug could be sex for you right now. Perhaps spending time cuddling on the sofa together watching TV is how you see sex? The point is that sex doesn’t have to involve the conventional view of sex that we are all familiar with, but can be a lot of different ways that you and your partner connect that is intimate and only involves the two of you.
The second question we may want to reflect on is does our spouse agree with us and have we talked about it?
As a sex therapist, one of the fundamental questions I ask each couple in individual sessions, is what their goals are. Often these are the same, but sometimes the goals are totally different and therapy takes on an alternative route. A couple needs to be aligned and content and happy with their sex life and exploration. In fact, some couples I have seen have explored many variations of sex for themselves that haven’t involved penetration, for a prolonged period of time, but what brings them to therapy is that they want to start a family. They may not necessarily have been unhappy with their sex life, but clearly something needed to change in order for them to conceive. Of course, however, for some people sex does need to involve intercourse and if that becomes a problem for one partner, friction occurs and it maybe time to seek help.
Additionally, sex can change throughout our married life, getting older or outside influences such as small children, work pressures, depression or illness can impact on the quality of our sex life. I think one of the things to remember here is that often this is for a season or a new stage in life and not to panic, but seek help if necessary and always try and communicate about it. You will certainly not be the first or last couple who experience a sexual problem in their married life at some point.
Thirdly, we may want to think what our boundaries are in our sexual relationship and have we prayed about that?
God created sex and wants us to enjoy a fulfilling sexual relationship, whatever that looks like for us personally. But in today’s world we are subjected to the notion that we are free to be and do what we want as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else and makes us happy. As Christians, we know that this isn’t actually true.
God’s desire is for us to have monogamous sexual relationships within the boundaries of marriage. 1 Cor 6: 18-20 explains to us that our bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit and encourages us to glorify God in our bodies as we were created by Him. So pray together and ask God to show you what your boundaries are in your own sexual exploration and satisfaction.
I wonder if we could maybe define “sex” by something we would only do with our spouse, so an intimate action or activity that we wouldn’t do with anyone else? Whether that be lying naked together, having a bath together, sending intimate texts or hugging in a more loving way, or perhaps intercourse. Have we checked this out recently and talked to our spouse about our sex life?
For further reading:
Sex in a Loving Relationship by Sarah Litvinoff (Relate books)
The New Male Sexuality by Bernie Zilbergeld
Becoming Orgasmic by Julia Heiman
Becky is a Christian relationship & psychosexual therapist.