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God's Rules for Sex

God's Rules for Sex
Is there a uniquely Christian way to make love? I mean, should Christian couples limit their sexual expression based on certain biblical rules? If so, what are those rules? And are they relationship rules or physical rules—or both?

Louis: You are right in thinking that sex should be different for Christian couples. Our experience tells us that Christian lovemaking should be the most passionate, erotic, playful and super-satisfying expression of sexuality known to humankind. This is because our sexuality is a powerful gift of the Creator. We're free in Christ to delight in our physical being and rest secure in our individual worth (not dependent on artificial gimmicks to prop up sagging egos). When, as Christians, we follow God's guidelines about relational faithfulness, loving kindness and mutual submissiveness, the resulting sex is free from guilt and doubt.

So is there a "Christian way" to achieve this? Only in the sense of showing mutual respect and expressing physically the desire to celebrate the oneness of marriage in every way possible. In my opinion, the Bible contains no rules or guidelines for specific, prescribed lovemaking techniques. I've heard interpretations of the Song of Solomon that suggest positions for intercourse, the delights of oral sex and the proper use of perfumes. I personally see those poetic passages not as instructions but as expressions of erotic images reflecting God's approval of marital sex.

So in physical terms, the Scriptures aren't specific about sexual technique. Levitical law required abstinence during a woman's menstrual flow, and contemporary medical evidence suggests that women are more susceptible to some diseases during those days. Scripture outlaws anal intercourse, and we know today that it carries a much greater risk of sexually transmitted disease. The same is true of sexual promiscuity, which also is condemned in the Bible. Otherwise, all the marvelous sexual variety spouses can use to bring each other pleasure seems to have God's stamp of approval.

Regarding the relationship aspects of sex, the Bible has plenty to say about how love should look. All those imperatives of how we are to treat one another—such as putting others first—apply to sexual relations with your spouse as much as they do to brotherly love. So as you share life with your mate, apply a little kindness, gentleness and self-sacrifice along with lots of forgiveness and forbearance, and watch your sexual passion explode. For Melissa and me, some of our best-ever sex has followed intense conflict, confession and forgiveness.

Melissa: God's way is always best. He wants you to have a fantastic marital relationship including, of course, wonderful sex. So as you make adjustments in your sexual relationship, you can count on God's help as you move together in the direction he desires—increased oneness and unselfishness. If, however, your sexual desire is driven by selfishness or other sin, you're on your own. God isn't going to help you move in the wrong direction.

But be encouraged. As you pursue enjoyable sex as believers, God can help bolster your energy and ingenuity. Count on him to supply the help you're seeking.

Post-Honeymoon Blues
My wife and I have been married for six months, and every aspect of our relationship is great—except sex. After we got back from our honeymoon, our sex life has gone slowly down the drain. She doesn't even like to kiss me anymore.

I find myself dreaming that I'm dating other women, then wake up to find I'm still in my disappointing marriage. I love my wife and I'm attracted to her, but I'm tired of feeling rejected. Is this what the next 40 years are going to be like?

Louis: We're always relieved when couples ask for help after being married just six months. Your honesty and openness practically guarantee that you won't experience 40 years of sexual isolation.

Early sexual adjustments are often difficult. The popular culture's notion of dynamite sex on the honeymoon and ever after is explosive only in its inaccuracy. In the first place, you're having to deal with vast gender differences. These range from a woman's typical view that sex is a relational expression contrasting with a man's customary approach to sex as physiological gratification. But it doesn't end there. We view sex differently as well when it comes to the types of turn-ons that we find effective and the variation in male-female response curves. (Men get excited more quickly.)

Understanding these variables is a necessary starting point for solving sexual difficulties. Sometimes all we need to do to overcome the blocks to sexual pleasure is to recognize and discuss our differences. But more commonly, some outside counsel is necessary.

Since sex is such a personal, and often threatening, subject, many couples retreat quickly when it's not working well. They don't want to admit the problems but instead begin to build up fearfulness and anger. Men are particularly sensitive and defensive about sexual difficulties. Sometimes in counseling, we hear husbands say, "I'm sure my wife will never be willing to talk with you about our sexual problems." Then we see the wife who shares even more openly than her husband. So let us encourage you to talk with a competent counselor at your earliest possible opportunity.

Melissa: If you and your wife are disappointed with sex, if it isn't all you thought it would be, you have lots of company. Good sex, "real sex," is something that needs to be cultivated and nurtured. Unfortunately, we don't hear this message enough in our culture. If we knew the facts going into marriage, it might cut down on some of the disappointment.

Every part of marriage requires adjusting to another person and his or her wants and needs. That adjustment is tough, and sex may be one of the toughest parts of a new marriage. But you can learn as much as you can about your spouse and about sexual techniques and approaches that would heighten your wife's interest and enhance her comfort level. It is a good investment of time and energy. Forty years of great sex is worth it.

Sudden Drop in Interest
After five years of marriage, we find that things keep going wrong in bed. We start out fine, foreplay is great, then my husband suddenly loses his erection. He makes excuses like he's tired or stressed out, but I can't help but imagine the worst—like maybe he's having an affair. What else could cause a sudden drop in his desire?

Louis: For young men, the most common factors contributing to impotence are fatigue and stress—so your husband may simply be telling the truth. Our culture leads us to believe that all guys are always ready and eager for sex, but that's just not the case. There are many times when a man may not be able to function.

There are other factors to consider, of course, and you may want to talk to your husband about some of them. Certain medications can interfere with male sexual physiology. Anxiety about sexual prowess is a common impediment to erectile function. (Once a man has failed to maintain an erection, his fear of future failure can demolish his self-confidence.) Use of alcohol or illicit drugs can affect sexual function. Depression also is commonly associated with a decrease in libido.

Relational issues are always crucial. How are you getting along outside the bedroom? Unresolved conflict in the marriage can cause men and women alike to become resistant to sex. In addition, freedom in sexual play depends on a sense of trust and safety, so guilt over real or imagined sin can also interrupt lovemaking. Any of these factors are possible culprits.

Melissa: The first step to take in solving this dilemma is to talk to each other. Sexual dysfunction feels very threatening to men. Your husband may feel embarrassed, sad, angry, scared or even hopeless. He needs your reassurances, tenderness, love and praise.

If you can both get beyond the negative feelings, you can work together to find a solution. Don't let the strong feelings associated with the problem keep you from pressing on to discuss things. Really talk about what's been going on and how each of you feels about it. Get some professional counseling if you feel you need it. This is such an important part of your life—don't ignore it.

Real Sex columnists Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., were marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counselled clergy couples. Louis McBurney passed away January 20, 2009.

Louis and Melissa aren't able to respond personally to letters from readers. But if you have a Real Sex question you would like them to address in this column, send it to:

Real Sex
Marriage Partnership
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, IL 60188
e-mail: mp@marriagepartnership.com

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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