What's the most disturbing thing we see in our work as sex therapists? It's the addictive distortion of sex. Not just the pain of the husband who finds his wife is leaving him for a relationship she developed on chat lines, or a young wife who wakes up at 1 o'clock in the morning and finds her husband on the internet masturbating to pornography.
It's the wife who feels like the object of her husband's sexual addictive personality. Although he may no longer go to porn, now he looks at her and touches her in ways that are not about intimacy and oneness, but about meeting his "needs" and fulfilling his internal fantasies.
The apostle Paul says it so well: "There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much a spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, 'The two become one.' Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever" (1 Corinthians 6:16-17, The Message).
Addiction is the opposite of intimacy. When a person gains control of his addictive behavior he must also understand and allow God to fill the emptiness that was fertile ground for his hook to pornography or other addictive behavior. Otherwise, he'll seek to fill that same emptiness through sex with his wife. As one wife expressed it, "The way he looks at me makes me feel like a sexual object rather than that he cares about me." A focus on oneness and mutuality is essential to change this addictive distortion of the expression of sex.
True intimacy occurs when we make the shift from attraction to attachment—deep, connected oneness that enjoys each other even when we aren't attractive.
Feelings change once you live with someone and can have sex every day. But the passion that comes out of closeness, rather than being dependent on attraction, only gets better over the years.
To identify where you are in your sexual relationship, ask yourself a few questions:
Does the anticipation of being together sexually produce feelings of pleasure, excitement, and arousal? Or does it produce a feeling of pressure, guilt, or obligation? Do you feel satisfaction, relaxation, and enjoyment after sex? Or guilt, resentment, or anger?
If the anticipation and completion of sexual activity usually produces positive feelings in both you and your spouse, then your sexual relationship is working for you. If one or both are left with negative feelings, then there's a problem.
Wherever you are in your sexual journey as a couple, work at the mystery, knowing that you can never fully know or be known; strive for oneness, knowing there will always be two of you; pursue a mutually, satisfying sex life that has the potential to grow over your lifetime. But above all thank God for making you as you are, and invite him into your sexual times together.
Clifford and Joyce Penner, MP advisory board members, are Christian sex therapists and co-authors of numerous books including,The Married Guy's Guide to Great Sex (Tyndale).
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