Is Sex a Priority (or an Afterthought?) in Your Marriage?

Have you ever walked through a beautiful garden?

The forethought and planning is self-evident. Plants have been put in certain places because of factors like sunshine, soil drainage, water, and access. From the first week on earth, when Adam was placed in the garden, humans have known that a garden needs planning and CARE in order to be beautiful, productive, and beneficial.

It would be absurd to look at an amazing garden and think it all just grew accidentally.

It’s the same with sex.

Is SEX a PRIORITY, or an AFTERTHOUGHT, in Your Marriage? // jessconnell.com

Like a lovely garden, a good, healthy marital sex life:

  • does not just “happen”
  • is not accidental
  • doesn’t just get gifted to us from God above, on our wedding day,
  • is not a matter of chance or chemistry
  • doesn’t continue effortlessly
  • is not a success or failure based merely on hormones

No… I believe virtually ANY marriage can grow in this area, if we are willing to tend it as we would carefully tend a garden.

CONSIDER:

  • ANY plant, even the most beautiful and robust, will die if left without water and sun.
  • Even the most mundane plant can grow stronger and more beautiful if planted and tended according to its growth patterns and needs.

HOW MUCH FORETHOUGHT YOU GIVE TO SEX?

It may sound boring… or perhaps, to you, it sounds sinful… but let me ask:

  • Do you THINK about your intimacy with your husband?
  • Have you made sex a PRIORITY in your heart, life, energy, and schedule?

In the same way a garden requires regular attention, intimacy in our marriages also require care.

  • Have “weeds” been allowed to grow and overtake the health of your sexual relationship?
  • Are you focusing on other things and forgetting to “fertilize” and “water” this part of your relationship?
  • Has your sexual relationship grown in unhealthy ways that will, over time, weaken it? (i.e., are you letting in perverted, demeaning practices that the world calls “good?”)
  • Are aspects of your marital intimacy no longer serving your needs and desires as a couple?

Let me ask you again:

Is sex a PRIORITY, or an AFTERTHOUGHT, in your marriage?

Here are some things to consider:

  • Are you both satisfied and content with the frequency of intimacy?
  • Do you still faithfully delight in each other, alone?
  • Has this area taken the back burner to other things in life (work, kids, stress, sleep)?
  • Is this an area you need to joyfully, purposefully reclaim?

IN REGARD TO TIMING:

  • Do you need to “schedule” sex, for a time, to get back in a healthier regularity of sex? — though this can seem boring or “unsexy,” we don’t think it’s boring to attend church every Sunday at 10:30AM, or to attend our teen’s extracurricular event every Thursday at 7PM. Sometimes scheduling can keep us on-track with things that are important to us.
  • Do you need to set a mental “reminder” so that you don’t let it go beyond X number of days before you hug and kiss him, and let him know you desire him?
  • Do you need to talk about this? Sometimes, just like with planting a garden, you need to assess how things are working. It can feel awkward, but seriously… this is a “WORTH-IT” topic to discuss with your husband: “What do we need to do differently this year?” “Is there something we could do differently that would help us connect more regularly?” “Have we let bitterness grow in our relationship?” “Have we grown selfish in ways that are affecting our sexual interactions?”)
  • Consider different times of day. Would 5:30AM be better for you both during this season? Would Saturday and Sunday afternoons, while the little ones nap, be a better time for you both? Look at your lives realistically and see where you could make time for one another.
  • Do the kids need an earlier bedtime? Too many parents use kids as an excuse to not connect. Guess what? Before the age of lightbulbs and cell phones, most people were probably in bed not long after dark… especially children. It is OKAY to put them to bed at 8, 8:30 (yes even at older ages) so that you can connect intimately with the love of your life.

IN REGARD TO DESIRE:

  • Do you need to talk to a doctor? Does your husband? Can you lovingly appeal to him, for the good of your relationship, to seek medical input on this? Sometimes there are legitimate physical or hormonal issues happening that are WORTH seeing a doctor about. This is nothing shameful… as with migraines or diabetes, there may be medical solutions available to you.
  • It’s like exercise… just starting it can help you be more “into” it than you were before you began.
  • Perhaps, if you struggle with low desire, you need to choose to revel in the fact that your husband desires ONLY YOU. (This recent segment of “Ask Pastor John” is an excellent 8-minutes on this topic.)

IN REGARD TO APPEARANCE:

  • Do you work to be tidy, healthy, and attractive to your husband? Though I certainly understand mommy exhaustion, we also should desire to bless and delight our husbands. One way we can do that is by intentionally caring for our physical appearance in ways that they like and find attractive.
  • Are you carrying baggage and shame about your body? Do you need to reassess your body in light of what God says about how He made you, rather than the unrealistic images the world pushes in front of your eyes?
  • Do you let your husband SEE you, or is it always “lights out?” Your husband married YOU, and wanted YOU. Rejoice in that! Your body is his. Even with dimmed lights, or a candlelit room, let your husband see and delight in your body.

 

Please share in the comments:

  • Do you have other thoughts or questions?
  • Suggestions for other ways to bless our husbands in this area?

Let’s keep growing as wives, “tend” to our sexual relationship with our husbands… and purposefully LOVE them!

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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26 Responses

  1. Sara says:

    My husband is the one who rejects me sexually. I know I should accept that it is the way God made him but it is very hard on me. He has always had little desire and tells me I am lucky for he loves me for my soul. The worst part is, I feel so guilty for asking him, and my friends keep telling me how much they wish their husbands did not ask for sex. Sigh.

    • Jess Connell says:

      You’re not alone, Sara. A great many women find themselves in your position, and (in our culture) believe themselves to be an anomaly.

      Actually though, when we read 1 Cor 7, that’s one of the reasons why verse 3 lists the husband’s obligation to his wife first. My understanding is that, culturally, the Jews saw this as a greater potential struggle for husbands than for wives… that husbands were the ones seen as more likely to withhold/not give of themselves sexually.

      I’m sorry for the position you find yourself in. Ideally, you and your husband would be in a church situation where the elders would be exhorting him in the way that I’m exhorting women here. There really are hormonal issues that may be at work here, and I would encourage you (or any other woman reading that is in your position) to do three things:
      (1) Keep working really hard to be CONTENT… to let GOD be the One that satisfies you… to live in a way that honors and cherishes your husband despite his lack of desire.
      (2) Pray about this. Pray that God will teach and instruct your husband’s heart in this area, and that God will soften your heart toward him and not allow a root of bitterness to grow between the two of you in this area.
      (3) Consider if there is a way for you to lovingly appeal to him to see BOTH a pastor to receive biblical counsel, AND a doctor in regard to hormone levels (or other potential physical things happening that may be affecting this). This really is an area where we are affected in both body & spirit.

      Unfortunately, and I am in no way accusing your husband of this, but a great many husbands now are addicted to pornography and allow this to substitute for intimacy, and this is obviously a sin issue… it makes me sad that I have to mention it, but the truth is that in many situations where a husband is withholding intimate affection, pornography is a factor. So this, too, would be an area where you might discern (with the Spirit’s help) whether you or a sensitive pastor, wise in counseling, might be able to probe deeper and see if there are sin issues at work.

      Do know that you are not alone, that I have received many e-mails and comments over the years from women in your exact position. We have a misperception about this, culturally, and this is not (sadly) as uncommon as we may perceive that it is.
      Jess

    • Kelli Motzkus says:

      Maybe your husband has some medical issues he is embarrassed about that he needs medical attention for?! Maybe talk to him about it in a concerning way for him. He is probably taking it personal when you go to him telling him your feelings (which is good) but it may just need a different approach. Though many men will not go to the dr for something like this! Maybe you could both do some research if he tells you what may really be going on?! Just a thought. Praying things can be resolved so you can both be satisfied in this area!

  2. Betsy says:

    Great article! I often drink coffee or tea in the afternoons so that I can stay up late enough to “be” with my husband at night. It’s totally worth it, even though I do love sleep, too. We miss the days of little kids that couldn’t tell time and could go to bed early several nights a week. There was a season where I’d text him and say, “oh, the boys are going to bed at 6 tonight,” and he’d know just what it meant! :)

  3. Vanessa says:

    A great article. I love the way you asked if sex is a priority or an afterthought. My husband and I discovered each other, and grew together. We talk to each other, and laugh and have code words. BUT. A big but. Initially, in the first few days, weeks and months of our marriage, I ( I recently found out we) was terrified I was doing something sinful, in enjoying myself. Why? My family did not really talk to me about sex. I din’t see much physical affection outside of movies, and I was filled with cultural misconceptions. I also had body image and insecurity issues, which I would turn back on my husband during fights.

    I’m glad we had various biblical teaching, and a couple of bible studies in our church , which specifically focused on how God sees me(us ) , which gave me the courage to stop questioning my husband, and trust him when he called me beautiful and sexy.
    This happened during the first couple years of marriage, and now a few years (and a couple of kids) later. We make sex a priority, and do so frequently.

    I’m so glad you have started writing this, to encourage other women( like me) so that we don’t have to fumble our way through something this important in and for our marriages, with only the world’s view of sex. So many of us have questions, and can’t or won’t ask them because (a) we don’t have a safe place(person) to ask or (b) we think they will laugh at us, or consider us sinful, or perverted for asking sex related questions and (c) we don’t have enough of a biblical understanding of the love (sex included) between a husband and wife.

    • Vanessa says:

      Would you consider either giving some more practical tips that worked for you, or accepting some suggestions from me and others to help women? I love what you wrote in one of your blogs about giving biblical advice as well as practical advice.
      Vanessa?

      • Jess Connell says:

        Yup, I’m open to that, Vanessa. Although (and those who’ve read for any length of time know this about me), I definitely want to steer clear of tawdry, too-detailed descriptions/specifics.

        This area– of marital intimacy– is private, honorable, and subject to a lot of gray areas where believers can potentially disagree (i.e., which sex acts are acceptable within marriage? etc.). I don’t want to offend readers, and yet, I do want to provide helpful, marriage-strengthening specifics where my conscience allows.

        What sorts of practical tips do you have in mind?
        There are plenty of books, blogs, and websites out there that give “sex advice” for believers… and yet, it seems like there are specific angles you’re thinking about here.

        Do you mean practical tips like how to make this area a priority (for example, keeping your lingerie, bras, and panties attractive by purging the stretched elastic & hole-ridden? scheduling intimacy?, texting each other in ways that clearly signal “sex is gonna happen fo’ sho’ tonight”?)?

        Or do you mean practical tips about intimacy in general?

        Just trying to understand if you’re asking me to do that here, in the comments, in regard to this topic, or on a different post, about intimacy in general or various aspects of married sex. It’s the end of a long day, so I may be over thinking this question, LOL. 😉

        • Laura says:

          I would like to see practical tips for how to make it a priority and how to feel ‘in the mood’ when I am so tired… But I guess you kind of already did that a bit in this post.

          • Evie says:

            Laura – I’m with ya. I just had my 2nd baby five months ago and in my mind, bed is for SLEEEEP! I am so tired as well, and sex truly is one of the last things on my mind these days. My husband likes to enjoy it regularly (which I’m glad), so there is a pretty big discrepency right now! My desire in the negative range, but I think it’s due to hormones and also breastfeeding, and waking up multiple times per night w/ the baby. Also just the demands of the day. Like Jess has said in another post, even though I almost never “want” to these days, I am never sorry that I did.

            But in addition to what she suggested above, one piece of advice an older woman gave me a few years ago was to go to bed every night expecting to have sex or some form of intimacy. That way I’m not like “UGH … seriously? Didn’t we just do this x number of days ago? I just want to sleep.” I’ve noticed for myself that even though I am hardly ever in any kind of mood lately, if I’m getting ready for bed w/ the mindset of “I’m going to plan that something will happen tonight so I’m not annoyed if he makes some sort of suggestion.” I really do enjoy it during and after, but it isn’t something I’m daydreaming about or anything. I finally told my husband that in my current season of life, it really annoys me if he just starts being grope-y or sexual with me. I’m in “mommy mode” most of the day and it just makes my skin crawl to have him be grabby (even though I am thankful he wants to!!!!) So, he was very understanding and I discovered that I am much much more receptive & likely to be in the mood when he just offers to give me a back or neck massage for awhie. This sort of “gradually” puts me in the zone instead of going from ICE COLD to jumping in the sack. I told him I just can’t switch gears that quickly so the back rub thing has really helped!

          • Evie says:

            I apologize for my post coming across so irritable! :) I didn’t mean for it to. I really have noticed lately that intimacy is an afterthought (and it comes across in my actions). When I get the focus off of myself and focus more on pleasing my husband (even when I’m tired or moody), I find that I end up enjoying it. Sometimes it is a sacrifice but it’s really worth it!

          • Jess Connell says:

            I think waiting to feel “in the mood” may be part of the problem.

            I have a few thoughts on this–
            (1) Help your husband know how to “help” you be in the mood… for example, if you’re distracted by dishes, invite him to help you… “Hey, if we get these knocked out together, we’ll get to bed sooner with me less tired.” Or, “it’s hard for me to relax at the end of a long day; would you mind rubbing my shoulders for a bit?” Or, “if you’ll get the kids to bed, I’ll hop in & take a hot bath & be ready to go (wink/smile) once we’re both finished.” Etc. It’s OK to ASK for things that will help you connect with him.

            (2) Decide in advance that you’re going to expect it to happen. Someone else mentioned going to bed each night with the expectation that something will happen. I think that’s a good attitude. I’ve found it personally helpful, unless one of us is sick, to mentally expect that if it didn’t happen “last” night, then I should expect it tonight. It doesn’t always *happen* with that regularity, but I expect it and then am almost never caught off guard.

            (3) Mentally set your attitude toward–

            — a desire to be affectionate & connect with your husband at all times
            — gratitude that your husband desires you
            — the truth that your body belongs to him
            — the same feeling you would want him to have toward you (serving you in love and with genuine heartfelt affection) if there’s something you desired from him.

            And then purpose to act in line with those truths. Even when you don’t physically feel the bells and whistles going off (which, truth be told, I think few of us do when things BEGIN), choose to act in line with those truths. For many (most? nearly all?) women, we’ll find that our physical bodies can warm up to being “in the mood” if our hearts & minds are set toward loving affection.

            (4) If physical response is an issue for you, I’d be glad to e-mail with you more specifically about that challenge. Or you might check out a few helpful books on the topic:
            * Intimate Issues: 21 Questions Christian Women Ask About Sex
            * Intended for Pleasure: Sex Techniques & Sexual Fulfillment in Christian Marriage
            * A Celebration of Sex: A Guide to Enjoying God’s Gift of Sexual Intimacy

            I’ve found each of the previous books to be helpful in regard to discussing and understanding physical processes as well as other dimensions of sexual experience– how past sin/abuse/hurts affect our experiences, how we can relate to one another and minister through the sexual relationship, etc.

            (5) For couples who are in a “rut” or for whom the wife never experiences climax/physical sexual fulfillment, I’d encourage a few things:
            * if there is any past sexual sin, molestation, or rape, I would strongly encourage biblical counseling. Speaking from personal experience, there really are ways to work through those hurts and come to a place where you can not only “survive” the sexual relationship but truly enter in to the physical relationship with delight and heartfelt joy.
            * perhaps things need to be purposefully SLOWED DOWN. The saying “men are a microwave; women are a crock pot” can apply here… sometimes the relationship settles into a rut of “quickies” and times when the wife is not “into it” and it becomes “dull.” Instead, by taking more time for a shoulder rub, conversation beforehand, spending time (as perhaps happened more frequently in the early days) kissing, snuggling, hugging, all the foreplay activities that help us “warm up,” we can often find that we get “into it” much more easily than we thought possible.
            * for couples where the wife has never experienced sexual climax, it may be beneficial to purposefully set aside a time (weeks/months/a year?) to thoughtfully explore what physical sensations are pleasurable, and even potentially use physical/sexual toys/tools to further that process.

            Some couples too quickly believe that “she can’t have an orgasm” or “it’s just not pleasurable for me”… where, in actuality, with some combination of counseling & physical exploration, she might find her way to enjoy physical pleasure (and even experience orgasms) over time. Sometimes just the act of giving up on the search makes this entire aspect of the relationship feel “rote” and dull for the wife who then is resigned to a physical relationship with no enjoyment for her.

            (6) One final thought: Take naps! It’s so easy to use nap time to “get stuff done” because the baby is finally sleeping, or whatever, but it’s worth it to prioritize this part of our relationship so that we can connect with our husbands over the long-haul. (I would also let him know this is what you’re doing. “Hey darlin, just want you to know; I’ve been a sleepyhead lately, but I’m gonna start taking naps on Tuesdays and Thursdays so we can make love on those nights.” He’ll be thankful for those times, and for your desire to make HIM a priority in your heart & day.

            (7) Actually. One more. Talk with him about this. Openly.

            “Hey. I’m overwhelmed with the new baby… or since we started homeschooling… or with the increased laundry load since adding a third baby… and I just want you to know, that mentally, it’s difficult for me to make “space” for sexual stuff when I’m thinking about curriculum, or know the laundry pile is staring me down, or whatever… but I want this to be a priority. So, could you help me by not making me feel guilty about the laundry pile… or by hearing me out about the math curriculum dilemma I can’t make up my mind about? (Or whatever?) ”

            For my part, Doug & I have found that if I’m mentally preoccupied with something, I find it extremely difficult to set that stuff aside for intimacy. But with anywhere from 5-30 minutes of conversation beforehand, we can connect without me experiencing NEAR as many mental “distractions.” Actually, that mental “braindumping” can happen at any point in the day (not just “right before” sex), but it often does need to happen in one way or another before we spend that sort of time together.

            So for us- a huge part of getting sexually in-tune with one another was figuring out that I often need that time for a mental braindump.

            If your “thing” is that the dishes haven’t been done, or that the 13-year-old won’t stop sassing you and you’re discouraged, or that you aren’t sure what to do about the 3-year-old’s new variety of tantrums, talking honestly about those things with your husband, listening to his suggestions, or even just “being heard” may be a key part of connecting with him and helping him understand the mental/physical “hurdles” you’re facing down as you seek to connect with him intimately.

            OK, there’s my brain dump on that. :)

    • Laura says:

      My experience was very similar to yours, Vanessa! My mom did not talk to me about it and my perception was largely based on what I’d picked up from the culture, plus a skewed view of the Biblical side of things. Thankfully, like you my husband and I have sorted things out but I must admit it is still a struggle at times!

      Jess, I agree with Vanessa’s question to you about giving practical, helpful tips. :)

  4. Vanessa says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for the positive feedback. I don’t mean detailed, graphic descriptions. ( I agree with you, it is private, sacrosant and beautiful) , and some details would be a violation of my husband’s trust.

    I mean practical tips, with various things, seasons, stages ( and yes clothes too! :-)) . A little like Jimmy and Karen Evans( marriage today, but geared towards women).

    Also if you choose to accept tips from readers, you could monitor them (like you do for controversial posts), and only put up ones that you have peace with.

    On the other hand, I have no idea where you will get the time!
    Vanessa

  5. Vanessa says:

    For example.
    (A) abstinence before marriage. There’s not enough biblical talk for this.
    (B) not using sex to punish, again not enough talk.
    (C) clothes, doesn’t have to be lingerie, but just clean, fresh, clothes you would wear to church or outside, instead of pjs and sweats.
    (D) letting some things go, especially with toddlers( like cleaning the house) so you have the energy to jump your husband 😉
    (E) initiating, sometimes at least.
    (F) How to see yourself as God sees you, right now, today, not after you lose the baby fat, or you go to the gym, or lose 20lbs.
    (G) how to make time.
    (H) How important is sex for your husband, and how he views it,( it’s his chance to be emotionally close to you, fulfilled, and to show you he loves you on a regular basis) he doesn’t of you as a sexual object.

    You did touch on all these things, but a more in depth study, with verses, would be nice , for a few things atleast ( body image, and how important sex is for your husband)

    Again no graphic details :-)

    • Jess Connell says:

      Vanessa, I’ve kind of tentatively planned that May’s theme (topics & articles) will be sex & intimacy… so these ideas are great; I will start working on putting together more specifics & hopefully helpful thoughts about these things. Thanks for the ideas!

      • Vanessa says:

        Your brain dump answer was what I was thinking about with regards to practical, helpful tips. Those are some things my husband and I discovered helps us ( with much trial! :-)) , and those are things I would love to tell a young wife/mother who is struggling right now.
        The talking, asking for help, napping etc.
        You don’t need my ideas Jess :-)

        • Jess Connell says:

          LOL, well definitely feel free to come back and add any other thoughts/tips you’ve got. I want to help young wives figure these things out sooner than later, if possible… might as well make the most of the years we are given together!! :)

  6. Vanessa says:

    Evie, I don’t think your post came off as irritable. If anything, it was honest(you are in that season!) . I love the advice that you are following though, go to bed expecting some form of intimacy to take place, looks like you are already thinking more of your husband than of your needs.

  7. Laura says:

    Evie, you pretty much described me!! It made me laugh, actually, with how much I relate to that feeling ICE COLD and then all of sudden hubby is there ready and raring to go. It really irks me and I feel so annoyed and condescending with him like, “really, you’ve got to be kidding” when instead I wish I could see it as a good thing that he’s offering me. (And it’s not always like that either, but lately our love life is really based on what I want and not what he wants.) Sigh. So yes, tips please 😉 But that advice to go to bed thinking that something will probably happen is really helpful.

  8. Laura says:

    Jess – in your ‘brain dump’ comment (which for some reason I could not directly reply to) you could have stopped at “I think waiting to feel “in the mood” may be part of the problem.” and that would have been enough for me. It pretty much sums up how I look at my love life. I sit and wait for something to ‘happen’ inside me without putting in much effort to prepare myself mentally. Thanks so much for your input. As ever, it is a ‘word in season’.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with the comments section, but I’ve noticed that it gets to a certain # of replies 3? 4? and then it won’t go any smaller. Strange. Sorry about that.

      Glad that was the (hopefully still gentle) kick in the pants you needed. :) Thanks for the dialogue!

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