Sex can be a lot of fun, but is that all it’s supposed to be? The best it can be?
In the wider culture, sex is seen primarily as a recreational activity – something we do together for fun. When something is recreational, the primary purpose for engaging in it is pleasure. This attitude may seem innocuous but is potentially hazardous for a marriage. How?
If sex is just for pleasure, then, if it’s not pleasurable it fails. And if it’s just a recreational activity, if one or the other doesn’t feel like doing ‘it’ why should they engage in it? At best, sex becomes deprioritised and thus rare in a marriage. At worst, sex becomes a battleground over competing needs and rights.
What’s the alternative?
Couples in thriving marriages appreciate that sex is more than just a recreational activity and has a bigger purpose than pleasure.
For these couples, sex is understood primarily as a communication and its purpose is life-giving union. These couples intuitively know that when they make love, they are doing something more than simply ‘scratching an itch’ or indulging a primal instinct. They are spiritually and physically giving themselves to each other in a deeply intimate exchange of personhood.
Biologically, the sexual embrace is powerfully bonding through the release of the pituitary hormone oxytocin which stimulates attachment emotions. The release of this ‘bonding’ hormone is triggered by affectionate touch and especially orgasm which serves to bond husband to wife and wife to husband. If their sexual embrace is procreative, oxytocin helps bond the father to mother and so provides a stable protective unit for rearing the child.
Sexual Intimacy… a communication
For thriving couples, sex is honoured as the crucible; the central point of engagement from which the life of the relationship draws its energy. Paradoxically, as they give everything of themselves to each other through their sexual exchange, they simultaneously receive a creative energisation that surpasses their individual contribution.
Deeply satisfying sex involves an emotional vulnerability that flourishes in an environment of trust and exclusivity. Couples who seek deep and profound intimacy with each other, know intuitively that they can’t enjoy the same depth of intimacy with multiple people – they choose to invest exclusively in this one partner so that they can go deeper into intimacy and trust. And it pays dividends!
For Better or Worse?
Despite its significance to marital health, a couple’s sex life is often plagued by challenges. Whether they be of a physical nature (eg premature ejaculation) or practical (eg stress, time poverty), psychological (eg emotional injuries, trauma) or relational (eg arguments), marital sex is deeply impacted by the context of a couple’s life. If sex is only about pleasure then these challenges will overwhelm many couples. On the other hand, if sex is a communication, and every touch, gesture and look is part of the tapestry of their intimate exchange, even clumsy, underwhelming sex can be a source of deep fulfillment.
Don’t let the reductionistic values of the wider culture deprive you of the fullness of meaning that is the true nature of sexual intimacy.