Over the past several years, I have spoken and taught thousands of couples about the importance of growing their marriage into the purpose for which it was designed. I have challenged them to embrace their differences as integral to their destiny. I have encouraged couples to resist the marital drift that will rob them of their vitality as a couple. And, I have done my best to push couples to believe that godly obedience would yield benefits in all facets of their marriage—including their intimacy. But, this past weekend I got a new revelation on marital intimacy. I call it Marital Intimacy 2.0. And, I think it may change everything inside and outside my bedroom.
So, let me first make it clear that I have a great marriage. And, I tremendously enjoy my intimate times with my wife. She has been a amazing partner over our nearly twenty-seven years of marriage. We make ourselves available for each other. We seek to please each other’s intimacy needs—though honestly I feel she sometimes does that better than I do. But, that’s another story. The key point here is that I feel very blessed with what happens in our bedroom.
Marital Intimacy Ground Zero
I’ve counseled many couples who are struggling with sexual challenges in their marriage. In many of these instances, intimacy is just one of many struggles they endure. There is a wide range of intimacy struggle. But, in my experience most intimacy-related challenges fall into one or more of five categories.
- Biological issues that make it difficult to perform optimally
- Libido differences
- Inattentiveness to spousal intimacy needs/satisfaction
- Spousal neglect
- Infidelity-induced emotional distance
Now, to be clear. Most couples experience intimacy challenges in at least one of these categories at some point in their marriage. When these occur infrequently, they can be thought of as acute. Personally, as I’ve aged I’ve experienced my own biological challenges. I have to be a lot more deliberate and plan more than I did in my younger years. But, with a modicum of communication acute episodes can be navigated without long-term negative impact to the marriage. In fact, when communication and trust is present, sexual faux pas may actually bring a couple closer.
The bigger problem arises when any of these become long-term or chronic in nature. The prolonged strain on the marriage erodes trust, especially when communication between the couple is already compromised. The reality is that for most couples, chronic intimacy lapses have negative consequences—sometimes including the cessation of all sexual activity. Several years ago, national papers reported on this phenomenon. The New York Times reported that about 15% of married couples have not have sex in the past six months to a year. Newsweek estimates that 15-20% of marriages have in fact become “sexless”. Unfortunately, I have talked to several couples, even Christian ones, who unhappily fall into this category.
Marital Intimacy 1.0
Fortunately, most married couples’ intimacy levels doesn’t fall into this category. Most couples are modestly to very satisfied with their married sex life. A couple of years ago, Today.com reported that 80% of husbands and 60% of wives described themselves has happy or very happy with their sex life. I call it “marital intimacy 1.0″. Marital Intimacy 1.0 is defined by the following attributes:
- Contentment with the status quo rather than expectation that better marital intimacy is possible
- Difficulty talking about sexual satisfaction and desires
- “Faking it”
- Visualization of others during intercourse with your spouse
- Reliance on pornography and erotica to achieve sexual satisfaction
- Emotionless sex (dubbed “sextimacy”)
These are just a sample of what couples encounter with Marriage Intimacy 1.0. I do not mean to suggest that these couples are do something wrong per se. The point that I would like to convey is that your marriage was not designed for this “passable” level of marital intimacy. God designed sexual intercourse to be a divine expression of convenant reserved for the marital union. God designed marital intimacy to bring your marriage in closer relationship with Him and with each other. God designed your intimacy for the 2.0 experience.
Marital Intimacy 2.0
Marital Intimacy 2.0 is the next level of marital intimacy that refuses to be satisfied with “good enough”. Intimacy at this level seeks to experience God’s presence before, during, and after the intimate encounter.
Marital Intimacy 2.0 looks for ways to arouse your spouse outside the bedroom. It may be romantic foreplay or simply washing the dishes. But, couples at this level listen to and respond to one another’s stated and unstated needs because they seek to serve one another.
Marital Intimacy 2.0 looks for ways to experience God’s presence during the intimate encounter by seeking to satisfy your spouse’s needs before attending to your own. It is about knowing your spouse’s sensitivities so that you feel and respond to the rhythm of his/her body at just the right time.
Marital Intimacy 2.0 affirms your spouse after the intimate encounter through physical touch and soft words to express gratefulness for the gift of mutually gratifying sex.
Marital Intimacy 2.0 is important because it creates a mores secure bond with your spouse. But, as important, is the relationship that it builds with God.
This past weekend my wife and I participated in a marriage retreat that convicted us to pursue Marriage Intimacy 2.0. Through the testimonials of the teaching couples, we came away with three specific actions to propel us towards this level of marital intimacy.
Three Steps to Marital Intimacy 2.0
- Incorporate worship time as a couple as part of your “foreplay”
I have to admit, after all these years of working with couples I never thought about this. My wife told me after this seminar that we have to incorporate more worship time as a couple into our life. Why? It invokes the presence of God. It helps us to prioritize his desires for us as a couple over our own self-centered desires. It charges the atmosphere. And, intimacy thrives in an atmosphere where God is moving.
- Pray during the sexual encounter
I leaned forward in my chair as I listened to one couple describe how they pray together during sexual intercourse. I was mesmerized. During sex, really? Again, I never thought about that. They suggest that it takes their intimacy to the next level. This couple describes times when a disappointing moment of intimacy was transformed into an exciting one as God moved and “kick started” their bodies into the desired physical response.
My wife and I pray together daily. But, now we are discussing how to incorporate prayer into our intimate times as well–especially when things seem to be falling short of expectations.
- Express Thankfulness
There is something about thankfulness and gratitude that connects you more intimately with God and with your spouse. Everyone likes feeling appreciated and valued. As the intimate encounter winds down, tell your spouse what you appreciate about your time of intimacy together. Thank God together as a couple.
God desires your marriage to be a reflection of him. He designed your marriage for intimacy. And, he designed sexual response to foster supernatural bonding between you and your spouse. This bonding protects your marriage from external forces that seek to divide you. Marital Intimacy 2.0 gives you fortitude and strength–which are both vital for your marriage to have the broader impact for which it is designed.
Don’t be satisfied with 1.0 intimacy in your marriage. Don’t settle for “good enough”. Ask God how you and your spouse can elevate your intimacy to the next level. When you do, it will change the trajectory of your marriage.
I am excited to hear your thoughts about Marital Intimacy 2.0. What do you see as its benefits? What makes it difficult to achieve?