Facets of Marriage (Part 2a): Lovers

Posted on March 6, 2014

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Drink your fill of love. Song of Songs 5:1

May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer, may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. Proverbs 5: 18-19

Do not deprive each other.  1 Cor. 7:5

I was recently a leader on a youth retreat.  As part of the retreat, a married couple came and gave a talk about marriage.  Afterward, the boys had the opportunity to write down questions that they would like the couple to answer.  Among the questions was, “Is it true that sex gets locked down after marriage?”  The couple presenting gave a beautiful poignant answer (which I could not do justice here).  If I had been speaking, I would have given them my clinical view as a therapist, so maybe it is just as well that I wasn’t.

A number of years ago, I read the result of an extensive survey on sexual practices in America.[1]  The demographic that reported the highest level of satisfaction with their sex life was married evangelical Christians.  We Christians sometimes have a reputation for being sexually repressed.  This data would suggest that we get it.[2]  I was at a youth gathering a number of years ago where one of the boys made the point that he knew sex was okay when you were married.  I had to correct him to say that it was not okay, but wonderful when you are married.  The data would seem to bear that out.  This should not be surprising.  For those who are of faith, scripture is pretty clear that sex is supposed to be great.  We are instructed to “drink our fill.”  A man is instructed to be “intoxicated” by his wife’s love.  Just as an aside, if it seems that men are fascinated by breasts, based upon this scripture it would appear that we have always been that way.

In our culture, intimacy is often used interchangeably with sex.  In therapy, when a couple says they have no intimacy, I always need to clarify what they mean by that.  Sometimes they mean that “we are not connecting emotionally” and sometimes they mean “we are not having sex.”  Sex is, of course, a most intimate of acts.  It is a wonderful thing to be at your most vulnerable and to be safe with your partner.

At the risk of (again) sounding unromantic, there are some biological reasons why married people report high levels of sexual satisfaction (and also why sex too early in the relationship can mess with your judgment).  It may seem counter-intuitive, but most of sex happens between your ears.  During intercourse your brain not only gets a rush of endorphins and dopamine (that make you feel really good), but oxytocin is also released into your brain.  Oxytocin is a hormone that facilitates emotional bonding with your partner.  Essentially, your brain goes, “Ah, here is my partner that I love.”  In marriage that is a good thing.  In more casual relationships this can lead to some poor choices.  If sex has been paired with trauma, it really messes with the system, but that topic would need more than a few lines to do it justice.

It is always risky discussing gender differences as there are as many differences within genders as there are between genders.  Having said that, a man will often use sex as a way of establishing or reestablishing intimacy.  For a woman, sex is generally an expression of the intimacy she already feels.  Consequently, when the couple has a fight, the man may be interested in “make up sex” to mend the breach.  The woman has no interest in having sex with a man with whom she was just in a fight.

In therapy, a problem with the couple’s sex life is sometimes the presenting problem.  More often is it not the issue that brought them to therapy, but the couple’s sex life has become a casualty of other problems in the relationship.  As emotional connection has been lost, so has the physical connection.  When a woman does not feel emotionally safe in the relationship, she usually does not want to be physically intimate.  When a man feels emasculated in the relationship, he is not interested in approaching his wife for sex (excepting when sex may be an expression of eroticized rage).  When the emotional relationship gets healed and connection restored, the sex life heats up again.

I heard one partner of a married couple described their sex life as “adult play time.”  There is something to be said for that view.  It implies a carefree time, an activity of mutual enjoyment and pleasure.  That description works for me.  Hey, “drink your fill.”


[1] As usual, I am not bothering to look up the reference.

[2] Double entendre is only incidental.

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Posted in: Attachment, Love, Marriage, Sex