Soul-Care Articles: Christ-centered, Spirit-led, Biblically-based, Clinically-sound, Truth-oriented

Posts tagged ‘sexual fulfillment’

A guide to what’s allowed in the bedroom

SOURCE:  Louis and Melissa McBurney

Christian Sex Rules

When it comes to sex, most married Christians just do what works for them. If they have been blessed enough to have discovered something that brings satisfaction, pleasure, closeness, and climax, they most likely will continue that practice.

However, some are plagued with guilt because they wonder if what they’re doing is sinful.

[We] receive many, many questions from Christian couples who want to know what is and what is not okay to do sexually. Unfortunately, churches tend to ignore this issue, small groups usually don’t talk about sex, and most Christian books deal with more “spiritual” ideas.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a list of sexual practices categorized by “sinful” or “okay”? Is there such a list? Would everyone agree with the list? Is there a solution to this dilemma?

We think the answers to those questions are: yes, no, no, and probably not—in that order.

We’d really like to create such a list that could settle once and forever the niggling doubts about sexual practices. But that’s not possible.

Different communities of Christians have different understandings about sexual practices that are based on a few general biblical principles. No list would be accepted by all Christians. Still, we do want to provide some guidelines that we hope will help you enjoy the gift of your sexuality to the fullest. That’s what we’re convinced God wants for each of his children.

We doubt that God’s surprised by the intensity of our sexual desire or of its fulfillment. Seeing us enjoy the passion and pleasure seems to fit with his creative nature. There are some definite boundaries, however, that were identified through his Word. These are established to protect and enhance the maximum enjoyment of the gift. We think it’s like our giving our kids bicycles. We’d teach them the safety rules right away so they could delight in the ride without being run over by a car on a busy street.

First, we’d like to point out the obvious—the Bible is not a manual on sexual technique. We’ve heard some people say that Song of Solomon describes acceptable sexual positions and behavior. We see it as a poetic love song that clearly embraces the joy of sexual play. We don’t think it is an attempt to outline any specific sexual practices.

Second, we want to emphasize again that there are some specific sexual behaviors that are forbidden in scriptures. Adultery, that is having sexual intercourse with another person’s spouse or a partner other than your own spouse, is a sin. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, deepens the importance of marital faithfulness by extending the prohibition of infidelity to include a lustful thought life as well as the physical act of intercourse. Looking into our minds and hearts is an important principle for safeguarding the delights of intimacy.

Scripture is also clear about the evil of fornication—premarital sexual intercourse—which most of our culture accepts as normal and irresistible. We see many couples suffering from the consequences of their early promiscuity. The “sexual freedom” of our time isn’t free and usually carries some pretty heavy costs.

The Bible also lists other practices that are “abominations” to God (Le v. 18, Rom. 1:21-32, I Thess. 4:1-8, and I Cor. 6:12-20). These include homosexuality, bestiality, and incest.

And last, there is a vast array of possible sexual practices for married couples that are not mentioned at all in Scripture (we can find no reference to Internet pornography, vibrators, or videos). So, since we aren’t likely to find a definitive answer, the best we can do is find the principles God has given us and apply them to the cultural setting we’re living in. As we look for those you may not be surprised to find that we’re not much different in the twenty-first century than how mankind has been since creation. We have the same anatomical equipment, the same physiologic hormones, the same mental capacity for lust and fantasy, and the same relational needs that have always driven men and women to seek sexual pleasure and intimacy. As Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun,” except maybe the vast array of new toys.

Exclusivity

Many studies have confirmed what biblical commandments imply. That is that becoming one flesh with one partner provides the best setting for satisfying sexual intimacy. Sex is neither a spectator sport for group indulgence nor an event to test a person’s ability to score with multiple partners. Casual sex as a way to prove one’s prowess or simply achieve physiologic relief of sexual tension only confirms that his or her ability to copulate is intact. Although providing some pleasure, it fails to meet the deeper need for intimacy that sex was designed to give.

A couple in a long-term committed relationship enters into a more secure and trusting territory with each sexual encounter. In that bed sex can truly become “making love” rather than just having sex. Multiple partners create mistrust, performance anxiety, and comparison evaluations that are barriers to the deepest levels of intimacy.

Mutuality

It is obvious to most couples early on that men and women are significantly different in their sexual interests and drives. Men usually have a desire for more frequent sex and greater variety in forms of sexual play. Women usually want more emotional connectedness through tender touch and conversation and prefer more consistent love-making technique. These differences often lead to tension over positions for intercourse, frequency of sex, and experimentation with different sources of stimulation.

This creates enormous opportunity for a couple to develop mutual submissiveness in their relationship. Each individual will have ways to show respect and give a meaningful gift of love to his or her mate. We feel that giving that respect to each other is a huge way to guide your choices of sexual play in the direction of genuinely mature love.

Doing only what is mutually agreeable sexually means that each partner will make sacrifices for the sake of intimacy. A wife may give herself more frequently or try a variety of sexual experiences that go beyond her comfort zone. A husband may relinquish some sexual fantasy or adjust his demands for intercourse twice a day just to show love to his mate. Those exercises in personal restraint are not easy, but help build the oneness of intimacy.

Specific behaviors that often fit this criteria are oral sex, rear-entry vaginal penetration, initiation of sexual activity, positions for intercourse, and mutual masturbation. We find no scriptural injunction against any of these or of frequency of intercourse. The Old Testament command of not having intercourse during a woman’s menstrual period does seem to have the medical benefit of avoiding some infectious processes. Paul’s admonition in I Corinthians not to withhold sex except by mutual consent seems to fit with this general principle of mutuality. It acknowledges the legitimacy of sexual desire and reinforces the boundary of sex within marriage.

Pleasurability

Sexual play should be enjoyable!

If an activity you’re doing doesn’t bring enjoyment to both partners it will cause resentment and distance between you. That’s not part of the design for “becoming one flesh.” It may be that some forms of your sexual play create pain for one or both of you. That should be evaluated medically. If something is creating discomfort, it is probably treatable (such as vaginitis or painful erections). This can certainly produce barriers to intimacy.

At times couples may want to explore the areas of sado-masochistic sex or bondage fantasies. We feel that these behaviors move sex out of the arena of selfless love into that of power or domination fantasies. In those neighborhoods sex becomes an invasive, controlling behavior in which one person is violated. That is a sexual perversion and is likely to create shame, humiliation, and ultimate devaluation of one (or both) partners. When domination is a necessary ingredient for sexual pleasure there tends to be development of tolerance to the level of excitation. Hence increasing levels of the stimulation are required for the same sense of gratification. This is seen in its extreme in pornography that includes rape and even murder as forms of sexual stimulation.

Relationality

Duh! You might think. Well, of course, sexual intimacy includes a strong relational component.

Unfortunately, that ain’t necessarily so.

One of the most destructive forces we’re seeing these days is the increasing frequency of sexual addictive disorders. When having sexual release becomes an addiction driven to levels of compulsive behavior, the relationship with a marriage partner may be replaced with various stimuli that are essentially fantasy based. We have seen men deeply hooked on Internet pornography (or other forms). They are compulsively driven to increasing exposure to pornographic stimulation and masturbatory release of sexual tension. We have seen women equally hooked on romance novels or chat-room sex talk for sexual release. These disorders displace the relational dimension of sexuality.

Marital sex, if maintained at all, takes place mechanically with mental fantasies from the artificial relationships providing the only sexual stimulation. That robs marriage of the most crucial part of intimacy—the blend of relational and sexual connectedness.

The use of pornographic films from whatever source introduces this possible danger into your sexuality. Explicit sexual materials can provide sexual excitement and arousal, but that form of stimulation may erode your enjoyment of each other. Those images may also create a basic sense of dissatisfaction with yourselves since most couples don’t maintain or ever achieve the sensual appearance of porn actors and models. The whole industry is based on illusions and those lies can lead to death of your relationship as well as your sexual satisfaction.

Perpetuating Genital Union

We delight in sexual playfulness and creative ways to pleasure one another, but unless it is not physically possible for a couple, we think nothing you do should completely replace genital union. The symbolism of having the embrace of vagina to penis and total giving of the erect penis to the welcoming vaginal canal is a recurring reminder that we were created for each other. The intimacy of that connectedness should awaken our most primitive desire for oneness. To enjoy sexual release in that most passionate form of embrace welds us into oneness like few other experiences.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

Melissa and Louis McBurney, M.D., Real Sex columnists for Marriage Partnership, are marriage therapists and co-founders of Marble Retreat in Marble, Colorado, where they counsel clergy couples.

READY FOR THE “SECOND HALF” OF MARRIAGE?

SOURCE: Adapted from The Second Half of Marriage by David/Claudia Arp

Are you in the second half of marriage?  Check out these symptoms:

*You have teenagers who will soon leave the nest.

*Your own parents are aging.

*You were recently invited to a 25th high school reunion.

*You exercise more and burn fewer calories doing it.

*You just received an invitation to join AARP.

*By the time you get your spouse’s attention, you’ve forgotten what you were going to say.

If you identify with these symptoms, you are in or are approaching the second half of marriage. The first half of marriage involved launching your union and surviving the active parenting years.  For some, menopause and the adolescent years may hit simultaneously, making the challenge in the second half of marriage even greater.

The transition into the second half of marriage is a crisis time for many couples.  The current trend of long-term marriages breaking up in record numbers is alarming.   Why the jump in divorces for this age group?  Could it be that as people begin to realize they are going to live longer, they don’t want to spend the rest of their life in an unhappy and unfulfilled marriage?  While many long-term marriages avoid divorce, other second-half issues can produce much stress.  The children grow up and leave home; our parents age and die; we may add a few pounds and more bulges; we may have less energy and move slower; one’s career may be winding down (while the spouse’s career is taking off); we begin to realize how fast life goes by and that if we are going to make changes, we’d better hurry, because we don’t have a lot of time left.

Marital researchers have discovered that for couples who hang together through the midlife transition, marital satisfaction begins to rise again and stays that way – if couples risk growing in their relationship.  The second half of marriage gives you the opportunity to reinvent your marriage, to make mid-course adjustments, and to reconnect with one another in a more meaningful way.  Healthy long-term marriages have staying power, because they are held together from within.

The following eight challenges describe the areas that if worked on will enrich your marriage for the second half.

The Eight Challenges for the Second Half of Marriage:

1.  Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

2.  Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

3.  Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

4.  Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

5.  Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

6.  Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

7.  Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

8.  Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and to God, and together serve others.

Challenge 1Let go of past marital disappointments – forgive each other – commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

A.  Identify grievances.  Actually make a list.  This list is personal – not necessarily to be shared with your spouse.

B.  Evaluate the grievances you listed.  Which ones can easily be forgiven?  Which need to be discussed?  Which do you need professional help with to overcome?

C. Decide to forgive.  Are you willing to forgive your spouse for the items you listed?  Forgiveness begins with a simple decision – an act of the will.

D.  Let go.  Ceremoniously let go of the little grievances you listed.  Perhaps you will want to burn them or bury them.

E.  Change your responses now that you’ve forgiven your spouse.  Try replacing any future negative response to a situation with a loving encouragement for your spouse.

F.  List the things you will do in the second half of marriage:

*We will release and let go of our missed dreams and disappointments with each other, with our children, with our parents, and with ourselves;

*We will accept each other as a package deal;

*We will forgive and ask forgiveness when needed;

*We will renew our commitment to each other and to growing together in the second half of our marriage.

Challenge 2. Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

A. Recognize that we grow at different rates, roles may switch, and rules may change.

*Many wives may become more focused and assertive and are eager to try their professional wings – especially if the first half of marriage was dedicated to parenting children.  Many men may decide to slow down and enjoy life a little bit more.

B. Recognize the need to become closer companions.

*Many couples facing the second half of marriage have little shared privacy because lives have been consumed by children and careers. As important as children, parents, friends, jobs, and hobbies may be, strive to make the marriage more important.  Develop a concept of “we-ness” and look for ways to develop it.

C. Make a commitment to personal growth, to developing an effective communication system, and to learn how to make creative use of conflict.

Challenge 3Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

A. Avoid negative patterns of communicating – Consider doing what is positive and works.

*Negative pattern 1 – Avoider-Confronter Couple.  The avoider often retreats into his or her own world.  He/she prefers to ignore problems and let them slide.  For the most part, avoiders are uncomfortable talking about their feelings.  The confronter has no trouble expressing her or her feelings.

*Negative pattern 2 – Conflict-Avoiding Couple.  Conflict-avoiding couples may work well together in many areas, such as building careers or parenting.  However, they lack close personal relationship.  When it comes to deep, intimate conversation or dealing with personal issues, they are distant from one another.  Instead of dealing with negative feelings, they stuff them inside.

*Negative pattern 3 – Conflict-Confronting Couple.  The conflict-confronting couple has no lack of communication, however, much of it is negative and hurtful.  Instead of dealing with conflict, they vent frustrations to the point that effective communication is stifled.

*Positive pattern – Interpersonally Competent Couple.  This involves working on developing  new and better ways to communicate and learning to use conflict constructively. Avoid what doesn’t work, and seek out more of what works better through reading, counseling, workshops.

Challenge 4Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

A. Understand that conflict and anger are givens in any marriage, but if we learn the skills for dealing with them, we can build rather than destroy our relationship.

*Analyze your own anger.  Ask yourself, “What am I really angry about? What is the problem, and whose problem is it?  How can I sort out who is responsible for what? How can I learn to express my anger in a way that will not leave me feeling helpless and powerless?  How can I clearly communicate my position without becoming defensive or attacking?

*Together as a couple make an anger contract.  This is a protective way to confront anger as a couple. Make your anger contract at a time when you are not angry!

First, agree to tell each other when you first realize you are getting angry. Second, renounce the “right” to vent your anger on your spouse.  Third, ask for your spouse’s help in dealing with whatever is causing the anger.

B. Marriage turbulence can even be healthy.  A solid marriage relationship provides “a safe place to resolve honest conflict and process your anger. It can help your marriage grow.”

Challenge 5. Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

A. Building a long-term friendship in the second half of marriage is influenced by many things including health issues.

*Take care of yourself.  Invest in your health.

*Pace yourself.  Is it realistic to try to maintain the same pace of ten years ago?

*Build relationships and maintain them.  Build friendships outside your extended family to maintain a good support system.

*Stretch your boundaries.  Try new things or a new approach to “old” things.

*Stay involved with life.  Actively search for your passion.  Continue to learn and grow.

*Hang in there.  Avoid making drastic decisions when you’re feeling down.

B.  Plan for fun and have fun.

*Picnic in the park date.

*“I’m too tired date.” Grab some takeout food and avoid the phone/answer

machine/email/texts.

*Photo date. Set the timer on the camera and take some couple pictures.

*Gourmet-cooking date.  Plan the menu, do the shopping, and cook dinner – together!

*Highway date. Go exploring within a fifty-mile radius of home.

*Workout date.  Take a walk together or exercise together.

*Home Depot date.  Go to a home improvement store and plan and scheme your next improvement project.

*Window-shopping date.  Go window-shopping…maybe when the stores are closed.

*Airport date. Sit in the air terminal and watch the people come and go.

*Proposal date.  Go to a public place and ask your mate to marry you again.

Challenge 6Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

A.  According to researchers, the hardest part of maintaining love and closeness is learning how to keep intimacy alive through the years of a marriage – especially the second half.

B.  Marriages grow in stages.  In the first decade couples learn about each other.  Children come along and test the limits of our energy.  The second decade of marriage entails fighting off boredom.  But, it’s in the third decade that things can really change.  Sex is an important aspect of marriage, but it is an area many couples are hesitant to talk about.  It is important as we face the empty nest years that we reexamine our attitude and bravely talk with our partner about our love life.  Also, as we reach midlife and beyond, we need to understand how our bodies change as we age – physically, psychologically, and hormonally.

*Reset the pace.  A man’s response time slows down as he ages. Instead of worrying about it, relax and enjoy it.  Think of the sexual relationship in the second half as a delightful stroll, not a sprint.

*Take action.  While younger men are stimulated by what they see, by age forty or fifty, men may be more stimulated by touching and caressing.

*Balance the seesaw.  Stop boredom by having both partners be the initiator from time to time.

*Dare to experiment. Because response times may be different or longer, this is a great time to experiment remembering “getting there can be half the fun.”

*Achieve more from less.  Find whatever frequency works best for your.  Let your lovemaking be anticipated and savored, and make the quality of the sexual experience your focus.

C.  Rekindling romance doesn’t just happen.  It takes some effort.  Couples can read books and talk together about how to “spice up” their love life.

D.  If because of severe health or other issues, the sexual relationship is difficult, talk to a physician or counselor to bring in other resources and perspective.

Challenge 7. Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

A.  Being caught between teenage or adult children and aging parents is a dilemma many second half couples face.  The challenge is, how can you keep your marriage the anchor relationship while relating to other family members on both ends of the “family seesaw”?  Whatever your situation, your relationship with your elderly parents affects your marriage.  Whether the effect is positive or negative depends more on you than on the situation.

B.  Typical problems that prevent a healthy relationship with aging parents:

*Lack of trust. If parents have little trust and respect for their adult children, it will be hard to have a close relationship.  Not all elderly parent-adult children relationships are close.  Accepting those things you cannot change will help you to change the things you can.

*Lack of adult status. Ever feel as if you’re still a kid in your parents’ eyes?  And whenever you’re around your elderly parents, you react much as you did when you were growing up in their home?  You may not be able to change your parents’ view of you, but you can make a choice to treat your adult children differently.

*Denial.  Lack of open communication with your aging parents will make helping them more difficult.  Also, should memory losses occur and physical changes take place, elderly parents may deny that they need any help.  This leaves the adult child in a frustrating place.

*Excessive demands and manipulation. Along with a demanding parent can be the one who is manipulative.  With outside resources such as reading and counsel, it is important that we learn how to deal with issues of false guilt, not feeling responsible for what we can’t control, and maintaining a healthy, balanced life of our own.

C.  As we honor and care for our parents, we should not put them above our spouse.  At the same time, whatever our situation with our parents, we should try to build positive bridges with them.

D.  Dealing with adult children.  The transition into adult relationships with our children and their spouses can be a difficult challenge and if not well-managed can greatly affect our own marriage.  We need to be willing to let go and respect our adult children’s boundaries.  An unwillingness to let go is closely related to lack of adult status and lack of trust.  The question is, are we willing to let go – to release our children into adulthood and let them lead their own lives?  Building healthy, trusting relationships with your adult children can enrich the second half of your marriage.  and when your children marry, develop a relationship with each couple.

Visit but don’t stay too long.  Let them parent their own children.  Try not to give advice. Build a relationship with each grandchild.  Whatever your family background and whatever relationship you have today with your own parents, remember that you can build a healthy bridge to your own children and grandchildren.

Challenge 8Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and God, and together serve others.

A.  Consider what are your basic beliefs about what elevates your own marriage.

*God brought us together in the first place.

*Our continuing life together is part of God’s divine purpose.

*We have a witness to bear together.

*A shared life must have a sacrificial quality.

*A Christian marriage must find spiritual expression.

B.  It is God who can give us new passion for our spouse.  He is the one who can enable us to have an open and honest relationship and to construct a quality marital relationship.

C.  As each spouse grows in his or her spiritual pilgrimage:

*Accept where both you and your spouse are on that journey.

*Don’t force or coerce your spouse to attend or do something with you that you know he or she won’t enjoy.

*Be teachable and willing to learn.

*Promote spiritual closeness and unity through simple couple devotions and/or praying together.  Start with just 10 minutes a day.

D.  Consider serving others.

*Reflect His image together to others in a hurting world.

*Be beacons that give light to others and create a thirst for healthy marriage relationships.

*Reflect on these questions –

-What is something about which we are both passionate?

-If we have adult children (or will have), how can we be role models for them?

-What are some ways in which we can serve others together?

The Eight Challenges for the Second Half of Marriage

1.  Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

2.  Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

3.  Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

4.  Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

5.  Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

6.  Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

7.  Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

8.  Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and to God, and together serve others.

Tag Cloud