Thursday, November 13, 2008

biblical womanhood (5b) purity: loving your husband sexually

Are you in love with your husband? Not, Do you love him? I know you do. He has been around a long time, and you're used to him. He is the father of your children. But are you in love with him? How long has it been since your heart really squeezed when you looked at him? ... Why is it you have forgotten the things that attracted you to him at first? ...

Your husband needs to be told that you love him, that he is attractive to you. By the grace of God, I want you to start changing your thought pattern. Tomorrow morning, get your eyes off the toaster or the baby bottles long enough to LOOK at him. Don't you see the way his coat fits his shoulders? Look at his hands. Do you remember when just to look at his strong hands made your heart lift? Well, LOOk at him and remember. Then loose your tongue and tell him you love him.

Will you ask the Lord to give you a sentimental, romantic, physical, in-love kind of love for your husband? He will do this. (Shirley Rice, quoted in Ed Wheat, Love Life for Every Married Couple, quoted in Carolyn Mahaney's Feminine Appeal pp.41-42)

I honestly can't remember an evening I've laughed more. We were at a conference, and I was part of a small group of women gathered around a table, having the kind of coversation which only a group of women can have. People who walked past looked at us oddly, wondering what all the laughter was about, but we didn't enlighten them.

The centre of hilarity was a woman who told us (and I have no idea how the topic came up!) that she and her husband have sex every night. EVERY NIGHT! We could hardly believe what we were hearing. Most of us thought that married couples have sex, I don't know, maybe once or twice a week. What was going on here?

Amidst the astonished laughter, there were lots of questions: "Why? How did that happen? Tell us more! Your husband must be very happy!"

She explained, "That's what I thought you were supposed to do. I thought that all married couples have sex every night. So that's what we've always done."

That was the night it dawned on me - and the other women at the table - that what the world tells us - that unless both partners really want it, passionately, right now, sex is an imposition or something close to rape - is nonsense.

That was the night I stopped believing the world's lie that sex isn't loving unless both partners are in the mood. The lie that if you have sex because your husband wants to, when you don't, you're suppressing your feelings, and he is oppressing you, using you to satisfy mere bodily needs. The lie that making love from a sense of duty is unloving.

That was the night I realised that sex is one of the main ways a woman loves her husband. That instead of feeling reluctant and resentful when one of you is in the mood and the other isn't, this is an opportunity for unselfish, loving, joyful, enthusiastic self-giving. That sex is one of the ways a woman cares for her husband, protects his purity, builds his confidence, increases his happiness, and encourages intimacy in their relationship.

That was also the night that I realised the importance of Carolyn Mahaney's A's (not that I'd heard of them yet!) - being Available, Anticipatory, Attentive, Attractive, Aggressive (i.e. eager), Adventurous and (I added this one) Affectionate. Dressing the way your husband likes, sitting close to him when you watch TV, planning for the evening, organising dates and nights away: these are all ways you can love your husband physically.

There was one other thing I learnt that night: that women can encourage one another to love their husbands physically. Not by sharing private stories, or gossiping about intimate details, but by keeping each other accountable. If you're good friends with a Christian woman, or mentoring a younger woman, take the time to ask if she is loving her husband sexually. Pray for one another, encourage one another, and be accountable to one another. This is one of the ways you protect and honour your friends' marriages.

One last thing: there were a lot of happy husbands, and a lot of blessed marriages, after that conference!

Carolyn Mahaney's A's are from chapter 5 in Feminine Appeal and from her talk Being Pure. There's a great discussion of this chapter and these issues in Nicole's EQUIP book club post, and 55(!) really excellent posts on the subject - including times when the wife wants it and the husband doesn't - by Jess at Making Home.

images are from stock.xchng


Liz said...

Is this topic too hot to touch or too confronting that you have no comments?

As an aside, Jean I was interested in what you said over here: You said that your husband prefers you in skirts but the practicalities of being a mother precludes that... can I ask what practicalities mean you can't wear a skirt? I am not meaning to be critical, but as a mum of three kids myself I always wear skirts or dresses and get along fine. Anyway, just a query.

I read the chapter in Feminine Appeal and listened to the talk about purity as well. Something in it clicked for me, and it has transformed my attitude, although I can't say at this stage that it has transformed my marriage.

There is a lot to be said for being available and looking at the reasons you might say no... And re-educating yourself outside of what the world says is normal - ie that married sex is boring.

I wish more married Christian woman would speak about this but it's just not the done thing - perhaps in response to the world's sex-saturated culture.

Jean said...

Hi, Liz, thanks for being brave enough to comment! Maybe no-one else did because I bored them. ;)

What I meant was not that I can't wear skirts because I have kids, but that I don't wear skirts: i.e. I've become slack about wearing them since having children - I used to make much more effort for the sake of my husband. I do have some skirts and wear them!! And I'm planning to put skirts / dresses on my shopping list each time I go clothes shopping. Although they were on it last year, I remember, and I had terrible trouble finding any which looked even half way decent. I only go shopping for clothes twice a year, so I don't have much time for buying skirts, jeans are easier! But this is an area I plan to work on. Which is a long-winded answer to your question ...

Yes, I wish more women would talk about these issues too: guys seem to find it so much easier to talk about this issue, don't they? I guess they all assume they have problems in this area, whereas women get embarrassed that another woman might know she struggles in this way.

Lara said...

Thanks for a great post, Jean! Maybe it's a tricky topic to comment on, because we're not sure what we're allowed to say, or how much detail is too much, etc.

Just wanted to say that I've been challenged by this post to be available every time my husband wants sex. I've only been married 5 months, and already I'm not so good at this. I tend to think that as long as we hit 3-4 times per week, that's still more than the average couple, so that's ok. Or if we did it yesterday, it's ok to say that I'm too tired today. But it's silly to compare ourselves to others, or to aim for the lowest common denominator. I should be giving myself up for my husband constantly.

It's a bit like exercise - sometimes I forget how much I do enjoy it once I actually get around to it!

So, thanks Jean, for encouraging me to think about what our marriage could be like if I'm really, REALLY loving my husband!

Jean said...

Thanks for sharing, Lara!

Anonymous said...

hi jean,
i couldn't find the comments you referred to about 'when the wife wants it but the husband doesn't'. you mentioned them at the bottom of your post.
in my marriage i find my libido is higher than my husband's (his is relatively low) and it is a constant source of frustration for me. i also find this problem quite isolating as it seems most marriages have the opposite problem.
i would like to know if anyone else has encountered this issue and if the same principles apply to the husband that would usually apply to the wife?
thanks jean.

Jean said...

Hi, sorry about the link, the exact post is here, although I must say it isn't all that enlightening!

I have a friend in a similar situation to yours, and I know she finds it harder because she feels lonely and unlike other women. If you contact me privately (using the "contact me" in the right hand column) I could put you in touch with her on line, assuming she's willing to write to you about it, which I'm pretty sure she would be.

It is both the husband's and wife's responsibility to satisfy each other sexually - Paul doesn't distinguish one as having more libido - which I should probably have mentioned in my post (1 Cor. 7). And Song of Songs doesn't show any less enthusiasm on the woman's part (e.g. SOS 5:4)!

Women enjoy sex too, so it's only natural that some women's libido will exceed that of the man they've married. We've all experienced times like these, for example when our husband is tired or ill, and we're feeling keen, so I'm sure you're not as alone as you may feel.

You can't make your husband fulfil his loving responsibilities, although you can talk openly to him about what you need and how you feel. I guess you'd probably need to take care guard your own purity (it's so easy to allow a spouse's absence or unavailability to lead us into sexual sin!), patience, forgiveness when it's needed, and trust in God about your marriage. All much, much easier said than done, I know.

If you want to contact me, I'll ask my friend about whether she's happy to write to you online about it. She's a godly woman, and will probably be only too pleased.

Your husband and you are both in God's hands. I will pray for you.