Healthy Marital Sex
Much of the couples research suggests that sex is one of the main troubled areas in American marriages today. It is experienced by many as one of the the most difficult topics for couples to discuss, and it is so “loaded” with so many layers, effected by so many variables, that maintaining a healthy, satisfying sex life can feel like quite a challenge. At the same time, marital relationships need mutually satisfying sexual experiences like a plant needs sunlight and water. In the drought-like absence of this element, affairs are born, depression sets in, and couples begin to live like roommates.
Most couples experience a high degree of passion and chemistry early in their marriage. When this fades, it can be very frightening, and often ignites a crisis for the couple. It is at this point that many couples will withdraw from the relationship, much like people withdraw from stocks when they appear low. But marriages are long-term investments, and people who have successfully stayed the course will tell you that keeping the relationship and their partner’s happiness at high priority by continuing to engage in “investing” behaviors, even when you don’t feel like it, is essential ingredient of marital satisfaction.
No relationship can thrive without being boundaried, protected, and elevated to a place higher than the daily grind. If you are experiencing a low degree of sexual satisfaction in your marriage, start turning things around by immediately engaging in investing behaviors: Schedule regular dates, have weekly check-ins about the marital state of the union, learn to effectively listen and validate what you are hearing, and Give daily doses of verbal appreciation, physical affection and sensual touching. Visit our Recommended Reading site for tools to improve your knowledge base and aide in your dialog with one another, and of course seek help swiftly if things don’t improve. Often, couples can benefit from even a few sessions with a skilled marriage therapist.
- Males 30-44 years of age reported an average (median) of 6-8 female sexual partners in their lifetimes. Among women 30-44 years of age, the median number of male sexual partners in their lifetimes was about four. The findings appear to be similar to previous surveys conducted in the early 1990’s.
- 34% of men and 10% of women have told lies in order to have sex
- 15% of sexual assault and rape victims are under age 12.
- 1 out of every 6 American women have been the victims of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime
- As of 2003, there were 1.3 million pornographic websites; 260 million pages. The total porn industry revenue for 2006: $13.3 billion in the United States; $97 billion worldwide. U.S. adult DVD/video rentals in 2005: almost 1 billion. Hotel viewer ship for adult films: 55%. More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month. And the average age of first Internet exposure to pornography: 11 years old. Adult industry says traffic is 20-30% children.
- In 2003, more than 20,000 images of child pornography were posted online every week.
- 100,000 websites offer illegal child pornography.
- Roger Charman of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries reports that approximately 20 percent of the calls received on their Pastoral Care Line are for help with issues such as pornography and compulsive sexual behavior.
- In a 2000 Christianity Today survey, 33% of clergy admitted to having visited a sexually explicit Web site. Of those who had visited a porn site, 53% had visited such sites “a few times” in the past year, and 18% visit sexually explicit sites between a couple of times a month and more than once a week.
- 57% of pastors say that addiction to pornography is the most sexually damaging issue to their congregation (Christians and Sex Leadership Journal Survey, March 2005).
- 34% of female readers of Today’s Christian Woman’s online newsletter admitted to intentionally accessing Internet porn in a recent.
- The Internet was a significant factor in 2 out of 3 divorces.
- It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans is now infected with a viral STD. (ibid)
Now I ask you, is this a picture of a culture that has really has healthy ideas about sexuality? And if we spend so much time privately using other people, and if so many of us have been used ourselves by others, how can we possibly get close to our spouse? Just what does that do to our collective spirit? How can we move from an addictive sexual experience on the computer at 10pm to the bedroom at 10:30, where we meet our spouse and are supposed to give and feel a sense of safety in relationship to one another? The answer is that you cannot. That couples today are suffering and in trouble when it comes to one of the most important ways of experiencing intimacy: Sex.
The statistics cited reflect an epidemic that effects each and every one of us living in our society, even if we are not the “problematic user.” If we do not take control of what we are being taught, if we do not resist the trance of selfish and exploitive behaviors, we will be doomed to continued patterns of sexually empty lives and divorce.
Sex between a husband and wife is sacred, and can be healing and transformative. We are so afraid – as a society – that seeking sexual knowledge will harm us that we have slipped in to another extreme of secret, shame-based, emotionally bankrupt sexual lives. However, working one by one on our own health, we can change the course of our culture’s future. As with any social problem, continued reflection, edcuation and dialog with others are crucial components to change.
The following is a list of essential elements in a healthy sexual relationship to help you get started.
Healthy Marital Sex depends on:
- The ability to know and assert your self
- An understanding of your own and each others’ bodies and how they can “work” together
- The ability to feel empathy for another and express that behaviorally and verbally
- The ability to take risks (including forgiveness)
- The ability to experience and express passion and desire
- The comfort and safety of commitment
- The ability to communicate in safe, constructive ways
- conscious, intentional behavior
If you would like to better assess your sexual beliefs and practices, check out the list of addictive vs. healthy sexuality found on the next page.