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by Jacob Ninan
Sexual relationship is not the most important part of married life, even though media hype may make it out as if it is. However it is an important part, and many married people are suffering unnecessarily in their relationship because of a lack of proper understanding of each other's sexual needs and what sexual intimacy can do to build the relationship. Certain aspects of this relationship may get ignored because of the current emphasis on how to derive maximum pleasure for the individuals rather than on how to build the relationship between husband and wife.
A husband and wife can have the most intimate relationship between two people on earth, sharing their joys and sorrows, exchanging ideas and enriching each other, bringing up children together in partnership, etc. In such a context, sexual relationship between husband and wife can be the most intimate expression of their love for each other. It can also bring a soothing healing to the relationship in the midst of stress and strain. For this to happen, there has to be good understanding between both of them, coupled with care and concern for the other's happiness and well-being. It is when this is lacking, and people seek for their own pleasure, even at the cost of the other's happiness, that sexual relationship can turn into a stressful time. The key to an enjoyable relationship, as is also valid for other aspects of the couple's marriage relationship, is that we receive maximum pleasure and satisfaction when we make it a sincere goal to express our love for the other by making the other happy.
A typical real-life scenario is where a husband pressurises his wife to yield to him in sex, and she gives in reluctantly and after great resistance. This attitude she has then prevents her from experiencing the pleasure that she could have had for herself, and also causes her husband's attitude to turn against her which will then show its negativity in many other ways later on. The husband also does not realise that his insistence on having sex may have given him his temporary thrill, but he has made it more difficult for his wife to want to make him happy in future!
Wrong assumptions about sexual relationship can spoil it even before it begins.
- Sex is dirty/sinful. This is the impression conveyed indirectly through the media which, while hyping up the pleasure aspect of sex, gives it a dirty character associated with secret and forbidden pleasure. The furtive way in which parents address this subject also tends to give the children the impression that there is something wrong with it. Some Christians are even of the view that sex was the sin of Adam and Eve even though it is euphemistically referred to as the forbidden fruit! The dirt/sin is actually associated with unlawful/impermissible sexual relations and activities. But the fact of the matter is that there is nothing dirty or sinful in the sexual relationship between husband and wife. This act of sexual union was implied and commanded when God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and to multiply, before sin had entered their life!
- Sex is only for procreation. This view is held by some Christians who think of sex only as a necessity for procreation, but who consider that any pleasure derived from it is sinful. This is a distorted view of pleasure itself for people who think of Christian life only as having to deny oneself all the time. But the very fact that God made the sexual experience highly pleasurable, gave strong instincts for men and women for sexual relationships, and also made it possible for women to conceive only a few days in a month disproves this theory.
- Women do not really enjoy sex. It is a tragic fact that mainly because of lack of understanding on the part of men many women never or rarely experience the final climax (orgasm) in their whole life, even though they bear children. But that does not mean that women cannot enjoy it. They too can, and it is the responsibility of their husbands to help them in this area. It is also true that some husbands are impatient and inconsiderate towards their wives when seeking their own pleasure, so that such wives experience pain and discomfort in this relationship which is supposed to be pleasurable! Again the husbands ought to change their approach.
- It is better to avoid sex rather than to become pregnant. One may avoid pregnancy by keeping away from sex. But the price you pay is that you are also excluding a major component that would build a better marriage relationship. Lack of sex can show up in other forms of tension. The Bible also tells couples not to deprive each other of sex in order to avoid strong pressures of temptation. Pregnancy can of course be avoided, if necessary, even while having sex, and that too without having to resort to methods that amount to abortion.
- Spiritually minded people should be above all this. If we were only spirit, that would have been fine. But spiritually minded people are living with bodies here. Procreation needs sex, and a healthy marriage also needs the couples to enjoy this intimate relationship. There is a strong interconnection among body, soul and spirit, and one cannot neglect one without disturbing the others. 'Super-spiritual' marriages may sometimes end up in serious disaster.
Sex with understanding
Though there are exceptional individuals, and sometimes the same individuals display differences in their attitudes from time to time, the following may be considered as being true of the general class of men and women.
Usually men take the initiative and women respond. This is because men get excited very fast by what they see or think, and bodily chemicals start acting up almost instantaneously. In fact, if his wife is cooperative, he can get excited, go to his climax and come down to normalcy within an average of less than 3 minutes. But actually a woman is not even ready to start going, by that time. She likes to hear nice things from her husband, and feel him close to her in the form of kisses, hugs, caresses, etc., before her excitement builds up. She needs around 5 minutes to become excited enough for sex, and around 13 minutes to come to her climax from zero!
We can see immediately that if a husband wants his wife to enjoy this relationship, he has to slow down, and learn to synchronise with her. Husbands and wives who have learned to understand each other's needs and responses, and become sensitive to pick up signals from their spouse, find that each one enjoys it best when both are in sync.
When a man thinks about sex, it is basically a physical drive for him. That is why men can have sex with strange women without bothering about a long term relationship with them. On the contrary, women normally do not get excited sexually except towards those they love. For them the emotional (romantic) excitement is a necessary precursor to an enjoyable sexual relationship. This is why, for example, a husband's demand for sex when the couple is not on talking terms (!) puts off his wife.
So husbands and wives who want a better expression of their love for each other and those who want their relationship to become closer and stronger need to understand each other better, become able to pick up signals from each other, and to respond in a loving, self-giving way. For example, a husband can get better response from his wife if he becomes sensitive to his wife's 'moods' and 'inclinations' than if he tries to push her. Certainly a red flag should go up in his mind if she is unwell or worn out physically. A wife can get her husband to love her better if she recognises his drives better and goes along with him even if she is not really in the mood!
Finally The tensions of modern day life have their effect even on the sexual relations between husbands and wives. The frequency of sex has come down drastically even among young couples, which has an adverse effect on their overall relationships too. The general reasons given are, "Too tired," and "Things are not fine between us anyway." It is a vicious circle--having some conflicts, avoiding sex, building up tension, having more conflicts.
There are extremes on the one hand of making sex the one and only important thing in marriage and on the other hand neglecting it thinking that it is beneath someone who wants to be spiritual. But sensible husbands and wives can enjoy this gift of intimate relationship that God has granted them, and also allow it to cement their bonds of love and affection in the midst of pressures and tension.
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