It appears both inside and outside the church there are misunderstandings in regard to men and women as they relate in sexual intimacy. The misunderstanding is on both the part of men and women. They both fail to see and appreciate the God given role of sex as it pertains to the intimacy in the marriage relationship. Marriage is a beautiful relationship that is to mirror Christ and the church (Eph 5:32). It is designed to highlight the love relationship between Christ as He sacrificially gave Himself to the church as well as highlighting the role of the church as she submits to her Savior. But the question is, how does sex and intimacy between men and women in the union of marriage mirror that image of Christ and the church?
First, we need to start with the misperceptions. While the scholarly world thrives on research and data, I admittedly have none. What I do have is time spent with couples who have expressed frustration in marriage over the issues of intimacy and sex. Secondly, I have 24 1/2 years (yes, the 1/2 is important) of personal experience in a marriage relationship. So through both personal experience and what I’ve witnessed, it has been apparent that there have been some misperceptionsin regard to sex and how it relates to intimacy.
Misperception 1: The Husbands View of Sex
We start with the husband’s view of sex. As a teenager and even into young adulthood the sex drive is at a frenzied level. Guys have hormones that are constantly feeding the physical drive for sex. Additionally a guy is bombarded with images through all forms of media and entertainment that seem to put the physical in hyper-drive. In a young man’s mind marriage is this utopian world where he will finally get to be fulfilled physically and his bride willingly desires to be at his beck and call to partake in his fulfillment. I do not believe that many young men ever stop to think that sex is more than a physical connection between a man and a woman. Unfortunately what results when a man takes this view is that sex becomes a selffocused means to personal fulfillment rather than the one-flesh union God designed it to be (Gen 2:24). So many times (not all) a misperception of husbands is that sex is all about the physical act performed.
Misperception 2: The Wife’s View of Her Husband
Unfortunately this first misperception is often quickly picked up on by women. Their husbands seem to desire sex all the time. A woman may feel as if all her husband wanted her for was to fulfill his desires without ever thinking about her as a person and partner in the marriage. So the physical view of sex that so dominates the male mind is then “taught” to his wife through his actions. Now instead of one person in the relationship thinking that sex is all about the physical, many times both husband and wife both are thinking this albeit from different perspectives. The man thinks it is all about physical fulfillment through the act of sex and his wife perceives that it is all about the man’s physical fulfillment. What this view of sex does is to leave the marriage void of intimacy.
A woman will not respond to a man physically if she does not feel valued by him relationally.
Now, the physical act may occur as an obligation on the part of the wife, but there is a lack of relational connection and intimacy that takes place during the act of love. Eventually what will happen is a lessening of the physical relationship because of their distance relationally. If this is not corrected, it can lead to not just physical separation but to a loveless marriage or even to divorce.
The Intertwining of Souls
What needs to be reclaimed is a biblical view of the one-flesh relationship in the context of a covenantal marriage. This one-flesh relationship is to be not just the physical uniting of man and wife in the act of sex, but an intertwining of souls. Sex by God’s design is more than physical. That is why we find in Genesis 4:1 “Adam knew his wife and she conceived…”. This is more than a linguistic Hebrew expression to discretely speak about sex.
When a husband and wife come together in a sexual relationship there is a knowing of one another in a way that no one else knows. Both man and woman have revealed themselves to their spouse that they reserve for their spouse only.
This is done not just physically but emotionally and relationally. There is an emotional and relational vulnerability that is expected to be received with loving acceptance by their spouse.
When this is done by both husband and wife, it strengthens their union by fostering the intimacy between them.
Knowledge from Knowing
This “knowing” has massive implications for the way men and women view sex and intimacy. Men over the course of time will come to realize that the sexual relationship is more than a physical pleasure, but much more the consummation of relational intimacy between husband and wife. They realize this through the disappointments of a sexual relationship in contrast to the satisfaction of a sexual relationship. They come to realize that if his wife simply gives him sexual release without desiring him in return he is left unfulfilled even though the physical act has been completed. He will feel incomplete in his soul because there has not been a connecting of his soul with the one whom his heart loves. His vulnerability has not been met with loving acceptance and reciprocation, but with the coldness of obligation even if it was meant as a help to him by his wife. Knowingly or unknowingly he contrasts this in his mind with those times when desire was expressed and received on both his part and the part of his wife. Both the physical and relational expression of their love is fulfilled in a more intimate and loving way. So this knowledge should result practically in a change of attitude when it comes to sex and how it relates to intimacy.
A Consummation of Relational Intimacy
Men, you should begin to see sex as the consummation of relational intimacy. Relational intimacy happens long before entering the bedroom. It begins when you wake up in the morning sacrificially giving of your time, your energy, your mind, and your heart to your wife (Eph 5:25). The motivation should not be to just “get some” in the bedroom as a result of sacrificially giving in all these ways. The motivation should be to foster intimacy between you and your wife which is what your soul longs for in the first place. When that intimacy is fostered and valued your wife will be able to tell and will respond. We must realize that we live in a broken world and perhaps your perception of how she will respond is broken as well, fed more by cultural messages than genuine expressions of love. The point is that both you as the husband and leader must be striving for the right goal which is emotional and relational intimacy with your wife. You express and receive this most in a physical way while she expresses this and receives it more relationally. Likewise women, please change your perception of your husband’s sexual advances from a merely physical act to a relational act. When he desires you physically, understand that he is intimately desiring to connect with you emotionally and relationally. This is just best expressed by him physically. He is wanting the same thing you are wanting. Please don’t think I’m suggesting that he gets a free pass on all of the emotional and relational support that you need at other times. I have tried to put the responsibility of leadership on him earlier in this article. I believe that even though we live in a broken world that is replete with relational brokenness and separation, God has placed within the hearts of both husbands and wives a desire to connect on a level much deeper than just the physical. We are to become one-flesh. The strong desire for sex in a man is designed to bring him back to his wife. It is a gift to the marriage relationship. The expressive relational nature of women is designed to bring an even greater fulfillment to men than they would ever experience if they were left to themselves or only expressed intimacy physically.
Satisfaction through Sacrifice
Men, please realize that there will be a day in your twilight years that you may no longer be able to express your intimacy in a physical manner. But if you invest in your wife and build a marriage of intimacy, you will never be without the full satisfaction for which your soul longs. The result of building greater intimacy in your marriage is reflecting the intimacy that will be experienced by Christ and the church. This will not be a chore that you must strive for but the natural result of sacrificially giving yourself to your wife and her response to your leadership in the marriage relationship.
Men and women: sex and Intimacy are all part of God’s plan to make Himself known to the world through His people. This may seem like an unattainable to some, but it is the purpose and design of God for marriage and by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is absolutely attainable.
Cory Majors is the Senior Pastor at West Baptist Church Batesville, AR. He graduated from Liberty University with his Bachelor of Science in Religion and is currently finishing his MDiv at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Sherry Majors, have been married 25 years and they have four children (Grady, Rachel, Caedmon and Evan) and one miniature schnauzer (Murphy). Cory loves to spend time with his family, study scripture, watch college football (especially the Razorbacks).
Follow Cory on Twitter: @CLMaj