ILL: Four married guys go fishing. After an hour, the following conversation took place:
First guy: “You have no idea what I had to do to be able to come out fishing this weekend. I had to promise my wife that I will paint every room in the house next weekend.”
Second guy: “That is nothing, I had to promise my wife that I will build her a new deck for the pool.”
Third guy: “Man, you both have it easy! I had to promise my wife that I will remodel the kitchen for her.”
When they realized that the fourth guy had not said a word, they asked him, “What about you?”
Fourth guy: “I just set my alarm for 5:30 am. When it went off, I shut off my alarm, gave the wife a nudge and said, ‘Fishing or Sex?’ And she said, “Wear sun-block.”
At the top of your outline you’ll see this introductory statement. “The best sex happens in marriage with a committed husband and wife.” Today I want to talk with you about sexual fulfillment within marriage. I want to talk about Sex and Sex, that is, sex as women see it and sex as men see it. Last week, we read:
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Notice two important things. First, God created us in His own image. Men and women are both created in God’s image; this is our most important and distinguishing characteristic as human beings, even more than our sexuality. Men and women are profoundly alike in this regard: we both bear the image of God.
Second, God created us male and female. We are sexual creatures, and in our sexuality, we are different. It is a difference that runs deeply; there is a chromosomal difference embedded in every cell in our bodies.
ILL: Dr. Laura, in her book The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, says it like this:
The fact is, men and women are different physically, psychologically, motivationally, and temperamentally. Anyone who has had exposure to babies and children can tell you that boys and girls respond differently to the world right from the start.
Give both a doll and the girl will cuddle it, while the boy will more likely use it as a projectile or weapon. Give them two dolls and the girl will have the dolls talking to each other, while the boy will have them engaged in combat.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands (HarperCollins, 2003), p. 161.
This may not be the most scientific statement of gender differences, but she has a point. Men and women are different.
Here are two truths in this one verse: we are alike as God’s image bearers; we are different as male and female.
And just as there are two truths, there are two errors related to gender differences. On one extreme, we can ignore the differences and pretend that men and women are just alike. We are deeply alike; and we are different. And if we could obliterate the differences, what a boring world that would be!
On the other extreme, we can exaggerate the differences and create two neat stereotypes into which we try to squeeze every man and woman: men are all like this, and women are all like that. We are different as men and women; but we are also different in terms of personality, culture, family background, and a host of other factors. We need to beware of over-simplification and stereotypes.
Somewhere in the middle, we can acknowledge that there are real gender differences, and that every person, man or woman, is unique and shouldn’t be squeezed into a stereotypical mold.
Let’s start with a text from the Bible. Paul is writing to the Corinthian church and answering questions they asked about marriage. He says:
1 Corinthians 7:3-5 “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”
Here’s the big idea in this passage: mutuality. Marriage is a partnership shared by two people committed to loving, serving and meeting each other’s needs. Notice the mutuality:
The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The apostle Paul says that a married person is responsible to meet the sexual needs of his/her spouse; that we are to fulfill our marital duty to one another. To “fulfill your marital duty” is clearly referring to meeting our partner’s sexual needs. The NLT translates this, “The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s sexual needs.” My marital duty is to satisfy my wife! If she wants me or needs me, she gets me! Woohoo! “Hi honey, I’m here and I’m reporting for duty!” And Laina’s marital duty is to satisfy me. Mutuality.
The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Your body is not your own. It also belongs to your spouse. My body belongs to Laina; she can have it anytime she wants! And her body belongs to me. This means very simply that if your spouse wants to have sex, your default answer is…yes! Your body belongs to your spouse and if he wants it, if she wants it, the answer is yes! This does not mean that we never say no; part of mutuality is understanding and accepting “no” at times. But our default answer is yes. Mutuality.
Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent. We are not to refuse to have sex except for mutually agreed upon times of prayer; and when we’re done praying, we’re supposed to make love again so that we aren’t tempted to satisfy our sexual urges sinfully outside of marriage. Mutuality.
This idea of mutuality will shape everything I’ll say today about sex. We are to meet each other’s needs; to do this, we have to understand each other.
1. Sex: what women want and need.
What do women want and need when it comes to sex? I have no clue!
Obviously, I am not a woman, so I don’t speak from firsthand personal experience. I’ve been married for 35 years, and I listen to my wife, and as I’ve talked with hundreds of couples over the years, I have picked up a few clues. I have also done a lot of reading. For example:
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs says that women want love and respect, but mostly…love.
Dr. Willard Harley says that women want affection, conversation, honesty and openness, support, and commitment; but related to sex, they want and need affection. In fact, he says it may be their “deepest emotional need.” (His Needs, Her Needs, pg. 38)
Dr. James Dobson says that when it comes to sex, women want romantic love. He writes, “If I had the power to communicate only one message to every family in America, I would specify the importance of romantic love to every aspect of feminine existence. It provides the foundation for a woman’s self-esteem, her joy in living, and her sexual responsiveness.” (What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, pg. 117)
Do you see a pattern here? Love, affection, romantic love.
What do women want and need when it comes to sex? A lot of the same things men want…and a few different things! I’m going to use the word “affection” do summarize the biggest difference.
ILL: Ann Landers did a survey in which she asked women to answer this question. Which would you rather have with your husband: a night of physical intimacy (sex), or intimate conversation and affection. Over 50,000 women wrote in and said, with almost a single voice, “Give me affection over sex any day of the week.” (How do you think men would answer that question?)
Women find affection important in its own right, apart from sex. Men tend to see it as foreplay. So she gives him a hug because she enjoys the closeness and affection, and how does he interpret it? “Oo-la-la!” Wives often complain that their husbands don’t touch them unless they want sex, and they want to be touched as an expression of affection.
This is not to say that guys are not affectionate. Some are very affectionate. But as a rule, women value affection and romance much more than men, particularly as it relates to sex. For a woman, sex without romance feels like she’s being used, but for a guy it feels…well…good!
Dr. Kevin Lehman wrote an excellent book entitled, Sex Begins in the Kitchen, and he’s right! Good sex doesn’t start at bedtime; it starts at breakfast time, with the way he treats her. Most women are not interested in sex without affection or romance.
Well-known American sexual expert Jerry Seinfeld says, “The difference between men and women is that men are like firemen. To men, sex is an emergency, and we can be ready in two minutes. Women, however, are like the fire. They’re very exciting, but the conditions have to be just right for it to occur.” Jerry’s on to something. Most wives don’t just want affection and romance; they need it!
Men and women tend to be different at this point. For a man, romantic experiences with his wife are warm, enjoyable and memorable, but not essential for sex. For a woman, they are her lifeblood. Her confidence, her sexual response and her zest for living are often directly related to those tender moments when she feels deeply loved and appreciated by her man.
That is why flowers and cards are more meaningful to her than to him. I’ve never understood why women like flowers! They’re expensive and they wilt!
This is why she is continually trying to pull him out of the television set or the newspaper or the computer, and not vice versa. I’ve never had to ask Laina to put down the paper and talk, or turn off the TV and pay attention to me; but often she’ll snuggle up next to me when I’m trying to read, or stand in front of the tube and say, “Yoohoo…are you in there?”
This is why the anniversary is critically important to her and why she never forgets it…and why he had better not forget it!
This need for romantic love is not some quirk or peculiarity of your wife…it is the way God made women! A woman never loses the need to be romanced, while most men don’t even possess that need!
Even male/female arousal patterns reflect this difference. Men are like gas stoves: they turn on instantly, and when they’re done, they turn off just as quickly. Women are like electric stoves: they take longer to heat up, and longer to cool down. A man’s arousal curve is quick and steep, from the first point of interest to climax: it looks like Mt. Everest. A woman’s arousal curve is more gradual: it looks like the rolling Palouse farmland. That is why Dr. Ed Wheat tells men “If you do what comes naturally in lovemaking, almost every time you will be wrong.” What he means is that the man will naturally follow his steep curve, and he will be done and asleep in 5 minutes while his wife is still back here on the gradual slopes of arousal. If a man wants to satisfy his wife, and not just gratify his own need for release, he has to learn to slow down, and enjoy foreplay, and time his own release with the more gradual pattern of his wife. By the way, men, 20 minutes of begging is not foreplay. It’s all-day affection.
When a man’s approach to sex is “slam, bam, thank you ma’am”, it is no wonder his wife finds sex distasteful, and feels she is being used. Every woman wants to be romanced. Every woman wants to be wooed, and wanted, and made to feel special. Husbands, sex begins in the kitchen, with the way you treat her, the kindness you show her, all during the day. Your wife needs a romantic prelude to sexual intercourse.
ILL: A recent survey of women’s fantasies revealed that they fantasize about romance more than anything else, and most often a romantic interlude with their own husband.
So what can you do to romance your wife? What can you do to create an atmosphere of affection that is conducive to maximum sexual fulfillment? (Take notes men!)
Plan a regular date with your wife. Take her away from the kids and the dog and the dishes, and treat her to some time of quiet conversation with you. Sit and stare at her and tell her how wonderful she is.
Surprise her with a card, some flowers, a small gift–when it isn’t her birthday or anniversary or Christmas, and when you’re not apologizing for something!
Call her from work and tell her that you were thinking of her, and wondering how her day was going.
Tell her often how much you love her, and how committed you are to her.
Be chivalrous: open doors for her, hold her hand in public, offer her your arm.
Introduce her in public with obvious pride.
Be sure to kiss her goodbye when you leave, and hello when you get home.
Give lots of hugs. Touch communicates love, so touch a lot. It might seem superfluous to you as man, but I promise you that it means lots to her.
Make time to talk with her. Turn off the TV, put down the paper or your book, look her in the eye and give her your undivided attention.
Break the rules. If your love life is in a rut, try something new. Break some habits.
Husbands, your wife needs affection and romance. If you don’t know how to do that, ask her for help. And wives, if he asks, don’t get frustrated and say, “Oh! It isn’t the same if I have to tell you what to do.” Willard Harley says, “Almost all men need some instruction in how to become more affectionate.”
One more thing for the guys: Don’t say, “Well, I’m not the affectionate type.” That’s not an option if you and your wife are going to have a mutually satisfying sexual relationship. The guy who says, “I’m not the affectionate type,” and then reaches for his wife to satisfy his desire for sex is like a salesman who tries to close a deal by saying, “I’m not the friendly type – just sign here, you jerk. I’ve got other customers waiting.” Not exactly a turn-on.
Affection is the environment; sex is the event. Women tend to be more concerned with the environment and men with the event.
2. Sex: what men want and need.
What do men want and need? Easy. Sex!
Of course, men, like women, want many things out of their marriage. Dr. Emerson Eggerichs says that men want love and respect, but mostly respect. A man’s need for respect may be connected to his need for sex.
In an article titled “What Men Really Think About Sex,” Christian family counselor Paula Rinehart compiled a lot of research that shows that while physical intimacy for a man is deeply personal. Men tend to measure themselves by how physically connected they feel with their wives.
In her counseling, Paula Rinehart has noticed that if a man’s wife speaks irritably at dinner after she’s had a hard day, he knows it’s not about him. If she overspent her credit card, he knows it’s not about him. But when he’s denied physical intimacy, it feels to him as though he is being rejected. And only after he works to get past that awful feeling does he stand a chance of hearing that his wife actually does have a splitting headache.
Here’s how George Gilder, in his book Men and Marriage puts it: “For men the desire for sex is not simply a quest for pleasure. It is an indispensable test of identity.” Men want and need sex not only for physical reasons, but for deeply emotional reasons as well.
So in the arms of a woman a man rests the most emotionally vulnerable aspect of his being.
When a man chooses a wife, he promises to remain faithful to her for life. When she fails to understand his need for sex and refuses him, it puts him up the proverbial creek without a paddle. He has agreed to limit his sexual experience to a wife who is unwilling to meet that vital need.
How vital is that need? How important is sex to a man?
ILL: An older man with heart trouble was warned by his doctor that any unnecessary physical exertion could kill him, but he continued to have sexual relations with his wife. At times he endured a body-rending experience of shock afterward–his heart palpitated, his face lost its color, and his hands and feet turned cold and clammy. Sometimes it took one or two hours before he could even get off the bed. When his doctor suggested that he ought to be careful or he could kill himself making love to his wife, he quickly responded, “Oh!! What a way to go!!”
It’s that important to a man!
I have talked with couples who have gone weeks, months and sometimes years without sex; that was why I was talking with them! The average couple has intercourse 1-3 times a week, which is not surprising since a healthy man produces enough semen in 48-72 hours that he feels a pressure that needs to be released. In other words, God designed our bodies for regular sexual release. And when couples go weeks, months and years without intercourse, they are violating the way God created them, and begging for trouble. Ladies, you have a cycle every 28 days; men have a cycle too—every 48 hours! When your husband says, “I need you,” he means it!
This is why 1 Corinthians 7 says, “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” When a man is deprived of sexual relations in his marriage, he feels both a physical and emotional pressure, and may be tempted to seek release somewhere else.
Ladies, your husband is not a sex-crazed animal. Well…he is. But that’s normal! Men are physically and emotionally wired for sex; understanding that can go a long way in your marriage.
This is not to say that women don’t want sex. They do! Sometimes they want it more than the man! But generally, women want and need affection before sex, while men want and need the raw physical release of sex.
3. Sex and Sex: making it work together.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of all that could be said, so let me give you my most important advice of the day. Talk about it! The only way to achieve sexual fulfillment is to talk about with your spouse. Overcome your sexual ignorance and communicate your sexual needs and understanding to each other. Talk about it.
I’ve made some generalizations about men and women today; they may be true of your spouse, or not. You need to understand your spouse as an individual; to do that, you need to talk about it.
If we had to make a living being mind-readers, we’d all starve to death! Yet many people want their spouses to read their minds when it comes to their sexual needs and desires.
ILL: One husband loved to garden; he especially enjoyed growing prize cucumbers so his wife could make pickles. During the winter, he studied the seed catalogs, looking for the newest and best varieties of cucumbers. In the spring, he eagerly tilled, planted and tended the cukes. Meanwhile, his wife spent the winters searching for new pickle recipes. Her pickles were prize winners every year at the county fair, and visitors to their home always left with a jar of pickles. Every year, he lovingly grew cucumbers and she lovingly made pickles.
Years passed, and the husband died. The next spring, thinking their mother would want to make pickles, the couple’s grown children offered to plant the cucumbers for their mother. “Thank you, kids, but don’t bother,” she said. “I never really enjoyed making pickles; I just did it for your father because he loved them, and loved planting the cucumbers.”
The youngest son was upset because just before he died, his father had confided that he didn’t like pickles or enjoy planting cucumbers; he only did it because his wife seemed to enjoy making the pickles and winning prizes.
The good news is that both husband and wife were trying to do what they thought pleased the other. The bad news is that neither of them ever bothered to ask the other if they were pleased, and they wasted all that time and effort.
Sex is like making pickles. You’ve got to talk about it.
Nothing is harder to talk about than sex, because nothing strikes more deeply at the root of our self-esteem, our identity, our masculinity and femininity than sex. When a woman criticizes her husband’s sexual performance, she has attacked his manhood. When a man questions his wife’s sexual performance, he has assaulted her womanhood. This is touchy stuff! Perhaps you discovered this the first time you dared to talk about it after you were married, and the conversation dissolved into angry accusations, hot tears, and a cold war. So we don’t talk about it, and live in quiet frustration.
But we have to talk about it. If you ever hope to maximize your sexual relationship, you need to be able to talk about it honestly. Do you have the courage to ask your spouse, “What is it like making love with me? Are there things I do that you like or don’t like? Are there things you wished I would do?” Please answer these questions honestly–but carefully. In asking them, your spouse has laid his/her heart in your hands; treat it with care.
If you can’t imagine yourself talking about this, try writing a letter to your spouse. That can be a less frightening way to open up a dialogue. Or get a good book on sex and read it together, talk about it, and then try what it says! I’ve listed several good books at the end of this manuscript; you’ll be able to find them tomorrow on our website. If you can’t talk about it, get help. Go see a friend, a pastor, a counselor and get some help.
I know what my wife likes because she tells me; and she knows what I like because I tell her. But it took us awhile to arrive at a place of security and maturity where we could talk about our sex life without feeling personally threatened. But what a difference good communication has made. Talk about it!