I’ve been having the best sex of my life recently and it’s looked nothing like what the porn industry or Hollywood glamorizes. You see, my wife needed some time to recover from having our third kid this past January, so we had about a seven month stretch without any sexual intercourse. In fact, the first time we had sex again after the break looked a lot like the first time we ever had sex on our wedding night – it wasn’t crazy passionate, it wasn’t exhilarating, it wasn’t smooth, and it wasn’t longer than a few minutes. But while one experience left me confused and disappointed, the other left me feeling supremely fulfilled and known.
Seven years ago I walked into our wedding night hotel room with a head full of misconceptions and a heart barely aware of itself, let alone my wife’s. I had terribly misguided ideas about sex and its role in my life and marriage which were quickly and unceremoniously slapped around, and sex soon became a source of frustration and resentment to me instead of the culmination of my adolescent fantasies. Years passed as I waited for my wife to somehow become as into sex as I was, for her carnal passion to be unlocked by direct divine intervention. During this time I was still actively looking at porn and masturbating, somehow missing the fact that my stupid behavior was one of the causes of my lackluster sex life instead of one of the results.
A few years ago I became serious about getting sexually sober and started learning that a man’s desire for sex is much deeper than a basic animal lust, that it is in fact connected to every part of our hearts, our needs, our dreams – everything God put in us that makes us come alive as men. I began to understand that fostering true connection and intimacy with my wife through sex required intentional effort from the ground up, and as I worked towards this I realized just how far from the truth my previously held beliefs about sex were:
Entitlement vs. Engagement: I entered marriage expecting to have great sex from day one. In my short-sightedness, I didn’t consider the possibility that my wife’s perspective on sex may have been (vastly) different from mine and that our sexual connection was something that would need to be actively nurtured and developed. I had always thought of sex as the ultimate destination but slowly began to understand that it is instead a lifelong journey of deepening engagement.
Pleasure vs. Intimacy: Everything I knew about sex before getting married centered around how good it felt. My wife and I would talk about inhibition and desiring more freedom in our sex life but it took me years to realize that I had been mistaken in my focus on how good we could make each other feel instead of how intimately we could share ourselves with each other.
Defensiveness vs. Vulnerability: When we weren’t on the same page sexually, I would shut down and somehow manage to become both defensive and offended. My wife is one of the gentlest people I know but any semblance of rejection would cut like a knife and leave me feeling ashamed and pathetic. Over time I learned to stop hiding behind these emotions and to expose my heart to my wife instead by processing through them with her and the guys in my group.
Fantasy vs. Reality: Throughout my life, the most prominent arena for my struggles with sexual purity has always been my mind. Growing up it became second nature to me to escape into mental fantasies, which I would turn to in my marriage as soon as I started feeling sexually frustrated, often even before that out of habit. This is the area that I’ve gone after hardest in the men’s group, and during our seven months without sex I lived out of 2 Corinthians 10:2, taking captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. I fought daily to keep my mind renewed and whole and so when the day came that we started to have sex again, I was able to be fully present with my wife, not withholding any part of my heart. I distinctly remember looking in her eyes one night and telling her that simply being with her was so much better than any fantasy I could ever think of. As I mentioned in the beginning, it hasn’t been mind-blowing or overwhelming or electrifying, but it’s been better than any of that…because it’s been real.