The Procrustean Bed-Marriage Communication and Sexuality, "Communication in Marriage". Part 11
By Norman & Ann Bales Of All About Families
In our previous installment we told the story of Procrustes and his iron bed. Procrustes tried to make everyone "fit" his bed no matter what he had to do. Many of us come to the marriage bed with a plan much like Procrustes. We have many pre-conceived ideas of what sex in marriage will be like and we plan to make our marriage partner "fit" into that mold. One of the common expectations of marriage is that marriage will meet my need for affection and sexual intimacy. In this discussion we will look at some ways to overcome our "Procrustean Problem."
We start with the concept that God conceived our sexuality.
- When God brought Adam and Eve together, he decreed, " . . . a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and they will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
- "One flesh" is the term that Bible writers often used to describe the sexual bond between a man and a woman.
- "God has so designed us that it is possible during a lifetime, to establish and develop one relationship unlike all others. It is to the developing of this relationship that sex is designed to make its unique contribution . . .. It allows one relationship in life to be unique, unlike any other. And it is in this permanent, life-long relationship that the deepest hungers (that can be met by humans) are satisfied." - Carl Brecheen. Marriage Enrichment Seminar.
WHAT THE BIBLE HAS TO SAY ABOUT SEXUALITY IN MARRIAGE
- God created marriage as a means of maintaining the human race. (Genesis 1:27-28; Genesis 3:20).
- God created a man and a woman differently. A part of their difference was designed to satisfy the need for companionship (Genesis 2:18)
- The marriage bed is honorable (Hebrews 13:4).
- Sex alone will not hold a marriage together. (I Thessalonians 4:4,5)
- Christians are encouraged to marry and to unselfishly satisfy each other's desires as a means of preventing immorality (I Corinthians 7:2-5).
- Sexuality is designed to provide pleasure. (Proverbs 5:18-19; Song of Solomon 4:10)
Expectations and Assumptions About Sexuality.
- Some believe if they have sexual satisfaction, all their other problems will be solved.
- Some believe that sexual intercourse is the only form of closeness and intimacy in a marriage.
- Some believe that they should have the freedom to participate in sexual activity with people other than their spouses.
- Some believe that every whim, desire or fantasy represents a sexual need.
- Some believe that sexual intercourse can only be legitimately practiced when the aim is procreation. All other sexual activity is regarded as sinful.
- Some believe that all sexual involvement (even between husbands and wives) is dirty and sinful.
- Some treat sex as if it were a toy or a plaything. A high school student once said, "It's like any other appetite. If I'm hungry I get a quarter-pounder with cheese, and if I want sex, I find a girl who is willing."
- Some people develop their philosophy of sexual intimacy from popular fiction and believe the sex act "just comes naturally."
ALL THESE ASSUMPTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS REPRESENT EITHER A PERVERSION OR DISTORTION OF THE WORD OF GOD.
Barriers that Prevent Physical Intimacy.
- Ignorance. Poor information prevents physical intimacy. These could have come from observing our parents relationship, learning about sex from a "barnyard" perspective or being taught about the physical act without any moral values being associated with our knowledge.
- Guilt. Some parents and some church leaders perpetuate the belief that all sex is dirty. Some cannot share the marriage bed without a sense of shame.
- Fear. Intimacy is blocked when couples fear consequences of the act. It may violate basic moral principles. They may have a fear of unwanted pregnancy. Some many not know the prior sexual history of their spouses and fear the consequences of disease.
- External factors. Stress, working long hours, lack of privacy, unpleasant odors and other external deterrents often hinder sexual intimacy.
- Personal feelings. Anger, resentment, bitterness, sadness and depression all have a negative effect on sexual satisfaction.
Communication and Sexuality in Marriage
- "Sex itself is a form of communication" so said Faulkner and Brecheen in their Marriage Enrichment material.
- "A key factor in the total marriage relationship is communication." (Esau) He goes on to say "sex within marriage has great potential for communicating the meanings of tenderness, caring, love and commitment." Many therapists who work with couples that are having sexual problems will begin their therapy by looking at how well the couple communicates.
- Many couples will communicate openly about every thing else that is going on in their lives, but find it impossible to talk about their sexual relationship.
- Esau feels that if communication is established about sex, several good things will happen.
- It allows a way to get all of the assumptions about sex out in the open.
- It will keep the husband and wife from taking each other for granted in their relationship.
- It will give both parties the chance to say what pleases them or doesn't, what is pleasant or distasteful, and what is most satisfying to them.
- It takes work to keep the lines of communication open. With love and caring in the sexual relationship a couple can keep this part of their relationship growing and alive. Esau suggests these ways to accomplish this:
- Respect one another's moods and feelings in bed as you would any other place.
- Don't ever use sex to get even with a mate.
- Make a continuing effort to please one another.
- Make sex a real partnership.
"The sexual relationship between a man and a woman is a tangible demonstration that marriage is different, more intimate than any other relationship can possibly be. The bond is one that is to be treasured not only because God commands it to be, but because that command was designed for our ultimate good and satisfaction." - Truman Esau. Making Marriage Work p. 152.
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