Show up naked with food: How to talk about sex

RELATIONSHIPS | 9 mins

I was listening to a podcast the other day about how to initiate sex.

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The question the interviewee was answering was, “How do I initiate sex with my husband?” He answered, “You don’t have to complicate it. Sometimes it’s just showing up naked with food.”

What was interesting to me about this interaction is that she was asking the interviewee about how to initiate sex, when that is really a question for her spouse.

I’m a sex therapist, so I get this question all the time. Why do we have such a hard time talking about sex with our spouse? I meet people in marriages young and old who don’t talk about sex. Not just don’t talk about it, but get divorced because they don’t have the language to talk about it.

When my husband and I got married 11 years ago, we quickly found out that intercourse was difficult due to something I had called vaginismus. We were virgins and even ended our wedding around 5pm just to go have sex. Soon, it felt defeating. It took us a few years to work through, but what we found was how important our communication about sex was. We were forced to talk on a different level than we ever thought we would need to. We had to go to the drawing board and figure out what was going to work, what felt painful, what didn’t, what shame was coming up, and what sexual experiences we wanted to explore. How were we going to get creative?

This interaction grew in importance as seasons of life changed. I was on bedrest for months when I was pregnant, and this conversation was vital to the health of our relationship. After giving birth, I was told I might not be able to have enjoyable sex again due to complications. Now, figuring out owning my own business while having two kids under three brings on a whole new sex conversation.

But God actually created sex—and not just for procreation.

Throughout the Bible, the word “know” is sometimes used to describe experiencing our spouse sexually. Deep down, we all want to be known. That’s what intimacy is all about. To know and be known. But most of us are hit with lies that say we don’t deserve to be known. Lies that say your partner will reject you. That your partner won’t be interested. That you aren’t worth the time. That you don’t look or perform the right way. Process these with your partner. Talk about why you feel this way and think these thoughts. God wants to help you knock those lies down and replace them with his truth so that you can experience the true meaning of sex. Become a student of your partner and let them do the same for you.

Talking about sex is scary because we might express ourselves, our wants, and our desires. It’s something that is incredibly vulnerable and intimate, and the risk is feeling rejected. Maybe we don’t want to hurt the other person with our truth. Or maybe we don’t want the current situation to change so we continue to push sex off the table. Sometimes it’s easier to engage in other forms of sex outside of the relationship that don’t require intimacy. Intimacy takes time. Intimacy can be scary. When we spend so much time not talking about this thing over here it becomes something to fear and creates anxiety. We don’t always know why we fear it, but it feels real enough to drive our choices.

The further we move away from talking about sex, the more awkward and uncomfortable it becomes. So, rip off the Band-Aid and just do it! I can’t tell you how many couples I see who feel so much relief after they start talking about sex. It can be that powerful. It’s difficult because expressing our sexual thoughts can be attached to our identity. Someone can say “no,” give us a funny look, or be grossed out by what we’re saying, and that can sometimes feel like an “I don’t want you,” “you’re weird,” or “you’re gross” experience.

Then we’re hit with shame.

However, when we’re able to talk about sex, and our partner is open to hearing our thoughts in a non-judgmental setting, it can feel inviting, freeing, and many times lead to a more rich, bonded relationship. In my sessions I see clients who have held back their sexual thoughts for years only to find out that their partner was interested in truly knowing them in that sexual way all along.

God wants you to have a great sex life in marriage. This may sound weird, but He actually reveals himself through sex. The relationship you have with your partner is a model of your relationship with God. It involves time, communication, effort, and many times, changes. When we can begin to communicate in a deeper way about sex, we start to have the opportunity to experience sex instead of just doing sex (or not doing it). Have you ever brought God into that conversation? Try starting your conversation about sex with your partner by praying about your sex life. Invite God into it. I know, it’s weird. But it can be so powerful!

When our second baby was a few months old, I was exhausted. I kept telling my husband “no” more than I liked. We talked about our lack of bondedness, feeling frustrated due to being in that “just getting enough sleep” phase. I wanted to challenge myself because I knew how good that connection could be if I opened myself up to it. Showering and sleep just always felt better in my mind. Sex felt like a huge reach. One day my husband approached me about sex and I instantly was frustrated inside. I knew I wanted to be initiated differently than what he was doing. I stood there, awkwardly staring at him, and said this prayer in my head: “God, please renew my mind, please renew my mind.” Within less than a minute my husband approached me differently, my body relaxed, and my mind softened toward him. It doesn’t happen like that all the time, but it was a pretty incredible situation of inviting God into that moment.

So how do we do this? Here are some rules for getting started:

Know where you’re at in your relationship before engaging.
Sometimes a relationship just isn’t going well and to talk about sex and be vulnerable feels unsafe. You might need someone else to help you have the conversation, like a professional counselor.
Ask questions and talk about your experiences without judgment.
Create time where you and your partner are ready to try it with a focus on listening and respecting each other. That means no sighing, rolling eyes, falling asleep, etc. It’s OK if you don’t know what to say, but your partner might be telling you something that means a lot to them. Lean into that.
Remember, you’re fighting for this together.
Try to understand how this might feel for them to be sharing these things and then reflect that back to them. “I had no idea that was your favorite thing. Let’s do more of that!” “It’s good to know that talking helps you feel more desired and connected to have sex.” “Man, that must have been scary to share with me. I’m glad you did and I want you to be able to come talk to me about those things when they come up for you.”

Need help on what questions to ask? Many people do. Try these:
What does sex mean to you?
What’s your favorite thing about our sex life?
Do you have any fantasies about me that you’d like to share (Song of Solomon is a great reference for fantasies in the Bible).
What’s something you’d like to experiment with (i.e. different positions, rooms, times of day, adult aids)?
How do you like sex to be initiated?
What do you fear about sex?
What’s something we do that you don’t like?
Something we do that you think I like but I don’t is __.
What’s been your favorite memory about our sex life?
What do you wish we would do more of that we used to do?
What really holds you back from not initiating or engaging in sex?

Feel free to create your own questions, too. This isn’t something that is a one-time thing. This is something that I encourage couples to do often. After, find a natural way to debrief with your partner.

Having a great sex life and a great marriage requires deepening, strengthening, and growing. If you leave your sex conversation with the idea that this was all about identifying how much you are going to have sex each week, then you’ve missed the point of this conversation and God’s intent for sex. I say this because I often hear, “If we have more sex than things will be better.” Frequency really doesn’t solve much, especially if it’s just about getting the job done. God wants you to channel your inner playfulness, your inner fun side. He wants you to be creative. He wants to see you love your partner and experience them. Get to know them and enjoy it.

Written by Emma Schmidt on Oct 17, 2018
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Discussion Questions

  1. What has influenced your sexual communication (or lack of) with your spouse?

  2. Why is it so challenging to talk about sex personally? What do you fear when talking about sex with your spouse?

  3. This week, choose to share one new thing with your spouse that you haven’t said before. Try setting up a specific time so that you are sure not to miss it. Or forward them this article and use it as a conversation starter. A better sex life awaits if we rip the Band-Aid off and talk.

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