One of the hardest things to talk about in a relationship is intimacy issues. You can be the best of friends with your spouse, be open about everything else, and feel that you have no secrets. And yet, in the bedroom, people shut down. It becomes almost impossible to talk about what is going on. Even if there is mutual respect and a desire for both partners to find sex enjoyable, intimacy issues silence even the most attentive of partners.

Is it because sex is just so intimate? It involves the core of who people are. It is not just an act of reproduction. If it were, why would there be so many nerve endings and emotions and heightened senses involved? God could have left the joy and fun out of sex, but He didn’t. Before the fall, man and woman were naked and unashamed, and that may well have included sex.

Our country does not talk about sex. We treat it like a bad thing to be left in the bedroom. The church does not teach young people about their bodies, or how to approach intimacy openly. Premarital counseling often does not get into intimacy and how to figure out what makes both people tick.

Men are left to porn to answer their questions. Women live in a culture rife with messaging that their needs don’t matter, sex is not about them, and their bodies are somehow bad things.

Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24

God created sex to be the union of two people. The human body reacts and functions the way it does because God made it that way. He made the woman’s form to take time, attention, and care to get warmed up. He made men easily aroused.

Society has misshapen that and turned sex into something naughty. It oscillates between talking about sex too much or not talking about it at all.

In The Deeply Formed Life, Pastor Rich Villodas writes about the starvation diet approach to sex – one that rejects and ignores anything related to longing and desire. It pushes anything related to sex or sensuality into corners, forcing it to be discussed only among the very brave.

It treats sexual impulses as something to be avoided and denied. It does not contend that people can control themselves, rather sexual natures are too overpowering. It is either dominate sex or be dominated by it.

Villodas contrasts starvation of desire with a fast-food approach where everything goes. Sex is treated casually. It’s all about the satisfaction of urges. This is the land of one-night stands and unrelenting porn and just getting needs met.

“In the starvation diet,” Villodas writes, “the soul is exalted to the point of denying the body. In the fast-food diet, the body is exalted to the point of denying the soul and the soul-numbing pain we’ve experienced.” (p. 140)

Neither is what God intended. Read the Songs of Solomon. It is a racy love story of two lovers desperate to be near each other. They speak of their longings with candor and yet a deep sense of respect permeates their desire. This overly neglected book is in the Bible for a reason, perhaps to help people get over their aversion to discussing that which is so fundamental to how God made us.

Oftentimes, intimacy issues stem from a lack of communication and a lack of relayed expectations. It is awkward to talk to a spouse about what is and is not working in the bedroom. It demands a depth of vulnerability not required anywhere else. It requires people to listen, really listen, and to accept what can feel like criticism but is simply preference.

It can be awkward to suggest things during sex. To say to a partner, “can you try this?” is difficult, even if there is great communication in other places. If one has a truly inattentive partner, intimacy issues take on a whole other level as one person is being used to satisfy the sexual urges of another, which is not at all what God had in mind.

Two things can happen simultaneously to help with intimacy issues.

Have honest talks

This will require ground rules of honesty and non-offense. It is hard to hear that someone is not satisfied in the bedroom. It is hard to say you are not satisfied in the bedroom. But for there to be any movement toward mutual enjoyment, both sides need to be heard.

For women, it can be hard to admit that penetration hurts. Without proper foreplay (which is vitally necessary for a good sex life) the vagina will be too dry to properly accept penetration. There are lubes and oils to help. Adding something to make it more enjoyable should not be seen as a bad thing. It is helping both sides get more out of the experience. (Women, you are not alone if this happens to you. There is nothing wrong with your body.)

Husbands, what would you like your wife to do? This is not a list of demands – it is preferences and ideas. Would you like her to spend more time on your body? Do you want to be kissed more? Explored? Talk about preferences for oral sex and listen to her hesitations openly.

Wives, how do you want to be touched? This can be a hard one for as is discussed below, women are not taught to figure this out.

Before the conversation starts, find a way to defuse the situation. It will be uncomfortable, but if both sides stick it out and fight the desire to run from the discomfort, what waits on the other side is truly lovely. Maybe you only talk for a set time or only about one thing (foreplay, oral sex, positions, etc.). Again, this is not a list of what a person is doing wrong, it’s a conversation on how to make the experience better for both sides.

Also know it will take time, multiple conversations, and trial and error to get where both sides want to be. But it is so worth it.

Know Thyself

The church does not talk about sex, and it rightly does not encourage masturbation. However, if a couple is ever going to be able to talk openly and honestly about how to make sex more enjoyable for both parties, both parties must know what they want.

God made our bodies work a certain way. He made women with different erogenous areas. It does take more time for women to get going. And every woman is different.

Our bodies are not bad things. They are not inherently sinful. God created man and woman and called them good and that included the areas involved during sex. Things got distorted after the fall, but how our sexual organs function did not. God made men and women to work and fit together in certain ways. What got broken was how people use those organs for unequal satisfaction.

There are non-pornographic ways to find out about the female erogenous zones. It does not have to be overwhelming. Knowledge is power. Finding out how your body functions, what works for you, and how you like to be touched can only lead to good things.

Set aside a time strictly for foreplay – i.e., it is going to be about her. Let your husband take his time on your body and try to figure out how you like to be touched. Husbands, listen to your wife. The focus is on your wife and getting her more involved. Listen and watch her facial expressions. If something is not working, move on to something else.

None of her suggestions reflect on you or your “performance.” This is a time for your wife to get more involved and into things – which will benefit you too. Most men want to be good at sex, so why not ask her how it’s going? Find a way for it not to be a personal attack (because it is not) but a way for you both to get the most out of the experience marriage has to offer. Also, her pleasure will lead to your increased pleasure. It’s a win-win.

But remember:

  • This is not a list of demands the other person must meet.
  • This is not all about one person at the expense of another.
  • This is not a backhanded way for wives to get left further behind in the process.

This is an acknowledgment that there is a lifetime of sex to be had with this other person. It’s acknowledging that good sex takes work and communication (regardless of what TV and movies show) and that when God said, “two become one flesh” that does not come without ensuring a person’s heart, body, and mind are all engaged in the act together.

Is it awkward? Yes. Does it have to be? No. But that will take time, trial and error, open communication, and a willingness to get outside one’s comfort zone.

“Red Flowers”, Courtesy of Annie Spratt,, CC0 License; “Waterfall”, Courtesy of Leo_Visions,, CC0 License; “Forest Road”, Courtesy of Luke Miller,, CC0 License; “Sand Bath”, Courtesy of see plus,, CC0 License