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Communicating About Sex in the First Years of Marriage

Guidelines to help you love your spouse better, to the glory of God.

Nov 5, 2020

When you are married, there are numerous things that need to be discussed on a regular basis. How was work? How are the kids? What are our plans for the week? What do you want to eat? How was sex tonight?

Does that last question feel shocking to you? The fact is that in order to glorify God and properly love your spouse through sex, you must speak about it with him or her. It can’t remain unaddressed.

How can you have meaningful conversations about sex with your spouse? You should be sure to address wants, worries, ways, and whys.

Wants and Worries

God has designed sex to be an intimate time of togetherness for you and your spouse. There is no other time when you are so connected and intertwined. It is a beautiful thing that should result in transparency, unity, and unhindered affection.

For this reason, sexual desires should not remain silent. If a spouse wants to enjoy something during sex, it should at least be discussed. A spouse should be free to voice what they like and dislike and to bring up any number of desires or preferences regarding sex.

Start the conversation by asking questions. What do you like when we have sex? What could you live without? What is your favorite thing? What is your least favorite?

It isn’t enough to talk only about wants; you have to talk about worries as well. What hopes and fears do you each have regarding sex? Do you have any concerns about each other’s likes and dislikes?

It could be that a wife worries that her appearance won’t be appreciated or doesn’t think that she is beautiful. A husband may wish that his wife would initiate sex more often but may not want to appear too eager for sex. Or it is possible for a husband to worry about whether his wife enjoys sex at all but to be too nervous to bring up the issue. The wife could also be the one who wants more but doesn’t want to appear to be too sensual.

Worries must be discussed, or they will never be worked through. Talk about both your and your spouse’s likes and dislikes.

Ways and Whys

All these wants and worries lead to ways and whys. What ways should a couple have sex and why? Here are some biblical guidelines.

The ways must be determined by an exclusive covenant.  God has established the parameters of sex. It should take place only between one man and one woman until death alone separates them. This is the way for the marriage bed to remain undefiled (see Hebrews 13:4). So, using anyone else’s body for any sexual activity is forbidden and will bring God’s judgment. It is sinful to bring another person into the marriage bed—whether physically, virtually, or mentally.

Adultery is the most obvious act that is off-limits (see Exodus 20:14), and pornography is not permitted either. Even if both spouses are comfortable with using pornography as part of their sexual activity, God is not okay with it under any circumstance. Using lustful thoughts, whether they come from pornography, your imagination, or personal memories, is unbiblical (see Matthews 5:28; contrast with Philippians 4:8). God wants you to be present with your spouse and to love the one you are with.

If you want to bring a third party into the marriage bed, why? Are you not content with your current relationship? Are you looking for a forbidden thrill?

Our answers to these questions expose our idolatry for things that are contrary to God’s Word and His ways. God loves to bless faithfulness and is ready to forgive. Repent of any lustful desires you have and submit yourself to the lordship of Christ. The Holy Spirit can give you desires that are exclusively for your spouse.

The ways must be acceptable to both husband and wife. Both a husband and a wife must agree on the ways they are having sex. If either person is uncomfortable with how one of them is experiencing an orgasm, then there is a problem. The Bible says that whatever is done must be done in faith (see Romans 14:23) and cannot violate anyone’s conscience.

There are sexual things that the Bible does not forbid but that might not be everyone’s preference. The point of sex isn’t to force a desire upon your spouse; it is to serve your spouse so that you bring them joy. The whole point of sexual union is to display the gospel. Love does not insist on its own way (see 1 Corinthians 13:5).

The why question is very important to ask in relation to these issues. Truly examine your own heart before trying to help your spouse (see Matthew 7:5). When you read the following questions, evaluate yourself—not your spouse.

If you are desirous of something that your spouse doesn’t want, why do you want it so badly? If you are having a hard time giving up your preferences, why is that? Are those preferences an idol? If so, repent. Believe that Jesus forgives you and gives you the power to replace your idol with God’s design and desires.

The ways must be safe and sacred. Sex was never intended by God to be a cheap throwaway act. He designed sex to be sweet and secure. He wants it to be a precious gift for married couples to enjoy. It is a delight that couples are to treasure, for the glory of Christ, in the sacred and secure bonds of the marriage covenant (see 1 Timothy 4:3–4).

This means any sexual activity that is painful, inherently risky, or forced is unacceptable. Sex should be an act of love, not one that brings about harm—we should treat our spouses as we would want to be treated (see Luke 6:31). Couples should thus not attempt any sexual act that could cause damage.

We don’t want to adopt the false idea that the more atypical sex is, the more thrilling it is—an idea that comes from our culture’s unhealthy fixation on the exotic. This misses the point of sex entirely.

But at the same time, sex isn’t meant to be boring. It is meant to be a blast. We hope that you find the marriage bed to be one of the best places in the world. You should find so much sexual pleasure in your spouse that you can be described as being “intoxicated” with love (Proverbs 5:19; see also Song 5:1).

God loves to bless faithfulness. He loves to give His children delight in His good gifts and to reward them for their contentment. If you are always looking for the next thrill, then you don’t understand true pleasure. Godliness with contentment is great gain—and this applies to sex just as much as the Bible says it does to money (see Philippians 4:12–13; 1 Timothy 6:6).

The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence, and sex won’t be more fulfilling in another person’s bed. The grass is greenest where God’s blessing resides. His presence, favor, and happiness are with those who follow His Word. God wants you to have lots of sex with your spouse, and the kind of sex he wants you to have is the kind that is most pleasurable and eternally rewarding.

Keep the marriage bed pure and precious—and please keep talking.


This post is adapted from the book Letters to a Romantic: The First Years of Marriage (P&R, 2020).