Sex: a Work in Progress

Scene from a popular television show: Two characters, having previously flirted for several seasons with will-they-or-won’t-they tension, figure out they are sexually attracted to each other. They grab each other, bodies grinding against each other, hands tearing off clothes, mouths practically consuming the other’s face. Cue moaning and grunting. He pushes her up against the file cabinet, and they are off to the races.  

The above is from just one show, but it’s pretty representative of what every TV show, movie, and pop song tells us sex is supposed to be. Passionate. Raw. Intense. Pleasurable. Exciting. Unleashed. Orgasmic.

For years I drank that cultural Kool-aid, all the while being committed to purity until marriage. Sex was something I both desperately wanted yet couldn’t have, like a Christmas present you had to wait to open. My best friend and I would pray against temptation and lustful thoughts, but we did not think to pray that sex with our future husbands would be great. It was a given! Plus, after all these years of celibacy, I was owed great sex, right?

Fast forward several years. I’m in my 30s, and I meet the love of my life. We are still committed to not having sex before marriage, but physical touch is definitely our love language. We spend every second pressed together, eschewing dinners out for nights of cuddling in. Based on our physical chemistry, I am certain sex is not going to be a problem.  

The long awaited day of our marriage finally arrives. My husband and I have a celebratory drink, and then it’s time to get down to business, the real business.  

I will spare you the details, but it ain’t nothing like TV. Tears may have been involved.

I console myself with the thought that it’s always terrible the first time. Everyone knows that.

A week later I email my OBGYN. Is this normal? What should I do? She tells me to just be patient, that it will get better.

She’s right. It does get better, but it’s still not easy.

When I should be focusing on my husband, my mind is on a hundred other things. I feel cold. No, now I’m too hot. His hand is caught on my hair. Does this look sexy or do I just look fat? I think I’m getting a cramp in my hip. Am I doing this right? Man, I’m tired. I need to work out more.

Rather than the ease of TV sex, it takes the level of coordination of a NASA rocket launch for a successful experience for me. Even when I feel emotionally and mentally turned on, my body often disconnects when things are not just so. I can only enjoy it at these times, within this range of temperatures, when I feel this way, with these moves, etc. So much for “unleashed” and “raw.”

In contrast, by the way, my husband has no such problems. Sex simply does not seem to involve the same mental gymnastics for him that it does for me. Sometimes it’s annoying; a lot of times it makes me wonder if something is wrong with me. While I’m pretty optimistic that sex will continue to get better over time, there’s a part of me that wonders, what if it doesn’t?

But let me tell you something: even if that’s the case, it will be okay. While I have often heard that sex is a gift from God, I had always assumed that the gift was for me. But I now see it is also a gift that I can give my husband, even when I am not going to have the same enjoyment he will. It is a way to bond with him, love him, and serve him as his wife. I love having him close to me. I love knowing I am making him happy. These are not the benefits I had always imagined when fantasizing about sex, but they are enough and they are good.

But no fears, I haven’t given up hope for an amazing sex life. My husband is a patient, loving man, and he wants the best for me. With each month that passes, we learn more about each other’s bodies and also about our own. We make a point to communicate openly–what feels good, what doesn’t, what could be better. Sometimes it’s awkward for this formerly abstinent girl and her shy husband, but it makes a positive difference. We are making progress.

Ultimately, I have to leave it in the hands of God. After all, He created sex in the first place – He probably knows what He’s doing. I have a lifetime with my husband to figure it out, and we know practice makes perfect.

But until then, there’s artificial lubrication. Praise God.

Joanna Saul

Hi!I am a thirtysomething Ohio girl who loves serving the disadvantaged and her community. Having recently become engaged myself, I love to encourage Christian women in their 30s, 40s, and later who are still believing God for Mr. Right.Come join our community at Modern Ruth Project (modernruthproject.wordpress.com) – I look forward to seeing you there!

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  • Karen Gonzalez

    That last line is the best!

  • Astroglide: The Secret to a Happy Marriage.

  • T Shanel Hunter

    Love love love this post. So thankful to not be alone in my feelings and experiences with married folk sex!!!

    • Thank you! And yes, you are not alone!! Your response is exactly why I wanted to share the intimate details of my marriage – so people would know that they are not alone!