Continuing this series on the women of Proverbs, we come to the nagging and quarrelsome wife. These verses are convicting. Nothing needs to be said on exactly what you are doing when you are nagging or quarreling. You know. When you are this type of wife, it is better for your husband to “live on the corner of the roof” or “in a desert”. If that doesn’t inspire self-loathing I don’t know what will! It is intolerable to be around someone that nags you and wants to pick a fight with you. According to Proverbs you would be better off living in extreme conditions than sharing a home with such a person. This makes me think twice before picking a fight with El Fury. James refers to the tongue as “a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8) We would be wise to bridle it and think twice before nagging.

Proverbs 14:1 is very interesting. It doesn’t speak directly about nagging and quarreling, but I included it with those verses because I thought it related well. “The wise woman builds her house.” Remember how it was during those first years of marriage? I was so attentive to our home and to El Fury’s needs. I built my house with care. I looked after others more than myself. The second part of this verse should serve as a warning. “But with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” What happens? This sounds like self-sabotage. Does this wife stop being intentional, stop tending to her marriage with care? Does her speech become characterized by nagging and quarreling?

Of course nobody wants to be the one that is tearing their home down. The problem is that your home might already be falling apart before you are willing to identify the problem. You might not even see that it is falling down until you are standing in the midst of rubble. Now, I’m not saying that it is solely the responsibility of the wife to keep her home intact. It takes two people working together to make a home thrive.

How do we identify if we are becoming nagging and quarrelsome? Watch yourself. Pay attention to what you are saying. It’s so hard to accept that you might be contributing to the problem. I can look back over the years of my marriage and see how in my pride I wanted to point the finger only at my husband. Somehow I forget that my marriage is not about keeping score and proving I’m right. The goal is peace. The goal is sharing your life in a way that builds your home in a beautifully integrated way that makes it hard to tear down.

Sex is a good reset button. Don’t withhold sex from your spouse as a means to get them to do whatever you are nagging them about. That’s manipulative and wrong. Similarly, if you are quarreling, try to follow up by being intimate. I’m not saying to forget about your problems and just have sex. Fix your problems together. Then re-engage physically. I know if El Fury and I have had an argument, I often feel like things are back to normal after we’ve had sex again.

When I find myself being nagging or quarrelsome, I try to picture El Fury standing on the corner of the roof. I don’t like it when he has to go up on our roof for anything, so this is an especially good exercise for me. The point is, I love him. Whatever it is that I’m nagging about or picking a fight with him for, if I can re-approach it from a solution minded viewpoint then the communication can become about the problem instead of the person. It takes effort! Your marriage is worth the effort.

Proverbs 14:1: “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.”

Proverbs 19:13: “A foolish child is a fatherʼs ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof.”

Proverbs 21:9: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

Proverbs 21:19: “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.”

Proverbs 25:24: “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”

Proverbs 27:15‭-‬16: “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.”

Other parts of this series:

Proverbs is an amazing book, and I’ve made a habit of reading the chapter of the book that corresponds to the day of the month. There are three types of women that are highlighted in Proverbs: the adulterous woman, the quarrelsome wife, and the wife of noble character. This three-post series will examine each of these types, starting today with the Adulterous Woman.

Proverbs has a lot to say about the Adulterous Woman. She is dangerous — and no wonder. This type of woman has the capability to burn up everything you hold dear in your life. Your marriage, your family, even your career. Her house “leads down to death” and “none who go to her return or attain the paths of life”. This is a serious warning. How often have we seen this happen? How do we protect ourselves from this danger?

  1. “Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman.” Wisdom is a lifelong acquirement, so this is no easy suggestion. Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” This statement could fill up a book. God is powerful, sovereign, and holy. You should have a proper fear of God, and that fear should humble you. If you live your life through that lens a lot of things will orient in a good way, including your marriage. James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Fear God, pray for wisdom, and read God’s Word which is full of wisdom.
  2. Guard your marriage. This could also be another book. Your marriage is the most important relationship in your life, and it is worth guarding. Guard your time together, guard your speech to one another and about one another. Be truthful to each other and identify problems as they arise. Do not slander one another to your friends and do not make friends with people that will entice you to engage in that sort of conversation. Trust your spouse and assume they want the best for you. People don’t typically set out to intentionally commit adultery. But if you aren’t diligently tending to your marriage you might unknowingly be taking small steps towards that path.
  3. Make sex a priority. You need this. Intimate contact creates physical and emotional bonding. The more satisfied you both are in your sex life the less likely you will be to look for satisfaction outside of your marriage.

Proverbs 2:16‭-‬19: “Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.  Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.  None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.”

Proverbs 5:3‭-‬6: “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil;  but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword.  Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave.  She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.”

Proverbs 6:24‭-‬29: “Keeping you from your neighborʼs wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.  Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.  For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another manʼs wife preys on your very life.  Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?  Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?  So is he who sleeps with another manʼs wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.”

Proverbs 7:10‭-‬12: “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.  (She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home;  now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.)”

Proverbs 7:26‭-‬27: “Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng.  Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”

Proverbs 23:27‭-‬28: “For an adulterous woman is a deep pit, and a wayward wife is a narrow well.  Like a bandit she lies in wait and multiplies the unfaithful among men.”

Other parts of this series:

We get emails pretty frequently asking, “what is lust?” I’d been working on a post on the topic for a while, but decided to quit when I read this excellent analysis of lust by Jason Staples. He begins with a passage that is likely familiar to most Christians, and goes from there to explain what kind of behavior is normal, and what’s sinful.

(I headlined this post with a picture of Gollum because his behavior epitomizes covetousness: he not only craves the One Ring, he kills and destroys to obtain it.)

Matthew 5:27–28: Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· οὐ μοιχεύσεις. ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ.

“You heard it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman/wife in order to covet her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Many churches (especially within Evangelical circles), emphasize this verse to men and (especially) adolescent boys, warning that if they so much as think of a woman in a sexual manner, they’ve already sinned, that they’ve already effectively done the deed with her. Such an interpretation often works hand-in-glove with the common idea that Jesus “intensified” the Law in the Sermon on the Mount, setting a higher standard in order to show that no person could actually live up to God’s standards, showing that a person could only be saved by recognizing the impossibility of righteousness and then receiving forgiveness (a complete misinterpretation of the Sermon on the Mount I will address at another time). So the common teaching is: lust (that is, sexual lust) is absolutely evil—equivalent, even, to the physical act of sexual sin.

Another key aspect of nearly all the common misinterpretations of this verse is a specific (mistaken) definition of the word “lust.” Specifically, many readers understand “lust” as specifically denoting misplaced or overly robust libido. For example, as one recent conversation partner explained to me, “I take lust to mean wanting something more than you should in an unhealthy way.”

Despite its popularity, this interpretation is imprecise, even flat wrong, and leads to surprisingly harmful consequences, making this verse a great candidate to start this series.

(Here’s a link to the series introduction — a good place to start!)

Habit 1: Be Proactive is about taking responsibility for your life. You can’t keep blaming everything on your parents or grandparents. Proactive people recognize that they are “response-able.” They don’t blame genetics, circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. They know they choose their behavior. Reactive people, on the other hand, are often affected by their physical environment. They find external sources to blame for their behavior. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, it affects their attitude and performance, and they blame the weather.

And you can’t keep blaming your spouse, either!

Stephen Covey describes three Circles that can be used to understand and evaluate our circumstances:

  • Circle of Concern: Everything you care about, everything that impacts your life.
  • Circle of Influence: The subset of your Circle of Concern that you can affect with your decisions.
  • Circle of Control: The subset of your Circle of Influence that you can directly control.

Here’s a diagram, for you visual thinkers.

When we’re reactive, we spend all our time and energy worrying about things we can’t control or even influence. When we’re proactive, we spend our time and influence on the inner circles, the things we can control (in our own life and body) and the things we can influence in our immediate community and family.

As an exercise with your spouse, it can be helpful to categorize your concerns using these circles. First, list everything you care about. Second, underline the concerns that you can influence. Third, put a star next to the things you can control. (Once you have your list, you can draw the three circles if you want!) Discussion questions: Do your lists match? What items are you spending the most time and energy on?

Here’s what Jesus says about our Circle of Concern:

John 16:33 “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

God is all-powerful, so nothing is out of his control! As believers, we can trust God with our Circle of Concern and have his peace, relying on his power and goodness to handle everything that concerns us.

God’s power isn’t just for our Circle of Concern, but for everything in our lives. Proverbs 3 is full of advice, guidance, and commands for making good decisions — it’s hard to pull out a few verses to quote, but these are some of my favorites:

Proverbs 3:3-6

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

Action words for the proactive Christian: bind, write, trust, lean, acknowledge — along with promises of what God is proactively doing for you. God is active — he is always at work around us — and since we’re made in his image he expects us to be active also.

Here’s another passage from Proverbs about being proactive.

Proverbs 6:6-11

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
    officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
    and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
    When will you arise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.

The ant doesn’t need anyone to tell her what to do, and she doesn’t sit around waiting, pouting, or complaining about the seasons. The ant works within her Circle of Influence to gather what she needs when the circumstances are favorable.

It would be easy to go on and on — God’s commands in the Bible are always proactive. Even when you’re in a season of waiting, you are commanded to be in prayer, service, and study.

So then, what does it mean to be proactive in our sex life with our spouse? Here are some examples that might resonate with you.

Reactive thinking says:

  • I don’t know if I want to have sex, let’s see how I feel at the end of our date
  • It’s not my fault, I can’t help how I feel
  • Our sex life is disappointing because of our jobs/kids/health
  • Why doesn’t he know what I want?
  • Why doesn’t she initiate sex?
  • After my day at work / with the kids, I just can’t do it
  • If he would ABC, then maybe I would XYZ

Proactive thinking says:

You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose how you act in response. You can take responsibility for yourself. You can’t control your spouse, but by being proactive you can influence your spouse through service and communication. As you focus on what you can control and influence, your Circle of Influence will grow!

Being Proactive is a big idea, so maybe you’d like an actionable tip for where to start. Take a look at this post about The Five Love Languages and Sex and find your spouse’s primary love language, then do something for them that speaks to it. Afterwards, remind your spouse of your primary love language and point them at that post and this one. Rinse (if necessary) and repeat!

If this habit has made an impact in your life and marriage, leave a comment to tell us about it.

This post is an introduction to a new series based on “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People” by Stephen R. Covey. The ideas in “7 Habits” have been applied in many different contexts, and I think there are lessons that can be applied in our sex lives with our spouses. As always, our thoughts will be guided by Biblical truth, and I think you’ll see that the 7 Habits work very well in the context of a Christian marriage.

As I write the posts, I’ll add links to this list of the 7 Habits.

  1. Be proactive
  2. Begin with the end in mind
  3. Put first things first
  4. Think win-win
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the saw

If you’ve never been exposed to the 7 Habits before you may be thinking that they’re a bunch of modern pseudo-psychological gobbledygook, but that’s not true. The posts in this series will include specific, concrete behaviors that you and your spouse can use to improve your sex life. We’ve written before about the power of habits to create real and persistent change in your life, and even though the Bible doesn’t use the word “habit” there are many passages that command us to build positive patterns of behavior. Here are a few examples:

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Proverbs 3:1-2 “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”

Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

1 Corinthians 11:1-2 “Be imitators of me [Paul], as I am of Christ. Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.”

Proverbs 4:20-27:

My son, be attentive to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Let them not escape from your sight;
keep them within your heart.
For they are life to those who find them,
and healing to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.

This series will look at each of the 7 Habits and discuss how to apply them in a Biblical manner to improve your sex life with your spouse.

I will conclude this introduction by mentioning a key tenet that is woven throughout the 7 Habits: the abundance mentality. The basic idea is that in most circumstances there is enough of everything for both spouses to get what they need from the marriage. Unless you each want exactly different things, there’s a way for both of you to be satisfied. Habit 4 (“think win-win”) builds directly on this concept, but the mindset is of broad applicability. The abundance mentality stands in contrast to the scarcity mentality — the belief that there isn’t enough for both of us. The abundance mentality isn’t magical thinking, and isn’t about actually having more. The abundance mentality is about acting on the expectation that the resources you have (e.g., time, money, attention, energy) can be used in a way that pleases you both.

The scarcity mindset says:

  • There isn’t enough for everyone, so I’d better get my share now
  • If I don’t get my way now, I never will
  • Only one of us can win this argument (and it’s going to be me)
  • I give her what she wants, but she never gives me what I want
  • How can I get more?

The abundance mindset says:

  • There’s plenty for both of us
  • When she wins, it doesn’t mean that I’ve lost
  • I can give away my time/energy/prestige/power/recognition now because there will be plenty more later
  • We can reach a decision that lets us both win
  • How can I give more?

As Christians, we have more assurance of abundance than anyone else in the world! The abundance of God is obviously not mere worldly possessions, but the fullness of a life built on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

John 10:10 “[Jesus said] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Luke 6:37-38 “[Jesus said] Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

Matthew 6:33-34 “[Jesus said] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [worldly needs] will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

I challenge you to begin thinking about your marriage and your sex life with an abundance mindset! Your sex life is not a competition over who gets what they want. You both have needs in your marriage, and there is plenty of sex, time, energy, and love to satisfy you both. Pray that God would show you his abundance in your marriage.

Proverbs 15:16 says: “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.”

Psalm 127:2 says: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat — for he grants sleep to those he loves.”

Proverbs 5:18-19 says: “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer — may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.”

Maybe the Bible is on to something! Scientists have recently discovered that sleep and sex make you happier than wealth!

The new happiness index, developed by Oxford Economics and the National Centre for Social Research, and commissioned by Sainsbury’s, has found that sex and sleep are the two things that have the strongest association with a person’s happiness and wellbeing – well above money. Researchers found that while upping your income (even if you quadruple it) causes very little increase to your happiness, being well-rested and well-sexed have a significant impact on how joyful you feel. The study involved polling 8,250 Britons, finding that the average person has a Living Well score of 62.2.

Those who get the most sleep were found the score 15 points higher on the index than those who struggle with sleep, while people who are deeply dissatisfied with their sex lives scored seven points lower than those who said they’re very satisfied. To be clear – very satisfied doesn’t mean these people are having loads of sex. It just means they’re very happy with the quality and frequency of the sex they’re having. Increasing your household income from £12,500 to £50,000, meanwhile, results in an increase of only two points.

So quit working late, leave the chores for later, and go to bed with your spouse!

Some of the best marriage advice I ever heard was this: “no one will respect your spouse more than you do”. You set the tone for how your friends, family, co-workers see your spouse. Let me ask, how are you doing? I am part of a woman’s group at our church and it’s amazing how fast a simple complaint about a husband can snowball. Everyone has a story to share or a frustration that can be topped. While most of the time it’s playful, I don’t always find it to be honoring to our husbands. I am sure the same thing can occur in men’s groups. We should lovingly guard our spouse’s reputation. Here are a few ideas how:

  • When you are talking about your spouse, try to speak about them in ways that it wouldn’t matter if they overheard what you were saying.
  • Say good things! If you talk about your spouse in a positive way, it’s likely to make you feel more loving towards them. A session of complaining about your spouse will often make you have a negative attitude towards them. Think about how you want your spouse to talk about and treat you, then try to emulate that.
  • Tame your tongue. The writer of James was right in James 3:8 “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison”. Before you speak, think.
  • Be careful about who you talk about your spouse to when you have a problem. If your mom doesn’t particularly like your husband, definitely don’t share any marital problems with her.
  • When you are in a group that the conversation heads towards talking about spouse’s in a bad way, redirect. Try to have topics on hand that you can switch to.
  • 1st Corinthians 16:14 Do everything in love.

How about some awesome sex links for the new year?

Two helpful lists for wives: 20 romantic things you can do for your unromantic husband and practical things to do for your husband in just 10 minutes. But someone needs to write a list of tips for husbands!

“I want a marriage so great that it becomes dangerous to the Devil.” And, I also like the jokes on the Taco Bell sauce packets. My favorite: “When I grow up, I want to be a water bed.”

Grow your sex life in 2016, including two series on oral sex. (Yeah, I know you’re going to click the link now.) Also: three out of five.

Sometime this week, ask your husband to make a list of five sexual things he would like to do with you during the next year.

Then make your man a promise:

You will do three of those five things in 2016.

Yes, watching Han and Leia’s estrangement was painful. This was my iconic childhood romance!

Why you need to start dating in 2016. Sexy Corte and I are attempting to have a babysitter scheduled once a month so we can go out.

Make goals to be a better lover to your spouse. Instead of wishing for a better lover, be a better lover!

“Follow your heart” is bad advice and unbiblical. Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

Dragon slayer.

A young wife learns that nagging is counterproductive. Husbands nag too, but we do it differently.

Sex before desire. Sometimes arousal leads to desire instead of the other way around… so get naked and see what happens.

366 questions to stimulate conversation with your spouse. This gives me an idea for another random generator for our site.

Do you have a link you want to share? Put it in the comments!

(Click here to read the whole Sex in Song of Solomon series.)

After a long delay we’re back to the Song of Solomon series, this time reading chapter 2. As background: The book is commonly understood as a celebration of marital/sexual love and it contains a lot of rather graphic imagery. It’s an especially important book because it’s very sex-positive and provides a powerful illustration of the joy God takes in the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.

The book is written in the form of a dialogue between  the Lover and his Beloved, with occasionally interjections from the wife’s Friends. The language is dominated by agricultural metaphors that can make the book difficult to understand for modern readers who aren’t familiar with the context (which certainly includes me). I’m going to do my best to untangle the imagery, but some of it is guesswork.

As I wrote in the previous post. the end of chapter 1 flows into the beginning of chapter 2 with the Beloved comparing her Lover to a mighty cedar, and the Lover comparing his Beloved to a rose — both ageless metaphors for male and female sexuality. Chapter 2 then gets even more explicit. Says the Beloved of her Lover:

As an apple tree among the trees of the forest,
    so is my beloved among the young men.
With great delight I sat in his shadow,
    and his fruit was sweet to my taste.
He brought me to the banqueting house,
    and his banner over me was love.
Sustain me with raisins;
    refresh me with apples,
    for I am sick with love.

The Lover is once again a tree, and the Beloved delights to sit in his shade and eat his fruit. In fact, the Lover has brought his Beloved to the banqueting house. What do you think they’re feasting on? Hint: each others’ bodies. Double hint: oral sex. My most-visited post is titled “Yes, You Should Swallow”, and here’s some Biblical affirmation. The Beloved goes on:

His left hand is under my head,
    and his right hand embraces me!
I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
    by the gazelles or the does of the field,
that you not stir up or awaken love
    until it pleases.

The embrace described is sexual intimacy. The Beloved is so aroused that she knows she has lost all self-control, and she admonishes other young women to avoid this passion until it finds its proper place in marriage.

Then we hear the Lover cries out to his Beloved and entice her: the time is right for us to make love.

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away,
for behold, the winter is past;
    the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree ripens its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my beautiful one,
    and come away.”

The Beloved surrenders herself to her Lover and they have sex until dawn.

My beloved is mine, and I am his;
    he grazes among the lilies.
Until the day breathes
    and the shadows flee,
turn, my beloved, be like a gazelle
    or a young stag on cleft mountains.

Chapter 2 is even more sexual than chapter 1! If you thought God and our ancestors were prudes, I hope this exploration of Song of Solomon changes your mind. God intends for sex between husbands and wives to be mind-blowing!

(Click here to read the whole Sex in Song of Solomon series.)

I’m going to do a series on the sexual passages of the book Song of Solomon (which, if you didn’t know, is in the Bible). This post is about chapter 1. The book is commonly understood as a celebration of marital/sexual love and it contains a lot of rather graphic imagery. It’s an especially important book because it’s very sex-positive and provides a powerful illustration of the joy God takes in the sexual relationship between a husband and a wife.

The book is written in the form of a dialogue between  the Lover and his Beloved, with occasionally interjections from the wife’s Friends. The language is dominated by agricultural metaphors that can make the book difficult to understand for modern readers who aren’t familiar with the context (which certainly includes me). I’m going to do my best to untangle the imagery, but some of it is guesswork.

The couple is not yet married at the beginning of the story and are fantasizing about each other. The book begins with the Beloved initiating sex rather explicitly.

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—
    for your love is more delightful than wine.
Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes;
    your name is like perfume poured out.
    No wonder the young women love you!
Take me away with you—let us hurry!
    Let the king bring me into his chambers.

Nothing ambiguous there. Note especially the “let us hurry!” This woman needs some action. The Beloved continues:

Do not stare at me because I am dark,
    because I am darkened by the sun.
My mother’s sons were angry with me
    and made me take care of the vineyards;
    my own vineyard I had to neglect.
Tell me, you whom I love,
    where you graze your flock
    and where you rest your sheep at midday.
Why should I be like a veiled woman
    beside the flocks of your friends?

She works hard and takes care of her family, but her own needs have been neglected. The Beloved wants to find her Lover — why should she wander around like a prostitute (“like a veiled woman”) searching for him among the flocks?

Her Lover replies:

I liken you, my darling, to a mare
    among Pharaoh’s chariot horses.
Your cheeks are beautiful with earrings,
    your neck with strings of jewels.
We will make you earrings of gold,
    studded with silver.

The “mare among stallions” imagery is pretty hot. We read above that the young women adore the Lover, and the Beloved is no less in demand. The Lover will array his Beloved in jewels befitting her beauty.  (Some have interpreted these jewels to be the Lover’s semen shot onto his Beloved, but that may be a stretch.) When the Beloved replies she again turns the conversation to sex.

While the king was at his table,
    my perfume spread its fragrance.
My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
    resting between my breasts.
My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
    from the vineyards of En Gedi.

These three verses focus on the fragrances of the Beloved and her Lover. While the Beloved is spreading her… fragrance… her Lover is feasting. Her Lover is a packet of perfume (“csachet of myrrh) between her breasts. Women commonly used henna as a beauty product (as a component of make-up or hair coloring), and her Lover makes the Beloved feel beautiful.

The Lovers go on to praise each other:

Lover

How beautiful you are, my darling!
    Oh, how beautiful!
    Your eyes are doves.

Beloved

How handsome you are, my beloved!
    Oh, how charming!
    And our bed is verdant.

“Verdant” is “green with vegetation; covered with growing plants or grass” — but figuratively: alive and fruitful. The Lovers’ marriage bed is full of primal, natural life. This is a joyous picture that always makes me smile.

The Lover closes the chapter with a metaphor that must transcend the ages.

The beams of our house are cedars;
    our rafters are firs.

That’s a lot of wood. Beams and rafters create a rather girthy image in my mind, but given the intimacy of the moment I suppose we’ll excuse the Lover if he brags a little.

The chapter break isn’t fluid here, so let’s finish this post with the first two verses of chapter 2.

She

I am a rose of Sharon,
    a lily of the valleys.

He

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women.

If wood is the ancient metaphor for the penis, its equivalent for the female is the flower. The Lover’s member is a massive cedar, and his Beloved’s girly bits are a beautiful lily — compared to her, the other young women are thorns and thistles.