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.

Even when you have a healthy sex life there are sometimes outside circumstances that can prevent you from coming together with your spouse. El Fury and I recently went through one of these periods. We had family staying with us, both of us were sick, I was on my period, one of our kids was up all night for a few days in a row. We were both exhausted. Our sex life got out of whack for a few weeks and it made our relationship feel strained. We both felt stressed and like we weren’t connecting. I felt like I was being short with him and with our kids.

First Corinthians 7:5 says Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.”

Now this verse is obviously talking about prayer, but the point is the same. You need to come together regularly with your spouse. If you deprive one another of sex it leaves you open to temptation. This could be temptation other than sexual immorality. When I feel like my relationship with EF is “off”, I am much less gentle, kind and loving toward everyone. I am more easily angered, selfish and self-pitying. Sex with your spouse sets the tone for your marriage.

EF and I were able to get back on track once things slowed down and we were healthy and well rested again. Coming together was a sweet reunion. But I hope we learned from this experience. No matter how crazy your life may seem at the moment, it’s not asking much to find 30 minutes to connect with your spouse. When you do, you can handle all the crazy with a much more gracious attitude.

We get a lot of emails along the lines of, “Can we *blank*?” Generally, the answer is yes, you can *blank* *blank* *blank* with your spouse. The three requirements we point to for sex are exclusive, consensual, and satisfying. If *blank* meets those requirements, then have at it.

(Side note: if you think our blog is explicit, you should see some of the emails that we don’t write about.)

So, while our opinion is almost always yes, we also like to append an encouragement: no matter what your *blank* is, we think it’s important to prioritize plain-old vanilla intercourse — penis-in-vagina. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:23:

“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

In your marriage, every sex act that is exclusive, consensual, and satisfying is lawful, but not every *blank* builds up your marriage the same way that traditional intercourse sex does. Here are some advantages to intercourse we think you should keep in mind.

  • Intimate. There is nothing more intimate in the human experience than when your body joins together with your spouse — when your spouse desires you, accepts you, embraces you, and your bodies intertwine and move as one flesh. Traditional intercourse is sometimes considered vanilla and boring, but if so, perhaps we’re taking the intimacy of marriage for granted after years of familiarity. On the other hand — if you’re thirsting for intimacy — tender, enthusiastic love-making with your spouse is the oasis you’re longing for. There’s a reason that the Hebrew word yada` is used for sex; the word means to know. Genesis 4:1: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived…”.
  • Primal. Intercourse touches the very essence of our being in a way that other sex acts don’t. It’s how we reproduce. Penis-in-vagina sex fulfills the most basic sexual urge that each of us felt when we first noticed that girls and boys are different. We have been created with a primal, biological need for intercourse that no other sex act can satisfy.
  • Simple. Traditional intercourse doesn’t require a lot of planning, talking, convincing, or preparation. You don’t need any props or toys. You don’t need any explanations. You don’t have to wonder if your spouse will be “into it”. You can be anywhere, at any time.
  • Unifying. The Bible says that men and women were created from one flesh, and in marriage we become one flesh again. Penis-in-vagina sex is the method that God created to unify two separate people into one single flesh. We have ups and downs in our marriages, and we don’t always feel united, but intercourse brings us together again, over and over. We separate ourselves from every claim the world has on us, and we hold fast to each other. Genesis 2:22-25:

And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

“This at last is bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
    because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

So, try every *blank* you can think of! Explore your sexuality with your spouse, and have an awesome time. But don’t make novelty into an idol, or your spouse into a sex toy. We encourage you to do everything crazy thing you want to do, while not neglecting to come together regularly for simple intercourse.

What do you think about “vanilla” penis-in-vagina sex? Leave a comment and let us know!

Are there any sexual limits or boundaries in a Christian marriage? Long-time readers of our blog may not be surprised at the short answer: no! But, of course, there are a few caveats worth discussing. In general, God has given us a wide field of freedom that is fenced with a few rules for our protection. Some rules are precise and explicit (example: “do not commit adultery”) while others require discretion (example: “love your neighbor as yourself”), but I think the principles are pretty easy to apply to sex in marriage.

  • Sex in marriage must involve only the married couple. The only holy sex is sex between a married husband and wife. Spouses cannot agree between themselves to bring other people into their sexual relationship. Any sexual practices that involve anyone other than the husband and the wife are sinful. There are numerous passages in the Bible that command strict monogamy; consider this post about Proverbs 5, “be intoxicated always in her love”Hebrews 13:4, and Proverbs 7.
  • Sex in marriage must be consensual. The Bible is pretty heavy on love and humility, and there’s no place for non-consensual sexual activity in a loving relationship between humble spouses. You’re free to play at non-consensual sex if both spouses desire it, as long as it’s play that is founded on real consent. Power exchanges, like bondage play, can be quite fun, as long as it’s play. Consider Philippians 2:3 and 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
  • Sex in marriage must be satisfying for both spouses. Sex in your marriage must satisfy your sexual needs and your spouse’s. One aspect of satisfaction is frequency — sex needs to be as frequent as is required for each spouse to avoid temptation into sexual immorality. When one spouse is feeling angsty, the other spouse must satisfy that need (to the extent possible, given health, distance, etc.). Each spouse must also make a good-faith effort to satisfy the other’s specific sexual desires, as long as those desires don’t violate one of the other bullet points in this post. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 says:

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

  •  Sex in marriage must be done in faith. It’s beyond the scope of this post to explore the topic exhaustively, but consider Paul’s teaching about eating food offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8. Some of the Corinthians believed it was a sin to eat such food, while others knew that the idols had no spiritual power and that therefore the food offered to the idols was no different from any other food. Paul instructs each person to follow his conscience with regards to such food, but to be careful that the strong do not cause the weak to stumble. Applying this principle to sex: as long as you don’t violate an explicit command as described in the points above, you can have sex however you want in your marriage — but don’t push your freedom on others and thereby cause them to stumble. See also 1 John 3:18-21 and Titus 1:15.

1 Corinthians 8:8-9 — However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

We get a lot of emails asking, “can my wife and I do X, Y, and Z?” The purpose of this post is to give couples a framework they can use to decide that for themselves. As long as the activity is only between spouses, is consensual, meets both spouses’ needs, and is done in faith, then the answer is yes, you can do it! In fact, my prayer is that as your marriage matures spiritually you will agree with each other to push back your boundaries and enjoy the full breadth of sexual freedom that God has given you in your marriage.

Finally, Sexy Corte and I want to give you our personal recommendation: don’t forget to prioritize traditional intercourse — penis-in-vagina.

How often should you and your spouse have sex? From the Bible, the answer is basically “as often as your spouse wants”. Here’s the most directly relevant passage; check it out, and then we’ll talk about “conjugal rights” other than sex.

1 Corinthians 7:1-7

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The literal interpretation of this passage is pretty clear: your spouse is entitled to “conjugal rights”… but what does that mean? It’s more than sex.

In addition to exclusive sexual relations, conjugal rights also include affection and companionship, shared property, presumed legitimacy of offspring, co-habitation, domestic and labor services, and affinity with your spouse’s family. The Greek word is opheilē and it refers to a an obligation or a debt that is owed to another. When we choose to get married, we voluntarily take on this obligation to our spouse. If we deprive our spouses of these rights we are in sin and need to repent.

Let’s also consider the use of the word “authority” in this passage. The Greek word here is exousiazō, and it means exactly what you think: “to have power”, “to be master”. You are the master of your spouse’s body, and your spouse is the master of your body. When you got married, you gave up control of your body to your spouse.

Now, this should be obvious but I’ll say it anyway: God expects you to use your authority in a Christlike manner.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

There is no place for coercion or manipulation in a Christlike marriage, only for mutual self-sacrifice and love.