The Four Levels of Sexual Interest 1

In our marriage we’ve noticed that we have basically four levels of sexual interest, and the level we’re at generally determines how we have sex each day. We believe these interest levels can be a useful tool for communicating with your spouse when he or she isn’t able to read your mind. This post will describe the four levels we experience, and then present a table that illustrates how the the levels affect the sexual activities in our marriage.

Level 0: Wants no sex. At Level 0 you actively do not want to have sex. Level 0 might be due to illness or fatigue, or it might be the result of emotional distress or disconnection between spouses. Level 0 should be rare for healthy people, and if you’re frequently at Level 0 then you should take steps to figure out why and see what you can do to improve your sexual interest. Health issues can’t always be fixed, but they can often be mitigated. Emotional difficulties, tiredness, and disconnection from your spouse can be repaired, and you have a responsibility to work at it.

Level 1: Willing to have sex. At Level 1 you are willing to have sex with your spouse, but you’re not particularly aroused or needy yourself. In a well-functioning marriage Level 1 should be the minimum you aim for, for the benefit of your spouse. Say yes to sex. At Level 1 you’re willing to have sex, even if you aren’t likely to initiate it yourself. In our experience, Sexy Corte generally doesn’t want an orgasm when she’s at Level 1, but sometimes she decides she does want one after she gets warmed up. Women are often more sexually responsive than spontaneous, so don’t neglect the wife’s orgasm just because she may not want one immediately.

Level 2: Wants to have sex. At Level 2 you’re feeling aroused or horny and you want to have sex. A healthy person should hit Level 2 periodically, perhaps in sync with ovulation, other bodily rhythms, or relationship events. When you’re at Level 2 you’re likely to initiate sex, either directly or with indications of interest that your spouse should learn to read. When Sexy Corte is at Level 2 she generally knows that she wants an orgasm. You can encourage Level 2 interest in many ways, including flirtation, foreplay, sleeping naked, and flashing. If you’re not at Level 2 and your spouse is, open yourself up to being elevated.

Level 3: Ready for anything. At Level 3 you aren’t just aroused, you’re Down to Pound. Or DTF, as the young people say. You’ve got high sexual energy and want to do something special. When you’re at Level 3 you want to invest time and create an exciting sexual experience with your spouse. This is the time to try out a sex game, sexual role-playing, a new position, a new location, or whatever else is on your sexual bucket list. It might seem like the stars need to align just right for you both to be at Level 3, but we recommend that you aim for this at least once a month.

Now that we’ve described the four levels of sexual interest, he’s a table that shows how these levels generally impact the sexual activities in our marriage.

The Four Levels of Sexual Interest 2

This table shows how our sex life works in general — yours may be different. You can use this table as a tool to have a conversation with your spouse about how the two of you will act when you’re at each of these levels of sexual interest. There are a few features of our table that are worth pointing out.

  • Sexy Corte’s arousal turns me on. If Sexy Corte is turned on then it’s almost inevitable that my arousal will rise to meet her.
  • When we have sex, I always have an orgasm. This may not be true in every marriage, but it’s true for us. The way we think of it is that each of us should have as many orgasms as he or she wants. I want to have an orgasm every time we have sex, but Sexy Corte doesn’t. As long as we both get an orgasm when we want one the system is working well.
  • If we’re both willing, we lean towards having sex. When we’re both at Level 1 we make an effort to have sex. This usually means that I’ll initiate and we’ll have a fairly vanilla encounter; we believe that setting the expectation for sex is very healthy for our marriage. We’ve created a habit of daily sex, and not having sex is the exception.
  • When Sexy Corte has high energy, we do something special! These are the days when we try all the crazy or weird activities that you read about here on our blog. Hopefully we can hit this level once or twice a month, and it’s awesome when we do.

How do you and your spouse make decisions about sexual activities? Have you talked about it explicitly? Leave a comment and share your experiences.

“Is it okay if I imagine you naked?” 3

From “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami:

“Is it okay if I imagine you naked?”

Her hand stops and she looks me in the eyes.

“You want to imagine me naked while we’re doing this?”

“Yeah. I’ve been trying to keep from imagining that, but I can’t.”

“Really?”

“It’s like a TV you can’t turn off.”

She laughs. “I don’t get it. You didn’t have to tell me that! Why don’t you just go ahead and imagine what you want? You don’t need my permission. How can I know what’s in your head?”

“I can’t help it. Imagining something’s very important, so I thought I’d better tell you. It has nothing to do with whether you know or not.”

“You are some kind of polite boy, aren’t you,” she says, impressed. “I guess it’s nice, though, that you wanted to let me know. All right, permission granted. Go ahead and picture me nude.”

“Thanks,” I say.

Try this with your spouse and leave a comment to tell us how it goes.

How to Create Your Sexual Bucket List and Share It With Your Spouse 4

A survey of 2,000 sexually active American adults has revealed the top activities that are on our sexual bucket lists. (It’s a little hard to read, but that’s the best image I could find.)

How to Create Your Sexual Bucket List and Share It With Your Spouse 5

It may not surprise you that the bucket lists for men and women are different, but there are five overlapping wishes! Both men and women say they want to:

It’s surprising to me that three bondage-related activities make the top-10 for women (being tied-up, being handcuffed, and being blindfolded) while zero make the top-10 for men. We’ve written several posts about bondage, and they’re some of our most popular.

Husband: if you want to try bondage but have been embarrassed to bring it up with your wife, these bucket lists indicate that you might be in for a fun surprise!

The only items on these top-10 lists that are off-limits for Christians are threesomes and one night stands.

So, now that you’ve read the results from this survey you’re probably thinking, how can I use this? Here are a few ideas.

  • Show the bucket lists above to your spouse. Talk about what’s on each list, and maybe it will open up a dialog between the two of you that reveals some new activities you’d both enjoy — or at least be willing to try!
  • Create your own bucket lists. You and your spouse can create your own top-10 lists to share with each other. If you need inspiration, check out our “Would You Rather?” sex game — it has dozens of activities you can talk about, accept, or reject. If you’re too shy for that, you can use an online sex questionnaire that hides any mismatched ideas from your spouse to avoid embarrassment.
  • Roll the dice. After you’ve made your bucket lists, put the the items in a hat or roll dice to randomly select an activity to do together. Add the items to your sexy jenga list!
  • Check things off. If you’re like us, the best thing about a list is getting to check things off. If you do one bucket list item each week you’ll be amazed at how fast you’re trying new things.
  • Talk about it afterwards. After you check off one of your items, talk about it together. Did you enjoy it? Would you do it again? How could it be more fun next time? Maybe it’s a once-a-month activity, or only for special occasions, or maybe you want to do it again right away!

What’s on your sexual bucket list? Inspire the rest of us by leaving your ideas in the comments.

A Wife's Advice for Dealing with Sexual Frustration 6

We get a lot of emails from husbands who are frustrated with the quantity and quality of sex in their marriage. I’m writing this post to capture the advice that I generally give in response to these emails. See also: husbands dealing with sexual rejection and how to talk to your spouse about sex.

It’s tough to give advice because we don’t know everything going on in each marriage, but here are some things that might help.

  • Pray. Ask God to bless your sex life. Ask to have desire for your spouse.
  • Learn each other’s love language. Then be intentional in speaking your spouse’s love language.
  • Try physical touch with your spouse with no expectation of sex. Hug, kiss, caress, but don’t try to immediately follow up. These non-sexual touches fuel me and often get me in the mood.
  • Be a student of your spouse. I love having sex with El Fury because he knows me. He makes me feel sexy and beautiful. Find out what makes your spouse feel sexy, and they will want to have sex.
  • Communication. The more you talk about sex with each other, the more comfortable you will be talking about sex with each other, and the fewer problems you will have.

Husbands, this is specifically for you. El Fury recently told me a quote: a man can’t consider himself a good lover until he can do the exact same thing for an hour without moving. This is so true. If your wife is anything like me, I take up to 45 minutes to orgasm when my husband uses his hand. If we use the vibrator during sex it’s about 20 minutes. That’s a long time. It can take a long time for a woman to orgasm. Be patient. Here are some tips:

  • Only about 30% of women can orgasm from intercourse alone. If El Fury focused on my vagina I would never have an orgasm. You have to focus stimulation around the clitoris. Combine that with vaginal stimulation and your wife will go crazy. Keep the attention on the clitoris, it’s likely your wife can’t orgasm without that. That might mean that you give your wife an orgasm before you even have penetration.
  • If you want your wife to enjoy sex, focus on her pleasure first. If she’s not having an orgasm frequently, she’s probably not enjoying sex. Make sure you are meeting her needs and she will be more enthusiastic about meeting yours.
  • Pray for your wife and her sexual needs.
Wives, this is specifically for you:
  • Pray. These are the prayers that I often pray: That I would have desire for my husband, that I would have energy in the evening or be alert in the morning, that we would have a sex life that is fulfilling to both of us.
  • Pay attention to your cycle. I especially want sex right before my period, surprisingly during my period, and about two weeks after the start of my period. I try my hardest to make sure I orgasm often during those times, and it makes a huge difference in my overall sexual satisfaction.
  • Have you ever had an orgasm? If you “think so”, then you haven’t. I still remember my first one, and there was no doubt. I had previously thought there was something wrong with my body. I had thought it would magically happen with the right position during sex. I was wrong! It happened by El Fury touching me the right way in the right spot. Since we figured out where that button was, we have learned so much more about my body, what turns me on, and what gets me to orgasm. Sex became fun!
  • Be at peace with sex. Your husband will never stop wanting to have sex with you. He will continue to pursue you. If you find out what you enjoy, his pursuit will be a good thing and not something that you will forever try to avoid.

I hope this is helpful! Leave your questions or suggestions in the comments.

A Simple Script for Husbands Dealing with Sexual Rejection 7

One of the most common types of emails we receive is from a husband who feels sexually rejected by his wife and hopeless. He wants more sex, but feels like his wife isn’t interested and doesn’t love him. Frequent sexual rejection can be devastating to a marriage. Men are taught to hide their feelings and make it look like everything is “ok”, so rather than talking directly about our pain we often lash out in other ways: anger, annoyance, frustration, criticism, and withdrawal. These emotional responses mirror back to the wife the rejection that the husband is feeling by denying the wife what she craves from the marriage. This response creates a damaging cycle of rejection that hurts both spouses and the marriage.

We believe that it’s God’s will for every married couple to have a satisfying sex life! We recently wrote a post about how to talk to your spouse about sex, and that’s a good place to start for the general topic. The purpose of this post is to give a hurting husband a simple script he can use to discuss the pain he’s feeling because of sexual rejection by his wife.

First, husbands, as always, you must be in prayer. You should talk to God about sex ten times as much as you talk to your wife. The Bible says that marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the church, so meditate on Philippians 2:1-11 and learn about Christ’s humility. Don’t just read it once — read it three times a day for a month. Then you’ll be ready to approach your wife in a Christlike manner. Jesus is a loving leader who God exalted because of his humility. Do you want to lead your wife? There’s no better example than Jesus.

Second, here are some words you can say to your wife. Feel free to change things up as appropriate, but remember to be loving, gentle, and honest.

I love you so much, and I want to have deeper intimacy with you. You may not realize it, but it really hurts me when I flirt with you or try to initiate sex and you rarely seem interested. Maybe on the outside I seem brush it off, but inside I’m really hurting. You’re the only person in the world that I want share my sexuality with, and when you reject me it feels like you’re rejecting my love entirely. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated or disappointed also. Can we talk about how to have a sex life that’s more satisfying for both of us?

That should get the conversation started!

See also: Sexy Corte’s advice for dealing with sexual frustration and how to talk with your spouse about sex.

If you have a tip to share, please leave a comment. Have you had this conversation with your spouse? How did it go?

How To Talk With Your Spouse About Sex 8

Some of the most common questions we get are variations of, “how do I talk with my spouse about sex?” So here are a collection of tips, both positive and negative. I won’t elaborate much on each one, but I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.

(See also: Sexy Corte’s advice for dealing with sexual frustration and a simple script for husbands dealing with sexual rejection.)

  1. Pray first. Either together or separately, pray that God will bless your marriage and your sex life. Ask for humility and gentleness towards your spouse. Pray that God will help you to understand and love each other the way He intends.
  2. Be honest and gentle. Remember that your goal isn’t to manipulate your spouse into a certain behavior, it’s to grow in intimacy together. Be brave enough to be honest, and be humble enough to receive honesty from your spouse. Agree together that it’s safe to be honest with each other, and then discipline your own emotions before you react to honesty from your spouse.
  3. Pick the right time. When you and your spouse are in a good mood, when you’re feeling connected, when you have time for an intimate conversation. Talking about sex after you have a great sexual encounter can be wonderful, but avoid it after a disappointing encounter. Even if the conversation is urgent to you, respect your spouse enough to be patient. If you think your spouse will be resistant to even talking about sex, you might want to give him or her a heads-up that you’d like to have a conversation sometime in the near future.
  4. Set a purpose and expectations. Clearly explain your purpose for the conversation at the beginning. Talk about the most important thing first, and try to focus on one topic at a time. It’s easy to get distracted by side issues, especially if communication has been poor for a while and there are a lot of pent-up frustrations. Recognize that you may need to give your spouse some space to vent, but try to keep your contributions to the conversation as focused as possible.
  5. Stay positive. Express your love, admiration, and gratitude for your spouse. Don’t complain, but instead talk about how passionate you are for a great sex life. You don’t need to be pointlessly cheery, but using positive language helps avoid hostility and defensiveness. Consider the difference between “we hardly ever have sex” and “I’d love for us to have an exciting sex life together”.
  6. Ask questions to understand. Make sure your questions are sincere and loving. It’s very tempting to use questions to disguise accusations and frustrations, but your spouse isn’t a fool and will quickly grow to resent these passive-aggressive attacks. Focus on “what” and “how” questions instead of “why” questions — “what would you like from our sex life?”, “how do you feel about oral sex?” “Why” questions often make people defensive at having to justify or explain themselves. You want to understand what and how your spouse feels, but you don’t need to dig into why.
  7. Be specific and explicit. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Your spouse can’t read your mind. Get it? Your spouse can’t read your mind! If you want something specific, you have to use actual words to say so. I know it’s more “romantic” if your spouse just knows what you want and does it without you asking, but that’s not how real humans work. If you don’t know exactly what you want then it’s fine to express a general desire, but then be prepared to discuss it and nail down some specifics.
  8. Reach a conclusion. Before you’re both exhausted, revisit your purpose for the conversation. Have you accomplished your purpose? If so, declare victory and conclude the discussion. Great job: you successfully talked about sex! On the other hand, if your conversation has meandered endlessly make an effort to refocus yourselves and reach a conclusion.
  9. Actionable agreement. At the end of your discussion make sure that you each know what actions you’ve agreed to take. Don’t settle for a vague understanding that something will be different from now on — make your agreement specific and explicit. “Yes, I will try XYZ”“Yes, I will plan at least one date night each month”.
  10. Follow through. Now that you’ve made a specific and explicit agreement, you actually have to do it. If you find that your spouse isn’t living up to what he or she agreed to, you’ll need to have another conversation.“It really meant a lot to me when you agreed to plan a date night for us each month. I can’t wait to spend that time with you. Will we be able to do it soon? I’ll make it worth your while….”

I’m sure there’s a lot more that can be said… hundreds of books worth… but these are the main points I find myself writing to people over and over. What do you think? Share your ideas or questions in the comments!

Sexy "Would You Rather" 9

We’ve linked to some great tools that can help you and your spouse discover new sexual activities that you might enjoy, and today I want to share a game-like tool that will help you and your spouse discover your preference levels for various sexual activities. The game is played like “would you rather…?”, with the addition of a tournament layer that will help your top preferences float to the top. Don’t worry, it’s easy.

(If you’re interested, the game is basically a pairwise preference assessment that uses a tournament rather than a matrix to generate a loose ordering. If you want to do the work, feel free to use the matrix method!)

Don’t be intimidated! Just follow these steps and you’ll be sharing your most intimate desires with your spouse in no time.

0. Be in a sexual mood! Consider each activity in its best light for you, rather than just how you feel at the moment.

1. Make your list of sexual activities and write them on index cards. The activities should include things you do now, things you want to try, and things you think your spouse may want to try. You can both contribute cards to the deck, or one person can write them all. For activities with a “giver” and “receiver”, be sure to specify which role the card is referring to. For example, don’t just write “oral sex” — you should have two different cards: “give oral sex” and “receive oral sex”.

2. Decide which spouse will go first — this person will be the responder until you finish the game and start over; the other spouse will be the asker. You don’t take turns during the course of the game.

3. The asker shuffles all the cards face-down to create a draw deck.

4. The asker draws two cards from the draw deck and asks the responder: “would you rather X or Y?” (Where X and Y are the activities on the two cards, of course.)

5. The responder picks one card over the other. Even if you like both or hate both, the responder has to pick one to win. The winning card goes into a new pile of cards called the winning deck, and the losing card goes into a new pile called the losing deck.

6. Continue steps 4 and 5 until the draw deck is empty. Then, the winning deck becomes the new draw deck — shuffle it, and repeat steps 4 and 5 until the deck is gone.

7. Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 until you have one winning activity!

8. Since you haven’t shuffled the losing deck yet, the cards near the top of the losers should also be activities that the responder really likes. (Of course, a favorite might also have been eliminated early, but that’s just the luck of the draw!)

When you’re done, you have a few options:

  • Whatever activity won, do it!
  • Begin the game again by swapping roles.
  • Begin again and keep the same roles, playing through the losing deck to pick another winner.
  • Separate the “give” and “receive” cards to discover your favorite ways to both give and receive pleasure.

I know that’s a lot of steps, but hopefully you get the idea. To inspire you, after the break is a list of activities that I’ve written down for Sexy Corte and myself.

Continue reading

Make Yourself More Interesting Than the Internet 10

Sexy Corte’s recent post about how people are more important than devices got me thinking over the past week. Like most of us, I’m guilty of sometimes losing myself in electronic distraction when I should be paying attention to my family! Each of us has a responsibility to forsake such distractions in favor of the people God has put into our lives, and if your distraction is bad enough then you could be violating your spouse’s conjugal rights. So, interpret the rest of this post in that light — I’m not trying to shift blame, but I do want to offer some ideas that might be helpful for the person who isn’t getting the attention he or she needs.

No matter what your spouse should do, you can’t force it; you’re only in control of your own actions. So what can you do to get more attention from your spouse? Let’s consider some of the reasons that the internet and electronics are compelling, and then think of some ways for you to beat them at their own game.

  • Novelty. There’s always something new (and pointless) to read on the internet. Last night I learned that a Harambe-shaped Cheeto sold for almost $100k on eBay. You probably clicked on that link, didn’t you? Shame on you! Ok ok, here’s a picture of the Cheeto.harambe-cheeto
    That’s completely dumb, right? But still, it’s something new to look at and think about, and the internet is full of novelties like that. New stuff is alluring, amusing, and interesting. There’s no reason that your relationship with your spouse has to be stale and repetitive! Do something new, even something small. Talk in a funny voice. Learn some jokes. Flash your boobs. Go to a new restaurant. Try something new in bed. Surprise your spouse pleasantly at least once every day and you’ll definitely get some attention.
  • Challenge and accomplishment. For men, the biggest electronic distractions are usually video games. They appeal directly to the male need to triumph over challenges. Sure, the challenges are insubstantial and inconsequential, but when a man beats a game it feels like a real accomplishment. Women may not get this, but they have other kinds of projects they pursue that men don’t understand. Find a project to work on with your spouse — something challenging that you both care about and enjoy. Fix up your yard, refresh your kids’ bedroom, or even play board games or video games together. There are plenty of sex games on our site! When you work and achieve together, you’ll build intimacy together.
  • Knowledgeable discussion. Not everything on the internet is trivial nonsense. When I get most distracted it’s usually because I’m reading some bit of political or technology news, or learning about some historical event on Wikipedia. Learn something new that your spouse will be interested in and then talk about it. Put some effort into one of your spouse’s interests or hobbies, and he’ll probably be eager to talk until you’re sick of it. What games does he play? What sports does he watch? What series is she reading? How has God been leading her?
  • Brain-dead relaxation. Sometimes we surf the web when we just don’t want to think too much. Our brains need time to relax. Instead of pressuring one another to engage, make time to  relax together, which might include snuggling quietly while you “parallel play”. Sometimes Sexy Corte and I snuggle while we read, play on our phones, listen to music, or watch television; just being physically together is great when we don’t have the mental energy for more.

You have a responsibility to be your best “you” for your spouse and your family, not just physically but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually too. Your spouse has a responsibility to give you the attention you need, but that might come more easily if you take a few simple steps yourself! What do you do to make yourself more interesting to your spouse? Share a tip in the comments.

Marriage Conversation Protip: Stop Asking "Why?" 11

We get hundreds of emails asking for marriage and sex help, and in almost every case the second step of our advice is to talk with your spouse. (The first step is to talk with God through prayer.) Most emails include a disclaimer like:

I’ve already tried to talk to my wife about this, but she just won’t listen.

So… you want advice that doesn’t include talking to your spouse? Well, you can’t just skip past that.

There are a gazillion books you can read about how to have productive conversations, but today I want to share one of the most important tips I’ve learned: stop asking “why?” so much. If you have kids, you know how annoying it can be to constantly hear “why? why? why?”. This question seems to crop up around age three, and never stops. Hopefully as adults we don’t smother our spouses with “why” so often, but the question can often do more harm than good.

Oftentimes a husband (especially) will want to hammer away at “the problem” and “fix it”, so he asks “why?” over and over, hoping to discover the knob he can twist just the right way to make his wife do/feel what she “should”.

Sound familiar? Wives do it, too. It’s no surprise that conversations like this aren’t effective for building intimacy. “Why?” can be a powerful tool for gaining understanding, but it isn’t the right tool for every job! Here are a few ways it can backfire.

  • Passive aggressive. You know this one. Even if you aren’t trying to be passive aggressive, these kinds of questions can be received that way. But be honest: oftentimes, you’re being passive aggressive.
    • “Why didn’t you take the trash out?”
    • “Why are you late?”
    • “Why don’t you want to have sex?”
  • Interrogation. Trying to nail down your spouse with words. You make it appear that you’re just trying to understand the truth of the situation, but what you’re actually doing is forcing your spouse into the corner until he admits some mistake or failure. These are often “why… but…?” accusations.
    • “Why did you say you were getting Christmas cards for my family, but then not mail them in time?”
    • “Why did you say you want more intimacy, but then every time I want to have sex you’re too tired?”
    • “Why do you not feel the way we both agreed you should feel?”
  • Digging. Sometimes your spouse doesn’t know the answer, or there isn’t an answer, but you keep asking “why?” anyway. You rephrase the same question over and over, sure that if you keep digging you’ll eventually find gold.
    • “Why don’t we have more sex? Why don’t you want to have sex? Why has our sex life stalled?”
    • “Why do you feel that way? Why don’t you feel this way?”
  • Rephrasing. “Why?” is often a fine question to ask once, but using different words doesn’t make the question more helpful.
    • “What makes you feel that way?”
    • “How did this come to pass?”

When you’re starting a difficult conversation, stay away from “why” and instead focus on “what” and “how”.

  • “How do you feel about our sex life?”
  • “How do you want our sex life to make you feel?”
  • “What is your favorite thing that we do together?”
  • “What do you think is missing?”

Accept the answers without comment or judgement. Asking “why?” will make your spouse defensive, literally — you’re asking her to defend her answers with a reason that’s good enough for you to accept. It can be difficult to hold back your opinion, but usually that’s your pride prompting you. Your pride says things like:

  • “She shouldn’t feel that way.”
  • “I deserve a husband who does XYZ.”
  • “I can convince her…”
  • “That’s not fair.”
  • “His answer shows that he doesn’t love/respect/understand me!”
  • “How can she possibly think that?”

These comments are unlikely to be helpful, but your pride insists that you say them anyway. Your pride tells you that your feelings are right, justified, and logical, and his feelings are wrong, mistaken, or cruel. It’s so obvious, right? He’s sure to realize the error of his ways if you just ask the right “why” question.

Don’t feel bad; we all fall into the pride trap.

So, before you ask “why?”, consider: will my question enhance intimacy, or irritation? If you mostly care about being right, then by all means, hammer away with “why?” until you smash everything in sight. On the other hand, if you mostly care about intimacy with your spouse, use “why?” very judiciously and give her the space and respect to think and feel without having to justify herself to you. Your spouse will feel secure and respected, which are key building blocks of intimacy.

How to Talk About Sex Before You Get Married 12

God intends sex to be hot and awesome inside marriage, and commands abstinence outside of marriage. That’s a difficult expectation! Our society says that abstinence is a waste of time and effort — maybe even harmful — but that’s how difficult endeavors often look to people who don’t want to try. Climbing Mount Everest looks foolish, dangerous, and difficult, and many people who make the attempt fail, but I can only imagine how fantastic the journey is for those who succeed.

In any event, my purpose here isn’t to advocate for abstinence. If you’re a Christian, God commands it. (See: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 and Hebrews 13:4, among many other verses.)

However, it’s unfortunate that the command for sexual purity has been widely applied within the church so as to avoid almost all other discussions about sex. Most unmarried Christians are taught to abstain before marriage, but little else. There’s an unspoken expectation that right after the wedding ceremony a switch will flip and the newly married couple will somehow “figure it out” on their own. This is a recipe for disaster! And, in fact, it often leads to sad results: mismatched sexual expectations between spouses that aren’t revealed until it’s way too late — either so far into the relationship that it’s too painful to break it off, or even after the wedding.

So, my strong encouragement for unmarried Christians is twofold:

  • Give some serious consideration to your sexual expectations for your future marriage, long before you have a potential spouse in mind.
  • Have a frank conversation about sex early on in any relationship. It may quickly become obvious that your partner isn’t on the same page as you, and you can spare yourselves a huge amount of heartache by breaking things off quickly.

The difficulty is obvious: how can you learn any of this without having sex? How can you know what you like if you’ve never tried it? To some degree you can’t, but that’s fine. The point isn’t to be  a sexual dynamo before you get married. Think of it like you’re planning a vacation to a place you’ve never been — first consider for yourself the kind of vacation you’d like to have, and then discuss your ideas with your partner and compare. If you get excited about the same kind of things, great! But if you want to sit by the pool every day and your partner only wants to hike, then you need to figure if and how to compromise, or whether to just cancel the trip.

It isn’t only the specific sexual interests and expectations that reveal a lot about your compatibility, but also the way in which you and your partner engage in the discussion. There are no “wrong” answers, but if your answers and approaches are significantly different from each other then that might be a red flag. Is your partner open to your ideas and desires? Is your partner suggesting things that repulse you? When there are disagreements (as there are bound to be), is your partner eager to compromise? Or resistant and stubborn?

This conversation about sex shouldn’t be a one-shot, although one discussion may be enough to rule someone out. After the first discussion you’ll both probably have more ideas and questions, so bring sex up again in a week, and another week, and another. Eventually you’ll both either be super-excited at the prospect of sex together, or one of you will be dreading it. If you’re early in the relationship, that dread should be enough motivation to get out while you can.

So what kind of topics should you discuss? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • What do you think is the purpose of sex in marriage?
  • What do you think are God’s expectations for sex?
  • What makes you most excited about sex? Most nervous?
  • How often do you think about sex?
  • Have you ever had an orgasm? Do you masturbate? How often? How do you touch yourself? Where? When?
  • What most turns you on? What turns you off? What sights, sounds, touches, experiences, smells, tastes…?
  • How often do you think you’ll want to have sex when you’re married?
  • What should you do when one spouse wants to have sex and the other doesn’t? What if this happens frequently?
  • When is it ok to refuse sex with your spouse? Tired, sick, angry, busy, pouty, worried, sad, distracted…?
  • Even if you know you wouldn’t enact them in real life, what kind of sexual fantasies do you have?
  • How should spouses compromise if one person wants to do something sexually that the other doesn’t?
  • What activity are you most excited to do sexually after you’re married?
  • Is there anything sexual that you definitely won’t ever do?
  • How do sex and romance relate in your mind?
  • Do you want to take charge sexually, or be led? Or both at different times?
  • What do you think about oral sex and anal sex?
  • Do you think sex should be playful or serious?
  • Would you want to try new things, even knowing that some you might end up disliking?

As you go through this list I’m sure you’ll branch off in many other fruitful directions. It you’re still excited about each other after having this discussion a few times then your sexual compatibility isn’t likely to be a roadblock to your relationship.

The key is that you have to be honest and vulnerable with each other — if you can’t, then that itself is a huge red flag. The internet is full of sad stories about “bait-and-switch” relationships in which one partner (usually, but not always, the woman) was sexually adventurous before the wedding, and a cold fish after. If a frank discussion about sex is had early enough in the relationship, then it will be easier for both partners to be honest because the stakes will be lower — you won’t already have invested several years into the relationship that you’re afraid of losing. Even if one partner wants to deceive the other, it will be harder for him or her to succeed at it over the course of a long, multi-part discussion.

Don’t just assume that you and your potential future spouse are on the same page about sex! Have the discussion and be honest — with each other and yourselves.

Got any other tips to share for discussing sex with a potential spouse? Leave a comment!