Most sources that offer advice on sex, simply offer advice on the mechanics of sex. But a Christian discussion must consider the very nature of sexuality. Any animal can figure out how to have sex. But when a married couple deepens their understanding of sexuality, they strengthen their union and achieve new heights of sexual bonding. Having a healthy sex life isn’t just about how frequently a couple enters into the marital embrace. Although, for many people, bonding with their spouse more often can help them better navigate the challenging vocation of marriage.
Here are ten simple tips for how to have a healthy sex life.
Assess your mental health and possibly have it assessed by a professional. With chemical causes, seasonal affective disorder, stress from work, stress from kids, and more, struggling with depression, anxiety, or any other issues of mental health is becoming increasingly common. Sometimes people are completely unaware of the impact a mental health issue is having on them. To assess your mental health, look at your entire day to see what might be wearing you down. It’s difficult to be in the mood if you’re mentally exhausted. As you work through and honest assessment, consider cutting back on things like social media. You are more than just a body, so be sure to take care of your mind as well.
Assess your physical health. Like mental health, there is no quick fix for poor physical health. And many people find themselves facing a state of deconditioning in their late twenties or early thirties. But diet and exercise can make a difference. Ask any doctor, nurse, or dietitian and they’ll tell you clearly that improving one’s diet and increasing exercise can increase energy. I say “can” because many people have underlying medical conditions that cause a person to continue to feel drained. If you don’t have enough energy, entering into the marital embrace will be more difficult. It’s also important to know that many medications can reduce libido, can cause vaginal dryness, and can cause erectile dysfunction. Having regular, open communication with your doctors can increase the likelihood of removing these obstacles.
Read scripture together. The entire Bible is essentially a love-letter. After all, Christ’s covenantal relationship with humanity is essentially a marital covenant. Even the simple act of receiving Holy Communion reveals this. We (the bride of Christ) receive His body into our body, and then we have new life within us. God’s written word is filled with truths like this one. If you need a starting place, check out Genesis (before the fall), Tobit, and Song of Songs.
Figure out your love languages. Even if you’ve done that in the past, love languages can change. Mine have changed noticeably since I first got married. Between changing careers and having kids, I’m in a very different place. As a result, how I desire to be loved is noticeably different.
Connect in a variety of ways. The Creighton Model of Natural Family Planning emphasizes SPICE (bonding spiritually, physically, intellectual, emotionally, and creative/communicatively). And regardless of which method a couple uses or if they even use natural family planning, connecting with one another Spiritually, Physically, Intellectually, through Communication, and Emotionally can help the couple grow deeper in their bond.
Ask for the intercession of the Saints. It can be awkward asking someone else to pray for your sex life. But sex within marriage is a Holy and Sacred thing. And the Saints are in Heaven experiencing the fullness of God’s Holy presence. Sex, in it’s proper place, gives more glory to God than we can even comprehend. We spend so much time asking Saint Anthony to help us find our missing keys, but we don’t need to stop there when we can ask St. Raphael (patron of marriages) or St. Joseph (the Most Chaste Spouse).
Find a way to relax before having sex. This can be very difficult. A glass of wine, a funny TV show, going for a run, giving each other massages, or whatever works for you. It’s difficult to be fully present to your husband or wife when the sound of a child screaming for mac and cheese, the thought of the bills, or the critical words of your boss still echoing in your head.
Find ways to invite God to be a part of your union. Pray before having sex. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer, nor does it have to be immediately before having sex. Just make it enough to invite God to be present. Keep holy water in or near your bedroom and get into a habit of blessing yourself as a reminder that God is present in your bedroom. And make sure there is a crucifix in your bedroom (preferably one that’s been blessed). In a Non-Christian marriage, people may view the presence of a crucified man above a marriage bed as being distasteful or barbaric. But in a Christian marriage, we understand how the cross is the most beautiful, powerful act of sacrificial love there could ever be. And a marriage should mirror that sacrificial love.
If you haven’t have some real conversations about sex, have them soon. Some people get years into marriage before they talk about comfort levels in their sex life. If either husband or wife desire to be touched in a certain place or in a certain way, it would be good to share that. If one or both spouses shared sexual experiences prior to meeting, insecurities or problematic comparisons may be simmering under the surface. If these things haven’t been discussed, they may need to be discussed.
READ The Good News About Sex and Marriage by Christopher West, Three to Get Married by Fulton Sheen and Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyła aka Pope John Paul II. That last one is a little heavy on philosophy, but if you can work through it, you will understand a great deal more about love, sex, and sexuality. Or for something quicker, read the section of the Catechism on the Sixth Commandment. It’s more interesting than most people think. Make good use of the great thinkers who have been able to discern and write a lot about the beauty and epic truth of the nature of sex.
The marital act is an image of the divine trinity. Both the trinity and the sexual embrace are a union of persons, known by their relationship to one another. Within the sexual act is a glorious and complex realty. Remember, you are not just a body. Scripture tells us that we are each a body, a mind, a heart, and a soul. And if a husband and a wife work to strengthen and unite every aspect of their being, they will more clearly see the depth of beauty revealed through their sexual embrace.