However, I feel that we have a very real problem in our society and I wanted to address it briefly.
What do you think of when you hear the word 'sex'?
If you're like most people, degrading or immoral images may flash through your mind from movies you've seen or from the most recent Miley Cyrus scandal. Unfortunately, that is not what is supposed to happen.
The media portrays intimacy as something that is casual, evil ,or demeaning..Very few stand up for the sacredness of the act, and it's not necessarily because they don't care. It's simply uncomfortable to talk about, so we often avoid discussing it at all. Though the act itself is very sacred, it is important that we understand something very important:
The more that we act uncomfortable around the subject and tell our children not to do it, the more likely they are to feel uncomfortable and sinful about the subject themselves, even after they are married.
I recently read a book called Last Child in the Woods. This is a fantastic book about what the author calls nature deficit disorder. Basically, our children are not getting out into nature enough. However, during one chapter, the author brought up a very interesting thought. Richard Louv pointed out that showing children the destruction of nature in the classroom might make them want to protect it, but it also associates nature with negative emotions. Children then become afraid of nature and unwilling to actually get close to it because all they associate it with is destruction and death. These images of trees being cut down and animals being slaughtered don't bring children a love and a desire to go forth in nature and become close to it, instead those feelings cause children to stay as far away as possible and only care about it in a humanitarian way.
Intimacy, unfortunately, has been handled in the same way.
When we talk to young men and young women at church, we usually tell them, "Don't make out! Don't have sex until you're married! Abstinence is important!"
Those these are true principles, the way we are saying them is a negative one. Everyone's so busy telling us that intimacy is bad before marriage that we come to associate intimacy with negative feelings. The problem is, those feelings don't go away once your married. It is hard to comprehend that something is 'wrong' before you married, and then once you're married it is magically okay. Before I was married, I was terrified of being intimate with my spouse. Here are some things that helped me get over that.
When Grig and I were engaged, someone recommended a book to us. This book handles the subject of sexual intimacy in marriage in a respectful and sacred manner, while quoting from (Latter-day Saint) prophets and apostles, as well as the scriptures and other Christian psychologists. We only read the first three chapters before we were married, because the first three chapters are about developing a testimony of intimacy. The other chapter are better read after you're married.
This book is called And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage Through Sexual Fulfillment. This book addressed this specific issue I'm talking about. In fact, it called it "The Good-Girl Syndrome."
Many married women (and some men) have a very difficult time being intimate after marriage without feeling feelings of guilt or shame. They can't relax and enjoy the experience, because a part of them is saying that it's wrong and that they are doing something bad.
This is a terrible tragedy. The author of this book pointed out that many marriages end because of sexual unfulfillment. Even if one of the spouses is enjoying the experience, that sensation doesn't last. Sexual Intimacy is meant to be pleasurable and fulfilling for both husband and wife. If one side of the marriage is not involved, it is not a good experience for either person.
If you are experiencing this in your life, I want you to know that you don't have to stay in that negative place. God made man (and women) to have joy. Sexual intimacy within the bounds of marriage can bring greater joy than it is possible to imagine. God commanded Adam and Eve "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." This is an appropriate and sacred relationship. Intimacy is a wonderful thing that can repair wounds between a husband and wife and help them become one flesh.
Outside of marriage, those relationships become hollow because intimacy is about becoming one. It is meant to bring children and love into a family. When it is done outside the proper bounds of marriage, it is an ultimately unsatisfying because it only lasts for a few moments. Those who were meant to become one instead are uncommitted to the relationship. You cannot form one being out of two individuals who refuse to be tied together or who are afraid to commit because they might be hurt. Or out of individuals who are 'just doing it to have a good time.' It is meant to be so much more than that.
Within the bounds of marriage, intimacy become a unifying force. Outside, it becomes destructive.
I had a Bishop before I was married who told me that it is okay to have sex after you're married just to have sex. He told me that I would be surprised how many young women thought you could only be intimate if you were trying to have a baby.
If you are struggling with intimacy in your marriage, I have some suggestions for you. Even if your intimate life is wonderful, working on these things won't hurt you. Again, I am no professional and I don't really have all that much experience, but I can tell you three things that have helped us in our marriage.
1- Find out for yourself that intimacy is divinely appointed. Bring the Lord into your marriage and into your intimate life. I know that sounds weird, but I promise it will help. Intimacy is a sacred thing, and the Lord should always be part of sacred things.
The LDS church handbook says:
Married couples should also understand that sexual relations within marriage are divinely approved not only for the purpose of procreation, but also as a way of expressing love and strengthening emotional and spiritual bonds between husband and wife.Research the subject prayerfully and seek guidance from the Lord. He wants you to be happy, and He will guide you in the way that will strengthen you and your marriage. He does care that you are being fulfilled in your marriage and that you and your spouse are growing closer together.
Here are a couple talks that may help you develop that testimony.
They Twain Shall Be One: Thoughts on Intimacy in Marriage
Intimacy in Marriage
Also, the book I mentioned about could help. It helped me out. Here's the link again:
2 - Discuss the topic openly, lovingly, and prayerfully with your spouse.
You aren't in this marriage alone. Your spouse may be struggling with similar feelings and they need to understand how you feel. As you discuss the matter together, you can grow closer and find that your love can reach new heights. If you decide you need greater help, counsel with your Bishop or someone you trust who may be able to guide you to a reliable marriage counselor with similar values to you and your husband. Both you and your spouse's feelings need to be considered.
3- Remember that intimacy is about making both you and YOUR SPOUSE feel good.
Like everything in marriage, when we approach it from a selfish perspective, it isn't going to work. True intimacy involves doing it together with the other person in mind. As people put aside their own personal feelings and focus on their spouse, they will find that the experience becomes more enjoyable.
Marriages are strengthened as we serve and love one another. Neither spouse should have to feel like a sexual object, but likewise, neither spouse should have to feel bad about wanting to do something sanctioned by the Lord. Work on your testimony together and try to understand your spouse's perspective.
Finally, talk to your children openly and respectfully when they have questions about the subject. If you feel awkward and uncomfortable, your children are going to feel awkward and uncomfortable. To help parents teach and educate their children on the subject of sex, the church has published a manual called A Parent's Guide. It's free, and I'm sure it would be helpful for you, regardless of your faith.
Hopefully this helps somebody.
I know that intimacy within marriage is divinely appointed. It can be a pleasurable, wonderful, and sacred experience! The Lord often asks us to fast from things until the time is right. Abstinence before marriage is like fasting before a meal. You get great blessings for waiting, and the food always tastes better when you finish your fast. Eating isn't wrong, but there are times when it is appropriate to wait, and it is totally possible to do so. The Lord will bless you in your efforts and provide a way for you to accomplish His commandments and to find joy as you do so.