Like most newlyweds, Josh and Lauren had anticipated the unity and ecstasy of married sexuality. Even though their honeymoon wasn’t perfect, they still hoped they would "click" and discover the ultimate beauty of sexual oneness. After two years of frustration, their optimism began to wane.

Sexual issues topped the list of their arguments. He complained that she was never interested. She responded by pointing out his obvious lack of romantic overtures. How could something designed to create unity have become so divisive in their young marriage?

Marital intimacy is fraught with hindrances such as poor communication, unmet expectations and resentment, primarily stemming from the vast differences between male and female sexuality. If you and your spouse have found yourselves frustrated in the bedroom, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Become a student of your spouse

It took me 10 years of school to become a psychologist. Throughout that time, I was exposed to a fair amount of information on human sexuality. Needless to say, I felt more equipped than the average wife to understand a husband’s needs. Boy, did I overestimate my sex education!

Regardless of your background, you have a lot to learn about your spouse’s sexuality. In fact, much of what you assume may actually be wrong. If you want a deeply satisfying sex life, you must go back to being a student.

The first way to do this is through general knowledge. Cliff and Joyce Penner have written some wonderful, explicit and God-honouring resources to get you up to speed.

Guys, one of your challenges will be understanding the incredible complexity of your wife’s sexuality. I recommend The Way to Love Your Wife by the Penners. Gals, we need help understanding our husbands’ struggles and temptations. My eyes were opened after I read about the sexual temptations men face. As you read, talk openly about what you are learning.

Beyond the generalities, you also need to become a student of your spouse. The greatest roadblock to this is a lack of communication. Although couples often fight about sex, they rarely talk about it. Consider sharing about your insecurities, temptations, turn-ons and turn-offs. Plan to talk and pray together about your sex life at least once a month. Because these topics are so sensitive, be a sympathetic and supportive listener.

Accept what you can’t understand

In all my efforts to understand my husband, I eventually became frustrated with the gender gap we could never bridge. We could talk until we had no words left and still not know what it feels like to be in the other person’s skin.

The problem was rooted in the fact that neither of us had accepted what we could not understand: Men often view sex as a physical release and a way to reconnect with their wives, while women tend to see it as an outgrowth of their emotional intimacy.

Gals, we struggle to understand why men are tempted visually. Guys, you may not understand the emotional energy sex requires from your wife. What makes matters more complicated is our own human shortcomings and selfishness.

There comes a point when we have to go beyond understanding to acceptance. God simply created men and women differently. When we genuinely accept each other, without judgment and resentment, we can begin to enjoy our differences.

Don’t try sex without love

I have often wondered why God made men and women so different. Wouldn’t it have been easier and more pleasurable if we had the same needs, drives and preferences?

These differences are actually designed to show us how to give ourselves to each other in love. According to the Bible, true love can be expressed only through unselfishness.

Were it possible for me to love my husband while pursuing my own selfish desires, I would never know the beauty of real love. A great sex life is only possible as both the husband and wife commit to surrendering their own needs for one another.

One of God’s great gifts for us is marital sex. Through it, we gain an even richer blessing: the experience of loving and being loved unselfishly.

Dr. Juli Slattery is clinical psychologist, author, speaker and broadcast media professional. She is also president of Authentic Intimacy, a non-profit ministry aimed at helping women have better marriages. Dr. Slattery's books include No More Headaches, Pulling Back the Shades, Beyond the Masquerade and 25 Questions You're Afraid to Ask About Love, Sex, and Intimacy. She and her husband, Mike, have three sons.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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