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Marital Communion (or, in other words, SEX)

Mother - perhaps you should go and walk the dog, I have some blush-inducing blogging to do.  We'll let you know when it's safe to return...

Is she gone?  Ok....

Dear (Young) Marrieds,

I know you always thought sex was going to be an intense, tantric, mind-blowing union of heart and soul as well as body.  I know you anticipated an emotional and spiritual connection attended by intense, honeyed delight.  In short, I know you thought of sex in a quite disembodied way.  And I know that now the mechanics of the whole enterprise are threatening to burst, not only the bubble of your sexual misconceptions, but your very identities as male and female and stir up all manner of existential terrors.

I know this because every couple struggles deeply here.  Sorry if we didn't mention this.  Sorry if we don't talk about it more.  But allow me to offer one word of advice.  Sex is difficult enough without the added pressure of trying to really mean it.

An analogy:  One Sunday I'll go forward for communion and take the bread and wine with a profound sense of my spiritual need and the sacrifice of Christ.  The next Sunday I might take the bread and wine and feel only a faint sense of gratitude.  Perhaps the next I have only a prayerful disappointment that I'm not 'feeling it'.  But I take it nonetheless.  Question: On which Sunday have I really communed with Christ?  Answer: all of them!  And actually going through the motions (as I argue for here) is the best way of ensuring my heart catches up with my body.

If I sit in my pew until I really really feel a heart-felt connection to Christ, I'll never take communion.  But if I'm assured that Christ is promised in the bread and wine, then the focus is taken off my feelings and put objectively onto the real offer of Christ.

So it is in the bedroom.  Marital communion is marital communion whether you're just 'going through the motions' or whether you're 'really feeling it.'  Of course mind and heart are meant to be united as bodies are.  But let's believe in 'the real presence'.  One flesh' is 'one flesh'.  Let the mind and heart catch up.

You'll notice that I'm not a memorialist when it comes to the sacraments.  Actually I'm against memorialism in the sexual realm too.  I reckon modern western approaches to sex are basically memorialist already.  We live with a divorce of the physical from the spiritual so that, on the one hand, Demi Moore says in Indecent Proposal "it's only my body, it's not my soul."  On the other hand the vast majority of sex which does happen in the West is now fantasy sex (i.e. pornography).  This dualism feeds into Christian marriages where we see two common problems: 1. A disdain for the physical (sex was always taught as dirty) and 2. a flight into fantasy (the mechanics of sex put us off and we retreat into remembrances of the real thing - porn).

Anyway, that's just a side-point.  My real advice is this: one flesh is one flesh.  Your best shot at mind-blowing sex is to forget completely about mind-blowing sex.  And just, you know, have sex.  Because it's Wednesday - and Wednesday is the night we usually make love...

That can be easier said than done I know.  And this one piece of advice is not meant to solve all your problems.  But hopefully it takes a significant pressure off of sex and, you never know, it might just help with those other issues too.

Now could someone go and fetch my mother?  Tell her it's safe to surf again.

12 thoughts on “Marital Communion (or, in other words, SEX)

  1. Melanie

    Glen, just wanted to make a comment and go against your Mum's prediction! Great post, good advice. The current media hoo-ha surrounding 'Fifty Shades of Grey', porn for my demographic (middle-aged, middle class, working mum), has made me think. Is this what women want? After being married over twenty years I still think sex is one of God's best ideas.

  2. James

    "I reckon modern western approaches to sex are basically memorialist already."

    "Sulva is she whom mortals call the Moon. She walks in the lowest sphere. The rim of the world that was wasted goes through her. Half her orb is turned towards us and shares our curse. Her other half looks to Deep Heaven; happy would he be who could cross that frontier and see the fields on her further side. On this side the womb is barren and the marriages cold. There dwell an accursed people, full of pride and lust. There when a young man takes a maiden in marriage, they do not lie together, but each lies with a cunningly fashioned image of the other, made to move and to be warm by devilish arts, for real flesh will not please them, they are so dainty [delicati] in thier dreams of lust."

    From 'That Hideous Strength' by C. S. Lewis

  3. Caroline

    Dearest Glen, my husband and I have a saying "sex is like pizza, when it's good it's great, when it's bad ...it's still pretty good" (came from some comedian many years ago) One tiny warning: O.K. sex as a steady diet is sort of like saying "No thanks" to God because it's too much trouble to do the work/pain involved in true deep intimacy he designed. We get really good at what ever we practice. I actually am totally out of the loop on the "mommy porn" stuff many people are commenting on. Call me old fashioned, but I would choose celibacy over infantile self-stimulation in or out of a marriage. I want it real every time even if it just "pretty good". I see sex as sort of an x-ray machine, it shows whats going on inside a marriage. Good post, Thanks!

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  5. Glen

    Thanks all. Just to clarify - I'm not saying "Lie back and think of England" is any kind of solution to sexual problems that can run very deep in a great number of marriages. The heart *is* important and I've been horrified by 2nd hand accounts of behaviourist treatments offered by psycho-sexual counsellors. I'm not saying "Just do it" is the answer. I'm just saying "Don't expect fireworks" can relieve some of the pressures which exacerbate sexual problems.

    And with that, I gladly resign from the post of resident sexpert...

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