How would you define a healthy sexual relationship in marriage? While there may be a number of ways, the following represents my definition of a healthy sexual relationship:
- Mutually Fulfilling. Lovemaking is mutually enjoyable and satisfying for both husband and wife.
- Open Communication. Husband and wife communicate openly and honestly about sex-including their needs and preferences. This ability allows them to reconcile the many differences that will inevitably arise in the sexual relationship.
- Satisfactory Frequency. Both husband and wife feel satisfied with the frequency of lovemaking.
- Emotional Connection Beyond the Bedroom. In order for the relationship to come full circle there must be good emotional connection outside the bedroom as well.
How Many Fit?
What percentage of couples would you think fit this description of a healthy sexual relationship? Most research only measures sexual dysfunction rather than how many people consider themselves to have a healthy and fulfilling intimate relationship, so it’s difficult to find accurate information.
Given the fact that 40-50% of couples divorce over matters such as sex, and considering that a majority of those who stay married unfortunately subsist in a parallel/mediocre marriage, I would have to say that maybe 20% of couples have what could be considered a healthy sexual relationship. And that’s probably a pretty generous number given this definition.
Think about how many people you know that might fit into this category. When I asked a young man doing research on the subject of cultural influences on sex, what percentage of couples he thought fit my description of a healthy sexual relationship he couldn’t think of many, and didn’t even think his parents could fit the description. Unfortunately there are not as many as there needs to be.
In answer to the query of how many couples have a healthy sexual relationship, one man wrote:
“In answer to your question…I don’t have a clue! I have had many people comment to me that we have such a great marriage. It’s hard not to just start crying sometimes. While many people think we have a great relationship in every respect, my marriage strikes out on all four of the characteristics mentioned of a healthy sexual relationship. Given that so many people misread the state of my marriage, I don’t have much faith that I can read anyone else’s. I think there are some clearer signs when things are really not going well in a relationship, but an absence of those does not mean all is well.”
Thankfully, I’ve also heard from those who do think they fit into the 20%:
“I think my wife and I fit into the 20% who have a healthy sexual relationship, but that’s after 15 years of working at it. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s finally there. We have to fine tune it from time to time, but the open communication has allowed us to understand each other’s physical needs (or lack thereof), and to make sure that both of us are satisfied. It has strengthened our marriage, and I couldn’t be happier with our sexual relationship.”
Healthy Sexual Relationships are Learned
Much time and effort is involved in creating a healthy sexual relationship. It’s important to remember that a good sexual relationship is a learned behavior. Most couples must work on all four areas identified above in order to have a really good intimate relationship.
When Satan is able to keep couples from experiencing the kind of intimate relationship God intended, he happily limits their ability to be an influence for good in the lives of their children, and in the lives of all who know them.
What are some other factors that might define a healthy sexual relationship? A newlywed responded by saying:
“I would have to say that one indicator of a healthy sexual relationship is how people choose to talk about sex when not in mixed company. Do they make fun of it or highly praise it? Do they joke around in a disrespectful way about their partner or do they give sex the importance it should have?
Some of the sage advice’ I was given prior to my marriage now saddens me. These women’s comments had the effect of preparing me for failure and negative expectations about sex in marriage. Little things we quip about sex to others can have a huge impact on them, and also give away hints as to whether or not we are enjoying our own sexual lives.”
How is Your Marriage?
This description of a healthy sexual relationship may provide a vision for couples to create within their own marriages. How do you fare with these four characteristics? What could you do to improve things in even one of these areas?
I encourage couples to strive for mutual fulfillment, open communication, satisfactory frequency of intimate relations, and greater emotional connection beyond the bedroom. A strong marriage includes a healthy sexual relationship. It’s a worthy endeavor.
Laura M. Brotherson is the author of a groundbreaking book on sexual intimacy and marital oneness entitled, And They Were Not Ashamed-Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment. Laura shares her passion for building strong marriages and families as an author, intimacy educator, blogger and podcaster.
Visit her website www.StrengtheningMarriage.com to learn more, and to sign up for her “Straight Talk about Strengthening Marriage” newsletter. StrengtheningMarriage.com is your trusted resource for education, products and services to strengthen marriages…intimately!