Just as the unmet expectation of rain at the beach when we wanted sun leads to disappointment, so do unmet expectations about intimacy affect our marriages. Kristen and I came into marriage with very different backgrounds sexually. She came into marriage as a virgin, and I came into marriage with both a history of a massive porn addiction and multiple sexual partners prior to marriage.
Because of my past, I was, by far, the more anxious of the two of us on our wedding night. With so much baggage, I wanted our wedding night to be memorable and I had very high expectations. I wanted to do things the right way in marriage with Kristen.
We all bring many expectations for intimacy into marriage. Yet, when those expectations fall short, we experience frustration, sadness and anger.
The second barrier to sexual intimacy as God intends is unmet expectations. I wrote about unmet expectations in two previous posts (sources of expectations and a better way to handle unmet expectations). When it comes to sexual intimacy, we often have unrealized, unspoken, or unrealistic expectations. Based on our past experiences, current situation and future hopes, we all bring expectations into the bedroom when it comes to sexual intimacy.
Expectations can be defined as “beliefs about the ways things will be or should be.” I can think of very few things in the world designed for more joy and pleasure than sexual intimacy. Yet, intimacy often leads to pain, frustration, and brokenness. God designed intimacy in a way that should bring hope and joy.
However, all of us have experienced some level of disappointment and frustration. This is why I am writing this series on the most important 0.625% of your marriage. I want you, the reader, to experience the joy God desires for you instead of the disappointment and unmet expectations intimacy often produces.
The key scripture for the barrier of unmet expectations is Philippians 2:3-4. Paul writes, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
We must match up our expectations with the truth of God’s Word and the realities of marriage. When we do so, we will begin to see how our expectations compare with the challenge to do or expect nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
As we have previously discussed, sexual intimacy is a great thing within marriage. But, as Paul Tripp writes in the book What Did You Expect, “A good thing becomes a bad thing when it becomes a ruling thing.” And sometimes the good thing of sexual intimacy becomes a ruling thing when it becomes ‘god’ in our lives and dominates our pursuits; we become fixed on the next physical intimacy experience.
When it comes to sexual intimacy, there are many sources of unmet expectations. Here are four of the most significant sources:
1. We want everything to be perfect. Hollywood (and pornography) set us up for failure by creating unrealistic expectations. As a result, anxiety and embarrassment reign, leading to premature ejaculation, decreased female lubrication and even erectile dysfunction issues. Pornography fills our brain with images and sounds that do not accurately portray God’s best for intimacy.
- Media and pornography have set us up to fail and have done us a huge disservice with regard to intimacy. For instance, media/porn gives us the impression that a couple experiences wild and simultaneous orgasms, spoons all night, and wakes up in the morning ready to go again without even taking care of that stank morning breath. Media shows the ‘fun’ of sexual intimacy without the hard work of marriage.
- We also see differences in time to reach orgasm. Most males can reach orgasm in a short period of time (two minutes or less), whereas most women require 15-30 minutes of manual stimulation to reach an orgasm if they even reach one. Unfortunately, this often leads men to self-stimulation instead of choosing to serve their spouse.
2. We have different expectations when it comes to frequency. This begins on the honeymoon and lasts throughout marriage. For example, I remember a friend telling me he expected to have sex with his wife two times per day on their honeymoon. His wife-to-be expected sex every other day. This continues into all of married life when couples have expectations on how many times per week they should have sex. There is no right or wrong number, but this is something you definitely need to discuss with your spouse.
- Side note: while we often assume all men have the higher drive, the wife has a higher sex drive than the husband in about 20-25% of all marriages.
3. We have different expectations of what is in bounds and what is out of bounds. In other words, what is permissible within sexual intimacy? Much can be said about this topic and many couples wonder what the bible says about things that plug in, stripper poles and what they’re allowed to do in (and out) of the bedroom.
Here are a few parameters: it cannot involve others (Matthew 5:27-28), cannot hurt anyone physically or emotionally (Philippians 2:3-4), and cannot violate someone else’s conscience (Romans 14:12-23, especially v.13-14). Beyond this, the Bible gives a lot of freedom on what’s permissible. These three charts provide some parameters on what is in bounds and out of bounds biblically and a way for a couple to decide and discuss.
- For any couple, what’s permissible is the intersection of what’s in bounds biblically along with what’s in bounds for both the husband and wife.
- Note: typically, the male’s parameters are much broader than the wife’s parameters. If this is the case, then please discuss with your spouse.
4. Physical pain can lead to unmet expectations in intimacy. For instance, medical complications such as endometriosis can lead to pain in intercourse and frustration in intimacy. If pain persists in intimacy, please make sure you seek medical assistance. Pain and physical discomfort are a frequent source of unmet expectations for couples.
Most important, our spouse cannot always meet our wants and desires. Whenever these desires are unmet, we experience unmet expectations. The key when it comes to unmet expectations is to learn how to please and serve your spouse. This is why Philippians 2:3-4 is the key verse when it comes to expectations. To fight against the barrier of unmet expectations, we must act like Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11) and put our spouse’s needs before our own.
So much more can be said on all of the above and there are many more sources of unmet expectations. The hope for this post is to get you and your spouse to discuss your expectations for intimacy.
Next week I will share the third barrier to intimacy in marriage. Salt-N-Pepa got it right when they said, “Let’s TALK About Sex.”
Ask yourself the following:
- How satisfied am I sexually?
- How satisfied is my spouse sexually?
- Where are our sexual expectations aligned and where are they different?
- Do I feel freedom to share my desires sexually? Why or why not? What are some barriers or insecurities that prevent me from sharing with my spouse?
Also in this series:
- Part 1 – The Most Important 0.625% of Your Marriage
- Part 2 – The 411 on the Most Important 0.625%
- Part 3 – The Law of the Farm: Will you Work Hard to Make the 0.625% of Your Marriage Great?
- Part 5 – Let’s Talk about Sex: The Most Important Skill Needed for Great Intimacy
- Part 6 – Crazy Busy: The Fourth Barrier to Sexual Intimacy as God Intends
- Part 7 – How to Live in Freedom: Working Through Your Unresolved Sexual Pain or Sin