As a pastor, I have the opportunity to meet with married couples on a very regular basis. There are times when the issue at hand has nothing to do with the health of their sex life, but more times than not, the couple’s lack of intimacy is a contributor. I believe that God gave us the ability to not only have sex, but to enjoy sex with our covenant partner. I do believe in the sanctity of marriage, so if you are looking for ways to improve your sex life as a single man or woman, let me just go ahead and tell you that this post is not for you. I firmly believe that God designed sex to be something that is shared between a husband and a wife. If you are married and wondering what you can do to improve the level and intensity of the intimacy shared between you and your spouse, then keep reading.

1. Communicate with each other.

My guess is that some of you blushed a little when you read the title of this post, simply because it contains the word sex. Unfortunately, our culture has taken something God intends for good and perverted it, even in the minds of believers. As a result, sex has become nothing more than something we do. This mindset has made its way into Christian marriages and has stifled a couple’s ability to speak openly about what they are thinking in terms of their physical intimacy. The longer this is ignored, the greater the divide becomes relationally. Your action item: If you are not satisfied in your intimacy, talk to your spouse openly and honestly about it. It is OK to say, “I don’t like that,” or “I really like that,” but if you don’t say it, your spouse will never know.

2. Determine frequency.

I know this sounds strange, but time and again, couples will come in feeling as though there is a real gap in their relationship. After some discussion, we realize that they have false assumptions about their spouse’s desires, primarily because they never talk about it (see #1). Many women assume their husband wants to have sex every day of the week, at least twice a day, while many men assume their wives are like sexual camels, with the ability to go months without sharing physical intimacy. In my experience, these assumptions have never been true. I ask couples to each write on a slip of paper the number of times they would like to have sex each week. I have only had one time when the number was greater than four, and almost every time, the husband and wife were no more than one day apart in their desires. You may or may not be the type of person who needs to schedule your intimacy, but it is OK to know what the expectations are for your spouse.

3. Initiation.

I suppose every couple has their unique way of initiating intimacy. It may be a certain code word or phrase you say, even in front of other people, that lets your spouse know what you have on your mind. It may be a certain kind of music that just happens to be playing in the bedroom. It may be that you look at each other and say something really romantic, like, “You wanna do it?” Regardless of how it happens, there is some sort of initiation. One person tends to initiate more than the other, and over time, that can become very normal. If that is working for you, then go for it, but let me give you a quick warning. There is a chance that the one who usually initiates could begin to wonder why he or she is always getting things rolling. Everyone has insecurities, and it could cause them to wonder if their spouse, the non-initiator, is actually interested in them. Sadly, if this isn’t discussed, the initiator can roll and face one wall, hoping their spouse will say the word or turn on the tunes, anything to communicate that, based on their desire, intimacy would be welcomed. If this isn’t discussed, the other spouse, not knowing what is going on in the other person’s mind, assumes he or she is not all that interested in being intimate. Racing through his or her mind is, “He always initiates,” or “She always lets me know when she wants to be intimate.” And when there is no discussion, the non-initiator turns and faces the other wall. As a result, the couple shares no intimacy, even when both the husband and the wife long for it. Once you have determined frequency, then share the role of initiator. Perhaps the husband can initiate the first time after the conversation, then it is her turn. Be creative!

4. No more than two.

There should never be more than two people in your bedroom during sex. I know that sounds like an obvious statement, because most people recognize that inviting another human being into your intimacy is wrong. However, there are many who invite others into their intimacy by using pornography. There are several surface-level problems with doing this:

It isn’t real. Your husband or wife isn’t airbrushed or getting a makeup fix halfway through your lovemaking, so you are imagining and developing unreal expectations.

It isn’t real. Some say they use porn to get ideas in order to spice up their sex life, but they are watching something that isn’t real.

• It isn’t real. Sure, they are real people, but they are acting. And it is setting you up for frustration, because you are allowing the enemy to blur the lines between what is true and what is false. Pornography has no place in the marriage bed.

5. Recognize you are different.

Men and women are very different, and those differences need to be accepted. I know I am using generalities here, but I think most would agree that, while women like thoughtfulness, rose petals, bubble baths and candles, men just want to be naked! What does this mean?

Men, you need to be thoughtful when initiating intimacy. In all my years as a pastor and husband, I have never heard a woman say that she wants to be treated like an object. Let her know you have been thinking about her throughout the day and be creative in how you approach the initiation.

Women, you have to understand that every initiation won’t involve candles and incense. Sometimes your husband just wants to be intimate with you. He doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to feel loved, he just needs you.

6. Get help.

I understand the privacy that is expected and applauded when it comes to your sex life. I also understand that your sex life is a living part of your relationship. There are innumerable circumstances that can have an adverse impact on your intimacy. The stress of a job, birth of a baby and medications are just a few examples we could discuss. Unfortunately, most couples will allow their sex life to suffer for weeks, months, and even years before ever asking for help. I realize no one wants to sit down with a trusted pastor or counselor and talk about… well, you know… sex. The truth, however, is that you should! If you go to a pastor or counselor that has been in the ministry very long at all, I assure you there is nothing you can bring to them that will surprise them. Why? Because we are all broken sexually to some degree. As a side note, it is unwise to discuss your broken sex life with your friends and family. They love you too much and will naturally, in most cases, gravitate toward your side of the conflict. You need to get in front of someone who recognizes “two have become one” and wants to see you both win on the other side of the struggle.

It has often been said in Christian circles that sex is a gift from God. I agree with that assessment and, like any other valuable gift, it is something we should care for and protect. If the intimacy between you and your spouse is struggling, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that you reach out to a trusted pastor or counselor for help. There are things from our past, present and even fears of the future that play a role in our sex life, and they should not be ignored.

There is so much more that can be said about this topic. This is just a sample of the things that seem to come up time and again in my conversations, so I pray they prove beneficial for you!