What are the marks of a healthy sexual relationship?
It’s not inappropriate to ask what is most pleasurable or most exciting for married couples, but meaningful lovemaking is so much more than creating greater sexual arousal and climaxes. That’s why it’s not a bad idea to also ask “What are the markers of a wholesome sexual experience that is accomplishing God’s relational intent?”
In my view, “healthy” protects happy pleasure, it doesn’t threaten it.
I write this post with a bit of pastoral concern: Lisa and I have met some wives (and the occasional husband) who felt tempted to compromise their faith and even their own sense of sanity because they realized after getting married that their spouse has some sexual hang-ups. At first, they thought the best thing to do was to “go along.” Going along never works; it just prolongs the inevitable crisis. Nursing an unhealthy inclination never makes things better; it just makes the way back a little longer and ultimately more difficult.
Seeking a healthy sexual relationship is a fair and good and wise and holy pursuit.
These six marks aren’t exhaustive; I’m sure there are many more, but here’s a short, non-scientific test to see how you and your spouse are doing in regards to sexual intimacy.
1. Christian sex is always relational sex.
Any sexual experience divorced from relational connecting isn’t healthy sex. Pornography, voyeurism, predatory touching, any form of paying for sex, exhibitionism, group sex, anonymous sex or objectifying marital sex all have the same common denominator: sex divorced from relational connecting. Most forms of sexual deviancy include a separation between sex and emotional connection.
In a biblical view of sex, physical intimacy draws husband and wife ever closer together. After the intimacy is over they smile, hold on to a very pleasant shared memory, and their bond is deepened accordingly. Unhealthy sex further isolates an already damaged person. They “wake up” from the sexual experience, feel increased shame (making him/her a little less capable of authentic intimacy) and want to hide what just happened from everyone instead of remember it fondly with a special someone.