Have you ever received or given this sort of marriage advice?
“Serve her in the kitchen, and you’ll get some in the bedroom!”
“Make sure you let your husband ‘shop in your store’ *wink wink* or he will shop somewhere else!”
“Sex is the barometer of your marriage, so make sure you’re having lots of it otherwise…you know, you’re not doing so well.”
What is the focus of all of this advice? Sex.
Is that the purpose of marriage? Exchange his heart for her body? Trade doing the dishes for physical connection? Is that what marriage is about? Sex?
The amount of sex-focused marriage advice seems to lean that way. My husband was told back in junior high youth group, “Guys, don’t look at porn. Just wait until marriage!” And then what? The inference was that all of their sexual needs would be fulfilled.
Matt’s years-long porn addiction after we were married didn’t follow that well-meaning youth pastor’s promise. (He’s not alone in this—20% of married men report at least-weekly porn use.)
But Matt gained sexual sobriety. A year after he did, we slammed into another sexual struggle: An issue of childhood sexual assault surfaced to my memory, it magnetized to my sexual attractions toward women, and my husband—although was not my perpetrator and was “the one man I wanted to be with”—no longer felt safe to me.
As I filtered our issues through the marriage advice we received before and while we were married, it seemed like we were failing. If we weren’t having sex, and “sex is the barometer of marriage,” our marriage must be on “E” for empty. “E” for epically failing.
The pressure to have sex with my husband felt so overwhelming, I considered leaving him.
Then the marriage advice I wish we had received all along hit me over the head in the form of Ephesians 5:31-32. “’A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.”
The great mystery is not what I thought for many years—that, *sigh*, men and women mysteriously fall in love. The mystery is that Christ wants to marry us!
The purpose of marriage is not to have more sex.
The purpose of marriage is to show the world a living, breathing picture of how very-different-from-us, Jesus, laid down His life to be one with us, and how we are to lay down our lives daily for Him.
The purpose of marriage is to show the world a gospel picture.
Human sex between male and female can serve as a metaphor of God’s desire to be one with us—if the sex we are having is this holistic, mind-body-spirit, fruit-producing oneness-dance that metaphors the holistic, mind-body-spirit fruit-producing oneness-dance we have with God—but it’s not the only way to be one. It’s not the only way to “live the metaphor” of Christ’s love for the Church.
We live the metaphor when we are side-by-side, caring for current and future disciples around our kitchen table.
We live the metaphor when we play with our kids—teaching them something deep about joy, hope, peace or perseverance in our simply being together.
We live the metaphor when we work together to make order from chaos while tackling the never-ending-projects in our home.
We don’t only live the metaphor when we have sex.
We “do it” (live that metaphor) when we die to self to be one with the other and watch how God produces miraculous fruit from that death.
I didn’t get that. But when I finally did (and as I do), it was and is one of the primary things that saved and is saving our marriage.
Friends? Before you go offering or receiving marriage advice on marriage, let’s make sure it’s focus is not on how to get more sex, but on living the metaphor.
It just might just save a marriage—a living, breathing gospel picture.
Laurie Krieg is a writer, speaker, and ministry leader whose mission is to teach the Church how to approach sexuality with the gospel. Together, Laurie and her husband Matt host the Hole in My Heart podcast. Laurie and Matt are also co-authors of the forthcoming title, An Impossible Marriage.