Compatibility Part 1: A Recipe for Great Sex

I’m writing a series on compatibility. You might remember it was one of my five Cs of a healthy, happy relationship. Each installment will look at a specific issue involving compatibility. I believe compatibility is one of the most important principles couples need to consider in their relationship, so (deep breath) here goes. As always, please leave comments and share your thoughts!


There’s a common conception that in order for their relationship to have lasting success, a couple needs to be sexually compatible, and this should be tested before they decide to get married. After all, the reasoning goes, you wouldn’t want to marry someone who was sexually incompatible with you. This could lead to an unfulfilling sex life, potential affairs, and general relationship misery.

Is this conventional wisdom really true? Do we need to take a sexual “test drive” of our partners before we decide to commit to a lifetime of marriage with them? Consider the following:

Couples who cohabitate before marriage are more likely to consider divorce and to report lower levels of satisfaction in their marriage. Multiple studies, such as this one from the University of Denver, have found a “risk for divorce and poorer communication and problem-solving skills in couples who cohabited” before marriage. There are various theories why. One study hypothesized that couples who cohabitate tend to be “less committed to marriage and more approving of divorce.” The study indicated that “cohabiting experiences significantly increase young people’s acceptance of divorce.”

Also, a study in the Journal of Family Psychology has found “sexual restraint [i.e., waiting longer to have sex instead of testing sexual compatibility right away] was associated with better relationship outcomes, even when controlling for education, the number of sexual partners, religiosity, and relationship length.”

Finally, consider this: in the book The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially, authors Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher argue that marriage has a whole host of benefits, including a better sex life. That’s right—married people have more satisfying sexual experiences! Why? “Cohabitating couples do not have the same kind of commitment. Waite and Gallagher note that cohabitating couples are less likely to be sexually faithful. Faithful partners do not worry about sexually translated diseases, are more likely to work to improve their sexual relationship, and do not have to worry about sexual jealousy.” (From a book review of The Case for Marriage.)

All of this information contradicts the popular notion that test driving a relationship for sexual compatibility is a good route to take. It actually doesn’t accomplish what it sets out to do. Being in a committed or cohabiting relationship is simply not the same as marriage. Marriage is a mutual lifetime commitment made publicly. It creates a safe environment for a couple to express intimacy on every level, including physically. A married couple thus has the advantage in sexual compatibility because they can develop it with someone they fully trust. Sex isn’t just a physical act; it’s also an emotional, mental, and even spiritual act. It’s been said before that the largest sex organ in the human body is the brain. That’s very true, and that’s why there can be no substitute for the intimacy of a marriage relationship built on love and trust. Brett Salkeld writes: “The real problem about the search for ‘sexual compatibility’ is that it abstracts sex from the broader relationship. It makes good sex the result of a biological fluke rather than the natural outcome of a loving relationship.”

Sex is like dessert. With practice, and within the safe boundaries of a marriage relationship, a couple can make delicious chocolate raspberry cheesecake. The more you make a recipe, the better you get at it. In fact, the better you get at cooking, the more recipes you learn how to make. There’s no need to worry you’ll get bored of chocolate raspberry cheesecake. But when you’re first learning how to cook, your recipes are not going to turn out perfectly. You might burn the crust a little (and just in case you were wondering, dessert is only a metaphor, not a weird double entendre). That’s why test-drive sex fails. You don’t actually know what kind of delicious recipes the two of you could make together because you’re just starting out. And every time you hook up with a new person, you’re starting out all over again. You’ll never get to the level of chocolate raspberry cheesecake that way. The best recipe for great sex is two committed partners willing to share the entirety of their lives together in marriage, forever.


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The Importance of Compatibility

I’m starting a series on compatibility. Compatibility is extremely important in relationships, and it encompasses a wide variety of issues. We’ll deal with one issue at a time. If there’s something related to compatibility that you’d like to discuss, leave a comment


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Sexual Freedom?

The following is an excellent piece written by David Hamstra, a colleague of mine who pastors in the Alberta Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Check out his blog: apokalupto. It’s a good read.


Anyone who has seen two children fighting over a single object in a room full of other equally fun toys can appreciate what philosopher René Girard was getting at when he described the human predicament as “mimetic desire”—we do not want what we want, we want what others want. While we would like to think that our deepest desires are unique to us and in some way define who we are, in reality, we are usually mimicking the desires of those around us. We all want someone else’s toy.

With the advent of easy-access pornography delivered anonymously through the internet, the desires of others are increasingly controlling our sexual desires. Most of us assume that what we like or don’t like sexually, our sexual preferences, come from within us, from latent desires we discovered as we gained sexual experiences. The reality is the opposite. Our sexual experiences accumulate as desires, training us to prefer what we’ve previously experienced. So as we vicariously experience sex-acts through pornography, we are training ourselves with powerful rewards of pleasure to mimic porn-like preferences.

The results are not pretty. Pornography is training more and more men desire sex-acts with women that are embarrassing, uncomfortable, or even painful for women to perform. Some people are discovering that they cannot orgasm while having partner sex but only through masturbation. They have trained themselves to enjoy masturbation more than anything else by having the majority of their sexual experiences that way and enhancing the experience through pornography.

When human beings open themselves to a broad range of sexual experiences, real or vicarious, the end result seems to be people who desire sexual experiences that are not mutually satisfying. This individualistic pursuit of pleasure through sex is commonly thought to be the way to enjoy sex to the fullest. But contrary to what most assume, research shows that it is married, not single, people who have the most sex on average, and married women are more likely to experience sexual satisfaction than single women.

What if, instead of becoming slaves to the influence of others desires, we reserved our all sexual experiences for one person with whom we shared a mutual, lifetime commitment; trained ourselves to prefer sex-acts that brought that person pleasure; and devoted a lifetime to getting better and better at pleasing each other sexually? Wouldn’t that be (in the sense of developing unique sexual desires and fulfillment) true sexual freedom?

Of course, this is what Christianity, teaching sex only within the marriage relationship, has promoted for millennia. And not just that sex should be reserved for marriage, but that it ought to be regularly enjoyed in marriage. Perhaps it’s an idea whose time has come.

This article originally appeared in the Clergy Comments column of the Fort McMurray Today (February, 25, 2012).


Link to original blog:


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The Five Cs of a Happy, Healthy Relationship

What makes a successful relationship? How can two people find true love and happiness together? Is there a formula we can follow to ensure eternal wedded bliss? I don’t believe there is. Every relationship, composed of two unique individuals, is unique. There is no magic formula; you can’t “follow this one rule for a happy marriage” because every relationship is different. There are, however, principles that can guide you as you and your partner pursue fulfillment in life together. Here are five principles that I believe have helped Emmalee and me build a happy, healthy marriage together. I call them the Five Cs.

If you want your relationship to last over the long run, you and your partner need to be compatible with each other. This might seem obvious; of course two people who plan on spending their lives together need to get along. But this goes deeper than having common interests and hobbies, or liking the same movies and music, or having a similar sense of humor. All of those things contribute to compatibility, but at its core compatibility is about a shared worldview. Do you and your partner have compatible life goals? Do you share the same moral and ethical principles? Do you share the same religious and spiritual beliefs?

Now, you don’t have to find your opposite sex clone in order to create the ultimate marriage. Being compatible doesn’t mean being identical. It doesn’t mean agreeing on everything; it means agreeing on the most important things. It means having a shared worldview that guides your thinking and shapes both your individual and mutual decision-making processes. Being highly compatible gives you a much better chance of making your relationship last for a lifetime.

This is another principle that seems obvious, but it’s so crucial that emphasizing it often is worthwhile. Good relationships are built on solid communication. The most important part of communication is listening. We all know how to talk, but good listeners are rare. Communication is especially vital in marriage because your spouse is the person closest to you. You are sharing your entire life together—not only in duration, but in scope. Every aspect of you is shared with your spouse, and vice versa. Can you open up and be yourself around your partner? When you speak, do you feel they are actually listening to what you are saying? Do you listen intently when they are speaking?

Communication can be improved if both partners are willing to work on it. On the flip side, communication only gets worse without proper attention. If a couple doesn’t discuss problems together, those problems just fester and ultimately poison the relationship. However, discussing those problems openly and working together to solve them actually strengthens a relationship.

Though it is the most important, I put this principle in the center because that’s where God should be in every relationship. Before He’s in the center of a relationship, though, He must be in the center of each person’s life. Why is this so important? Because we’re all naturally selfish. We all seek after what is best for ourselves, sometimes even at the expense of others. This is devastating for a relationship. Relationships require us to look out for another’s interests before our own. That’s what love is, in fact. Love is a self-sacrificial act where I put someone else first.

But we don’t naturally put others first; we naturally put ourselves first. And this is why we need Jesus. Jesus promises to change our lives and turn our selfishness into selflessness. We can’t do it on our own. The “grit your teeth and try harder” method of self-improvement doesn’t work. The only thing that can truly change us is surrendering ourselves to God. As strange as it sounds, that’s the secret to success: giving up. With Jesus at the center of your life and at the center of your relationship, you will learn to love selflessly like He loves.

This might be a little controversial for some, but a couple needs to have genuine sexual attraction to each other if their relationship is going to last. Now, before the religious folks stone me, take a minute and think about what marriage really is. It’s a union of two people on every level: emotionally, socially, spiritually, and physically. And we should be attracted to our partners on all of those levels. Guys, you should think your woman is a beautiful, sexy babe. Ladies, your man should be a hot, handsome hunk to you.

Now, let me affirm that I believe sex is reserved only for the marriage relationship. So this is an area where we must tread carefully when we’re in a pre-marriage relationship. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that if you’re in a healthy relationship, even pre-marriage, you should feel sexually attracted to your partner. If you’re not, something is wrong. And by the way, if you don’t think God wants us to be sexually attracted to our partners, read Song of Solomon sometime.

This principle is closely related to the issue of selflessness that we talked about earlier. Relationships are based on give and take. Compromise means setting aside your agenda, your wants, and putting your partner first. It means yielding to their wishes out of love for them. And as always, both people in the relationship must be willing to compromise. You and your partner are never going to agree on absolutely everything. You are two different individuals; the fact that marriage makes you “one flesh” does not mean you share only one brain. Thus both of you must be willing to compromise for the sake of the other, and for the sake of the relationship.

This certainly isn’t an exhaustive list of principles that Emmalee and I have built our relationship on, but it’s some of the most important for us. And others may have different principles they’ve highlighted. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what has made your relationship successful.


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I’m still here!

It’s been awhile since I last blogged. I’ve been really busy lately. I’ve got school, of course. Last week I just started a new job. Yeah, I know: excuses, excuses. But I really do like to blog, so I’m working on some new posts. I’ve got one that’s almost finished; it’s in the editing process. So stay tuned!


My Finished Self Portrait

Matthew Shallenberger:

My wife, Emmalee, has started an art blog. As you can see, she’s quite a skilled painter, among other things. So this is a shameless plug for my wife’s art blog. :)

Originally posted on Emmalee Shallenberger: Graphic Designer:

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Meet America’s longest married couple

Wilbur and Teresa Faiss are approaching their 79th wedding anniversary. Yes, you read that right. 79 years. Together with the same person. It is possible, folks. Check out this link, watch the video, and be inspired!


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