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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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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: http://apokalupto.blogspot.com/2012/02/sexual-freedom.html.

 

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Sex, Marriage, & Fairytales (video)

That’s the word.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Love and Relationships, Sex, Video

 

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