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When we were preparing to write this book, we took a weekend and drove six hours to a small tourist town where we would be free from distractions and interruptions. On our last day there, as we were walking to a restaurant for lunch, our daughter Sarah called us on our cell phone. She sounded panicked about what we were writing.
"Mom," she said, "you're not writing a technique book, are you?"
"Why? Would that be a problem?"
"Are you going to talk about your sex life?"
"Yes, Sarah, we're telling everything about our sex life." Barb laughed as she imagined the panic in our daughter's eyes. "Absolutely, lots of detail. No holds barred. Will all your friends want a copy?"
As it turned out, Sarah's phone call was prompted by a conversation she'd had with five of her friends-all of the women are married twentysomethings. "During our quilting time," Sarah said, "we were doing our usual thing, talking and laughing, when one of the women steered the conversation toward sex. She said, 'I bought one of those technique books, because I want to please my husband-and experience some pleasure myself!'
"Well, everyone started shrieking and laughing, andthen they all admitted that they had bought technique books too.
"Mom, you know I don't usually talk about stuff like this, but I mentioned that you and Dad were writing a sex book. Everybody's eyes got really big, and one of my friends gasped and said, 'Your parents? Ewww! Will there be illustrations? They're not going to talk about their own sex life, are they?'
"I said, 'I certainly hope not,' but then I realized I don't know what you are going to write about.
"One of my other friends thought it was kind of cool. She said, 'How many parents are willing to be that open about their sex lives?' But then somebody else said, 'Yes, but would you want to read the details of your parents' doing it? I mean, the mental pictures alone would be enough to put me in therapy for years! It's just ... ewww.'
"So, Mom," Sarah said nervously, "I really hope you and Dad aren't going to embarrass me."
As we ate our lunch, Barb recounted the conversation with Sarah. "I find it fascinating that these young women have all purchased books about sexual techniques. When we were first married, we never would have thought about buying that kind of book. But can you imagine if we had? I would have been so embarrassed. But now Sarah's generation is not only buying sex technique books-they're proud of it."
"I think it's great that Sarah and her friends want to make their sex lives as fulfilling as they possibly can," Gary said. "There are certainly some good books out there about sexual technique, but I'm a little concerned that by focusing on technique and the physical aspects of sex, they may miss out on the deeper, more fulfilling aspects of a great marriage relationship. Marriage is so much more than sex, and sex is so much more than physical pleasure and technique."
Certainly there is a place for learning techniques-and practicing them-in our sex lives. When we get married, it's not as if God opens our brains and pours in all the wisdom we will need for sexual satisfaction. But it doesn't take long to realize that great sex involves more than just physical intercourse. A mutually satisfying sexual relationship-the kind that grows and matures and flourishes over the full life of a marriage-has more to do with bonding, emotional connection, mutual submission, and putting the other person's interests above your own than it does with positions, pleasure points, and physical technique. Intercourse is a part but not the whole of sex.
The Mystery of Sex
One of the reasons we decided to write this book is that sex has the potential to be the most profoundly satisfying and rich part of a marriage. Sex the way God intended it to be expressed-within the context of a loving, serving relationship between a husband and wife-is a mysterious and sacred act that knits a couple together in ways that are beyond description. We can talk about the deep, toe-tingling pleasure of orgasm, but words fail when we try to describe the oneness that a husband and wife feel after giving their bodies to each other. The Bible tells us that this oneness is a reflection, a mirror, of the oneness between Christ and his body, the church: "'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."
Although sex can lead a couple into some of the most intense pleasure in a marriage, sex also has the potential to lead them into pain. Why is that true? First, the very mystery that we just described can lead to misunderstanding between husbands and wives. When we conducted a survey for our book The Five Love Needs of Men and Women, we learned that intimacy was the number two need expressed by both husbands and wives. However, we learned that men spell intimacy s-e-x and women spell intimacy t-a-l-k. (We'll discuss these differences in later chapters.) Second, most of us come to our marriages with unrealistic expectations about sex, expectations built on media images of sculpted bodies and steamy seductions. We measure our own experiences against what we see on our television and movie screens or what we read about in books, and we feel disappointed. Maybe even cheated. Third, our sexual lives can cause hurt because we too often see sexual pleasure as something we get rather than something we give; we are more focused on our own needs than on our spouses'. A great sex life leaves no room for selfishness.
Deeply satisfying sex occurs when husbands and wives connect the physical with the spiritual, emotional, relational, and psychological sides of sex. When all these facets work together, couples enter the mystery of the oneness God intended.
God created men and women to be sexual beings. Yet very few topics are as confusing as the role of sex in a marriage. When we teach about sex at conferences, the atmosphere in the room changes. Some people can't wait to hear us talk openly about a topic that's often not discussed. Others are curious, almost as if they're trying to figure out what is normal. Still others can't believe we are going to talk about sex in a mixed audience; for them, the topic is taboo, something Christians do not discuss-certainly not in public and more than likely not in the privacy of their relationships either. Many couples experience guilt, shame, or confusion. Some feel resigned to the idea that sex will never be what they expected or desired.
If we took seriously the glimpses that movies, television programs, and books give us into people's bedrooms, we would conclude that singles or people in extramarital affairs have the best sex. Well, they don't. Medical studies have discovered that married people have the best, most satisfying sex. They enjoy sex more often and have the highest levels of physical and emotional fulfillment. In fact, 88 percent of married people receive great physical pleasure from their sexual relationships, and 85 percent report the same positive experience emotionally.
The gold standard of research on sex in America is a 1994 national survey conducted by a team of University of Chicago researchers who interviewed 3,400 people. When the researchers asked respondents how sex makes them feel, married people outscored single people in every measure of delight. "Not only are married people the most emotionally fulfilled-telling researchers they feel loved, wanted, and taken care of while in each other's arms-but they also report high levels of physical pleasure. Far from considering monogamy monotonous, 91 percent of husbands and wives say they aren't just satisfied with their sex lives, they're 'thrilled.'"
Sex is extremely, intensely satisfying-when it's used the way the Creator designed it. That's when it works best, when it lasts longest, when it brings strength to a relationship, and when it elicits ecstatic responses from husbands and wives.
Would it surprise you to know that some of the most erotic writing about sex is in the Bible? The book called the Song of Songs records King Solomon's conversation with his beloved, and he spares no detail in describing his intimate love for her. God loves great sex. And if he's placed his stamp of approval on it in the context of marriage, then that must mean it's something worth doing-and pursuing.
Great sex isn't just a grope, a grab, and a romp in the sack-although at times it can be. Great sex involves a lifetime of study and practice. It requires commitment and discipline.
Disappointment about Sex
Even with all of the statistics about how great married couples do in the bedroom, in Gary's work as a counselor and in our work coaching people through our ministry America's Family Coaches, hosting our national radio program, and speaking at national conferences, we've seen literally thousands of people who have problems with sexual intimacy. In many households, couples are confused and disillusioned about sex.
When we meet with people, we hear lots of disappointment and dissatisfaction. We keep asking ourselves why married Christians are struggling so much with sexual intimacy. Of all people in the world, they should have the best, most incredible sex lives. After all, they worship and serve the great creator and designer of sex! But it is clear to us that Christian couples are struggling just as much as, if not more than, their non-Christian counterparts.
A few years ago we surveyed hundreds of couples from across the country to find out their top sex needs, their desires, and their struggles. The majority of this book is based on our findings in that survey.
There's one thing we want to be clear about right up front. When we discuss sexual needs throughout this book, we do not necessarily define them the way many other authors of sex books do. Many books discuss specific techniques or other options relating to what takes place during intercourse. We define sexual needs as what goes on both inside and outside of the bedroom. What is or is not going on outside the bedroom has a profound impact on what goes on inside the bedroom.
In a sense, this book is a story of how you can make sure you and your spouse have the kind of sexual intimacy you've always longed for. And the good news is that it's never too late.
If you are dealing with a sexual issue in your marriage-no matter what it is-we want you to find the hope, encouragement, and healing to pursue great sex. If you and your spouse are not experiencing a satisfying sex life, then we want to set you free from what is holding you back, lead you to an open discussion, and ignite a desire to seek God's best in your bedroom.
Our hope is that this book will be a winner's manual for you. We want you and your spouse to have a winning relationship. If you're going to run a race, you don't want just to say you ran a race-you want the trophy!
Before you read any further, think about your sexual relationship. How would you rate yourself as a couple? Are you generally satisfied but want to kick it up a notch? Are you disappointed, left wanting a deeper sex life? Are you in serious trouble?
In chapters 3 through 7 we will discuss the top five sex needs expressed by the men and women we surveyed. But before we do that, write down your responses to these four questions:
1. What are your top five sex needs?
2. What would your spouse say are your top five sex needs?
3. What do you think are your spouse's top five sex needs?
4. What would your spouse say are his or her top five sex needs?
Each of these questions is important. Not only is it important for you to understand your own needs-how can you communicate your needs if you don't know what they are?-but you need to understand your spouse's needs too. Not just what you think his or her needs are, but what they really are. Most of us live with a Golden-Rule mentality in our sex lives: If I treat my spouse the way I want to be treated, then we'll be happy and have a fulfilling sex life. But as you have probably discovered and as we'll discuss often in this book, men and women are different, and they have differing sex needs. Only when we understand these unique needs-our own and our spouses'-will we be able to have deeply satisfying sexual relationships in our marriages.
As you can see, this exercise will take some careful thought and some open communication. Some of you will be ready for that; others of you won't. When you talk to each other, be respectful. Sex needs are not easy to discuss. Listen with the goal of understanding, not judging. Ask clarifying questions.
It's all right if you are not completely aware of what your sex needs are. Reading this book will help you deepen your understanding. Your statement of your needs may change as you read the book and try various things. That's okay too.
When you read the results of our survey, you may agree with the majority of the respondents-or not. The point isn't whether or not you match up with the survey; the point is to help you grow in your awareness of your spouse's needs and of how you can meet them. You or your spouse may have needs that don't even appear in our list of top five needs. Does that mean you are weird? Probably not. Each of us is unique, a one-of-a-kind creation of a loving and wise God. Understanding your spouse's uniqueness and committing yourself to meeting those unique needs should be the goal of a satisfying sexual relationship.
So, if your needs are different from those listed in the survey results, do you need to read the book? We think you should, because the underlying principles apply to a variety of needs. Even if your needs are not quite the same, read through each of the chapters. We know you will learn things that will challenge you to make different choices, to ask probing questions, to take steps toward becoming sexually one with your spouse.
Each story we share is based on real couples' experiences, although we've changed names and some aspects of their stories to protect their privacy. We hope their stories will assure you that you are not alone in the issues you and your spouse face.
Many times we may talk in generalities and break down issues by gender. We want to make clear, however, that although these differences are found in a majority of people, they are not by any means the defining experience. Sometimes these differences are reversed: Maybe, for instance, the man is more in tune with his emotions and the woman is more focused on the physical side of sex. If this is where you find yourself, please know that that is okay. You and your spouse are not abnormal if you don't necessarily fit within our research statistics.
Although we will highlight sex needs and issues, we don't want to leave you without practical help on how to move toward deeper sexual intimacy. Each chapter includes lists and suggestions to get you started right away. Don't allow the lists to overwhelm you. Pick a few actions that make sense for your situation, and concentrate on those. Even though we can give no absolute guarantees or quick fixes (anything worthwhile requires effort and attention), we do believe our suggestions will set you firmly on the path to a stronger and more fulfilling sex life.
Throughout this book we may say or suggest things that offend you. Rather than throw the book across the room, first stop and really think about what we're saying. Ask God to shed light on those things that may cause you grief or anxiety or anger. Ask yourself why those statements bother you. Is it because there may be a kernel of truth that you haven't been willing to face? We hope you will be open and willing to accept some things that may be difficult to take but that may bring a positive, lasting change to your sex life-and to your marriage.
Excerpted from the 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women by GARY ROSBERG BARBARA ROSBERG GINGER Kolbaba Copyright © 2006 by Gary and Barbara Rosberg. Excerpted by permission.
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