February 12, 2019

Cherishing Sex is the Best Sex

Gary Thomas — 

One of the most delightful discoveries on my journey to cherish Lisa was finding out the difference cherishing makes with sexual intimacy. A cherishing mindset helps you enjoy the richest aspects of sexual intimacy while protecting you from the worst tendencies of sexual desire and pleasure. Because sex can be such a powerful experience, it’s easy for the desire and pleasure to take over until it becomes more about two bodies than two lovers and two spouses. And with the ever-present promise of such intense pleasure, it’s easy to become selfish.

When you decide to let cherishing direct what happens between the sheets, you make it your goal to “use sex” to cherish your spouse instead of using your spouse to cherish sex. The difference is enormous.

For instance, when a man is cherishing his wife, she, not an act, is what he desires and cherishes. Sex becomes a tool to proclaim her beauty, her worth, her desirability, and her excellence. When a man desires sex in general instead of his wife in particular, she’s going to feel used rather than cherished, and the sexual act can actually do great harm. (I’m not trying to be a prude here; maybe she just really wants the pleasure and physical release as well—there are different kinds of sex in a lifelong marriage).

For your husband, cherishing means he also wants to be desired sexually, not “serviced” reluctantly. If he’s healthy, he doesn’t want “obligation sex,” though he may take it when life is crazy busy (again, real life), but his soul will be filled only by cherishing sex.

It made such a difference when I began to look at each act of sexual intimacy as another opportunity to cherish my wife. That mindset changed everything, helping me to let go of unhealthy and selfish views of sex, and bringing to the forefront the best parts of sex.

Wives, God designed your husband’s brain to cherish you and to be enthralled with your body. In His word, he directs men to put one hundred percent of their sexual focus on their wives: “May you rejoice in the wife of your youth.  A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always; may you ever be captivated by her love” (Proverbs 5:18b-19).

If you want me to be honest, the Hebrew word translated “breasts” is actually slightly more specific, but there’s no way I’m putting that in my blog. You can figure it out on your own.

This God-designed power of wives’ bodies to enthrall their husbands revealed itself to me during a trip to California. Lisa and I drove to a trail where I planned to run and Lisa planned to walk.

“Do you have your cell phone?” I asked her.

“No, I left it in the room.”

“I don’t want you walking out here without a phone. Why don’t you take mine?”

I took off running but came to the end of the trail less than a mile later; we had started in the wrong direction. I turned around and met Lisa walking toward me. “Hey,” I said, “We need to turn around. The trail ends up there. But can I have my phone for a second? I want to type in some notes so I can clear my mind.”

“Sure,” Lisa said, and pulled my phone out of her…jog bra.

I had been married to her for about thirty years at the time. I had had that phone for at least two years. But that black piece of plastic carried almost a supernatural glow like I had never seen. “Sacred Cell Phone!” (sorry) Just holding it, I forgot what I was trying to do.

“What?” Lisa asked.

“Give me a second,” I said, pathetically trying to remember why I was holding this now sanctified piece of plastic in my hands.

As embarrassed as I am to admit this, God made me to respond to Lisa’s body and in particular, her breasts, just like that.  It pleases him. When a guy is enthralled with his wife, and a wife knows she has that kind of power to transfix her husband, it’s a beautiful thing and helps keep the power balance in marriage. I’m not, not, not defining a woman’s power by (or tying her worth to) her sexual appeal, but as part of a healthy marriage, it’s a wonderful thing.

The other God-honoring aspect of this is that the more I’m enthralled with Lisa, the more I’m freed from sexualizing any other woman. I can appreciate their wisdom, wit, faith, insight, friendship and leadership without valuing them or evaluating them based on physical appearance or sexual appeal. If you’re already full, it’s easy to pass up a Big Mac.

For her part, Lisa doesn’t have to worry if she’s desired by any other man or struggles to maintain a false stereotype of a never-aging body that the culture at large deems desirable. She knows the mere act of carrying my cell phone in her jog bra is enough to turn me into an embarrassing adolescent who is so gob-smacked he can’t even remember what he wanted to say (thirty years after we got married, mind you!). Too often, a woman who is ignored or under-valued by her husband is more inclined to “test” her desirability with other men, a perilous lose-lose situation, biblically speaking.

Another aspect of cherishing sex that transforms the relationship is that this is the only occasion when a husband’s pride and ego work in his wife’s favor. One of the absolute best ways for a wife to “give” to her husband is to learn to receive (and even ask for) sexual pleasure with abandon. When a husband can leave a wife exhausted, panting and smiling and can say to himself, “I did that to her, thank you very much,” well, both spouses win.

Here’s a key element in pursuing a cherishing sexual relationship, however: cherishing sex isn’t about desiring sex; it’s about celebrating your spouse. That makes your spouse feel affirmed. Otherwise she may just feel used. It’s not about your “needs.” It’s about her beauty, her desirability, her loveliness and her pleasure.

In a healthy, cherishing marriage that extends into the bedroom, two Scriptures are showcased. Wives want to hear Song of Songs 6:9: “My dove, my perfect one, is the only one.” If a wife catches her husband watching porn or checking out women on the sidewalk; if the man she dressed to please for their date night turns his eyes from her to watch the waitress walk by, she feels like she’s in a competition that she has just lost. She wants to be “the perfect one, the only one.” The goal for every cherishing husband is to make his wife feel exactly like that. “Why would I look at her when I can look at you?”

But wives, your husbands want to hear, “He is altogether desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend” (Song of Songs 5:16). If you cherish your husband ninety-nine ways but make him feel sexually undesirable, he’s probably not going to feel cherished no matter what else you do.

Sheila Gregoire wisely warns that “obligation sex” (simply meeting the man’s need for a sexual release) just doesn’t work long-term. No woman can be that altruistic. And no healthy man should be pleased without pleasing his wife. Pursuing a cherishing sexual relationship comes closer to what Sheila describes as a healthy sexual attitude: “Instead of emphasizing his need for sex, then, let‘s emphasize mutually satisfying sex— something that you both want, that you both find pleasurable, and that you both find intimate.” (For more on this, check out Sheila’s book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex.)

It’s not a coincidence that the typical sexual sin for men is voyeurism, and for women, exhibitionism. Here’s what’s going on spiritually. When a man chooses to become a voyeur, he’s saying to himself, “It’s not enough for me to be satisfied with a woman; I want to find sexual excitement from all women.” That attitude alone sets a man up for many selfish failures and fosters a predatory attitude that makes him a prime candidate to become a poster boy for the me-too movement.

When a woman decides to become an exhibitionist, here’s what’s going on in her mind spiritually: “It’s not enough for me to feel beautiful by being desired by a man, I want to know that men in general find me attractive.”

With the voyeuristic husband and the exhibitionist wife are saying is, “My spouse isn’t enough for me.” How can anybody feel cherished when they are regularly told by word or action that they’re not enough? In both attitudes, sex is divorced from the marriage and fulfillment is sought outside the marital bed where it can never be found, because both attitudes destroy marital sexual fulfillment that God created us to enjoy.

Men, you’ve probably heard this, but the allure of porn is the dopamine rush that hits your brain when you see something new. That’s why an already viewed picture or video won’t “work” like it did before. Excitement comes from the new and the unseen. It doesn’t take a scientist to point out how this is exactly the opposite of marital sex, where you are cherishing the body of a woman you have seen in many ways and perhaps for many years. Neuroscience is pretty clear: you can’t cherish your wife fully if you are re-wiring your brain with porn. This is a fight worth fighting.

There’s so much more to say on this topic, which I’m thinking of addressing in an upcoming ebook. For now, let me suggest that you can take your marital intimacy to an entirely new place if you just think about injecting the concept of “cherishing each other” into your lovemaking. What happens next will be different for every individual and every couple. But making “cherishing” the benchmark of each act and the relationship in general can do wonders to help couples walk out of harmful past sexual habits and into new horizons of refreshing sexual intimacy, pleasure and even abandon.

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19 responses to Cherishing Sex is the Best Sex

  1. This was kind of eye opening for me! I’ve been married to my husband for 16 years. We are in the thick of raising 5 kids. He’s an active duty sailor. We have church callings. I homeschool all of my kids. Life is busy. So a lot of times for me, sex has felt like “I have to or I should for my husband.” I have had the wrong outlook on it. My husband cherishes me and loves me and it shows in the bedroom but I don’t think I am reciprocating completely like he is. He is currently on deployment for the 5th time and has been gone for about 8 months and we still have 2 more months. It’s given me a lot of time to really really miss him for everything he does, everything he is, the way he treats me, the way he loves our kids. And I feel pretty equal in that except where it concerns the bedroom. I could go on and blame this on my body- it’s endured a lot and changed a lot during the last 14 years of bringing babies into the world- and he understands that. But after reading this, I kind of realized that it’s not just sex. It’s about cherishing him. We’ve read the love languages book and have found that obviously, we have different ways of feeling loved. His is through physical touch i.e. hugs, hand holding, a kiss, a loving swat on the butt, or in the bedroom. This just reaffiremed for me what was there already. So thanks!

  2. I took a lot from this post. Neither of my marriages had cherishing sex and last year I realised that was something important that I have missed. I was never a player but I had a typical upbringing for my generation, and as an achiever in most things I allowed myself to be a voyeur, at least in thought. Both my ex-wives are exhibitionists and proudly so, so that part of our marriages was never going to work. The problem with life’s lessons is that we learn most of them from life, not when we’re young so we can make better choices.

  3. Thanks so much for this honest post, Gary. I have experienced both kinds of sex you described — the selfish sex in my first marriage, and the cherishing sex in my current second marriage. I can’t overstate the difference — and especially the long-term consequences of each.

    In my first marriage I was competing with every woman in the room for my husband’s affection. I became incredibly self-conscious and resentful of being used for only his satisfaction.

    My marriage to my second husband is based on and filled with cherishing. It’s the most beautiful and mind-blowing sex I have ever had. It’s two people gaining pleasure from each other’s pleasure. I thank God every single day for blessing me with my kind, selfless, sexy husband and our marriage!

    But I still grieve for all the folks who are reading your blog whose hearts break as they read it, because they may be willing to cherish but their spouse isn’t. 🙁

  4. I appreciated your whimsy! I think in a healthy, Christian marriage there is room for laughter and fun in sex. Frankly, I want my husband to think(or even tell me!) “I did that to her, thank you very much!” He delighted me and he took pleasure in that fact. I don’t think that’s shallow. If he told me that, I would smile and laugh and say “yes you did!” 🙂

    And yes we must always remember to give thanks to God for the beautiful, pleasurable gift that sex is but I think that by enjoying it, desiring it, and giving of ourselves to our spouse in it we ARE thanking and even worshiping the One who gave the gift.

    And the jog bra story!!😁. SO awesome and honest! I as a wife definitely enjoy knowing that “power” I have over my husband. 😉 Thanks for the great article!!

  5. This is great stuff, Gary! Thanks. I’ll certainly be sharing.

  6. Gary thanks for your write up. What about when the spouses are living in a distance to one another? Is there any effect on their sexual intimacy.

  7. “I did that to her, thank you very much” sounds so egocentric, self-centered, and prideful. Maybe consider expressing thankfulness to the Lord for the gift of physical intimacy and for the incredible opportunity to experience the oneness that God has designed for us in marriage.

    • If he worked to please his wife, I don’t see why he shouldn’t be proud. It’s not like he is going to tell her (much less someone else) but, being proud of that accomplishment might be a motivation to work just as hard the next time around.

    • Barb, I was just trying to throw a little whimsy into a blog post so it didn’t seem so heavy.. Sigh… I realize that writing is different than speaking in that you can’t modulate tone and signify when you’re doing that, but I do want us to enjoy ourselves while we allow ourselves to be challenged. If you read that offending line in the context of all that surrounds it, I think you’ll see I don’t disagree with your last point. But also that I don’t think men always think with the purity and theological precision of angels after they’ve just had sex. (I truly don’t mean that to sound argumentative or snarky; still trying to have a little fun)

      • Gary, Please help men not to settle for a shallow or self-centered response to sex in a marriage relationship in which the husband and wife recognize their dependence on the Holy Spirit to enable them to love each other well–spiritually, emotionally, intellectually, and physically. I believe there is so much more depth and adventure to what God would have us experience as we enjoy and explore our sexual relationship in marriage as beautifully stated in Barry & Lori Byrne’s book, Love After Marriage: “God wants to restore sexuality to its proper place–an expression of the holy, passionate, powerful union between a husband and wife. Sex is not merely physical; it is an exceedingly spiritual experience. With the Holy Spirit in the midst of our marriage and in the midst of our sexual relationship, God wants to give us a sexual love that will greatly supersede any temporary pleasure that carnality or lustful indulgence can offer. Sex is sacred and God is in it. The Lord is saying that sex is just as much a spiritual experience as it is sexual and emotional. This pure, holy, pleasurable act of love, when expressed openly and freely between a man and woman in covenant before God, is an act of worship! When we come together as He created our bodies to, it is another way we worship Him. It expresses our love through one another to Him…as unto Him. It is His desire to be smack in the middle of this holy act of worship. He strongly desires to unveil and release this perspective all over the earth. It is time!”

        • “A loving doe, a graceful deer—may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love.” Proverbs 5:19

          Isn’t it nice when the Bible gives men the permission to enjoy the physical dimensions of sex with their wives? Why is it necessary to condemn men for wanting to bring physical pleasure to their wives? Why do we as men always have to hear the lectures about “sex is so much more than physical”. Enough already. Proverbs 5:19 commands me to enjoy the wife or my youth in a profoundly PHYSICAL way. And I absolutely plan on obeying the Bible rather than sex-negative prudes who really don’t know what they’re talking about. I have sex with my wife and I always make sure she likes it. Sometimes it is deeply emotional and sometimes it is playful and sometimes it is just a quickie. But God says we get to have sex for whatever reason we want and however we want because we are married, not because we have passed through a thousand hoops and over ten thousand hurdles to prove our sex meets some cosmic theory of spiritual transcendence.

        • Barb.
          Relax and go enjoy sex with your husband!!!

          It was a great article.

        • Barb if you read Gary Thomas’s books you will discover that he very much speaks of the spiritual sexual union of a husband and wife and how the sexual relationship glorifies God. He also speaks about the giving to one another sexually as God created the gift of sex to be between a husband and wife.

        • You should read Gary Thomas’s book Sacred Marriage. He talks about what you’re describing as well. In reading that book as well as this article you’d know that Gary definitely does not view sex as merely physical or self centered AT ALL. I really think you just took that quote slightly out of context.

        • Barb, I think you may be overthinking that comment just a little bit.

          As a wife, I’ll admit to feeling proud when I know my husband is aroused because of my body and my actions. I even feel proud when he is left “exhausted, panting, and smiling….”

          “Pride” sounds like a bad word, but in many cases, it isn’t. I think this is one of them. When you know you have blessed your spouse with mind-blowing sex, I think that’s something GOD is proud of, and WE can be proud of!

    • I don’t see how Gary’s comment falls outside of any of this you have mentioned here. I find giving oral sex highly satisfying for this exact reason. That is part of being thankful for the amazing gift of sexual intimacy, enjoying that you know how to rock your spouse’s world. It is not sinful to take satisfaction in satisfying your spouse. I would find it bizarre if you DIDN’T find satisfaction in satisfying your spouse.

    • I understand that this could be misunderstood. The way I see this and experience it with my husband is that it brings us tremendous joy to give each other sexual pleasure. It’s like making great efforts to prepare a gift for someone and when you give it to them, excited to see how they respond, they are overjoyed. You naturally feel a sense of fulfilment and happiness at being able to be the bringer of great joy. Of course this relates directly back to God who makes our very beings and loving interactions possible.

  8. Can’t recommend the writings of Saint John Paul II enough as he touched on pretty much all the same topics. Great stuff!!