Marriage Essential #2: Passion (5 Things to Consider)
#1 The Need for Education
The world of human sexuality is fraught with concerns, questions, and misconceptions. Regardless of what is being taught by Hollywood, sexuality is one human experience that can take quite a bit of education. I once showed our youngest son a picture of his mother when she was pregnant. Pointing to her stomach I said, “There you are, right inside Mommy’s tummy.” After a brief moment of reflection, his face bore a look of displeasure and he said to his mother, “You ate Joe, Joe?!”
Hugh B. Brown said, “Gross ignorance on the part of newlyweds on the subject of the proper place and functioning of sex results in much unhappiness and many broken homes. …Thousands of young people come to the marriage altar almost illiterate insofar as this basic and fundamental function is concerned. … if they would frankly discuss the delicate and sanctifying aspects of harmonious sex life which are involved in marriage, … much sorrow, heartbreak, and tragedy could be avoided.” (You and Your Marriage, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960, pp. 22–23, 73.)
This education, however, must be handled properly in both content and timing. On a different occasion our family rented a hotel room that had a rather large and elaborate shower. One of our young children looked in and noticed that there was a shower head on either end of the stall some 6 feet apart. With an inquisitive eye came the question, “Hey…why are there two showers in here?” My wife quickly summed up the timing of the teaching and said, “So you can wash your front and your back at the same time!” “Whew!” Came the reply. Obviously that teaching would be reserved for another day!
#2 The Goodness of Sexual Relations
Much of what a person believes regarding sexual intimacy, passion, and physical attraction is directly tied to their beliefs regarding the origin and meaning of life. For many people of faith, the topic of human sexuality can be not only uncomfortable but downright frightening! Some of this may stem from the strong scriptural statements regarding the protection of the procreative powers and the clear warnings to those who abuse them. Unfortunately, these feelings have given rise to the myth that sexual relations are a “necessary evil” by which children are brought into this world. This could not be farther from the truth.
Spencer Kimball, a President of the LDS Church, publicly supported and quoted the position taken by Billy Graham:
“The Bible celebrates sex and its proper use, presenting it as God-created, God-ordained, God-blessed. It makes plain that God himself implanted the physical magnetism between the sexes for two reasons: for the propagation of the human race, and for the expression of that kind of love between man and wife that makes for true oneness. His commandment to the first man and woman to be ‘one flesh’ was as important as his command to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’” (Quoting Billy Graham, Ensign, May 1974, p. 7.)
I appreciate the stance of these two religious leaders. Sexual relations are not something tolerated by God, but designed, created, and ordained of Him. Sexual relations between husband and wife do more than bring children into the world: they bring an emotional and physical oneness to the marriage that is impossible to duplicate. When handled properly, physical intimacy provides opportunities for husband and wife to serve, lift, and please one another. Again, Spencer Kimball explains; “We know of no directive from the Lord that proper sexual experiences between husbands and wives need be limited totally to the procreation of children.” (Ensign, Oct. 1975, p. 4.)
Due to the over-sexualized world in which we live, both parents and preachers have necessarily focused on the restraint that should be demonstrated before and outside of marriage. Unfortunately, this too has given rise to the feeling among many that sexual relations are somehow evil. This is plainly not the case. Nurturing the physical relationship is an essential part of marriage.
#3 Use Physical Intimacy to Built and Unite Your Marriage–Avoid Inappropriate or Selfish Behaviors
The Flame of Expression and the Fuel of Passion: An Analogy
Physical intimacy can be viewed as a single concept that has two separate but connected elements; the emotions (passion or physical attraction), and the expressions (kissing, sexual relations, etc.). I have found it helpful to think of the expressions as a flame, and the emotions/attraction as fuel. Physical intimacy in marriage works best when there is an appropriate and consistent amount of fuel combined with an ever present spark of physical connection. Each stage of a couples relationship has its own particular wonders and challenges.
The Dating Couple:
Dating couples rarely suffer from a lack of fuel! Emotions and passions typically flow freely, which can be both great and terrible. The couple that allows the fuel of passion to flow unchecked and unrestrained early in their relationship may find that a small spark causes it to “blow-up” in their faces. I am reminded of the caution promoted by Gordon Hinckley: “The Lord has made us attractive one to another for a great purpose. But this very attraction becomes as a powder keg unless it is kept under control. It is beautiful when handled in the right way. It is deadly if it gets out of hand.” (Ensign, Jan. 2001, 8)
I learned firsthand the dangers of unchecked fuel as a 12 year old boy scout. One of our leaders had turned on the gas to our outdoor grill prior to applying the spark. When there was some trouble with the flame he continued to allow the gas to flow while he tried to fix the problem. With the problem resolved he reapplied the spark to the grill. To his surprise, and to the surprise of a scout who was peering into the back of the grill, a fireball burst out in every direction. Fortunately no one was seriously injured. But my friend, the young scout, was without eyelashes, eyebrows, and a good portion of his hair for a few months.
The Newly Wed:
Many newlyweds find that their “real” sexual education begins after they are married. As wonderful as physical intimacy is, it is still very different from what is portrayed in the movies and television. Keep in mind that one reason for sexual intimacy is to bring a husband and wife into the bonds of affection and unity. There is a reason why the bible refers to sexual relations as “knowing” another. Focus on expressions that build and unite and avoid behaviors that are selfish or that create discord in the relationship.
#4 Passion in Marriage Should be Cultivated and Maintained
The Growing Couple:
In the middle of the million and one things that couples with growing families have to manage, a desire to keep the fuel of passion flowing often takes the proverbial “back-seat.” Many a BBQ enthusiast has approached the grill in the spring only to discover that the fuel tank is empty, or that the lines have become clogged with leaves, leftovers, and cobwebs. This, too, is a danger for the middle-aged marrieds. As careers and children grow, our time together seems to diminish. For some, when the spark of expression flickers in the night, there often isn’t enough fuel to keep it burning. The flow of passion is clogged up by the leaf of late-night business meetings, a chunk of family duties, or a cobweb of community obligations. Headaches become more frequent and heartache can settle in.
To the die-hard romantic, the idea of planning encounters and setting aside time and energy for physical intimacy goes contrary to everything they’ve been taught by books and movies. They long for the spontaneity and free flowing passion of their newlywed days. No matter how hard we try to maintain the look and lifestyle of our 20’s, things will change, they always do. I’m not advocating that every romantic moment be planned out, scheduled, and charted. That would certainly plug the lines of passion. But, real effort, time, and energy must be dedicated to this significant and substantial part of the marriage relationship. Often times, just planning an evening out, or an uninterrupted overnight getaway will be the catalyst that reopens the fuel-lines of emotion. If boredom is the problem, discuss appropriate ways to add excitement, interest, and spark to your physical interactions. Don’t be too surprised if you find that a rekindling of the flame reveals a better and more intense physical relationship than when you were newlyweds. As your friendship and commitment increase, so can the joy you find in physical intimacy.
#5 Passion in Marriage Can Continually Grow
The Seasoned Couple:
Instead of playing the fool who offers advice to the obviously more knowledgeable, let me describe what I learned discussing this topic with women who had been married between 35 and 45 years. My first question was: “How does passion change over the years?” I truthfully expected that they would say it becomes more about friendship and less about passion. However, the response that came (instantly) was, “It grows!” I found that for these women, contrary to popular belief, passion and physical attraction had not diminished or died. Yes, the method of expressions had changed, but only somewhat. Each of these women reported that they were still “very physically attracted” to their spouses. As one woman said, “We are still very attracted to each other, but we have learned many more options for expressing it!”
Let me conclude by highlighting the five things to consider from this article:
- There is a lot to learn about physical intimacy and sexual relations.
- Sexual relations are inherently good!
- Physical attraction and passion must be cultivated and maintained.
- Seek physical expressions that unite and build your relationship.
- As you feed the passion you feel for each other it will continue to grow.