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Sexual Compatibility: What is it? Is it real? Part 1

(This is part 1 of a 3 part series. I’ll release the other 2 parts on the next 2 Sundays).

It seems like the subject of “sexual compatibility” has been coming up a lot lately. You see it on TV and the internet. People – including Christians – use it as a reason to have premarital sex. They also use it as a reason to divorce. What does the Bible say about sexual compatibility? Traditionally most couples, particularly Christian, never had sex until they were married. They only knew what someone told them. Both were comparatively ignorant about sex and sexuality when they reached that first night.

Now we learn about sexual specifics in a much more fluid and informed society than in times past. We know more about all manner of sexual activity than our grandparents knew at that age. I don’t have statistics but I think we can all agree that by the time people are getting married (20s-30s) they have a lot of sexual exposure, knowledge, and/or experience (we’ll call these “sexual information”) – even among professed Christ-followers. With years of sexual information behind them, the levels of sexual information between a couple can be night and day.

In the present day we have people entering in relationships and being as concerned with sexual compatibility as any other aspect of marriage. A Relevant magazine article states that “80 percent of Christians in the 18-29 age range…have had sex before marriage.” In a survey of Christian married couples done by The Marriage Bed only 21% of those couples did not have sex before their wedding. 49% of those surveyed had intercourse (“Wedding Night Survey”). Some of those are having intercourse after participating in “purity” programs such as True Love Waits. Is sexual compatibility that important in a marriage?

This blog post by Hafeez Baoku on The Gospel Coalition’s website, addresses sexual compatibility:

“The primary problem with this notion of sexual chemistry is that it focuses sex on pleasure and performance… God gave sex as a gift to be exclusively enjoyed by a husband and wife as a means of loving, caring, serving, honoring, and enjoying each other in marriage. So sexual compatibility between a married couple comes neither from ecstasy (how good the sex is) nor frequency (how often you have it) but mainly from intimacy, which occurs as love, trust, security, and respect deepen through the longevity of a monogamous, self-giving, covenant relationship.

From the many conversations I’ve had with those who are happily married with healthy, God-honoring sex lives, I’ve learned that true sexual compatibility, if we must call it that, happens when two people commit themselves first to God, and then to each other. This covenant commitment affords an opportunity for a husband and wife to unconditionally serve and love the way Jesus loves his bride, the church (Eph. 5:22-33). Marriage is a journey in which two incompatible, selfish sinners learn to become one. There will thus be multiple things — including sex — that both parties will have to figure out together along the way.

…Therefore, I’m willing to trust God and wait, not because I want to have the most euphoric wedding night with someone I’m perfectly sexually compatible with, but because I want a healthy, God-honoring marriage after the wedding night with the person to whom I’ve just committed my life.”

This article by Mr. Baoku hits the nail on the head. If there’s one thing I have learned in 16 years of marriage: it isn’t about sex, physical pleasure, and being compatible in the bedroom. It really is about a whole God-honoring marriage.

Hopefully this sets the stage for the next part of this discussion. Ideally, physical aspects of sexual compatibility shouldn’t be an issue. But an issue it is. So how do to two Christians, with varying degrees of premarital sexual exposure and/or experience (i.e. sexual information), approach the differences in their sex life? Next time we’ll look at how vulnerability ties into compatibility. Then I’ll suggest some ideas to actually walk that out.

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