Sexual Intimacy: A Divine Perspective
by Ndungu Mungai
Cause For Sexual Concern
There is no doubt about it today: sexual failure among married couples is one of the most important reasons why the world is experiencing a serious breakdown of the institution of marriage. The problem - which afflicts both the old and the young struggling to live together as a man and a wife, has seen the world enter a state similar to the one that existed in the ancient Roman Empire before its collapse around fifth century A.D. Seneca, a great Roman philosopher living within the vast empire, reportedly said that his contemporaries “divorce in order to remarry” and “marry in order to divorce”.
For many years the need for sexual compatibility was so serious an issue among Roman citizens living in the European Continent as well as in Asia Minor and parts of North Africa where the empire held sway that individuals were prepared to ditch their matrimonial spouses and seek sexual gratification from “fresh sexual conquests.” Sexual relations in marriage were such a low key affair that spouses saw little need of staying with their mates whom they had come to consider as sexually boring or even useless.
The kind of lives most Roman citizens lived arguably were such that it was more or less devoted to different forms of wickedness."Men struggle in a mighty rivalry of wickedness", so noted the famed philosopher who also added:"Every day the desire for wrong-doing is greater, the dread of it less." To Seneca the Roman society could be compared to "a community of wild beasts."
The most fascinating thing about the Roman way of life however was their desire for adulterous affairs. The subject was to say the least rife in many quarters - including mimes where according to historian Ludwig Friedlander in his book Roman Life and Manners Under the Early Empire, short plays about everyday life had "adultery and love [as] the principle themes."
Today, few people can actually deny that poor sexual relations are a major factor leading to the rise of separation and divorce among married couples in many parts of the world. No one area is especially causing discord and distress in marriages than that of sexual performance. Most couples are likely to tolerate their spouses on other shortcomings - including physical and emotional harassment, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and neglect of financial duties and domestic responsibilities. But they are not willing to put up with a mate who is not giving them the kind of sexual stimulation they need.
Marriage is in trouble all over the world, no doubt! Greg Laurie - pastor of one of the largest American churches by the name of Harvest Christian Fellowship, not long ago offered the view that in the United States Of America "marriages that have lasted five, ten, or even twenty years are falling apart at a record rate." Writing from Riverside, California, Pastor Laurie - who also serves on the board of directors of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan's Purse, went on to say that the breakdown of the family had “sent shock waves” across the entire country of nearly 285 million people (10 Things You Should Know About God and Life, a Billy Graham Library Selection publication, 2008, p. 201).
In his book 10 Things You Should Know About God and Life, Pastor Laurie observes that the divorce rate in the world rose seven hundred percent in the twentieth century and that it hasn't begun to top out in century 21. “There is now one divorce for every 1.8 marriages”, writes Pastor Laurie. In Tampa, Florida, one can actually get a divorce without leaving his or her car. Laurie calls this “drive thru divorces” (Ibid, p. 203).
The problem of divorce however is not entirely an American problem. It is also a big and tough challenge confronting a good number of developed nations such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and countries in both Eastern and Western Europe. The problem also badly afflicts a good number of developing nations in Latin America as well as those in the continents of Africa and Asia. Overall the divorce rate in our supposedly "enlightened world", according to numerous media reports and government surveys, is between 51and 60 percent. Few homes in the world seems not to be affected by the problem.
Most significant, however, is the fact that few agencies in the world attribute high divorce rates in their respective societies to be largely fueled by poor sexual relations and even total dysfunction among couples. The reasons normally given by groups and individuals trying to deal with the problem of divorce - or simply reporting on it, normally point to issues that have to do with finances, unemployment, neglect, abuse, in-laws, religion, children, health and conflicting interests and values. Rarely are reports published - in the mainstream media so to speak, that indicates that the marital bed plays a significant role in the separation and divorce of couples - the vast majority of whom enter into marriage because of sexual gratification and for little else.
A good example of how agencies try to gloss over the problem of poor sexual relations as a direct cause of marital discord and break-up is for instance the manner Spanish authorities and independent agencies in that European nation with a population of over 40 million people have been explaining away the skyrocketing rates of break-up of marriages involving couples that have been living together for whatever number of years. Responding to a 2002 survey by the Ministry of Justice which showed a separation or divorce for every two marriages in Spain, experts predicted that such breakups would continue increasing as a result of “changing views on marriage and the greater economic independence of women”.
Many respected sexologists, psychologists, and social workers ironically also fall for this "standard explanation". Notable in this case is the opinion given by psychologist Patricia Martinez and Luis Zarraluqui - a prominent authority on family matters in Spain, at different periods in this century. As president of the Spanish Association of Family Lawyers, Zarraluqui was in the year 2002 quoted by the Spanish newspaper El Pais as having said that “couples do not have much spirit of self-sacrifice, [and] young people are not prepared to put up with anything.”
On her part Martinez was reported to have said in 2006 that “the precarious nature of marriage relationships [is] caused above all by cultural changes, the loss of religious and moral standards, the incorporation of women into the work force and the lack of male collaboration in caring for household chores.”
Admittedly,neither Martinez nor Zarraluqui directly hit out at poor sexual relations as a factor behind the collapse of many marriages in Spain or even around the world. Yet a growing number of married men and women in that once economically prosperous as well as politically strong and socially stable country were walking away out of their marriages to find new sexual players. Couples who decided not to breakup their relationship themselves could not help having extra-legal sexual relationships.
Indeed, as far as the problem of divorce and remarriage is concerned, Spain actually closely follows notable European Union member-states such as England, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland to name a few. By 2002 when the Ministry of Justice published its survey on the problem, separation and divorce were reported to have mushroomed by 500 percent in a 20-year period.
Apparently from the north to the south, west to east of our beloved planet earth, agencies are not prepared to tell the ”true story” of why many marriages collapse. They must beat about the bush. They must tell half truths - probably in order to sound politically correct.They shy away from stating the fact that couples are very often disappointed in learning that their mates are not as “sexy” as they appeared to be before they tied the knot. Yet that is really the case for the vast majority of marriage mates around the world.
Out there in the world are young men who found themselves looking lustfully at other women on the day after their wedding night. There has also been widespread reports of brides who could not resist calling and e-mailing ex-boyfriends to flirt after only a week into moving into a new marital relationship.For most couples sexual problems begin probably a week or month after their wedding vows in a ceremony graced by the presence of family members and close friends.
The world ironically is not to blame if it fails to tell the whole story of why marriages collapse or even explain the real reason why couples becomes disenchanted with the others sexual performance only after a few months or years of coming together . It is just that individuals whom they interview for the study are not willing to talk about the sexual problems they might have. Such dialogue does not even exist between the couple and there is no way therefore they will spill the beans to the outside world for whatever reason. Most marriage mates would rather suffer in silence and not disclose the sour sexual experiences they have with their mates or even their inability to satisfy their mates sexual expectations.
In the Western World only fewer than 20 percent of the population reportedly seeks professional counseling and medical treatment for sexual problems that adversely affects their marital relationships. In the Third World nations, 85 percent of the population will never seek help and healing even if it is quite apparent that their marriages are being affected by their inability to perform their conjugal rights. Woman more than men however will confide to very close friends and not to professional counselors and sex experts. It is a tradition in many parts of the world for individuals to remain silent over their sexual problems.
To those married men and women who are bold enough to talk about their sexual relations, such a discussion very often centers on their partners "inability" to satisfy their sexual needs. They are themselves never to blame for the sexual problems that exist in the marriage. The "blame game" is indeed a normal activity in many marriages experiencing sexual problems and not just in other matters such as poor family income, wayward children and poor physical health just to name a few of the problematic and controversial issues that sees some couples fight each other or even walk out of the relationship.
“He is just a stupid dude", used to say Adrienne about her husband Bruce* before he passed on in 1999. Things however took a tragic turn before Bruce's burial when angry and protesting and neighbors and relatives accused Adrienne for having directly contributed to her husband's death through prostrate cancer. The view in the impoverished neighborhood where illiteracy was very high was that the largely male disease was caused by denial of conjugal rights by a female spouse.
Adrienne, a mother of four children living in a rural location in central Kenya, reportedly had all along in her life blamed her husband for all the ills that afflicted their 15-year-old marriage. Confessions she had made to friends in her neighborhood as well as in her church indicated that she had been in the habit of denying her husband his conjugal rights ostensibly to avoid becoming pregnant. As a devout Christian she hated the idea of using any artificial birth control method - including pills and other mechanical devices. She simply could not visualize getting a fifth child while the family's income had refused to grow for the last couple of years because Bruce - her husband "did not work hard enough."
Friends and some close relatives also revealed at the time of mourning this popular and obviously affable villager aged only 45 years at the time of his death, "gave exclusive devotion to his family in addition to being loyal to his wife." One prominent female villager who had been close to the family of the departed hero actually told a gathering of fellow women that Adrienne considered sex to be "evil and degrading." To her humans needed not indulge in it often.There had to be lengthy intervals before a couple could come together again for an intercourse.
Away in Nairobi in the year 2009 Chris and Donald* had come to see me in our offices in connection with a health problem that afflicted one of them. Chris - who I learned was a primary school teacher in a rural area a hundred kilometers away, asked me if our health institution had medications that could help a man restore his lost sexual energy. I answered in the affirmative and went on to explain to their attentive ears the various nutritional products that were commonly used to help men suffering from erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, male infertility and physical weaknesses in general among other problems that jeopardize sexual prowess in males.
All along I thought Chris - who was asking questions was the one with a sexual problem. I was deadly wrong. He was simply acting on behalf of Donald who was a man of few words. Both of them were not only married with grown up children but were also of the same age - clocking 50 in a few months time. When I discovered the truth, I decided to have a word or two with Donald - who ironically seemed overweight than his colleague. In the course of our discussion, this seemingly successful farmer living not far from the primary school his friend was teaching, mentioned something about the “ignorance of upcountry women in sexual affairs.”
When a voluntary computer test was done on Donald to determine his health, evidence available however indicated that all was not well as far as micro-circulation of his blood was concerned. Thanks to misuse of food, Donald's inner health had been on a slow slide down the hill. For many years he had been trying to exist on a diet rich in fat and salt. His system also showed traces of elements of carbon dioxide - apparently from eating charcoal-roasted chunks of meat on daily basis. Nyama Choma - the "rich-man's" diet by Kenyan standards, had contributed to Donald's poor sexual health in addition to causing other medical complications. If anything they exonerated his wife from blame over his diminished sexual energy and interest.
A few months after meeting Donald, I received a number of people who said they had been referred to me by Donald himself. The nutritional products we had prescribed to him had done wonders to his health in general and his sexual health in particular. According to my new clients, Donald's wife of 27 years was extremely grateful for the treatment we had given to her husband. He now seemed to be "the young and sexually active man he was not long ago."
Admittedly, there are individuals out there in the world who recognize that they do have sexual problems in their marriages but in most cases they do not make effort to improve on their performance. These men and women may even act on the "standard reasons" given by experts for failing marriages, but they will in most cases fail to do anything in respect to the factors that prevent them having exciting sexual encounters.
It's no longer a secret indeed that some marriage mates try to act on statements such as the one that was issued by Luis Zarraluqui in 2002 that "couples do not have much spirit of self-sacrifice, [and] young people are not prepared to put up with anything.” But they all too often fail to do a thing on the missing dimension in their sexual enjoyment. Also in our midst are couples that strive to do away with the factors mentioned by an authority such as Patricia Martinez who in 2006 attributed factors that contribute to marital breakdown to be "cultural changes, the loss of religious and moral standards, the incorporation of women into the work force and the lack of male collaboration in caring for household chores.” But in most cases, nothing is actually done to remove factors that fail to provide the couples with a matrimonial bed that's sexually exciting or fulfilling.
Not surprisingly, many individuals in such situations simply give up ever trying to have sex with their spouses. They instead resort to having sexual relations outside the wedlock. Those couples who strive to have sexual relations merely do so for the sake of duty (as is the case with many women) or simply to relieve themselves off sperm building up in their reproductive system (as is common with most men).
For the vast majority of couples, however, having an extra-marital affair is the easy way out of sexual boredom in their marriages. For some years now, various authorities estimate that 50 to 65 percent of husbands and and 45 to 55 percent of wives commit adultery by the age of 40. Empirical evidence incidentally indicates that extra-marital sexual escapades are becoming a way of life not only among a growing a number of people in the Western World, but also on a significant percentage of populations in the Third World.
Such arguably has been the case in the once largely conservative nation of Chad. Not too long ago this central-African country, which by the year 2002 had a population of 7.5 million people, could not tolerate sexual promiscuity. But that is no longer the case today. The land has had a changed face from the times not long ago when severe laws were in place to punish individuals accused of adultery and fornication. For many years into the 20th century a death penalty was instituted for culprits who engaged in this and other acts of sexual impropriety.
Proving that more and more people in Chad are becoming sexually promiscuous is the big number of people that are said to be falling victim to AIDS - "a condition of acquired immunological deficiency associated with infection of the cells of the immune system by a retrovirus", according to Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. In 1996, a nation-wide survey for instance indicated that in a five-year period the number of people reported to have fallen victim to AIDS had multiplied by 100 times.This however was regardless of the fact that only one third of all cases had been reported.
What though is most ironic about the whole thing is that an increasing number of couples aged 40 and above are also being involved in extra-legal sexual relationships. By this age, however, a growing number of couples will have walked out of their marriages for good, partly to live with spouses who can meet their sexual needs. According to the highly respected Luis Zarraluqui of Spain, breakdowns are even “increasing a lot among older ones, partly when they reach the age of retirement.”
Gossip and propaganda from newspaper columnists, television and radio talk-show hosts and presenters - and indeed not to forget "village wags", also indicate that divorced spouses of advanced years are increasingly having sexual relations with members of the opposite sex several years younger than themselves. Such relationships are purely sexual in nature and mission.
Tragically many individuals around the world are engaging in sexual promiscuity in total disregard of the dangers that loom in the sexual arena. Evidence indicates that more and more sexually active people are becoming oblivious to the myriad problems that has been wrecking the lives of hundreds of thousands - and even millions, of people around the world ever since inhabitants thereof decided that having sexual relations with many partners was the way to go in such of true gratification. As Dr. Patrick Dixon - author of the book The Rising Price of Love, told The Globe and Mail,a Canadian newspaper sometimes in 1997:"A revolution in sexual relationships that promised [the world] freedom has left many in chains, in a world destroyed by sexual chaos, tragedy,loneliness,emotional pain,violence and abuse."
Now, owing to the dangers brought about by promiscuous sexual activities as well by divorce and separation, couples wishing to remain together ought to do something in order to improve the quality of their sex lives. If you will permit me to use other language, couples with such a problem need to make the sexual intercourse a wonderful experience the Creator God intended it to be after He had created Adam and Eve in the garden of Aden millennial ago. As He watched the first pair of humans to ever walk on the earth He desired no less for them but a wonderful experience when it was time for them to play sex. The sexual organs God had given to both the man and the woman were simply not for a shoddy job in the bedroom. It was for profound joy and not frustration or even pain.
Apparently, God envisioned for the couple a situation where they would be two free partners, in a passionate dialogue unhampered by constraint. In His opinion the kind of sexuality He had given to both the man and the woman was for unity of the flesh even as the two beings assisted each other in mutual love. At no time did He foresee a time when the couple - like the generation of the 20th and 21st centuries, would embrace vile emphasis on sex as merely a mechanical thing apart from genuine love and out-flowing concern in a permanent arrangement.
Also not predictable to God was a time when either of the couple would experience sexual dysfunction of any kind. Conversely, in the climate of paradise - the scene of meeting of the couple, was one of simplicity and free expression. This is what we are told in the biblical account:"And they were both naked, the man and his wife and were not ashamed.” (Genesis 2:25 Kings James Version, Family Altar Edition, National Bible Press, Philadelphia, 1944, 1949).
Simply put there was no element of fear, anxiety or shame as the first couple strolled in the garden of Eden together.Naturally a benevolent Creator who was also the Universal Sovereign had imparted right knowledge to the couple on how they could perform their sexual duties without endangering the emotional feelings or physical health of each other. Each had ample sex education in his or her mind to be careful not to hurt the other sexually or leave him or her sexually unfulfilled.
Understandably, God's approach to human sexuality - which prompts the couple to enjoy irreducible difference of the other and not try to condemn or ridicule or abuse them, should be incorporated by couples wishing to improve on their marriages rather than seek the easy but dangerous route of adultery and the emotionally-damaging act of separation and divorce. When that divine approach is overlooked or dismissed things are likely to go wrong.
As Laurie - author of over thirty books, including the Gold Medallion Award winner The Upside-Down Church, has observed: “When we tamper with God's plan, we do so at our own peril.” This is because not only is divorce “devastating to the husband and wife, but is unbelievably damaging and destructive in the lives of children" ( 10 Things You Should Know About God and Life, p. 201)
Couples unwilling to harmonize their lives - including having improved sexual relations, can tragically only expect to be engulfed by health problems and emotional disturbances that are kindled by the stress and depression that results from poor human relations. It could not only mean developing mental illness but also suffering such problematic diseases like high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, stomach ulcers, stroke and diabetes just to mention a few. Not a few may actually resort to "suicide" in a bid to end the misery of a troubled marital relationship.
The key to living in a happy marital relationship is however simple. The first move is the realization that essential knowledge is needed. It especially would help a lot if a couple understood the simple reality that “most marriages fail not because of lack of compatibility - but largely because of ignorance about what marriage really is and how it must function”, to use the words of Joel Hilliker - a Christian writer based in Edmond, Oklahoma, U.S.A (Trumpet, Philadelphia Church of God, May/June 2010, p. 8). Like one medical journalist said not long ago, most of the people in the world “enter the institution without any training whatsoever.”
In a world where there is a wide array of printed literature and electronic information directed at married couples in the area of managing their finances, advancing in their career and raising their children, it is imperative that they should now be provided with helpful education and training that can help them enjoy their sexuality - including getting profound excitement and immense gratification from their sexual organs. Proper sex education is undoubtedly a panacea of marital stability.
The simple truth in my opinion is that couples actually need little else to have a happy and successful live together than good sexual relations. I especially draw my convictions from an observation expressed towards the end of the last decade by Dr. Kenneth Reamy - professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the West Virginia University School of Medicine in the United States of America. To him "Sex isn't only a source of physical pleasure.It bonds and validates a relationship."( Reader's Digest, Reader's Digest Association South Africa (Pty) Ltd, April 1997, p.102).
My faith in good sexual relations as one of the keys to a great marriage were also strengthened by a 20th century writer by the name of Paul Kroll. From his desk as a magazine writer based in Pasadena, California Dr. Kroll told millions of individuals who subscribed to the magazine that "sexual relationship is the most intimate, physical expression of what marriage should mean - the union of two separate individuals in a love bond" (Plain Truth, Worldwide Church of God, July 1988, p.14).
Granted, couples who hold such an objective will no longer be part of the big crowd of people who Seneca said "divorce in order to remarry" and "marry in order to divorce." Life will be all bliss for them as it it is for a few people who are trying to have improved sexual relations rather than separate from their mates.
Said Katy Koontz - the writer who quoted Dr. Kenneth Reamy of the West Virginia University School of Medicine in 1997:"the effort husbands and wives put into keeping their sex lives strong after children are born pays off." In that April 1997 article entitled Is There Sex After Children?, Koontz also added that " the closeness that comes from sharing the bond of parenthood makes their sex life better than ever"(Reader's Digest, Reader's Digest Association South Africa (Pty) Ltd, April 1997, p. 104).
Apparently there is a lot of merit in the divine injunction issued by the great gospel guru of all time - the Apostle Paul, in the first century A.D. To Christian couples living at Corinth - a commercial and administrative city in Asia Minor that was renown for sexual depravity, he wrote: "Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again,that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency."(1Corinthians 7:5 King James Version, Family Altar Edition, National Bible Press, Philadelphia,1944, 1949).
(* real names of these people have been changed)
Ndungu Mungai is a motivational speaker, direct evangelist and health consultant based in Nairobi, Kenya. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org