“Men don’t know how to be men. Many men fear that they are unsafe.”
— Aaron Bradfield
“To be a spiritually healthy person you have to be an emotionally healthy person.”
— Rob Furlong
What happens when you get 45 men in a room with a pastor and a counsellor to discuss sex and relationships over a meat pie and a can of Coke?
Answer: a lot of education, connecting fellowship, and encouragement.
What follows are some of my thoughts from the notes taken from a Sex and Relationships “Real Men Pie Night.”
Sex is sacred and pornography devalues what is sacrosanct.
The commonest problem men are dealing with is pornography, and, to a lesser extent, burnout—both physical and spiritual. Because pornography is so accessible these days—one mouse click away—more and more men (and more women for that matter) are becoming entrapped by pornography.
Among the many dangers involved in pornography is the pressure it places on men’s partners; women who feel under pressure to look like and perform like the porn stars.
It’s amazing how many Christian men struggle with pornography, but almost every one of them believes they are alone. It is the oldest lie of the devil to isolate us in such ways.
Interestingly, pornography is not so much about sex, as it’s much more to do with our own story—what we, as persons, have not recovered from. Dealing with our pasts—being honest about them with trusted others—helps to heal us.
Dealing with the problem of pornography probably best begins with therapy, and possibly group therapy. The best thing we can do, in our struggle with pornography, is to be open and honest with a trusted friend, and ask that friend to pray with us.
Openness and honesty are the keys.
The only real exception to complete openness and honesty is timing and wisdom with our wives in declaring our problems. Our wives are not to be burdened with being our accountability partners. A bit like Step 9 of AA’s 12-Step Program, where, amends is to be made, it defeats the purpose if our amends injures the person we want God to heal. We must pray for wisdom and discernment about the details. But we should tell them, somehow, we have a problem that we’re dealing with.
Men’s and Women’s Identities
Just as the quote at top says, men have learned to lose confidence in their male identity. We may struggle with viewing ourselves as on the one hand, dangerous, but, on the other hand, soft. Our lack of male identity is often caused at a societal level, but it was learned and is reinforced all the more from our families of origin.
Men’s overriding psychology about their masculinity is about, “do I have what it takes?” Women’s overriding psychology about their femininity is about, “do you (my man) delight in me.”
If the man’s identity is to treasure his woman, that he makes her the object of his affection, he bridges the gap between him and her.
The Sex Relationship
It’s critically important for men to understand that their women need to be treated with the utmost respect. If a woman isn’t respected she may be characteristically reviled by the thought of sex. Men tend to not understand this and wonder why they have unfulfilling sexual relationships. The sexual relationship between a married couple is a good representation of the overall relationship. If the sex is good it probably means that the woman feels safe, cherished, and respected in the marriage.
A man cannot grow in intimacy with his wife unless he is prepared to devote his whole sexual life to her alone. He must be not just physically faithful, but mentally and spiritually faithful as well. Intimacy ignites passion as a slow but reliable flame.
Where there is a disparity between the libidos of a husband and his wife, where characteristically the husband’s sexual drive is higher, he may be able to engage sexually with her present in ways that she doesn’t need to be actively involved.
But wherever a wife is involved sexually the husband needs to pay caring attention to what leads up to the sexual event. Sex, at least for the woman, begins in the brain. Women are not interested in sex when the relationship is poor. It is up to men, and the onus is on us, to build intimacy with our wives.
Furthermore, it may be a stretch for a man to understand what it might be like to have a body that is sexually penetrated. A man finds it difficult to imagine how vulnerable a woman must be to allow a man to enter into her body. The sex act needs to be creative, not rushed, and not mechanical.
As men we need to treat our women as they should be treated: with the utmost respect.
Lastly, it is of real value for a woman to understand that a man feels rejected deeper down when he isn’t getting sex. But the first onus is on the man to ensure his wife is happy; that she is being loved and respected unconditionally.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: a special vote of thanks and gratitude for Pastors Rob Furlong and Aaron Bradfield, who were a beautifully complementary team as part of an expert panel providing the above wisdom, and to Pastor Anthony Palmieri for his “Pie Night” vision.