On Sunday morning, before church, I was perusing the news and drinking my cup of tea when I laughed out loud, spitting the contents of my cup all over my monitor.
The news story came from Britain, and though what I am about to relay to you may not seem to have any relevance to marriage, bear with me, because I’m going to bring it back!
Anyway, Britain had decided to build a big polar research boat, that would travel north and drop its submersible into the water and do lots of serious, research-y stuff. In order to grow public awareness around this endeavor, they decided to solicit the public’s input into what this valiant vessel should be named.
That was the first mistake.
After much public input, it turns out that the name that the public preferred was Boaty McBoatface.
(This nugget of information is what elicited the spitting of my tea.)
The research community was aghast. The scientists were dismayed! How could we let the British public name such a serious vessel doing such serious work Boaty McBoatface?
And so they changed the name. Last weekend the RSS David Attenborough, named after the scientist, was launched.
“THIS IS A SERIOUS SCIENCE SHIP THAT REQUIRED THE NAME OF A SERIOUS SCIENTIST,” FRANCIS SAID, ACCORDING TO THE GUARDIAN. “ITS NAME RECOGNISES ALL THE LOVE AND ESTEEM THE BRITISH PUBLIC HOLDS FOR SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH.”
(They did, however, bow to public pressure and name the little submersible Boaty McBoatface).
And hence we have our second mistake.
I completely understand wanting to treat this vessel with seriousness. And it was likely the right decision, since we should be trying to fight against the dumbing down of society. But at the same time, I think they missed out on a great opportunity. Think of the publicity if they had kept the name Boaty McBoatface! Every single research finding would be reported, simply because newspapers and blogs would want an excuse to put “Boaty McBoatface” in the headline.
“Boaty McBoatface discovers the North Pole is cold.”
Nothing would be left by the wayside! And the reason is simple: People like to laugh. Laughter brings us together. All day on Sunday, at random intervals, Keith would whisper “Boaty McBoatface” and I’d start giggling hysterically (he really shouldn’t have done that during the sermon).
But, of course, these are serious things, and thus they must be treated like serious things. Right?
So let me ask you a question:
Could you be getting into a negative cycle in your marriage (especially with how to have sex) because you’re just treating things a little too seriously?
When I read C.S. Lewis’ book The Four Loves, I came across this quotation that has always stuck with me: “Banish play and laughter from the marriage bed, and you might let in a false goddess.” – C.S. Lewis
Sex is supposed to be funny! It doesn’t always work perfectly. We make funny faces. Sometimes we squeak!
Here’s what’s interesting, too: you can really only laugh with someone that you can truly be vulnerable with. When you can be your goofy self with someone, then chances are you can relax with that person. You can let your guard down. And, after all, your guard has to come down for sex to feel good! If you’re a woman who has trouble letting go of control in the bedroom, and still feel like you’re almost outside of yourself watching your every move or trying to coordinate your every move, then sex won’t work well.
We can treat sex too seriously in two ways: We can worry too much about it, or we can worship it.
First, we can worry about how to have sex too much.
Last week featured a two-part series written by an anonymous reader who, after 26 years of marriage, finally figured out how to make sex feel good. Much of the problem that she had to overcome was that she had believed such negative things about sex. It began with messages of sexual shame in her childhood, and then messages that made her brain ignore feelings of sexual pleasure because she had to stay in control. Then, when sex didn’t feel good in marriage, all kinds of other negative messages of helplessness and hopelessness and bitterness and resentment came in to play.
It’s easy, natural, and normal to feel those things when sex isn’t working. But I also know that I have been in a negative spiral downward in my sex life for weeks, months, even years when I first got married. And I had nursed all those negative feelings which only made things worse.
When I changed my mindset, though, it only took one or two nights for everything to change. No, sex didn’t necessary feel great right off the bat. But when I stopped nursing the resentment because “sex is important and it’s supposed to feel good!” and started saying, “Okay, let’s just try this and see what happens because I love you, even if this is awkward,” then we found something important again.
We found laughter.
And laughter is what finally unlocked everything for me. I think this comes back to what Lewis was really saying:
We can treat sex far too seriously, and give it a position it doesn’t deserve.
We can make our sexuality the focal point of our life together, putting it in the place of emotional or spiritual intimacy. Then when sex doesn’t work well, it becomes this black hole that sucks everything else in.
One of my central messages on this blog is that sex is a vitally important part of marriage, and we should try to make it as good as we can. We should initiate sex. We should figure out what makes sex feel good for her. We should learn what feels good for him. We should be more adventurous in bed!
And I do believe that.
But we run the danger of making sex so much like work that we forget to just have fun!
What Lewis was getting at is that eros, or sexual love, on its own, without the other kinds of loves, can become empty. It can be something we start to worship for its own sake. But when eros joins with other parts of our relationship, including the friendship and goofy side, then eros takes its rightful place.
Sex doesn’t always need to feel super serious and super grown-up. It’s okay to laugh, especially when you’re naked. And it’s okay if sex takes a while to figure out how to get right. It’s okay if it’s just a silly research project you do together (“do you like it when I do this? Whoops, all righty then, we won’t try that again! How about this?”) It’s okay if you stop aiming for a goal and just enjoy being together.
After all, maybe what we all need is a bit of Sexy McSexFace in our marriage.
**This post originally appeared on To Love, Honor, & Vacuum.