Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Two Barriers to Sexual Intimacy

There are many areas that I believe that need to be addressed in the context of healthy sexual intimacy.  The first two have to do with sexual brokenness and false intimacy which I will cover in this post.  These two form a barrier to intimacy. 

There are so many people that struggle with sexual brokenness.  I would define sexual brokenness as a state of sexual sin with an intense self-hatred.  You can have sexual brokenness with just about any object live or inanimate.  Some can even have sexual brokenness in sexual behavior with his/her spouse.  The most common sexual brokenness looking lustfully at someone other than your spouse.  It seems that pornography is one of the most common forms of this type of brokenness. There are many other forms of brokenness which I do not have a desire to list out here, but I think that a good definition is some type of sexual arousal/gratification outside the marriage that leads to self-hatred. 

Most that struggle with sexual brokenness feel trapped.  For many it has been a life long struggle.  In case you don't believe there is a serious problem with this then I suggest that you take a look at the statistics from Safe Families.  They have compiled a list of statistics that should open your eyes to the sexual brokenness epidemic.  There are some that refer to sexual brokenness as addiction and others whom argue that addiction is not possible with a natural biological function.  Those that believe it is not an addiction describe these behaviors as obsessive-compulsive or just sinful.  Whether sexual brokenness is rooted in addiction, obsession, or just plain ol' sin people that struggle with it will often experience a feeling of loss of control. 

Sexual brokenness in a marriage is a barrier to sexual intimacy and radical action must be taken for full intimacy to occur.  There are many resources available to help you if you are stuck in this.  Here are some suggested things to review:  Focus on the Family, Pure Intimacy, Setting Captives Free, Every Man's Battle, X3Church (For the younger edgy crowd), and filtering software: Safe Eyes, Covenant Eyes, Bsecure (my recommendation), As well as recommend these post from my Blog: Battle of two natures and Setting your mind on the Spirit.

False intimacy is similar to sexual brokenness in that it is a barrier to sexual intimacy.  In false intimacy your sexuality is bonded with something other than your spouse as fellow companion.  Pornography is a struggle for some with sexual brokenness, but can also be a problem for those who do not.  The false intimacy of porn (whether the soft type that passes for prime time TV or the hard-core found on the internet) is sexual gratification without commitment.  I remember some crass comments when I used to work construction from married men saying, "I can window shop."  This is a false intimacy of the eyes.  It also is a type of gratification without commitment.  Affairs are based on false intimacy.  You can have adultery in affairs, but true sexual intimacy is not possible.  Affairs always are rooted in deception, broken promises, and infidelity.  There can never be true intimacy in such a situation.  Any perceived intimacy in the midst of adultery is false.  There can be false intimacy within the marital relationship as well.  The behavioral repertoire of a couple replaces a true sense of connection.  Emotional, spiritual, and physical intimacy are often diminished or absent in these cases. The behavior surrounding sex can take precedence over the relationship as well in this way sex becomes a form of false intimacy. 

One of the things that drives brokenness and false intimacy is sexual bonding in my estimation.  The brain is a powerful sexual organ.  When people are involved in sexual situations (arousal, or the act itself)  the brain is releasing powerful substances which if came in pill form would either be outlawed or considered a controlled substance.  Some of the Neuro-Chemicals associated with sex are:

epinephrine (adrenaline), testosterone (Male hormone), endorphins (feeling of well being and absence of pain), oxytocin (important substance in feelings of love and bonding), dopamine (reward seeking), serotonin (good mood), phenylethylamine (Endogenous amphetamine) and others

In the process of arousal the sexual image becomes an object of desire.  This occurs whether the image is real, inanimate, or imagined.  With repetition the image becomes more and more imbedded in the brain.  In some ways the image becomes a personal sexual ideal (a sexual idol).  The behaviors associated with this idol become fixed and in many cases automatic (like riding a bike or driving a car).  I will sometimes use the analogy of a well worn rut that when ever the wheels fall into they take you to the same place again.  From a spiritual stand point you begin to worship the idol.  From a neuro-chemical stand point the powerful reward chemicals in your brain released by this activity reinforce the behavior making it more likely that you will engage in this behavior in the future (kind of like a hit from drugs).  The bonding chemicals make you feel connected to the object and/or behavior associated with the object.  It is this bonding that I believe forms the biological basis for false intimacy (and sexual brokenness). 

To combat false intimacy one must first acknowledge it is false.  This is difficult because you have acknowledge something that contradicts what you feel.  Overcoming biology is one of the most difficult things that we can do in life.  The Bible refers to this as "dying to self" and putting to death the deeds of the flesh."  You acknowledge that it is false and determine to starve that sexual idol and refuse to worship it any longer.  Nothing short of a full break will do.  There also must be a reconnection to genuine intimacy.  Making a break without reengaging true intimacy will leave you vulnerable to falling back into false intimacy.  From a spiritual stand point you must turn to God and trust in him.  Turning to your spouse without turning to God puts you at risk of making your spouse an idol and worshiping your spouse as a sexual object and not treating them as a true person. 

You must be on guard against sexual brokenness and false intimacy if you are to have hope of developing true sexual intimacy with your spouse.  There needs to be an acknowledgement of the problem and a clean break from it (repentance).  If you need help along the way talk with a pastor, Christian therapist, or trusted friend.  Seek accountability and more importantly seek the Lord. 

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