How to Be a Generous Lover

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Dr. Juli Slattery shares how to move beyond selfish love to servant love.

As women, we typically view sex as a way of expressing the love and intimacy we feel in our hearts. It’s definitely a challenge to be sexually intimate when those feelings of love are absent. For the first decade of my marriage, it irritated me when my husband wanted sex when we had barely spoken. From his perspective, sex was the way we could connect and feel close. So, we were at a stalemate: I needed to feel love to have sex, and he needed to have sex to feel love.

The truth is both of our perspectives were flawed. God designed sex to be more than either of us had understood. Sexual intimacy isn’t just a means of expressing love, nor is it primarily a way to feel close. Sex is also the laboratory in which love is tested, revealed, and refined.

Intimacy in the Differences

Imagine you and your husband live in sexual utopia. You always want to have sex at exactly the same time and the same way your husband wants it. Every initiation is met with an eager response. There is never any conflict about foreplay, being too tired, giving each other pleasure, or trying something new in bed because your desires are always exactly the same. How fantastic would that be? It would be almost like the sex portrayed in movies—what a great love life!

God certainly could have made sex that way. He could have created man and woman to be exactly the same sexually. But he didn’t. In fact, he intentionally made us vastly different.

Remember that even before sin entered the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve had primary sexual differences in the way God created them. God declared his creation of man and woman “very good” and this very good included your sexual differences. It is hard to fathom, but it is the differences between you and your husband that can create the deepest intimacy.

Here’s the deal: God’s design for sex is not just for immediate exquisite pleasure (although he is all for that). God has a much more beautiful gift of intimacy for us than the world’s interpretation of sex. The catch, though, is it requires a different kind of love.

From Selfish Love to Servant Love

No area of marriage has tested my love more than sex. It’s so tangible and demands so much of me! At times, I’d much rather make my husband’s favorite cookies or listen to him talk about work. To give my body, well, it just seems to be asking too much.

After all, it is my body, isn’t it?

“The man should give his wife all that is her right as a married woman, and the wife should do the same for her husband: for a girl who marries no longer has full right to her own body, for her husband then has his rights to it, too; and in the same way the husband no longer has full right to his own body, for it belongs also to his wife. So do not refuse these rights to each other” (1 Corinthians 7:3–5, TLB).

Sexual intimacy in marriage asks every husband and wife the question, “What kind of lover are you?” A generous lover or a selfish lover? You see, it’s easy to enjoy sex when you both want the same thing. But God has made us so different that sexual intimacy inevitably leads to an impasse: her needs versus his needs. One wants sex more than the other. One likes to try new things, the other likes to keep it predictable.

Sex is designed to be more than an expression of love between a husband and wife. It is also the refining fire of love. It tests and teaches a willing man and woman to reach beyond their natural desires and learn what servant love really is.

The world knows only of a love that feels good. We are born with the natural response to “love” those who meet our physical and emotional needs. This kind of natural love is essentially self-love. It really says, “I love the way you make me feel.”

If your husband had the same sex drive as you, if he liked to kiss and be touched all over the same way you do, frankly, loving him wouldn’t cost you much.

You already know how to love your husband with natural, selfish love. It’s easy to please him when he’s pleasing you. But do you know the secret of loving him when it’s a “bad husband day”? Do you know how to respond to him sexually when it’s the very last thing on earth you feel like doing? Or how to be patient when he’s not meeting your sexual needs? This is the kind of love God wants to develop in you and your husband. And he just might be using your sexual differences as the training ground.

Changing the Dynamic

For some women reading this article, your response may be: “Why do I always have to be the one giving? Why can’t he be generous? Why does it always seem to fall on my shoulders to improve our marriage?”

This is a fair question. In most marriages, it is the woman who is more motivated to improve the relationship. The healthiest marriages are those in which both husband and wife show generous love, in and out of the bedroom. But the truth is you can only change one person: you. In many marriages, when one person switches from a selfish perspective to becoming a generous lover, the entire dynamic of the relationship changes.

When a husband and wife see the beauty of love tested and refined by sexual differences, their lovemaking truly becomes about making love. God really cares about how we love—not just in the neighborhood but also in the bedroom. His desire is that we move from selfish love to generous love.

 Written by Dr. Juli Slattery

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