Your sex zones and her sex zones.

I recently read Are You Entitled to Your Sexual Preferences? (cached copy here) by Dr. David Schnarch. It’s an excellent article – well balanced, and dead on point. One sentence – “The more sexually immature and inhibited we are, the more things we “prefer” not to do.” – spurred me to try and communicative something I have been mulling over for some time. This is going to be a bit complex, but if you and your bride have regular conflict about what you do sexually, I suggest you stay with it.

© Paul H. ByerlyI’m going to use some images here to try and explain sexual zones.

The five colours here are as follows:

  • Blue = Known Comfort zone: This is sexual things the individual has done, and would be comfortable doing again.
  • Green = Desired comfort zone: These are sex acts the individual has not engaged in, but has heard of, read, or imagined, that the individual feels they would be comfortable doing.
  • Yellow = Curiosity zone: This is acts only heard about, read, or imagined, with which the individual feels neither comfortable nor uncomfortable.
  • Orange = Danger zone: This is acts done or only heard about with which the individual feels uncomfortable.
  • Red = No go zone: These are sex acts the individual find disgusting, perverted, sinful, or painful.

The location of the blue dot, the known comfort zone, is going to be somewhat a result of culture, and the other dots will move out from that. Below are images for a just married couple who did not have any significant premarital sex, or excessive exposure to sexual information. His zones on the left, her zones on the right.

© Paul H. Byerly

His no go zone is smaller than hers and his curiosity zone is larger than hers. This is typical for men and women, although there are exceptions. The important thing to notice is that each of their known comfort zones is within the desired comfort zone of the other. This means either of them can do anything in the known comfort zone without a problem. There is also overlap in the desired comfort and curiosity zones, giving the couple plenty of safe places for growth from the start.

If this couple does not have significant outside influence, their sexual zones will grow more similar over time.. It is also likely that they will gradually move out, so that the blue, green and yellow zones get larger. The image below is what this couple might look like after a number of years:

© Paul H. Byerly

This is how it is supposed to work, and how it does work when a couple follows God’s plan both before they meet and after they marry. When God’s plan is not followed, a couple is going to have problems. If one of them has no experienced, and the other has a lot of experienced, then the situation is mismatched. One person has a much larger known comfort zone, and much of that is into the danger zone, or even the no go zone of the other person. The one with little experienced will feel pressured, while the one with more experienced will feel frustrated.

© Paul H. Byerly

A similar problem can occur if both husband and wife have past experience, but their known comfort zones are centred in different areas.

© Paul H. Byerly

The worst problem comes when a man enters marriage having viewed a lot of porn. He has not done much sexually, but because of his viewing he knows about a great many ways of having sex, and he is interested in trying most of these.

© Paul H. Byerly

What chance does the woman on the right above have of “satisfying” her husband? What chance does the man have of expressing his desires without causing his bride to feel completely run over?

Bottom Line: If you entered marriage having had sex with others, and/or viewing a lot of porn, you have created a situation that is difficult and painful for your bride. True, it’s difficult for you too, but the fault is yours. You are the one who went outside God’s rules, and that has caused the problem. Your pain is your own fault, and your bride’s pain is also your fault. You have wronged her, and created a horrible situation – it’s all on you, not on her. Don’t argue with her that such and such is not wrong, or that you would want it even if you never looked at porn; the reality is you did things that changed and grew your sexual zones before you met her.

How do you fix it?

  1. First and foremost you have to understand what you have done, and what that has done to your bride.
  2. Repent and seek her forgiveness. If you really understand what you have done, you will understand that forgiveness does not solve the underlying problem.
  3. BACK.OFF! Stop pushing for ANYTHING other than the most basic sex. Give her time to get over the pressure, and to start feeling good about her sexuality.
  4. Let her lead. Not forever, but until she feels safe you need to let her be in control. If you think that’s not fair, remember you messed up.
  5. DO NOT do things to keep expanding your zones. That means no porn, saying no to some movies, leaving some conversations, and not reading some of my sex how-to tips.
  6. Pray. Pray for your minds to be healed, and for your relationship to grow as God intended.
  7. Know that a marriage can recover from this. It takes time, but it is possible to find a good balance, and even to then slowly grow your zones – together.

Push Back: Many women react to their husband’s out of kilter sexual zones by pulling in their own zones. This makes her known comfort zone even smaller than it would otherwise be. This is a common and understandable reaction to what her husband has done. You could argue it’s wrong, and you might be right, but this comes off as blaming the victim, and is hardly going to make your situation better.

Image Credit: © Paul H. Byerly

3 Comments on “Your sex zones and her sex zones.

  1. This looks to be a great article. Clearly expressed and logical. If I might add to the ‘How To Fix It’ section, I believe that the “#1. ” should be repent to the Lord, recognizing what sin does to our relationship with Him since our relationship with Christ will influence how we relate ourselves and others. Then, reaffirm that Christ IN us gives us the freedom to succeed so that we don’t believe the lie that claims ‘I’ll never be able to get it right.’ Our theology is so important because is deals with the inner heart of man being changed by the beautiful and holy Spirit of Christ who indwells each saint. I sometimes us the idea of a hot air balloon to illustrate the need we have for the inner presence of God’s Spirit to enable us to resist the forces that try to keep us from succeeding spiritually. The Word of God working in conjuction with the the indwelling Son of God and Spirit of God gives us the needed resources to relate to the Father and, subsequently, our beloved spouse.

  2. I have been thinking and praying about this very topic for quite a while. My blue dot and green dot is very large, not because of fault or sin, but because I was married before and divorced for biblical cause. As I began to pray in earnest for God to provide a suitable mate for me, I had not seen these colored dot diagrams but I was talking very honestly with God about what I called The Sandbox, which was my image to describe the innocent happy way two best friends can sit and play for hours, which is the way I view married sex. I had an epiphany “what if his sandbox is smaller than mine?” which caused me to swallow hard and pray even harder. I realized how heartbreaking it could be for me to wait in purity for years for God to bring me a second husband only to discover his sandbox was EVAH so much smaller than mine. I am concerned but not worried, because my hope is in the generosity of God which is very very big. I must trust intensely and pray specifically.
    I wanted to share my perspective, and gently suggest that every second marriage involves previous sexual experience that is without sin.

  3. @Shula – You are right – it is one of several other situations that I did not cover.

    In general men are better able to deal with their spouse having bigger zones than a woman is, so for you the situation is not as bad as if you were male.

    I would also think that some discussion of zones would be appropriate before a second marriage. I don’t know what that looks like or how it’s done without opening the couple to temptation.

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