Words were what God used to create the world. “God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). His words conveyed creative power. Your words convey power too. They can strengthen, uplift, and comfort. They can also weaken, discourage, and destroy.
Words undoubtedly reveal your attitudes and influence your behavior. This is especially true in talking about sex and intimacy. Your words can craft an environment about sex that is strengthening and uplifting—or the opposite. Words matter! And the words you use in conversations can foster spiritual, intellectual, and emotional intimacy that will help prepare you for a complete expression of sexual feelings in marriage. Talking about intimacy and sex—at the appropriate times and in appropriate ways—is an important part of preparing for marriage.
A lot of people use the word intimacy as a synonym for sex, but this can be incomplete and a little confusing. Intimacy refers to feelings of closeness created within emotional, intellectual, and physical areas of relationships. There are a few types of intimacy:
Emotional intimacy is being open about all your feelings because you feel you have a safe environment.
Intellectual intimacy is sharing ideas that are important to you or concerns that you are working through with someone who respects your opinions.
Physical intimacy isn’t necessarily sexual. It can also be demonstrated through simple affection, like a hug, hand holding, or a kiss.
Healthy sexual intimacy is a sacred union, a mutual giving and receiving of each other’s bodies in an environment of trust and respect to deepen loving marital bonds.1 The purpose of sexual intimacy is to create children and also to strengthen the emotional, spiritual, and physical connection between spouses.
Your body is created in the image of your heavenly parents.2 It’s important to use appropriate words to talk about bodies as God’s creation and not use slang or substitute words for body parts. Learn about your body and use the right terminology. Using appropriate terminology results in a better sense of identity3 and shows respect for your marvelous bodies. Be especially careful to choose words and media that place sex and sexuality within a gospel perspective.
Throughout your life, it’s important to find positive, appropriate ways to talk about intimacy and sexuality. Doing this can help empower you as you navigate sexuality and its many facets clearly and openly. But if talking about sex and intimacy feels uncomfortable or scary for you, try the following gospel-based ideas for how to talk about sexuality and intimacy throughout your life.
President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has encouraged parents to have clear, plain discussions with their children about sex.4 You can and definitely should have clear, plain discussions with your parents, Church leaders, or other adults you trust about sex. But avoid talking about sex casually, disrespectfully, or crudely with friends or other people, since those conversations might lead to wrong ideas about sex and intimacy and may unintentionally make you sexually aroused.
Ask a parent or trusted leader about how your body develops sexually, what to do when you feel aroused, and the purpose and blessings of sexual intimacy within marriage. Although it can be an uncomfortable topic, most people are willing to help answer these important questions. Learn about your anatomy, your emotions, and how these things together can motivate you to seek for a loving marriage.
You can start developing emotional and intellectual intimacy within friendships and with people you trust in a safe environment. This doesn’t mean talking about sex; it means talking about things in life that really matter to you. You can practice this by expressing sincere feelings, opening up about your own experiences, and listening as your close friends do the same.
You may wonder what practicing these emotional skills has to do with sexual expression. Because so much of our sexual expression centers on our emotions and attitudes (80 percent of sexual activity occurs in the brain5), mastering social and emotional skills does prepare you for sexual intimacy. These skills give you plenty of ways to form close, rewarding relationships without needing to rely on physical intimacy to create a connection. Remember that physical intimacy does not lead to emotional intimacy, so take the time to develop real friendships before looking for romantic relationships.
Getting engaged is a major threshold in a relationship! By this stage in your relationship, it might be appropriate to show some physical intimacy and affection by hugging, kissing, or holding hands, but don’t forget that it’s also a time to continue to learn about each other’s emotions, goals, personality, and expectations.
As a couple, you will want to have clear, plain, general discussions about the purposes of sex within your future marriage. To avoid letting these conversations lead to inappropriate discussions and actions, it might be best to have these kinds of conversations in times and places where you won’t be susceptible to temptation (during the day, in a public place, etc.).
One important topic is finding shared meaning about sex. You or your fiancé might have grown up in a family that didn’t talk much about sex or maybe had a limited perspective or unhealthy attitudes about sex. During your engagement, your conversations about sexual intimacy should be aimed at identifying and calming fears and anxiety. You can briefly talk about the pace of your future sexual relationship and reassure each other that sexual exploration will meet both of your comfort levels. Work together to understand each other’s perspective and then create a shared vision of the role of sex within your relationship. Seeking the advice of a trusted leader, parent, marriage counselor or reading a book about sexual intimacy that aligns with gospel principles can be helpful.
Deep, open communication is linked to feelings of satisfaction and stability within relationships and with later sexual satisfaction within the bonds of marriage.6 Couples who take the focus off their physical relationship tend to spend more time becoming friends, developing trust, communicating, and sharing common interests and ideas.
As Elder Bruce C. Hafen, emeritus General Authority Seventy, counseled, “Be friends first and sweethearts second.”7 Couples who focus on friendship and connection—without relying on physical arousal—build stronger relationships. Try learning more about each other’s families, beliefs about the world, or favorite way to serve others. You could also try a new skill or hobby together.
Once you’re married, you should feel free to discuss your sexual thoughts, feelings, and desires with your spouse. Spouses need to have clear, plain discussions about how they express sexual desires lovingly, unselfishly, and generously.8 Early marriage is a time of learning about the connections between emotional and sexual intimacy.
It might be helpful to set aside times to communicate about sex, and take it slowly. You may realize that sex is more complicated than you thought and you may need to learn how to express your sexual needs, emotions, and thoughts. Be mindful of each other’s needs and concerns—communicating about sex takes some skill and needs to be done in an environment of understanding, love, and trust. “Tenderness and respect—not selfishness—should guide [a husband and wife’s] intimate relationship.”9 As you work on becoming more comfortable using a proper vocabulary about body parts and discussing sex, you will be able to clearly and kindly express and understand both of your emotions and needs.
No one gets sealed in the temple and then, without any effort, sails straight into eternity with a strong, happy marriage. Eternal marriages require deliberate, intentional choices to exemplify the Savior’s invitation to “love one another” (John 13:34). Make your words loving, strengthening, uplifting, and comforting. Fostering all types of intimacy bolsters the divine use of your sexuality within marriage.
Remember that you are beginning an adventure together and will continue to learn about sexuality within your relationship as a married couple long after you are married. Keep in mind, your Heavenly Father gave you a sexual nature and that He approves of sexual expression within marriage.10 When you use sexual expression in the context of a loving, committed marriage, these God-given desires create harmony and bond you to your spouse.11
You can create a strong foundation for a healthy sexual relationship within your marriage when you learn to communicate about your sexuality and emotions in open, comfortable ways. Use the correct words. Practice being emotionally and intellectually open and sharing ideas, feeling, and experiences. Then you will be prepared to be thoughtful about your spouse’s needs and concerns. Together, you can continue learning about identifying and discussing sexual needs and concerns to create a loving environment for sexual expression.