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What’s the difference between making love and having sex?

Jay Dee

What’s the difference between making love and having sex?

Mar 03, 2016

I received this question from our anonymous Have A Question page a couple of days ago: Making love vs. having sex, what is the difference? What does this look like practically in the context of a Christian marriage? From what I have read, having sex

Anonymous QuestionI received this question from our anonymous Have A Question page a couple of days ago:

Making love vs. having sex, what is the difference? What does this look like practically in the context of a Christian marriage? From what I have read, having sex often lacks emotional care and concern for the other sexual partner whereas making love is about satisfying the other partner and forming a deep emotional connection during sex. Do you have any suggestions for enhancing making love or deepening the emotional connection during sex?

Someone is going to get mad at me for this one, I can feel it.  But, here we go anyways.

What’s the difference between “having sex” and “making love”?

Short answer:

There is no difference between having sex and making love.

Long answer:

I think this is a holdover from the traditional Christian viewpoint that sex is a necessary evil.  Many Christians still cringe when they hear the word “sex” used.  So, in order to avoid saying it, they use the term “making love”, because it sounds less distasteful.

But, in reality, it’s the same actions, the same chemicals are involved, the same fluids exchanged, the same funny noises and faces made.  As Shakespeare wrote so many years ago:

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet. – Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2, Line 47-48

So, call it what you will.  Some people like to use the name “making love” to explicitly express that there is an emotional connection involved, that they mean an act that is more than just “having sex”, but to me, there is no just “having sex”, and I think we need to drop this distinction from our vocabulary.

Because I’ve heard of spouses having physical affairs and saying “It was ‘just sex'”, as if that makes it better.  “Just having sex” is what people do when they hire prostitutes.  “Just having sex” is what people watch in porn.  We have this idea in our culture that “just having sex” is acceptable in some situations when it really shouldn’t be.

Because it’s never “just sex”.  Sex will always involve a part of your mind, a tug on your emotions.  It will always involve the same chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin.  Every time, it changes your brain, rewiring it, either to be more strongly tied to your spouse, or less so.

So, no, I don’t think there’s a difference, and I think it’s dangerous to try and make one.  God made sex.  When we try to separate it, we cheapen God’s creation.  We change it from being something holy, to being something holy only in certain situations.  And make no mistake, things of God are holy, whatever the situation, whatever the circumstance.  When Belshazzar drank from God’s holy implements, they were still holy, even when used in an unholy orgy, and his failure to recognize that is what doomed him.  If you don’t know the story, you can read it in Daniel 5 in your Bible.

Sex is the same.  Sex is holy, whether it’s being done in the context of a marriage bed, or outside of that context.  In one case, it’s a proper use, in the other, it’s blasphemy.  Blasphemy means to make “bring down” something holy, to use something that is holy in an unholy manner.

So, let’s abolish this distinction between “making love” and “having sex”.  It lessens the respect for this wonderful part of creation that God has given to husbands and wives.

How do you make having sex more emotionally connecting?

I think the number one thing is to focus more on the person you are having sex with, and less on the sex itself.  Focus on how it makes your spouse feel, on bringing them pleasure, on fulfilling their needs and desires, and you will find that sex is a very emotionally connecting experience.

But, when you focus on orgasm, when you focus on the stimulation, then it becomes a bit more of a physical activity.

Now, of course, it’s all on a spectrum.  I don’t think you can have sex as a physical activity that doesn’t include an emotional connection any more than you can have sex that’s an emotional connection without having any physical activity.  But, if you want to focus more on the emotional aspect, then focus more on your spouse, on what you are doing for them rather than to them.

Now, for those wives who are learning how to orgasm, this may help, or it might hinder.  Often when women are struggling to orgasm, the advice is to focus on the feelings, on the pleasure, because you are working on building up the physical aspect of having sex.  That’s not wrong, but we need to be aware of what we’re focusing on, on what our goal is.  If your goal is to have an orgasm because that is lacking, then focus on the physical.  If your goal is to build an emotional connection, because that is lacking, then focus on your spouse.  Note: Some women find that they orgasm easier when they focus on their spouse and their relationship, so this universal, it’s just what works for the majority.

For the rest, focus on both, have fun, and you can probably manage to both have an orgasm and build an emotional connection.

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10 thoughts on “What’s the difference between making love and having sex?”

  1. Norah says:

    Oh this one’s a good one for sure. Very insightful.

  2. Keelie Reason says:

    Great distinction Jay Dee. I think that we have to move away from thinking sex is moving a certain way so you can reach orgasm. We have to see everything leading up to and after as part of the process. It really helps me to enjoy physical intimacy more when I see it as what we came to do, instead of seeing the orgasm as what we came to do. We came together to enjoy one another’s company, and in doing so, we both reached physical pleasure. Not…we have to do all of these thing so we can reach physical pleasure.

  3. Terri says:

    I haven’t finished reading the article but love the opening sentence. Can’t wait to finish

    1. Jay Dee says:

      Looking forward to hearing what you think of the rest of the post.

  4. libl says:

    My husband has told me that I always want to make love and he just wants to have sex.

    Both involve penis in vagina, but there are differences.

    Make love (my meaning): affirmation, foreplay, care for the spouse, both get satisfied.

    Sex (his meaning): wham bam, no foreplay, no taking time for my orgasm, just a good hard pounding to get his rocks off and when he is done, he’s done with nothing left for me except the occasional “thanks, honey.” At least now he goes and gets me a coffee.

    So, yeah, there is a difference.

    1. mrsluvmyhub says:

      That would be very unfair and selfish libl if that is how your hubby always wanted it. I’m a wife and I personally like a mix of both. Very happy to include “quickies” sometimes. Your hubby may not realise that he will “get more out of it” by “making love” by your definition.

  5. LatterDay Marriage says:

    I think you are right that at first any sexual encounter is an emotional one as well, but I think with enough emotional damage (abuse, failed sexual relationships etc.) a person can shut that part of themselves down and it becomes ‘just sex’. Something they do to take pleasure for themselves with no commitment to the other person.

    Making love includes a desire to give, not just receive, and a commitment to a lasing relationship.

    As with so many other things in Christianity, it is about what is in the heart rather than the outward actions.

  6. J. Parker says:

    I agree with you that there’s no denotative difference. But connotatively, the way we express things can make a real impression in our minds. I think it’s good to remind ourselves that attitudinally, we are supposed to be making love in marriage. Especially for those who bring in the baggage of “just sex” from premarital encounters, considering this love aspect can help distinguish the experience from the pain of the past.

    Of course, I agree that the word “sex” is perfectly fine to express what happens between husband and wife (as are many other fun ways to say it). After all, God created sex — which makes it very good!

  7. John Wilder says:

    Most women have trouble orgasming due to the ignorance on the part of their husbands about female sexuality. It is not really
    their fault because there is no “school for sex” to teach men how to give their wives great sex. It is why I wrote my book among
    other things like how to stop fighting forever and showing men how to be the spiritual leaders in the home. Churches tell men
    to do this but don’t begin to show them or tell them how.

    1. Jay Dee says:

      I’m not sure about “most”. I talk to a lot of women who can’t orgasm when they’re in control either. In many cases, I don’t think technique is the problem. I do agree that sometimes it is, but there’s a lot involved: stress, medication, general health, time of cycle, relationship stability, good theology regarding sex, physical attributes and so on. To limit it to one say attribute that to most cases…I don’t think that can be done.

      But, I agree, we do need to do a better job of teaching.

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