Defining the Playground

I’ve written before about the sexual playground metaphor. God gives us a fence and we can do anything inside the fence. We don’t have to do everything inside the fence, but we shouldn’t do any outside the fence.

What about your marriage sexual playground? What’s okay and what’s currently off limits? Do you and hubby both know the full list of the things you both think are acceptable and desirable?

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Odds are you’ve not communicated enough about sex to have a clear list. Fear, shame, habit, and other things keep us from discussing this. Even if you had a good idea early in your marriage, you may not have had ongoing talks to modify the list as things change.

If you want to tackle this, here’s how I suggest you go about it. Make a chart of all the things either of you think might be in God’s playground. List these things down the page, one to a line.

Lots of Honesty, No Condemnation:

Now you and your husband go through the list marking how you feel about each item. For this to work, you will each need to be honest and non-judgmental. Be gracious about honest differences of opinion where the Bible doesn’t clearly say “This is sin.” Don’t assume the worst of him for what he says, and don’t get caught up in “Where did you hear of that?” or “Why would that turn you on?” An open honest talk about sexual interests is good for your marriage, so anything done to limit such a talk is bad for your marriage.

No Way!

Go through the list with a black marker and cross off the things either of you think’s wrong. Not things you find gross or don’t want to do, this is about sin, physical harm, and degradation. Agree not to discuss or argue about these issues; respect each other and remove the item from the list.

Don’t abuse this veto power to eliminate things you don’t think are wrong. The person who marks something off is free to come back later and say “I no longer see this as wrong” but the spouse who sees the act as okay should not bring it up again.


Next find the things one of you finds gross or a total turn off. Cross these out with two markers, one colour for each of you. The things marked in this step are those you have a very strong reaction to. This is things you find so horrible they would ruin sex for you.

Doing something either of you finds gross is bad for your sex life. Even if done occasionally out of love it’s hurting how one of you thinks about sex, and that’s bad for both of you and your sex life. Agree these are not open for debate, and only the one opposed has the right to bring it up again.


Next, use an “X” in your colour to mark the things you find distasteful but not so bad they fit in the category above. These are things you would never choose to do for yourself, but don’t find so horrible they would ruin sex for you. Some of what you list here will be things you’ve tried but didn’t really enjoy.

The things in this category are reasonable to do on occasion to bless your spouse. These are gifts you can each give on occasion. They should be given, but not requested. If you both mark an item with an X, you can forget about it.


Now make a circle in your colour to mark those things you think you might like. These will be things you’ve never done, haven’t done in a while, or have only done with someone other than your spouse.

These acts are things to think about and discuss. If one of you strongly desires something on this list, discuss why and what is expected from doing it. It’s okay to ask each other about these items from time to time. Make it your goal to eventually move these items to another category.


Put a check next to things you would like to try. These could be things you used to do but stopped or things you’ve never done with your spouse. This is also for things you are happy to do but don’t personally crave. 

This is the short list of things to try over the next few months. It’s fine for something to live on this list long term as part of your sexual repetiteur.  

Get Naked Now!

Finally, put a star in your colour next to the things you find a big turn on. Hopefully, this list includes most of what you are currently doing in bed. If this is not the case, something needs to change.

If you both star something you’re not currently doing, you have something to try soon.

How Does it Look?

The finished chart should tell you a good deal about your sex life. It may point to problems or show a lack of communication. Use the list as a starting place for making sex better.

Modify and Redo: 

Our desires and thinking change all the time. We realise we’ve fudged on God’s Word to include something we want to do or have called something sin without biblical support. Something once gross becomes less offensive while something once desired no longer feels right. We start to desire something we didn’t want before, and something once enjoyed becomes less pleasurable. The chart you come up with is not a final list for the rest of your marriage; it’s a starting place.  

I suggest you look at the chart from time to time and make changes as you see fit. When you do, let hubby know. Ask him to also make changes and inform you. Beyond this, do the whole process from scratch each year or so.

~ Paul – I’m XY, and the commonly used things on our playground have changed a good deal in 31 years of marriage.

The TMB survey this week is Your Biggest Sex Problems. The answers are not all about sex, they include some relationship issues. We’d appreciate if you would take a few minutes to offer your anonymous thoughts.

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8 Comments on “Defining the Playground

  1. I would love to lay it all out like that, but hubby won’t. Talking with him about sex is tough. He gets defensive, clams up, gets angry. I tried discussing books, straight out asking him, coupons, lists, menus….and those were just to find out what HE likes and dislikes. I can’t even crack the door open on what I like and don’t like. The only opportunity I have is when he cracks an off color joke or someone in whatever media he is watching says or does something that I can segue from.

      • I have almost no idea what his past was like sexually. He was more into things earlier in our marriage and they suddenly stopped after our 3rd child was born. He went on a LOT if business trips then, mentioned one time of going to a strip joint, got into some porn and mainstream HBO sex filled epic tv shows, so I wonder if he cheated on me. He claims he never liked the variety and just got fed up and quit it.

        I may never know, but I hope answers come so we can heal and grow. I almost never climax now unless I “take care of myself” but that’s tough because I have almost no material sexually arousing enough of hubby and I to help me get there. I am struggling not to fantasize sinfully, so my sex drive is rapidly disappearing. But hubby seems content with a wife with little to no drive so long as I don’t refuse him.

        It is messed up, but I am working on it. Unfortunately I cannot find a counselor who will touch sexual issues in marriage in a Christian way (we do not need to watch porn together, thankyouverymuch).

  2. Paul, this is a good one. I’m not sure it is necessary or desirable for every single couple to write it out on paper like you are suggesting here, but, one way or another, I think we all go through a process like this. If anyone needs a “let’s write it down” example of how “sex always consists of leftovers” as Dr. Schnarch describes it. (see the four posts between “sex always consists of leftovers” and “decoding the logic of sexual relationships” here ).

  3. I think it would be incredibly helpful to have a printable worksheet to fill out (with plenty of write-in lines) of pre-listed sexual activities we could mark up. While I could fill pages with ideas of activities and variations I’d love to find out her opinion on, if I were to ask her to list activities, she’d list a only a few things, and feel steamrolled when I came up with many ideas to discuss, then get overwhelmed, and would likely request we table this project indefinitely. If I came to her with a comprehensive list I made for our consideration, she’d assume I listed only my “starred activities” and convince herself I just presented her a list of requests, not options. If I found a list as a resource online designed to help couples think outside the box and start a discussion from on objective outsider’s perspective, I might have a chance at moving the needle.

  4. I agree with 1980 that a preprinted list would be better. It would help those whose scope is very narrow be exposed to new ideas and for those who already have a large scope they aren’t going to be judged for something on the list that would be considered unacceptable to the other.

    It’s already taking a huge risk to mark an activity as something you’d want to try if it’s something your spouse would consider taboo or unacceptable. The more conservative spouse may just shut down if they knew it was you, who came up with the idea.

    Those that really can talk about anything sexual without fear of judgment or rejection probably don’t need this exercise, do they?

    • @Hiswifeagain – I see the value of it, but also some real issues. It forces people to commit to things they might not want to commit to with the only other option being lying.
      Maybe this could be fixed by having an “undecided” option. Of course, some would see that as “You want to do this but you think I will get upset so you said undecided.”
      Another option would be a fairly limited list of general concepts. Oral sex for example, without any breakdown of how it’s done. If it “passes” then the couple can look at the issue in more detail.
      Paul Byerly recently posted…Defining the Play GroundMy Profile

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