A couple of weeks ago, I called a non-religious friend of mine to announce the news of my pregnancy. After chatting for a couple of minutes, she asked me whether my husband and I still take the time to... be together as husband and wife now that we have, umm, "done our purpose". There, it was almost too embarrassing to put in words, but I said it because I feel it's important and should be brought up.
Many secular people tend to think that religious couples - especially wives - view intimacy in marriage as something dull, utilitarian, and tolerated for the sole purpose of making babies. Once you have the "result" of pregnancy, why waste time and energy on this "pointless activity"? We, the religious ones, are thought to miss out on all the fun and excitement.
To be frank, I find it very difficult to understand how a series of random flings can be more satisfying in terms of intimacy than a loving, stable, committed marriage in which you and your husband appreciate each other, truly care about each other, and accept each other completely in heart, body and soul. In marriage, I don't have to compete with an endless number of other women, many of whom will be younger, prettier, and more stylish. In marriage, I can blossom in the encouraging atmosphere of trust, respect and true love. In marriage, I can finally find myself and be myself, knowing I'm loved and accepted as I am.
The truth, despite the message of our materialistic culture, is that physical intimacy cannot be separated from our emotional well-being. The liberation that comes with being married to a loving husband will inevitably lead to better chances of satisfying intimate relations than one would have in an uncommitted relationship, where the woman constantly has to worry whether he will call her tomorrow or toss her aside because he found someone better and fresher.
We are children of a loving God who told us to "become one flesh" and "rejoice in the wife of thy youth". Note that it is said "rejoice", meaning that while physical intimacy is certainly a duty of a husband to his wife and a wife to her husband, it's also supposed to be one of the greatest gifts God gives us in a marriage blessed by Him.
There's a false assumption religious people view sexuality as something shameful and dirty. Not so - how can it be, if we are supposed to "become one flesh"? On the contrary, physical intimacy is so cherished and precious that it cannot possibly be given away to anyone but your spouse.
Of course, after years of suppressing our desires - since teenage marriages are not the norm these days - initial intimacy requires some preparation. I don't know about others, but Orthodox Jews take one-on-one lessons prior to marriage, usually men with a rabbi and women with a rebbetzin (rabbi's wife) or other older married woman who is competent enough and has enough experience to teach. During these lessons, which are usually held in the form of a conversation, we discuss family purity, as well as physical aspects of intimacy in marriage.
There's also this image of a frumpy exhausted woman who is busy running after a bunch of children all day long and doesn't even have time to comb her hair in the morning. Since I'm not a mother yet, obviously I have no experience to share, but I do realize children take a toll on our time, especially when you have a few - children require feeding, changing, bathing, educating, and of course, playing and spending time together. Having children also normally adds to the amount of housework, and I can readily imagine it limits possibilities for spontaneous romance. However children are supposed to be a source of joy and love in marriage, not otherwise. I'm sure my husband and I will have to somewhat rearrange our schedule once we have a little one in our arms. Still, hopefully our life together as a couple will be kept on top of our priority list.
We have an opportunity to show the world that holy and pure does not mean dull and boring. Of course, as religious people obviously we won't discuss intimacy in public with the excessive degree of openness it's normally done these days, but a sparkle in your eyes when you look at your husband will say more than words!