Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Shannon Ethridge’s new book The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage (Thomas Nelson, 2014).

Sexual frustration is one of the most common sources of marital tension and leads to many divorces. So it’s vital for spouses to figure out how to satisfy each other sexually. God invented sex for married couples to enjoy to the fullest, and doing so is a powerful way for you and your spouse to build closer relationships with God and each other.

But in this fallen world, there’s a lot of brokenness that leads to unhealthy attitudes about sex, such as inhibition, embarrassment, awkwardness, fear, resentment, manipulation, guilt, or shame. The challenges of dealing with such attitudes can cause you and your spouse more stress than enjoyment when navigating the sexual part of your relationship.

God wants you and your spouse to feel sexually free together, and to celebrate that freedom by enjoying great sex regularly. Here’s how you can do so:

Celebrate the spiritual side of sex. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your minds so you all can see sex as the tremendous gift that God intends it to be in your marriage. Pray for the blessing of experiencing a deeper love for God and a stronger union with him through participating in a loving sexual union with your spouse. Recognize the importance of reserving your sexual experiences exclusively within your marriage since sexual bonds are sacred and meant to be expressed only in the covenantal relationship of marriage. Confess, repent, and ask for help to heal and change from any ways you’ve directed your sexuality outside of your marriage (such as through using pornography, visiting strip clubs or prostitutes, calling phone sex lines, or carrying on an extramarital affair). Ask God to help you be faithful to your spouse as God is faithful to you. Create satisfying sexual experiences in your marriage rather than searching for them elsewhere. Whenever you’re sexually attracted to someone who is not your spouse, resist the temptation to act on those feelings by replacing sexual thoughts about that person with healthier thoughts as the Spirit leads you. When making love with your spouse, recognize that the sexual energy flowing between your bodies is sacred because your bodies are conduits through which the Holy Spirit flows. Talk with your spouse about specific ways to connect with each other more closely through sex. As long as the Bible doesn’t forbid the kind of sexual behavior you’re considering and your spouse is comfortable trying it, feel free to try it together. Pray for the patience and passion you both need to work together well figuring out the best sexual expressions for your unique marriage.

Celebrate the mental side of sex. Discuss sexual thoughts honestly with your spouse so you can understand each other’s sexual appetites well. Figure out how to match your different sex drives in a mutually satisfying way so that neither of you places unreasonable demands on each other  (either by withholding sex so that one partner feels frustrated, or by urging sex more often or in ways with which the other partner isn’t comfortable). If stressful circumstances (such as heavy job demands, a health crisis, or dealing with young children’s constant needs) have crowded sex in your marriage, intentionally work on your sex life again and invest as much time and energy into the effort as you possibly can, since regular sex is important to your marriage’s health.

Allow yourself to enjoy the full intensity of sexual attraction to your spouse, but guard your mind from sexual thoughts about other people. Talk honestly and specifically about what turns each of you on and off sexually. Help each other feel confident enough to engage sexually by refraining from criticizing each other as long as you’re both doing your best to take care of the bodies God gave you. Avoid viewing pornography (even together), because it’s addictive, decreases your sexual satisfaction in a real relationship, and rewires your brain to think about sex in unhealthy ways. Pray for the wisdom to discern whether or not any sexual fantasy would be constructive or destructive for your marriage if you were to act on it. If either of you had premarital sex with other people, pursue healing for your mistakes by discussing them honestly (but without sharing unnecessary details that could mentally torment your spouse) and letting the painful memories of those mistakes remind you to learn from them and pursue a healthy and faithful sex life with your spouse.