For a population famous for being committed monogamists, Christian mommies sure have a lot of people in their bedrooms with them.

I’m not talking about other partners here, but the looming judgments of important figures like mom, dad, grandma or pastor and what they would have to say about the activities done or not done in thy boudoir.

Whether they have ever discussed it or not, our elders carried and conveyed their view of sex throughout all our developmental years. I call the unexamined judgments in our lives “grandma’s wallpaper.” You know how something can just “be there” for 20 years, totally unnoticed, then one day you lean in close … and you see that it’s absolutely disgusting?

As we all know, parents are only the beginning … judgments from our culture, peers, experiences, traumas and stereotypes have bombarded us and burrowed themselves so deeply into our psyches that it feels impossible to distinguish our own values from those we’ve spent a lifetime marinating in.

If we look back, we can draw some conclusions about what has been downloaded to us – the positive, the negative, the contradictory, confusing and mysterious

Don’t have sex. Don’t talk about sex. Sex is a gift. Sex is dirty. Good girls don’t like sex. Good wives have lots of sex. Good girls don’t do that! God is punishing you for what you did before marriage. Don’t talk about it outside of the bedroom. It’s weird to speak up about your preferences. I’m not (good) “enough. Feel guilty about saying no to sex in marriage. Feel vaguely guilty period. Trying new things is awkward. Navigating your sexual relationship is stressful. Sex is about performance. Don’t say the word “orgasm.” Let the man initiate and lead. Be perfect. Be sexy. Be free and have fun!

Clearly my list of all the possible beliefs one could have about sex is far too short. But use it to jumpstart your awareness. Identify the ones you carry around inside your head that cast a long, judgmental shadow over your marriage bed. Think of who may have conveyed them and how. Notice when they pop up. How would you be different if you disobeyed the negative judgments? Talk with your husband and safe girlfriends about your judgments, this sheds a dissolving light on lies that have no business in your bedroom.

Do you believe that sex is about joy? I do. Choose to believe that sexual enjoyment really is for you. You get to have sex. You, just as you are. You GET to figure it out, discuss it, be curious about it, have fun and know your limits. You get to be awkward or relaxed, shy or bold, unpolished, imperfect – nobody wants you to be a “professional” … right? Your presence is perfect – consider that. Show up, as you. Face your negative self-talk and guilty memories in the light so you can dismiss them in the dark. They ARE NOT helpful to the intimate moment at hand, they only lead you to despair and self-hatred – which are generally not very “sexy” feelings.

Judgments crush creativity and curiosity. If we have been smooshed under judgment then we really have not been able to be our real selves. Freedom will beckon your creativity back and invite you to continue the exploration of your true presence and preferences. Grace for yourself in the area of your sexuality will bear the beautiful fruit of vibrancy and connection and hopefully even foster a legacy of joy.

Kelley Gray has been a private practice psychotherapist in the Denver area for 14 years. She is passionate about promoting growth, healing and making messes with her daughters.