Feminists and even some women who would not consider themselves feminists believe it is selfish for a man to have sex with his wife, knowing she is not in the mood. In fact some claim if a man has sex with his wife when she is not the mood this is rape. This is a question that many Christian men are afraid to ask. Here we will try to answer this very important question, from a Biblical perspective.
I have several “disclaimers” on this hot topic throughout the post but I will put this most important one at the top in red so one thing is crystal clear since I have been falsely accused of promoting rape and physical abuse to women:
I have not, nor would I EVER advocate for a husband to force himself physically upon his wife or to physically abuse her in any fashion. The issue being discussed here is about whether a man should take sex from his wife IF and ONLY IF she yields to his request for sex, even though she does so grudgingly and is not really in the mood, or does not feel he has earned it.
In our last post in this series on “How to be a godly husband”, we established the fact that as a Christian husband you do not have earn sex with your wife, any more than your wife has to earn sex with you. I took a beating from several people, even from some Christians who might 95% agree with me, because they thought I was not adding enough disclaimers about this right of sex in marriage.
But I stand by what I wrote, I feel that today we make far too many excuses for the sin of sexual denial in marriage, and as men of God we must address this issue without pulling punches.
In my last post “Christian Husbands – You don’t pay for the milk when you own the cow!” I did add some disclaimers at the end that some people missed about this issue of sexual denial:
“The answer to this question is a Christian wife should never give her husband a flat no, BUT she can humbly and gently ask for a delay. There may be legitimate physical or mental issues that might prompt your wife to ask you for a delay. But this must be done humbly and respectfully, and always with the attitude in mind that her body does belong to her husband.”
There are also “disclaimers” sections here you will see as you read on reasons a wife might not be in the mood.
Now we need to establish the key Biblical teachings about sex.
Sex is both a Right and a Responsibility in marriage
Moses, speaking under the direct inspiration of God was the first to speak of the importance of sex in marriage:
“If he takes an additional wife, he must not reduce the food, clothing, or marital rights of the first wife. And if he does not do these three things for her, she may leave free of charge, without any exchange of money.” – Exodus 21:10-11(HCSB)
The phrase translated in English as “marital rights”, literally refers to conjugal rights – Sex.
In this passage, Moses establishes sex as the right of a wife, and the responsibility of a husband.
The Apostle Paul later in the New Testament, elaborates on this right and responsibility of sex in marriage making it clear that both husbands and wives have the right TO and responsibility FOR sex in marriage:
“A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does. In the same way, a husband does not have the right over his own body, but his wife does. Do not deprive one another sexually—except when you agree for a time, to devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again; otherwise, Satan may tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – I Corinthians 7:4-5(HCSB)
The phrase “A wife does not have the right over her own body, but her husband does.” could not be clearer. A wife does not have the right to stand and deny her husband access to her body. As I said in the previous post, a wife can humbly ask for a “delay”, or “raincheck”, but only for legitimate physical or psychological reasons and the judge of what is legitimate or not is her husband.
Not only does the Apostle Paul start out with the sexual rights and responsibility of both men and women in marriage, he then tells us that if we disobey God by denying the sexual rights of our spouse, we open our marriage to temptation and danger.
The Apostle Paul pulls no punches here, Christian couples should only abstain from sex for short, mutually agreed upon periods of time. Christian husbands and wives should regularly be having sex. Not having sex for a long length of time, should be the exception, and not the norm in a Christian marriage.
But sex is supposed to be about feelings not duty right?
I understand to people who have not read the Scriptures, everything I have stated up to this point and in previous posts in these series seems cold, and unfeeling. But you need to understand that our modern western culture has the idea of marriage and sex backwards from God’s design.
This the Modern Western formula regarding sex:
Feelings of fondness between a man and a woman leads to sex
This is God’s formula regarding sex:
Sex leads to feelings of fondness between a man and a woman
Some people might respond to this saying “it is not always true that sex leads to fondness between a man and a woman” and they would be right. But let’s consider why it would not. I have one word for you – its called pride. A wife may actually be more annoyed at her husband after sex, then she was before if she does not release her feelings of pride during sex and give herself fully, both mind and body to her husband.
Exercising the right and responsibility of sex in marriage results in feelings of fondness between a man and a woman ONLY when both the man and the woman humble themselves first before God, and then before each other, realizing he has given their bodies to one another.
I am not saying it’s wrong that married couples have sex when they have feelings of fondness toward each other. This is a good thing and what we want to see in our marriages. But we must be careful that we don’t over time come to think that this is a prerequisite of sex, but rather we see it as a benefit of sex in marriage.
You as a husband are NOT being selfish for initiating sex with your wife
You are not being selfish when you act on your God given sexual urges and initiate sex with your wife. Even if your wife is not in the mood, but she yields to your advance anyway, you ought to take it.
You should NEVER, EVER feel guilty for initiating sex with your wife.
Remember this principle when it comes to sex in your marriage. It is not just you, or your wife that need sex as individuals, but your marriage needs sex. While sex levels may go up and down from time to time, when sex completely ceases in a marriage the marriage will die. Sure you may still live together, but the connection between the two of you will be gone, and you both will expose yourselves to dangerous and sinful temptations by doing so.
Let me also be clear, that much of this advice I am giving to you is for Christian couples, where both the husband and wife profess faith in Christ, and believe the Bible is the Word of God. See my next post 8 steps to confront your wife’s sexual refusal where some of the steps could also apply to an unbelieving wife.
What I mean by “not in the mood” and by “you ought to take it”
The haters of the fact that God says sex is to occur if either the husband or wife want it will immediately scream “Rape” when I tell you as a Christian husband, that you ought to take the sex from your wife even if she is not in the mood.
The little phrase they neglect that I have stated is “if she yields”.
I am NOT advocating for a husband to physically force his wife to have sex with him.
I will address the situation if she does not yield in my next post.
But I will say this, despite American laws to the contrary, Biblically speaking, there is no such thing as “marital rape”. In the Scriptures, the only way rape occurs is if a man forces himself on a woman who is not his property (not his wife, or concubine). A man’s wives, his concubines (slave wives taken as captives of war or bought) could be made to have sex with him, no questions asked.
Now the Bible states that if a man did take one of his female slaves, he had to make her at least a slave wife (a concubine), which gave her a certain status above a normal slave. She had the right to be fed, clothed and the right to regular relations with him even he had other wives. She also had to be given the full rights of a daughter, if her father-in-law had purchased her for his son. I realize this entire scenario is appalling to our modern western notions, but I choose to not challenge God’s wisdom in the laws he gave. If you want to argue with God about this at the judgement, be my guest.
Two types of “not in the mood”
Really there are two classes of “not in the mood”, one is because of legitimate health reasons, perhaps she is experiencing painful intercourse or perhaps psychological issues and you should encourage your wife to seek medical assistance in these cases. But the other reason women are often not in the mood is because of “attitude issues”, basically adding up to “what has he done to earn this?” – This second reason is the “not in the mood” that I am primarily aiming at.
Reactions a wife might make to her husband’s sexual advances
The reaction every man wants to hear when he approaches his wife for sex
“Sure babe, let’s get it on.”
This is the way it should be the vast majority of the time.
The First type of “not in the mood”
“We have not spent any time talking lately and you want to have sex?”
“I am really not feeling up to it babe, I am really sorry can I give you a raincheck for tomorrow?”
How you should react to “not in the mood” type 1
If your wife expresses a need to talk, then by all means sit down and talk with your wife. Perhaps she has had a rough day, and just needs to vent, or perhaps there is an unresolved conflict between the two of you that she would like to discuss. I think there needs to be a compromise here between husbands and wives, that sometimes we as guys can cool our testosterone jets just for a little bit and connect verbally with our wives when they need that prior to sex.
But wives need also to understand that sometimes a man has a rough day, and all he wants to do is have sex and forget his troubles, he does not want to talk about it. Your wife needs to respect this, and should not ALWAYS insist that you have to first connect verbally, she also should try to see sex from your perspective too – that sometimes you won’t be ready to talk until after you have had sex.
If you see that your wife is genuinely not feeling well(and not the classic “I have a headache” excuse), and she politely asks for a rain check, then by all means as a Christian husband be gracious and allow her that. Now if she is asking for a rain check every other day, then you may need to explore what is happening, and if there is a deeper issue.
The Second type of “not in the mood”
“I am not really in the mood, but let’s just get this over with”
Then we have the classic “What have you done for me lately?” reasons for not being in the mood:
“When was the last time you took me out?”
“Did you buy me anything at the jewelry store this week?”
“How are those dishes looking?”
Then we have the – “how often do i have to do this” not in the mood reactions:
“Really? We just did it a week ago?”
“I have a headache”
How you should react to “not in the mood” type 2
Many of us husbands, but not all, will take the grudging acceptance, where she yes, but with a bad attitude.
Believe it or not, I have seen bloggers and others online say that a man is raping his wife if he has sex with her, knowing she is not in the mood, even if she grudgingly yields. Anything short of her happy consent in their view, is rape. I have asked several good Christian women about this, including my wife and sister-in-law and they just laughed at such a ridiculous notion.
But if your wife’s reaction is anything but a happy or grudging yield to your sexual advance, you need only follow up her response with “is that a no?”
And perhaps throw in “do we need to sit down and refresh our minds with what God’s Word says about sex in marriage?” If your wife is not a Christian, a reference to the Scriptures may fall on deaf ears so you may just want to leave it with the first question “is that a no”, and then see my next post that will deal with how to handle unbelieving wives.
Your wife has two choices
Her first choice is to react to your “is that a no” question by grudgingly giving in. This is what I mean by, if she is not in the mood, but yields anyway, then just take it, knowing that both you and your marriage need the sex.
Her second choice is to react to your “is that a no” with a “Yep, it’s a no”. In that case you have to move to a different strategy that with I will address in my next post, “8 steps to confront your wife’s sexual refusal”.
But a woman can’t physically have sex when she is not in the mood
I added this section to the original post to address the emails and comments I got claiming a woman can’t physically have sex unless she is in the mood. Basically the argument goes like this. When a woman desires to have sex with a man, her vagina will start to lubricate itself in anticipation of intercourse. If there is no desire, then there is no lubrication and therefore if she is not in the mood she will automatically have dry and painful intercourse.
Just because I am saying it is OK if a woman grudgingly yields to her husband for sex he should take it, this does NOT give him the right to just “go for it”. He ought to use foreplay and touch various parts of her body and massage her in an attempt to relax her. He could also use oral sex as a way to help her get lubricated, and if that is not working use an artificial lubricant to help. There are ways to make sure a woman is sufficiently lubricated, even if she is not in the mood for sex.
Christian husbands the ball is in your court
So as a Christian husband you have quite the task on your shoulders. God wants sex to be a regular part of your marriage. Unless you are one those rare guys with little to no sex drive, you want sex in your marriage. Your wife may or may not want sex, or she may want it far less frequently than you do. But regardless of either of your sex drives, sex is to be a regular occurrence when you are married.
You need to pray and ask for God’s guidance in trying to truly discern if your wife’s “not in the mood” problem is a true mental or physical health issue (and if so seek help), or is it an attitude issue in which case as I said previously – if she yields (even grudgingly), you ought to take it. Do not feel bad and don’t let her make you think you being selfish for wanting sex with her, when the truth from God’s perspective is that she is the one being both rebellious and selfish.
The next post in this series will address “How to handle it when your wife refuses to have sex”. After that we will tackle what it means to “live with your wife according to knowledge”, “what it means to honor your wife” and many other topics related to being a godly husband.