Our next story of sexual denial is from a man named Mike. He sent me this comment in response to a follow up post I did called “The Frustrated Feminist wife”. As you will see from his post, he disagreed with what I wrote.
Before Mike begins his story he makes a comment about my posts about sexual refusal:
“There is no need to tell your wife “it is written in the Bible, you owe me”. If you are reduced to referring to Holy texts, your couple is in great communication trouble. I am married under God’s law and I will never consider that my wife owes me sex whenever I feel like it. Like many couples, we faced some challenges on the matter. Let me share two of them…”
A Christian husband should routinely be teaching his wife the Word of God. Why did Christ give himself up for his Church? To make her holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:25-27). He did this to conform her to his will and his Word.
Mike admits he was “married under God’s law” yet he says he would “never consider that my wife owes me sex whenever I feel like it”. But the same “God’s law” that calls marriage good and honorable, states this:
“The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” – I Corinthians 7:3-5 (NASB)
The Bible says you owe your wife sex, and your wife owes you sex. God calls sex “a duty” in marriage, as opposed to a “privilege” which is how many modern marriage counselors falsely refer to it. I realize that Mike’s motives may have been pure, in thinking that it would be selfish for him to consider that his wife actually owed sex to him as a marital duty. But God defines what selfishness is, we don’t. It is not selfish for us to desire something that God designed us to desire, or to ask our spouse (husband or wife) to fulfill their marital duty.
I agree that couples need to communicate, and I have written on how the Scriptures say a husband has a Biblical duty to “know his wife”, and part of knowing his wife is him having regular and open dialog with her. But open dialog does not solve all issues. If a husband or wife has in their heart, an attitude or belief that directly contradicts God’s design and will for the roles of a husband and wife in marriage, all the dialog in the world will not solve such a problem.
Mike now begins the story of him and his wife:
“Three years ago, she had experienced lot of stress (deaths of relatives, job difficulties, etc.) which made her so tired and so sad that I could not even touch her. I was getting very frustrated. So I told her. I did NOT demand. I just explained that this situation was not ok for me, that I loved her and consequently I desired her. And that she could not expect me to say nothing after a whole month of frustration. So we talked about it. No bargain, no manipulation, no coercion. We just talked and we were equals in this discussion, both our needs were equals. She told me that she understood my feelings, that she wished she could do something about it, but that her body and her mind were dealing with pain and sorrow, so she could not give me what I wanted. So we discussed about what WE could do to make her feel better. What worked was not to offer her things and please her. What worked was to accept she was not me, to listen and to assist her in this difficult period of time. Eventually, she recovered from this. It took 3 months during which we had sex 2 or 3 times. Very very frustrating for me. But we came out of this stronger: I proved that I was far stronger than my flesh and that I valued her more than my personal needs. And she valued my efforts very deeply, she told me that she was thankful for what I did for her and that she felt even more in love with me (all this with big hearts in her eyes… I just melt!)”
First and foremost let me say that I understand when a wife loses loved ones, or perhaps has job difficulties that these things could cause her great emotional pain to the point that she may have ZERO desire for sex. As I have stated on many occasions in this series, if a man sees that his wife is experiencing psychological issues due to temporary things (like the loss of loved ones, or job issues) he ought to be graceful towards her. Her emotional hurt and needs may temporarily outweigh his need to sexually connect with his wife.
This might last for a month, or several months, and I think Mike was right in bringing his frustrations to his wife but I would not have suggested in this situation that he use the disciplinary steps that I outlined in my previous post, at least not at this early juncture.
But what about if his story had been different. What if his wife continued to use the emotional stresses in her life to deny sex to him not for months? But for years? For decades? What if after the death of some relatives his wife decided he and she were only going to have a sex 5 times a year? I have received several emails from men who have experienced such things.
If his wife had continued having emotional problems to the point that it continued to be a detriment to his sex life, then it would have been right for him to seek counseling for her. If his wife refused counseling, or said she felt he did not need to have sex as much anymore then it would not just be his right, but his Biblical duty to confront her sinful attitude.
Now I want to zoom in on a particular statement he said that really caught my eye and I think it will be very helpful for the many Christian men and women who visit this site to see why this statement is wrong:
“But we came out of this stronger: I proved that I was far stronger than my flesh and that I valued her more than my personal needs.”
Even though he said that he and his wife regarded their needs as “equal”, in the end he came to believe their needs were unequal. His wife caused him to believe that his need to sexually connect with her was a fleshly desire, and her inhibitions towards sex were more noble and worthy of respect.
In fact I believe based on the rest of his story as we will see below, that his marriage actually became weaker after this crisis his wife faced. Why? Because he setup the pattern that it is was OK for her to deny him. Mike fell hook line and sinker for what our world teaches today – that sex is NOT about duty (contrary to God’s law) and that sex is all about feelings. “If you feel like doing it, then do it, if you don’t feel like it then you don’t have to”. This is not God’s will or design for marriage or for sex.
Mike dives deeper into his wife’s thought process
“From a general perspective, my wife is not very fond of intercourse. She is completely fine with 3 or 4 times a month, I am completely NOT fine with this. 3 or 4 times a week, yes. A month, no. Don’t misunderstand me (or her): she likes it. But, as she explained to me, if she were the only one to start the game, she would come to me only 3 or 4 times a month. At the beginning of our marriage, I would get angry, even sometimes yell at her. She would get mad, and reply: “Am I supposed to force myself? Am I supposed to pretend? Because I can, but then, each time we will make love, you will never know if it was a true shared love or a fake love to contempt your own selfishness”
So here Mike reveals some deeper issues in his wife’s thinking. I don’t know what Mike’s “getting angry” looked like and perhaps he sinned and needed to confess his behavior to his wife. But as believers, we can get angry at sin, even the sinful behavior of our spouse, and it is not wrong for us to do so. Ephesians 4:26 says “Be ye angry, and sin not”.
The answer to his wife’s questions about “Am I supposed to force myself?” is YES Biblically speaking, she should have forced herself. God tells women to submit to their husbands in EVERYTHING. He tells both men and women they do not have the power or right to sexually deny their spouse.
There are many times we don’t “feel” like doing things.
As parents we may not feel like getting up in the middle of the night to take care of a sick child, but we must “force ourselves” to do so.
As employees, we may not want to go to work some days, but each day we must “force ourselves” to go to work.
While we are at work, our boss may ask us to do jobs that we do not like, but unless that job is morally wrong, we must “force ourselves” to do whatever our boss asks us to do.
In school, we may have classes we like, and classes we hate. But we must “force ourselves” to do the work for even the classes we hate.
Here Mike’s wife was mentally training her husband to see his sexual needs as “selfishness”, while her refusal to submit herself sexually to him was out of a noble desire for them to only have sex when it was a “true shared love”. According to God’s Word “The wife does not have authority over her own body” and therefore it was his wife actions of sexual denial toward her husband that were truly selfish, not his being upset when she turned him down.
Mike’s wife convinces him that she is not the one in sin
“As we both consider that sex is a way to be one flesh [“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh”. (Genesis 2:21-24)], I hated the idea that we could not be together in this. Even worst: I hated the idea that she could pretend to have great time with me when she was not. So I refused this option. But I was very very angry and frustrated: I wanted her to be like me, to want sex as much as I did. I realized she was right about being selfish. She was only telling me the truth, I was resenting her for this.”
Yes sex is a beautiful way to become “one flesh”, and in its most literal sense when the Bible says “they become one flesh” it means “they shall have sex”. This is why God commands that sex is to be a regular part of marriage, and never denied – because it the symbol of the union of a man and woman, very much in the same way that communion is symbol of our union with Christ and the Church.
This raises another important issue. What Mike points out here is what every man wants from his wife. He wanted her to desire him and to want sex as much as he did. But the truth is that women are very different than men. Some women may want sex as much or more than their husbands, but most women want sex less often like Mike’s wife.
As men we must accept that our wife may not always want sex as much as us, and that needs to be OK.
But here is a truth that every Christian wife needs to hear and take to heart:
You as a wife are capable of taking the right action, with the right attitude, even if you don’t have the same desire. You are capable of having sex with your husband, and not showing him “contempt” while meeting his sexual needs – you have only to choose to do what is right.
Mikes wife goes in for the kill
“She realized that she could not shut me out like this, that I was right to be frustrated. So we talked. A lot. We discussed about what was really important for each one of us, what would be fine, what would be great, what would be not acceptable, etc. I asked her to never force herself, so that it would always be true love between us. Though, I asked her what she would be willing to do to lower my frustration. She asked me to accept she did not want as much as me and not get mad about this. Though, she asked me if I would be willing to keep asking her, even if “no” was a probable answer (getting a “no” is hard! So keep asking? Harsh! ) We tried several “recipe” and finally found out a suitable compromise for both of us. The key? Always let room for a “no”. Always let our beloved one feel secure. And never blame her (him) for being honest. This is, from my humble point of view, what a genuine marriage relation should be.”
This conversion Mike had with wife shows her final transformation of his thinking. He states his wife knew it was wrong for her to shut him out and he was right to be frustrated. But by the end of their conversation she had convinced him that he was wrong for being frustrated by her “no’s”.
Mike’s wife might be unselfish in many ways. Perhaps she gives her time to her church to help feed the poor, or maybe she does other charitable work. She might be the most giving and caring mom. Maybe she does a great job of caring for the needs of Mike’s home and his children. But it is possible for a person to giving in many of areas of their life, and still utterly selfish in their marriage. Mike’s wife seems to be very selfish when it comes to her marriage and her husband’s needs.
Remember, Biblically speaking a person is not selfish for wanting sex when their spouse does not. A person is selfish for denying their spouse sex when they don’t feel like having sex.
So here is what Mike’s wife was really saying:
“I actually do want sex a few times a month. But during those few times when I want sex, I don’t want to have to come to you and ask for it. I want to be pursued. So what I want you to do is ask me for sex every time you want it and eventually you will ask for it on a day when I want it and I will say yes. But all those other times you ask and I don’t want it – I will say no. I want you to be ok with that, and not be frustrated or upset.”
THIS IS UTTER SEXUAL SELFISHNESS!
I wish I could say this is the first time I have heard of this scenario of sexual denial but it is not the first time. I have received many emails from men in a very similar scenario, and I even faced this with my own wife until I was willing to confront her sinful behavior in this area of sexual selfishness on her part. I use to experience this in my second marriage not long after we were married. I then confronted my wife’s sinful attitude about sexual denial and it got better. But it is a continual process as my wife’s thinking is highly steeped in feminist thinking (since her mother and grandmother are feminists).
Mike’s confusion over “The Frustrated feminist wife”
“I don’t understand the title of your article “the frustrated feminist wife”. You are dealing with wives refusing to have sex with their husband. When these wives tell you that there is no way they will force themselves into sex interaction, you call them “frustrated feminist”. I really don’t get it but this is a common place I often read from males (sorry, I really cannot say “husbands” here) that are the ones frustrated. I do agree though with the term “feminist” : feminist are people (and not only women…) that consider that men and women are equal in rights (i insist: “in rights”, not physically, strength, etc.). I am a man, I believe in God and I believe men and women are equal in rights. If you are teaching men that their wives owed them sex and their body because they are married, then I don’t think we understand God’s message the same way.”
Mike did not understand why I entitled my article “The frustrated feminist wife”. He is thinking of men being frustrated sexually as he was (until his wife trained him that his frustration was selfishness on his part). What I was showing in “The frustrated feminist wife” was how a feminist who sexually denies her husband (as Mike’s wife does him) can experience her own frustration when her husband stands against her sinful behavior. Her frustration is in the fact that when a man leads his home, and confronts his wife’s sin she may lose the things she cares about. She can’t have her sin without consequences from her husband. This is her frustration.
Mike also demonstrates the typical beliefs of a Christian egalitarian, that marriage is a partnership rather than a patriarchy and that sex is not a duty in marriage. But unfortunately for Mike, the Bible does not support his feelings in this matter. “God’s message” could not be clearer – “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.”(I Corinthians 7:3)
I believe Christian husbands can learn from Mike’s mistake. Mike allowed his wife to convince him that her sexual denial was not sin – in spite of what God’s Word says. She even convinced him that his sexual frustration was actually based in selfishness on his part and she trained him to pursue her on a regular basis in which she would say no often – so on the few times she wants sex in a month she can say yes.
Christian husband, if you see yourself in this scenario – you have to accept the fact that you have been enabling you wife’s sinful behavior of sexual denial.
An important truth to understand is that this is about a lot more than sex, this is about rebellion on your wife’s part toward God and toward you.
God wants you confront sin in your home, whether it be with your children or with your wife. You cannot be afraid of her threats, or even of divorce. You must do what is right.
If you as a Christian husband see yourself in this post, I suggest that you read my post “8 Steps to confronting your wife’s sexual refusal”. I also suggest that you read my post “10 ways to know if you are sacrificing your faith for your wife”.
If you have a story of sexual denial that you would like to share – feel free to comment on this post or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and just let me know if I can share part of or all of your story. Your name does not need to be mentioned or we can just make a fake name for you.
Many people in this situation feel alone as they have the Church on one side that seems to ignore this issue entirely, and on the other side they have non-Christians telling them there is no right to sex in marriage and they are being selfish for wanting sex more than their spouse. When you share your story, you show others that they are not alone.