Stories of Sexual Denial in Marriage – Episode 3

Our next story of sexual denial comes from a man named Nathan.  He sent in this story about his sexless marriage in response to my post “8 Steps to confronting your wife’s sexual refusal”.

Nathan begins his story by quoting something I said in my post and comparing it to his situation with his wife:

““some women simply are happy not to have sex that often and would prefer that their husbands would be the same, and these see no moral dilemma in simply training their husbands to have less sex.” This is a perfect description of my wife for 40 of the 40 years we have been married.

No sex before marriage and on our wedding night she was too tired and it was too late. During the first 5 years nine months of our marriage I tallied up the time from just 4 events and came up with no sex for 2.5 years! Within a few months of our marriage she was pregnant. She claimed it was an accident but a few years later, after the second pregnancy, I found out she and her meddling, controlling mother planned the entire thing. Her mother did some bragging after the second pregnancy and it got back to me.

As soon as she verified she was pregnant the first time she cut off everything for a little over 9.5 months. She then “allowed” sex once and then nothing for over 4.5 months. The second pregnancy was more of the same but worse. This time as soon as she determined she was pregnant she cut off everything for one week short of 11 months; “allowed” sex once and then nothing for over 6 months. Even when she allowed anything it was never better than 3 times a month.”

What Nathan is describing here is the type of woman that looks at her husband simply as one part in her “master plan”. Many women, whether they are Christian or non-Christian do not see themselves as God designed them to be.  They do not see themselves as a helpmeet to their husband, but rather they see their husband’s as a helpmeet to them.

They have it all planned out – “I am going to get married, have X number of kids, have the house with the picket fence, have my career and my other activities.” The husband, and to some extent the children are simply seen as accessories to this woman’s life. I am willing to bet based on the story, that she learned this from her mother doing the exact same thing with her father.

So it makes sense in this woman’s mind that her husband’s needs and wishes are secondary to hers – since he is just a cog in the machine of a world that resolves around her.

At this point we will have all the apologists for this woman coming out of the wood work. “Maybe he was not romancing her enough, maybe he was not buying her flowers, dating her and getting her in the mood more”.

First and foremost – romance is not a prerequisite of sex in marriage.  Biblically speaking sex is restricted outside of marriage, but REQUIRED within marriage.  It is both a RIGHT and a RESPONSIBILITY with marriage.

“3 Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.

4 The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.

5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.” – I Corinthians 7:3-5 (KJV)

I don’t know if this man tried to romance his wife or not, but it sounds like even if he did it would not have changed her view of sex, and even more importantly her role in marriage.  She simply saw him as an accessory to her life – he was the paycheck, the person to do the heavy lifting and a sperm donor to produce offspring to add as other accessories to her perfect life.

Nathan confronts his wife’s lack of interest in sex

“Within a couple of months of our marriage I said something to her about her apparent lack of interest. She put on a great act telling me she didn’t realize sex was that infrequent and then immediately cut things to twice a month. After the first pregnancy I made the mistake of again confronting her with the facts of her lack of interest. Same act as before and this time she cut things to once a month or less.”

As you can see from this story – Nathan’s wife began training him early in their marriage to simply be grateful for whenever she decided to grace him with her body in the act of sex. Any complaint, any grievance on his part would be met with less sex to reinforce this training.

While Nathan can’t go back in time to change this, this is a teachable scenario for many young Christian husbands. What you tolerate at the beginning of your marriage – will set the tone for the rest of your marriage.  Can you change things later on? Maybe. But it will be much more difficult once a pattern of behavior have been established.

What Nathan should have done, and what any young Christian husband in this situation should do is to turn this “training” attempt around. Instead he should make if clear to her that if she continues to refuse him sexually there will be disciplinary consequences.

The Word of God needs be the foundation for every Christian household. Whether it be with his wife or children, a husband and father should always be sitting down and sharing God’s design for the family.  For instance if a child disobeys or disrespects his mother or father, I think it is good and wise for a Father to take his children to the Scriptures to show them God’s commands that exhort children to obedience and respect toward parents.

It is no different with a wife, when a wife acts in rebellious or sinful way her husband has a duty as the head of his wife to rebuke her sin and to show her God’s Word in the hope that she will repent. Job should be the model for every Christian husband in rebuking his wife:

“Then said his wife unto him, Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die. But he said unto her, Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.” – Job 2:9-10 (KJV)

Now there are gentle rebukes and there are more assertive rebukes.  I believe as Christian husband’s we should for the most part start off with gentle rebukes to our wives, in the hope that they will repent. But there are times when a wife’s behavior calls for a more assertive and aggressive rebuke.  A Christian husband needs to listen to the Holy Spirit to know what each situation calls for.

Nathan in this case should have rebuked his wife’s sin in regard to her sexual denial. If his verbal rebukes and Scriptural exhortations did not work then he should have moved on to other disciplinary measures. I have had a lot of Christians ask me if I think there could be a different order to 8 Steps to confronting your wife’s sexual refusal and I think the answer is yes.

For some Christian husbands, they may be lead to move from Step 1(rebuke) down to steps 4-7(removing privileges) and then back to steps 2(counselor) and 3(church).  I see no problem with that approach.

So in this case Nathan could have moved from rebuking his wife’s behavior, and if he saw no change or just rebellion on her part and moved to stopping dates and trips. He could then move to removing any unnecessary household upgrades and also remove her funding. But as he took each of these disciplinary steps with his wife – he needed to make it clear that this was discipline – not some form of revenge. It was action taken to correct sinful behavior in her life.   See “8 Steps to confronting your wife’s sexual refusal” for more detail on this process.

Nathan’s wife’s schedule

“With her this is how things have been for our entire marriage: Sunday through Thursday nights were out because she had to get up for work the next day. Friday night she was just too tired after working all week. Saturday night was out because she had to get up early for Church on Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon was out because she had to study for whatever she volunteered to teach Sunday night or whatever she needed to have ready for work on Monday morning. Saturday morning before 9:00am it was too early: after 9:30 am it was too late.

Almost as regular as clockwork, meddling MIL would call on Saturday morning at 9:00 am and she would yap on the phone for 30 minutes to an hour. Those Saturday am phone calls were after a 30 minute to an hour call on Friday night and calls at least 4 or 5 other nights of the week. What was always nice about all the phone calls from “mommy dearest” is that they almost always came within 10 to 15 minutes after I had been given the cold shoulder because my “loving?” wife was “too tired”.”

Here I would give a gentle correction to Nathan. I don’t think his wife did all this volunteer work in addition to her career during the week only to avoid Nathan and avoid sex with him.  She did it for her own fulfillment.  I have no doubt she had little need for sex, but I think the avoidance of sex was secondary to her other interests.

This woman is a prime example of how so many modern day women see their fulfillment in life in every other place BUT where God intended them to have their primary fulfillment in life.

They look at being as wife and mom as simply one of their many life attributes – being a wife and mom gives them a photo to put on a desk.  It gives them something to talk about around the water cooler at work or at Church activities. But they don’t see those roles as the central focus of their life or as the primary reason for which God created them as women.

I think we also have to ask a question that I would really be curious as to the answer from Nathan. Did he know his wife was this busy of a person before he met her? Often times we are blinded as men by a woman’s beauty to major flaws that will make a Christian marriage very difficult.

There is nothing wrong with a woman being ambitious and intelligent. The Bible says this of the virtuous wife:

“She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:26-27 (KJV)

So as we can see – the excellent wife is one who is a wise and a busy person (she is never idle). One could argue that the excellent wife, is in fact an ambitious wife.

The Bible commends ambition for the things that God wants us to do, but it condemns selfish ambition. The virtuous wife of Proverbs 31 is a very busy woman and the Scriptures tell us that she “eateth not the bread of idleness”. Contrary to teachings of our feminist culture, the excellent wife’s ambition is centered on her God, her husband, her children, her home and how she can best serve them.  It is not centered on her own selfish ambitions.  The Bible says this about selfish ambition:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” – Philippians 2:3(NIV)

“For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.” – James 3:16 (NIV)

Let me remind the reader that the first sin woman ever committed was in her envy and selfish ambition in the Garden of Eden in seeking after the forbidden fruit and the knowledge of God. Eve was ambitious for something that God did intend for her.  And then we have man’s first sin “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree” (Genesis 3:17). Adam not only failed to confront his wife’s sin, he listened to her and condoned it! Far too many Christian husbands are condoning and enabling the sin of their wives today in many areas (not just sex) and this is as displeasing to God as Adam’s condoning of Eve’s sin.

But let’s go back to my question of whether he knew or not that his wife was a selfishly ambitious person before he met her.  This is a teachable experience for young men seeking wives to check and see “Is this woman ambitious in a godly way, or is she ambitious in selfish way?”

But after marriage, even if you discover that you were blinded to your wife’s selfish ambitions – God still calls you to love your wife by leading her, providing for her and protecting her.  You are also still called to teach her the ways of God and to rebuke sinful behavior in her life, especially as it relates to her respect for you and her submission in all areas (including the area of sex).

Nathan takes his wife to a Marriage Seminar

“When it came to sex, for 40 years my wife has always been “too”: too busy, too tired, too involved, it was too early or too late. We attended a “marriage enrichment” seminar one time early in our marriage. They had us write down all the time commitments we had on a sheet of paper. Two pages or so later my wife had about listed everything.

The facilitator went around the room looking at the papers form different couples and making a few rather generic comments. Every one of these papers listed their spouse. When he got to my wife’s paper the first thing out of his mouth was “mam, there is no way you can be involved in all of this”. Oh contraire, my wife proceeded to list in great detail times and dates for every last item; she had it all planned out. At this he turned to me and asked “how do you feel about all of this?” My only comment was “isn’t it obvious that it doesn’t really matter how I feel about it”!

You see, in all of the junk she listed on over 2 pages, I did not even make the list and no doubt he saw that as well. Nice thing about that seminar, she went out of her way to start a fight so she would have an excuse for no sex that night as well.”

This marriage seminar just reinforced how blind Nathan’s wife was to her own selfish ambitions. Instead of her centering her life on God and her husband – her life was centered her own selfish pursuits.

Another key truth to point out here is that sexual denial in marriage is often just the tip of the iceberg.  Sometimes women deny their husband’s out of feelings of hurt or neglect, and while this is still sinful we can understand the source of this better.  But sometimes women neglect their husband’s from a position of pure and utter selfishness, and this wife seems to be demonstrating textbook selfish ambition.

This also shows whether Nathan realizes it or not that sex is more than a physical activity to us as men. It’s more than some pleasurable thing we do with our wives. Sex with our wife makes us feel connected and loved by her in a way no other activity can compare to.

When wives neglect or minimize the sexual needs of their husbands, they are in fact rejecting their husbands, you cannot separate a man’s sexuality from his person.  

Far too many men, even Christian men have surrendered to the false notion that man’s desire for sex is selfish and base, and this must be combated in every arena that it appears.

God created sex to be an outward symbol, a tangible symbol of the union between a man and woman in marriage. In many ways sex in marriage is similar to communion at Church in that communion is a constant tangible and physical reminder of the Churches relationship with Christ.  This is why God commands sex in marriage and it is to be often and regular. God gave man a strong physical and emotional desire for sex to make sure that it happens regularly in marriage. Of course there are other reasons God created sex and you can read about them in my post “The 7 reasons God made sex”.

Nathan tells us about his wife’s sexual teasing

“Another nice thing she liked to do for the first 30 years was to grab at me throughout the day in a sexually suggestive way. If I did anything to try and make good on it she would pull away and say “down boy down, we don’t have time for that right now”! If awards could be given for sexually abusive women I think my wife would win hands down.”

I am all for a wife sexually teasing her husband (both by touching him, and “visually romancing” him with her body), but then she needs to make good on that foreplay. It almost seems here that she was mocking his sexuality, knowing how much he needed to sexually connect with her. This is just a truly sad story.

Nathan gives up

“A little over 10 years ago I completely gave up and quit even trying. I no longer initiate anything so it is not unusual to go 1 to three, four months or more without so much as even a kiss from her. After a lifetime of this miserable existence my advice to anyone dating or married to someone like this would be, cut your losses and run as far and as fast from them as you can possibly get. No matter how much you love them they can’t be fixed and they absolutely will not change. If you think they will change if only you are patient and continue to love them you are living in a dream world; it won’t happen.”

So it sounds as if Nathan tried for the first 30 years, and then gave up for the last 10 years of his marriage. I am guessing this puts Nathan somewhere in his 60s now.  He has given up on women and marriage and I can understand why.

But to Nathan and those other men that have experienced this type of “miserable existence” in marriage – let me offer you some hope. You don’t have to give up. You can fight for what is right, in fact it is your duty to confront sin in your marriage. If you’re taking the leadership in your home and confrontation of sin in your wife’s life leads to divorce, then so be it.

God hates divorce, but he created divorce for a reason – because he knows men and women are sinful creatures.

God knew that there would be abusive husbands. He knew there would be lazy husbands who would not provide for their wives. He knew husbands would abandon their wives, and wives would abandon their husbands. He knew there would be adultery. He knew there would be husbands and wives that deny a central part of marriage to their spouse – sex.  This is the reason God created divorce.

So in a case like this if Nathan confronts his wife after all these years – she might leave and divorce him.  Even if she does not divorce him, he may divorce her for the sin of sexual denial in marriage – which is by definition sexual immorality. Regardless of if she divorces him, or he divorces her over her sexual denial – the sin rests on her head.

Another interesting phrase from Nathan was this “If you think they will change if only you are patient and continue to love them you are living in a dream world; it won’t happen.”

I am all for a husband being patient with his wife in regard to her faults, just as wives should be patient with their husband’s in regard to their faults.  But with God some faults in marriage are more serious than others, and some faults when left unchecked can break the marriage covenant and destroy the marriage.

I never recommend divorce lightly, and I get many people who write me about these kinds of issues and I tell them they need to wait, be patient and give it more time.  But I tell them that while they are waiting, that does not mean they need to tolerate the sin in these areas from their spouses.  They need to continue to confront the sin as it occurs, while at the same time continually praying that God will change the heart of their spouse.

But Biblical teachings like “patience” and “sacrificial love” in marriage can be abused to the point where these are used to excuse and enable sinful behavior on the part of a spouse.

If a woman is being beaten by her husband, should she exercise “patience” and just wait for God to work on her husband as he beats her week after week? I believe the Biblical answer is NO.

In the same way if a man is continually being denied sex for weeks, that turn into months, and then years should he just be “patient” and show “sacrificial love” to his wife by tolerating her sinful sexual denial? Again I believe the Biblical answer is NO.

One other thing I want to close with on this sad tale.  This story is about a whole lot more than sexual denial by this wife as most of these stories are. This is about a woman, like so many women today, who does not see herself as God sees her.  This is a woman who is in open and defiant rebellion against God’s design for her life. God wanted her life to center on him, her husband and her children – not her own selfish ambition.

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5 thoughts on “Stories of Sexual Denial in Marriage – Episode 3

  1. Well said. What a sad and powerful post. I shall keep Nathan in my prayers.

    There’s nothing at all I disagree with in what you’ve said. I wish more wives could read these stories because we all grow up hearing that men desire sex, but we don’t always understand the significance there, the emotional and spiritual ties, and the tremendous harm that can be done to men from our constant denial and rejection.

  2. “God…created divorce?”

    When?

    “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the LORD Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. — Malachi 2:16

    Moses tolerated what the Israelites were already doing. His commandment was not to just kick her out in the street but to give her a proper written document so that she could prove that she was not a wayward woman gadding about. It protected her and any man she might marry or be found with from accusations of adultery.
    In reality, unless she had especial attributes, she, as a “used,” “second hand,” woman, she had little prospect of marriage. If she had a sister who was married, she might be taken in as a secondary wife or concubine. Many were rejected by their families as bringing shame on the family. This gives real meaning to the statement that divorce does violence to a woman.
    In our day, divorced women all too commonly sink quickly into poverty, any children along with them. If they go on public assistance, louts and ne’er-do-wells are attracted. My own divorced sisters were in the main supported by our father for a number of years. Their children in turn have caught the divorce disease. Out of 9, 5 have divorced. One has divorced twice. My father’s first marriage was annulled based on a perjured affidavit. The woman gassed herself.

  3. Gerry,

    I have don’t have time right now to debate the issue of divorce – but I am working on post dedicated the subject of divorce in the Scriptures where I will show my understanding of divorce from various Scripture passages. I might have it in the next week or so. Look for that post and then we can discuss.

  4. “since he is just a cog in the machine of a world that resolves around her.”

    That’s:
    “since he is just a cog in the machine of a world that reVolves around her.”

  5. “But they don’t see those roles as the central focus of their life or as the primary reason for which God created them as women.”

    Most churches I am familiar with no longer teach this. We took two different pre-marriage courses and they did not teach these things.

    Dr. Roger Devlin says that women don’t automatically grow up to be good wives and good mothers, they have to be raised in a certain way to become those things. Very true.

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